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Tabletop Game / Changeling: The Dreaming

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The world is not what it seems to be.
A Storytelling Game of Modern Fantasy.

The tabletop roleplaying game Changeling was the Lighter and Softer aspect of the Old World of Darkness, and had a lot less angst and death. That got it a lot of derision from players of the other World of Darkness game lines. Changeling: The Dreaming borrowed heavily from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman and Neverwhere.

In Changeling, players take on the role of a Changeling Fae - a faerie who has been reincarnated into a human body as protection from Banality, a force representing the loss of humanity's capacity to dream and believe in magic. Faeries are children of the Dreaming, a supernatural force/parallel universe representing the combined creativity, stories, hopes, dreams and emotions of mankind, both good and bad. The Age of Enlightenment forced most Faeries into hiding because of the rise of industrialisation and Faeries band together to eke out an existence trying to bring Glamour and magic back into the world. (Interestingly, it was the moon landing in 1969, not Woodstock, which brought about such a surge of Glamour that it threw open the closed Gates of Arcadia, if only for a moment, and allowed the disappeared fairy nobility, the sidhe, to re-enter the world of mortals. Where they were stuck in mortal bodies afterwards.)


Changeling: The Dreaming is a work of split opinions. Some people think it a great Urban Fantasy game that provides a little light in the rest of the World of Darkness; others view it as a game that's too simplistic in its themes (see: Growing Up Sucks) and sometimes twee to a fault. It doesn't help that the game line itself has so many ways to go, you have little idea what the authors wanted—a fable on the death of childhood innocence? A game of raging against the dying of the light? An urban fantasy game about balancing the fantastic and the mundane? The commonly derided "bear and balloons" illustration near the start of the 2nd edition core book didn't exactly help matters.

The sequel for the New World of Darkness, Changeling: The Lost, is a Darker and Edgier take on it where Changelings are the more traditional sort of humans that have been kidnapped by The Fair Folk and have managed to escape their clutches. While Lost can be as divisive as Dreaming, it is at least clear about the authors' direction. The tone of Changeling: The Dreaming and Wraith: The Oblivion were basically swapped in the new World of Darkness for Geist: The Sin-Eaters and Changeling: The Lost.


Elsewhere in the NWoD, Beast: The Primordial takes up the "living dream" concept from Dreaming, with Beasts being living nightmares who don't have to worry about disbelief.

A 20th-anniversary edition of Dreaming was announced at GenCon 2014, to be developed by Matthew McFarland. A KickStarter for the core book went live on December 10, 2015; it was fully funded within hours.

This game features examples of:

