Dark Yeoman (who writes most of what is published here) came to Arcadia through collectible card games. I (Herr Marmaduke) came to it through role-playing games. When Arcadia came out, I was part of a group that played Changeling: The Dreaming, a role-playing game that was part of White Wolf’s World of Darkness series. You play a Changeling, someone who is half fae and half human. Changelings live in this world, and have access to the different layers of the Dreaming, but cannot return to Arcadia, the homeland of the fae which lies deep within the Dreaming.
When I heard that White Wolf was releasing a card game that is set in Arcadia, I was very excited. Somehow, I managed to overcome my aversion to collectible card games (which always make you spend way too much money). I bought some packs and played with Dark Yeoman and some other friends for a few years, until I moved away and left all my cards with Dark Yeoman (who then misplaced them during a move 😉 … but recently found them again!). We no longer live in the same city, and have only been able to play Arcadia together for a few times since the cards resurfaced. After our last game together, we split the cards. I now have all The Wyld Hunt cards; Dark Yeoman kept the ones from King Ironheart’s Madness. We both have introduced others to the game, and we both have been experimenting with using the game as a basis for other things: Dark Yeoman is trying to come up with a decent single player game (but is failing, I think :-p ). I’ve gone back to my role-playing roots. Since that is where I’m coming from,Arcadia has always been more than a card game. The role-playing elements in it have always been important to me when I play Arcadia, and Dark Yeoman has politely asked me to say something about that here.
And maybe I will. But not yet. I first want to say something about the world of Changeling: The Dreaming. You do not need to know much about Changeling to be able to play Arcadia. The games are set in different, though related, worlds. Arcadia takes place in, well, Arcadia, the mythical land of the fae. In Changeling, changelings have no access to Arcadia any more. That connection became severed, and changelings today have access to The Dreaming, but not to Arcadia, the homeland of the fae that is said to be the heart of the Dreaming.
The two games are related, but not very dependent on each other. However, I think that if you know something of the immensely detailed world that was created for Changeling, you will probably see more in Arcadia. And it will help you to see the role-playing side of the card game.
So, first of all, I’m posting something about the Dreaming. What follows is taken verbatim from Changeling: The Dreaming (Second Edition), published by White Wolf in 1997 (see pages 47-49). Keep in mind what I said earlier: Changeling is set in this world, and the Dreaming is therefore described from the perspective of our world, not from Arcadia’s.
A flower has blossomed, the world heart core,
The petals and leaves were a moon white flame.
A gathered the flower, the colourless lore
The abundant measure of fate and fame.
— W. B. Yeats, “A Flower Has Blossomed”
The Dreaming is a realm that is separate from, yet tied to, the mundane world. Created by the dreams, creativity, fears and hopes of mortals, it has exceeded its original dimensions and become a realm of infinite possibility. Anything that can be imagined may be found somewhere in the Dreaming — the catch is one has to know where to look for it. The Dreaming exists alongside the mortal realm, interwoven with it, penetrating it in places and reflecting some aspects of its less magical neighbor.
Once the home of all faeries, over the last several centuries the Dreaming has become a place of strangeness to most commoners. Cut off from most of the realm since the Shattering, many are just now rediscovering it. Others, who had access to those few trods that remained open, are now exploring the Dreaming more fully. Most never move beyond the Near Dreaming, which retains some echoes of the nearby mortal realm. Almost all changelings enter the Dreaming through a trod. Some positively revel in their newfound homeland; others are beginning to understand that it poses as many dangers for them as the real world does.
The Dreaming and the mortal plane were once the same. The Sundering separated the two, creating a separate homeland for the fae. The Shattering isolated Arcadia and most of the Dreaming from the mundane world. The true fae, great faeries of old whose powers were legendary and whose bodies were made up of the very essence of the Dreaming, fled the mortal realm. Those who could not (or would not) escape remained, but were forced to undergo the Changeling Way in order to survive. Trapping their faeries souls within mortal coils was the only way they could survive the onslaught of Banality.
Whereas the greatest danger to changelings in the mortal world is Banality, the Dreaming exposes them to new threats that ironically are brought about by the lack of Banality. Monstrous chimera, able to exist in the Glamour-rich environment of the Dreaming, threaten changelings who deviate from set pathways. Shifting realities, which are possible only because there is no Banality to control them, confuse and disorient many travelers in the Dreamlands. Where changelings face the loss of their fae selves to Banality in the mortal world, the lack of Banality in most areas of the Dreaming can send them into Bedlam from an overload of Glamour. Their faerie souls must struggle to live in the mundane world, but their mortal essences suffer while in the Dreaming.
