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5 Films You Should Watch To Really "Get" Changeling: The Lost

A Crash Course To The Whimsical Side of The World of Darkness

By Neal LitherlandPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 9 min read
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The World of Darkness, as a setting, speaks to some of the darker parts of our mythological monsters. Not only that, but it finds a way to show the human aspects of the inhuman. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons and more become people we can understand, and even identify with even as they step further and further away from humanity. However, of all the lore that has been added to this modern fantasy mythos, none is as confusing to some folks as that found in Changeling: The Lost. The tagline A Game of Beautiful Madness is well-earned, and it can be intimidating for players who aren't used to a setting that's quite as fluid, or where the darkness hides behind whimsy and wonder.

That's why I thought I'd curate a list of media that can help players and storytellers alike really sink their teeth into this particular sphere, and start getting the creative juices flowing. While this isn't an exhaustive list, and it's not always a 1-to-1 comparison, I think the following films can really bring home concepts I've seen individuals struggle with when it comes to this game.

And for those who would like to see more content similar to this, consider checking out 5 Non-Vampire Movies You Should Watch Before Running a Vampire Game. Also, don't forget to check out the rest of my full Vocal archive while you're here!

#1: Coraline

On the surface, Coraline looks like a kids' movie. Those who've sat and watched it (or read the book by Neil Gaiman), however, likely felt the slow creep of its disturbing subject matter running pins and needles up their spines. And while a good film in and of itself, Coraline is one of the best examples I've seen of a changeling's durance.

For those who haven't seen it, Coraline moves to a new place, and is clearly not pleased to be here. She explores the house, meets odd neighbors, makes a friend, and even finds a cat... she also comes across a door that leads to a kind of mirror-universe. A place where everyone is amazing, where she is loved and lauded... and where everyone has buttons for eyes. Her "other mother" is the queen of this place, and she wants Coraline to stay forever... but doing that means she would need to have her eyes replaced just like all the others. When she defies the other mother, the creature reveals its ill intentions, and its monstrous face.

While Coraline manages to escape by the skin of her teeth, eventually deciding that her real life isn't so bad after all, her story is a textbook example of how the True Fae can steal people, and change them to become part of their personal realms. And though she escaped before being changed (as sometimes happens to mortals), most changelings would have their eyes replaced, so to speak, before managing to claw their way back to reality.

#2: Dave Made a Maze

Dave is one of those struggling artists who can never seem to finish anything. When his girlfriend comes home to find he's built a cardboard maze in their apartment, she's understandably annoyed... more so that, according to him, he can't find his way out again. She and several of her friends, ignoring Dave's warning, enter the Maze. It's only once inside that they realize it's far bigger, and far deadlier, than they could have imagined.

Dave Made a Maze is an arty film, but it shows how sometimes random actions (particularly creative actions) can lead one into a hole in reality. Not only that, but once you're through, you can't always find your way back with logic that makes sense anywhere but a storybook. And while it seems silly and fantastical on the surface, the cardboard creatures, death traps, and monsters are quite dangerous. Not only that, but as Dave's slowly-changing form reveals, the experiences you have in the world beyond can change who and what you are, granting you strange abilities to affect the magical world.

While Dave does find his way out again, and he destroys the maze (and the gateway it represents), he doesn't go back to who he used to be. He has to live with what happened, and bear the scars that transformed his body and his mind alike.

#3: In The Tall Grass

A strange film that absolutely compels you, In The Tall Grass is based off a book written by Stephen King and Joe Hill. In this film a pregnant girl and her brother are driving to California, fleeing her deadbeat boyfriend to give the child up for adoption. Pulling over because she's feeling nauseous, they hear a boy crying out from the tall grass near the road. He's lost, and he can't find his way out... it's not until they enter the grass, though, that they realize the trap they've walked right into.

While there's a complex story between the brother and sister, the boyfriend, and a family they meet while trying to find their way out, the true horror is the grass itself. Because it's right there, on the border of the road, but they can't find their way back. They can see where they came from, but everything is constantly changing around in the grass. Not just distance and direction, which can alter in no more than a few steps, but also time. The boyfriend arrives on the scene chasing his girl more than a day after she and her brother got lost in the grass, yet somehow he was the first one the lost family met, and it was the son from that lost family that our pregnant protagonist first heard days before her boyfriend arrived.

It's confusing, and surreal, governed by powers that drives the one person who comes to understand them absolutely mad even as it fills him with frightening power... and there is nothing that exemplifies the Hedge like this. The Hedge, that ever-changing realm that exists between the real world and the impossible madness of Arcadia, plays by its own rules. Time moves differently there, and navigating it is difficult for the experienced, and nearly impossible for the inexperienced. So often it's just portrayed as any other magical forest that one might find in a fantasy game, but this film gives you an impression of just how daunting and unsettling the Hedge can be.

