Tuesday, April 18, 2017

World of Masks: PbtA Changeling the Lost

I finally sat down and put together a Powered by the Apocalypse hack for Changeling the Lost. I think it's in relatively playable form now. You can see the folder with those materials here. This is rough attempt blends Urban Shadows and Masks with some small original stuff. As you’ll see, it is primarily a reskinning. It isn’t a way to simulate every kind of CtL campaign. I talk below about the kind of game I’ve tuned this for, generally the kind I dig running.You’ll find several documents in the folder:
  • A Base Document with most of the systems (has some of what's presented here).
  • A Basic and Other Moves reference sheet.
  • Playbooks for each of the Changeling Seemings.
  • A Seasonal Moves reference.
If there’s a discrepancy between the Playbook sheets and the other material, go with the playbooks. This isn’t a stand-alone hack. I assumes at least the GM knows both Changeling the Lost and PbtA games. You'll want at least the core CtL book and Urban Shadows. This is a fan-hack and not for publication.

  • Sections: GM Moves, GM Principles, Threats, Court Clocks, Motley Worksheet, Gear, Major Editing Pass
  • Gather input/feedback.
  • Playtest.
  • Revise based on feedback and actual play.
IMHO not all Changeling players have the same read on the material. Here's my default assumptions for the setting.
  • Changelings suffered during their durance. Any sparkly memories they have are attempts to cover over their awfulness.
  • They may have PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, paranoia, general guilt over things they did in their Durance, fear that others will find out what they did to survive, inability to trust in others, trauma with particular triggers, fear that they could again become their most awful self, or a terror that if they would bow down before their Keeper if he or she appeared once again. In short, they're broken mentally & physically and now have to figure out how to fix themselves.
  • Freeholds have Courts. These are necessary to sustain the rituals which help the Freehold evade the eyes of the Gentry. But there’s a tension in that the Courts are an authority fighting against authority. That may be the catch within the Contract of the Freehold’s Protection: there will always be tension and in-fighting between the Courts.
  • Trust is hard. Courts and pledges also exist to give a society in which Changelings can interact and have a "fallback" for trust: authority and rules.
  • Changelings don’t travel. Dangers lurk outside the bounds of the Freehold. They have little contact with any Freeholds beyond those closest geographically. Changelings eschew conversations and social media (usually) because they don’t trust easily. On the other hand they may participate in anonymous places where it’s assumed everyone’s untrustworthy.
  • Entitlements don't exist as such. They assume a large and cross-Freehold organization which goes against the details mentioned above. I haven’t used them in my standard CtL games because they break the setting’s logic of isolation.
  • The Changeling campaign’s centered on the Motley. That association is the closest to a family they have. The Motley’s relatively new. Characters within a Motley may belong to different Courts. This is a little shift from how I’ve run things before. In the past I've started with the characters just emerging from the Hedge.
  • The Hedge is useful and dangerous. Within a Freehold, there may be certain paths of note, tended and kept clear. But these are rare. The Hedge can best be entered from particular locations. While Changelings do use it to travel through and hunt, it is always dangerous to stay too long in the Hedge. The closer you are to the real world, the more you hear echoes of it. But even that's a poor guide.
  • Goblins live in the Hedge. They have a conflicted relationship with Changelings. Goblins can enter into the real world, usually only near particularly potent Hedge entrances. They’re almost impossible for humans to see. Goblins don’t usually muck with humans.
  • We don’t worry or have big individual mechanics for Wyrd as a separate concept, Goblin Contracts, Dream Stuff, Pledge Crafting, and a bunch of other stuff. Hedge Fruit and tokens can be dealt with as fiction, small bonuses, or moves.
Seasons and the Courts
Instead of Urban Shadows' factions, this uses Seasons. Characters use +Season rolls to interact Changeling of the other Courts. But what about everyone else? For interactions with non-Changelings where you’d roll with a Season stat, use the following substitutions:
  • Spring = Humans
  • Summer = Other Supernaturals
  • Autumn = Goblins
  • Winter = “Aware” Humans
Your associations may vary depending on how you picture the Courts. For Courtless Changelings I’d consider their agenda. For example, a Slaver would probably be rolled with Summer since they’re aggressive. Someone trying to stay below the radar I’d have the players roll Winter against.

I also picture that each Court has factions within it, or at least Changelings with different approaches to the the Season's idea (Fear, Desire, etc). I’ve called these Waxing and Waning in the Seasonal Clarity moves. I associate Waxing with positive, active, constructive, or strong approaches. On the other hand, Waning characters or factions embrace the negative, passive, deconstructive, or restrained approaches. That’s less a concrete mechanic and more a way to imagine NPCs within a Court structure.

What Does Clarity Mean?
Clarity’s a reskinning of corruption from Urban Shadows. In my version, Clarity’s not an up/down scale. In base CtL is has two poles: too human vs. too fae. Instead our Clarity track measures strain and break. Players can define what those cracks actually look like. Most of the mechanical sources of Clarity gain are Changeling powers. But I imagine in game circumstances will require characters to make Stay Strong checks to avoid marking Clarity. Example situations:
  • Being surprised by someone from their past life or durance.
  • Sharing a moment of intimacy with a mortal.
  • Committing violence against an innocent mortal.
  • Avoiding contact with Changeling society for a long time.
  • Being out on the streets.
Glamour’s a major element of Changeling the Lost. I’ve shorthanded that heavily here since I don’t want more resource tracking than we already have. I take it as a given that a PC can make minor expenditures of glamour at will. They have tools to refresh that. If someone wants to do something that would have a high glamour cost, have them mark a condition (but not Wounded).

For example, if someone wants to conceal their Mien from other Changelings for a while, I’d have them mark a condition. That’s a classic spend from CtL, called Strengthening the Mask. Marking a condition usually commits them to harvesting glamour later, so that's the connection. If PCs instead chose to Act to Clear it, so much the better. That makes for an interesting moment. Marking a condition also gives the player a chance to declare something about their motivation for the action.

I’ve never found the CtL Pledge-Crafting mechanics that useful at the table. They’re granular and crunchy, even in the revised version found in the sourcebooks. These rules don’t worry about that except in the abstract. Note that the Gain a Debt move is different than in Urban Shadows. It isn’t enough to do someone a favor. Instead you have to offer and they have to accept.

Changelings fear commitment and obligation. They have a hard time trusting. So if someone does a favor for them, they don’t see that as a debt. Unless someone asks and makes a deal, they’re under no requirement to pay them back. That, of course, makes being in a Motley a difficult thing. You have to trust despite it going against your nature. The exception to this are the debts from character creation. They’re more story constructs and ways to build connections.

This hack assumes Changelings have some minor basic powers and contracts they can call upon. That’s the purpose of the Invoke Contract move. Want to do something small and interesting that fits with your Seeming or other moves, go ahead. Change the temperature of a room, hear a distant howl, see in the dark, picture what something looked like before it was broken, etc. The Invoke Contract move asks the player to name the contract and the catch. If that creates a speed bump for play, go ahead and skip that.

Motley Focus
This particular hack focuses on the Motley as a unit of play. While there should be tension and give & take between Motley members, this hack offers significantly less PvP than Urban Shadows. The condition recovery mechanics should help keep that back and forth. We’ll see. My intent is something that feels a like more like Monsterhearts or Masks, than US. There should still be a political element, but the players are trying to figure out how to navigate that.

I'll post more on this after I've had a chance to do some playtesting. If you're curious about Changeling the Lost, you can see my other posts on this excellent setting.

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