Viva la Vida
Seeming Contracts: Animation, Artifice, Forge
Blessing: Spend 1 point of Glamour to gain 9 Again in all pools involving Dexterity for the remainder of the scene, spent 1 point of Glamour to add Wyrd dots to Dodge total for the remainder of the scene.
Curse: No benefit from 10 Again on Presence dice pools, -2 to untrained Social skills.
Kiths: Artist, Author, Brewer, Chatelaine, Chirurgeon, Gameplayer, Inventor, Miner, Oracle, Smith, Soldier, Woodwalker.
Examples: Adarin (Smith)
5. Character Creation
You know this story: It’s night. A man drives along a lonely country road. He sees lights in the sky. They swoop down, engulf the car. He blacks out. When he comes to, he is driving along that same stretch of road. He’s traveled maybe a quarter of a mile, but his watch says he’s been gone five hours. It’s nearly dawn. When he gets home, his wife notices that he is covered with little scars that look like healed-up burns. He says he’s sore and itchy all over. Over the coming months, the man will begin to recall being taken into a strange circular room, and being experimented on by small, pale, dark-eyed creatures. It’s a classic abduction scenario. Except… the truth is, this man who comes back with all his memories and relationships, he isn’t a man at all. He’s a thing made of sticks and stones, and he doesn’t even know who he isn’t. The real man is still in the clutches of the beings that took him. They’re still doing their experiments. They’re swapping his eyes around. They’re repositioning his internal organs. They’re taking out his hair one strand at a time and slicing off his nose and sewing on a different one. They’re draining his blood out. And all the time he’s conscious. And all the time, each different procedure is turning him into one of them. And worst of all, they are doing it to him for no reason. They’re not learning anything. They’re not even doing it for fun.
Whether gray-skinned abductors, child-seizing imps, vandal faeries or tin-mine knockers, many of the Fae marry practical talent and industry with undirected, pointless malice. Sometimes they are the sprites and goblins that bring people practical help and material wealth — if placated. But if offended, even only once, even accidentally, these same givers of aid bestow upon their hapless human victims a lifetime of misery. The Lost who were kidnapped by such faeries have endured this strange malice. Trained by unreliable Faerie taskmasters, they have become nimble-fingered. They have become willing, tireless workers. But the spitefulness of their captors infects them. It twists them. It makes them somehow smaller. It diminishes them. This is why, no matter how they look, other changelings recognize them as the Wizened.
The Wizened consider their escape from the Fae realm to have been the hardest to effect. The cunning and viciousness of their captors was unmatched. Chained, ensorcelled, threatened, cajoled, tricked, tortured and mocked, the Wizened found their escape a labyrinthine problem that, for many of them, required multiple attempts before they could break free.
Many of the Wizened make a point of trying to rise above the malice that made them so small. Many do. Among the changeling Courts, the Wizened often the ones who get their hands dirty. They are the managers of households and the enforcers of etiquette. They are the “honest mechanicals,” who toil to create things beautiful and useful. They are eloquent seers and healers. The paradox of their existence is that their skills place the Wizened in trusted roles within the society of changelings, while at the same time the fact of their origin engenders distrust. The most cheerful, decent and helpful of the Wizened was still made what he was by a being made of spite, and some changelings would believe that it only stands to reason that spite is the legacy they took from their Keepers in Faerie. In the end, this distrust can fulfill itself, as ill will directed against the Wizened inspires resentment in a changeling whose only sin was his deformity.
A Wizened Chirurgeon, once kidnapped by little gray men, works as a medical researcher in a university. When the Court needs her, her lab is a makeshift hospital for her fellow changelings whose injuries would inspire too many questions from ordinary medical institutions. A Brewer takes on the role of a homeless inebriate. He looks out for his own makeshift community and keeps an eye on the dead-end alleys and quiet corners of the provincial city where he lives, for things appear in these places and it’s better to be prepared. It’s a hard job, and sometimes, just so he can sleep, he indulges in his own elixirs. Alcoholism beckons. An Artist works in an animation studio, endlessly churning out CGI characters for ads and corporate motivators. Every so often, he slips a frame or two into his animations, a subliminal message for those who know. A Smith toils in the pit of the local auto shop, welding and hammering away like some ancient Nordic Alf. He makes few friends, thanks to his brusque manner, but his talent at completing a tune-up is undeniable, and his Court comes to him, whenever transport is an issue, or they have a need for more specialist tools than those an ordinary mechanic could supply. A Woodwalker, a recluse, lives in a cottage on a desolate moor. Stories of a Beast abound; he’s its keeper.
