episode 12 – harbingers of winter with charlie cantrell

Changeling the Podcast
Changeling the Podcast
episode 12 - harbingers of winter with charlie cantrell

As in certain fantasy series of some repute, Winter has been coming for a very long time in the mythos of Changeling: the Dreaming, but never quite fully arriving. With the release of Harbingers of Winter, we get one take on what it might look like in the 20th Anniversary Edition, in the shape of the various antagonists who populate the world of the game: Autumn People, Thallain, Dauntain, and more. In this episode, we have a conversation with C20 writer, STV contributor, and longtime community fixture Charlie Cantrell about his stewardship of the project under the banner of his group Radio Free Arcadia. Join us as we talk about his history with the game, the genesis of the book, and a chapter-by-chapter exploration of how to deploy these foes—some updated, some brand new—for your chronicle.

notable artworks!

There’s much scuttlebutt in the episode about the Brood Mother Fomorian, who churns out chimerical monstrosities from the grist of changelings sacrificed to her maw. (Gross.) Charlie mentions a piece of artwork originally from Denizens of the Dreaming that seems to portend all her squoodly glory twenty years later:

It seems her image was lingering in the pages of canon, just waiting to get a write-up somewhere down the line…

Also, we talk about the excellent art of Alaina Milare, who did the maeghar splat artwork near the end of the book, which is this mopey fae vampire guy here:

Please check out her work at https://www.alainamilareart.com/ ! Much of it is Changeling-focused character work that evokes the spirit of the game and has a very classic splat-portrait feel.

poll: who’s your favorite fomorian?

Just as a shameless attempt to get some awareness out there about our Discord (the link, as always, is https://discord.gg/SAryjXGm5j), we’ll have a poll there for your favorite Fomorian character (or general Court, if you can’t decide). Because there are over twenty options from the named Fomorians given some details and backstory in the Harbingers book, here are the six heavyweights that you can pick from:

  • Balor: the original Big Bad of the Fomorians, with the evil eye to end all evil eyes (as well as anyone who it gazed upon)
  • Z’laad, Storm of Color: a pure tempest of primordial and colorful Dark Glamour, rampaging like a cluster headache oil slick through the Dreaming
  • Enphida, Goblin Queen of Machines: inventor of despicable war machines, whose inspiration took everywhere from the Unseelie nocker freehold of Goblin Town to (apparently) a tryst with an Etherite mage
  • Brood Mother: see above for all you need to know, really
  • Bres: the surprisingly beautiful grandson of Balor who was briefly tapped as ruler of the fae by the Tuatha (until it didn’t go so well for all involved)
  • Marena: Queen of Frost and embodiment of all the cruelty of winter

And if you can’t decide, you can always just vaguely vote for The Green Court (inscrutable, nigh-Lovecraftian beings), The Red Court (unthinkably powerful and bloodthirsty war-titans), or The White Court (cold and calculating grand-scale manipulators). Whoever wins, we’ll do… something. A write-up? A series of story hook ideas? A ritual sacrifice? Only time will tell!

optional shapes of things

It’s important to remember that the shape of Winter in this book is just one possibility—as we mention a couple times in this episode’s discussion, the Golden Rule of White Wolf games, and Changeling in particular, is that you can and should reshape things to better serve your game. If something doesn’t fit with your vision, change it! Not everyone wants to imagine the world of the fae going in a direction quite so dark or horrific (or maybe their brand of horrific just looks different). Harbingers of Winter features antagonists who would go against the Kithain for a variety of reasons, each of which comes with their own baked-in set of themes and narratives, but none of them are set in stone. If you want to include Thallain as part of a redemption arc, new and complicated varieties of Dauntain, or Tithed who have a less antagonistic relationship with their fae “twins,” go for it.

Winter is to some extend what you make of it at your table, both in-character and out-of-character. Will it be slow and eternal, or just another passage of a season? Will it be exceptionally brutal, with Kithain cutting each other’s throats for the barest hint of Glamour and Fomorians rampaging through the Dreaming, or will it be a much more boring, Banal affair where the fae are slowly smothered into forgetfulness? How aware of it are the characters, if at all? Is their narrative arc one of bleak fatalism, determined questing to bring on a new Spring, or unified survival in the most hidden parts of the world? To some extent, these are the questions that underlie the discussion of what Changeling 5th Edition (in the distant, possibly alternate, future in which that appears) might look like. So far, Vampire is our only point of reference in print, and it’s both grittier and more low-level-focused (at least at its base) than the setting was for many years prior. If we assume that all the games that get a 5th edition will go in that direction, certainly Winter could become a central theme of Changeling, displacing petty concerns like courtly intrigue and romps through the Dreaming as the fae struggle to maintain their inner spark in the darkest world they’ve seen for a long time. But that theme has always been part of the game, as have the permutations of how they deal with it, so a refocus on that aspect isn’t totally out of nowhere, just… something to think about, that perhaps more tables should have been thinking about already.

(And we affirm that Harbingers of Winter is a good book for getting some of those thoughts going.)

more from charlie cantrell

If you want to see more of what Charlie has been/is up to…

  • You can find him on Twitter, @PookaKnight !
  • On Facebook, Radio Free Arcadia is a place to see the latest news about what he and his team might be up to
  • Harbingers of Winter itself is available now on Storyteller’s Vault
  • …as is Kiths of Arcadia, another work by Charlie and Radio Free Arcadia that brings into C20 the kiths from the brief-lived but beloved Arcadia: the Wyld Hunt CCG
  • Charlie’s homebrew conversion guide to 5th Edition for Changeling is freely available as well (though note that you might need some familiarity with V5 to use it properly) (but that’s probably why you’re looking it up anyway, isn’t it?)

your hosts

Josh Hillerup (he/him) is uncomfortable with the adjective “phlegmatic.”

Pooka G (any pronoun/they) questions all uses of the verb “extrude.”

The darkness drops again; but now I know  
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,  
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

—W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

(psst! email us at podcast@changelingthepodcast.com if you want)
(and join our Discord at https://discord.gg/SAryjXGm5j !)
(support us on Patreon! it’s now live at https://www.patreon.com/changelingthepodcast)