Fate Core Hack: Changeling the Lost Dream

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(Maybe call the hack Changeling the Lost Dream?) These are my notes and thoughts on a kind of complicated hack that I used to run a game session at Save Against Fear. The scenario was called The Long Night, something I’ve run before as a Changeling: the Lost scenario. It’s a scenario I like, starting off with an obvious mystery, then introducing some nightmares, and then finally a sinister goblin plot.

I developed the most recent idea for The Long Night before Changeling 20th Anniversary Edition came out (but after I backed it on Kickstarter), but historically there have always been parts of Changeling the Dreaming and Changeling the Lost that I liked, and others that I didn’t. One example: I like the way Dreaming’s Arts work better for the most part than Lost’s Contracts, but I prefer the way Lost handles kiths to the way that Dreaming does. Dreaming is way too Europe-specific for me, and the non-European kithain suffer from White Wolf’s tendency toward stereotyping (ahem Gypsies ahem). I much prefer Lost’s approach of generalizing out one step for a much more flexible system that can be used to represent fae-type creatures from any culture where they appear.

I also really like Fate Core, especially for one-shot play in a situation like a convention where everyone will want to incorporate their zany one-off ideas, and where I don’t want to spend a ton of time explaining the system. So what I did is hack together Dreaming’s Arts with Lost’s kith, using Fate Core rules.

The result was pretty awesome. My players had a great time, ending with a mighty triumph over the Goblin King that used all of their biggest abilities with flash at just the right moment. They worked together beautifully, something that Fate Core really encourages. In fact, I learned some tactics from these players, as two of them were familiar with Fate Core already, and were very adept at creating advantages and handing them off to each other for big effects. One of the players wanted me to send her my hack so that she could use it in her own game.

Unfortunately, I only wrote up the rules I needed for the scenario. But I think that in principle someone could easily read through what I’ve done and do the work themselves to fill it out for their own game.

The Hack

Aspects

For each pre-generated character, I added three Aspects: each character’s high concept, which was basically their kith and seeming; their trouble aspect, which was some way that their kith and seeming could cause trouble for them in everyday life; and an aspect drawn from their Durance and how they survived as a roleplaying hint and also a statement of what they are good at. I then left the last two slots blank and encouraged the players to fill in aspects however they would like.

Custom Skill List

This list is similar to the one that I use for my weekly Fate Core Vampire game. Basically, I reorganize the Fate Core skills as they appear in the core book and the SRD, and replace some of them with White-Wolf names (Charisma, Manipulation). I also add Streetwise and Survival, since in my view those are significant aspects of White Wolf games – Streetwise in particular.

Athletics, Charisma (replaces Rapport), Contacts, Drive, Expression (partially replaces Craft), Fight, Investigate, Kenning (replaces Empathy), Knowledge (academics, science, medicine), Lore (enigmas, supernaturals), Manipulate (replaces Provoke and Deceive), Physique, Resources, Shoot, Stealth, Streetwise, Tech (partially replaces Craft), Will

Kith and Seeming Stunts

For each character, I came up with one Stunt for their Kith and one for their Seeming, adapted from Changeling the Lost. Not all of these will adhere strictly to Stunt rules as written, but they’re in the right range I think.

Darkling – Ephemeral: Any Darkling can spend one Fate point to add +2 to a Stealth roll to move in darkness.

Mirrorskin – The Mercurial Visage: A Mirrorskin can alter her features at will to help her mimic another person, granting a +2 to Manipulation rolls made to do so.

Elemental – The Stuff of the World: Elementals can spend a Fate point once per session to clear all physical stress boxes.

Airtouched – Velocity of the Zephyr: An Airtouched gains a +2 to any Athletics roll related solely to movement speed. 

Fairest – Fairest of Them All: Any Fairest can spend a Fate point to add +2 to a Charisma roll where she can use her appearance to best effect.

Muse – The Tyranny of Ideas: A Muse can spend a Fate point to boost another character’s roll if she has a moment to inspire them.

Ogre – Brute Force: An Ogre can spend a Fate point to add +2 to a Fight roll or a Physique roll related directly to brute strength.

Stonebones – Obdurate Skin: A Stonebones Ogre can spend a Fate point to give herself an armor rating of 2 for a scene.

Wizened – Nimble: A Wizened can spend a Fate point to add +2 to Athletics for a roll relating to nimbleness, including dodging in coming attacks.

Chirurgeon – Analeptic Charm: The Chirurgeon gains +2 to any Knowledge roll used to treat an injury.

