The End of the Dream

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  • 8/3/2019 The End of the Dream


    The End of the Dream


    Matthew McFarland

    I remember when Changeling: The Dreaming first came into my life. I was at a convention in

    Toledo, Ohio, in August of 1995. I had started playing White Wolf games the previous fall (Wraith: TheOblivion was the first White Wolf game I ran, and it pretty much sucked me into the rest of the World of

    Darkness). Anyway, a new game coming out was like Christmas morning. I wasnt, however, planning on

    running it right away. In keeping with my lifelong policy of getting overextended, I had something like five

    different games going and whenever three or more of my friends got together, I seemed to wind up running a

    one-shot (which invariably became a chronicle, because people always loved their characters).

    So I bought Changeling, and my friend Mike read it while we were still at the convention and had a

    character concept in seconds. I remember that character. His name was Tal, he was a sidhe (House Fiona) and

    he was a tragic love-story sort of figure.

    This was back when you drew your bunks from a deck of cards, you know. My brother played a

    pooka who turned into a ferret; I remember him hiding in the troll characters hair (the troll was played by my

    friend Carrie Lewis; remember that name, itll be important later) and then casting a Chicanery cantrip. He

    drew the Moo bunk, so what you had was a ferret leaping out of a trolls hair and crying, MOOOOO!!!

    I love Changeling! was a common refrain in that group.

    That chronicle, much as I loved it (I set it at a summer camp in Michigan that I used to attend; to me,

    that place was a sort of Glamour) didnt really go anywhere. The next time I ran Changeling, it was much

    more focused. I set the game in Detroit (the most banal city I could think of, and I dont need your hate mail,

    thanks very much), gave everybody an extra dot of Banality and five extra freebies and then dangled the plot

    hook. Five sites in the city could be properly prepared and then used to open a trod to Arcadia. But the nature

    of the trod would be determined by the fae who opened it that is, Seelie or Unseelie.

    I had two groups in that game, four Seelie characters and four Unseelie characters. I never ran them

    together; wed cover one span of time with one group and then Id meet with the other group later in the

    week and theyd catch up. That game never really ended, either. I have lots of great memories from it (I

    encouraged folks to act out their bunks, and my friend Mark actually tore the legs of an already-dead

    tarantula for a Primal bunk at one point), but the story didnt end. I dont know who opened that trod.

    This seems to happen, you know. Its hard to end a dream. Typically, dreams end abruptly you just

    wake up. Sometimes, thats a relief. Sometimes, its painful. Most often, its anticlimactic and a little


    Theres a point, here, and youre probably catching on already. But Ive got some more folks to talk

    about first. If youre one of those folks that gets annoyed when people talk about their characters, you may

    want to skip a few paragraphs.

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    I havent played a lot of characters that were my own; thats the consequence of being the guy who

    can run a game at the drop of a dime and always seems to have the money to buy the books and the time to

    read them. As a result, I remember the few characters Ive played pretty vividly, and Changeling always

    seemed to produce the ones that I was most attached to.

    I played a selkie once, believe or not. The game was set in San Francisco, I believe (California,

    anyway; its been a while). He was a surfer. Had some problems with the Sabbat. He swore an Oath of

    Truehearts to another character (a satyr, played by the girl I was seeing at the time). She broke the oath. The

    relationship went sour. Life imitates art?

    I played a sluagh, once. He was a childling named Matthias, and he was a devout Catholic. He

    couldnt speak above a whisper, but he could sing as a result of his faith, and he performed miracles over the

    course of that game. I was lost when I played Matthias, though I didnt know it at the time. Matthias was a

    fish out of water in so many ways, but he was strong and devout, no matter what horrors he saw. He was, in

    some ways, what I needed to be. If you cant find a role-model, you make one.

    I played a sidhe, once. He was once of House Fiona but left in an attempt to form his own noble house

    with his oathcircle. It didnt work out. He wound up falling in love with a mortal girl. He was a Humanist, as I

    recall. He worked in a coffee shop (the game was set in my home town of Toledo, and I worked at the coffee

    shop in question, myself). He didnt want to get involved with all the supernatural craziness; he just wanted to

    live his life and love his girl. I played Sir Lelio (or Damian, as he preferred to be called) when I was growing


    God, thats scary. Growing up is like waking up you might be relieved, but you might be

    disoriented, frightened, or just a little disappointed.

    Changeling isnt necessarily a game about growing up and the idyllic time that is childhood (becauseas any kid will tell you, childhood isnt all that idyllic anyway). If anything, its about the wonderof

    childhood, but fear is a big part of that wonder. But it isnt necessarily about that Changelings a big

    game. You can tell any kind of story with it because its about stories. And I think maybe a lot of folks missed

    that. Forest for the trees, you know?

    I got it. So did you. You probably got a little choked up in Autumn People in the opening fiction when

    the girl opens her box and looks at whats left of her wings. Maybe you smiled in the second edition of

    Changeling when the narrator talks about riding the yellow walrus. Possibly, when reading Shadow Court,

    you were surprised at how easy it was to fall into the nightmare, to imagine playing a fae sworn to darkness.

    You remember the kid in grade school who had imaginary friends long after everyone else had formed

    their cliques? Remember the kid that just didnt really fit in well, not because of anything you could pin down,

    but just because he or she was an easy target and was sensitive to what people thought and said? Oh, you

    were that kid? Me, too. Funny, that.

    Theres a point, here. Im pretty sure you understand, but just to make sure: Changeling appeals to

    those of us who understand that these characters live. Not in a I am my character kind of creepshow, but

    simply that when you spend time and energy crafting a character for any game (or any story, or whatever), it

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    lives, somehow, somewhere. Authors talk about characters speaking to them, demanding extra scenes in

    fiction or a different ending to a story, and as an author, Ill say that you ignore your characters at your peril.

