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Dark Eras: Lily, Sabre, and Thorn

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  • Dark Eras: Lily, Sabre, and Thorn

    There was no discussion for the Changeling chapter, so, here we are.

    I'm not really sure what the queen thought would happen by naming her child Percinet.

    I thought the general atmosphere was well-written. I especially enjoy the focus put on France's being an amalgamation of similar-yet-different cultures at the time. There are a couple of remarks that imply that at least a few changelings have managed to insinuate themselves into the human aristocracy; that's interesting. It's also cool to see what appear to be the beginnings of a few modern-day European Lost traditions.

    It would have been nice to get a Mantle writeup for the Court of the North Star, unless I've misread that section, and Madame Estelle's court is meant to be purely a political faction with no mystically-enforced ties to the Wyrd.

    The Contract of Blades is nice. I especially like Swords into Ploughshares. Song of Flashing Steel feels a little silly, but also useful.

  • #2
    Blade Dance seems OP to me, so anyone want to explain what it does in a different way to me so I can have a better view?

    Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
    The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
    Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.


    • #3
      It seems to give a bonus to blade-based Weaponry rolls, plus one other blade-based skill roll of your choice upon activation. What "the appropriate bonus" is, however, is never explicitly laid out. It feels like a piece of text is missing. Maybe for the duration you use the higher of the two skill ratings, and the non-Weaponry specialty applies to both skills? That's not exactly a five-dot clause though. Hmm.

      Come to think of it, the Hobgoblin Truce doesn't explicitly say what it does either. I mean, you can sort of puzzle out what it does, but I think this is one of those cases where it might be more beneficial to have things spelled out.
      Last edited by espritdecalmar; 02-04-2015, 02:19 PM.


      • #4
        I don't have the text on hand but the bonus in those cases would normally be +1 per success.


        • #5
          Hopefully the Contract of Blades will find a way into Changeling 2nd Edition

          My Games - Dust and Shadow (Vampire)


          • #6
            OK, I wrote a giant response to this I threw into the kickstarter comments. Hopefully, I don't annoy anyone by copy-pasting it here. (And while we're at it, let's see what the character limits are...)

            OK, having finally found time to sit down and read through the chapter "demo"/"preview"/"rough draft" for Lily, Saber, and Thorn, I wound up pounding out some criticisms. Before making a post this long, in a venue that is, understandably, rather looking forward to a new release in an open forum, I think I should first say that there is a difference between criticism of the content of a work and simply insulting someone. I'm not sugaring my words when I see something I feel doesn't serve the purpose of the book, but I'm not pulling my funding of the book nor do I have a disdain for any individual involved, here, either.

            First, a few minor problems, before I get into the meat of the argument:

            In the gameplay section, you replace Computer with Enigmas, but again, there's little description of when you'd use it, especially since the "alien logic" sounds more like Occult. What do I need to spend XP on this skill for that I couldn't use Academics, Occult, or just plain Wits for when it comes to solving riddles? It's probably described in some other chapter better, and Google says it was used in some Vampire sourcebook I haven't read, but if you're selling chapters ala carte, players should be able to roll with just the information in this one chapter, without having to look these other things up. If it's just to fill up a skill, why not divide up the overloaded Craft skill into more mundane house chores like cooking and advanced engineering? Make rote religious knowledge or philosophical theology into its own skill, instead of a part of Academics or Occult?

            Song of Flashing Steel seems worded so that it is potentially rife with unintended uses: While it seems at first glance to be a "you cannot be disarmed" contract, as written it seems more abusable for actively disarming others. It has no penalty to stealing anything wielded by anyone except if they "know it better", and it is currently in their hand. An assassin need only have once touched the mark's weapon to instantly disarm them if the mark hasn't yet noticed the danger and drawn their weapon. Also, since the description says that this contract can work with *any tool*, a good rules lawyer (and what is a changeling but one who stretches the letter of the contract to their own personal greatest benefit?) might find offensive uses for the contract. ("I summon the lock off that door!" "I summon the saddle off your horse!" "I summon the merchandise from that merchant's stand!" "I summon your pants/belt/lacings/fasteners!") Even if it is JUST restricted to weapons, it makes it easy to steal from a weaponsmith so long as you just tap the weapon once.

