The “Threat Generator” from Mutant: Year Zero is one of my recent fav pieces of game tech. It’s an old technique, but they nicely repackage it. It doesn’t hurt that MYZ has a cool card deck version. I dig pulling a threat just before a session and quickly brainstorming ideas. It’s a good way to keep myself from over-prepping or throwing too many incidents at the players.
So I’m creating these for other games. I’m in the middle of running my Changeling the Lost PbtA hack, so I started with that. Below I offer 36 short threats facing the Freehold. Though I don’t say it, these should connect to the PCs, putting them in harm’s way, endangering something they love, or giving them a chance to solve the problem. They contain a few questions, but not much detail. Some are obvious, but I think I have a few novel ones. If you want to check out videos from my current CtL game, check here (Session 1, Session 2).
Someone or something ruins the resources of the Freehold. Vindictive Hobs? A traitor within? The Gentry? Things disrupted or stolen could be things, places, or people. Can the motley protect their own resources—allies, tokens, hedge-fruits?
2. Hobs on the Warpath
The Hobs trade with the Changelings but they don’t like them. They’re tricky and nasty, living for a chance to get over something on the Lost. Now the Hob community is enraged. They shutter the Markets and begin attacking those who enter the Hedge. What happened and how can they stop it?
3. Goblin Market Changes
The Goblin Market moves, imposes new laws, adds strange new shops, offers a sale on ‘special’ merchandise they need to move, bans certain changelings, splits, or “re-brands” itself in some way. This occurs suddenly and without warning.
4. Hob Takeover
Someone takes over and begins to direct the Hobs: a strangely potent goblin, a rogue changeling, something from the Hedge, or a figure behind the scenes. What are they making the Hobs do and why? Alternately, a split and internal struggle among the Hobs reveals factions.
5. Season Comes Early
Mysteriously the changing of the seasonal Courts comes early. Omens and portents appear. Everyone feels it in their bones. Why is this happening? What does it mean for the local politics? Who gains and loses? Consider connecting it to strange shifts in weather, changes at court, or new arrivals.
6. The Exile’s Return
Changelings rarely impose imprisonment or death as punishment. Instead exile clears away severe transgressions. An exile returns, having served their lengthy sentence. They may upset the local power balance, dredge up old animosities, or present opportunities for revenge. Where have they been? How have they survived? Is the exile’s crime known or secret? Were they justly punished? What unfinished business do they have?
7. Exiled Illegally Returns
An exile somehow manages to pass through the wards and return. They’re spotted, there’s no proof of their location, only rumors. Why have they come back early? Did someone collude to gain them entry? If this is someone know to the motley do they owe debts to one another?
8. Strange Changeling(s) Seen
Rumors fly of one (or more) unknown changelings seen in the Freehold. Often new escapees from the Hedge run wild for a time before being met and brought in. But these strangers have deliberately evaded contact. Are they Loyalists? Refugees from another Freehold? Bridge-burners? Someone has to track them down and find out.
9. Changelings Go Missing
Known members of the Freehold have not been heard from. These person(s) should connect to motley members. Does the motley know their den or hollow is? If the vanished are courtless who might they have contacted or confided in? If they’re from a court, why hasn’t anyone followed up? Perhaps this signals the coming of a new supernatural threat.
10. Fetches Vanish
The Freehold tracks fetches within its borders. They’re strange and dangerous things. If a fetch is tied to a member of the Freehold, then final judgement remains in that person’s hand. If they’re not, they indicate a stolen and unreturned life. Now several fetches have suddenly disappeared, leaving their pseudo-families and lives disrupted. Is a changeling doing this? Is there some conspiracy among the fetches? Is there a mortal hunter after them? Is one of the fetches that of a PC?
11. Treasure of the Freehold Stolen
A prized token or relic has been stolen from the Freehold or one of the Courts. What strange details have emerged about the thief’s methods? What perils await if the object is not returned? Has the finger already been pointed at someone, perhaps the motley or one of their allies?
