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What we can learn from Beast and others (Some opinions for 2e)

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  • What we can learn from Beast and others (Some opinions for 2e)

    So, I've been chewing some things over lately, and something tripped me up hard when, while taking a break from the exam season, I got to thinking about Changeling and realized a bit of a problem.

    Changeling has a persistent them about trying to hold onto your humanity while persistently indulging your fae side; scarred by Arcadia but unable to let it go; beauty and terror sacheying giddily through the park. On its face, Changeling has some great systems for encouraging certain behaviours; the odd tricks in Catches, the power and peril of pledges, and the like.

    Yet as it stands, Changeling has a core problem in that it rarely does a good job of tempting Changelings to indulge in fae behaviours and break the rules. Oh yes, there's the need to gather glamour, but the ways a Changeling can get that simply and easily are manifest. There's always ways to trip up players to make their pledges bite them in the butt, but that's not fun; that's making the ST the enemy. Likewise, Changelings are fundamentally transformed beings; turned into something not-quite-human. I, personally, enjoy emphasizing that inhumanity, but the primary sources of Changeling powers are oddities that anyone can use or Contracts, not changes to themselves.

    Also, Entitlements suck. Just putting that out there. They shouldn't, and I'd like to fix them too.

    With Beast the new kid on the block, some of my mulling has been emphasized by how well Beast encourages odd behaviours while Changeling shunts them off to Wyrd 6+; how much Beast changes its PCs while Changeling just gives them a new bag of tricks.

    Putting it mildly, a Fairest with a beautiful singing voice and all the powers available in the books to focus on it is still a worse Siren than a Makara with one Atavism, and has very little of the motivation to be one anyway. The Changelings are shown up at the very legends said to inspire them.

    Still, it's a poor person who only complains without any voicing of a solution, so I propose the following:

    Rework Entitlements and buff up the Merits.

    Changeling already toys with the latter, especially in Rites of Spring; granting special little tricks to the Lost as changed parts of their nature. These should be getting a whole hell of a lot more attention. Persistent passive powers or innate abilities - like an Ogre being exceptionally strong or resilient - wouldn't be hard to represent, nor would more specialized powers; a passive immunity to environmental tilts from a given element for Elementals; the Fairest having a kind of floating "Fame" merit that causes people who meet them to naturally think they're important and awesome, even if they can't figure out why; Darkling abilities that all but one iconic detail about them really hard to remember; Beasts getting a network of animal spies; Wizened being able to hide an action in plain sight because people just don't notice them. These are just some of the most obvious and more basic powers available, and Changelings should honestly feel a bit like they're drowning in them; like every Changeling is a unique legend because no two are likely to be identical.

    There's a twofold reason for this. First, anything that adds to the "What you can do" roster is neat for a start. More importantly, though, passive powers play into a sense of identity. If you have to spend energy (Glamour) to use a power, it does not feel like an innate part of the character; it's a tool you have to put coins into before it can work. Innate, intrinsic abilities feel like a character-defining feature which is why, for me, I found even the simplest Kith blessings providing a small bonus to a given dice roll more character-defining than all the Contracts in the world. A character who can never be burned can make peace with the flame, but one who has to spend power to actually come into contact with it still has a cost associated with it.

    Consider the difference between someone who can pick up a burning splint with their bare hand, and one who has a fire/heat-proof glove that lets them do the same. Which one will attach more of their identity to flames?

    Yet with all the cool tricks and abilities in the world, Changelings still aren't incentivized to use them, which brings me to my second point: Entitlements.

    At the moment, all the major game lines have a feature similar to Entitlements; Bloodlines, Legacies, Lodges, etc., all of which provide some neat boon in exchange for a pattern of behaviour and/or social obligations. The rewards that come with these things often tie into and reward the given behaviours; the Mara Bloodline forces you to feed only from the submerged but gives you some neat water-related powers; Legacies grant you attainments that are typically highly effective and reliable and change the way you interact with the world, such as using fire as a mystical symbol if you join the Tamers of Fire Legacy, or becoming a healer if you join the Tamers of Water.

    Changeling doesn't have that. Entitlements don't typically provide much of a reward (a free specialty or weak token is a common example), and the rewards in question rarely encourage a behaviour intrinsically. If a vampire has power over water and needs it to feed, they spend time near water; if a Mage controls fire freely, they'll start using a lot more fire in their magic. Yet a Changeling who joins the Satrapy of Pearls gains a free specialty; hardly an overwhelming advantage, for a start, but it also doesn't really encourage behaviour; it doesn't make you all that different to how you'd have been otherwise.

