Changeling: Dreams of Miami – Session 1

Warning: This is very long. 

On Saturday night my wife and I sat down to finally begin our Changeling: The Lost chronicle, which I have called (in a fit of unoriginality) “Dreams of Miami.” The game has been a long time coming for various reasons (mainly my fault), but now it’s here and we’re ready to play.

I will make periodic session reports here, breaking them off with a [More] tag so that there is the public info and the part I want my wife to stay out of.  🙂
So here we go.

We began late, so we only played for about an hour at most, but we did manage to set up the setting and the situation. Dreams of Miami takes place in Miami Beach, namely the area known as Normandy Island and North Beach. Astute readers will realize this is the same area where we live; it makes it familiar and gives us handy points of reference.

It is January 2, 2008, as I like my White Wolf games set in the here and now.

My wife is playing Bella Greyflower, an Elemental Changeling of the Woodblood kith who came back from Arcadia about a year ago. She has been living in the Beach with a fellow Lost who came back with her, Mirabilis, a Fairest Dancer, and they both work at a cafe owned by a Wizened Oracle named Amara, who seems to have adopted the two young women as her wards. Bella has been slowly getting used to being back in the human world for the past year, and has even had some contact with her previous life, though that would be when she learned her children had grown to their late teens and that a Fetch was left in her place, playing mother to her son and daughter, and wife to a husband whom Bella last knew as an uninterested good-for-nothing. The only thing Bella has to care for is baby Finn, a boy perhaps 14 months old, that was the key to her escape from her Keeper.

Bella hears a lot of snippets of conversations waiting tables at the cafe, and she has heard two quite distinct rumors enough times to remember them above the din of constant chatter:

  1. Over the last six months or so, the reported sightings of Fae around Miami have increased dramatically. Not only have they become more frequent, but they have also become bolder: True Fae have been seen hunting changelings in the Hedge, and sometimes right outside of it, or on their way to a hunting party of sorts. So far five or six changelings have been reported as missing, likely taken back by the Fae.
  2. At some point after the new year, a ceremony is to be held somewhere in Little Haiti, something meant to establish some sort of Contract with the city itself in order to prevent the abduction of children by the Others.

Two weeks ago, in mid-December, a somewhat frequent patron of the cafe, a Haitian medicine man who calls himself Old Ti (a changeling without a doubt, though Bella has never seen beyond his Mask, seeing only an old Haitian man) came into the cafe, ordered  a coffee, and when Bella was waiting on him, casually mentioned having heard this rumor about the ceremony in Little Hait; casually, except for the fact he was looking Bella right in the eyes. He then paid, and left.

Two days ago, on Dec. 31, 2007, Bella’s son, Max, came into the cafe, ordered a can of Coke, and then left. Bella was standing not 10 feet away from him, and that has been the closest she has been to her son in an eternity. It was odd because he does not live in this area of the Beach.

Session 1
It is the second day of January, and after her regular day-to-day chores, Bella heads over to the cafe for her evening shift. Upon arriving she notices that there are a lot of customers tonight, both mundanes and changelings (about ten of the Lost, highly unsual). Amara’s Cafe is a sort of haven for the Courtless who know about it, and as such, it receives sporadic visits from representative of the courts, as it does tonight when, at around 7 pm, a burly Ogre proudly displaying a red sash across his wide chest, a symbol of the Court of Summer, enters the cafe. He asks Bella what’s going on tonight, what with so many changelings there? Bella merely shrugs him off, telling him the truth, that she doesn’t know what’s going on. While Bella gets him his coffee, the Ogre gets up and spouts a loud speech exhorting those Courtless present to consider joining the ruling Court of Summer, and to come to him with any questions.

As unhappy as Bella is over this event, Amara is even more, as she arrives just at the tail end of the speech. She asks Bella about the abnormal number of Lost at the cafe tonight, and after Bella says she doesn’t know, Amara makes a few calls and finds out. The upstart Spring Court (the so-called Vichy faction) is hosting a big party at one of their clubs down on South Beach, and they have invited virtually every Changeling in Miami, including members of the now-banished (and some say rightful) Spring Court. Mirabilis arrives at this moment and pulls Bella aside with a very intriguing piece of news: “I just saw you.”