12. Supernatural Monster
A mysterious monster appears, striking humans and changelings alike. Is it completely new or are there legends surrounding it? If it hasn’t emerged from the Hedge, where has it come from? Does it point to other supernatural sources and agents? Does a member of the Freehold know more than they’re saying?
13. Occult Investigators
A group of paranormal investigators arrives in the city and begin poking around. If they’re mundane, they stir up attention making life difficult. Changelings already have a hard time blending in. Will someone direct the researchers towards them? Is there an opportunity there? Alternately these might be serious Hunters, pursuing supernatural creatures to capture or eliminate them. Perhaps one identity’s a cover for the other.
14. Maddened Family Member
A close family member, related to someone from the motley or an ally, cracks. They’ve encountered their changeling loved one. Now experience of that seems to have snapped them. Their actions threaten do harm to themselves or even threaten the Freehold. How can the PCs fix this? Is there something more sinister behind this breakdown?
15. Hedge Fruit Bounty Found
Someone discovers a massive hedge fruit garden and now factions compete to learn the location, seize control, or simply steal what’s there. The fruit rush threatens existing relationships and debts within the Freehold.
16. Resources Run Out
Something vital to the Freehold or the motley runs out: money sources are cut, ID forgers get arrested, hedge fruit supplies dry up, or potent places of glamour run dry. Is this a natural occurrence or enemy action? Can these sources be restored or will something new have to be discovered?
17. Changeling Jailed
The police catch someone from the Freehold and jail them. What are they accused of? What did they actually do? Why can’t they escape from jail—is something stopping them or do they want to be there? What obligation does the Freehold have and what debts might the motley have to the incarcerated changeling? Will something happen if this person isn’t freed?
18. Changeling on the Run
An ally of the motely falls under a judgement: accused of a crime, convicted of an offense, threatened with a debt. The circumstances are murky and mysterious. Who is in the wrong? Should they stick their necks out for them?
19. Another Freehold Destroyed
News comes that the closest Freehold has been destroyed. Was it a subtle vanishing or did something oud and obvious happen? Was anyone warned? Were there any survivors? Does this threat still remain, and if so, will their Freehold be next?
20. Old Secrets Uncovered
Documents, testimony, relics, images—something from the past-- rises back. It could concern a particular court or the Freehold as a whole. That might be evidence of a crime, questions of succession, ties to a changeling’s kidnapping, a treasure map, or an ancient ritual. Now several factions seek to control the secrets—to reveal, destroy, or change them.
21. Illness or Curse
Something begins to take a toll on the Freehold- a magical malady. It could be a bout of fever dreams, a sleepless malaise, or a curse to lost items. Was this deliberate, accidental, or something released through sheer stupidity? It is contagious and is there a patient zero? Alternately, the illness strikes the mundane world and the fallout impacts changelings.
22. Location Threated
The commons for the Freehold or a particular court comes under fire. Alternately it could target the motley’s hollow, den, or gathering space. The authorities or neighbors could examine it too closely or the owners have gone broke. If the structure’s abandoned, perhaps developers consider renovation or demolition. If the location has some supernatural power, a group seek to control it for their own ends. Maybe something dangerous has made its nest there. If stopping the threat isn’t possible, then the group may have to deal with evacuation or just finding a new place.
23. Supernatural Cabal No Good
Non-changeling supernaturals arrive in the Freehold city and set up shop. Consider a workshop of Prometheans, Mummies on the run, an Orpheus franchise, Demon surveillance operatives, or a Hedge Mage chantry. Even if they don’t cross paths with the Freehold, they bring their own problems and foes. They also complete for magical resources and sites. Can a beneficial agreement be made or are these to be unrelenting rivals?
24. False ID’s Compromised
Individual courts or the Freehold as a whole usually provide false identities, cards, and paperwork. They do this via magic and mundane techniques. Now that process has been compromised and all of those identities have been blown or are threatened. Can the motley reverse this? Can they find their own sources to cover their ass? What are the consequences of this loss? Will foes take advantage of this?