    An exception to this is the Accepted Order of Bridge Masons, one of Changeling's few entitlements to grant an ability that a Changeling wouldn't have otherwise: Rapid construction of buildings when no-one's looking. This provides a new and unique ability that will distinguish a character who joins the Entitlement from others, while also providing a new niche to expand into. It doesn't quite inherently encourage the behaviour but, given the utility of it, anyone who joins is probably thinking already of what they can do with it. Builder Betty will really want to join the Order because she gets to do things she otherwise couldn't. Social Samuel, though, has little direct reason to join the Satrapy because all he gets is a Specialty and a whole bunch of obligations, when he could've gotten all that on his own without them for minimal effort.

    Entitlements should be groups which provide a Changeling with a reason to use their powers for a specific purpose, excusing and embracing certain fae behaviours in the process. They should provide the Farwalker with a reason to scare people out of an area and to spend months in isolation; the Deep-Dweller with a reason to claim a specific lake; the Leechfinger a specific reason to feed regularly. Why not an Entitlement based around the alluring creatures of the wood - the nymphs and satyrs and dryads - that allows the Changeling to produce a hypnotic trance in a target, allowing them to be lured away and lulled, or made more suggestible, or addicted to the Changeling? Why not an Entitlement dedicated to protecting wild places that allows a Changeling who has dedicated themselves to securing that wild place to become invisible within woodlands? Why not one which gives Leechfingers the ability to steal Willpower from sleeping people to restore their own reserves?

    So, yeah. Those are my two big suggestions: Drown us in passive abilities to allow further shaping of character behaviour and identity, and make Entitlements a driving force in shaping and sheltering fae behaviours.

    As a secondary suggestion, I'd also like to reshape the Hedge. The Hedge at present might as well have a big ol' KEEP OUT sign over the doorway. Changeling suffers a bit from Call of Cthulhu syndrome, where any sensible person jumps out the window the moment the phone rings or a newspaper mentions odd cult activity. The Hedge should feel strange and mysterious, beautiful and terrible, but there should always be an opportunity for wonder, with the threats being much less common than the opportunities. Otherwise, the Hedge becomes a place people don't want to go.

    To that end, I'd recommend a philosophy of sign-posting. If a threat exists, make sure that it's signposted from a mile away, but dangle the temptations from the same distance. If a temptation exists, make sure it rewards the player as much as the character.

    As an example, if a given trod in the Hedge is home to a nest of thornshrikes, signpost the hell out of it. Have skeletons hanging on the thorns to mark the edge of their territory. The trod might be a useful shortcut, though. Or perhaps the shrikes' victims had valuable treasure that falls from limp hands and decaying pockets, all ending up lining a mean bird's nest or the gulley at the side of a trod. Make it very clear that entering the shrike's trod means risking a possible encounter, but also make it worth it. Maybe mapping out the trod means that the character knows how to hide there when fleeing pursuers, while letting their pursuers get mobbed by butcher birds, or they can find some shiny treasure or trinket in there.

    More to the point, make victory possible. Changeling has this overarching tone where everything you do everywhere ever is going to cost you a finger. Those such moments should be rare, though, because otherwise the game inherits an atmosphere of impenetrable gloom. Changelings are blossoming legends, though; they should be able to come away victorious if they're clever or guileful or strong enough. Heck, being clever enough is how you start the prelude to the story; if every rabbit was shot sneaking into Mr. McGregor's garden, Peter wouldn't have even tried. The risks should be real but beatable by those with the talent. The true hiccups - the time characters face something particularly scene-worthy, like one of the shrikes being sleeping in its nest when the little thief climbs up to filch their prize - should be rare but interesting events that the character shares around a tavern later. The ones where they lose a finger should be grand and character-defining.

    After all, everyone remembers the story of Nine-Fingered Frodo, don't they?

    Likewise, set temptation in ways that it rewards both player and character. In so many stories, characters are lured off by promises of relaxation or the tastiest-looking piece of fruit, or the like, but your players are people sitting at a table or desk; they don't get to feel the delicate Weisse-Frau stroking a lock of hair off of their face with a gentle fingertip, or taste the succulent delights of the sweet fruit of the vine. They're the ones hearing the description of the gorgeous maiden beckoning them over or seeing the fruit and thinking "If this was spelled out any more clearly, it'd be in 300 point font and set on fire."

    The Hedge has to have nasty predators, sure, but there's other reasons why these things might exist. Herr Mannelig is a song of a troll offering a knight so many great prizes if he will marry her so she can be a troll no longer; the mythic precedent exists. Perhaps that fruit is an anglerfish-type lure, threatening to drag a Changeling down, but it might also just be a fruit presented by a plant to encourage others to spread its seeds. It might be addictive, but it could also grant the Changeling supernatural wit and intelligence, say. The Weisse-Frau might not be able to leave the Hedge unless someone promises to marry her, and offers the Changeling a great many things if they agree (and holds up her end of the bargain), but brings complications with her (perhaps her family wants to come and live with them? The handsomest trolls this side of the moon).