While walking over to the cafe, Mirabilis crosses a woman who looks like Bella, at least what Bella looked like as a human, walking with her husband. Now that she mentions it, Bella does indeed feel her Fetch, not near, but somewhere around, which is strange because they do not live in this area of the Beach. Mirabilis asks Bella if, after closing time, she would like to go down to the Spring Court party, just to check it out. With Amara agreeing to watch over Finn, the two women agree to check out one of these legendary parties. “But we just check it out and get back, ok?” Bella tells Mirabilis. Sure.

And now for some behind-the-scenes…

I was a bit off as we sat down to play. The truth is that I have not run a game in years now (not counting RPGA-style mods here and there), ever since my last Vampire chronicle died a gruesome death and I was not able to save it. So I’ve had issues, and I have been stalling starting a game with my wife for a while now, something I did not want to do anymore. She created this character first back in Sept, since she read the book right after I got back from Gen Con, and I just finished reading it back in early Dec; getting to play now was almost imperative before this game fizzled like the others and my wife threw the book at my head.

So we sat down, and while I had some good ideas of what I would eventually like to do, the nitty-gritty of getting started was a big blank. After a false start and a small break, we got down to it and started playing. My idea is to focus the first part of the chronicle on the issue of the Fetch, and I have then a sort of antagonist that I’ll be using to attack Bella’s biggest weakness, her family. But tonight I was like: …..

So we just talked, and I got a couple of ideas come to me, based on a few things I have read. The three rumors I dropped on Bella all come from various sources: the sightings of True Fae around Miami comes from the core book, where it states that the Summer King is worried over these reports; Old Ti is an NPC detailed in the core book as well, a Courtless changeling with a variety of identities depending on who he’s interacting with. Old Ti is his identity to deal with humans, from what I can tell, but I could not remember the name of his other identities at the moment, only this one, so I went with it. In retrospect, I like the idea of having used Old Ti, especially because it allowed me to introduce a bit of mystery into the game and to my wife, who has read the book in far more detail than me (save for the Miami section). Old Ti, to her eyes, looks human, though she knows without a doubt that he is a changeling, and she is curious about it. Excellent.

The rumor of the ceremony to happen in Little Haiti comes from the module “The Fear-Maker’s Promise.” Part of White Wolf Storytelling Adventure System, this is a pre-made story for Changeling: The Lost that I purchased just for completion’s sake and has turned out to be a life-saver. The plot has the Lost of a particular city wanting to enact a Contract with the city itself to prevent the Others from stealing children for a year and a day, but at a huge price. I like it for my game because it pushes Bella’s buttons right on the spot with the issues of motherhood, children and family.

Lastly, the whole thing with the Spring Court party was a pulled-out-of-my-butt thing because for some reason I said that there were a lot of changelings in the cafe and that was odd. Then I had the Ogre ask Bella about it, making it even more of an issue. Now, here is a perfect example of where my roleplaying mind has been in the last six months or so: Story Games and Story Now. It was unintentional, because I knew my wife was not going to pick up on the handoff (she just doesn’t know about the hippie style of gaming I have been exposed of late, and though she is all about telling a story at the game, I would have to introduce these techniques slowly so she can add them to her gaming repertoire without calling them Rules or anything like that), but I threw it nevertheless: tell me why there are so many Lost here; tell me what is going on. To be fair, it was also very late and we were both already on the downward spiral to sleep, so I had to figure out a reason why this was happening (which is why Amara arrives and makes a couple of calls, above).

The idea of the Vichy Spring party just occured to me, and being that the kerfuffle between the two factions of the Spring Court is one of the main conflicts in Miami, it seemed like a good idea. Since Bella is Courtless, and Amara’s Cafe is a de-facto haven for others like her, I want to have the Courts be a constant buzz in the background, like buzzards circling above at all times. And just wait ’till I introduce the Autumn Court!

With Mirabilis’s suggestion to check out the Vichy Spring party later that night, we called it a night. I know it’s a Storyteller-created breadcrumb path, but we also need to go somewhere in the game, so this seemed as good an idea as any. I alreadu have some ideas of scenes that will happen at this party that will tie back to the other rumors I laid down and to the antagonist I want to start introducing. My first order of business is to have Bella deal with her Fetch, so I gotta think how to maneuver events so that she decides to go down that road (a little encouragement does not negate free will, right?).

It was a hard start, mostly because I need to get over my own insecurities, but I liked it and I’m already looking forward to the next session.

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