The Fate of Arcadia

Changelings live in the World of Darkness, where Banality reigns. Banality is the power of disbelief and doubt, which makes the world a bleak place and destroys Glamour, the energy that is born from the dreams and imagination of mortals which gives the fae their strength. Glamour makes this world enchanted, and gives changelings, who are half-human, half-fae, a taste of the world of Arcadia, the homeland of the fae, that lies deep within the Dreaming, which is a different world created from the collective dreams of mortals. Changelings can travel in the Dreaming, but they can’t reach Arcadia, which is lost to them.

It wasn’t always like this. Long ago, in the Mythic Age, there were no barriers between this world and the world of the Dreaming. Fae mingled with humans, sometimes in disguise. This began to change during the period known to changelings as “The Sundering”, which is often said to have started in the Iron Age. With the rise of disbelief came barriers between this world and that of the Dreaming, which protected the fae and their world from the destructive power of the doubts of mortals. The Sundering was a gradual event, that increased in power of many centuries, until it lead to “The Shattering”, which is said to have taken place around the 14th century. The Dreaming was now entirely cut off from this world, and whatever gateways between the two worlds had remained through the Sundering now vanished. Many of the sidhe, the nobility of the fae, fled and fought their way back to Arcadia before the last gates closed, but most of the other kith, were not able to do so and were trapped in this world now stripped of enchantment. In order to survive in this world of Banality, the fae took on mortal disguises and became changelings.

From the Changeling: The Dreaming Introductory Kit (p. 6)

Changelings tried to survive in this way, and banded together, forming societies and courts modelled after those in Arcadia. Out of necessity, they even managed to create a truce between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, whilst the world around them became more and more mechanical with the advance of science and technology, and Banality grew and constantly threatened them. Changelings lived like this for centuries, until recently. The Changeling: The Dreaming book describes what happened (page 57):

The cold centuries passed slowly. For humanity, science and reason paved the way for the Age of Technology. One by one the mysteries of the universe fell beneath the onslaught of the microscope and telescope, revealing the microcosm of atomic theory and the macrocosm of an expanding galaxy. As avenues of wonder closed, explained away by one discovery after another, changelings huddled wherever small pockets of Glamour remained and whispered of the coming of Endless Winter, a time of ultimate triumph for Banality.

Then the miraculous happened. On July 21,1969, millions of people all over the world watched their televisions in fascination as astronauts landed on the moon. Glamour rocked the world, released from centuries of confinement by the simultaneous reawakening of humanity’s sense of wonder. From science’s iron womb, magic — at least for a moment — was reborn.

A moment was enough. The upsurge of Glamour blew open the gateways to Arcadia, reopening faerie trods that had been dormant since the Shattering. Lost freeholds reappeared, their glory restored by the power of humanity’s dreams of walking on the moon.

On the other side of the Dreaming, the rebirth of Glamour in the world resounded through the ancient faerie realms of Arcadia. The shining hosts of the sidhe returned to the world, pouring forth from the newly opened gateways to confront a reality far different from the one they departed centuries before. Most of these new arrivals came as exiles, the result of a tumultuous upheaval in Arcadia that caused the banishment of five of the 13 houses that originally fled the mortal world. The Mists clouded the memories of these returnees, leaving only the knowledge that they were thrust out of Arcadia as punishment for their part in some great disturbance in the faerie homeland.

Unfortunately, the groundswell of Glamour caused by the moon landing could not prevail for long against the accumulated centuries of disbelief that permeated the world. The doors to Arcadia slammed shut once more. The sidhe had to act quickly to prevent Banality from destroying them outright. They fell back on the tried-and-true method of switching bodies with mortals, sending a host of unwary mortals back through the gateways that had briefly sprung open. Since the Resurgence, most sidhe who have entered the world as outcasts and exiles still use this old method of protecting themselves from Banality, seizing upon convenient mortal bodies to house their delicate spirits. Although the true fate of such dispossessed human souls remains unknown, most sidhe believe that these mortals enjoy an awakening in the Dreaming. In other cases, newly arrived sidhe avail themselves of the presence of very young children or unborn infants and insinuate their essence into the psyches of these impressionable beings, coexisting in symbiosis rather than taking outright possession of mortal souls.

