Monday, November 12, 2012

Changeling the Lost: Why You Should Never Look Behind the Campaign Curtain

Over four years running Changeling the Lost, I've created material and hooks other GMs might find useful. Some I've already posted (see my Changeling Round Up). This month I want to look at some of the NPCs & structures I created and how I assembled the campaign. This is sausage-making- looking at the process isn't as gratifying as seeing synthesis; but we're planning to discuss campaign creation in our podcast, so it is a good exercise. 

Leading up to the first session, I did five things:
  1. Brainstorming notes on setting and concepts
  2. NPC personalities, archetypes, and names
  3. The Notebook prop
  4. Mechanical stuff adapting CtL to our homebrew system
  5. Had players make up and share character concepts 
Below is the first half of my brainstorming notes. I don't usually plot stories or sessions (though I scripted the first session a little to get the players into place). I expect like many GM's, the bulk of my prep is about developing ideas, sketching environments, and developing color for narration. Not that anything has to necessarily come to the table, but when I go to run I want to have a solid sense of place for myself. that makes it easier to riff and improvise off of the idea. I want to convey atmosphere as much as anything else. I'm guessing much below will seem like arcane babble, but there might be some gems there. I'll post the second half tomorrow and later a post looking at what actually got used from this. 

General Thoughts
Wayward IN/OH Town Split. Two separate cities—Indiana, Ohio—things. MirroringàTwins. Idea that they would have had the destiny of the Fetch

Abandoned Amusement Park- Japanese? Great Industrial Tumbler- like a wind-up Organ

Ways of dealing with grief?

Freehold isolated from the rest of the areaà set of markers keeping some things out and others in. Contact with the rest of the world--. Does it get to be: idea/question if the other Changelings can come in. Maybe they hunt down those who come in from the outside. That begs the question of how they treat those inside.

Need to establish motivation/drive for them to “do good” early on. A legacy left to them and perhaps at least and explanation (partial) as to who they are and what their role is going to be. Need to right away give them a task and a motive.

Part of the story will be about exploration and coming to terms with their being and environment. Could handle this with a flashback structure…trying to show that they’re together for a reason and purpose. Perhaps the person who did that was a little over-zealous.

Age of the PCs- young adult- not out of the loop too much. Missing together- perhaps knew each other before? I like the idea of bonding them with a shared background- common threat early on- only after that actually meeting with other Fey.

Question of the Fetches- some of them real people.

Midwestern- I still like the split border overlap, but that may be a little too much. Could probably get away without that set of structures. However it does have a certain appeal of dichotomy. We’ll come back to those ideas. Need to make up an NPC sheet.
  • Kellogg’s style spa- old asylum?
  • Old, crappy amusement park: peeling paint slathered over everything- creating a texture.
  • The posts which represent the outlying borders of the Freehold
  • Antique and curiosity shops
  • Quickly changed crappy businesses: downtown Mishawaka
  • Old Brewery: Ghost Beer
  • Pines?
  • A Sheriff figure: not quite Sheriff Buck (ala American Gothic)…but clearly not an ally to those who make trouble.
  • Old Train Station- Ghost Tracks
  • Strange markers or symbols- odd
  • Empty chairs- out of place- sitting out in front of places- empty
  • Dirty plastic interior door curtains- coloring the light slightly (pink?)
  • A Lunkers analogue as a meeting place. Hunting, fish, and bait shop with a diner counter.
  • Broken down and out of season fair.
  • Safety-Land.
  • Old Theater downtown

Twinning as a theme, but with a mediator: the device or the process of change. Aelf (Fey) Twin (Fetch or Other)

Two Courts/Factions but with some twilight or in-between characters. Dawn and Dusk Courts- absorbing some of the concepts of the Seasonal Courts but different.

Butterflies- interesting that there isn’t a speciation of these animals, a further division of symbolism. Caterpillar--Butterfly-- Cocoon

Fey meeting place like a day/Night Shift for the Fey. Could work especially with the Lear-type scenario. Badge is a loop with the Dark/Light and the Wolf.

Two Bookstores in town. The one is a remainder-type place- the old gym type thing. What was once a small town clothing store. Old style card tables, cutting tables, bin tables- a fabric store. Smell and dust. Some oddness there: allergens and a slight sickly smell…the Tuesday Morning or Goodwill of books. The other is just outside of town. Strip business. Next door is a bait and tackle place. Grumpy, used book feel to it. No organization. But often wondrous things (Mexican stickered editions of Travis McGee novels). Stuck in the 1970’s.

