Viva la Vida
Changelings are no longer human, but neither are they fully fae. Upon returning to Earth, most changelings find themselves walking a fine line between two worlds. They cannot deny what they have become, but at the same time, it is their strong connection to this world that allowed them to return, and they feel a need to identify with and be accepted by the world around them.
Clarity tracks this delicate balance between the mundane world and the maddening realms of Glamour. A changeling with high Clarity is able to easily distinguish between the two worlds and might even become slightly more adept at spotting supernatural phenomena otherwise hidden from view. By contrast, a changeling with low Clarity finds her perceptions spiraling out of control. She starts having trouble distinguishing her dreams from reality, and starts mixing up elements from the two worlds. She might begin perceiving strange creatures from the Hedge in the ordinary world or incongruously normal fragments of mundane life amid the riot of Faerie. At first these mistaken perceptions are transitory and relatively harmless, but as Clarity slips, they interfere in her life more and more until it is all but impossible to exist sanely in either reality and she is reduced to a mere shell of a being.
Whenever a changeling acts in a way that threatens her Clarity, the psychic turmoil is called a potential breaking point: Her actions have threatened to destabilize the delicate balance of her dual existence. A loss of Clarity usually ensues from actions that disrupt a changeling’s ability to think of herself in terms of her human identity as well as her new fae existence.
A changeling who commits an act that triggers a breaking point must make a degeneration roll to see if she loses a dot of Clarity. If an act would seem to be described at two different points on the chart, always use the lower of the two ratings to determine the act’s severity. For example, a character decides on an impulse to kidnap a mortal child she sees wandering the woods, an act that would seem to fall under both the “impulsive serious crimes” listed at Clarity 4 and “kidnapping” at Clarity 3. Since Clarity 3 is the lower of the two ratings, it is the rating used to resolve the situation.
Starting characters begin with a rating of Clarity 7, to represent the strength of mind and memory that brought them through the Hedge and back into the realm of their birth. However, the world is never exactly what they remembered, and the shock of that realization opens the Lost up to quicker Clarity loss than before. Thus, characters can lose Clarity much more quickly in play than they did during the prelude, with their return being the catalyst. That isn’t to say that all changelings retain a high degree of Clarity during their initial stay in Faerie, of course. It’s just that those who don’t never make it back at all. One theory holds that a changeling is reunited with his severed soul during his escape. The loss of the soul while in Faerie allowed the changeling to endure, but now that the soul is housed once more in the changeling’s body, he is much more vulnerable. This suggestion is controversial among the Lost; it can’t be proved, but neither can it be disproved.
Note that Clarity is not quite a system of morals. Acts that trigger a breaking point may be morally reprehensible or not. The true measure is whether or not these acts might awaken psychic traumas that distort the changeling’s perspective, or push the changeling too far down the path of ignoring one of her two distinct selves. Impassioned or impulsive crimes often awaken troubling flashes of the mercurial Others and their ways, for instance. Kidnapping is a particularly dangerous activity for the Lost, as it awakens many a feeling that they would rather keep buried.
A failed degeneration roll may also mean that the changeling’s player must make a Clarity roll to resist acquiring a derangement, if the changeling’s Clarity is lower than 8. The new derangement is linked to the lost dot of Clarity; the derangement persists until the character recovers the lost dot, regaining her perspective and sufficient Clarity to recover from such a devastating breaking point.
Note that a changeling is not immune to breaking points resulting from her being driven to satisfy the needs of her Vice. While changelings are passionate beings, they must still be careful to avoid the temptation to behave in ways that will upset their perspectives, or else the momentary rush gained from indulging their Vices will wind up costing them bitterly.
Clarity Breaking Point
10 Entering the Hedge. Dreamwalking. Using magic to accomplish a task when it could be achieved just as well without. Minor unexpected life changes. (Roll five dice)
9 Using tokens or other mystical items. Going a day without human contact. Minor selfish acts. (Roll five dice)
8 Breaking mundane promises or commitments, especially to attend to faerie matters. Changing Courts. Injury to another (accidental or otherwise). (Roll four dice)
7 Taking psychotropic drugs. Serious unexpected life changes. Petty theft. (Roll four dice)
6 Revealing your true form to unensorcelled mortals. Going a week without human contact. Obvious displays of magic in front of witnesses. Grand theft (burglary). (Roll three dice)
5 Killing another changeling. Killing a fetch. (Roll three dice)
4 Breaking formal oaths or pledges. Extreme unexpected life changes (pregnancy, losing one’s home, etc.). Impassioned or impulsive serious crimes (manslaughter). (Roll three dice)
3 Actively harming a mortal by ravaging their dreams. Going a month without human contact. Kidnapping. Developing a derangement.* (Roll two dice)
2 Killing a human. Casual/callous crime against other supernaturals (serial murder). (Roll two dice)
1 Spending time in Arcadia. Prolonged or intimate contact with the True Fae. Mortal identity is suddenly and unexpectedly destroyed, totally abandoned or otherwise fundamentally changed. Heinous acts of torture, depravity or perversion. (Roll two dice)
Does not include derangements brought on by failed degeneration rolls.