  • Abdicate the Throne: The Earthbound members of House Scathach did this collectively and on a metaphysical level, renouncing their status as nobles and undergoing the Changeling Way, which means they're affected by fae magic as if they were commoners. The House actively rejects becoming nobles again; members will only take up a position if they've been chosen by unanimous acclaim from a community's fae, and even then only in the direst circumstances. In the rare event they gain a title, they hold it only so long as they live. However, some Scathach left for the Deep Dreaming rather than undertake the Changeling Way - these Scathach are still metaphysically nobles, and possibly don't share in their Earthbound siblings' rejection of titles.
  • All Therapists Are Muggles: While there are a few exceptions among the Kithain, it says a lot that there are groups dedicated to jail-breaking institutionalized Changelings before they get "treated" back into dormancy. And that's to say nothing of the Dauntain in the profession...
    • Changeling 20th does provide a little relief, however, in that Anton Stark - the main face of trying to get the changeling condition recognized as a mental illness - has effectively been laughed out of mainstream psychiatry. He's still a threat, though, as he's peddling his theories to the same kind of parents who think you can cure autism through chelation therapy.
  • All Trolls Are Different: These trolls are badass warriors whose existence is defined by honor and oaths. Their Thallain equivalents, the ogres, are even more powerful but dumb as stumps.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Unseelie redcaps are always, always nasty. Then there are the Thallain, variants on the other kiths with a bend towards the dark. To explain: Most Changelings have a Seelie (noble) nature and an Unseelie (base) nature. Thallain have two Unseelie natures instead.
    • With the updates of the 20th anniversary the perception that Seelie is Good and Unseelie is Evil has greatly diminished. The Thallain likewise have gone from being double unseelie to now having an Unseelie (or more rarely Seelie) Legacy and a Shadow Legacy that reflects their More Monstrous and vile natures.
  • Animorphism: Many, but pooka are the most well-known.
  • Arcadia: Fabled home of the Kithain, where many seek to return. As the game continues, however, it's strongly indicated Arcadia itself is in trouble.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Redcaps have the power to eat anything they can get into their mouths. The rulebook notes however:
    Digesting something particularly vile or tough (such as wood, steel, romance novels or toxic waste) requires the expenditure of a point of Glamour.
  • Atlantis Is Boring: The Merfolk.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: The sluagh were enthralled by the culture, manners and fashion of Victorian Britain, and still tend to dress as befitting that period.
  • Badass Grandpa: Most Changelings grow weaker as they grow older, especially those who rely on magic. Trolls, though, also grow weaker magically but keep growing stronger physically.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Many Seelie redcaps, particularly the signature redcap Mug. (Unseelie redcaps are just brutes.)
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Implied in the backgrounds of sidhe Houses Eiluned and Ailil. At least, that's one way to read the line "...they shared love closer than that of siblings."
  • Catgirl: A very popular and appropriate theme for pooka (to the verge of being cliche). There's also an entire Kith of catgirls (and boys!), the Nyan, among the Eastern fae.
  • Changeling Fantasy: It's right there in the title. Jimmy from Pittsburgh can discover that he's really a 500-year old troll king. That doesn't change the fact that he lives on the street in a dumpster and is considered mentally ill by normal people.
  • The Chessmaster: Some of the older sidhe.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: What the Faeries run on, Glamour.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Kithain in general have this, at least compared to the rest of the denizens of the World of Darkness; very few take them seriously (apart from some older vampires and the werewolves, who know them better) precisely because of their oddness. Even the most sensible and savvy troll happens to live their life with a supernatural form of schizophrenia (owing to the general focus on the not-quite-there realm of the Dreaming).
    • Pooka are an entire kith of this. Their innate Frailty is the inability to say the complete truth (barring extremely simple concepts such as orders or an exertion of willpower), causing them to generally speak in odd ways or patterns, leading to this trope.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The nockers traditionally do this as a matter of anger management; they were born from dreams of creation and frustration, so it's quite literally In the Blood. Their splatbook flavor narration mentions that one nocker crafted a stone that would absorb their collective cussing provided they periodically journeyed to it and swore until they felt better, backfiring when one nocker girl swore so hard that she broke it and caused a massive backlash. In less flavor-related terms, nockers also possess the native power to fix machines by swearing at them (using Crafts or Intimidation, whichever is higher).
  • Crapsaccharine World: Ignore the covers. This game is outright depressing if you read it closely enough. Sure, you're a pixie...pity you're utterly screwed.
  • The Dark Ages: In the vein of the other historically based World of Darkness books, a single rulebook, Dark Ages: Fae was published in 2004. It was very different from C:TD, being much darker and less whimsical, and is in many ways a spiritual predecessor of Changeling The Lost.
  • Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: Seelie are not automatically good, nor are Unseelie automatically evil (though fae of either court often are anyway). Of particular note are the sluagh, a race of brooding, spidery Nightmare Fetishists who can nonetheless be rather wistful and romantic in their own moody way.
    • Good Is Not Nice / Affably Evil: Related, even if a character is played as a good Seelie or an evil Unseelie, this isn't to say that they're going to be automatically everyone's best friend or a repellent foe, respectively. For example, a Seelie redcap is depicted in that splat as a foul-tempered Bully Hunter that has problems making friends, while a very dark take on The Casanova is presented as a very personable Unseelie satyr in that splat.
  • Depending on the Artist: The illustrations of the Kithain go all over the place. Early on in the line, redcaps were generally shown to have flat teeth (presumably because that kind of bite is more unsettling), but later, they were shown to have shark-type teeth. Female trolls got this a lot; they were almost always simply drawn as blue women who were slightly taller than average and not especially strong-looking, in spite of the fact that trolls are muscular and no shorter than eight feet tall.
  • Depending on the Writer: Apart from the Glamour/Banality confusion mentioned below, there was no sort of consensus on just how real chimerical things (sort-of-real objects made from dreams) were in the absence of people unable to perceive them. Would a chimerical wall provide shelter, a chimerical fire warmth, chimerical food nourishment? It varied. A lot.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Rarer in this game line than the others.
    • Because moping will kill you.
  • Dream Land: The Dreaming. Changelings live in two worlds at once, the mundane world and the Dreaming. This precarious balance is the core struggle of a Changeling's existence leading to challenges life-threatening and surreal, often both.
  • The Eeyore: The Sluagh. Averted. According to their Kithbook, sluagh are often quite happy with their gloomy lives. Though perceived as the Eeyore, they take great pleasure in the things others find creepy.
  • Eat the Evidence: The redcaps had a proclivity for this given their Bad Attitude Frailty, making them liable to do things requiring evidence to be disposed of, and their Dark Appetite Birthright, allowing them to literally eat anything.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Fomorians, ancient enemies of the Tuatha de Dannan, embodiments of the darkness in the human heart...and about as easy to eliminate. Having been sealed in a can long ago (or sealed themselves in a can, in the case of the Green Court), they're now starting to wake up.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Endless Winter. In some of the earlier text, redcaps were actively trying to encourage it, though their Kithbook dropped this notion; the redcap narrator views it as an inevitable thing and doesn't see the point of doing anything one way or the other. The Dauntain have consistently been seen as welcoming the Endless Winter.
  • Endless Winter: See above. It's probably not endless, but may seem that way to fae trapped on Earth, as it suggests the 6th Age will be utterly barren for changelings. Their chapter of the Time of Judgment apocalypse book is also named this.
    • Prior to the announcement of the 20th anniversary edition, the term could also be seen as a darkly ironic one on a meta-level, with the line ending well before most of the classic WOD.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Most sourcebooks indicate that the majority of the changelings are bisexual. Which comes in handy when you change bodies every 50 years or so.
  • Evil Is Sexy In-Universe: House Leanhaun gain bonuses to charisma and seduction and age a year for every full month they go without exhausting an artist's creativity, which results in the victim suffering a nervous breakdown at minimum.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Redcaps, who could swallow down anything they can stretch their abnormally flexible jaws around. Plenty of Unseelie weaponize it, with the messy consequences you'd expect.
  • The Fair Folk: Less so than in the sequel game, though there are examples. Unseelie redcaps are often vicious, all-devouring monsters, and the sidhe of both Courts literally ripped out people's souls so they could obtain host bodies when they returned from Arcadia.
  • Fairy Companion: Most of the player characters. Becomes pretty literal in crossover games, or from an in-universe perspective of another supernatural splat that happens to be an ally or friend of a Changeling.
  • Fantastic Racism: Generally the sidhe versus everyone else and vice versa.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: A typical villain.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Nockers again; they get along with the Sons of Ether because of this, as the nockers are almost literally personifications of fantastic science.
  • Gothic Punk
  • Growing Up Sucks: Changelings usually get Brought Down to Normal in their 30s.
  • Have You Tried Not Being a Monster?: Oh so very much. Reading the introduction story to the sourcebook is like reading a Coming-Out Story with dragons added.
    • Did we mention that the default Chronicle setting is in San Francisco? Referred to specifically as "The Rainbow City"?
  • Hobbits: Boggans.
  • Horned Humanoid: Trolls and satyrs; it tends to get more pronounced when they get older.