Plot Brainstorming
The concept of Ploughman and Rust Courts. Midnight to Noon. Noon to Midnight. What is the thematic here? Creation/Destruction. There’s some interesting stuff in the Changeling books, bit I don’t want to copy anything directly.

We’ll give the characters a basic false ID at the start? Perhaps that can be something that the other Fae can offer- deepening the ID-- making it richer. The idea of the characters being brought through & rescued and joined: essentially a desperate pledge in order to survive. This as a means for the Deus ex Machina (DxM) character to get them through the barrier surrounding this place.

Essentially, a great ward has been placed around this place. It conceals the existing and pledged Changelings from the attentions of their masters…however it doesn’t keep out other supernatural threats and it doesn’t help the new arrivals…those essentially given over to power this working.  So, the question is one of having chosen to make a sacrifice of others to protect themselves. Because of the bargain made, they keep themselves isolated from other Freeholds. Only a few know of this work and the DxM guy was originally part of this. His death has meant that some of the defense has broken down. Changeling who disguises himself as another Changeling who died. Setting them up…?

Not too many Changelings- no more than X number? Question of membership and status of the Courts- leaders apparently less oppositional than the other members. So, the changeling affairs are important…but definitely needs to have elements of other supernatural threats.
  • The Remade (ala Dead and Buried)
  • Insanity Forces
  • Unquiet Dead
  • Carrion Demons

Perhaps a King Lear-like set of circumstances. The retired King who is not quite as good as suggested.

Don’t want to end up recycling too much from my Vampire campaign. Some elements can be repeated by the very nature of such games…but something needs to change this up. The college is a good way of doing this. It breaks away from the set-up that just echoes the Vampire campaign. Vision (should be limited)…an institute, not a full college or University…odd list of classes day/evening. Some strangeness ala Blake Holesey. Role of the instructors in this. Would be good if I could get images.

NPCs: Ideas and Notes
Some of this will be determined by the kinds of PCs. Should be at least one group left out. Should be a gang/gaggle of them on the outside. Fairest- if PC plays one of them, reduce number present in the Freehold to give that player room. Otherwise, they’ll end up tangled and battling them. Need to make the society quite different from the Hunter campaign’s presentation of them or my Vampire campaign’s set up. Stuff of story and dramatic tension. The Lear/Ran set up.

Broad Classes of NPC Characters
  • The Fey: Two Courts, plus any wanderers
  • Important Locals
  • Locals with Occult Ties
  • Families of the PCs
  • Academy Instructors
  • Academy Students
  • Other Supernaturals

Some NPCs
  • A King Lear-like (at first glance) patron figure who manages the whole thing. Could actively serve as patronage master (three offices: Rust, Blossom, and Twilight seat). Have to think about his role in all of this.
  • The DxM character (dead at the beginning of the game). A fringe person, but formerly respected by the Freehold.
  • The Actual Sheriff of the city. People know there’s something wrong but can’t really identify. Not a nice guy. Something like a Sheriff Buck character, but even more ambiguous.
  • Cheese-Maker and a Bookbinder (making things from random pages of books).

We have two contradictory and important major characters- bound by a powerful set of pledges and agreements with the Old King. While they have a degree of loyalty, they have also sought to find a way to break free of those bonds. The King should not be specifically addressed like that. He and his set of close allies helped to establish the Freehold. Others have died out, retired or have been driven into lesser positions. The DxM stood among these.

Need to have this role not be immediately apparent. He should appear to be a dottering fellow trapped in a mythic bit- feuding siblings. The coy one, the Court of the Wolf, is playing a dangerous game. She has apparently separated from the patron. There’s her legendary public split fir having offended him. In fact she’s trying to get secrets and support.

There is a certain degree of insecurity on the part of one of the two leaders. They make a public face of being rivals, but a private push to maintain an alliance or at least some tie in the face of what they believe to be their father’s manipulation. One isn’t sure about this. He has a need to be praised and he/she is the weaker link in these things. The other is stronger but doesn’t have a complete sense or understanding of the depth of these things. Weirdly naïve. 

Tomorrow: Part two where things get a little more concrete.

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting set up with a safe haven powered by sacrifice. The very kind of situation to get players wondering what to do.