(That last bit, by the way, explains why you can play with a human Character in Arcadia. See the text on those Character cards in The Wyld Hunt: “My story? I was stolen from my life on Earth so that some sidhe could stay in my place. Now I’m here, and I only remember slivers of that world, though my heart yearns for it.”)

The gates could not stay open for long, because of rampant Banality in this world, and so they shut again, leaving the newly arrived sidhe (and all the other kith), once again cut off from their homeland.

Because they are cut off (and perhaps exiled) from their homeland, changelings don’t really know much about Arcadia, which they know lies somewhere deep within the Dreaming, but which they can’t access. Many changelings long for it, especially the Seelie Court, and try to recreate it here, in this world, by continuing its traditions and modelling their society on that of Arcadia (with the different noble Houses, and so on). But their knowledge of Arcadia is of its past. They don’t know what is going on there now. Even the recently arrived sidhe don’t know why they were exiled. They can’t remember, because all that is shrouded by the Mists, the protective barrier of the Dreaming and Arcadia. There are rumours that Arcadia is collapsing. But no one knows for sure.

Here is a scan from a section of Dreams and Nightmares, a book in the Changeling series that is all about the Dreaming. It has little to say about Arcadia. This is from page 60:

arcadia-ctd

Similarly, in Nobles: The Shining Hosts, the downfall of Arcadia is mentioned (page 87):

While Arcadia remains an inviolate paradise in the minds of the vast majority of fae, a growing number of them fear that it is in dire peril. Some hint that the recent expulsion of the five Seelie and one Unseelie House from Arcadia (only the most naive believe they returned voluntarily) is a grave sign of trouble there. Many theorize that all out war has finally broken out between the two courts, a war that will soon draw in the fae of Earth. As some commoners might put it: “The nobles messed it up real good!” Even more horrifying to some is the thought that the great walls of Arcadia are under attack by outside forces. Then, perhaps, some say, the newly arrived nobility are here because of a grand retreat—or perhaps they are here to prepare a counterattack. This is a hopeful sign to some, for it means the eventual reconciliation of the two courts. Whether this is true or not, not even the sidhe can say.

Some more “sensitive” changelings […] have occasional dreams of Arcadia. Although these dreams are infuriatingly hazy and contradictory, they seem to indicate that the heart of the Dreaming is close to ruins. Most Kithain do not believe this, of course. Arcadia is eternal in their minds. Any suggestion to the contrary is a heresy. Arcadia fallen? Impossible.

Arcadia (the card game) was meant to tell the story of the “internal threat” that lead to Arcadia’s downfall. Unfortunately, we’ll never know what really was going on.

At the end of King Ironheart’s Madness we are told of the Darkening. Quest 28, “The Darkening” says this (SPOILER WARNING, for those of you who haven’t played this far, and want to be surprised):

The glow of victory is abruptly snuffed out as dark clouds roll in over Mechopolis, and its inhabitants freeze to stone. Only you and your dearest allies remain flesh, and the humming warmth of the Blood Key at your throat indicates that it is through its magic that you have been preserved. But your bonding with the key isn’t yet complete, and you feel the stiffness seep into your flesh.

Up until this point, it seemed that King Ironheart’s mad plans were the cause of the downfall of Arcadia, but now we learn that he too is the victim here. The Quest text continues: Grimly making your way out of the Tower, you come upon King Ironheart himself, fallen from his mechanical throne and broken to pieces like a discarded toy. Even he succumbs to the Darkening, which he did not cause. What the origin is of The Darkening we don’t know. That was the story line of the third set that was never published, The Lion’s Den. Something happened at the court of the High King, Ardlanth (please read  this post!), and this is now spreading through the rest of Arcadia, which is in political turmoil. What happened to Ardlanth and his court at Skyeholm? What is the Darkening? Is this the result of just more political intrigue? Or is Banality creeping into Arcadia?

