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The Shadow Court

Sourcebook for Changeling: the Dreaming

White Wolf Games Studio

128pp - [sterling]10.99

Yeah, yeah, you say. Sure Changeling's got all these themes of, like, innocence and lost childhood and fading idealism, but isn't it all a bit, y'know, twee? a bit too hey-nonny-nonny and hail-fellow-well-met? isn't it all a bit too much like listening to Fairport Convention and having a Garfield stuck to the passenger window of your car? Well, no longer: for all you little Darth Vaders out there, the Unseelie sourcebook has arrived to rewrite Changeling along now-familiar Gothic Punk lines.

Or so they say. This turns out to be a very curious little book that will surprise Changeling afficionados and please the rest who are too busy being tragically hip to wear a flower in their hair. The Unseelie have hitherto been the stock bad-guys of Changeling, the ones that aren't into courtly love or noblesse oblige and who fart or blow raspberries during royal banquets. The Shadow Court reinterprets the world of the Dreaming for the bad guys: gives them a range of motives, new Arts and allies and, wait for it, faerie mysticism. Yes, the Unseelie turn out to be the ones who are truly acting out the immemorial Pageant, in touch with their winter aspects, and get to commune with the dead and tread the Bright Path through immortality. Cool.

So, the Unseelie are deep after all (or at least what White Wolf call deep, ie. tortured and arty) and the book does a great job of selling the idea to us.

The opening fiction is above par and introduces the Shadow Court itself, an enigmatic puppetmaster behind the seemingly disorganised Unseelie revolt. The ritual of Samhain is explored, where the Seelie get to act out their dark sides but the Samhain Mists cloud their memories the next morning. Even if you don't want Unseelie PCs, the background on the mysticism of the Faerie Festivals and the detailed coverage of Samhain are invaluable for any chronicle. If you want to play anti-heroes then you get sold coverage of different Unseelie cliques and politics and revised rules on the Escheat (faerie laws) and Ravaging (exploiting mortals for their Glamour) to enable you to get away with it.

But . . . if the Unseelie are actually quite alright after all, who gets to be the Bad Guy now? Cue the Thallain races, dark cousins of the Kithain who followed the Fae out of Arcadia then went to ground: Beasties, Boggarts, Bogles, Goblins and Ogres, Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! These critters are deeply unpleasant and they're just the Lesser Thallain. Their scaly overlords are lurking in the Dreaming somewhere, ready to strike. Be afraid.

Overall: As with most WW releases, purple prose and florid rhetoric tend to overwhelm good gaming resources - it would have been nice to see a little less atmospherics, a little more hard details in terms of setting, background and systems. Nevertheless, this is a thoughtful and imaginative overhaul of Changeling for players who want something darker, or Storytellers who want to invest their villains with a bit more depth.

Reviewed by Jon Rowe

Product supplied by White Wolf

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