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5 Tips For Running "Changeling: The Lost" Games

How To Nurture Beautiful Madness

By Neal LitherlandPublished 2 years ago 8 min read

You can no longer trust anything around you. The world that once seemed as solid as the earth beneath your feet is full of holes that lead to strange places that haunt your nightmares. Stories you once considered little more than distractions for children have become cautionary guidelines for how to survive one more day. Promises are more than a matter of reputation; they're a compulsion, and a trap. You are one of the Lost, and you have been changed by what you experienced in Arcadia. The person you were no longer exists, and the person you are now is intertwined with magic and madness.

Playing a changeling is hard enough... running the world that changelings inhabit is a challenge on a whole different level. And if you're planning to tackle this game of beautiful madness as a Storyteller, consider the following tips.

This list builds on the advice found in my previous article 5 Tips For Running Better World of Darkness Games, so check that one out if you haven't seen it yet! And if you're in the mood for even more gaming goodness, check out my gaming blog Improved Initiative, or take a gander at the rest of my Vocal archive.

Lastly, if you're looking for a bit of insight into Lost, you might also want to read 5 Films You Should Watch to Really "Get" Changeling: The Lost!

Tip #1: Make The Hedge Dangerous & Wondrous

The Hedge is that place in-between our world and Arcadia. It's a living realm full of dangerous creatures, hungry plants, and where one might stumble across a hunting party of the True Fae as they seek their enjoyment outside the boundaries of their own realms. It's also a place that holds secret knowledge, lost treasures, and roads that can allow one to make secret journeys at speed if they know the way.

A lot of Storytellers, though, have a very hard time making the Hedge into more than just a very large forest.

The Hedge is an ever-changing, ever-altering place that runs on the logic of the fae. It continually changes, with doors opening and closing, and roads leading to places they never did before, and it can take a lot of energy to really bring this feeling across to your players. However, there are certain things you can do to really bring this across.

First, ensure the Hedge is dangerous. Don't just slap players with monsters whenever they go into the Hedge, but make it clear that there are dangerous things there. Have beasts getting swallowed by hungry holes full of roots. Show bizarre creatures fighting, or the remnants of Hedge duels. Make your players roll for navigation, for identifying what they're actually looking at, and ensure they understand that magic is everywhere. Every action has consequences in the Hedge.

Secondly, ensure that the Hedge is constantly shifting and changing. While trods might be in roughly the same location, and hollows don't shift on the tide, the best way to explain the Hedge is that it should feel almost procedurally-generated... you can't step in the same Hedge twice.

For Storytellers who want a little extra help really bringing the Hedge into the spotlight, consider grabbing some of the following supplements:

- 100 Gateways Into (And Out Of) The Hedge

- 100 Strange Sights To See in The Hedge

- 100 Hobs To Meet in The Hedge

- 100 (Mostly) Harmless Goblin Fruits and Oddments To Find in The Hedge

- Buyer Beware: 10 Goblin Markets

Tip #2: Make The Courts More Than Stereotypes

The Courts were established by changelings as a way of establishing a community that could protect them from the depridations of the True Fae. While the seasonal Courts are the most common example of this system, there are a variety of other options that may be more common depending on the location in question.

While the Courts are often a rock for changelings seeking security and reliability, they can often end up as immobile set pieces to the detriment of the chronicle as a whole. Especially if the Courts in the game feel like textbook examples that border on stereotypes.

We all know the basic things about the Courts. Each one has an emotion associated with it, a certain force that guides and powers it, and particular roles and tasks it excels at. Summer has the fighters, Spring has the faces, Fall has knowledge, Winter has stealth, and so son.

But you need to take these basic building blocks and put a unique spin on them that makes this particular setting feel unique to your chronicle.

For example, say there's a Winter Court enforcer that everyone knows is the Winter Monarch's bodyguard. A tight-lipped ogre who seems like he's only there for his muscle, he's seen as a security precaution by Winter to prevent the monarch from being in danger... but this might be a double-blind, and it turns out the hulking brute is actually the Winter King hiding in plain sight.

Most people associate desire with debauchery and sex, but the Spring Queen might be an accomplished Hedge duelist with a thirst for bloody competition. Summer's leader might be a strategist and tactician who is less-than-capable in open combat. Autumn's leader might come across as sweet and harmless most of the time, making it all the more frightening when you realize they're not a kindly old grandmother.