Although the Wizened’s work isn’t always the most glamorous or the most immediately apparent, it is often the work that other changelings would immediately notice, if it were not done. If the Wizened were to suddenly vanish, many regional Courts would dissolve into chaos. The Wizened know this, but still they often fall beneath the notice of their more prominent changeling fellows. Which is, quite commonly, the way they want it.
Every one of the Wizened is, in some way, smaller than she was when she was taken away. Being small often means being short — but not always. Some Wizened are tall and impossibly thin. Some aren’t physically smaller than anyone else, but somehow seem smaller, as if they are insubstantial, as if they are somehow not quite there. It’s very difficult to make general statements about what the Wizened look like. They bear the features of the “Little People” in all their infinite variety. Wizened captured in the West often have pointed ears, deeply lined faces, strangely-shaped noses and gimlet eyes. Some have hunch backs and prominent warts. Often, a Wizened changeling’s skin is richly colored. It can be bright green, red or blue, or the deep rich color and texture of polished mahogany. Fingers are nimble and bony; fingernails are long and sometimes twisted. Some have hunchbacks. Some have animal feet.
The Woodwalker has a long beard and eyes that gleam like tiny specks of polished jet, in a face like a ruddy ancient oak. A Japanese changeling develops sparse hair and a leering, grimacing face, a wide mouth full of white, sharp teeth. The Chirurgeon might resemble the “grays” who kidnapped her, with a bald head, huge black eyes, a tiny mouth and nose and no visible ears. But then, she could just as easily look like a towering stick-figure in scrubs, a goblin surgeon with twisted limbs like brittle twigs. The Smith’s face, smeared with oil, becomes like charred sycamore in his fae aspect.
To those who can’t perceive the Wizened’s seemings, the Wizened still seem small. Again, they’re often short and often thin. That look of somehow not always being present stays with them.
The Wizened are often the most unfortunate of changelings, for they were most often taken for no reason at all and no fault of their own. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The faeries saw them and took them; that is all. Unluckier still are those who came to the faeries’ attention because they encountered a faerie who appeared to be in trouble — like the man who found a little person under a rock and set him free, only to be hounded to death for his presumption that the Fae might need his help. The Wizened could be anyone.
Having said that, it takes someone as cunning and ingenious as the Fae themselves to escape from the Little People, and so Wizened changelings who return are most often those people who were already nimble of hand and quick of wit.
The Wizened bring back disjointed memories of random cruelties, of being the butt of tricks and experiments that seemed hilarious to the Fae, even if they couldn’t appeal to any human sense of humor. Many Wizened dimly recall trying to escape over and over again, each time being outwitted by their spiteful captors, perhaps at times being allowed to think they had escaped before the fact that they were in Faerie all along was revealed.
5. Character Creation.
The Wizened often concentrate on Mental Attributes and Skills, but not to the complete exclusion of Physical and Social Traits, particularly when it comes to Finesse Traits. Wizened characters often have good Dexterity and Manipulation in particular. Few Wizened, however, have above-average scores in Strength and Presence. Mental Merits are as common as Physical Merits are rare. Many of the Wizened have Envy, Greed or Wrath as their Vice. While the Flaw: Dwarf is appropriate for the Wizened, it’s not compulsory. Although the Wizened have all shrunk to some extent due to their time in Faerie, few are that small.
The Wizened are extraordinarily nimble. The player can spend one point of Glamour to gain the benefit of the 9 again rule on all dice pools involving Dexterity for the rest of the scene.
This same nimbleness enables the Wizened to avoid harm in ways other beings can’t imagine. The player can also spend one point of Glamour to add the character’s Wyrd dots to his Dodge total (normally calculated as double Defense), for the rest of the scene. This only applies when the character is dodging.
