Changing Changeling: A Selection of Historical Resurgences

According to the Changeling: The Dreaming rulebook, the phenomenon that made the return of the Changelings possible was the one of the first truly global media events: the landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon. The collective energy of the dreams, hopes and aspirations of all humanity (or at least, a very large majority of humanity) combined with the event to set free a rush of Glamour, the energy that powers dreams, and thus, the Dreaming itself, and returned the Fae to the Earth they had abandoned six centuries earlier.

There are five assumptions implicit in that account:

  1. Technology – and specifically communications technology – somehow empowered these dreams.
  2. Only uplifting dreams could be the source of such an event.
  3. It took the collective energies of a majority of humanity to achieve this.
  4. The Shattering took place when it did.
  5. All the faeries came back at once.

Tinkering with any of these assumptions can lead to some very different Changeling games. In the spirit of wonder and imagination, then, here are some ways to use a different time and type of Resurgence to shake things up in a new Changeling chronicle.

Technology: Fae ex Machina?

If the spread of a dream is dependent on the technology necessary to transmit it, then the ever-quickening pace of technology allows a division of the Speed of the Resurgence into several categories:

  • Gradual: For most of the span of human history, information travels no faster than word of mouth can make it. Stories slowly diffuse, mostly by chance meetings. The invention of writing speeds this process, but for the most part, writing is kept as a technology of various religious, military or political leaders, and widespread basic literacy is centuries off. The slow development of speedier means of transit, and of ever-larger political units, are more significant in the pace of information exchange, but even they are painfully slow by modern standards.
  • Slow: From the invention of the printing press in roughly 1450, and its diffusion throughout the rest of Europe, literacy first begins to become a widely held talent. The development of each new advance in printing technology and speed of transit accelerates this process slowly over the next few centuries.
  • Intermediate: The standardization of international mail services, and the treaties that allow them, is the major change marking this phase. Even so, information still depends on literacy and wealth to spread – for most people, nothing has changed the era of Gradual Speed.
  • Fast: Prior to radio, but after the invention of telegraphy, and later the telephone, ideas can spread with relative ease. But these are predominately one to one communication systems, and for the most part, merely increase the distance that word of mouth can reach. Still, the Speed has increased once more: a quickening pace of transportation contributes to this gain, as this era is the Golden Age of the Railroad and the Steam Ship. This era dates from roughly 1837 (when the first telegraphs are patented) through to the 1890s, when Tesla invents radio and Marconi popularizes it.
  • Immediate: this is the default Speed of Changeling – the canonical Resurgence occurs at this speed. The necessary media for this Speed are radio, television and the Internet. Logically, this cannot occur before the invention of radio in 1897, and it is likely to have been delayed until after 1916, when the radio broadcasting industry really took off.

Ivory and Horn – Nature of Resurgence

Not all dreams are uplifting and inspiring. Any dream can become a nightmare without warning, and certainly humanity’s history is replete with examples, from the wonder of nuclear energy that kept a world in fear for four decades to the perversion of freedom in the name of order in France under Robespierre. And maybe, just maybe, a strong enough nightmare could also call forth the Fae, although not in as kindly a form. After all, the kithain are made of dreams, and if dreams are not kind, neither will they be. The Nature of a Resurgence might be very different from the standard Changeling game.

It’s likely that the Unseelie will be the ones who return at such a time, and that their presence will serve to reinforce the nightmares that summoned then. Particularly nasty Storytellers may even cause the fae to be the Thallain from “The Shadow Court” – changelings with two Unseelie legacies and no Seelie component at all. Unless the party is prepared for a very dark Chronicle, this approach probably works better with the fae as antagonists in a crossover with another World of Darkness game. Mage: the Ascension and Hunter: the Reckoning are the two best fits with this idea, but consider the effect that such a Resurgence might have on the Fianna werewolves or Malkavian vampires. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it might just be a great game.