Remember that if something in the book is labeled as a stereotype, that's all it is. And while there will still be examples of those stereotypes, if you change things up your players will learn not to make assumptions about the world, and the NPCs they meet, which will ensure they look a little more closely at the world as it unfolds.

Tip #3: Consider The Complications of Glamour Harvesting

Everything has a price.

Every World/Chronicles of Darkness sphere has its own unique resource, and a particular way one must acquire that resource. While vampires have a real chance of leaving suspicious corpses in their wake to top off their blood pool, changelings typically feed off of emotion, pledges, and goblin fruit.

A lot of the time, though, the methods changelings use to harvest their glamour can be used as complications in your chronicle.

If the players at your table are subtle with their glamour harvesting, then that allows them to stay under the radar. However, if they instigate situations to generate the necessary strong emotion for a harvest, ask what the natural consequences of those actions are... in both the short-term, and the long-term.

As an example, a Summer Courtier going to a stadium to suck in the wrath and jubilation of the fans during a championship game would mean they don't have to do a thing. However, if they actively start a fight with someone in the stands, that might lead to legal action, being sought out by the police, or at the very least having to contend with stadium security. Being near a traffic jam as a passive observer would make for a lot of simmering rage, but driving recklessly and cutting people off could mean that highway patrol officers target that character, that they lose their license, or have to go to court.

Whether it's the Spring Courtier developing stalkers because they keep turning themselves into an object of desire, or a Fall Courtier generating an increased police presence in a neighborhood due to intimidating behavior, nothing happens in a vacuum.

Tip #4: Figure Out The Political Map

Everything is connected. Everything.

This might honestly be the most tedious part of being a Storyteller, but it's better to do the work on this one beforehand. Because whatever part of the setting your game takes place in, and however big or small your chronicle is going to be, you should know who the current forces on the map are, where they are, and what their goals are.

As an example, say that the Winter Court has claimed a certain part of town for its own. Those not on Court business, or who don't have a necessary pass (perhaps in the form of Goodwill, or having a chaperone from the Winter Court), are strongly warned away from this area. Maybe Summer has a particular neighborhood under its protection, or there's a large gang of bridge burners who've commandeered a housing project for their own use. Are there mortal gangs that have established a foothold in certain parts of town? Or if you are bringing in other elements of the setting, are there vampires that have drawn certain domain lines for themselves? Are there werewolf packs willing to throw down over their territory?

However many (or few) factions you have in your chronicle, make sure you know who they are, where they are, what they want, and what their relationship is with the other factions in your part of the setting. Once you've got that cat's cradle in place, you can create organic reactions to whatever nonsense your players throw your way.

Tip #5: Don't Rely on The Gentry

The Wild Hunt comes!

I mentioned this back in World of Darkness STs, Don't Overuse Your Big, Nasty Threats, but this one really bears repeating here. The True Fae are monsters on a cosmic scale, able to alter reality on a whim and with no mortal understanding of right and wrong. They are terrifying things akin to gods, and there is an urge in every Storyteller to slap them down on the board when things get serious.

Don't.

The True Fae work best like a Lovecraft-style horror. While you may hear about them, see their aftermath, or come to grips with their servants, the entities themselves are myth and rumor that are rarely seen. They're hinted at. Alluded to. Spoken of in whispers in tales round the campfire. You don't see them yourselves, and if you do chances are very good there's little you can do except hope to turn them aside.

The Gentry aren't just big, dangerous threats that changelings throw down with, unless that's a culmination of a particularly long arc in a chronicle. Because fighting them once can be a terrifying, exhilarating experience. But if it becomes a regular thing then it's like having a punch-up with Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep... it undermines the inherent mystery and horror of something alien and otherworldly, reducing it to just another "bad guy" you can punch.

Lost has plenty of those. From mortal threats like organized crime enforcers and crooked cops, to loyalists, hobgoblins, bridge burners, and privateers, you're spoiled for choice when it comes to threats your players should be able to fight, outsmart, and intimidate... let the Gentry loom large, and only let them out of the cage when it's time for the endgame to begin.

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That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. To stay on top of all my content and releases, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter as well!

Again, for more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and stop by the Azukail Games YouTube channel. Or if you'd prefer to read some of my books, like my cat noir thriller Marked Territory, its sequel Painted Cats, my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, or my latest short story collection The Rejects, then head over to My Amazon Author Page!

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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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