Spite infects the Wizened. It comes out in their appearance, and in their manner. Their appearance, which is rarely attractive, and their general tendency not to be approachable means that the Wizened don’t benefit from the 10 again rule on dice pools involving Presence. For the same reason, while Social Skills aren’t completely barred to them, the Wizened suffer a -2 dice untrained penalty when trying to use a Social Skill in which they have no dots, rather than the usual -1.
Artist: The Wizened who create startling works of art and craft: Seamsters, sculptors, painters and builders. The Artists’ blessing is Impeccable Craftsmanship: The changeling enjoys the benefit of the 8 again rule on any dice pool using Crafts, and can choose to spend a point of Glamour to re-roll any failed dice on one Crafts roll (so if, for example, an Artist who rolls five dice and gets 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9 can spend a point of Glamour and re-roll the 1, 4 and 6). This blessing can be used only once per roll.
Author (WM): In Faerie, these changelings composed words of all kinds for their masters, from poetry to plays to nonfiction. Authors may even have been their Keepers’ only connection with mortal language, having to explain precisely what words are and how they held power. Authors still see things in terms of words — ideal nouns and adverbs swim unasked through their minds. The Author has mastered the Polyglot’s Riddle: He gains the 8 again rule to all Expression rolls dealing with writing or wordy endeavors. With a successful Wits + Academics roll, he can also deduce the meaning of written text in any mortal language.
Brewer: Changelings who spent their durance in Faerie learning how to create mind-bendingly potent drinks or peculiar alchemies. Due to long exposure and gradual immunity, a Brewer gains four bonus dice to any Stamina roll made to resist poisons or intoxication. In addition, the Brewers know the recipe for The Inebriating Elixir: Once per scene, the changeling can instantly ferment one pint of any drink with Glamour, turning it into a powerfully intoxicating brew. The changeling needs to be able to touch the container holding the drink to do this. The changeling’s player rolls Wits + Crafts. If the roll is successful, the player may spend one Glamour point to invest the drink with a Potency rating equal to the changeling’s Wyrd rating, plus the number of successes the player rolled. If the Potency of the brew is higher than the Health of the person drinking the brew, the person gets very drunk, and in five turns falls unconscious. If the Potency doesn’t exceed the drinker’s Health, the drinker must roll Stamina + Resolve, or suffer the effects of having drunk one more drink than her Stamina. The brew’s effects last for the rest of the scene.
Chatelaine: Preternaturally skilled manservants, organizers and house-managers. The Chatelaine’s talent is Perfect Protocol: The changeling gains the benefit of the 9 again rule on all Social Skill rolls which depend on manners, etiquette or proper social practice (such as in a formal ball, a business meeting or a changeling Court), even when using Presence. Further, the player can spend a point of Glamour to gain a +2 dice bonus to Manipulation and Presence dice pools for the rest of the scene.
Chirurgeon: Changelings who master surgery and pharmacy, sometimes from altruism, and sometimes simply because they can, ranging from scary back-street surgeons to strangely alien experimenters. The Chirurgeon’s blessing is The Analeptic Charm: able to perform medical miracles, the changeling gains the benefit of the 9 again rule on Medicine dice pools. The Chirurgeon can also use the humblest tools well, and never suffers from penalties for poor equipment as long as at least something can be jury-rigged as a medical tool. Finally, anyone whom the changeling tends to for any length of time receives the benefit of the Chirurgeon’s skills as if they were in a hospital intensive care unit.
Drudge (WM): The lowest and most menial of Wizened, Drudges were given the most unpleasant tasks to perform. They suffered all the privations and modifications of their fellow Wizened, and did not even learn a faerie trade in return. Drudges are the long-suffering inheritors of house elves, domovoi and other such faeries. However, not all had their spirits broken in Arcadia, and some managed to slip away through the Thorns before their negligent Keepers noticed their absence. The Drudge was designed to provide Unseen Labor: By spending a Glamour point, the character may complete any relatively simple task in a fraction of the time, as long as no mortal watches her do so. The task cannot require more than five successes on an extended roll to complete; the Drudge could fix something simple quickly, but not repair a badly damaged car. The time required for the task is equal to the original time required divided by the character’s Wyrd +1; even the weakest Drudge can cut a field or clean a house in half the time it would normally take. In addition, the Drudge gains the benefit of the 9 again rule to Stealth rolls; she is easily overlooked.