  • Hotter and Sexier: A great deal of attention is paid to various NPCs' sex lives and the sexual practices of the fae.
  • I See Dead People: Sluagh can see Wraiths, if they concentrate. With a bit of Glamour, they can talk with them as well.
  • Ideal Hero: Most Seelie trolls.
  • Imaginary Friend: Some chimera take on this role, accompanying low-Banality kids or childlings around on their adventures.
  • Imagination Destroyer: There are two ways for Changelings to gain Glamour (AKA imagination, creativity) by draining it from humans.
    • Ravaging stole Glamour from human beings in a very painful manner. If a human was Ravaged repeatedly and frequently, they could lose all of their Glamour permanently. The Unseelie particularly enjoy this form of feeding.
    • Rapture forced a human to create a work of art that completely and permanently drained all Glamour from them. When the work was destroyed the Glamour was gained by the Changelings who participated.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the rest of the old World of least on first sight.
  • Living Lie Detector: Sidhe of House Gwydion have the inborn ability to always sense when someone was lying or speaking an untruth.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Satyrs. Unseelie satyrs often drop the lovable.
  • Magical Negro: Eshu could be used this way. They were a race of African fae and had a habit of popping in to help solve a problem or impart some critical information and then mysteriously vanishing if they weren't a PC.
    • This doesn't stop a lot of players from playing Irish Gaelic- or Gypsy-styled Eshu or more; the splatbook states that there are now eshu from all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. (Gypsies are more properly called Roma or Romani.)
    • If you're playing the eshu, it can have the opposite effect: You become a one-changeling In-Universe Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
  • Massive Race Selection: Faerie races include the European Kithain (16, plus 8 Thallain), Native American Nunnehi (14), elemental Inanimae (6), Pacific Menehune (4), East Asian Hsien (10), Arabic Djinn (a fan work endorsed by the writers; 6), and the dark Adhene (7). There are over 70 different splats, not counting the potential for Australian, South American, Indian, and African fae (beyond the eshu) had the line been allowed to continue, which might have pushed that number towards 100. Each race has their own sets of rules, which keeps them separate from the others (plus geography). This is probably why Changeling: The Lost only establishes the base archetypes and lets players take it from there.
    • A word of warning for completists: because new splats could pop up seemingly at random, collecting all available Dreaming splats requires 15 books and a fan web supplement (a 1e or 2e corebook, Immortal Eyes: The Toybox, Immortal Eyes: Shadows on the Hill, Immortal Eyes: Court of All Kings, Isle of the Mighty, The Fool's Luck, Kithbook: Redcaps, Kithbook: Eshu, World of Darkness: Blood-Dimmed Tides, The Shadow Court, Changeling Players Guide, Kingdom of Willows, Inanimae: The Secret Way, Land of Eight Million Dreams, Denizens of the Dreaming, and web supplement Djinn: Of Smokeless Fire).
    • And just when you thought you were done with that, there were two more kith that showed up in the French-only supplement Le Monde des Ténèbres: France, the Korred and the Morganed.
    • Just when you thought we were done, with Changeling: the Dreaming 20th Anniversary edition we receive New Thallain (12), Autumn Sidhe (The Sidhe who have undergone the Changeling Way Proper), and two new Gallain in the Form of the Wichtel and the Wolpertinger.
  • Meaningful Name: Examples include David Ardry (see: Ard Righ), High King of Concordia. Since Changelings don't tend to use their truest names, these may connect with Meaningful Rename.
  • Measuring the Marigolds: See Science Is Bad below.
    • Of course, given Changeling's somewhat schizoid nature, even this was subverted on a few occasions. One book had a Boggan who made his living as an accountant; by all rights, this should have had his fae soul halfway to dormancy, but he took such joy in the potential of numbers and sums that he actually derived Glamour from his living.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: For all that you can't argue with elves, the Sidhe appear to be responsible for a lot of the bad in the world. The Leanhaun did the Rapturing that turned the mortals against the fae, though they blame the Liam Sidhe who spurred the curse; the founder of House Fiona accidentally caused the human vs. Garou feud to continue 'til the End Times by falling for the wrong human and handing his people silver-as-a-weapon; Arcadia is supposedly in ruins because the fleeing Sidhe brought Banality with them during the Sundering, and 'dark evils' followed the Sidhe back to Earth from the Dreaming in the '60s. Noblesse Oblige, or an epic case of You Broke It, You Fix It?
  • Nonhuman Humanoid Hybrid: House Balor, who are part-Fomorian.
  • The Oath-Breaker: House Liam, for which no other Changeling will honour their hospitality, their justice, or any oaths made with them.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Redcap sourcebook suggests out-thinking the Sidhe because they'll never expect you to be smart.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Seelie vs Unseelie
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The Morganed and Merfolk Kithain and Murdhuacha (mer-ROO-ka) Thallain.
  • Power Perversion Potential: The Satyrs are this distilled.
    • There is a stat for every type of thing you might target with your powers. Prop covers targeting artificial objects. With Prop 1 you can only target your powers at clothing.
