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GMing Changeling: What NOT to do

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  • GMing Changeling: What NOT to do

    I saw a thread like this for Vampire the Masquerade, and since I was interesting in GMing a game of Changeling 2e, I was wondering: what are pitfalls to avoid gameplay-wise, what characters should not be brought out and what kind of general plots should not be done? I'm going to make mistakes, I know, but I'd rather not make rookie and or obvious ones - I tend to be oblivious to those.

  • #2
    (Readies notepad.) Still a newbie, myself, so I'll keep an eye on here. I do have some suspicions:

    1) Don't let the players go rules lawyer on the Wyrd. (See: 1E Pledgecrafting abuses I've heard of) The Wyrd isn't a vending machine that gives out prizes for metagaming. It hates people who treat it as such.
    2) Don't make the first threat obvious. Paranoia and suspense are important in Changeling. Build up before you reveal.

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    • #3
      80% of the game is about building up home, doing things that root players in their sense of community and connection to the lives they are building.

      50% of the perception of the game is about thinking the faeries are about to take them away again.


      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.
      Currently Working On: Memento Mori(GtSE)

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      • #4
        This is a thing in general, but especially Changeling--if you're going to play with any theme around sexual abuse, make sure you know what you're talking about. Spend hours (at least ten, unless you're a survivor or doctor who works with survivors) researching theeffects sexual violence can have, reading from survivors, etc. Also, make sure you check in with every single one of your players before you introduce something like that into the game. I'm serious about this, it's important.


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        • #5
          I'd stay away from introducing the theme of sexual abuse, but allow the players to introduce it themselves, if they so choose, that way it feels more natural and organic, and less artifically introduced.
          Last edited by Omegaphallic; 07-08-2016, 10:14 AM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by hm8453a View Post
            This is a thing in general, but especially Changeling--if you're going to play with any theme around sexual abuse, make sure you know what you're talking about. Spend hours (at least ten, unless you're a survivor or doctor who works with survivors) researching theeffects sexual violence can have, reading from survivors, etc. Also, make sure you check in with every single one of your players before you introduce something like that into the game. I'm serious about this, it's important.
            I'd be leering of going about things like that, you could go through a 100 sexual abuse statements and each will be unique in someway as will how they view the experience and deal with it. And you don't have anyway to tell which are true or not.

            And some experts do more harm then good and its hard to tell which is which.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Omegaphallic View Post

              I'd be leering of going about things like that, you could go through a 100 sexual abuse statements and each will be unique in someway as will how they view the experience and deal with it. And you don't have anyway to tell which are true or not.

              And some experts do more harm then good and its hard to tell which is which.
              Oh, of course. Because we all react to trauma in different ways. But exposing yourself to some of the different ways we do recover will allow you to see that range, and ways to handle it delicately, rather than predatorily, or just for ~edge~. You also run the risk of hurting a player you might not have known is recovering from sexual abuse themselves.


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              • #8
                I was in the worst changeling game i ever experience in 10 years i have played RPGs.

                Nothing was right on that game and yet i never learn more about the why and hows of the game like in that one. Nothing teaches you about how a game works like seeing somebody screw it up to spectacularly.

                The DM decides that pledges were OP so all pledges could only be done via the pledge master. Shoving his annoying NPC down our throats.

                He decided that cannibalism feet ogres so all ogres were cannibals as a physiological necesity (which it isnt how the flaw works but whatever). But whenever any pc (freshly escaped ones btw) reacted badly to one of his NPCs ogres boasting how babies taste good then that was our pcs being intolerant.

                Allowed players to make character from 200+ years ago or that dont remember anything about their past lives so that left half the table playing normal changeling with the other half playing either murderhobbos or character so out of touch with human behavior that their only characteristic was "Leelo Dallas multipass"

                Make the courts leader horrible leaders (one with clarity 1, an inept, a moustache twirling arab terrorist.....literally he was that) but they were politically invincible because status quo was god and all the court said that they compete with each other but really nobody took advantage of nobody and a court could execute a member of the seasonally rulling court if they see it fit without consulting said rulling court.

