So last night I ran my first session of Changeling: the Lost, using Venice as my city setting. As you may be aware, I have been working for sometime to get this setting just right. I have designed a new court (Carnival) and written a lot for the background for the city and the Freehold of Changelings that live there.
You may also be aware that I have run a lot of Vampire: the Requiem, so I thought we should perhaps look at my first impressions of running the game and what differences there were in theme and mood and how that manifested.
Changeling I think should be approached as a bottom up game. It takes a lot longer to do character creation as there are many little things that have to be sorted out. Basic character concept, seeming, kith, court, contracts. It just takes a little longer than Vampire and that is because you can tweak the characters a lot more.
Keeping with the bottom up approach I tried to keep the use of particular rules out of the first session. Hedge travel. No. Dreamscaping. No. Tokens and Trinkets etc. No. Even Contracts were off limits to start. No, to begin with we just had the basics of Clarity and Glamour. All in all not to difficult except for working out the dice pools that were appropriate for harvesting Glamour. As for Clarity it didn't get invoked, but the dangers of it degenerating were there as a number of the characters indulged in some for of drug.
Overall the I don't see it being that difficult to run (with contracts and pledges in place). The real issues is just keeping the Seeming and Kith blessings and curses in check.
Changeling definitely had that weird vibe going. We did a quick introduction of the five PCs, and looked at how they lived in Venice. Compared to Vampire these were definitely more like homeless vagrants. There is the jarring issue that changelings have of being able to see each other's mien, making life in general slightly weirder as they see animal, ogre and elemental like people move about the city. Combined with the ability to feed of emotions and taste the emotions, reality for the characters is somewhat stranger. And this is before we get to pledges, contracts and anything from the Hedge or dreams.
As for the motley they have banded together based on the simple ideas of wanting more knowledge of the Wyrd so that they can have their revenge/thing denied to them. To ground them in the setting further the PCs met at a small English pub in Venice, called Devil's Forest, renowned for it's red telephone box they somehow got down the narrow alleys.
Now for the Courts. In the first session I showcase the extreme elements of the courts of Spring and Autumn. The former involved a opium den like gathering that had already been running for a week, and where the PCs met some of the Spring court, learnt a little about the rivalries there, and immediately grew to dislike the motley that ran the gathering, finding them too sure of themselves and sleazy. Of course the opium den allowed for glamour feeding and the idea of the pleasure emotion there being 'artificial'. It also meant that there was the danger of getting drugged, and one character did. This led the group to understand the danger mind altering drugs have on their already fragile minds.
The Autumn court showcased their need to foster fear in the hearts of the people of Venice. The Autumn court is makes use of teh famous theatre in Venice, the Teatro Fenice. The scene involved watching a terrifying opera, similar to works of Wagner. The end result was the gathered crowd of mortals and Changelings being subjected to one of the Autumn Contracts that invokes fear, causing some of the mortals to scream and sob while the changelings soaked up the emotions. This was then followed by a bit of socialization with the members of the Autumn court, and meeting more of the strange Changelings and once more having to accept the weirdness of their appearance and their own mannerisms.
The final part of the session was to heighten the feeling of fear of the unknown in the city of Venice as the motley was watched by some shadowy being.
As for Venice, I think most of my players have the benefit of playing on Assassin's Creed 2 and so have at least a good idea for the look and the claustrophobia of the city, something that is also helped by my wife's photos of Venice when we have been there on holiday. I think as the chronicle goes on and as more locations are showcased it should enhance the Venetian feel. Also I have plans to make use of simple Italian phrases to just emphasis the idea that it is Italy and Venice.
In summary Changeling definitely has that element of fantasy, but tinged with the darkness the modern age brings. The changelings come across as being on the edge of madness, and that the romantic tales of fairy magic is now stained with the sins that the modern world brings. For example the idea that contracts linked to the manipulation of emotions can just be used to allow for a orgy/opium den type party where the changelings can feast on glamour is add odds with the romantic idea of faries helping to find one's true love. So maybe, just maybe I have got the mood of the 'Beautiful Madness' just right?