Benefits of Clarity
A changeling whose Clarity is 8 or higher receives a +2 dice bonus on all rolls related to sensory perception. Changelings with a high Clarity rating are used to paying close attention to their surroundings, and they are highly attentive to even small changes in the world around them. This bonus applies in all realms, even Arcadia.
Changelings with a strong Clarity rating are so adept at sorting the mystical from the mundane that their ability to spot the telltale signs of supernatural phenomena becomes incredibly sharp. This heightened awareness is most commonly referred to as “kenning.” A player whose character’s Clarity rating is 6 or higher may choose to spend a Willpower point and ask the Storyteller to secretly roll the player’s Clarity to detect the presence of the supernatural in the area.
Dramatic Failure: A potentially disastrous reading of the situation, as determined by the Storyteller. The character might fail to notice the presence of dangerous supernatural entities, or misidentify a harmless bystander as a powerful mystical being. Alternately, the character might simply suffer from some form of sensory overload that imposes a small penalty and renders this ability useless for the rest of the scene.
Failure: The character is unable to get a clear impression one way or another.
Success: Each success reveals the presence of one nearby supernatural being, item or magical effect, assuming there are any present to detect. This will not allow the changeling to detect anything that is being actively concealed with some form of magic — Contracts are required for something like that — but it will allow him to spot supernatural individuals even if they are not engaged in any unusual activity at the time.
Exceptional Success: As a success, with the added possibility that the changeling gets a hint regarding the true nature of the things detected, and might even become sensitive to the presence of mystically concealed targets. This should not be enough to automatically locate hidden items or individuals, but sufficient to justify the changeling using other powers to detect them or otherwise react to their presence.
It should be noted that unless the changeling scores an exceptional success, she may recognize that a particular person is a supernatural being but will not automatically be able to tell exactly what type of creature the person, which means any potential contact is best handled very carefully and discreetly.
Drawbacks Of Clarity
- As Clarity falls, a changeling begins to have more and more trouble distinguishing between levels of reality, and may even fall prey to hallucinations. The character suffers a cumulative -1 die penalty to Perception rolls for every two points below Clarity 7: Thus, -1 at Clarity 5-6, -2 at Clarity 3-4 and -3 at Clarity 1-2.
- Should a changeling ever descend to Clarity 0, he becomes a hopelessly deluded lunatic and is removed from the player’s control. Most of these unfortunate souls are driven catatonic by their visions, though a dangerous minority become twisted and sadistic agents of their own insanity, working feverishly to carry out all manner of perverse designs. A rare few simply disappear one night, never to be seen again… at least not in the same form.
Regaining Lost Clarity
A character who has suffered a loss of Clarity must work hard to regain her former perspective. A changeling’s identity is more fragile than any outward displays of bravado or nonchalance might indicate, and the sensation of losing her grip on the difference between the two worlds she lives in is a terrifying one indeed. Combined with the devastating revelation that she might not know herself as well as she believed, rebuilding her Clarity becomes a long and patient process of seeking out stable reference points to ground her view of reality, as well as acting in ways that rebuild her identity and reinforce her own self-image. Thus, unlike mortals, who may sometimes be awarded Morality dots for penitence or good works, changelings must always spend experience points to raise their Clarity.
In addition to methods of mitigating Clarity loss, changelings can also regain Clarity from a trip to Arcadia. Reaching the mortal world from Arcadia a second time and successfully rescuing someone from Arcadia can both allow a changeling to regain Clarity. In both cases, the changeling rolls one die for every two points of Clarity (rounded up). Any bonuses from pledges are not added to these rolls. A success on either roll causes the changeling to gain one point of Clarity, while a failure on this roll has no negative consequences. Rescuing a mortal or changeling from Arcadia is worth a Clarity roll (only one regardless of the number rescued), and every changeling involved in the rescue gets a roll.