Less Power To Them

What if it doesn’t require the energies of all humanity? Some dreams (and several nightmares) have proven just as infectious as the idea of landing on the Moon. Most have not. Thus, the rate of Spread can also vary, depending on how well the Dream that powers it catches on. What this tends to mean is a more localised Resurgence that doesn’t spread as far or as fast.

Throughout a lot of human history, the event most likely to cause this is the discovery of a new land, because new lands are always mysterious and dreamlike, full of animals and plants unlike those at home. The opening of the New World is the obvious one here, but a smaller version could be the beginning of the Viking invasions of Britain (at least from the Vikings’ perspective), or the European colonisation of Australia (with its strange wildlife unlike that anywhere else). Other causes could be the discovery of ancient ruins or documents, or the introduction of a new invention that changes the world (or at least threatens to).

Shattering the Past

A logical concomitant of the moving of the date of the Resurgence may well be the adjustment of the dates of the Shattering.

The one key point is that the Shattering logically must take place prior to the Resurgence.  Don’t forget to take into account that changing the length of the Sidhe’s absence will be reflected in the impact of the Resurgence – the more time they’ve been away, the more developed the political systems of the commoners will be, and the greater the upheaval their return will cause. Here are a few likely contenders:

  • 1914 – The Cottingley Incident: Maybe the fae were still with us until quite recently, and it’s only having the attentions of a war-weary world focused on them as never before that led them to retire to Arcadia. Never before had so much media attention been directed at creatures who so resolutely resist definition. In the real world, it later revealed to be a hoax, but who’s to say it didn’t happen a little differently in the World of Darkness? The film “Fairy Tale: A True Story” tells a very gameable version of this story – it should be recommended viewing for all Changeling Storytellers.
  • 1861 – The American Civil War: The sundering of the first nation ever to be founded on a dream ended a period of unparalleled idealism and ushered in an age of cynicism and despair. The years following this was saw the development of dehumanising political movements and sciences such as Communism and sociology respectively, as well as the foundation of modern anarchism. If ever there was a time when humanity turned to darker and darker dreams, this was it. Realistically, this period can be said to have ended decisively in 1871 with the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, which turned Europe into the powderkeg that would erupt into global war in 1914. GURPS Old West and GURPS Deadlands offer alternate views of the Civil War Era, and there is certainly no shortage of inspirational works, from “Gone With The Wind” to “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” that capture the feel of the era.
  • 1776 – The American Revolution: By throwing off the very idea of monarchy, and embracing a vision of equality and liberty, America set an example that was emulated around the world in subsequent years. The Sidhe would almost certainly have chosen this time to abandon the world if they had not already done so. This period can be considered to have ended with the establishment of The Terror in France. GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel could be the basis of a high adventure game set in this era, while the Historical Illuminatus series of Robert Anton Wilson has a good treatment of magic as it was seen in this time.
  • 415 CE – The Fall of Rome: The era following this event wasn’t called the Dark Ages for nothing. Order and civilization broke down throughout most of Europe, and dreams slipped ever more towards the nightmarish. It’s no coincidence that one of the places in the world that the fae have ever been closest too, Ireland, was also one of those spared the worst ravages of the Dark Ages. Alternately, the fall of Camelot occurred about two or three generations later – and if ever there was a legend of the Sidhe, it was Camelot. Perhaps Morgan le Fey is the true power behind the Shattering, driving off the other Fae in order to rule in their absence?
  • 1800 BCE – The End of the Greek Heroic Era: When the Heraclieds swept down to tumble the walls of Mycenae and the rest, a Golden Age of heroism and magic ended forever. If the Storyteller wants to take Changeling in a direction more Greek than Celtic, this is an excellent choice for a time that the Shattering could have occurred. GURPS Greece covers this period – and the succeeding era of Greek city states – in great detail.
  • Who knows? – The Fall of Atlantis: Maybe Atlantis isn’t lost beneath the waves, but instead, hides behind the mists of the Dreaming. Aracadia and Atlantis might be one and the same. There are too many versions of Atlantis to count, but GURPS Atlantis is a good overview of the whole subject.