Those who study this magical realm have yet to even begin discovering the many and diverse places to be found within it. The nature of the Dreaming, with its shifting terrain, chaotic weather and unexplainable phenomena, makes such categorizing an impossibile task anyway. “Unlimited possibility” is often simply another term for “hopelessly confused.” Despite the difficulty in determining just where one part of the Dreaming leaves off and another begins, fae scholars generally agree on a three-part division of the realm. These are known as the Near Dreaming, the Far Dreaming and the Deep Dreaming.
The Near Dreaming
The Near Dreaming is that part of the other realms that lies closest to the mortal world. It overlaps parts of reality, and in places even mimics certain features of the Earthly realm. Thus entering the Near Dreaming via a trod in the mountains may very well place the changeling in a Dreaming environment similar to the one she just left. Jagged peaks and cliffs make up the immediate terrain, and the trod itself conforms to a road or stream that cuts through the mountains found on the mortal side of the curtain.
Those parts of the Near Dreaming that do not echo the nearby mortal realms are sometimes shaped by the rulers of those lands. As the personality and well-being of the ruler affect her holding in the mortal world, so too they affect the part of the Dreaming that abuts her freehold or kingdom. Most freeholds have a chimerical existence within the Near Dreaming, allowing Kithain to enter a freehold from the mortal side, cross through the freehold and exit the dwelling into the Dreaming. Because of this two-sided existence, the freehold responds to the emotions and health of its ruler in both its mundane and magical aspects.
Other areas of the Near Dreaming may be shaped by various forces. Some respond to human-made items, taking forms similar to single buildings, parks or even neighborhoods. Generally, for this to happen, the construct in question must be the result of a great amount of imagination and emotion. A small clinic funded with money gathered by families of critically ill patients might call forth a chimerical building in the Near Dreaming, especially if the clinic becomes a reality after years of scrimping and dreaming by those who fund it. Not only have they made it a reality in the mortal world, they have created a dream of it within the otherworld as well.
The Near Dreaming can be entered through trods, which often run from one freehold to another. Since many freeholds exist within the Near Dreaming, even commoner changelings have become accustomed to using these real-world entry-and-exit paths since the sidhe opened them up for use.
Though the time it takes to travel remains approximately the same whether using a trod or more mundane means in the real world, many changelings have discovered that there are other modes of travel in the Dreaming. The lack of Banality makes using Arts such as Wayfare much easier, allowing quick travel from place to place within the Dreaming. Then there are magical beasts, some of whom have their own Arts or possess wings. These too may speed a changeling on his journey. Most importantly, however, the Silver Paths of the trods in the Near Dreaming are almost always safer, wider, easier to spot and follow, and better kept than elsewhere within the Dreamlands. It is only near the furthest edges of the Near Dreaming that the Silver Path begins to fail.
Many areas of the Near Dreaming play host to freeholds or homesteads. The presence of changelings who watch over these areas tends to make them more stable and resistant to some of the weirder effects that plague the farther reaches of the realm. Despite this static aspect, however, the Near Dreaming cannot be mistaken for mundane reality. Colors are more vivid, scents sharper, tastes more tangy and weather more pure. A thunderstorm in the mortal realm cannot begin to compare to the flashing lightning, booming shocks of thunder, sheets of rain and driving wind that is the very essence of a storm in the Dreamlands. Everything chimerical is brought into sharper focus, while objects of Banality become hazy or fade away altogether.
Emotions are much purer here as well. Anger becomes ashes. Pain is also enhanced in the realm of Dreams, and damage inflicted on Kithain, whether by Arts, beasts or chimerical objects, becomes real upon entering the mundane world again.
Dangerous, but compelling and delightful, the Near Dreaming and its oddities are more recognizable and more easily assimilated by changelings than other parts of the Dreamlands. This is because some Banality seeps through from the nearby mortal realm, helping shape the chaos into patterns. Banality usually loses its power before having much effect on the farther reaches. Thus, the Dreaming becomes stranger and makes less sense the farther Kithain travel into it. Few attempt the trek beyond the Near Dreaming. Those who do are often deemed mad. If they return, they have often earned that label.
The Far Dreaming begins where the Near Dreaming leaves off, though the boundaries between the two are sometimes hard to judge. This part of the Dreamlands can only be reached through traveling along a trod, but even this can be perilous and confusing. Here the Silver Path becomes harder to follow and sometimes seems to fade out altogether or skip from place to place. Travel through the Far Dreaming is dangerous even along trods because of the realm’s chaotic, unpredictable nature. Only very powerful trods extend this far into the Dreaming.
Among the many perils of this realm are the nightmarish creatures that lurk in the hidden places within the Far Dreaming. Strange things from Arcadia may be found here as well, Only a handful of trods reach all the way to the Deep Dreaming, and those few can only be used by those who know the secrets released by the weakening of Arcadia’s gates since their closure 600 years ago. Predicting their general natures, thought processes or reactions to changelings who might interact with them is almost impossible. While some might offer counsel or refuge, others could desire changeling slaves or see visitors to their territories as fair game for their own version of blood sport.
