Changeling: The Dreaming

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"They had expected to see the grey, heathery slope of the moor
going up and up to join the dull autumn sky. Instead, a blaze of
sunshine met them. It poured through the doorway as the light of a
June day pours into a garage when you open the door. It made, the
drops of water on the grass glitter like beads and showed up the
dirtiness of Jill's tear-stained face. And the sunlight was coming from
what certainly did look like a different world — what they could see
of it. They saw smooth turf, smoother and brighter than Jill had ever
seen before, andbluesky,and, darting to and fro, things so bright that
they might have been jewels or huge butterflies."

— C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair


On The Lost Children…

The gates to the Realms of Faerie are closed. Humankind has turned its back on the magical in favor of a new dream — a dream of a sterile, banal world with no mysteries or wonder. A world where all the questions have been answered and all the puzzles of the universe solved. And yet, in the quest for this Utopia, much of humankind has lost a little of themselves. They have forgotten how to dream….

When the last trods to Arcadia closed and the gates slammed shut, there still remained a few of the Fair Folk living alongside humanity. These stranded fae were forced to adopt a new way of living in order to survive the sheer power of humanity's collective disbelief in all things magical: they became mortal themselves, sheltering their fragile faerie souls in mortal flesh. And yet these fae continue to dream of a day when humanity will once more return to the mystical. In the centuries following the Shattering, the fae have quietly fostered the dreams of mortals, seeking to usher in a return of the halcyon days when the fae were welcome and could openly walk among mortals.

Changeling is a storytelling game about the Dreaming. It's about lost innocence, about the cynicism of adulthood and make-believe come to life, about imagination taking fruit. Herein you will find an invisible world of fantasy that exists alongside our reality — a place of delight, mystery and enormous peril.

When you play Changeling, you will come to understand that faerie tales aren't just for children (not that they ever were), and that they don't always have happy endings. You will discover what it is like to be exiled from your homeland, persecuted for your true nature and unable to express the beauty welling up from your soul. You will know what it is like to be alone in a crowd, to be aware of the power of dreams and to be able to tap the power of magic. And you will learn what it is like to be helpless in the arms of Fate and unable to stop the crushing weight of Banality from robbing your memory of all you have discovered.

Enter into the realm of the Dreaming — a place of unimagined wonder and impossible terror.

Is all of this real?

You lead a double life, alternating between reality and fantasy. Caught in the middle ground between dream and wakefulness, you are neither wholly fae nor wholly mortal, but burdened with the cares of both. Finding a happy medium between the wild, insane world of the fae and the deadening, banal world of humanity is essential if you are to remain whole. Such a synthesis is by no means easy. Mortal affairs seem ephemeral and trivial when you stand amid the ageless magnificence of the Seelie Court. When you don garments spun of pure moonlight and drink wine distilled from mountain mists, how can you go back to polyester and soda pop?

Alas, you have no choice. Although your faerie self is ageless and eternal, your mortal body and mind grow older and less resilient as you move through life. Sooner or later, nearly all changelings succumb to one of two equally terrifying conditions: Banality, the loss of their faerie magic; or Bedlam, the loss of their mortal reason. But is this fate inevitable? Can you retain your childlike wonder while fighting against the frigid Banality that seeks to numb your mind and steal your past? Can you ride the currents of the Dreaming without being swept away in the maelstrom of Bedlam?

You stand alone in the mundane world. No mortal will ever understand the depth of your alienation, strangeness and uniqueness. Though you may try to communicate your condition through art (and many have tried and failed), only those with faerie blood will see, understand and appreciate what you are. An exile among exiles. Lost among the lost. The stranger in every crowd.

Hail, fellow traveler — welcome to the Dreaming.

The World of Darkness… Enchanted?

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To touch the Dreaming is to access the fountainhead of creativity from which all stories, dreams, arts and crafts spring. Changelings are part of those stories — though their bodies are of mortal flesh, their souls are formed of dreams. Every changeling who undergoes the Chrysalis brings a tiny part of the Dreaming back into the world. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, her discovery of her changeling nature sets her soul aloft. This transformation allows a changeling to see beyond the mundane facade and glimpse the infinite boundaries of the Dreaming. Gifted with the ability to see both what is and what might be, a changeling occupies a world of ever-widening possibilities, limited only by her own imagination and creativity. This difference in perception is no simple overlay like a rainbow oilslick atop a puddle. A sparkling otherworld of faerie magic exists alongside and within the mortal world, a very part of it. It is within this chimerical reality that changelings live.