                Artificially restricted skill to 2 only if your character background really REALLY justified and then limited your wyrd to 1 and then complain as to why noone wanted to go to his incredible dangerous quest in to the hedge to rescue 1 NPC that was a brooding samurai that nobody interacted with.

                Decide he didnt like how the contracts worked because wyrd was a godstat. But became lazy and doing only half of the ones player pick and rules on the moment how exactly do they work.

                Originally posted by BronzeDog View Post
                1) Don't let the players go rules lawyer on the Wyrd. (See: 1E Pledgecrafting abuses I've heard of) The Wyrd isn't a vending machine that gives out prizes for metagaming. It hates people who treat it as such.
                Can i ask about this one?

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                • #9
                  Gonna second the "don't have PCs from more than 80-ish years ago." From a ST perspective, it's really, really hard to engage those characters, as their worldview is so very removed. If you want to play stranger in a strange land, okay, but know that most of the game will be spent with "What's this? What's this?" about every single thing.

                  Also seconding "don't rules lawyer the Wyrd," particularly with pledges. One of the easiest things to do is to create a list of minor forbiddances and tasks (like, "Don't eat blue ice cream on Mondays" or "Give a friend a dollar once a month"), racking up a huge amount of benefits (because duration, the only other positive modifier, is capped at three). Or creating a life alert pledge with a forbiddance of "don't fall unconcious due to damage" and a sanction that auto-casts Eternal Spring 3 (heal target) and Direction 1 (find the target). Or the infinite pledge loop (step 1: get a boon of membership in a group, like Allies (somebody). step 2: Use Allies (somebody) as the mortal corporal for another pledge, which grants you Allies (somebody else). step 3: Repeat step 2. This one is a little less safe because if one breaks, it breaks down the chain, but it's kinda nuts.) Per RAW, these are legal, but the Wyrd should say, "Yeah, no, those don't work like you want," either by causing creative interpretation (positive Contracts in a Sanction throw Dramatic Failures instead, circumstances prevent someone from having a dollar to give) or having the pledge not work.

                  Other than that, watch the Catches to Contracts. Some are easy as sinning (barefoot for an hour? I don't know anyone that sleeps with their shoes on...), some are easily manipulated ("Here, I'm going to give you this cupcake, then give it back to me." "Okay?" "Great, now I can heal your bashing for free."), and some are never going to happen (an area dominated by lava? Not on this side of the crust!).

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                    Can i ask about this one?
                    In essence, pledges can solve all your mundane problems, that assumption is a carte blanche for the ST to complicate things for the characters regardless. It's like Unchained pacts without an ounce of the moral dilemma and way, way more versatile.
                    Last edited by Ephsy; 07-08-2016, 04:36 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Less than three days and already I'm getting advice I had no idea I'd be getting.

                      Originally posted by BronzeDog View Post
                      1) Don't let the players go rules lawyer on the Wyrd. (See: 1E Pledgecrafting abuses I've heard of) The Wyrd isn't a vending machine that gives out prizes for metagaming. It hates people who treat it as such.
                      2) Don't make the first threat obvious. Paranoia and suspense are important in Changeling. Build up before you reveal.
                      Always good to keep in mind; no point in throwing players into a universe only to suddenly claim that it's being threatened before they can tell if it's Sin City or not. Good note on Pledges too; I remember the 2e rules even mentioning that GMs could punish players for making such Pledges, though I imagine that punishments aren't something that should be given out too heavily either.

                      Originally posted by ArcaneArts View Post
                      80% of the game is about building up home, doing things that root players in their sense of community and connection to the lives they are building.

                      50% of the perception of the game is about thinking the faeries are about to take them away again.
                      I feel like this first one's going to be a pitfall for me, because I tend to go too in-depth with certain things. Still, as noted, it's always good to set up what kind of world the characters are establishing themselves in before a threat is brought up. Players are likely to work that much harder to get something that they have come to treasure, rather than something they just bought, if it's stolen from them.

                      hm8453a and @omegaphallic
                      Very wise. Sexual abuse isn't a topic I'm all that comfortable with myself, nor knowledgeable, so bringing it up in-game just to "spice things up" is definitely something I'm going to avoid doing. Even from a non-interactive standpoint, sexual abuse is difficult to do well, and probably not within my skill as a writer to do.

