#RPGaDAY 22: Best Secondhand RPG Purchase

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Changeling: the Dreaming cover art. A heraldic griffin holds a sword, rendered in stained glass.The same used section at Barnes & Noble that introduced me to Feng Shui also held a battered, heavily dog-eared copy of the first edition of Changeling: the Dreaming. Someone used or read that book a lot, and then decided it wasn’t for them anymore — or maybe they moved up to the second edition.

Changeling was a super muddled game. Science was generally evil, except when nockers abused it to build stupendous gadgets. Changelings were parasites who commandeered human bodies, except it was okay. And changelings were really fae muses, anyway, inspiring humans to dream big. Growing up was awful and a kind of small death — the first edition of Changeling has an amazing opening story/art piece about a changeling progressing through the stages of childing, wilder and grump — but no, it was really about losing the ability to dream and be creative, rather than simple age.

But anyway, I loved the game because it mashed together fantasy and the modern world, and did it in a relatively lighter tone than the rest of the World of Darkness, which I had been studiously avoiding prior to finding this rough gem. The reason it’s my best second hand purchase is because it drove me to find more books in the game line. Quarterstaff Games had an impressive selection of Changeling titles, which slowly became mine over time. Unlike many of my role-playing purchases in that era, I got to use a fair bit of Changeling material in a short-lived game, too.

And once I was visiting Quarterstaff regularly, it was a short hop to getting to know more people, trying more role-playing games and branching out into board games. I never stood a chance. And it was all because someone didn’t want that beat up core book anymore.

Honorable Mention

One day, I found three or four Planescape box sets for sale used at Quarterstaff Games. I forget what the prices were, but trying to be clever, I figured I could buy all of them, sell those I didn’t want on eBay — Planes of Law, Planes of Chaos and maybe a third one — and come out ahead, if not break even and basically have a free Planescape core box. In the end, after eBay fees, estimated shipping versus actual and the hassle of getting to the post office, I would have loved to say I broke even. At the most, it worked out to a heavily discounted core box, and one that I still have not gotten around to reading.

July 20th, 1969: The Magic Came Back

Greyhawk Grognard reminded us of the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16th. In turn, I am reminded that Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon on July 20th, 1969 — though my memory is fuzzy whether it was Neil’s first step, or the landing of the lunar module itself, as apparently there was a six hour difference between the two — that generated enough Glamour from the millions watching to allow a gate from Arcadia to open and let the exiled sidhe stream through, kicking off the modern era of Changeling: the Dreaming.

Prior to that, the kith living on Earth eked out an existence, surviving primarily by dint of developing the changeling way ritual, which allowed a fae spirit to graft itself onto a mortal form. No one asked the mortal form if they cared to partake in this. The inspiration of seeing humans land on the moon generated enough creative energy, in comparison to the drought of the centuries since the Sundering, to allow a gate from Arcade to open. And out poured streams of sidhe, exiled from Arcadia and thoroughly expecting to be in charge of whatever common rabble was left.

Whatever I always wondered was: what were the circumstances behind that gate opening? Was it pure coincidence? Destiny? Did the rulers of Arcadia kick those sidhe out, and the far end of the gate automatically latched on to an energy source strong enough to sustain it?

We’ll never know, because that iteration of Changeling was discontinued by virtue of not publishing anymore books long ago, and heaven knows if there will be a 20th anniversary edition of White Wolf’s wayward step child of a supplemental game line. At the very least, there ought to have been a story line where the “common” kith decide to have words with the faceless individuals who keep dumping houses of entitled sidhe on their doorstep.

Uncovering Dusty Tomes

In pursuit of perfecting my home’s feng shui last night, I stumbled across a number of folios holding printed PDFs I accrued in the dawning days of role-playing’s adoption of the medium. Highlights include:

  • Issue 1 of Franklyn’s Almanack, the rapidly discontinued supplement series to Northern Crown. I liked the setting a lot, but never got to reading the first issue, let alone printing the second — which I did purchase, mind.
  • A host of Hero Games’ quickie Pulp Hero PDFs. My favorite remains Inner-Earth, a mini-setting describing a hollow Earth set-up with Aztecs, dinosaurs, Nazis and more. I got good use out of that setting for an Adventure! one-shot.
  • Executive Decision and …In Spaaace!, a pair of freebie — early subjects of the ransom funding model, perhaps? — games by Greg Stolze.
  • A pair of Trinity supplements, Terra Verde and Asia Ascendant; the latter only made it to manuscript stage, as the line was discontinued.
  • Many of Ronin Arts’ Mutants & Masterminds Archetype Archives. These were great: tons of archetypal starting characters to help games get underway. Only the one time I got to break them out, the players were insistent nothing there suited their individual visions. So it goes.
  • Kithbook: Pooka, my first-ever PDF purchase, and really, emblematic of my experiences with the species: buy PDF, print PDF, read print-out, forget about it. And I even slipped it in a super-fancy folio, with frosted transparent cover.

