Wednesday, October 23, 2019

(Changeling: The Lost) Goblin Markets

Ooh, I should do a short post for this book, because it's so short. It's only 47 pages and very focused in its subject matter. It's all about Goblin Markets (gasp!), one of my favorite fairy-tale conceits.

I don't know what it is, but it speaks to me. Part of it must be the collector mindset. It's not difficult for me to imagine a magical shopping experience, where I'm pawing through a bunch of shoddy junk and suddenly my heart stops because I've just laid eyes on something I've long coveted, or, better yet, something I had not yet known to covet, but which instantly fills in a gap I never knew was there. That's the best. I can definitely understand why one might make ill-advised deals to acquire oddities and wonders. (I also like the "mysterious vanishing curio shop" trope for a similar reason.)

Like all Changeling books, the best thing about Goblin Markets is the details. You can buy a snowglobe that will show you the future weather around whatever tourist trap is depicted inside. Or trade your hair color for a beautiful singing voice. And you can make these deals inside a haunted church or enchanted carnival. Maybe you buy from the shift-eyed hyena man, but only if you don't run into Mr Pinch, the security guard with the silent steps that you'll never see coming.

If Goblin Markets has a fault, it's that it's too short. I could seriously have read another 100 pages of this stuff. Just a big catalogue of locations, market-goers, and products. That's just an indulgent dream, though. The book is more concerned with giving the broad outlines of Changeling's goblin markets than it is with providing out-of-the-box usable examples. It's an approach that would work well, if it weren't missing one critical element - it doesn't actually help the Storyteller address the main problem with goblin markets as a concept: how do you get the players to care?

I mean, on one level, it's pretty easy. The goblin market can basically just be a magic item shop. However, to really get the most out of the concept, you've got to have the players trading in goods both terrible and sublime, and dealing in prices not measured in gold.

If you were writing a story and the hero trades away the memory of their first kiss in order to obtain a vital piece of equipment, that's going to matter. You'd probably devote some time in the next couple of chapters to just periodically reminding the reader about what was lost. It's bittersweet and melancholy, and will probably touch on your story's themes. But in an rpg, there's nothing to stop the players from being totally callous about it. They have no use for background texture they probably hadn't even thought about before, but they do have use for the magic item. So what reason is there not to make the trade?

If your players are as intense and weird as I always hope mine will turn out to be, it's no problem, but in practice Goblin Markets suggests charging the players xp for good deals that result in more trait points (or other long-term advantages), and I guess that's probably the best possible compromise. I've never met a player that wasn't extremely solicitous of their xp.

But that's not really a complaint about the book ("it should have had . . . something to compensate for my inadequacies as a GM, don't ask me what.") Ultimately, it's just a bit more Changeling: the Lost magic, coming after I thought it was already done forever, and I'll always love it for that.

UKSS Contribution: One of the sample goblin markets is The Spider Bazaar and it's exactly what it sounds like. It's a traveling market, run by talking spiders. They sell items made from their silk. They eat more than their share of the local wildlife. And then they move on. It's just the sort of creepy I tend to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I was hoping it was a market built on the back of a giant traveling spider. Well, maybe next time!