The World of Darkness

Fast food debris and crumpled newspapers skitter along the street, pushed along by the gray day s chill wind. Sales clerks and secretaries, released by the late hour from their cubicles, scurry out into the streets, navy and slate coats pulled tightly around them as they make their way to their high-rise boxes. Traffic stalls at each light, fuming clouds of exhaust half-hiding the plodding pedestrians. A vagrant skulks near a dumpster, his thinning hair plastered to his scalp by dirty snow. Meanwhile, high above the city, secure in glass and metal fortresses, captains of industry count their coins, greedy eyes shining in their sterile boardrooms. Arms dealers chuckle, waving fistfuls of money, little caring for the slaughter brought about by their sales. Goth children, swathed in black, pale faces searching for something to believe in, gyrate desperately to the music pounding away the emptiness. Gliding through concealing shadows, vampires smile sardonically at these wannabe dark souls, awaiting the feast that is to come. A beaten, abandoned child moans in her nightmares, pulling her cardboard box closer around her as she cries. Gtyscape in early winter, the World of Darkness. Like our mundane world, but made a little darker, a little more terrifying.

Chimerical Reality

…once having tasted the lips of excellence, once having give oneself to its perfection, how dreary and burdensome and filled with anomie are the remainder of one's waking hours trapped in the shackled lock-step of the merely ordinary, the barely acceptable, the just okay and not a stroke better. Sadly, most lives are fashioned on that pattern. SettJing-for what is possible; buying into the cliche because the towering dream is out of stock….

—Harlan Ellison, Introduction, The Sandman: Season of Mists

Before their Chrysalises, changelings hover in a half-reality, seeing the world as others do, but touched by flashes of otherness. They experience momentary visions of chimerical reality without understanding what they see, or hear strangely compelling sounds without recognizing their origins. Sometimes it is a smell or taste or even a tactile difference that is incongruous with what is experienced by everyone around them. Children, too young to know that these alterations are not normal occurrences, simply accept them. Teens and adults, more rooted in the "real" world, often dismiss these experiences as hallucinations, frequently denying the occurrences so they won't be labeled as "weirdos." Some respond to the stimuli that "isn't there" and end up in counseling or a psychiatric ward. But what they experience is real — for changelings.

This illusionary fantasy world is called chimerical because unenchanted mortals cannot normally experience it. Although they occupy mortal flesh in order to stave off Banality, changelings' true selves lie within their fragile, englamoured souls. As changelings, they see the world around them from within a chimerical shell. The whole world has a chimerical reality for the fae. They do not shift viewpoints back and forth from the banal to the chimerical, seeing first a street with broken pavement and sagging storefronts, then changing with a blink to a vision of a golden avenue lined with palaces. Instead they normally see the true magic anima that exists within every object, place and person. They pick out the inherent nature of persons, places and things, weaving those perceptions into a greater whole.

Thus they do not see the tattered old book of fairy tales with the torn cover, but the warmth and pleasure countless children have derived from reading it. Each child has left some imprint on the book, some tiny spark of imagination or inspiration that the book evoked for her. Changelings see and revel in that residue, which may cause the book to appear new and crisp, with freshly painted colors. Likewise, they may smell luscious strawberries on an "empty" plate, feel the weight of velvet on what looks like a school uniform, and dance to a symphony played on crickets' legs.

The Enchanted World

Brightly hued wrappers and balloons dance in the wind, tumbling and rolling along the street. Pale and dark dolls march in time to music unheard as they enter their many-windowed homes. Vibrant metal bugs maneuver through elaborate rituals, their breath puffing merrily. An old satyr peers around the corner, laughing at the twinkling snowf lakes that softly fall around him. Dreams take shape, born of hopes and fears. Greedy-eyed dragons soar aloft on the brisk winter breeze, alert for shiny coins dropped in the darkness below. An artist, inspired by the freshly fallen snow, begins to paint a scene of ancient snow-capped towers set amid a land of fantastic beauty. Pushed to the wall by terror, a child creates an imaginary fanged horror that stalks and frightens, always on the verge of pouncing. Children dance merrily in the snow, sharing rides on sleds as they whisk down steep hills, their screams of joy echoing throughout the park. Changeling city scape in winter. Like, yet unlike, the rest of the World of Darkness, it is a little brighter, a little more colorful, but sometimes no less frightening.