                      @LokiRavenSpeak
                      You have my deepest sympathies for going through that kind of game. Even if it taught you well on what not to do, I don't envy you having to go through it. However, it does bring up a few good points. As the presence of this thread shows, I'm not experienced enough in the game to really be making judgement calls on modifying existing rules and contracts. I know other GMs who have done extensive hacks on the rules and setting, but only once they've determined what works and what doesn't, and they clear that with their players first. Likewise, good advice on how not to run a freehold - I'd think that any sensible leader, or at least their subordinates, would realize that having such low clarity meant they'd need to be taken out of the seat of power to get some therapy. Having political immunity and the ability to execute anyone on the streets sounds like a dangerous step towards Gentryhood to me.

                      As for the restrictions on players I'm...honestly baffled. I can understand recommending players spreading their points out for skills, as it means they won't be hit with as many penalties, but limiting them and their Wyrd? At that point it's almost better to just give them pre-made characters.

                      For the age-point, I agree to a point, though I do feel there is some genuine character drama that can come from someone who is far from their original time period. It would require a fair amount of work from both the GM and the player to make sure it wasn't a gimmick that got old fast. At the very least, taking a contract like "Inanimate Communion" or having a Token which informs the user about unfamiliar things seems like a way to mitigate things...but yeah, definitely something to be careful about.

                      @AceOfDiamonds
                      All good points, particularly on the Pledges and Catches. From what I've seen, 2e has made the Catches for various contracts much easier to manage and more situational the higher a contract is rated, but keeping track of what contract needs what is a good bit of advice all the same. That said, giving some opportunities for the players to find/make conditions for their contracts to be ennacted wouldn't be a bad idea - in a Changeling game I'm in, we have a Beast character who has Cyclopean Strength, and he used the Satiety Expenditure effect to allow him to effectively throw people around. He threw my Changeling character (he is an Airtouched, so he can take no damage from falls below terminal velocity) after someone who was kidnapping the local freehold leader, which generated enough wind around my Changeling to allow him to activate Contract of the Elements: Wind with its catch. It was a fun time. :-)

                      Originally posted by Ephsy View Post

                      In essence, pledges can solve all your mundane problems, that assumption is a carte blanche for the ST to complicate things for the characters regardless. It's like Unchained pacts without an ounce of the moral dilemma and way, way more versatile.
                      Now that I was unaware of...I'll need to re-read Pledges for 2e to see how concurrent this definition is.

                      Thanks to everyone who has posted, and who posts in the future (hoping that this remains as a resource for others GMing Changeling in the future).

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                      • #12
                        2e pledges are WAY better. 1e was a cool idea but the math was really wonky and abusable, and didn't make sense in a lot of places. Particularly Forbiddance and Duration. It's a hell of a lot easier to keep a chastity pledge for a day than it is to keep it for a year, but because Duration is a positive modifier the shorter the time you pledged to Not Do X the more you benefitted from Not Doing X.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Taidragon View Post
                          @LokiRavenSpeak
                          You have my deepest sympathies for going through that kind of game. Even if it taught you well on what not to do, I don't envy you having to go through it. However, it does bring up a few good points. As the presence of this thread shows, I'm not experienced enough in the game to really be making judgement calls on modifying existing rules and contracts. I know other GMs who have done extensive hacks on the rules and setting, but only once they've determined what works and what doesn't, and they clear that with their players first.
                          While i dont mind houserules the problem was that this DM allow us, changeling veterans, to make "experieced pcs" but them he spring this houserules/setting changes which changed fundamentally how the game work as surprises so it resulted in my character telling the pledge master to go to hell and then "remembering" that he was the only one who could make pledges for a motley.

                          Interestingly enough i never got the point of motleys until i play this game and after reading in frustration the motely pledge it says that each member have to help each other meaning that a changeling trading an i-owe-you token is not just pulling himself but his entire motley who are pledge-sworn to help with this which is a political power in its own right.