    You might also offer a Condition whenever the character enters the Hedge, allowing them to receive a Beat whenever they end up in a trap, further encouraging players to take risks, rather than shying away from them because it's sensible to do so.

    And... I think that's everything. Woof. Hope this helps someone.

  • Errol216
    replied
    Originally posted by Gaius View Post
    I have a pretty good hunch that Changeling characters are going to have more Clarity breaking points than just the Seeming Curse. I thought I remembered some remark from David about creating the Durance as part of character creation. It seems likely to me that at least some breaking points -- and probably some other weirdness -- will be rooted in the particular traumas the character faced in Arcadia, and how they reacted/responded.
    Given the latest spoiler, I'm gonna say... Yearnings.

    Leave a comment:


  • KismetRose
    replied
    As far as the original post: A recent re-reading of the core book's coverage of the Hedge has revealed so much language which makes traveling in the Hedge come across as a constantly dangerous undertaking. I had wondered why my players were so put off by it long ago but over time I have come to see why. Even as a cool option is offered, it is diminished a few paragraphs later by penalties, restrictions, adversaries, and threats of getting off the path. After a while, it doesn't seem worth the risks for many players, and those with newer characters are even less likely to have the resources it takes for a safer trip. More variety in level, tone, and function would be nice all around.

    Leave a comment:


  • Axelgear
    replied
    I was hoping more to discuss, in terms of design space, the notion of Changeling aesthetic being about changing as a being rather than insert-coin-get-effect powers as they largely were in first edition, but we can return to the notion of Clarity. Honestly, I agree; its role as Integrity analogue works best.

    Leave a comment:


  • Leetsepeak
    replied
    Changeling's Clarity makes perfect sense to me as a linear Integrity Trait. It has a lot conceptually in common with Humanity, I think, as it's a similar idea of trying to hold onto who you are in the face of the supernatural part of your identity.

    Leave a comment:


  • MachineIV
    replied
    Originally posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post

    I see where you're coming from, but I'm not terribly fond of that paradigm for Clarity. I don't think it works as well as a more linear Integrity equivalent trait. Clarity to me is not about balance. Changelings aren't trying to strike a harmonious point between their human and fae sides; they're trying to not get swallowed by the influence of Arcadia on their minds and to keep a strong hold on reality. The Lost are touched by Faerie - but they weren't born like that. They struck pacts with it to survive, and the Wyrd filled in where the thorns of the Hedge ripped their souls in the escape from the Others.
    This is much, much closer to what we're doing with Changeling 2.0. I'm really not comfortable with "finding a balance" in Changeling, considering the cultural and social contexts of what's going on in the game.

    Leave a comment:


  • Axelgear
    replied
    So, now that we have Beast's preview open to the public, I feel now is the time to do some gravedigging on this.

    Powers that make a Changeling feel actually changed feel like something Beast accomplishes far better than 1e Changeling, and the Hunger mechanic - while ultimately a bit void as far as providing societal connection goes - does provide impetus to act like a creature of myth. What lessons can be learned from these to improve Changeling, a game that ostensibly held these sorts of themes as ideas long before Beast rolled onto the scene?

    Leave a comment:


  • Gaius
    replied
    I have a pretty good hunch that Changeling characters are going to have more Clarity breaking points than just the Seeming Curse. I thought I remembered some remark from David about creating the Durance as part of character creation. It seems likely to me that at least some breaking points -- and probably some other weirdness -- will be rooted in the particular traumas the character faced in Arcadia, and how they reacted/responded.

    Leave a comment:


  • ElvesofZion
    replied
    Originally posted by Phaolan View Post
    It's something that—just from my point of view—is becoming easier to ignore in Second Edition. Yeah, the whole 'stolen, hurt, returned' element (with FAR more nuance that I imply here, mind) is still there, but the mechanics 'oomph' behind it feels, I dunno... Watered down? I mean, a new character is saddled with only the MANDATORY kith, a state that comes with (from what we've seen so far) a pretty kick-ass Blessing and a weird (pun intended!) physical alteration, but the latter is covered by the Mask most times. There's no inherent (i.e. mechanics) downside to the event that we see.
    I would say that the Seeming curse is also represented of this. It is mechanical 'oomph' about what you HAD to do to escape from the trauma causing situation and how that will continue to affect your life afterwards.

    Leave a comment:


  • Phaolan
    replied
    Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
    Abuse is, funnily enough, a form of trauma.
    It's something that—just from my point of view—is becoming easier to ignore in Second Edition. Yeah, the whole 'stolen, hurt, returned' element (with FAR more nuance that I imply here, mind) is still there, but the mechanics 'oomph' behind it feels, I dunno... Watered down? I mean, a new character is saddled with only the MANDATORY kith, a state that comes with (from what we've seen so far) a pretty kick-ass Blessing and a weird (pun intended!) physical alteration, but the latter is covered by the Mask most times. There's no inherent (i.e. mechanics) downside to the event that we see.

