Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Changeling: The Lost (2nd Edition Core) - Chapters 1 & 2

 Part 2

Part 3

First, a quick note for people who might be clicking here from the sidebar - there is no introduction post for this book. Maybe you weren't expecting one, because this new format that I'm experimenting with paid off, and so you've grown used to me just starting in on a book right away, but maybe I'll go back to the old way instead. I haven't decided yet. But you're not missing anything. This is the beginning.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the first 85 pages of Changeling: The Lost, 2nd edition.

This isn't at all like reading Vampire: the Masquerade and Vampire: the Requiem back to back. These editions are too similar to each other, so mentally they kind of blur together. That's just a blogging error. I thought it would be easier to compare and contrast the differences if I read them close together, but mentally, I'm having trouble remembering which is which.

The main thing I noticed in second edition is the superior organization. The book wastes no time getting straight to the parts players will reference most often, with Seemings, Courts, and Kiths being in the first chapter, instead of being separated and buried in unrelated chapters, like they were in 1st edition.

I'm not sure how I feel about the changes in mechanical implementation for Kiths and Seemings. Before, you had to assign your changeling's faerie archetype from one of six super-categories called Seemings - if you were a half-man/half-wolf, you'd be a Beast, if you were more like a djinn or efreet, you'd be an Elemental, and so on. And then within each Seeming, you'd choose the Kith whose mechanical expression best matched your faerie form. So Beasts that were fleet-footed predators would be hunterhearts and those that were turned into birds would be windwings.

It was a pretty neat system. Your body was transformed by strange faerie magic to have these gross mutations, and there was a list of widgets you could play with to model them mechanically.

But even in 1st edition, some of the Kiths were weird. Like you could be an Artist. And, okay, that's what the Fae enslaved you to do in Arcadia, but, well, an artist can look like anything. It's entirely mental. There's no visual hook that helps you imagine a character. It's not like the Fairest Kith that makes you part dragon or the disgusting, seaweed-covered saltwater Ogre. It's a job. You start out as a default Wizened, and then you change the character so they're more Artist-like. What does that even mean?

And, unfortunately, it is those profession-based Kiths that largely made it to second edition. It was a good move to decouple Kith from Seeming, because there was a lot of overlap in the original Kiths (like a waterborn Elemental and a Water-Dweller Ogre), but it's weird that most of your choices are so abstract. Even after reading the description twice, I have no idea what a Chatelaine is supposed to look like.

Maybe this is on me, though. I had a notion in my head that Kiths were meant to give weight to all the subtle variations within a seeming, to make your goat-man distinct from your swan-maiden, but it's possible they serve another function in second edition. But I will admit, the old kiths helped a lot when it came to visualizing a new character.

I have no complaints about chapter 2. I said what I wanted to say about Changeling's themes in my post about 1st edition, and maybe I'd have a different opinion about 2nd edition and maybe I wouldn't, but I'm actually still too close to it to be sure.

That being said, compared to its equivalent chapter in 1st edition, chapter 2 does some interesting things. It breaks nearly every subject up into "what it was like when you were abducted" and "what is is like now that you're a changeling" and this organization is much more digestible than it was before. I wouldn't count it as an unqualified improvement over 1st edition, mainly because the repetitive structure tends to break up any building tension as you move from one subject to another, and the text as a whole feels less cloyingly oppressive than its 1st edition counterpart. Believe it or not, I consider that a slight demerit. The 1st edition text works better as the introduction to a horror game. Second edition is still good, but I feel much safer reading it.

And, of course, this is where my criticism really hits a wall. Do I feel safer reading second edition because it is, in fact, a safer text or do I feel safer reading second edition because this is mostly repeated information that I recently read in a slightly different form, and thus I don't have the same sense of anticipation and discovery? I am not discerning enough to say.

I will end on a high note, though. Second edition introduces one completely novel bit of setting that nonetheless blows the fucking roof off how I see Changeling: the Lost as a game - in the Hedge, you can encounter ghosts.

And maybe this doesn't seem like such a big deal to people who haven't been playing White Wolf games for the last 20 years, but this is huge. Normally, games in the WoD family tree have been somewhat coy about crossovers. Vampire: the Masquerade is its own game that stands alone and has no need for the rest of the World of Darkness, but it is also explicitly a setting where werewolves and mages exist, and if you just happened to want to use the other books for them . . . well, it might take a bit of fiddling, but they technically work together. The New World of Darkness made this integration smoother mechancially, but the games still had a great deal of siloing, giving their subjects a lot of background stuff to do that wouldn't even make sense in the context of the other games.

Ghosts emerging from the Hedge bursts the silo apart. In every other World of Darkness game, ghosts have their own shadow realm, accessible only by specialized magics and a complex internal politics and metaphysics. Making ghosts an organic part of the Changeling-specific setting elements just makes the whole world feel more complete and less piecemeal. Perhaps it's a dividend of not having to share a corebook with the other WoD games.

I'm really looking forward to digging into the mechanics in the coming chapters. Not thrilled to read the basic Chronicles of Darkness rules a second time, but I've got high hopes for Contracts, Pledges, and Oneiromancy after seeing the improvements to Mage: The Awakening's magic system.

1 comment:

  1. I think the kiths becoming more broadly skillsets appropriately silos them from seemings. I imagine a seeming as what the Fae shaped you to *be*, and a kith as what the Fae shaped you to *do*. Which means I imagine someone shaped to be an artist being grotesquely altered for that purpose. Long, delicate fingers that have trouble holding anything heavier than a paintbrush, or quick spider-fingers for a typing author. A chatelaine having small hooks around their body for hanging keys, and special, bulbous eyes for reading small print. That sort of thing.