Gameplayer (WM): The True Fae adore games, even if they despise the possibility of losing. Some Wizened were kept precisely to empower the Gentry’s love of games. The changeling was forced to play against her Keeper, or against canny goblins and cheating imps; or she was made a part of the games, a chess piece in a game that repeated over and over again, or the queen of spades in a long poker game. She mastered many games during her durance, but cannot remember them all; some operated by rules that made no sense in Arcadia, much less in the more solid reality of the mortal world. The Gameplayer’s blessing is the Grandmaster’s Stratagem: By spending a Glamour point, she can win any purely mental-based game she plays (such as chess or checkers). She also gains a bonus three dice to any rolls made to gamble with games that involve a mixture of mental acuity and random chance (poker and sports betting, for instance, but not craps).
Inventor: This Wizened kith was common between the late 18th century and WWII. During this era, many amazing inventions were made by a single dedicated and often eccentric mortal, and Arcadia was filled with reflections of their dreams. As with all human imaginings and passions, the Gentry wished to have servants to create all manner of clockwork, steam-powered, or electrical wonders for them. However, eventually, mortal dreams moved on to labs and factories filled with faceless technicians, and the Gentry found other interests. Blessed (or perhaps cursed) with long, many-jointed fingers and sometimes mechanisms incorporated into their own bodies, their blessing is Inventive Genius. The Inventor gains the benefit of the 8-again rule on all Crafts or Science rolls to design, build, modify, or repair any sort of device or mechanism. By spending 1 Glamour, the changeling can add dice equal to their Wyrd to any of these rolls.
Miner (WM): These changelings are the knockers and kobolds, the Coblynau and Telchines. Miners labored in deep mines to extract rare and precious metals, and perhaps other things — chipping out veins of fossilized blood from the rotting gut of a mountain-sized great beast, or tunneling for the root of all evil. The Miner’s gift is the Tappingspeak: By spending one Glamour, the changeling may tap out a coded message on a nearby surface. The message (which cannot be longer than three sentences) travels like vibrations to the intended recipient, as long as there’s a sufficient medium between the two to carry it all the distance (thus, a recipient currently in an airplane could not receive the missive). The range is one mile per point of the Miner’s Wyrd. The recipient automatically understands the meaning of the Tappingspeak, thanks to the Glamour imbedded in the message.
Oracle: Changelings who, like many imps and goblins, can, in a limited way, see the future. The Oracle’s blessing is Panomancy: The changeling can, once per chapter, tell fortunes using any method she wants — tea-leaves, cards, bones, a crystal ball or anything else. The effect works the same as the Common Sense Merit (although the character can buy the Merit as well, if the player wishes).
Smith: Changelings who were forced to labor under the watchful eye of the most unimpeachable Faerie blacksmiths, tinkers and toolmakers. Their blessing is Steel Mastery: The changeling can use his supernatural skill with metallurgy to alter metal objects, improving them, even if improving them would normally be impossible. The player spends one Glamour and makes an extended roll of Dexterity + Crafts, with each roll representing half an hour of tinkering, polishing and hammering. If the changeling manages to gather four successes, he can alter a tool so that it gives a +1 equipment bonus. The item has to mostly be made of metal. The magic wears off after a day. No object this way can be improved more than three times. If the changeling tries to alter an object a fourth time, he destroys the tool, and it can never be used again.
Soldier: Members of the vast goblin hosts of the Fae, the Soldiers fought strange, inconclusive battles and now find that fighting comes easier to them. The Soldiers’ talent is Blade Lore: Living and breathing the lore of the blade, the Soldiers of the goblin hosts find it easy to master any weapon that carries an edge. A Soldier is considered to have a Weaponry specialization with any weapon that carries an edge, no matter what it is. This can’t stack with other specializations the changeling may learn.
Woodwalker: The Wizened who, like their captors, live within and protect the wilds, sometimes jealously, sometimes violently. Their talent is Wildcraft: the changeling gets the benefit of the 8 again rule on Survival rolls. Also, the Woodwalker can survive by eating any plant, no matter how poisonous (although poisons that are isolated and distilled from plant sources are still dangerous to him, because they’re not strictly plant matter any more).