episode 14 – mage + changeling with terry robinson

Changeling the Podcast
Changeling the Podcast
episode 14 - mage + changeling with terry robinson

Hi, Mage fans! And/or Changeling fans! On this week’s episode, we’re having a conversation with Terry Robinson, host of Mage: the Podcast, to talk about crossover between Mage and Changeling. If you aren’t well versed in Mage: the Ascension, don’t worry—we’ll give you some of the key terms and concepts to get you going with incorporating mages into your Changeling game. Not only that, but we hash out every crossover issue you could possibly want to deal with! (Well, okay, that was an outright lie, because we could do an entire separate podcast just on those issues.) (Maybe someday…) In any case, have a listen, and as always, feel free to hop in our Discord (link at the bottom of this page) to discuss your thoughts and ask your questions.

wibbly-wobbly themey-wemeys

Probably the most important thing to talk about with any game crossover situation are the themes and moods of the games and how they align. We brought this up with Terry, and discussed three that do, and three that don’t:

  • Imagination and hope are incredibly powerful. From the Changeling perspective, this is pretty self-evident and central to the game; their power stat of Glamour that reflects (in part) this theme. With Mage, it’s a little more subtle. The paradigms with which the willworkers construct their magic rely on imagination—which in theory can make mages powerful Dreamers, with the right outlook—and they build (some of) their hopes upon the strength of that paradigm and their ability to manifest its power. For mages whose way of magic is danger of going extinct, hope takes on an extra veneer of urgency.
  • Culture is valuable. The ideas of groups of mortals have literally shaped changelings into what they are, in terms of kiths. Culture has also given structure to the magic used by mages, a structure which they must follow (at least, at first). Both groups are invested in preserving their originating cultures, although the need to combine those traditions with growth and modernity presents an interesting element of tension in each game.
  • Everything is temporary. Terry frames this in relation to the desire to keep alive the connections to the past that give both changelings and mages strength. On top of that, mages are mortal, and although changelings reincarnate, Banality often means their time as self-aware fae is limited. But how the character reacts to these facts can also provide compelling story material. Both splats may strive for immortality and struggle against the way of things, creating all kinds of interesting drama (and possibly hurting a lot of people along the way).
  • Mortals and isolationism. In theory, both Mage and Changeling are centered on their protagonists’ interactions with mortals. In practice, tables often run both games without mortals making a single appearance. We’d wager that Changeling players are guilty of this more often: many groups do Dreaming-centric games with Glamour drawn from chimera or wherever rather than interacting with Dreamers. With Mage, “Hogwarts games” entirely set in a mages-only space are rarer, and to some extent have to be, because…
  • The shifting of destiny. Mage and Changeling start at opposite ends of a spectrum in terms of how they affect the ultimate fates of mortals. A mage wants their way of handling reality to be the correct one for everyone (because they know it’s correct for them). They start with the goal of changing civilization and work their way down. Changelings, on the other hand, cultivate individual artists; it’s more the philosophy that pushing a pebble in the stream might eventually change the course of the mighty river. Neither one usually ends up altering all of human destiny that much, but it’s important to realize that they’re coming from very different places.
  • Balance. Changeling has this theme baked into the Glamour/Banality mechanics, and it drives the entirety of the game. Mage… does not really have this. You can add Resonance and Quiet and everything, but fundamentally, there’s very little (e.g, a morality stat) stopping mages from quickly going down Megalomaniac Road.

terry’s art corner

Terry mentions at one point a lovely anecdote about getting into Mage by reading the 2nd edition of the “Big Purple” and a sharp memory of some John Cobb art. For the viewing pleasure of you, the audience, here’s what we believe to be the art in question that stuck in Terry’s mind:

And now perhaps it will stick in yours. Whatever this might say about Terry’s aesthetic sensibilities, we leave to others to decide! ^~^/

demesne and Dreaming

There’s a Background introduced in Mage 20th Anniversary Edition called Demesne (pronounced like “da MAIN”) which has… something to do with dreams. It’s a “semi-permanent Dream Realm,” according to that corebook, which doesn’t really give much in the way of hard mechanics for interactions between a changeling and a mage who has such self-control over their subconscious. Some suggestions from Terry:

  • Demesne can be a “resistance stat” to some fae shenanigans while the mage is enchanted (or otherwise perceiving the chimerical realm). Potentially this could be a kind of supplement or alternative pool for countering fae magic, and especially any kind of Oneiromancy.
  • Demesne can “slightly tug” at that magic, altering the form of cantrips to things the mage can deal with more easily. In a way, they literally lucid dream at the changeling, using their own strength of subconscious as a shield/weapon. This is just a nudge though—perhaps the mage rolls Demesne and can change one aspect of the magic for each success.
  • Importantly, Demesne does not help with Seekings to raise a mage’s Arete, which would be quite overpowered (and not in keeping with the themes of the game). Extending this, one could say that Demesne has no impact on a mage’s ability to provide Glamour; a well-developed dream life doesn’t necessarily make a mage more creative or freewheeling.

