Changeling: The Dreaming was part of White Wolf Game Studio's original "World of Darkness" role playing game line. Player characters are changelings, fae souls reborn into human bodies, a practice begun by the fae to protect themselves as magic vanished from the world. The game explores the balance between imagination and practicality, and the struggle of art and beauty against the dark, mysterious "Gothic-Punk" World of Darkness. Changeling draws primarily from Gaelic mythology, particularly stories of the sidhe and Tuatha Dé Danann, but also uses mythology and folklore from various other cultures including Native American nations, Greece, India and Yoruba mythology of Africa.
The fae are creatures of dreams, drawing magical power and their very existence from "Glamour", the dreams of mankind. Glamour created and maintains a separate realm of imagination known as the Dreaming, from which the fae originally came to the mortal world. During the Iron Age and the subsequent rise of rational thought and science, glamour became less common in the real world, and the opposing force of banality could injure or kill the fae. In response, the fae nobility (the sidhe) withdrew to Arcadia, their home deep in the Dreaming, and the commoner fae developed "the Changeling Way Ritual" and became changelings. Eventually banality became so strong that the Dreaming was sundered from reality. This time period is known as the Shattering and it is associated with the time of the Black Plague. It was at this time that the Changeling Way ritual was created allowing fae spirits to inhabit human bodies alongside the human host's soul. For many years commoner changelings lived amongst mortals and made their way as best they could in a world where glamour was fading, this was the Interregnum. Then came the Resurgence, man landed on the moon and belief and dreams broke open the doors to Arcadia. Some sidhe were able to return by inhabiting existing human bodies. With the return of the sidhe and their desire to once again rule all changelings, the Accordance War broke out. Commoners and nobles fought for control of the freeholds and glamour until a peace accord was reached by the new High King David.
Traditionally, a changeling is a fairy child substituted for a human baby, but Changeling: The Dreaming uses a very different interpretation. In the game, a changeling is a fae soul born into a human body. Early in the human's life, usually before puberty, they undergo the "Chrysalis", a magical awakening of the fae soul which previously lay dormant. Once through the Chrysalis, the Changeling exists simultaneously in both the "real" world and in the "chimerical" reality of the fae, where creative ideas and imagination have substance. (The metaphysical aspects of this are the complex concepts present in the game.) The human soul becomes joined with/cohabits alongside the fae soul.
As well as the usual roleplaying traits representing their skills and abilities, Changeling characters are further defined by their ties to the Dreaming. Each Changeling has Seelie and Unseelie aspects of their being, one of which dominates a given Changeling. The courts do not easily map onto human ideas of good and evil, but instead represent a host of philosophies - light and shadow, law and freedom, duty and passion. In days past rule would be divided between the courts, the Seelie court ruling in the summer months from Beltaine to Samhain, and the Unseelie court in winter from Samhain to Beltaine, but now an uneasy truce exists and each court rules its own regions. Each Changeling has two legacies, one for each court, which represent how the dual nature of her fae soul is expressed.
Each Changeling is also a member of a "kith". Somewhat like different species of fairy, a Changeling's kith indicates the kind of dreams which birthed her soul in the Dreaming. The kiths are based on fairy archetypes from various sources, and while the most common kiths are drawn largely from Irish mythology, many others also exist. The descriptions below touch on only a few of the types of stories or traditional fairies which correlate to each Kith.
Each Changeling also falls into a certain seeming which is related to their age. The seemings include Childlings, which are the youngest group between the ages of three and thirteen, Wilders, which are between the ages of thirteen and twenty five, and Grumps, which include any older changelings though they rarely make it very long before becoming undone. As Changelings age and pass through the various seemings they lose some of their glamour which is the stuff changeling magic is made of. They also gain Banality, a force created by mortal disbelief.
The Seelie have a reputation as the guardians of fae traditions. They are the peacekeepers, protectors of the weak, and the ideals of chivalry. Most seelie seek the reunion between the mortal world and the dreaming, and would like to be back to the time before the realms became divided.
The Seelie Code
Death before dishonor: honor is the most important virtue, the source of all glory.
Love Conquers all: love lies at the heart of the dreaming. True love transcends all and epitomizes what it means to be Seelie.
Beauty is life: beauty is a timeless, objective quality that, while it cannot be defined, is always recognized for itself.
Never forget a debt: one gift deserves another. The recipient of a gift is obliged to return the favor.
Where the Seelie dedicate themselves to preserving the traditions of the fae, the Unseelie style themselves as mockers of those traditions. They stand for the principles of constant change and impulsive action. They have a reputation for fostering war and madness, despising those weaker than themselves, and valuing freedom and wildness over any chivalric code. The unseelie see themselves as radical visionaries, bringing about vital change and transformation through whatever means necessary, including violence. Most members of the unseelie court believe that the Dreaming has abandoned them, and therefore, that they owe no special loyalty to it or to their lost home of Arcadia.
The Unseelie Code
Change is good: security does not exist. The slightest of circumstances can transform a king into a peasant. Chaos and discord rule the universe. Adapt or die.
Glamour is free: glamour is worthless unless used. Acquire it by any means possible, and you will never be without a constant supply.
Honor is a lie: honor has no place in the modern world. It is a fairy tale constructed to cover the essential emptiness behind most traditions.
Passion before duty: passion is the truest state of the fae spirit. Follow your instincts and act on your impulses. Live life to the fullest without regard to the consequences, they will come about regardless of what you do. Youth passes quickly, so have fun while you can. Death can come at any time, so live without regret.
The standard kiths
Boggan - workers and busybodies, house fairies, gnomes. The dream of the home and the hearth and the people who tend it.
Eshu - African or Indian spirits; travellers, storytellers, adventurers. The dream of foreign and exotic people and places, and the freedom of travel.
Nocker - technological beings, like dwarves and gremlins. The dream of technological creativity and creation of your dreams, but also the frustration which people feel when their dreams fail to meet up with reality.
Pooka - tricksters, shapechangers, animal spirits. The dream of a carefree and less controlled life, similar to that of animals which the pooka have affinities with.
Redcap - murderers and cannibals, monsters, hobgoblins. Formed from the bottomless hunger which people felt in the depth of winter and the desperation which people felt to fight their hunger.
Satyr - lovers and revellers, horned god, Pan. Formed from the deep passions and lusts of mortals
Sidhe - the nobility, Lords and Ladies, elves, the Shining Host. The dream of all that is noble and honourable in leaders, but also the arrogance of many leaders
Sluagh - keepers of secrets, bogeymen, shadows. The dream of all creepy-crawly which crawl about in the dark of the night, tap on the windows and can never be seen in the clear light
Troll - honour-bound warriors, titans, giants. The dream of the honorable and chivalric warrior.
In the Changeling the Dreaming 20th Anniversary publication, Piskies, Selkies, and Clurichaun were added. The Sidhe were divided into two different Kiths: Autumn Sidhe and Arcadian Sidhe.