    They might stop talking to you, after all.

    Im rambling a little here, and thats deliberate, because its human nature to avoid bad news. You

    already know this bad news, but that doesnt make it a lot easier. You ready? OK, here we go.

    Changeling is going away, and its not coming back. You will never get Book of Glamour orKithbook: Boggan or Keys to the Kingdom. IfChangeling ever does come back, it wont be in the form

    that you know, and youre better off not comparing the new to the old, because then youll be missing out on

    the wonder of the new game. The story is ending. It is time to wake up from the dream.

    God, it hurts just typing that. It feelsbanal. Like I should hit my delete key about 6000 times right

    now and obliterate this whole thing. But see, thats the thing. This needs to be said. You need to know. You

    deserve to know.

    Changeling doesnt have to end for you, of course. As has been stated ad nauseum on more forums

    than I care to think about, all you need is the core book and a little imagination and your troupe can play thisgame forever. And I hope that you will. But for me, the reality is a little harsher, because Im the guy who

    gets to (has to?) oversee The End.

    (Anybody who wanted to skip the sappy stuff about the game and what it means to me should start

    reading here.)

    When we decided to do a hardback encompassing the minor game lines (thats Hunter: The

    Reckoning, Demon: The Fallen, Mummy: The Resurrection, Kindred of the East, and Changeling) we

    struggled a bit to find developers. Oh, it wasnt a stretch that Ken Cliffe would do Hunter and Mike Lee

    would do Demon, them being the full-time developers of those lines and all. C. A. Suleiman was only too

    happy to jump back into development for Mummy, as well. Kindred of the East was a little tougher, seeing

    as how Lucien Soulban (the most recent developer for that line) was up to his eyes in Orpheus, but we got

    Kraig Blackwelder to do it, so thats good.

    Which leaves Changeling. I think Ken was pretty relieved when I casually mentioned that Id love

    the job. Honestly, I think the alternative might have been not having the section at all there was a

    suggestion that we not do one, seeing as how the line had been dormant for so long.

    Bullshit, says I. You know all those Changeling fans who will be horribly upset if their game doesnt

    get its due? I said. Well,Im one of them.

    (That suggestion was never taken very seriously, actually. But it annoyed me anyway.)

    So I found myself with 30,000 words to end one of my all-time favorite games. I dont know if you

    have any idea what 30,000 words looks like, but to give you an idea, the revised tribebooks for Werewolfare

    about 65,000 words each. 30,000 words isnt much, but thats all Ive got. Theres a bucket of cold water in

    the face for you.

    I decided immediately that I needed two authors on the book, and that one of those authors had to be

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    metaplot savvy. I admit, I havent played Changeling much in recent years and Ive fallen behind on the

    metaplot, so I wanted an author who knew what was going on and could work in as many nods to the existing,

    ongoing stuff as possible. That author was Peter Woodworth, author of (among other things) Kithbook: Eshu

    and House Beaumayn from the Book of Lost Houses.

    The other author, though, I wanted to be someone who knew the game and, more importantly,

    understoodthe game like I did, but hadnt worked on it and did not know or closely follow the metaplot. I

    wanted someone who loved Changeling but who wasnt tied to what it had become who was more

    well-versed in the essence of the game than its form (not saying that Pete doesnt grasp the games essence,

    Im just saying I wanted him for different reasons). That author was Carrie Lewis, one of my staple Dark

    Ages folks, but more importantly, one of the people who was right there with me as I discovered Changeling

    eight years ago.

    So whats in the Changeling section ofTime of Judgment? Possibility. A lot of different ways for

    Winter to come. The potential for the fae to go out with a whimper or a bang. A lot of thoughts on how best to

    run the last Changeling story, on where the fae are going, and even on what happens next. Theres hope,

    theres despair, theres war. Some familiar faces show up.

    Whats notin that section? The answers.

    I thought about this. I really did consider combing through the books and answer all of the nagging

    questions, putting definitive, canon, official stamps on everything that Changeling has left hanging. I

    thought about having Pete and Carrie write up what was happening in Arcadia, what has happened to Sir Seif

    and Kind David, how to open the Triumph Casque of Sorrows, and so on and on.

    I didnt, and Ill tell you why those are yourstories, not ours. We gave them to you. You own them,

    not us. We cantfinish them, because they havent been ours in a long time. I didnt want to tell you what todream; I dont have that right. The last material printed for Changeling: The Dreaming is going to consist

    largely of suggestions, thoughts, and possibilities from and by people who love this game.

    The stuff that dreams are made of, in other words. As a not-entirely tangential aside, did you know

    that quote is originally from Shakespeares The Tempest? The actual line is: We are such stuff as dreams are

    made on, and our little life is rounded by a sleep.

    Speaking of Shakespeare, I just thought of why I knew, right from the start, that I would love

    Changeling. The first add I saw for the game was in the first edition ofWraith (my first White Wolf game,

    remember?). It had a quote from another Shakespeare play on a background that looked like shattered glass.

    The quote had only the first three couplets of the speech, but Im ending with the whole thing. It seems like

    the right thing to do.

    If we shadows have offended,

    Think but this and all is mended;

    That you have but slumbered here

    While these visions did appear,

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    And this weak and idle theme,

    No more yielding than a dream.

    Gentles, do not reprehend:

    If you pardon, we will mend.

    And, as I am an honest Puck,

    If we have unearned luck

    Now to scape the serpents tongue,

    We will make amends ere long.

    Else the Puck a liar call,

    So, good night unto you all.

    Give me your hands, if we be friends,

    And Robin shall restore amends.

    Matthew McFarland, 8/8/2003

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