Six of One…

What if not every kith came back at the same time? In the canonical setting, only the Sidhe went away – everyone else stayed here. But there’s always the chance that other kiths went away – maybe even all of them – or that not all of them came back. What of all the Eshu slowly but surely travelled away to other realms? Or what if everyone but the Sluagh abandoned humanity as the ever-increasing urbanisation of the world became too much for them?


Now, with all that out of the way, here’s a few possibilities for making your Resurgences something different:

The Discovery of the New World

Date: 1492 through 1530
Nature: Seelie (but see below)
Speed: Gradual
Spread: Worldwide
Population: Sidhe
Christopher Columbus’ incredible discoveries captured the imaginations of nearly everyone in Europe at the time. The title of the “New World” itself is an obvious example of the importance of the concept. Everywhere, people imagined a world similar to, but not identical to their own. It didn’t hurt that the West was a traditional location for all sorts of magical lands, from Atlantis to Hy-Brasil and Tir Na Nog.

While the warring noble houses of Europe find that the return of the Sidhe has made a difficult situation even more volatile, the commoners are fleeing to the Americas in vast numbers – and warring endlessly with the justly furious Nunnehi – who are much more numerous and powerful in this era. From their hidden citadel of El Dorado, the Unseelie Sidhe plot the conquest of the Americas, while the Boggans and Trolls shift uneasily in the shackles of their feudal obligations to their masters across Europe. And the newly dawning Renaissance (and the Age of Reason, which follows it) is making life even more difficult for Changelings, as Banality gains an ever greater hold on humanity. This era more or less ends with the conquest of the Aztecs by Cortez.

Further Reading: “Mage: The Sorcerer’s Crusade”, and supplements detail the era, and the rise of reason. Also worth considering are the “Book of Worlds” for Mage and “Dreams and Nightmares” for Changeling – the world has not yet been completely mapped and described in this era, and unknown regions could still hold any wonders or terrors that the GM sees fit to add. And for the likely feel of any such campaign, it would be hard to do better than “The Swashbuckler’s Handbook.”

The Declaration of Independence

Date: 1776 – 1789
Nature: Seelie
Speed: Slow to Intermediate
Spread: The 13 colonies, but rapidly spreading to Worldwide
Population: Sidhe

The revolutionary spirit of the American Revolution fired the whole world with a zeal for liberalism and reform. The following years would see a climate of revolution spreading across Europe, and many revolts and rebellions in the colonies of the European powers. It is a piercing irony that the inspiration to such freedoms and dreams was that which drew the Sidhe back to this world – the ideal of the monarch and the noble returned to a world that had never been as unfriendly as it now was. While some Sidhe were able to see the worth of the new republics, most were more likely to fight against them. This era ends with the establishment of the Terror in revolutionary France – although a case could be made for it lasting until as late as 1848, with its unprecedented wave of revolts.

Further Reading: The revolutionary spirit set loose in these times was close to unprecedented in human experience. The fae had a little more experience, and the Sidhe found themselves hunted and hated by those they expected to rule. “Inanimae: The Secret Way” and “Fool’s Luck: The Way of the Commoner” are quite useful for fleshing out this setting. “War in Concordia” also has many useful ideas, although they will need to be adjusted to work in this historical context.

The Great War and the Spanish Influenza

Date: 1914 – 1921
Nature: Unseelie
Speed: Fast
Spread: Worldwide
Population: Sidhe

The horror of the trenches scarred a bright and hopeful Europe and America. Where the progress of technology and science had made perfection seem to be an attainable goal before the War, before very long the truth was revealed. By 1917, America was also embroiled in this conflict, adding the complications of the Nunnehi to the already volatile situation in Europe. This would be quite a different time for the Fey to walk among us. Indeed, it is likely that it would have been the Unseelie, rather than the Seelie, who had the upper hand, at least initially. Under such circumstances, it is possible the horrors of the War to End All Wars might well have become the despair of War Without End. It’s in this period that the aristocracy – and thus, the Sidhe – is in retreat in the mortal world and the faw world. In Russia, the Royal Family was deposed and killed in 1917; in much of Europe, the aristocrats in command of the armies lost the faith of the commoners they commanded with their bungling.