Some of this stuff is going away. I’ll keep the Almanack, Pulp Hero stuff and Stolze games, as they could still come in handy. The Trinity stuff I’m going to recycle. The Pooka book I will pass on to the fine fellow who cleaned out my Changeling: the Dreaming collection last month.

Role-Playing and Board Game Garage Sale

The time has come to weed the game library. Behind the jump you will find role-playing games, board games and card games I would like very much for someone else to own. Generally speaking, it’s all older stuff, so if you’re looking for titles from the 90s and early 00s, this might be the sale for you.

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Selling Things Always Has That Pang of Time and Money Wasted

I’ve participated in this tabletop hobby in some form or another for just shy of ten years. That’s not a long time in many gamers’ estimation, I suspect. But I seem to have made up for that brevity by diving whole-hog into the ancient art of accumulating too much damn stuff to do with the hobby.

The time has come for a reckoning. I’m going to start a roleplaying and board game garage sale in the coming weeks. Preparatory to that, I went through my shelves to note everything of which I wish to be rid. I surprised myself at the things I suddenly decided that I no longer wanted to stare at.

Last week, I woke up one morning knowing I didn’t really care if I owned the full line of Unknown Armies. As I rifled through my shelves, I realized that yeah, I have no use for the Changeling: the Dreaming books scavenged from eBay and used book stores.

I have no idea if anyone else has any use for these books and games, but it seems more productive to at least put them out in the world, rather than hang on to them and become increasingly depressed by the physical ties and impediment they constitute.

Soon the time will come to put up the list and notifications in various places this stuff is up for grabs. Not right now, but soon.

Using Aeon / Exalted Style Target Numbers in the Original World of Darkness

This post was going to be in response to a request on RPG.net for help using the Aeon / Exalted Storyteller target number variation with original World of Darkness games. It brought to mind something I ran across many moons ago — May 17, 2003, according to the creation date of the HTML file — a table that allows one to convert task difficulties from the oWoD system of variable target numbers and successes to Aeon Storyteller by way of a quick table.

Fortunately, someone with sharper recall than remembered where on the web the original was located, so I saved myself the agony of reposting someone’s work without permission or credit. You can find Bruce Baugh’s charts for converting oWoD difficulty ratings to the fixed target number system used by the Aeon Universe* and Exalted games on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I myself used them to great success in a short Changeling: The Dreaming game I ran in 2003 — mostly it was the sample adventure in the back of the first edition corebook, as I recall.

* Yeah, I know it’s officially called the Trinity Universe. It’s a habit I don’t really want to break.

Visual Inspiration for a Bright Changeling Game

Photo by prettyhowtown. Used with permission.

Photo by prettyhowtown. Used with permission.

I say without irony or deprecation that these pictures over on sun moon stars rain from the Bristol Renaissance Faire would be fantastic visual inspiration for a game of Changeling, either The Dreaming or The Lost varieties, depending on the look one wants for their game. It’s a bright version seen in these pictures, but it doesn’t cross the line into “bear in a waistcoat carrying a balloon” territory, either.

The original Changeling was one of those tabletop games that benefited most from the particular strengths of LARPing, because it inspired players to come up with excellent costumes. I remember seeing a picture of one woman who contrived a pair of faux goat legs for her Unseelie satyr and another who came up with a very cool ray gun ‘n goggles look as a nocker.

Part of it probably has to do with the central premise of Changeling that there’s a second layer of reality on top of that which everyday people see, the chimerical reality of the Dreaming — although there’s argument to be made that it’s more real, or maybe more true, than the more obvious world. Knowing that, the guy with a red bandanna and goalie stick isn’t just a hockey player out of season, but he takes on a new dimension as a redcap armed with a cudgel.