Statistics are not available, but it’s unlikely many mages take the Background in the first place, in part because of its limited use. But in a direct crossover game, Storytellers and players may want to come up with some ways like these that Demesne can be used to facilitate interaction. Perhaps the Demesne can function as a safe island for the changelings off the Silver Path when they enter the Dreaming, and in turn they can hang out with the mage without needing to enchant them (or even physically being present). Perhaps a mage can use Demesne as an ability like Crafts or Technology to create chimerical objects for the changelings (like the “guns; lots of guns” scene in The Matrix, except… dream-guns), which they can take out of the realm for a period of time. Or from an antagonist point of view, a Nephandus might use their Demesne as a nocnitsa breeding ground, or a Technocrat’s vision of ultimate conformity allows them to manifest powers akin to an Autumn Person’s (assuming they don’t have these already). The Background may not have been intended as a built-in connection, but… might as well use it?

(And no, in this episode, we are not handling the question of “where is the Dreaming relative to the Umbra?” That will be its own thing at some point, when we each have several hours to kill and the substances of our choosing.)

mishearings and malapropisms

Just because, here are a few little verbal swishes that occurred during recording:

  • Terry used the phrase “campaign of tactical frivolity,” which needs to be the plot of like half of all Changeling games from now on.
  • Terry also describes Changeling as being like “a cookie dissolving on the tongue”: wonderful and great, but we don’t get to take it with us. <3
  • While doing sound editing on this episode, Pooka at one point misheard “Cthulhu worshipper” as “Cthulhu greengrocer”, and that’s an NPC waiting to happen.
  • Rather than “manipulating,” Terry used the verb “renippulating” for the “raw bits of reality.” Somewhere, there is a mage whose paradigm is indeed to renipple the world around them to great effect.

And importantly, there is a famous quote-drop from Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” This is one of those cornerstones of good Storytelling (in Pooka’s opinion, at least) that gets overlooked. Mechanics and definitions and explanations are all well and good, but on the altar of a chronicle, everything and anything can (and sometimes should) be sacrificed. If you want a mage antagonist or ally in your Changeling game, unless there’s a player with a sheet who needs to know how many dice to roll, you don’t have to make that mage correspond to what the books say. Especially for Changeling, story is paramount. And sometimes, the unexpected and inexplicable makes for a more compelling narrative, both inside and outside the game. Hamlet calls out Horatio because the latter has a hard time fitting the ghost they’ve encountered into his worldview. It’s an extension of the Golden Rule, in a way: breaking the rules to make a narrative feel novel and mysterious, to keep the players on their toes.

where to find terry robinson

Some places online where you can find Terry:

  • The website for Mage: the Podcast has the episodes of that excellent show (which is how this one got started, basically), for which Terry is a host…
  • …and the hopping Discord community is a good place to have some conversations about Mage, WoD, and various related sundries.
  • Another podcast produced by Terry and Chazz Kellner is Pain in the Dice, which handles a bunch of gaming-related topics across a variety of lines.
  • Terry’s homebrew material on the Storyteller’s Vault can be perused here; someday, that 20,000 word writeup of a 8-point Demesne will presumably make an appearance.
  • Via Twitter, @MageThePodcast is the primary one, but also check out @TerryRobinson and @TryItCon, a convention Terry ran last year which we hope comes back someday…

your hosts

Josh Hillerup (any pronoun) has a Familiar that fits inside a common household breadbox, but you won’t guess what it is.
Pooka G (any pronoun/they) has zero to three points of Arcane; the number depends on moon phase and hat currently being worn.

“Perhaps I am too tame, too domestic a magician. But how does one work up a little madness?” —Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

(psst! email us at podcast@changelingthepodcast.com if you want)
(and join our Discord at https://discord.gg/SAryjXGm5j !)
(support us on Patreon for additional treats at https://www.patreon.com/changelingthepodcast!)