Further Reading: “L’Amour et Liberte: Book of Houses II”, and “The Shadow Court” both treat the Unseelie in much greater detail then any other source. In fact, they’d be close to essential for this setting. “Wraith: The Great War” is set in the correct time period, and may help with history and atmosphere.

Live Aid

Date: 1985
Nature: Seelie
Speed: Immediate
Spread: Worldwide
Population: Sidhe

For perhaps the first time in recorded history, a world event that took place in several nations simultaneously – and was watched by still more nations – was motivated entirely by altruism. This massive gesture of hope and compassion proved to be exactly what the humanity’s dreams of the noble and just rulers made flesh – the Sidhe – needed to call them back to Earth. But the returning Sidhe do not clash merely with the established power blocs that the commoners have formed in their absence. Over and above political struggles, the Sidhe are fundamentally different from other fae. These ideal kings and queens differ from the standard Sidhe in that they possess two Seelie legacies and no Unseelie legacies at all.

Further Reading: The differences between this setting and a standard Changeling game are small but significant. This is a time of stark oppositions between the Seelie Sidhe and the more balanced commoners. For this setting, “Nobles: The Shining Host” is a necessity (and the romantic legacies within can be used to help set the Sidhe still further apart from the common fae).

Millenium Eve

Date: 1999
Nature: Seelie
Speed: Immediate
Spread: Worldwide
Population: Sidhe

Assuming that the Fey have not returned at any earlier point, the incredible focus of hopes, dreams and fears on the last few hours of the last day of this year make it a very likely candidate. Who knows? Given the profusion of millennial cults and weird sects preaching that a new world will open to us, or that some other race will reveal themselves to us on New Year’s Day, 2000 AD, it’s possible that some of them might just be right. It’s also possible that the Y2K hysteria was (at least in part) a civil war among the fae, with the Nockers (and their few allies) on one side, and everyone else on the other side.

Further Reading: There’s no particular need to change anything much from the already modern-day setting of Changeling. If you need a little more inspiration, “GURPS Y2K” is a marvelous source of ideas for dealing with millennial madness and weirdness of all sorts, and a useful source of red herrings to keep the characters from realizing what is going on too soon.

The First Mars Expedition

Date: ?
Nature: Seelie
Speed: Immediate
Spread: Worldwide (and then some)
Population: Sidhe

This is a far more science-fictional setting, for obvious reasons. In all probability, the Technocracy has finally and decisively won the Ascension War before this Resurgence takes place. What this means for your average fae is that the stakes are higher than ever. If life went on as it always have, then Banality is certainly a stronger influence than it has ever been. But even science and technology breed dreams, and the opening of another planet to human exploration and colonisation is likely to be the focus of many of them. In this world, fae may be more influenced by technology than in our own, making Nockers more common, and turning Pookas into Gremlins. And what about those weird Martian fae?

Further Reading: There are a gazillion books about Mars, ranging from HG Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs to Kim Stanley Robinson and Larry Niven. Any of them – or all of them – can inspire a Martian campaign. “GURPS Mars” has all the information you’re likely to need about Mars in game terms, and the “Guide to the Technocracy” and “Technomancer’s Toybox” books cover the rest. “Void Engineers” may also be a source of ideas.

First Contact

Date: ?
Nature: ?
Speed: ?
Spread: ?
Population: ?

First contact with an alien race could reasonably occur at any time in human history, hence the profusion of question marks above. It may be them coming to us, or us going to them (in the latter case, it’s likely to be at some point in the future). But the most interesting part of a First Contact scenario in Changeling is the idea that it might just be one or more Changeling kiths who are the ‘aliens’.

Further Reading: this one could go nearly anywhere, so cast a wide net in your reading. But don’t miss anything concerning the Void Engineers or the Umbra.

Tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply