A return to the most colorful World of Darkness - a Mephisto review
Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition
The fifth of the original systems of the World of Darkness presented a new kind of supernatural beings with an unique background: the changelings. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the system, an anniversary edition was also published for Changeling: The Dreaming, which with about 500 pages offers a very comprehensive introduction to the most colorful World of Darkness.
Changeling revolves around the world of changelings - fairy creatures fused with human bodies. The fairies are originally creatures of dreams and were long present in their original form in the world of mortals until several disasters closed the connection to Arcadia, the realm of the fairies. Many of the fairies, especially the noble Sidhe, fled from the suddenly hostile world back to their own realm. While the nobles succeeded in this escape in many cases, most of the commoners had to stay behind. Separated from the fairy realm, they were forced to find a new survival strategy, which consisted of binding their fragile souls to the bodies of mortals. This is how the first changelings came into being, who over the centuries reorganized their lives.
With the moon landing, however, the dreams of humans were so inspired that the gates to Arcadia opened again and the fugitives were able to return. And, of course, there were conflicts, because the commoners, who had built their own society for centuries, were not very enthusiastic about the idea of simply submitting to the returning nobles again.
But it is not only the conflicts between the commoners and the nobility that divide the world of fairy creatures but also the different courts, Seelie and Unseelie, different kinds of changeling types and even wholly different opponents make the world of changelings quite "interesting". However, the greatest threat to changelings is banality. As creatures of dreams, creativity and fantasy are an elixir of life for them and the energy they need to survive and use their special abilities. Therefore, changelings are attracted to creative individuals who can create this glamour for them. Routine, everyday life, worries and all the things that burden people's daily lives, on the other hand, are poison to fairy creatures. Banality poses a real problem for them and endangers their existence by making them lose contact with their fairy soul, and thus they can become ordinary people. On the other hand, the changelings also see the world of dreams and the so-called Chimera, which are real to them and with which they can interact. It is quite possible that a changeling has a sword fight with a monster Chimera, while passers-by would only see someone waving his arms wildly...
Changeling again has an entirely different background than the rest of the World of Darkness. Besides, the game not only uses the same rule system, but also some typical concepts. Players must first choose one of the different types of fairies, all of which have unique advantages and disadvantages, affinities, looks and opinions. Besides the fact that the anniversary edition has some additional variants that were not included in the original basic rules, the book also offers the fairy creatures of other cultures, such as the Native Americans, the fairies from Hawaii and Asia etc. If this is still not enough for you, a system is also provided to create your own fairy species from scratch.
The special abilities of the changelings are small spells (cantrips), which can either only refer to the world of dreams (and are then relatively simple) or can also affect the world of mortals. Of course, the classical approach of the Umbra for the World of Darkness can be found in the form of various dream realms. While the Autumn People, who embody banality and thus endanger the existence of the changelings by their mere presence, were already potential adversaries, C20 brings a new type of adversary into play with the Thallain. The latter as agents of the primordial evil threaten the entire world.
With its colorful and imaginative world, Changeling may seem like the friendliest game in the World of Darkness at first. Still, the conflict between fantasy and banality is ultimately the most tangible and perhaps saddest conflict players will encounter in the World of Darkness. Nevertheless, Changeling is the role-playing game in the series that offers the most overlap with classic fantasy elements. The anniversary edition not only manages to bring this world back to life, but on the one hand continues to write the history of the game and on the other hand compiles material from various sourcebooks, so that even the player is overwhelmed with the options of what he can play. The Thallain also offer a new and very dark conflict, but in my opinion, this was not necessary at all, because it adds simple black and white conflict to the game and undermines the idea of banality as a subtle threat. Changeling is an unusual game in the World of Darkness and probably only appeals to a limited group of players. For them, however, the anniversary edition, just like the other anniversary editions, is a perfect and comprehensive package to dive deep into this game world.