If experiencing the Near Dreaming is like being in a story, traveling the Far Dreaming is like falling into a myth or legend. Some changelings come to the Far Dreaming to escape the rulership of the nobility, though this can backfire as it is the sidhe who claim the most knowledge of this realm. Furthermore, those who remain too long within the Dreaming eventually succumb to Bedlam. Few but the most powerful fae or chimera can survive this mysterious realm long enough to set up residence within it. Those who do reside in the Far Dreaming leave their imprint on the surrounding territory. Sentient chimera roam many parts of the realm. It is difficult sometimes to tell whether the land responds to the needs of the chimerical beasts bright burning flame almost given a physical body, and gladness manifests as a tangible feeling that spreads from one person to or the beasts gravitate toward comfortable terrain. Nothing is ever certain in the Far Dreaming, except that uncertainty underpins the whole region.
Nonetheless, Arts seem more effective here, with some classic cantrips evincing special effects rarely seen in the mundane realm. Wayfare cantrips may be accompanied by puffs of smoke, a clap of thunder or the sound of whooshing air; Sovereign effects may include a subtle halo of light or a just-audible fanfare when used. Whether this is the result of the presence of so little Banality, a property of the Far Dreaming itself or the result of changelings’ overactive imaginations has not yet been determined.
This chaotic realm can be used to travel the world much faster than would otherwise be possible. Of course, getting lost is a distinct possibility as well. Some changelings who have traveled the Far Dreaming tell of experiencing what seem to be years of arduous journeys only to once again step through into the Near Dreaming and back to the mortal realm a few moments after they left.
The Far Dreaming is also the starting point for ancient gateways to the Deep Dreaming, though these gateways are almost always guarded either by magical beasts or traps and tests left behind by the sidhe to protect their realms. Here might be found a sphinx whose riddles hold the key to opening a gateway—or to a changeling’s death. The riddles, however, need not make sense. Logic breaks down this far from the mundane world, and two and two do not always add up to four. Traps might only be sprung by those who actively search for them, and tests might be more concerned with evoking a reaction than doing the right thing. Then again, doing the wrong thing could lead to disaster. Creatures such as dragons and unicorns abound in this realm, many with powers never conceived of except in the oldest tales from which they sprang.
The realms of the Deep Dreaming are the least structured. Only a handful of trods reach all the way to the Deep Dreaming, and those few can only be used by those who know the secrets of their opening. Insulated from Banality, the realms of the Deep Dreaming are in constant turmoil, responding to the needs of the moment. Rarely do these needs take into account visitors to the realm. Rather they serve to protect the hidden places within the Deep Dreaming from intrusion, covering the routes to them with illusion or shifting realities to confuse those who do not belong there. Some residents may be caught within these fields of chaos as well.
It is believed that Arcadia lies at the center of this realm, but that may well be another illusion. None have managed to get that far, or at least none who began their journey from the Earthly realm have returned to say so. Arcadia may not even be the true homeland of the fae, but a shared illusion conjured by the Mists. There are many paradises within the Deep Dreaming, and a number of nightmare-inspired realms of hellish cruelty and nauseating ugliness.
Literally anything can happen here. The less logical things are, the more likely they are to occur. Dream logic (if there is such a thing) prevails within the Deep Dreaming because this realm is the physical and spiritual manifestation of the deepest well of the creative unconscious. Powerful mortal dreams that conflict with one another find expression here, sometimes within the same space. Like the landscape visited in dreams, seemingly unrelated places overlap one another with little reason for their juxtaposition. Things happen that in the waking world would have no connection to one another. There is almost no cause-and-effect here. Some actions have no consequence or related reaction, others come in response to consequences for what hasn’t happened yet. People merge together into symbolic representations and assume relationships to one another that don’t actually exist.
In a bizarre fashion, the Deep Dreaming is held together by “cosmic” connections, its essential patterns given meaning only by their proximity to each other. Some creatures and objects exist within the realm independent of the fae. They are a part of the area, and cannot be dismissed from it simply because a changeling doesn’t wish to encounter them. On the other hand, reality is somewhat subjective after all. Changelings often find in this realm what they expect (or fear) to find. Whether or not those things existed before the changeling entered the area is open to debate. If someone can think of something, she can find it in the Deep Dreaming, almost as if it has been called into being in response to her thoughts. The scary part is that this welling up of creative Glamour doesn’t always conform to its creator’s expectations and conscious wishes. Instead, it takes on a life of its own, responding to a changeling’s hidden wishes, deeply buried fears and illogic as much as to her desires. If the Near Dreaming is a story and the Far Dreaming a myth, the Deep Dreaming is the embodiment of dreams themselves, and dreams can rarely be controlled or directed — that’s a function of Banality.