Arts as Extras

As I did with my Fate Core hack of Vampire the Masquerade, for this Changeling hack I reduced each Art from five levels to only three, and made each level of the Art cost 2 refresh. Rather than tie them to Skills, I simply give a character skill in each Art as she buys it up, so that at level 1 she has a +1, at level 2 she has a +3, and at level 3 she has a +5. For Arts that have a target or minimum roll, I simply used +0 for level 1, +2 for level 2, and +4 for level 3. This means that most of the time, Arts rolls will be successful, but there is still a risk, while masters of an Art will almost always succeed on activating the 1st level (unless something is tagged against them, really). Another option would be to tie each Art to a Skill (I thought there would be too much overlap here though) and keep the basic target numbers for each level.

Remember, for each of these, I only wrote out the levels that characters in my convention game would have, so this is far from complete. Also, as I said, I’m using Changeling the Lost kiths but Changeling the Dreaming Arts.

For Unleashing, which is new to the 20th Anniversary rules, I decided that the effects would be up to the GM, but that an Unleashing would add one particular Aspect to the scene, which the character could tag once for free.

Autumn

Unleashing Autumn causes rot, decay, and ruin. The problem is one of scale. Collateral effects can harm anything or anyone nearby, and well as anything or anyone connected through sympathetic magic. You choose which person, place or thing you want to bring to ruin initially, and it spreads from there. Aspect: Ruin and Decay.

  1. +0 Autumn Eyes: enables you to recognize weaknesses and stress points in people and objects.
  2. +2 The Poisoned Apple: the changeling can reify her negative emotions into poison and infuse food or drink with it. Anyone who ingests the food or drink is struck by an attack – mental if Chimerical and physical if Wyrd.
  3. +4 Shivers: gives the changeling the power to haunt a person, place or object. Precise effects are up to the GM, but often involve a new permanent Aspect.

Chicanery

Unleashing Chicanery imposes delusions, but the scope of those delusions often extends far beyond the original intent. You choose whom you want to delude, and another player (or the GM) determines the delusion. Or the delusion can be an Aspect defined by the GM. 

  1. +0 Trick of the Light: the changeling uses this cantrip to become temporarily invisible. She is invisible to other changelings and supernatural creatures unless she makes the effect Wyrd, in which case she is invisible to everyone.
  2. +2 Dream Logic: success puts a victim into a suggestible state for a single scene. They will view your requests and suggestions in the best possible light, and only try to resist if told to do something that is clearly dangerous.
  3. +4 Lost in the Mists: this cantrip imposes a lasting delusion in the target. This cannot be a complicated delusion – something that can be explained in a brief sentence.

Chronos

Unleashing Chronos is more dangerous even than unleashing most other Arts. Those affected can become unstuck in time, and the resulting weirdness can be more than the Mists can cover. You choose whom or what you want to speed up, slow down, or stop in time. Aspect: Unstuck in Time.

  1. +0 Backward Glance: enables the changeling to look into the past of a particular place. First, determine how far back you are attempting to look. If your roll doesn’t enable a look that far, it automatically fails. +1 One scene, +2 Up to a day, +3 Up to a week, +4 up to a month, +5 a year and a day.
  2. +2 Set in Stone:  through this cantrip, a changeling can remove the target from the normal flow of time. Not frozen in motion, but no longer aging. It is also possible to prevent wounds from healing over time, interfere with chemical reactions, and so on. +2 One day, +3 One week, +4 One month, +5 One year, +6 One decade.
  3. +4 Time Dilation: enables the changeling to move the target forward in time with all of the attendant aging and decay: +4 one year, +5 one decade, +6 one century.

Contract

Unleashing Contract might draw the oathbound to you, or even help you seek someone out who would be the right one to undertake a quest. It might also escalate a rivalry to a deadly oath of revenge. The cost is that you often find more than you bargained for. Aspect: Bound by Words.

  1. +0 Done Deal: the changeling can solemnize a formal contract, and the Dreaming will enforce it. The strength of this enforcement is based on your roll and subject to the GM.
  2. +2 Casual Contract: this cantrip can enforce a classic fae trick, turning a casual agreement into a binding contract.
  3. +4 Sanctified Words: this cantrip grants an ongoing boon as part of a contract. As long as it is upheld, the boon (often an Aspect) continues.

Dragon’s Ire

Unleashing Dragon’s Ire inspires greatness in battle, and also escalates the violence involved. Often, a scene will simply receive the Aspect: Dragon’s Ire, useful for violence and violent compels.

  1. +0 Burning Thews: grants a +2 to Physique where strength is concerned and +1 to melee damage for a scene. To use in front of mundanes, must be made Wyrd.  
  2. +2 Dragonscales: grants armor 2 against physical stress for a scene, in addition to the +2 to Physique and +1 melee damage.
  3. +4 Tripping the Ire: in addition to previous levels, the changeling receives a +2 to her Fight skill for the scene. So, +2 to Physique for strength, +1 to melee damage, 2 armor and +2 to Fight skill.

Legerdemain

Unleashing Legerdemain causes a torrent of telekinetic activity, much of which is not under the changeling’s direct control. Aspect: Telekinetic Activity

  1. +0 Ensnare: entangles the target in whatever is nearby and makes sense – literal vines, cables, even shag carpet. To escape, the target must make a Physique roll to escape the obstacle.
  2. +2 Mooch: this cantrip enables a changeling to steal a small object, replacing it with a short-lived simulation. Chimerical by default.
  3. +4 Gimmix: the changeling can either hurl a large object, like a washing machine, across the zone, or have longer-term and more precise control over a smaller object. A hurled object deals a base of 4 physical stress.

Metamorphosis

Unleashing Metamorphoses results in changes to shapes and size to living things all around the changeling. Aspect: Shifting Size and Shape.

  1. +0 Sparrows and Nightingales: enables the changeling to make changes in her or another’s appearance, ranging from things like hair color to apparent kith or ethnicity. The changes last for at last a scene, and up to a year and a day.
  2. +2 Worms and Giants: enables the target to grow or shrink in size. +2 half size or one and a half times larger; +3 one quarter normal size or twice normal size; +4 one eighth or three times; +5 one sixteenth or four times. This size change only lasts for a scene at most, and precise effects are up to the GM to adjudicate on the fly.
  3. +4 Chimeric Exultation: you transform the target into a creature of legend. Specifics have to be determined by the GM, but gryphons can fly and dragons can breathe fire and manticores can sting and so on. Lasts for one scene.

Primal

Unleashing Primal causes an elemental storm with unpredictable effects. Usually one or two new environmental aspects. Aspect: Unpredictable Elemental Storm.

  1. +0 Willow Whisper: cantrip enables the changeling to speak with any object or animal, as long as they speak in a whisper. One question per degree of success, and the target’s knowledge is of course limited to what it might plausible know if it was aware.
  2. +2 Eldritch Prime: the changeling is able to summon one element, like fire or water, into a scene directly. Often this will take the place of an Aspect or obstacle.
  3. +4 Dance of the Five Kings: the changeling can manipulate any element that is present in the scene, for the duration of the scene. Usually must be made Wyrd. This element can be used to create obstacles, deal damage, and add Aspects to different zones.

Soothsay

Unleashing Soothsay tends to reveal truths you’d rather remain hidden. Aspect example: Ugly Truth Revealed.

  1. +0 Omen: for each degree of success, the changeling can ask one question about the target of the cantrip. The answers come wrapped in imagery and symbolism, of course.
  2. +2 Seer’s Wisp: the changeling summons a chimerical wisp that leads her to whomever or whatever she names. The wisp often takes an interesting path, and can be a challenge to follow.
  3. +4 Tattletale: enables the changeling to scry distant places, seeing and hearing what is going on there chimerically and unobtrusively.

Sovereign

To unleash Sovereign is to call upon the authority of the Dreaming to strengthen your own. Such power cannot help but foster resentment in those it is used against, of course. Aspect example: Imposing Authority.

  1. +0 Protocol: this cantrip enables a changeling to enforce Fae etiquette for a scene. Everyon in the zone where the proceedings are taking place are bound by Fae etiquette, even if they are not fully aware of it. (Assume some version of feudal rules with Fae quirks) To break protocol requires a Will roll to overcome an obstacle.
  2. +2 Dictum: the changeling gives a single command that must be obeyed. Anything that would shock the conscience or threaten direct harm allows a Will roll to resist by overcoming the obstacle. Dictum can only be used on the same target once a season without spending a Fate point.
  3. +4 Geas: the geas must be physically possible, and it must not require self-harm or harm to loved ones. Otherwise, any task can be laid upon the target with the full weight of the Dreaming enforcing it. The changeling spends 1, 2 or 3 Fate points, or reduces her Refresh permanently by one.
    • 1 Fate point: a simple geas with a minor curse – do not speak until sundown or you will reveal your secrets.
    • 2 Fate points: retrieve the Goblin Goblet or all food and drink will taste fetid for a year and a day
    • 3 Fate points: leave your home and never return, or each step you take will feel like walking on iron knives
    • Permanent Refresh reduced by 1: never speak to your true love again, or you will be the instrument of his death

Spring

Unleashing Spring results in riotous growth in all nearby plants. Aspect: Riotous Growth.

