This week, we’re taking a look at the (debatable) “first chronicle book for the World of Darkness”, Immortal Eyes: The Toybox (not to be confused with its tie-in novel, The Toybox) (things gets complicated sometimes). The first in a trilogy of game supplements that follows the oathmates of the Immortal Eyes storyline, this is primarily a Kithain’s guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area, with a few stories baked in that STs can run for their group. Although a lot of the setting information has been superseded in the last 25 years—and much of it is freely available online—there is enough depth of detail and hooks to grab onto for current groups to find some use. We highlight some of the bits we find most useful in this episode, so… give a listen!
One topic that came up early on in our discussion is tourism with relation to Glamour and Banality. Could a visitor to San Francisco seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time generate Glamour, or does it simply add to Banality, flattening the rich tapestry of the city into icons to be checked off a list? Is it both, or neither? Does it depend entirely on the tourist, or possibly the landmark? There aren’t any hard and fast answers in the books (that we can think of at the moment), but it’s an interesting avenue of thought to wander down. As always, it raises the question of the relativity of Glamour and Banality, and might demonstrate that while Glamour is volatile, ephemeral, localized, and situational, Banality is more numbing, creeping, spreading, and generalized. We’ll keep an eye out for other bits in the books that give more substance to this discussion, since it would be significant for groups running their game in a major city with lots of visitors. (Lookin’ at you, NYC.)
Late last year, Pooka published this homebrew Changeling book! It was simultaneously written to be an homage to this supplement, an update to some of the setting, a clunky pun, and an excuse for coming up with selkie business (since they make their first appearance in this book). It’s available on Storyteller’s Vault here: https://www.storytellersvault.com/product/375875/. Proceeds go to the medical fund for Nicky Rea, Changeling author emerita, so please consider having a browse and a purchase for a good cause. <3
Josh is a fan of the October Daye series of novels by Seanan McGuire, as surely some of our listeners also are. (They are on Pooka’s ever-lengthening to-read-someday list.) He muses that the author might have been directly inspired by CtD and/or this book, because they are set in a fae-inflected San Francisco with a changeling protagonist. There’s a bunch of great inspirational reading material for the city as a whole, but this might be a particularly useful series to pair with The Toybox supplement, for a more contemporary urban fantasy feel for the place. If you like them, there are currently sixteen novels in the series—the most recent just came out!—and numerous stories, novellas, etc. McGuire has scored a few Hugo nominations for the series as well, which is a good sign.
The official publisher’s page is: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/BK8/october-daye.
san fran travelogue
The recording of this episode took place less than 24 hours after Pooka had returned from San Francisco for their first proper voyage in years. While we might be past the era of your parents renting a slide projector to inflict photos from the family vacation on everyone using a sheet hung over the living room windows (#Banality), here are a few hastily-snapped moments for your perusal and edification:
The Japanese Tea Garden—a freehold, according to the Toybox supplement!—is one of my favorite spots in the city. I like to sit and meditate there; it’s astonishing how much passers-by shut up when they see someone sitting with their eyes closed in that space.
There’s something indescribably powerful and mournful about being in the AIDS Memorial Garden, and seeing all the names etched into the stone. On this visit, my attention was especially captured by this particular note about Douglas Watson and Larry Silva, “who met the day humans walked on the Moon,” given that event’s connections to Changeling’s story.
For the Easter season, this one house had some kind of ostrich made of forged metal scraps on which they had placed bunny ears and a basket. Typical décor for the area. And along Macondray Lane, there are these disembodied trousers hanging out with plants growing out of them, which feels like a chimerical representation of something, or possibly some really messed-up Inanimae.
Haight Street was the epicentre of the hippie movement, they say, and is the first setting we get (in the first corebook sample adventure) for Changeling. It’s presented in pretty loving detail, and yet the last few decades have seen the neighborhood gentrify like so many other spots in the city. There are still some old head shops and clothing stores and whatnot, but then you have—for example—banking conglomerates trying to capitalize on the cultural cachet of the area. It’s pretty gross.
Less gross—some truly astonishing views after you’ve climbed some of the holy-Christmas-what-even-is-that-hills. On the right, here’s a view of Alcatraz from Russian Hill. No particular vantage point, just some random sidewalk, and you still get that vista.
One of the things I included in my selkie book above are these little faerie doors that are scattered at hidden points throughout the city. I found one my first day down the street from where I was staying and felt, yes. I chose the right place. (In my conception, there’s a secret network of trods through the Bay Area that is much less onerous to travel than the local BART system.)
And then, I also talk about this Poet’s Chair at City Lights Bookstore, where I’ve sat for many an hour browsing poetry, as a Treasure that cures writer’s block. I think this is kind of how Changeling settings and adventures accrue: you remix the personal experiences and moments you’ve had with Glamour and situate them in these broader ideas of creativity, passion, activity, etc. Then you set them up against their contrasts, be they hard expressions of Banality or other forms of Glamour or just everyday life, dump the characters in, and you’re off and running.
Josh Hillerup (he/him) is deeply committed to the advancement of the croissant as a fashion accessory.
Pooka G (any pronoun/they) has all the tight-spot gumption and four-bit moxie of a ragamuffin turning handsprings down Baker Street.
“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco.” —Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey