Thursday, December 10, 2015

Changeling: Slowly Turning Grey

Guess what! The Kickstarter for Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition went live today. It funded in 67 minutes, so expect stretch goals to start making the rounds pretty soon. I'm developing the book for Onyx Path, which means I get to reap all of the rewards of a Kickstarter (watching fan excitement, watching the numbers go up) without freaking out every time someone cancels a pledge. My wife is thrilled about that.

Expect some Changeling-related content on this blog this month, then. I loved Changeling, and like the rest of CWoD, I kinda put it out of sight, out of mind when NWoD came around; I wanted to keep them separate in my brain and I'd run the hell out of most of the CWoD games. But now with the benefit of years, I can see Changeling with fresh eyes again. And I gotta say, I'm excited.

Today, I want to talk about the last Changeling chronicle I ran. It was called Slowly Turning Grey; the title is a reference to this poem by Robyn Hitchcock :

It's a Raymond Chandler evening
At the end of someone's day
And I'm standing in my pocket
And I'm slowly turning grey
I remember what I told you
But I can't remember why
And the yellow leaves are falling
In a spiral from the sky
There's a body on the railings
That I can't identify
And I'd like to reassure you
But I'm not that kind of guy
It's a Raymond Chandler evening
And the pavements are all wet
And I'm lurking in the shadows
Because it hasn't happened...
...yet.

I first saw the poem in The Crow (the graphic novel), and it resonated. It's noir as fuck, but the "yellow leaves" was just this weird splash of color in an otherwise grey world.

When I started to put together a Changeling game (one of many), I fell back on the poem for inspiration. I set the game in Detroit, gave the characters an extra five freebies and an extra dot of Banality, and split the group: Seelie would play on one day, Unseelie on a different day, same world, occupying the same time, and one group's actions affected the others. The plan was to keep them separate until the finale, only knowing each other through reputation. I know the Unseelie group had a childling pooka (raven, maybe?), a sidhe, and a goblin; the Seelie had a grump satyr, a childling troll, and (I think) a sluagh. I'm sorry I'm fuzzy on the details. This was close to 20 years ago. 

The game never reached a conclusion. A lot of really awesome stuff happened, but then drama happened in the Seelie group and the game fell apart. That happens sometimes, and it sucks, but it was particularly painful for this game because we'd invested a lot of time and energy into it. 

The chronicle was building toward a new Grand Trod opening, but what would come through? More Seelie fae, or Unseelie? It depended on which group opened the trod points, and when the game ended, Unseelie (more ruthless) had opened two, while Seelie (kept getting distracted by doing good deeds) had opened one, but were on the verge of opening a second. 

The game was about dreaming in the face of crushing Banality. I think, if I were to run this game today, I could do better with it. I've traveled a little more, I've lived in different places, I work in an inner-city school district, I've had to pay bills and do all the banal shit that comes with being an adult. But more than that, I've come to realize that Banality isn't really something you do or choose. It's the grinding, inexorable march of time. It's the ache in the shoulders. It's the realization that I can't quite make it to 11PM on a school night anymore. It's staying home not just because it's comfy, but because going out is cold and requires effort. 

Don't go thinking it's about age, either. One of the worst moments of my life as a father was watching my daughter realize that homework was never going to stop. It was like watching that dot of Banality get bubbled in, seeing her figure out that it was only going to get harder in school. 

Slowly turning grey, indeed. 

But I like how the poem ends. It ends with hope, or at least anticipation. It ends with the understanding that something's waiting, and that something might scary and dangerous. but at least it's new, at least it's different, at least it's a surprise.

Banality is waves on the beach, slowly and endlessly wearing the land away. OK, fine. Then Glamour is the gulls overheard, the crabs on the sand, the fish in the sea, and the little girl building an awesome sandcastle. Banality is inevitable, but Glamour is life

More tomorrow.