                          Originally posted by Taidragon View Post
                          Likewise, good advice on how not to run a freehold - I'd think that any sensible leader, or at least their subordinates, would realize that having such low clarity meant they'd need to be taken out of the seat of power to get some therapy. Having political immunity and the ability to execute anyone on the streets sounds like a dangerous step towards Gentryhood to me.
                          It was weird, the seeds of plot were there. Winter king was mad in the sense of the queen of hearts in alice and while he was otherwordly beautiful and i could see some people ignoring that aspect of him. Not all of them, when he lost control to a newly escaped changeling`s perceive insult (which said changeling went to a long lenght to explain and apologize) and almost had his champion execute her. None of the NPCs reacted, it was like that was usual monday.

                          Same with the DM version of Summer Queen which was in all but name subservient to the mad king of winter.....and nobody in summer cared about that even though their personalities would dictate that they should care. The change in station was so pointless because they all got along by the power of "just ignore".

                          My advice to make a freehold is that if you want, and its perfectly okay if you dont, politicking in your freehold there has to be dissidence and you have to show that dissidence to the players. It can be as extreme as covert revolution or as subtle as whisper and bitching while drinking. It can be a guy who openly opposes the monarch in peaceful but firm way or it can be a guy who is valuable to the monarch but know how she/he is and gives tips to the players to survive around the monarch.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                            Interestingly enough i never got the point of motleys until i play this game and after reading in frustration the motely pledge it says that each member have to help each other meaning that a changeling trading an i-owe-you token is not just pulling himself but his entire motley who are pledge-sworn to help with this which is a political power in its own right.
                            Huh. You know, that makes a lot of sense. It never occurred to me to think like that.

                            Originally posted by LokiRavenSpeak View Post
                            It was weird, the seeds of plot were there. Winter king was mad in the sense of the queen of hearts in alice and while he was otherwordly beautiful and i could see some people ignoring that aspect of him. Not all of them, when he lost control to a newly escaped changeling`s perceive insult (which said changeling went to a long lenght to explain and apologize) and almost had his champion execute her. None of the NPCs reacted, it was like that was usual monday.

                            Same with the DM version of Summer Queen which was in all but name subservient to the mad king of winter.....and nobody in summer cared about that even though their personalities would dictate that they should care. The change in station was so pointless because they all got along by the power of "just ignore".

                            My advice to make a freehold is that if you want, and its perfectly okay if you dont, politicking in your freehold there has to be dissidence and you have to show that dissidence to the players. It can be as extreme as covert revolution or as subtle as whisper and bitching while drinking. It can be a guy who openly opposes the monarch in peaceful but firm way or it can be a guy who is valuable to the monarch but know how she/he is and gives tips to the players to survive around the monarch.
                            Considering I'm making my own Freehold, complete with custom courts, contracts and courtiers, that is extremely valuable advice. Thank you. :-)

                            You know, with the way that things were going, it almost seems like your DM was going towards making the freehold become an Arcadia on earth, potentially with the Winter king as the gentry of it. I'm starting to form a bile fascination with this session; I imagine it'd have been more interesting if it wasn't being played straight.

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                            • #15
                              A thing which tangentially relates to Loki's GM's cannibalism gaffe and more directly relates to one of those common reading attitudes about the game:

                              2e's done a good job at making it more up-front, and Arc's old spiel about Never Going Back as the corollary to Finding Your Way Home is pretty direct about it, but it bears emphasis that the Durance and its related traumas do not render the Lost immune to casual malice.

                              Even beyond the explicit "bad guy" narrative archetypes that the Wyrd can and does orchestrate, most changelings who've been around for a while are not going to be especially good people without deliberate effort. This is a group of people with multiple innate means of getting out of trouble and a natural bias toward a smaller-scale version of the same behavior as the beings that made them into magical-narrative actors that can talk to the whole world. The vast majority have learned better than to do anything for free, and no small number of them have deeply-ingrained agendas amplified by the loss of their emotional regulators.

                              Put plainly, don't run changeling NPCs as simply humans who happen to be able to call on ancient pixie pacts, because that misses out on the ways that the Lost are fae.


                              Resident Sanguinary Analyst
                              Currently Consuming: Changeling: the Lost 1e

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