I skipped reading Night Horrors: Grim Fears
originally because I’d heard a really bad review of it. The player
described it as an attempt to milk the line for a few extra bucks. Plus,
once a player has picked up and read an antagonist book before I have,
it kind of defeats the purpose. Recently, poking around one of the Changeling the Lost
wikis I saw that the book contained a couple of new mechanical options-
kiths and Goblin Contracts. I decided I ought to get around to reading
it since I was putting a new CtL campaign in order.
is a linked set of antagonist books across several World of Darkness
lines. This isn’t a model WW have undertaken very often with nWoD. It’s a
little like the old “Year of…” linked books from oWoD. The general
connection seems to be to provide adversaries and plot ideas within one
setting which could be used in one of the other lines. So for example, Night Horrors: The Unbidden for Mage
offers summoned dangerous entities. The other link seems to be to offer
more direct “horror” elements to their respective games. However that’s
more implied than actually carried through, at least with Grim Fears.
Night Horrors: Grim Fears on RPGNow
moment in the book bugged me right away. It’s an odd thing but I think
it bears mentioning. One of the problems with a developing game line is
that material has to expand, has to develop. Changeling generally
had fewer problems arising from this because it is a limited run line.
But even within it, I’ve found moments and details which rang false to
me because of the way I see the setting- how I’ve come to read the ideas
The opening game well-written fiction has a character
fall into the Hedge. He returns, takes care of his fetch and slips back
into his family. A couple of sticking points remain, but generally the
tone of the piece suggest that going home again has a couple of moderate
structural obstacles. That’s not the way I’ve ever seen that.
Changelings can’t go home again. Or rather only a small number of them
can manage to fake it, a tiny fraction. Changelings have been changed.
They’ve been held and forced to do and be awful things- a change far
more mental and emotional than physical. They have PSTD. Watch a couple
of episodes of the show Prisoners of War for a good gauge of the
way I see that. They’re not who they were, though they long to be and
desperately believe they can be- a detail which makes them even more
dangerous to be around. That’s pretty crucial to the way I see the CtL
set up- so the starting fiction failed not on a stylistic level, but
conceptually for me.
But it wouldn’t for someone else. I think
there’s a parallel with the actual monsters and adversaries presented in
the book. Some of them really click for me- I can see how they could
play out and they work with my sense of the setting. Others though
don’t. They violate some of the rules I have in my head. That makes
judging these ideas harder, because over years of running CtL I’ve
internalized some concepts.
To give a concrete example, I was
describing an idea to the upcoming G+ CtL group. One of the players
stopped me and said, “Wait, you’re saying Hobs can leave the Hedge?” I
came up short. I’d always assumed they could- that’s how I’d run them in
my earlier campaign. They were hidden and hiding, skulking in corners.
But I might be wrong about that- honestly I haven’t gone back to check
the books to see. My Hobs are still going to sneak out into the real
world, but I know that in other games that’s a dealbreaker…
clocks in at 128 pages. The original hardcover appears OOP, but the pdf
or POD hard/soft-covers can be purchased online. The page payout’s
simple and clear with two-columns and clearly defined sidebars. The book
establishes an entry format and sticks to it throughout. The page
borders images press a little close at times- they looked fine on my PC,
but on a tablet they showed some odd artifacting. The color image is
odd and certainly more gruesome than other books in the Changeling
line. Each entry gets an image, with some quite striking but a number
of them merely meh. The set-up game fiction has my favorite two pieces.
The writing’s solid, with some changes in tone and approach between
entries. Nothing feels inconsistent with the approach.
After the intro game fiction, Grim Fears
sets up the basic premise in a couple of pages. There’s some discussion
of how these beings could be used more broadly in other World of
Darkness campaigns. That’s one of the contradictions of this book.
There’s the sense that the series has be created with that idea in mind-
presenting concepts from one ‘setting’ to be useful in others. However
many of the actual entries don’t really fit with that- they’re fairly
specifically antagonists for Changelings. Four example, Auntie Ally, who
desperately want approval from other members of the Freehold. The other
suggestion is that the books are more about the horror elements of the
setting- hinted at by the title, cover, and blurbs. Yet that doesn’t
seem particularly consistent in the actual characters presented. I don’t
think that’s a bad thing- just inconsistent. GMs coming into the book
expecting either material fully useful for other WoD campaigns or
full-on horror beasts may be a little disappointed.
BEST & WORST
a decent two-page overview with a paragraph summary for each antagonist
presented in the book. I actually really liked the minimal write-ups
given here. I’d like to see more of that- short idea sparks in great
volume, perhaps with a plot hook or two attached. Grim Fears covers 26
different and varied characters. Each entries presents background,
description, secrets, rumors (with comments on those rumors), stats
& mechanics, and story hooks. Entries vary in depth for each of
these- some have extensive new system details, while others have fairly
detailed story hooks. Given that each character gets four+ pages,
there’s a lot of material here. Any single NPC could provide many
sessions of play.
This is definitely a Storyteller-facing book, so I don’t want to go into details too much. Grim Fears offers a nice variety of ideas and concepts. None feel like clones of one another.
The most interesting to me? Gentleman John, the Thistle Thief.
I like the presentation here and his secrets offer depth to what could
have been a simple character. He’s not a conventional antagonist and
certainly not a horror character. Jack o’ the Lantern works for
me, despite a couple of the ideas clashing with my vision of
Changelings. I like the art and the writing in his entry quite a bit. He
represents the best kind of ambiguity for the CtL setting. Maya Sharptongue
offers a good archetype- as a figure who creates discord within a
Freehold. It’s worth noting that the entries I find strongest in the
book are the ambiguous and slightly broken Changelings, rather than the
bigger monsters. I also liked most of the new mechanical ideas given in
the book- they’re nicely tied to the entries. The kiths, tokens, and
goblin contracts give added value to a standard bad-guy book.
The weakest for me? Argemone is a Hedge Beast with a set-up didn’t grab me at all. Baron Fairweather,
the corporate Keeper, felt more like a cute idea that came up in
brainstorming rather than anything I’d use at the table. Still it
manages to present a couple of story hooks which could make it
work…maybe. The Hook ends up being pretty much what you’d expect for an urban legend bad guy.
Night Horrors: Grim Fears
is a decent supplement- with a good hit to miss ratio. Every entry has
at least one cool idea. Even if I don’t plan on using the material as
written, I can easily rework it. I like the focus on story elements for
the GM- both the rumors and story hooks sections suggest adventures. It
is definitely a GM-only book, but that’s
relief after several books which mix player and storyteller-facing
material. I think most Changeling the Lost GMs will find this worth buying. Storytellers for other WoD games will find less to work with here.