In today’s character creation installment, Bill Bodden dives into the upcoming Changeling: The Lost 2nd Edition for the Chronicles of Darkness.
After I read through Changeling: The Lost 2nd Edition, I was struck by how bleak the setting can be. You have a character that’s been held prisoner in another world, and a doppleganger has replaced them in ours. At the same time, the setting also presents a wealth of opportunities for gameplay, because your character can now build a life exactly the way they want it to be.
Changeling explores the potentially uncomfortable aspects of the being in the Faerie Realm along with the good and legendary ones. To me, it is both stark and hopeful.
Step One: Concept
After reading about the Elemental class of changelings, I was intrigued. These changelings are people who have been physically transformed by Fae magic to perform tasks that are otherwise impossible for them. To be clear, most changelings undergo some sort of change brought about by their masters — emotional, mental or physical — but the change for Elementals seems to be more dramatic than most. The more I considered it, the more I thought it would be cool to be one of these hyper-transformed changelings.
I settled on an unusual background: my character, Jack, was a reflecting pool, a human changed into living water. Over time, Jack learned to control his water shape during his captivity, and eventually flowed out and across his mistress’ estate to find the Hedge. Slowly but surely, Jack flowed through the Hedge, under it, and around it, until he was free on the other side.
Jack’s mistress molded him to perform a precise task for her: to impersonate water and remember all he heard or saw. What she didn’t know, however, is that Jack didn’t tell her everything. Now, he is protected from retribution by a substantial network of information and secrets, which he mostly uses to his advantage for blackmail and leverage. After all, who would think a gazing pool would be anything other than water? As the need arises, he may also use this store of knowledge to keep others safe from their former masters. Jack no longer remembers much about his life before he was taken to the Fae Realms, and he’s come to the realization that this may be for the best.
As part of my concept for Jack, I must also choose three Aspirations for my character. Aspirations are short-or-long term goals the character has, and once accomplished, the player earns a beat and may exchange it to improve their character at the end of a chronicle. Completed Aspirations are replaced by another such goal so that the character always has three in play at any given time. Jack’s Aspirations tie in with his personality; he’s lost track of what family and friends he had in this world, and instead has latched on to new characters to create his support network.
With that in mind, Jack’s starting Aspirations are: one, find allies, two, help others escape the Fae Realm, three, protect friends and allies from the Fae. The first is simple enough, but presumably once his relationships form in-game, Jack probably will move on to another goal. The second could be an ongoing goal, or it could refer to a specific friend, lover, or confidante that my character wants to help. The third could also be ongoing, but could easily fit a Storyteller’s goals. At the discretion of my Storyteller, my character might cycle through these initial goals and replace them with more relevant Aspirations that fit his chronicle.
Step Two: Attributes
In this step, I assign Attributes. Elemental changelings get +1 dot to any one of their resistance row of scores — Resolve, Stamina or Composure. Also, any time Jack is touching “his” element — water — he may take mundane actions from as far as 3 yards (meters) away. However, it seems no blessing comes without a curse. The curse on Elementals is that they risk Clarity damage with a dice pool equal to half their Wyrd (rounded up) whenever someone browbeats, coerces, or forces them to act against their will.
Since I’m new to the setting, it’s tough for me to strategize how to arrange my stats for maximum effect. I’m thinking mental skills will be important to resist the Fae Gentry’s wiles and schemes, and Social might also be useful to form alliances with other changelings for mutual protection. Physical stats are always necessary for the characters I build, but here I’m opting to rank that last.
Jack’s Attributes are now as follows: Intelligence 3, Wits 3, Resolve 2, Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Stamina 2, Presence 2, Manipulation 2, Composure 3. I put the bonus dot in Stamina: I have a feeling Jack’s going to need it.
Step Three: Skills
I opt to rank skill groups to match Jack’s Attributes: primary is Mental, secondary is Social, and tertiary is Physical. My 11 dots in in Mental skills are arranged as follows: one each to Academics, Computer, Crafts, Medicine, and Science, and two each to Investigation, Occult, and Politics. For Social skills, I choose one each in Empathy, Expression, Persuasion, Socialize and Streetwise, with two dots in Subterfuge for a total of seven. Lastly, I opt for one dot each allocated to Brawl, Stealth, Survival, and Weaponry for a total of four in Physical skills.
Step Four: Skill Specialties
For Jack’s three skill specialties, I’m going to boost my Physical skills to make his character more well-rounded and thematically capable. They are as follows: Brawl, Improvised Weapon, Subterfuge, Misdirection, and Stealth, Move Silently.
Step Five: Add Lost Template
To me, the C:tL 2E character template is unique when I compared this section to the other Chronicles of Darkness gamelines I was familiar with and, as such, I spent more time thinking about what choices I wanted to make during this step.
Seeming is the type of changeling your character was made into. My character, Jack, is an Elemental; other types of changelings include Ogres, Fairest, and Darklings. Kith is a refinement of my character’s Seeming, and grants him specialized abilities. My character’s Kith is Mirrorskin, which is essentially a shape changer, and meshes nicely with his role as a gatherer of secrets. Mirrorskin also directly ties into his backstory, and helped him escape. In addition to altering his shape, when Jack uses Stealth, a Mirrorskin counts three successes as if they were an exceptional success — equal to five or more successes.
Jack’s Wyrd is 1. I could buy an extra Wyrd by spending half my Merit points during character creation, but I decide not to because it’s too costly.
Regalia are symbols of the contracts the True Fae forged with the world when the earth was young. The favored Regalia of the Elementals is the sword. Since the Elementals are often used as weapons, I feel the symbolism is highly appropriate. Jack’s secondary favored Regalia is the mirror, which symbolizes enhancing the senses and revealing secrets.
For Jack’s Court, I’m torn. Belonging to a Court may not seem wise for a changeling who’s trying to hide but, at the same time, a Court provides mutual protection, offers a few advantages, and like-minded characters to build relationships with. Advantages for joining a Court include access to the Court’s Contracts and invaluable contacts that’ll be great to further Jack’s Aspirations. After reviewing my options, I settled on the Spring Court. I like the idea of being part of a group, and Jack is sure to want to build friendships within the Spring Court.
All changelings have Anchors, which are reminders of their former life to help ground them in reality. Often, a changeling’s Anchors can provide the motivation to escape. I choose Anchors that flesh Jack’s character out to give me a better sense of who he is.
For Needle, I choose Composer. Jack revels in the beauty of the word, even when others may not feel the same way. He can recover used Willpower by embracing the splendor of things that lack traditionally accepted definitions of beauty.
For Thread, I opt for Friendship. Having been alone, in service to his Mistress, Jack longs for human contact and connections. When Jack accepts disadvantageous or dangerous situations to help a friend, he can gain back previously used Willpower.
Jack’s Touchstone, his final anchor, is a new home. It’s small and modest, sandwiched between larger buildings downtown, and everything to him.
As a starting character, Jack has yet to discover his Frailties. Frailties are weaknesses, quirks, and obsessions that changelings — and the Fae themselves — have as a manifestation of the Wyrd inherent in Fae lands and its denizens. The more powerful a changeling, the more Frailties they are likely to possess.
Step Six: Add Merits
Jack has 10 points to spend on Merits. Because I’ve decided Jack joined a Court, he receives one dot of the mantle of his Court for free. Mantles convey status in Court, and also offer other benefits.
I decide to spend Jack’s Merit points on the following:
Hedge Sense (•) This Merit will help him find his way around the treacherous Hedge between the lands of humans and Fae.
Hollow (•••) A Hollow is a gap in the hedge, a hide-out of sorts, and Jack uses it to escape from Mundane pressures, and use it as a hiding place when the Fae or their Huntsmen come looking for him. Each dot can be spent on accoutrements within the Hollow, and I’ve chosen Luxury Goods, Phantom Phone Booth, and Size Matters. Luxury Goods allows Jack the chance to have any one item he needs at hand in his Hollow. Phantom Phone Booth gives him a phone that can call into the human world. Lastly, Size Matters gives Jack a larger space inside the Hollow, where he and his allies could fit comfortably.
Safe Place (•) Safe Place is tied to Jack’s Touchstone, his new home in the human world. It’s not much, and it’s not impregnable if attacked, but he’s had time to set up a trap or two, and stock it with supplies and weapons in case he needs them. As Jack grows in experience, his Safe Place will grow as well.
Stable Trod (•) A Stable Trod is a firm path through the Hedge. This path doesn’t move or disappear like other Hedge paths do.
Eidetic Memory (••) Jack’s training as a reflecting pool was to gather information and secrets for his Mistress. Being able to remember even the most minute details about these details is important, so this is a skill that was beaten into him. This is totally unlike me in real life, so having this Merit is appealing on a personal level.
Fast Reflexes (•) Jack is a water elemental, so having Fast Reflexes feels like a good fit.
Trained Observer (•) Jack’s time as an observer and intelligence-gatherer makes this Merit a no-brainer.
Step Seven: Determine Advantages
Health: Size + Stamina = 7
Speed: 5 + Strength + Dexterity = 10
Willpower: Resolve + Composure = 5
Maximum Clarity: Wits + Composure = 6
Initiative: Dexterity + Composure = 6
Defense: (Lower of Wits or Dexterity) + Athletics = 3
Jack’s Glamour pool has a maximum of 10
Contracts are the bargains made by the Fae Nobles with the Wyrd when the world was still young. Contracts allow changeling characters to use a specific spell by paying its associated price by spending Glamour or, occasionally, a point of Willpower.
The six starting Contracts I’ve chosen for Jack — two Royal and four Common — are: Skinmask, The Walls Have Ears, Fae Cunning, Elemental Weapon, Gift of Warm Breath, and Gift of Warm Blood. I think it’s a good mix to give Jack some magic to use in combat, for defense, to heal, and to investigate.
Skinmask is a Royal Contract associated with the Mirror Regalia. It allows the wielder to assume the shape of a specific person, Fae, or Changeling after reciting three truths about that individual.
The Walls Have Ears is a Common Mirror Contract. It allows the user to speak a secret from his time in Arcadia aloud to an object, and have the object tell him a secret about itself in exchange. By using this Contract, Jack could learn things like the best way to utilize an object or find its weaknesses.
Fae Cunning is a Common Shield Contract that allows the user to avoid being struck by blows or weapons. Sometimes, an attack might even be redirected to a different target.
Elemental Weapon is a Common Sword Regalia Contract that allows the user to turn any element into a weapon; the character may choose to add extra damage, increase the range, or decrease any initiative penalty normally incurred during that combat round. The user may also mix and match the effects, depending on the number of successes rolled.
Gift of Warm Breath is a Common Spring Court contract allowing the user to heal Conditions, such as poison and fatigue, and bashing damage.
Gift of Warm Blood is a Royal Contract (Spring Court) permitting the user to create a healing salve that downgrades one wound per success from Aggravated to Lethal, and from Lethal to Bashing.
Now that Jack’s character has been fleshed out, he is ready to help other changelings escape the clutches of the Fae and seek his own happiness. I really enjoyed this process because, as I developed this changeling character, I felt myself being drawn into the setting. I’m more intrigued by Changeling: The Lost Second Edition now than when I first started; I hope to put together a game soon, so I can play Jack in a chronicle.
Changeling: The Lost 2nd Edition is available for preorder via BackerKit.
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