A Comparison of Character Creation

What follows are a few notes on some parallels between the creation of your character in Changeling: The Dreaming, and in Arcadia. This is mostly academic—it sheds light on the origins of some rules for Arcadia, and might perhaps embellish a very small footnote in a history of role-playing games and collectible card games. It demonstrates how Arcadia can indeed be seen as a development of Changeling (as my old friend Herr Marmaduke stresses at every opportunity he gets), but I suspect it will not have a great effect on the way you play Arcadia, though it might encourage you to bring in some role-playing elements of Changeling into Arcadia.

Character creation is perhaps the clearest link between Changeling and Arcadia as games (not as worlds in which these games are set, which is what Herr Marmaduke has focussed on so far).

In Arcadia, you create a Character as follows:

  1. You select a race (a kith), and a gender, by selecting a specific Character card. Each Character has three Attributes: Might, the Character’s “physical prowess”, i.e. “strength, agility and overall physical health” (to quote the rules); Resolve, which “represents the reasoning ability, willpower and mental fortitude of your character”; and Savvy, which “signifies guile and cunning, but may also indicate your character’s charm and charisma”.
  2. You then select a certain number of Merits, which can be one or more of the following: 1) special Abilities, tied to one of your three Attributes; 2) Advantages, loosely defined in the rules as “special skills or affinities”, which are either advantages you have gained due to connections with other people in Arcadia, or special skills you have acquired that are not closely related to one of your three Attributes; 3) Arts, “drawn from fae magic”, which are various magical powers you may have. 4) Allies, which are “the friends whom you have met in your travels, and who can help you on your adventures to come”; and 5) Treasures, items you have acquired.
  3. You then select your Court (Seelie or Unseelie), which is mostly determined by the types of Abilities you have.
  4. You might also have some Flaws, either Curses, Weaknesses, or Enemies you have made.
  5. You then name your Character and give her a background story.

Two Advantages from The Wyld Hunt

Many of these elements are derived from Changeling. Herr Marmaduke has already discussed the Kith in Changeling. As he mentioned, they do not entirely overlap with Arcadia: there are some Kith that are unique to Changeling, and some that are unique to Arcadia. (Though I wonder whether some of the former would have been included in the third set, The Lion’s Den, which was never released.) You also have to take into consideration that your Character in Changeling is a changeling—half-fae, half human—unlike the Characters in Arcadia.

But there is more overlap between Character creatio in both games.This is the (2-page) Character Sheet from Changeling (click on the image to download the pdf):


In Changeling, after you’ve selected your Kith and Court (and a few other things), you assign values to your three Attributes: Physical, Social, and Mental. This is how they are defined in the Changeling: The Dreaming handbook (p. 117):

  • Physical: These Traits describes how strong, nimble and sturdy your character is. They define the strengths and weaknesses of the body; action-oriented characters usually have these as their concentration.
  • Social: Your character’s Social Attributes measure her appearance and her ability to relate to others. They are the primary concentration of politically oriented characters.
  • Mental: Mental Attributes represent your character’s thought capacity, including such things as memory,  perception, learning potential and the ability to think quickly. Characters who are smart or intellectual concentrate on these.

They clearly correspond to Might, Savvy, and Resolve in Arcadia. In Changeling you assign certain values to them by “spending points” (see the attached Character Sheet below). The rulebook suggest you have three types of Attributes: Primary (7 points), Secondary (5 points), and Tertiary (3 points). This too is reflected in most Character cards of Arcadia, which have a 3:2:1 ratio of the 3 Attributes.

There are few more categories in Changeling that are not used in Arcadia, though. Each of the three Attributes is further broken down into three sub-categories. But I want to focus here on what is carried over to Arcadia.

Changeling too has Abilities, though they are somewhat differently understood, and broken down into three types: Talents (which are innate), Skills (things you acquired through practice), and Knowledges (things you learned). In King Ironheart’s Madness, the Abilities mostly just increase the value of your three basic Attributes, but I think the Abilities in The Wyld Hunt are somewhat closer to the Abilities of Changeling: they may be tied to one of your Attributes, but they give you extra abilities (rather than just increase those 3 Attributes). There are not a lot of Abilities that correspond to “Knowledges” in The Wyld Hunt; most of them are either “Talents” or “Skills”.

There is a greater correspondence between the Advantages in both games, though. In Changeling Advantages are of two kinds: Backgrounds, “those things from her [your Character’s] environment that she draws on for information and aid” and “her Arts and Realms, the components of her faerie magic.” (p. 119).

The Backgrounds clearly parallel the Advantages of Arcadia, which clearly are advantages you have gained because of your background—either because of things that happened in your life that made you adept at something, or because they are advantages that come from contacts you have made with significant people.

The other type of Advantages—Arts and Realms—are represented in Arcadia by the Art cards. Arts are an immensely important aspect of Changeling, and they are discussed at great length in the rule book, in two entire chapters of Changeling: The Dreaming—chapter 5 details the type of Arts, while chapter 7 details the way Arts work.

Arts are a lot more complex in the Changeling rule book than they are in Arcadia’s. First of all, there are different types of Arts. The basic rule book details 6 different types of Arts (see Chapter 5): Chicanery (trickery), Legerdemain (pranks), Primal (healing), Soothsay (prophecy), Sovereign (command), and Wayfare (affecting movement). The Player’s Guide introduces three additional Arts: Pyretics (manipulating fire), Naming (the power which comes from knowing someone’s True Name), and Spirit Link (communicating with various spirits). Many others were introduced in later books (see here or here or here for a good overview of all the Arts in Changeling).

Though Arcadia’s rules do not discuss these, they are actually used in Arcadia. Consider the following two Arts, from The Wyld Hunt:


Note the icon in the left border of each Art. In Changeling each Art has their own icon: Saining is a Naming Art, Tattletale is a Soothsay Art and both are actually described in Changeling rule books (see p. 182 of Changeling: The Dreaming for Tattletale; p. 173 of the Player’s Guide for Saining). The icons used on these cards indicate the type of Art this is.

All Arts in Arcadia have an icon in that place, which correspond to the different types of Arts in Changeling. Here are the Changeling icons for the different Arts discussed in the main rule book:


These are the icons for the three Arts introduced in the Player’s Guide:


There is one additional Changeling Art used in Arcadia, which, at the time that Arcadia was published, was not discussed in any Changeling book, but which was later detailed in Blood-dimmed Tides, a source book on the oceans in the World of Darkness (see pp. 80-82) . This is Skycraft, an Art associated with Mer, which involves the manipulation of the weather. In Arcadia it is represented by the following icon (which was changed in Blood-dimmed Tides; see here):


There are, to the best of my knowledge, two Arts that are unique to Arcadia. The first of these is named: Imagery, which is an Art of illusion. Together with Pyretics, this is the only Art mentioned by name in the rules, as these two are relevant to the Naga Characters introduced in King Ironheart’s Madness. This is represented by the first icon below. The second is an Art that is not named, but every Art with this icon manipulates the earth—they cause earthquakes, they can move a League, and so on. It is indicated with the second icon below.

imagery earthcraft


There is also a lot of attention given to the way Arts work in Changeling. As already indicated above, there are “Realms”, which are the subjects of your Arts, i.e. who or what you can affect with them. But there are also other things that are to be considered in relation to Arts in Changeling—cantrips are the actual “spells” you cast with these Arts, a bunk is the action you take to cast the cantrip, and so on.The Art cards in Arcadia are really cantrips: they are the spells you cast with the Art indicated by the icon. Indeed, as hinted at above, many of the Arcadia Art cards are derived from Changeling rule books—i.e., you’ll find in Changeling cantrips with the exact same name as many of the Art cards in Arcadia. All the other elements related to Arts in Changeling (like bunk and realms) are ignored in Arcadia, and I do not discuss these here. If you are interested in them, have a look at chapter 7 in Changeling: The Dreaming (or here for a quick overview).

Arts are immensely important in Changeling. Every Character has at least one. It is also one of the reasons why in our house rules, each Character in Arcadia must have an Art (apart from the fact that this makes for better games).

There are a few additional steps in Character creation in Changeling that I will ignore for now. But there is one additional element that is carried over in Arcadia. In Arcadia all the above elements are categorised as Merits, in addition to which there are different types of Flaws. This concept is also derived from Changeling: Merits and Flaws “represent aspects of your character’s personality and history. They are supplemental Traits used to add spice to your character” (p. 120). A long list of Flaws and Merits are given in the rule book (pp. 153-169), many of which became actual cards in Arcadia. They are optional in Changeling, but “can be a useful tool for creating an interesting character”. For every Flaw you take, you get extra points to spend on Abilities, and Advantages, just as in Arcadia.

Character creation in Changeling is a lot more complicated than I have covered here, and all of the elements I have discussed here are discussed at great length in Changeling. This is, of course, not surprising. Changeling is a role-playing game, and character creation is one of the most essential elements of role-playing games. (If you are interested in seeing how all of what we have so far discussed would come together in the creation of a character, have a look at the files Herr Marmaduke linked to at the end of this post, which give sample character sheets for different kith.).

As you can see, most of the elements of character creation from Changeling were carried over to Arcadia, though all of them were significantly simplified, as is necessary for a playable card game. But the connection between the games is very obvious.

Arcadia was meant to be a card game with role-playing elements. You are not expected to create a new Character at the beginning of each game (though you can do so, if you like). Rather, like a role-playing game, you continue playing with the same Character, which gradually grows as he or she gains experience with every completed Quest. As this comparison shows, it is not difficult to see how some elements of this are borrowed and adapted from the role-playing system of Changeling. Though this is comparison is indeed to a large extent academic, I do think that being aware of the origins of these elements of Character creation encourages you not just to select those Merits that will make a strong Character in Arcadia, but to create a Character that is believable and interesting, with a strong personality and detailed background story.


The Kith

The Characters of Arcadia all are a specific type of fae race or a kith. Some of these are carried over from Changeling, but there are quite a few that are unique to Arcadia (like the Dragonkin, Mechorg, Cog, or Army Ant), and some that are unique to Changeling (like Boggans), though they could have appeared in later Arcadia sets. Similar to the Court you belong to (Seelie or Unseelie) the kith of your Character can be as significant as you want it to be. In the role-playing game of Changeling, these are obviously important, and there is a rich background for every of the main kith that you can select. The main book describes them briefly, but there are also entire “Kithbooks” that detail the history, character, and main personalities of these kith. There is one for (K)nockers, one for Satyrs, one for Eshu, one for Pooka, one for Sluagh, one for Redcaps, and one for Trolls, that a player has impressively revised.

A few of the aquatic kith found in Arcadia, were further developed other White Wolf publications. Selkies were first detailed in Immortal Eyes: The Toybox, released in 1995 (see pp. 121-128), and in Immortal Eyes: Shadows on the Hill (pp. 78-85) . Mer(folk) were discussed in Blood-dimmed Tides, a World of Darkness sourcebook that was published in 1999, after Arcadia was released (see pp. 59-70). Triton’s resemble the Heiké Crabs discussed in that same book (p. 56). The Kokua are one of the Menehune, the kithain of Hawai’i, detailed in Immortal Eyes: Shadows on the Hill (see pp. 128-149, particularly 136-137).

Fianna, a race you can choose in King Ironheart’s Madness, is a tribe of Werewolf (or Garou). These are developed in White Wolf’s Werewolf: The Apocalypse, but are also briefly discussed in Changeling: The Dreaming, which is set in the same World of Darkness (see pp. 284-285). As the Changeling rule book (p. 264) states, “Werewolves are believed to be a race of changelings, and though they have left the company of their brethren, they are always welcome[d] back.”

Again, you don’t need to know all this background to enjoy Arcadia, but knowing a little of the background of your Character’s Kith will enhance your game.

The pages linked to below are from the Changeling: The Dreaming handbook. These were released by White Wolf for free as part of the The Changeling: The Dreaming Introductory Kit. They give a brief overview of the main kith in Changeling. Click on the image (the first page of the pdf) to download the entire file.


More on the kith can be found here: Satyr, Redcap, Nocker, Pooka, Boggan, and Eshu.

For a useful Changeling Kith Index, see here.

(Edited by Dark Yeoman, 18 December 2016)

The Seelie and Unseelie Courts

The fae are divided into two Courts: Seelie and Unseelie. The Seelie Court see themselves as the guardians of tradition, and act as chivalrous peacekeepers and protectors of the weak. Honour, loyalty, virtue, justice, beauty, and order are very important. The Unseelie Court is the opposite: they love nothing better than to mock tradition. They want to be wild and free, and see the traditions and chivalrous codes of the Seelie Court as too restricting & too outdated. They are rebellious, and love change.

In Arcadia the Court of your Character is in most cases determined by what Abilities you pick, and not very often does your Court determine your game. Sometimes Leagues tell you you can recover X when you are Seelie but Y when you are Unseelie, and sometimes a Waylay will engage with you differently depending on your Court. But mostly it seems irrelevant, I think, to most players.

These two Courts are very essential in the world of the fae, though, and in Changeling: The Dreaming they are taken very seriously, because your Court will determine how you will act and react.

Therefore, if you want to introduce some role-playing in your Arcadia games, this is a good place to start: your Court defines the way you play, what you do, and how you deal with the other player and even Waylays.

The Changeling handbook describes the two Courts in a few pages, but a really good summary is given in the two boxes below (on page 73):

The Seelie Code The Unseelie Code