We will never know for sure, and perhaps that is, in a way, appropriate because it stays true to the world of Changelings: The Dreaming.

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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):

character-sheet

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:

arts_twh

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:

arts-icons

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

new-arts

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):

skycraft

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 story of Arcadia

Whilst I prepare for a longer post that isn’t mostly cut-and-paste, here is more on the story of Arcadia. This is how White Wolf advertised Arcadia on their website in 1996 (which, sadly, is not captured by archive.org, but which a kind person preserved here). It gives a lot of information about the story arc of Arcadia, and caught my attention in 1996 for reasons that should be obvious once I get to write my next post.

Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt

The Changeling Adventure Card Game

This July a new adventure begins in a realm more fantastic than anything ever before conceived. Fantasy has never been this extreme. Arcadia, the forgotten home of the changelings, was once a Utopia where dreams lived and the fantastic was commonplace. The high king united all of the kingdoms from his mountain fortress of Skyeholm. Peace reigned—until the Darkening.

Dark clouds gathered around Skyeholm that day and have remained ever since. High King Ardlanth and all the subjects of his land have been frozen into marble statues. His kingdom has been closed since that day, and none who have traveled there have been heard from since. Protected on all sides by three loyal vassal kingdoms, Skyeholm is virtually inaccessible. Now the kingdoms of Arcadia feud with one another. Only one seems powerful enough to  restore peace: Middlemarch.

Mad King Ironheart of Middlemarch has been expanding his evil realm of machines and gathering his power. With the blood and tears of thousands of slaves, King Ironheart aspires to build a tower palace that exceeds even Skyeholm’s—a tower of Babel. Soon, Middlemarch will be the new center of Arcadia and Ironheart the new high  king.

Ironheart had but one rival, Lord Gamine of Ardenmore. One month ago, Lord Gamine journeyed to the Sibylline  Swamps to consult the Oracle of Thoan. He has not returned. Ardenmore has been managed by an age-worn regent, a loyal knight of Lord Gamine’s father. Erroneous at best, the regent’s judgment has left Ardenmore vulnerable to many would-be conquerors. This may well be the death knell for the Arcadia of beauty and peace, and the dawn of a new era based on the nightmares of the modern world.

The Wyld Hunt takes place in Ardenmore, the Ancient Kingdom. Heroes quest to learn the truth behind Lord Gamine’s disappearance and struggle to protect the kingdom from its enemies. On the way, they will make some frightening discoveries and uncover the truth behind the high king’s demise. Once the prince is found and the truth is known the adventure truly begins.

The adventure continues with King Ironheart’s Madness, where characters, now legends in their own right, confront King Ironheart and his dark ambitions. Finally, in The Lion’s Den, the champions will brave the three kingdoms and journey to the hall of the high king to discover the true fate of High King Ardlanth.

Arcadia: The Wyld Hunt is the first of three stories that decide the fate of Arcadia as a whole. Players begin by  creating their character, with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. They then embark on their first Quest. The system is fast paced and remarkably easy to learn. Arcadia is wild romp through unexplored territory, where you’ll not only learn the truth about Arcadia but also discover the origins of changelings and their fantastic realm. This dark fairy tale is the very soul of the World of Darkness and much is revealed through its course.

  • Quick and easy startup. One 15 card Character Pack and one 15 card Story Pack are all you need to start playing.
  • Characters can gain experience and advance as they play out their adventures.
  • The rules are easy to learn, yet diverse and challenging to play.
  • Quest cards can be combined to create epic challenging adventures, or played individually, for a quick fun game.

The Dreaming

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.

changeling.jpg

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.

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