#4: Labyrinth

This might be the most obvious entry on the list for some, but I didn't want to lead with it. However, as an overview film, Labyrinth is a perfect piece of media to really grasp what Changeling: The Lost is going for. The whole film starts with an innocent child kidnapped by a fae being of immense power, and someone else rushing in foolishly to save him.

Sarah is brought by the goblin king (a character who has definitely showed up in a slew of Changeling games) to his realm... the Labyrinth. This realm obeys his every whim, the creatures throughout the realm are bizarre, dangerous, and often violent, living in ways that appear utterly nonsensical. Sarah is constantly complaining how unfair things are, but that's because she isn't playing by the same rules as the goblin king... it's only once she understands the rules that govern him that she's able to escape at all.

While still a very kid-friendly film, Labyrinth is an ideal way of showing the fickle nature of the True Fae, the fear they cause in hobgoblins, and how some of the power they wield is true, and some of it illusory. It brings across the nature of change and illusion, of temptation, and of how it's possible to escape their clutches, while also understanding there is a way back to that world after one flees.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Labyrinth touches on the importance of words, and how a pledge can bind you. Because if Sarah had just kept her mouth shut, none of this would have happen to her, or Toby.

#5: Pan's Labyrinth

Yes I put the two similar titles close to one another on this list, but they're basically the two sides of the same coin. While Labyrinth is heavy on the fantastical and whimsical with notes of wonder undercut with darkness, Pan's Labyrinth focuses in on the madness that lurks just beneath the skin of the world... and makes us wonder whether it is truly darker than the world in which we reside.

Ofelia is a girl given to fancy and daydreaming, always looking for faeries. One day a faerie finds her, and the faun claims she is part of a lineage from another world... but she must prove herself true. Set during the Spanish Civil War, Ofelia is constantly skating back and forth between the dangers of the fantastical (which may or may not be real), and the brutal actions of her stepfather and the fascist powers he represents. In the end she manages to prove herself... or does she?

What makes Pan's Labyrinth a great tie in is that from an outside perspective, the fantastic things Ofelia witnesses are genuinely terrifying in a way that the Henson creations aren't. The faun is majestic, but it is also old and sly, creaky and crafty... it ingratiates, and we want to believe it, but we can't quite trust it. Creatures like the Pale Man are monstrous in ways Ofelia doesn't immediately see (like the pile of children's shoes from its previous victims), but we know from the context clues around its lair. Everything feels dirty and grimy, but there's still a monstrous wonder to it all that takes our breath away even while adrenaline is kept on a low drip.

This film illustrates how hard it can be to trust one's own senses in the face of the impossible, and the faun could arguably be an ideal example of a loyalist recruiting new members to its True Fae master, what Pan's Labyrinth excels at is making the fantastical feel immediate, grounded, and dangerous in a real, visceral way. A single misstep is all it takes, and you're Lost...

Would You Like More "Lost" Content?

For fans of Changeling: The Lost, I've been working on quite a lot of supplements to add to the game over the past year and change. So if you're looking for some more pieces of inspiration, check out the following!

- 100 Mourning Cant Dialects, Phrases, and Meanings: The Winter Court is known for speaking in secret languages, and this guide offers some inspiration for those looking to couch their speech in cloak and dagger terms.

- 100 (Mostly) Harmless Goblin Fruits and Oddments to Find in The Hedge: The Hedge is a dangerous place, but there's also a harvest to be reaped for those who know what to look for. These fruits and oddments can add all sorts of options to your game, if you're looking for some truly bizarre bounties.

- 100 Strange Sights To See in The Hedge: The Hedge is a truly terrifying world, and it does not conform to the laws of what most think of as reality. For those who want to spice up their players' time in this other world, the encounters and sights in here should keep players on their toes.

- 100 Hobs To Meet in The Hedge: The Hedge is not some huge, empty expanse of green... things live in there. Coming in all shapes and sizes, all colors and creeds, hobgoblins exist in an infinite variety. These are just some examples you can populate your game with.

- Buyer Beware: 10 Goblin Markets: There are myths and legends across the world of strange souks and shadow markets where inhuman creatures sell impossible goods. These goblin markets always exist, and have never existed, depending on if you find them at the proper time or not. But, as with all things involving the fae, let the buyer beware!

Lastly, for those who enjoy audio dramas, I've been recording some of the introductory stories from a couple of these collections. So consider having a listen to a Winter Court handler meeting with a field operative:

Or checking out one of Jacoby's many jaunts into the Hedge, trying to keep his current charge alive, and his own temper in check:

Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!

That's all for this week's Fluff post!

For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my alley cat thriller Marked Territory, it's sequel Painted Cats, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife or my recent short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and now Pinterest as well! To support my work, consider Buying Me a Ko-Fi, or heading to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. That one helps ensure you get more Improved Initiative, and it means you'll get my regular, monthly giveaways as a bonus!

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About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.

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Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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