      • And then using Wayfare 5 you can teleport your target.
    • Averted with Soothsay 3. This is a scry power which allows you to see things you can target and nothing else. If you can target people but not animals and one person throws a rattlesnake at another, the snake remains invisible. However, the power works by using Prop to target an object in order to see what is going on around it. This means you must have, at very least, Prop 1, meaning that if people are wearing clothes you can see their clothes.
    • The Sluagh Kithbook's physical merits all seem to be well suited for a wild night. Overly long tongue? Dexterous toes? Ability to become a puddle? All have their perverted uses. It's a good thing the Kith is the least likely to be using these.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Trolls, both Seelie and Unseelie, though the Unseelie tend to be a bit more pragmatic about things. Seelie Redcaps often tend towards this as well.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Reincarnation makes it moreso.
  • Science Destroys Magic: Changeling: The Dreaming tends to assume science is fae-smothering Banality, though the Nockers might disagree (indeed, the largest infusion of Glamour in recent history was due to the moon landing).
  • Science Is Bad: Every time you perform an experiment in a laboratory, a faerie dies. OK, well, that's an exaggeration, but still part of the main theme.
    • Then again, the line could be...split on this theme (hell, it was split on a lot of themes). The Nocker Kithbook emphasized, as only a nocker can (with lots of swears and at great volume), that the return of the Sidhe to Earth, the result of one of the greatest rushes of Glamour Changeling kind had experienced in recent history, was a result of the awe and wonder derived from the first moon landing.
      • Unfortunately, the game line was cancelled before the Book of Glamour, which according to Justin Achilli was almost finished and could be published by Arthaus under the White Wolf license. It was supposed to spell out more clearly that for different Changelings' Glamour and Banality can come in many different flavours, and what might constitute utter banality for, say, a more traditionally minded Sidhe or Nunnehi may be a source of Glamour for a Nocker, and what might taste like Glamour to an Unseelie Sluagh might feel utterly vile to a Satyr or Boggan.
      • This makes sense when considered with the Nocker Kithbook, where the only 'mages' the Nockers mention are the Sons of Ether/Brethren of Aether, whom they think are pretty awesome (insofar as Nockers can think of anyone as awesome) and the Technocracy/Hidden Ones, who don't seem to worry the Nockers anyway.
    • It gets especially silly when the game designers claimed that Awakened mages and insane Marauders can be a source of Glamour, but Awakened Technocrats are always banality incarnate. What, Awakened Technocrats are all mindless drones, incapable of feeling personal joy and awe at the universe and unable to inspire others with the Wonders of Science?
      • Not so much "incapable of feeling personal joy and awe at the universe's myriad mysteries, and unable to inspire others with the Wonders of Science," as it is that the Technocrats don't believe that what they do is really magic. They have to have a rational explanation for everything - and that tends to be deadly for the more inherently magical things, since 'rational' prohibits a world where dragons exist and turns unicorns into mutant horses.
      • Plus they literally kill fae with their disbelief, so all they see is some lunatic having a seizure.
    • With C20, this is gleefully abandoned. Banality is actually a restrictive force on science, as it stifles creativity of all kinds, including technical innovation. Technocrats are still walking tempests of Banality, but that's because of their xenophobic fear and hatred of everything irrational and unquantified, rather than being scientists.
  • Screw You, Elves!: It seems like every other sentence written about the Sidhe is that everyone hates them.
    • Then again, every other sentence is the Sidhe talking about how awesome they were and how they could be that awesome again if only the commoner fae realized that the Sidhe were right all along....
      • Of course it varies from Sidhe to Sidhe. An argument condemning, say, a House Gwydion lord wouldn't apply to a member of House Liam, and certainly not to a member of House Leanhaun. A screw you to one Sidhe is often a compliment to their rivals.
      • In C20, this tends to be directed towards the Arcadian Sidhe, with the Autumn Sidhe being treated very respectfully. Justified, in that the Arcadian Sidhe ran away.
  • Selkies and Wereseals: Specifically, the Selkie Kith. Unlike other Kithain, however, they don't reincarnate; instead, their fae soul is in their seal coat, which they pass on to a chosen heir.
  • Shout-Out: Numerous ones, usually to Neil Gaiman.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: What you get when Sluagh fall in love.
  • The Social Expert: Boggans have the supernatural ability to instinctively know how people relate to one another. Good for exploiting someone's hatred, say, or blackmailing the man trying to pass his mistress off as his daughter.
  • Sourcebook
  • Space Jews: The Nockers, many of whom actually are Jewish. The rest just act that way. The Jews were the Nockers' patron peoples during early history.
  • Splat
  • Walking the Earth: The Eshu.
  • Weirdness Censor: Mundanes naturally forget the supernatural influences of Changelings, or else rationalise them away. Enchanted, they can see and interact with the full set, but once the enchantment wears off, they forget some and think they imagined others.
  • World Half Empty