Getting Lost: Planning a Changeling Game

Books (Changeling: The Lost and World of Darkness) with a scattering of 10-sided dice. Text: Something for Sunday; July 14, 2019; Getting LostI’m a gamer: tabletop roll-playing games, to be precise. I’ve written before about my love of Dungeons and Dragons (see here and here and here). D&D is the game I mostly play at home with my family, and it’s wonderful. But I’m a promiscuous gamer, and with my Friday night group we generally play a different game.

Changeling: The Lost is one of the games in the World of Darkness system (New World of Darkness, in case you were wondering). It’s the same basic idea as D&D, with each player taking on the role of a character interacting with other characters as they overcome challenges in a world of magic. There are some overt differences, in that Changeling takes place in our current, contemporary world (plus the magic), and uses only 10-sided dice, as shown in the image. However, the biggest difference is less obvious. Changeling games tend to emphasize role-playing and character interactions over fighting. This is the reason why, as much as I love D&D, I think I love Changeling just a little bit more.

Now that I’m retired, I’ve decided to run a Changeling game at home with the family. Planning this game has completely obsessed me for weeks now. I’ve got to understand the system more deeply than I do as a player, and I’ve got to figure out all those challenges. The players will need certain information in order to overcome the challenges, and I have to find ways for them to get it in the context of the game, as they play their characters, so they know what they must know in time to prevent disaster. The solution must be something they can figure out and implement, but it can’t be too simple or obvious. This is complex and frustrating and enormously fun. Here are just a few of the wild and crazy ideas I get to play with:

  • Exploring the Chinese system of five seasons/elements to understand the major plot challenge
  • Designing stalls in the bazaar of the bizarre known as a Goblin Market, like the one where the old crone sells buttons that give you specific moods, charging you one song you will then forget
  • Creating a companion for the characters I call a sootling: a little snarl of black string with eyes that talks and has information they need

In many ways, planning a game is much like writing a story. This is no new insight on my part. In fact, the person who plans and runs a game in Changeling is referred to as the Storyteller. The story is the key to what makes playing these games so compelling, and so much fun.

I’m a writer, with a novel currently in revision. So writing the story for a game should be the same, right? Well, no. When I write a novel, my reader goes through my words in sequence as I’ve written them down. Suppose the reader needs to know Fact A before Event B happens. It might take some skill to work Fact A into the story where it needs to be, but once I’ve done that then I can rest assured that the reader will find it there. With a game, though, my best-laid plans are completely at the mercy of decisions made by the players. They may not go where I expect them to, do the things I’ve planned for, taking the story somewhere I never thought of. In fact, this is probably going to happen at some point. Here’s an image that expresses this idea beautifully.

A bottle of Coke labeled "My planning," and a hand holding Mentos labeled "My players"If you don’t get it, then you don’t know what happens when you add Mentos to Coke (especially Diet Coke): You get an explosion of foam all over the place. Gif showing a bottle of Coke erupting in foam after Mentos are addedSo what I need to do is not just storytelling, it’s nonlinear storytelling. I can’t, and shouldn’t, force my players to do certain things in a certain sequence. They need to be able to make choices and have those choices influence what happens. But it’s still my job to make sure they have a good time, which means they face challenges that are intriguing and worthwhile, and find the tools they need to overcome them. It’s like writing a book, only more so.

One interesting result of the overlap between planning a game and writing a book is that the game has been absorbing all my creative energies for weeks. I haven’t made any progress on my book! In part this saddens me. However, there’s a voice in my head saying, “You’re having fun, being creative, making something that others will enjoy. What’s wrong with that?” I have to agree with this voice.

So, for now, my WIP is this game. I know this obsession will pass, as we get to actually playing it and then we finish it. Until then, though, the book will just have to wait its turn.

Do you play games?
What absorbs your creative energies?

WW Photo Challenge: Dice and D&D

D is for Dice and D&D

As I’ve said before, I love playing table-top dice-rolling role-playing games with family and friends. It’s a terrific way to enjoy time together and it’s always good for lots of jokes and fun. For the D photo challenge this week, I decided to take a shot of just some of the dice I use when playing Dungeons and Dragons on Monday nights with my family. Players will notice the 20-sided die, known as a d20, near the middle that’s showing the 20 on top. Rolling a “nat 20” is almost always a great thing, so it’s good luck in this photo. Green is my favorite color (can you tell?), and I’ve collected several different sets of green dice. This means when I get to do 3d8 damage to the rock worm that’s threatening my party, I’ve got the dice to do it with!

You’re invited to join in! Pick any image you created you can label with the letter D. Show us your dog, your dojo, or your diamond-studded dagger. Here’s how to participate.

  • Post an image on your own blog or website.* All types of images are welcome. If you have serious equipment and serious skills, that’s awesome! If you snap pics on your phone (like me), that’s also awesome!
  • Post a comment on this page with a link back to your post. If you post a comment that includes a link to your blog, I will add a link to your post below.
  • Check back over the next week to follow the links. That way you can see what other people did with the theme and join in the fun.

Here’s a book cover by Olga Godim for this week’s challenge. Who doesn’t love dragons?

*Just so we’re all clear, you post your photos on your own site, which means you aren’t giving control to me or to anyone else. We’re all invited to view the images you post (and comment if your site allows for comments), but nobody has the right to use your images in any way without your permission. Got it? Great!

I’d Rather Be…Gaming

I’d rather be…


Table-top, dice-rolling, paper-and-pencil, role-playing games. They are my favorite way to spend time with friends, laughing and arguing and scheming and building a story together. I’ve posted about my love for gaming before (here and here). Those posts all focused on Dungeons and Dragons, the classic game, which I play in both 3.5 and 5th edition. This one focuses on World of Darkness, a different system, which I’ve played in various version (Changeling, Hunter, Vampire, and straight WoD, both Old World and New World). Every Monday and Friday night I get out my character sheets and dice and move into a fantasy world. That’s where I’d rather be!

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge: I’d Rather Be…

Shadow Cast


This is for all you tabletop gamers out there!

This is an all-star party, pulling together characters from a couple of campaigns:

  • Saffire the elven cleric (in the blue robe)
  • Pawly the human ranged fighter (with the bow)
  • Harley the human ranger (wielding two blades), with his dog companion
  • Garni the dwarven melee fighter (in the middle of the pack)
  • Seloneum the half-elf wizard (with the staff)
  • Cade the halfling rogue (out front)

They are facing … something. It’s casting a huge shadow. Is it a huge creature? Probably has reach. Maybe DR. Spell resistance, high save bonuses, poison — the works.

Sounds like fun, no? Let’s start rolling!

In response to the WordPress photo challenge: Shadow

P.S. – If you’re looking for Wednesday Words, you won’t find them. Since WordPress moved its photo challenge to Wednesdays, there’s too much on my plate for Wednesday Words in the middle of the week. I’ll be switching to Weekend Words instead – so watch for that on Saturday or Sunday each week.