Changeling- The Dreaming: Second Edition.
Author: Various Authors.
Company/Publisher: White Wolf Game Studio.
Cost: $30 (US)
Page count: 295 pages.
Capsule Review by Bradford C. Walker on 02/06/98. Genre tags: none
Changeling's first edition was painful to read. It had so much potential that got wasted by horrible game design, and that incompetant design rendered the game unplayable.
What a difference a good revision makes.
The second edition is what the game should've been all along. It is a beautiful book to see, a wonderful book to read and an engaging game to play. Everything that broke down got overhauled and improved. Everything that worked got upgraded and supercharged. All of the annoying questions were answered, and Banality is now something to fear for your faerie soul.
The first great improvement is the distinction between mortal and fae, real and chimerical. In short, this is it: your PC *is* a faerie, trapped in a human body. The fae form is the true form, and denying that form (for whatever reason) invites Banality upon the PC. Chimerical items- living and inanimate- cannot affect the mundane without enchantment. The only way to pull an end-run around this is to use one of the new powers that all changelings have: Calling Upon the Wyrd. (This allows the PC to bring their fae form into reality for a brief time, allowing them to make full use of their fae powers.)
The second improvement is the cantrip system. Now there are two kinds of cantrips: Wyrd and Chimerical. Wyrd cantrips affect reality, while Chimerical cantrips do not. Cantrips still require Bunks, but they work differently. Taking the form in the Player's Guide, they expanded upon it and gave it the freedom originally intended. Now, Bunks reduce the target number of a given cantrip. (Greater bunks take longer, but the benefit is worth it.) Whatever they are is up to the player; bunks are not set in stone anymore. The relationship between Art and Realm is different; each Art still has a stat linked to it, but Realms don't. You roll Stat+Realm to perform your cantrip now. (The most changed realm is Scene, which is now just a limit on the area effected.) A new Realm is introduced: Time. It allows for the casting of delayed spells, like that old AD&D favorite: Delayed Blast Fireball.
The third concerns the Dreaming. While Dreams and Nightmares develops it in detail, there is enough here to allow a group to adequately play within the Near Dreaming. The real upgrade is in the treatment of freeholds, trods and raths. (They actually tell you what you need to open them, create them and maintain them.)
The fourth is the incorporation of new Backgrounds, Merits and Flaws into the book's character creation system. (All said, over half of the Player's Guide is in this book.) The new Background is Remembrance, and it resembles Past Life. They revised Chimera to include chimerical companions. (You may take both types, since they are separate Backgrounds.) They also include a simple chimera creation system, similiar to what Werewolf and Mage uses for spirits.
The fifth one is all of the little details that get addressed. This, as much as the rest, makes the book. From the big ones like Calling Upon the Wyrd, Invoking the Dragon's Ire and the Doloros Stroke all the way down to how changelings age really help make the game come alive. (The new short story at the beginning is really sweet and nicely gets the point across. Compare with the story at the front of Mage's second edition, and you'll see what I'm getting at.) The new artwork isn't all color, and the best pieces are the black and white pages. The new basic character sheet is two pages long and worth the effort to scan in and print out in color.
The book is solid, clearly written and does far more to achieve its goal than anything else. There is some pretensious prose, but it's up front and quickly forgotten. If you're tired of doom, gloom and angst (real or not) and you want something brighter then go for it. Regardless, this game is too good to pass up. Get it, play it and leave the danky darkness of Vampire and its ilk long behind.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)