Changeling: The Dreaming

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    The world is not what it seems to be.

    A Storytelling Game of Modern Fantasy.


    The tabletop roleplaying game Changeling was the Lighter and Softer aspect of the Old World of Darkness, and had a lot less angst and death. That got it a lot of derision from players of the other World of Darkness game lines. Changeling: The Dreaming borrowed heavily from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and Neverwhere.

    In Changeling, players take on the role of a Changeling Fae - a faerie who has been reincarnated into a human body due to Banality suppressing humanity's ability to dream and believe in magic. Faeries are children of the Dreaming, a supernatural force/parallel universe representing the combined creativity, stories, hopes, dreams and emotions of mankind, both good and bad. The Age of Enlightenment forced most Faeries into hiding because of the rise of science and Faeries band together to eke out an existence trying to bring Glamour and magic back into the world. (Interestingly, it was the moon landing in 1969, not Woodstock, which brought about such a surge of Glamour that it threw open the closed Gates of Arcadia, if only for a moment, and allowed the disappeared fairy nobility, the Sidhe, to re-enter the world of mortals - where they were stuck in mortal bodies afterwards.)

    Changeling: The Dreaming is a work of split opinions. Some people think it a great Urban Fantasy game that provides a little light in the rest of the World of Darkness; others view it as a game that's too simplistic in its themes (see: Growing Up Sucks) and sometimes twee to a fault. It doesn't help that the game line itself has so many ways to go, you have little idea what the authors wanted—a fable on the death of childhood innocence? A game of raging against the dying of the light? An urban fantasy game about balancing the fantastic and the mundane? The commonly derided "bear and balloons" illustration near the start of the 2nd edition core book didn't exactly help matters.

    The sequel, Changeling: The Lost is a Darker and Edgier take on it where Changelings are the more traditional sort of humans that have been kidnapped by The Fair Folk and must escape. Just as divisive as the original. The tone of Changeling: The Dreaming and Wraith: The Oblivion were basically swapped in the new World of Darkness for Geist: The Sin Eaters and Changeling: The Lost.

    Tropes used in Changeling: The Dreaming include:
    • All Trolls Are Different—These trolls are badass warriors whose existence is defined by honor and oaths. Their Thallain equivalents, the Ogres, are even more powerful but dumb as stumps.
    • Animorphism—Many, but the pooka are the most well-known.
    • Arcadia
    • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking—The redcaps have the power to eat anything they can get into their mouths. The rulebook notes however:

    Digesting something particularly vile or tough (such as wood, steel, romance novels or toxic waste) requires the expenditure of a point of glamour.

    • Atlantis Is Boring—The merfolk.
    • Badass Grandpa—Most changelings grow weaker as they grow older, especially those who rely on magic. Trolls, though, also grow weaker magically but keep growing stronger physically.
    • Boisterous Bruiser: Many Seelie redcaps, particularily the signature redcap Mug. (Unseelie redcaps are just brutes.)
    • Brother-Sister Incest: Implied in the backgrounds of Sidhe Houses Eiluned and Ailil. At least, that's one way to read the line "... they shared love closer than that of siblings."
    • Catgirl—A very popular and appropriate theme for pooka (to the verge of being cliche). There's also an entire kith of catgirls (and boys!), the Neyan, among the Eastern fae.
    • Changeling Fantasy—It's right there in the title. Jimmy from Pittsburgh can discover that he's really a 500-year old troll King. That doesn't change the fact that he lives on the street in a dumpster and is considered mentally ill by normal people.
    • The Chessmaster—Some of the older sidhe.
    • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: What the Faeries run on. Glamour.
    • Cloudcuckoolander: The Kithain in general have this, at least compared to the rest of the denizens of the World of Darkness; very few take them seriously (apart from some older vampires and the werewolves, who know them better) precisely because of their oddness. Even the most sensible and savvy troll happens to live their life with a supernatural form of schizophrenia (owing to the general focus on the not-quite-there realm of the Dreaming).
      • The pooka are an entire kith of this. Their innate Frailty is the inability to say the complete truth (barring extremely simple concepts such as orders or an exertion of willpower), causing them to generally speak in odd ways or patterns, leading to this trope.
    • Cluster F-Bomb: The Nockers traditionally do this as a matter of anger management; they were born from dreams of creation and frustration, so it's quite literally In the Blood. Their Splatbook flavor narration mentions that one Nocker crafted a stone that would absorb their collective cussing provided they periodically journeyed to it and swore until they felt better, backfiring when one Nocker girl swore so hard that she broke it and caused a massive backlash. In less flavor-related terms, Nockers also possess the native power to fix machines by swearing at them, using the higher of the Crafts and Intimidation.
    • Crap Saccharine World: Ignore the covers. This game is outright depressing if you read it closely enough. Sure, you're a pixie... pity you're utterly screwed.
    • Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: Seelie are not automatically good, nor are Unseelie automatically evil (though fae of either court often are anyway). Of particular note are the sluagh, a race of brooding, spidery Nightmare Fetishists who can nonetheless be rather wistful and romantic in their own moody way.
      • Good Is Not Nice / Affably Evil: Related, even if a character is played as a good Seelie or an evil Unseelie, this isn't to say that they're going to be automatically everyone's best friend or a repellent foe, respectively. For example, a Seelie Redcap is depicted in that splat as a foul-tempered Bully Hunter that has problems making friends, while a very dark take on The Casanova is presented as a very personable Unseelie Satyr in that splat.
    • Depending on the Artist: The illustrations of the Kithain goes all over the place. In the earlier editions, redcaps were generally shown to have flat teeth (presumably because that kind of bite is more unsettling) though shown to have shark-type teeth. Female trolls got this a lot; they were almost always simply drawn as blue women who were slightly taller than average and not espicially strong-looking, in spite of the fact that trolls are muscular and no shorter than eight feet tall.
    • Demonic Possession: The Sidhe ripped the souls out of mortals to get bodies on earth. also the Adhene can do a more temporally version of it to interact with the mortal world
    • Deus Angst Machina—Rarer in this game line than the others.
      • Because moping will kill you.
    • Dream Land: The dreaming were every thought, flight of fancy, or dream a human ever have is located there
    • The Eeyore: The sluagh.
    • The End of the World as We Know It—Endless Winter. In some of earlier text, the redcaps were actively trying to encourage it, though their Kithbook dropped this notion; the redcap narrator views it as an inevitable thing and doesn't see the point of doing anything one way or the other.
    • Everyone Is Bi—Most sourcebooks indicate that the majority of the Changelings are bisexual. Which comes in handy when you change bodies every 50 years or so.
    • Evil Is Sexy In-Universe: House Leanhaun gain bonuses to charisma and seduction and age a year for every full month they go without exhausting an artist's creativity, which results in the victim suffering a nervous breakdown at minimum.
    • Exclusively Evil: Unseelie redcaps are always, always nasty. Then there are the Thallain, variants on the other kiths with a bend towards the dark. To explain: Most changelings have a Seelie (noble) nature and an Unseelie (base) nature. Thallain have two Unseelie natures instead.
    • Extreme Omnivore: The redcaps, who could swallow down almost anything they can stretch their abnormally flexible jaws around. Plenty of Unseelie weaponize it, with the messy consequences you'd expect.
    • Faeries Don't Believe in Humans, Either: Literally -- the opening story in the "Denizens of the Dreaming" has the POV character remark on humans being a myth.
    • The Fair Folk: Less so than in the sequel game, though there are examples. Unseelie Redcaps are often vicious, all-devouring monsters, and the sidhe of both Courts literally ripped out people's souls so they could obtain host bodies when they returned from Arcadia.
    • Fairy Companion: Most of the player characters. Becomes pretty literal in crossover games, or from an in-universe perspective of another supernatural splat that happens to be an ally or friend of a changeling.
    • Fairy Sexy: The Sidhe are considred very beautiful even getting two free dots of appearance at character creation, they are also know for their various Romantic trysts. in commoner circles the satys are literarily the dreams of passions

    Fantastic Racism—Generally the sidhe and everyone else and vice versa.

    • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: A typical villain.
    • The Gadfly: Nockers.
    • Gadgeteer Genius: Nockers again; they get along with the Sons of Ether because of this, as the Nockers are almost literally personifications of fantastic science.
    • Gothic Punk
    • Growing Up Sucks: Changelings usually get Brought Down to Normal in their 30's.
    • Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?: Oh so very much. Reading the introduction story to the sourcebook is like reading a Coming Out Story with dragons added.
      • Did we mention that the default Chronicle setting is in San Francisco? Referred to specifically as "The Rainbow City"?
    • Hobbits: Boggans.
    • Horned Humanoid—Trolls and satyrs; it tends to get more pronounced when they get older.
    • Ideal Hero—Most seelie trolls.
    • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the rest of the old World of Darkness.
    • Loads and Loads of Races: Faerie races include the European Kithain, Native American Nunnehi, elemental Inanimae, Pacific Manehune, Asian Hsien, Arabic Djinn (a fan work endorsed by the writers), and the dark Adhene. At about eight kiths each, there are well over 50 different splats, not counting the potential for Australian, South American, and African fae (beyond the eshu) had the line been allowed to continue, which might have pushed that number to 70. Each race has their own sets of rules, which keeps them separate from the others (plus geography). This is probably why Changeling: The Lost only establishes the base archetypes and lets players take it from there.
    • Lovable Sex Maniac: The satyrs. Unseelie satyrs often drop the lovable.
    • Magical Negro: The eshu could be used this way. They were a race of African fae and had a habit of popping in to help solve a problem or impart some critical information and then mysteriously vanishing if they weren't a PC.
      • This doesn't stop a lot of players from playing Irish Gaelic- or Gypsy-styled eshu or more; the splatbook states that there are now eshu from all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds.
      • If you're playing the eshu, it can have the opposite effect: You become a one-changeling In-Universe Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
    • Meaningful Name: Examples include David Ardry (see: Ard Righ), High King of Concordia. Since changelings don't tend to use their truest names, these may connect with Meaningful Rename.
    • Measuring the Marigolds: See Science Is Bad below.
      • Of course, given Changeling's somewhat schizoid nature, even this was subverted on a few occasions. One book had a Boggan who made his living as an accountant; by all rights, this should have had his fae soul halfway to dormancy, but he took such joy in the potential of numbers and sums that he actually derived Glamour from his living.
    • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: For all that you Can't Argue with Elves, the Sidhe appear to be responsible for a lot of the bad in the world. The Leanhaun did the Rapturing that turned the mortals against the fae, though they blame the Liam sidhe who spurred the curse; the founder of House Fiona accidentally caused the human vs. Garou feud to continue 'til the End Times by falling for the wrong human and handing his people silver-as-a-weapon; Arcadia is supposedly in ruins because the fleeing sidhe brought Banality with them during the Sundering, and 'dark evils' followed the sidhe back to Earth from the Dreaming in the '60s. Noblesse Oblige, or an epic case of You Broke It, You Fix It?
    • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Redcap sourcebook suggests out-thinking the Sidhe because they'll never expect you to be smart.
    • Our Mermaids Are Different: The seelie merfolk and unseelie murdhuacha (mer-ROO-ka).
    • Power Perversion Potential—The satyrs are this distilled.
      • There is a stat for every type of thing you might target with your powers. Prop covers targeting artificial objects. With Prop 1 you can only target your powers at clothing.
      • Averted with Soothsay 3. This is a scry power which allows you to see things you can target and nothing else. If you can target people but not animals and one person throws a rattlesnake at another, the snake remains invisible. However, the power works by using Prop to target an object in order to see what is going on around it. This means you must have, at very least, Prop 1, meaning that if people are wearing clothes you can see their clothes.
      • The Sluagh kithbook's physical merits all seem to be well suited for a wild night. Overly long tongue? Dexterous toes? Ability to become a puddle? All have their perverted uses. It's a good thing the kith is the least likely to be using these.
    • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The trolls, both Seelie and Unseelie, though the Unseelie tend to be a bit more pragmatic about things. Seelie redcaps often tend to this as well.
    • Really Seven Hundred Years Old—Reincarnation makes it moreso.
    • Science Destroys Magic: Changeling: The Dreaming tends to assume science is Fae-smothering Banality, though the Nockers might disagree (indeed, the largest infusion of Glamour in recent history was the moon landing).
    • Science Is Bad: Everytime you perform an experiment in a laboratory, a faerie dies. OK, well, that's an exaggeration, but still part of the main theme.
      • Then again, the line could be... split on this theme (hell, it was split on a lot of themes). The Nocker Kithbook emphasized, as only a nocker can (with lots of swears and at great volume), that the return of the Sidhe to Earth, the result of one of the greatest rushes of Glamour changeling kind had experienced in recent history, was a result of the awe and wonder derived from the first moon landing.
        • Unfortunately, the game line was cancelled before the Big Book of Glamour, which according to Justin Achilli was almost finished, could be published by Arthaus under the White Wolf license. It was supposed to spell out more clearly that for different changelings glamour and banality can come in many different flavours, and what might constitute utter banality for, say, a more traditionally minded Sidhe or Native American changeling may be a source of glamour for a Nocker, and what might taste like glamour to an Unseelie Sluagh might feel utterly vile to a Satyr or Boggan.
          • This makes sense when considered with the Nocker kithbook, where the only 'mages' the Nockers mention are the Sons of Ether/Brethren of Aether, whom they think are pretty awesome (insofar as Nockers can think of anyone as awesome) and the Technocracy/Hidden Ones, who don't seem to worry the Nockers anyway.
      • It gets especially silly when the game designers claimed that Awakened mages and insane marauders can be a source of glamour, but Awakened Technocrats are always banality incarnate. What, Awakened technocrats are all mindless drones, incapable of feeling personal joy and awe at the universe and and unable to inspire others with the Wonders of Science? Luddist postmodernism prejudices much?
        • Not so much "incapable of feeling personal joy and awe at the universe's myriad mysteries, and unable to inspire others with the Wonders of Science," as it is that the Technocrats don't believe that what they do is really magic. They have to have a rational explanation for everything - and that tends to be deadly for the more inherently magical things, since 'rational' prohibits a world where dragons exist and turns unicorns into mutant horses.
        • Not to mention, you know, Technocrats are brainwashed in their own Core Book to not believe in anything wondrous.
          • Hey! They believe in Wonders! Just not, you know... "magical" incarnated bits of the Imagination. And, since they literally kill fae with their disbelief, can you blame the Technocrats for not believing? All they see is some crazy guy having a seizure/heart-attack/coma.
    • Screw You, Elves: It seems like every other sentence written about the Sidhe is that everyone hates them.
      • Then again, every other sentence is the Sidhe talking about how awesome they were and how they could be that awesome again if only the commoner fae realized that the Sidhe were right all along...
        • Of course it varies from Sidhe to Sidhe. An argument condemning say a House Gwydion lord wouldn't apply to a member of House Liam and certainly not to a member of House Leanhaun. A screw you to one Sidhe is often a compliment to their rivals.
    • Selkies and Weresealsthe Selkie Kith.
    • Shout-Out: Numerous ones, usually to Neil Gaiman.
    • Sickeningly Sweethearts: What you get when sluagh fall in love.
    • Sourcebook
    • Space Jews: The nockers, many of whom actually are Jewish. The rest just act that way. The Jews were the Nocker's patron peoples during early history.
    • Splat
    • Walking the Earth: The eshu.
    • Weirdness Censor: Mundanes naturally forget the supernatural influences of changelings, or else rationalise them away. Enchanted they can see and interact with the full set but once the enchantment wears off they forget some, think they imagined others.
    • World Half Empty