    This is all taken out of any larger context, I know, and until we see what sorts of Anchor Traits we'll get—most importantly how Clarity shall work—it's all so much speculation. However, I DO think that some kind of 'balancing' mechanic can be brought to Clarity, but I'd want to see it being far more than the 'fae-versus-human' continuum suggested earlier in this thread. Hell, I think Clarity ALREADY is that kind of a continuum, taking what's offered in Equinox Road, vis-a-vis high Wyrd/low Clarity Traits, as 'fact' (insomuch as such a term applies to anything related to Faerie).

    ...So, IF I were to create a version of Clarity more akin to Harmony in Werewolf: the Forsaken Second Edition (a bigger if than this font allows), I'd to it with full knowledge that higher Clarity is vital to maintaining a changeling's way of life on this side of the Hedge. What I'd look for, though, is the possibility that on one end, Clarity 0 leaves a Changeling as nearly indistinguishable from a hobgoblin (or one of the True Fae with high enough Wyrd), whilst Clarity must be OVER 10 for anything like fully forgetting Faerie, a state that I'd deem impossible if Wyrd is higher than 1.

    The notion of bonuses/penalties for high or low Clarity is possible, too, but I'd tie them to things like kenning and incite bedlam only. That is, high Clarity makes seeing the 'odd' a tad easier, but bedlam is harder to really push onto others; flip those for low Clarity.

    All of the above notwithstanding, I think that I fall closer to ArcaneArts's point of view than on the OP's, but I'm always glad to argue discuss these things here! I'm further waiting to see what David and company actually do with Changeline before starting any fights over this.

    Leave a comment:


  • Killer300
    replied
    Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
    Abuse is, funnily enough, a form of trauma.

    It's not like that invalidates what you're saying, buuuut I've got the distinction heavy on my mind right now.
    Fair point.

    Leave a comment:


  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    Abuse is, funnily enough, a form of trauma.

    It's not like that invalidates what you're saying, buuuut I've got the distinction heavy on my mind right now.

    Leave a comment:


  • Killer300
    replied
    Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
    There ya go champ.
    Wouldn't the element of the Gentry make this abuse?

    With that said, that is true for 2E, which is why I mentioned it changed aspects of it.

    Leave a comment:


  • ArcaneArts
    replied
    Originally posted by Killer300 View Post
    To give some thoughts on this, now that we have more available,

    Its worth noting the origin of Changelings is Trauma.
    There ya go champ.

    Leave a comment:


  • Killer300
    replied
    To give some thoughts on this, now that we have more available,

    Its worth noting the origin of Changelings is Truama. 2E may have changed aspects of that, but that influence is still there in regards to Changelings, and their related stat, Clarity. After all, the only reason they became Changelings was because they were kidnapped by the Gentry, and in 2nd Edition, get a lot of their power from escaping. Either way, that basically ties their entire new identity to misery.

    To give an equivalent, imagine if to become a Werewolf, rather than being born with it, you were locked in a basement for six months, beaten every day, starved, and had numerous other tortures done over that period. Would you really want to do things involving Werewolves afterwards, if all you associate it with is horrific pain and suffering?

    Yes, the Fae side can be beautiful, but they pay dearly to have access to that. Outside of Prometheans, who its worth noting have the over-arching motivation of ending their present condition, none of the other splats have to go through immense suffering to become what they are.

    Now, this may all be obvious, but I'm only bringing it up because its the reason it makes no sense to make Clarity act like Harmony. I know that's already been beat into the ground to some extent, but... well, it deserves to be hammered in.

    To me, the main reason Changelings would want to indulge in Fae magic, for example, is to fight attempts by Gentry to drag them back, or otherwise defend themselves from the World of Darkness as a whole. Yes, I realize there are Changeling abilities that aren't directly connected to this, such as say, enhancing someone's luck for art or what have you, however, even those abilities can be harnessed for the above. And while Changelings may not solely use their magic for the aforementioned purpose, I would argue it'd be an overarching purpose.

    By contrast, Werewolves, from what I understand of them, use their abilities primarily to keep the Spirit world in line, preserve their Pack, and engage Werewolves from the opposite faction. Yes, self preservation is involved in that, and I'm sure individual werewolves may have that motivation, but it isn't their highest, or over-arching motivation, as a group. I'd argue to some extent, that is the case with Changelings.
    Mind you, Changelings need to acknowledge their Fae sides, but that's to avoid slipping into denial, and, again, so they can use their magic to defend themselves from say, the Gentry.
    Last edited by Killer300; 05-05-2015, 01:16 AM.

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