            Saber Dance is ambiguously worded: Its effect is that it grants an "the appropriate bonus" without any description as to what that bonus actually is.
            Hobgoblin Truce has an unusually low chance of success: Manipulation + Wyrd versus Composure + Resolve means that low-wyrd characters have fairly slim odds of success. Normally, it's two attributes/skills plus wyrd versus either two stats or one attribute and the powerstat, or otherwise lets the user have an advantage, even when the effects are more obviously crippling. (Like the insanely overpowered Hand of Glory...)

            Second, while this is in some ways a minor gripe, since it was a single line, I don't particularly like the description of the mood of the game: "your rival has a heart blacker and colder than the frozen seas of hell."

            The mood of the game is everything, and one of the key elements I love about Changeling is the utter grayness of the morality. While Changeling as a line is a very dark and moody setting, there is, in its own way, always the shine of optimism. Everyone in the setting is, in their own way, a victim. Even the Gentry, in their own way, are broken, desperate things, and there is always a way to resolve a problem with nonviolence, compassion, or at least, a little clever trickery. It's a rare and painful thing that there is a character who is completely irredeemable. (And even the irredeemable Gentry are often better trapped in a pledge than outright destroyed, as a dead True Fae only leaves open the path for the next. Better to cripple the evil you know...)

            To just outright declare the Mood of the game to be one of black and white morality goes against the grain of what Changeling's supposed to be about. The mood of Changeling that I always loved was, "There, but for the Grace of God, go I." That, the very closeness of your characters to the edge should drive them to at least try to be optimistic about their adversaries to the end, and at least attempt forgiving the unforgivable.

            The third, and much larger, point I want to make is more broad, and has to do with a general assumption of specific knowledge. When I read the chapter, it assumes I know what "les preceiuses" is, or how a salon was held in this time period. It rattles off throw-away names of towns to say that some freehold there was destroyed, when I have no idea what life there would have been like in that time period. I'd say they might as well be Timbuktu, but I actually KNOW something about Timbuktu. So far as it matters to me, you're just saying, "Place A was there but then it blew up. So sad." There's nothing there to tie it in or add any meaning to the events. You say, "The Three Musketeers would not be the same novel if D’Artagnan were a Parisian guttersnipe instead of a daring Gascon farm boy, after all." The problem is, you never describe what a Parisian guttersnipe would be like, nor what a Gascon farm boy is like.

            If I knew what they meant, I probably wouldn't need a book to help me play them out, but this book does nothing to help me figure it out. Words are being thrown at me, but never the context to make them mean something. If you're going to do something, take the time to build it up properly. If you're going to do history, then unless you expect every player to be an actual courtier in Versailles, overthrowing Louis XIV with a doppelganger, then it makes far more sense to me, at least, to focus much more time upon building up the life of the commoners and a general mood than to talk about international politics (except as wars interrupt the lives of the common people), and focusing upon the mythologies that most directly tie the gameline characters into that time period. The chapter itself gives me no frame of reference, and giving a player a frame of reference should be the whole point of this book.

            Again, I think it would be better if you guys bulked up existing chapters, and added more gamelines in to add more depth to a single time and place than adding stretch goal chapters that just stretch the net wider and thinner.

