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.
- Changeling: the Dreaming pg4
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.
- CtD pg5
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.
Cityscape in early winter, the World of Darkness. Like our mundane world, but made a little darker, a little more terrifying.
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 snowflakes 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 cityscape 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.
- CtD pg32-33
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.
- CtD pg34
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....