25. Murdered Courtier
A titled courtier has been killed. Old schisms and tensions flare up. An open conflict may erupt if the murder’s not found. Or perhaps there’s a quiet cover-up suggesting more sinister forces at work. Maybe someone’s already been chosen as a patsy-- a member of the motley or a close friend.
26. Loyalist Revealed
Someone uncovers evidence suggesting a changeling has strongly colluded with a Keeper for some time. How is this discovered? How badly did they damage the Freehold? Are the accusations true? Changelings have a difficult time with punishments, given their own experience. How does the Freehold deal with this? Who are the competing voices about responses?
27. Bounty of Hot Goods
An ally or associate drops off a bundle of “hot goods” on the motley’s doorstep. Will they keep or return them? If they try to return them, will they drag their friend into in? What if some of these items belong to enemies? Consider if the loot consists of magical, mundane, or mixed items.
Someone overthrows a Prince. Was it a long time coming or a sudden shock? How do other members of the court react? How does the new Prince solidify their power: contracts, debts, kindness, force? How do the other Princes react—do they accept happily or look for potential usurpers in their own houses? What has happened to the former prince?
29. Schism Between Courts
Tensions burn hot between two courts. Does it come from the top or rank & file? Does this divide the motley? How will they take sides? What claims does each side make? How openly does this conflict break out? Is someone manipulating things behind the scenes or is this simply the way of things? How will this affect the Freehold’s protections?
30. Romance Gone Sour
The Freehold is a web of social interactions which can be rent asunder by the smallest things. Two well-regarded and well-connected changelings have been a passionate couple. Now they’re bitter social foes. How did the break up start? What does each say about the other? What’s the truth? Ideally the two figures should both be connected to the Motley. Both persons involved want others to take sides. Third party changelings may sucked into this whirlpool.
31. Virtue/Vice Overwhelms
The Changeling core suggests GMs assign Freeholds a virtue and vice. . The “default” has been the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Heavenly Virtues, but these can be mixed up. For this threat one of those elements begins to overwhelm or run amok. Perhaps they’re seen small signs, but now it is out of control. If tied to emotion it may impact glamour for the Freehold.
32. Horde of New Arrivals
From somewhere, a large number of changelings arrive: escapees from the Hedge, refugees from a tyrannical Freehold, wanderers coming in from the wilds. The Freehold can take in one or two at a time, even a small motley taxes resources, cover, and patience. How can the courts cope? Will they send them on? What dangers might be hidden by these numbers?
33. Hedge Weirdness
Something shifts massive in the Hedge. Well established trods, hollows, or other sites vanish or transform. Is this a natural phenomenon or someone’s working? What does it herald? What has been lost and how can it be replaced? Alternately could this be an open or hidden assault by Bridge Burners?
34. Motley Vanishes into Hedge
Motelys happen rarely. To truly bind a group must escape the Hedge together or arrive in the Freehold at nearly the same time. They provide a community of trust most changelings can’t experience. Now one of the few motleys besides the PCs goes missing. They walk into the Hedge on a secret quest and none hear from them. Why did they go? Did someone sabotage their preparations? Will they be rescued? Can they be rescued?
35. Revelation to Mortal
Truly revealing yourself to a mortal runs great risks. You can tear away the Mask, but many will deny your Mien s to preserve their sanity. They retreat to the commonplace world and label incidents as madness. Some seem to hold it together but then snap from the strain. Now someone seems have to come through stable and reconciled to this new reality. But how long will they stay that way? Who is it? What would move a changeling to take this gamble? How did they prepare?
36. New Holidays
Someone establishes a new ritual for the Freehold: games, a celebration, and grand party. What’s new and novel about this? What’s the motivation behind it? If a contest, what prizes might they offer? Perhaps the motley has to help with preparations or planning. For some more thoughts on Changelings and holidays, see this post.