            Granted, this is because I'm approaching this as someone who never particularly cared for post-Crusades and pre-Napoleonic France, or the swashbuckler genre as a *thing*, but I think that's partly the point. (For once, I haven't read *anything* in the "inspiration" section, and the fairy tales of d'Aulnoy I looked up seem more suited to Changeling the Dreaming than Lost.) For one, a reference book shouldn't force someone to keep diving for Wikipedia to make sense of these places if they aren't already deeply familiar with the setting. (And Wikipedia doesn't tell you remotely enough to properly play a given city from a different time period.) For another, it's just not a period that strikes me as a terribly good match to changelings as a whole. This chapter seems to be mostly, "We're making a big theatrical number based on The Man In the Iron Mask, and we'll just stuff changelings in at the end to observe these events going on without their input." I'm not sold on how this theme or mood or time period really match Changeling at all. (Why do you keep going to the well of the 18th and 19th century Europe? Wouldn't pagan changelings be so much more interesting? Even Dark Ages Ireland would be a major step up, where Christianity is still wrestling for control with ancient beliefs, and Vikings prowl off the shores...)

            In fact, even the swashbucklers seem forgotten in this chapter, as they're only referenced obliquely, and again, the chapter largely seems to expect you know what their life is like, already. A few wars are mentioned, and then they're somehow abandoned or forgotten by their country, but what happened during or in between those events is never explained. The chapter starts by admonishing storytellers not to stay bound to history, and make it about swashbuckling fantasy before promptly talking about nothing but history and forgetting the fantasy, itself.

            Text seems to be at a premium, and it's spent on kings that don't matter instead of the social order, technological progress, or economic state of the places that do.

            Even when you get to the proper nouns and jargon that are explained in the text, you're throwing around a LOT of terms that aren't well-established. Names like "North Star" are being used to explain events like players are supposed to understand what they are before the section where the character is introduced. When you get to the part about Rennes, there's a FLURRY of proper nouns that are only marginally placed within context a few pages down the line. (Who are the Malouins of Rossignol? Two proper nouns thrown in there with no meaning assigned to them. Rossignol doesn't even show up in Wikipedia.) I have to keep scrolling up and down to try to match terms to their descriptions when I get to them. Even then, I have only the vaguest clues who everyone is supposed to be.

            Only the Parisian Spring Queen, North Star, and Breton King are even remotely given character, and even that is thin. A little example text of some of these characters in action would go a long way in actually explaining who they are. For some characters, all we have is that they are a chateline and they made an insult, which is like describing a species of fish by saying they swim. Another is just described in that they are disloyal to their king. Some characters are mentioned only once or twice in passing, and given so little description that I have to wonder why you don't just leave that up to the Storyteller to flesh out if you aren't going to provide ANYTHING but a name. Why does Zelionne matter at all? It just overloads the reader with names. Again, this setting needs more depth, not more breadth.

            It brings to mind DM of the Rings, or Extra Credit's criticisms of Skyrim's Opening, (… ) where the joke is on how much front-loaded proper nouns need to be memorized before you give the player any context to glean meaning from the noise of alien syllables.
            When you finally get to the parts about involving the players, it starts by asking questions about how they come down on the divide between rich and poor. Those would be great questions if the chapter had spent actual time developing that divide. Instead, it talked about the King and then threw out some jargon about specific, but never-described, "l'Hopital General" that probably WOULD have made a very interesting setting if you'd described it at all.

            I have higher hopes for Brothers Grimm, since, if only by title alone, it seems more focused upon mythology as a general rule, which would be a much better direction to build a setting. A little more focus upon what the player will actually be playing with would go a long way.

            Honestly, I have yet to get through a Changeling book without already having a bunch of new things I want to do, or already thinking about how my character would react to such a situation. This chapter is, in the words of Homer Simpson, just a bunch of stuff that happened. Maybe a good storyteller could sell me on the setting, but I don't see the obvious hooks in this one that I normally see.
            With apologies for the loquaciousness of this all, but I remembered something about Lily, Saber, and Thorn that I didn't mention in the last long diatribe I did:

            There's a glaring omission in describing the period, especially the period of Enlightenment and people turning away from religion. That is, the close proximity to the Protestant Reformation, and the explosion of Witch Hunts in Europe (as well as the cause of the all-out wars) that took place soon after.

            While nWoD seems to tread the middle ground of "LOL witches were real, they just got the wrong people," the reasons for Changelings turning away from Catholicism is a then-present Inquisition in Spain, while no mention of widespread community-rending witch hunts that took place just a couple decades prior in greater Europe as a whole and massive religious schisms that go completely unmentioned in the chapter. Again, a player character would have been alive for the witch hunts and persecution of religious minorities, so it's rather front and center to WHY there would be an Enlightenment going on, and a backlash against religion and the Traditional Romantic Thought.

            ... Honestly, though, with a couple days' reflection and looking at the bigger picture, the biggest thing that strikes me about Lily, Saber, and Thorn is a general lack of cohesion. It talks about eschewing history for operatic black-and-white morality dramas, then spends half the chapter on history and the other half on a tangled political muddle where you honestly can't tell who you should root for that's more in line with Changeling's core themes as a whole, but has nothing to do with pretty much anything else in the chapter. The only thing tying changelings to swashbucklers at all seems to be that one contract. Editing towards giving all these random facts without context some way of tying into a single cohesive theme or mood would go a long way in improving the chapter.
            Last edited by Wraith_Magus; 02-21-2015, 08:47 PM. Reason: Had to add back in line breaks between paragraphs - didn't copy-paste right.


            • #7

              *I really should not use the 10K words I just spent $550 on JUST to get La Maupin in the book...*
              Last edited by glamourweaver; 02-25-2015, 04:31 AM.

              Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow


              • #8
                Well, 10k words can contain a lot of information. (This post is under 600, even with the spoiler stuff.)

                Maybe you could expand upon the historical information, and talk about gender issues, since that's basically the big draw of her story.

                Long-winded ramble on historical context:
                During the Middle Ages, there wasn't much by way of gender equality, but it actually wasn't quite as repressive as most people think in the Catholic lands. A woman was supposed to be subordinate to either her father or her husband, but a woman not bound to such a relationship (such as a widow) could actually generally be equal to men in many regards. They could own property or start their own business. Joan d'Arc is always one of the first figures that comes to mind, but Matilda of Tuscany led her own troops in battle in a losing battle to defend the Pope from being overthrown by the excommunicated would-be Holy Roman Emperor.

                The era immediately following the Black Death saw a massive rise in women in positions of power because of this: Most women now were widows, and if a woman was the only living member of her dynasty, she could have inherited massive wealth and power from her father/brothers/husband. The severe labor shortages meant that, like a forerunner of Rosie the Riveter, the women wound up working skilled labor jobs just to keep cities from collapsing. In short, it was a rare bright spot in women's relative equality.

                Because of this, as soon as the need was over, there was a massive backlash against the power all these women had been "usurping". How dare these uppity women get higher-paying skilled labor jobs just because they had the skills and a lot of the uneducated male population didn't? The backlash existed to restrain what powers women could hold onto, and make it socially less acceptable for women to take positions of power.

                Skipping ahead a hundred or so years, the Protestant Reformation carried with it large overtures of how Christianity should return to its roots, which included in some cases of the more revolutionary branches some of the "Puritanical" ideas of women having to go back to wearing their hair covered, not socializing idly, and of course never having anything remotely like a salon. Basically, they were expected to be pregnant in the kitchen their whole lives. (Of course, if we're talking France, they were Catholic and persecuted the Protestants, so they weren't exactly ground zero for most of this.)

                Another hundred years or so, and you get to the Enlightenment, which is by and large an utter refutation of all that religious fervor and suppression. Women are of course FAR from equal, but they do, at least, have a chance to socialize and share in education if they are of the upper classes.

                You could also try adding other issues into the chapter as it stands; I think that the disparity of rich and poor in the era was one of those major telling issues, and could use expansion. (Basically, set up Changeling Les Miserables.)