  1. +0 Awaken: precise effects are up to the GM, but could include causing a plant to bloom, starting a stalled car, or even awakening someone from a coma. Can also be used, if made Wyrd, to clear either mental or physical stress.
  2. +2 Well of Life: the target is imbued with healing energy. Anyone who touches it is able to clear their stress or a minor consequence.
  3. +4 Renewal: the target is returned to life, or wholeness if an object, until the following sunrise.

Summer

Unleashing summer unleashes not only heat but also strength and desire. Aspect example: It’s Getting Hot.

  1. +0 Flicker-Flies: chimerical wisps of light congregate around the target, providing chimerical light equivalent to a torch for the scene. Those nearby also feel subtle stirrings of an emotion of the changeling’s choice.
  2. +2 Aphrodisia: this cantrip targets a living thing or an object, making it desirable to everyone nearby who has a +2 or lower Will. The effect lasts for one scene. Those affected will find the target of the cantrip desirable and fascinating, and there is always a chance that fights might break out…
  3. +4 The Beltane Blade: ignites the ambient Banality in a person or object into red-gold flames. If successful, the cantrip deals 4 physical stress and if the target was not already enchanted, the cantrip enchants them as well, making them vulnerable to chimerical effects and weapons.

Wayfare

Unleashing Wayfare causes everyone affected to move, travel, and even teleport unpredictably. They often end up where their fate directs, for good or ill. Aspect example: Unpredictable Travel.

  1. +0 Hopscotch: enables the changeling to make one enormous leap, or to cause an object to leap into the air. She can attempt to force another creature into the air, but that creature resists with Will. +1 a story up, or about 10 feet. +2 two stories. +3 five storeys. +4 up to 10 storeys. +5 as far as the eye can see.
  2. +2 Quicksilver: doubles one’s movement speed, enabling them to traverse two zones and still have time to act. In addition, the target can take one additional action (and more, if the cantrip succeeds with style).
  3. +4 Flicker Flash: enables the changeling, or the target of the cantrip, to teleport. It must be to a place that the changeling knows, or she must have something in her possession from that place. Failure can mean that she teleports, but to someplace she did not intend.

Winter

Unleashing Winter spreads cold, lethargy, and fear to freeze the heart. Aspect: Fearsome Cold.

  1. +0 Hardened Heart: the cold of winter grips the target’s heart, providing an armor rating of 2 against mental stress, but also makes the character appear cold and unfeeling. They may have difficulty making Charisma and Contacts rolls as a result, at the GM’s discretion.
  2. +2 Terror of the Long Night: this cantrip inflicts deep, primordial fear on the target which lasts for a scene. It initially counts as an attack inflicting mental stress which can be resisted with a Will roll. After this, even if the defense is successful, the target must make a Will roll to overcome an obstacle in order to act for the scene. This roll requires a round of mental effort, after which they can act freely.
  3. +4 Stasis: you freeze a person, animal or object in time. As long as it is not touched or moved it will remain in stasis, at minimum, until the next sunrise – or longer: +5 a week, +6 a month, etc.

An Idea That I Dropped

I thought about adding a third stress track, representing the effect of Banality, but decided to just have Banality be a source for physical and mental stress for Changelings, maybe as the result of failing an Art roll, or a way to take stress in order to barely succeed. It could still be thematically present, demanding Will rolls in order to avoid stress from Banality when opening a bank account or something.

There It Is (For Now)

Obviously, there is a ton of work still to be done with this hack, but here is what I have now. It’s a big head-start if you are interested in hacking Changeling for your own Fate Core game. As always, feel free to comment below with your own ideas.

Save Against Fear

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This weekend, starting Friday, I will be attending Save Against Fear, the gaming convention and fundraiser hosted each year by The Bodhana Group. TL;DR: The Bodhana Group uses tabletop games in therapy. They are awesome. 

I’m going to be running two RPG sessions myself: Arcade Showdown on Friday at 12:30pm and then The Long Night on Saturday on 4:30pm. I will also be moderating the Game Designers Interactive Panel at 2:30pm on Saturday, which should be fun.

Sunday is my day to actually get some playing in, and I’m signed up for Fifth World – The Monster and then ending things off with Retrostar run by Jack Berkenstock Jr. himself.

If you are not going to be at Save Against Fear this year, you have made a terrible mistake. But it’s not too late! You can still register, or get your badge at the door. There are still slots in the games I’m running and, I believe, in the games I’ll be playing, as well as lots of other games. We’ll have our first celebrity guest, Martin Klebba, and you will meet a lot of great people who are not only huge gaming nerds but are also huge gaming nerds who are using their games to make people’s lives better.

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