Changeling: The Dreaming (1995)

Woof. Changeling (1995).

I thought Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was the bee’s knees, from about 1991, when I started picking up the Season of Mists arc, until the series wrapped in 1996. It was important in my education as to what comics could be and I felt cool and hip reading it, which was probably important for high school Stu. Years later, I went back and re-read it and found it impossible to take seriously. All the good parts lean on the work of better or more interesting creators and all the bad parts are on the level of gothic poetry written in the first year of art school.

The team behind Changeling seems to have quite liked Sandman as well, at least the issues Charles Vess illustrated. And maybe some other books in the Vertigo line. Like Sandman, I find it impossible to take Changeling seriously – fae-souled humans living in both the real world and the fantasy land of the dreaming – especially in the context of the already overcrowded shadows of the World of Darkness. While all the other WoD games investigate distinct philosophical themes (even Mummy!), I can not find the through line for Changeling. Are we trying to make the world prettier? Give it over to the fae, so they can cover everything with glamour? Is that a good thing or a hellish embrace of denial? I have no idea. I don’t think the authors did either. There were elves on the moon? What?

On a mechanical level, every WoD game balances your power against a kind of philosophical counterweight. In Vampire, you need to balance your undead powers against your growing inhumanity. In Mage, you have to guard your reality warping powers against paradox. In Changeling, your glamour, or faerie magic, can be undone by…banality. The rules sort of characterize this as realism or skepticism, but never in concrete terms that you can point to and say “Ahh, yes, I get it now.” It mostly feels like a different skin for Mage. Whatever it is, it isn’t a good sign when your central binary is as wobbly as a table with one short leg. Hard pass. Even with Tony DiTerlizzi illustrating.

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