                Alternately, you might ask for a more robust focus upon the changelings of the era, developing the sample courts more thoroughly, especially with some sort of Rose of Versailles-inspired characters thrown in, to make room for suggestions for female (or cover cross-dressing women) in gameplay.


                • #9
                  Ok, here she is as an older teenager shortly after her Durance (I'm imagining her on the road after fleeing Marseilles at 14 became a swashbuckling adventure through Arcadia at some point). I'm using God-Machine rules as best i can, didn't bother with Virtue & Vice since we don't know what CtL 2nd Ed will replace those with (ala Mask & Dirge).

                  Spring Court

                  Dex ****
                  Sta **

                  Pres ****
                  Man **
                  Comp **

                  Int **
                  Wits ***
                  Resolve **

                  Academics **
                  Crafts *
                  Politics *

                  Athletics ***
                  Brawl *
                  Ride **
                  Larceny **
                  Weaponry (Dueling) ***

                  Expression (Singing) ***
                  Presuasion (Seduction) ***
                  Socialize **
                  Subterfuge *

                  Striking Looks **
                  Fighting Finesse ** (light sword)
                  Light Weapons *****
                  Mantle (Spring) *

                  Vainglory **
                  The Sword ***

                  Clarity: 5 (she's very comfortable slaying men in duels)
                  Wyrd: 1

                  Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow


                  • #10
                    Spring? ... Hmm... I kind of think of "Let's have lots of fights for fun, and while we're at it, burn the corpse of a nun to escape a monastery with my lesbian lover" more Summer territory. Summer contracts are also more conducive to dueling.

                    Also, maybe this is personal, but I wouldn't think of "dueling" as the right specialization, as it's "fencing" you would specialize in. (That or foils/rapiers/specific weapons.)


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Wraith_Magus View Post
                      Spring? ... Hmm... I kind of think of "Let's have lots of fights for fun, and while we're at it, burn the corpse of a nun to escape a monastery with my lesbian lover" more Summer territory. Summer contracts are also more conducive to dueling.
                      There's no "Wrath" involved in anything you just said. Living life in the joys of the moment is the Spring Court's niche - the Summer Court is about fighting back against [whatever].

                      Also, maybe this is personal, but I wouldn't think of "dueling" as the right specialization, as it's "fencing" you would specialize in. (That or foils/rapiers/specific weapons.)
                      It was a sample Specialty in Lily, Sabre, and Thorn.

                      Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow


                      • #12
                        Well with the new reveals for 2nd Edition it looks like La Maupin won't be Fairest afterall. She's not about stepping up and assuming leadership. Actually I think Beast might fit best with the rebellious flaunting of social convention. A Beast with a Kith associated with beauty and grace (or music), with contracts of Vainglory and the Sword should work nicely

                        Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow


                        • #13
                          Are you sure you even want her to be a changeling? Seems to me she'd be at her most kick-ass as a mortal.

                          "Evoke your contracts, call on your goblins, dazzle me with your beauty. We shall see if you are anywhere near as brilliant a soul as I."

                          Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
                          The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
                          Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
                            Are you sure you even want her to be a changeling? Seems to me she'd be at her most kick-ass as a mortal.

                            "Evoke your contracts, call on your goblins, dazzle me with your beauty. We shall see if you are anywhere near as brilliant a soul as I."

                            If I'm playing in Lily, Sabre, Thorn - then yes. Historically ambiguous figures who are half legend are basically the prime fodder for weaving the supernatural into history.

                            On the other hand, that line is fantastic.

                            Check out my expansion to the Realm of Brass and Shadow


                            • #15
                              I rather hoped it was in the spirit of La Maupin.

                              Sean K.I.W./Kelly R.A. Steele, Freelance Writer(Feel free to call me Sean, Kelly, Arcane, or Arc)
                              The world is not beautiful, therefore it is.-Keiichi Sigsawa, Kino's Journey
                              Male/neutral pronouns accepted, female pronouns enjoyed.