For years I’ve wanted to run a game set in the world of Labyrinth, because it is awesome and the essence of faerie for this child of the 80s. At first I thought of using Changeling: The Dreaming (CtD) because of the obvious connection with faeries, but I never quite grasped what angle to approach this from.
When Changeling: The Lost (CtL) came out, I got the sense that this would be the right game to handle adventuring in the Labyrinth. The plot of the movie is, in essence, a classic changeling scenario (we’ll leave the Labyrinth-as-sexual-coming-of-age discussion for another day), except that someone goes into faerie for the baby so we could use characters that had been taken to the Labyrinth, escaped and had to go back for whatever reason, or even use a regular human like Sarah.
I’ve never done either of those. CtD simply had a different vibe that was directly tied to the faeries in the mortal world, and CtL, though it was certainly dark enough, had a bit too much going on for my tastes.
CtL, however, has one bit that REALLY got me excited, the idea of Contracts as the source of changeling magic. Now we’re talking. I would strip that game of all the other simulationist stats and get down to a few essential pieces of game mechanics that truly speak to what a changeling is, highlighting the Contracts.
So this is what I would do for my Labyrinth game:
The Goblin King is dying and he needs a new heir. Years ago he lost the perfect child; he has since sent out his goblin hordes to bring back human children to the Castle at the Center of the Labyrinth, seeking a new heir. He hasn’t, and the 13th hour approaches fast.
The rejected would-be heirs have wandered the Labyrinth, discarded and alone. Some have found their way, some have been lost to the endless maze.
Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, you made it through to the mortal world.
You now sense the desperation of the Goblin King as death looms near. Your will is as strong as his, and your kingdom as great.
Now it’s the time to strike. Now it’s the time to Return to the Labyrinth. The Goblin King has no power over you.
1- Character creation would be modeled after a questionnaire, much like in Don’t Rest Your Head. I wanna know who you were before you were taken back to the Labyrinth, what happened while you were lost in the Labyrinth, what Contracts did you strike with the Labyrinth for your powers, what has it been of your life since arriving in the mortal world, and why do you want to go back to destroy the Goblin King.
Though traditionally the fae take babies, who would not remember anything of the experience, I’m saying that regardless of age, once you arrive in the Labyrinth you retain your mortal memories, thus giving you a connection back to the mortal world. I would also say that in desperation, the Goblin King started taking children of various ages, from newborns to toddlers to school-age kids. The older you were when taken, the more memories you have and the stronger the connection back to the mortal world (also the more traumatic/dramatic realizing what happened to your old mortal life).
2- You define your faerie Contracts. These are deals you struck with the Labyrinth itself: in exchange for power, the Labyrinth took some of your humanity away. Contracts vary in power depending on how much of yourself you are willing to give. There have been those who have tried to brave the Labyrinth without resorting to Contracts; alas, too late they realized their folly. (And before anyone mentions Sarah, I’d like to throw out the idea that she did make a Contract with the Labyrinth, first to have the goblins take Toby away, then to understand the nature of the Labyrinth (via the friendly worm) and be able to navigate it.) Different areas of the Labyrinth grant different powers, so in determining your Contracts, you also reveal what areas of the Labyrinth you visited and have now a strong affinity for.
The Changeling: The Lost book has scores of examples of Contracts with varying degrees of power to choose from or to model new ones from. The Labyrinth is a faerie realm, and it is alive in ways no one can comprehend. Some say it grants Contracts to gain life energy and sustenance. Some say it grants Contracts simply for the sake of chaos. The reasons are irrelevant. The Contracts are real and they determine how strong the connection to faerie is. If you stop to think about it, it means that yes, someone could have made a Contract with the Labyrinth in the Bog of Eternal Stench, and that the Castle at the Center of the Labyrinth must be the source of the Goblin King’s Contract.
3- There is a single stat with a sliding scale between Human and Fae. You start with 9 dots on the Human side and 1 dot on the Fae side simply for having been abducted into the Labyrinth. You gain further Fae dots based on your faerie Contracts. Whatever score you have on each side is the number of dice you use to roll vs a Target Number when in a conflict, with the type of conflict determining which dice pool you use.
I want something simple in terms of dice mechanics, and the Storytelling system already gives me a good basic mechanic to work from. I’m just stripping it down to the most essential expression I need for the game at hand.
4- Each character has a Goal. Each character has a reason why they are returning to the Labyrinth (because, otherwise, they wouldn’t be a player character), and the Goal is what they are trying to achieve. It can be to kill the Goblin King (and take his place?), to rescue an abducted child they know, to make sure no heir is selected, etc. The Goal defines the character’s story arc, and everybody has one.
5- Ideally the entire rules set, examples, setting inspiration and character sheet would fit in a few pages (8?) that could be folded into a booklet if printed. I can’t stress how much I would want this to be small, portable and simple to run, play and teach.
I think that’s it, that’s the essence of what I would need to run a game in Labyrinth through drawing inspiration/severely hacking Changeling: The Lost.
Let’s see if I can get to run it one day.