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I'm very enamored of White Wolf's Changeling: The Lost for a wide variety of reasons. First and foremost, I love the dramatic character hooks the setting provides - just coming up with variations on escaped changeling characters gives me a hundred different heart-wrenching characters. I also love the portrayal of the callous fey, and the way the magic mechanics intertwine with storytelling considerations.

However, I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with any sort of adventure concept or campaign arc for the system. The primary drama in the game seems to me of the personal sort - each changeling has his own unique tortured past to deal with. Character arcs are great, but I want to run a group game, not an anthology. And I just don't see the setting providing many threats that seem appropriate for the scope of a group of four or five people. There's personal interests... and there's "national-level," freehold-scope issues... But what is there to occupy a small group, to keep them active and together?

So, I am looking for advice on constructing adventure/campaign concepts appropriate to C:TL. While individual plot suggestions are welcome, I'm first and foremost looking for advice as to what sort of threats the C:TL setting provides that fit the scope of a small group. Bonus points for also covering any of the following:

  • Not demanding that the whole group be connected by their fey captor or type of captivity. (I love the possibilities of character creation, and don't want to restrict players in this. More minor connections, e.g. "All of you know [Character X]" or "All of you want to be included in organizing the Feast of Dead Roses" are fine.)
  • Threats which offer a clear and immediate course of action. (That is to say, "You must immerse yourself in the byzantine court intrigue and somehow gain power over [Character X]" is less helpful than "You must follow [Character X] at a ball, find out who he is communicating with, and steal the fey artifact he is delivering.)
  • Plot concepts which provide room to explore character's personal arcs. (Again, the personal arcs are going to be cool, so tying them into the main arc is really great to make sure they get some screen time. In fact, I'm seriously considering trying to play the C:TL setting with the Primetime Adventures mechanics, just because I really want personal character arcs to get their due.)
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I've been a player in a 6-month CtL campaign, and I'm currently co-DMing one, so, as you can see, there are plenty of possibilities to use CtL in a campaign setting.

I'll try to adress your various points one by one (although maybe not necessarly in order) :

  • How to link the characters :
    • A first good method is to have them be of the same court, or the same two courts. This way, you have a starting point to tie some of your characters together, and to introduce court-related plot points. Having some cours where your characters are not is also important : this way, there are things that your players don't know, and that is really important for you, as it allows you to use these other courts to scheme the way you want. If one of your characters don't want to be in one of the courts you need, you can have him be from a foreign court (eg : in a setting using the Seasonal Courts, have him be a Chinese businessman from the North Court, trying to implant a branch of its company here), or even be Courtless.
    • Furthermore, remember the motley mechanic is here to help you. I'll address some good campaign starters in following points, but as soon as you sense you have a group dynamic, you can try to orient your players to form a motley, maybe even share a Hollow. If you make good use of pledges, they can simply be linked by a motley pledge, and have to follow the group because they swore to protect their friends.
  • Threats to start a campaign with :
    • You do not need your full meta-plot ready in the first sessions. In the campaigns I played (again, this is a purely empirical point of view, I do not affirm it's the best), the first scenario followed a simple rule : take some characters, put all of them in deep shit, and watch how they have to form a group to get out of it. In the campaign I played, we found ourselves with a ODed changeling on our arms, and we had to find how to prove it wasn't our fault before his Summer friends come and break our knees in tiny little pieces. In the one I'm DMing, the players (without knowing each other before) all experienced the same nightmare (a bad trip from a Dream-Poisoned human), and had to understand why they were all here, and who was this guy that seemed in all that pain.
  • Campaign ideas :
    • In the previous point, I showed you how you could start your campaign with a simple plot. From here, you just need to watch your players, and see what kind of meta-plot would be good for them. They directly go to their courts, and try to charm their ways out of it ? Make a political campaign, with intrigues interacting directly with their lives. In my first campaign, we started at one-mantle-dot in the court, and finished with one in our group as Autumn Queen. This is just an example, but you get the point : see what they want to do, and use it to choose where you want to go.
    • Furthermore, as said in the Storytelling part of the core book, CtL is more or less a fairy tale. Yes, a sad one, a dark one, one made of darkness and broken dreams. But the thing to remember here is that the global plot may be one of the fairy tale : kill the traitor, save the girl, things like that. CtL provides plenty of possible enemies apart from the Faes : hobs, Loyalists, Privateers, Bridge-Burners, or maybe just crazy humans.
  • Character development :
    • What's great in CtL is that it's a game that allows you to combine the two : a meta-plot, with great enemies to fight and things to understand, and a deep RP environment to build your characters. I'll even say that the meta-plot is kind of second here : with all they've been through, for me, the main part of playing CtL is watching how the players try to regain their life back, or create a new one. It can be anything : for example, in the campaign I played, even if the meta-plot was that we were trying to destroy a fae-touched drug ring of Loyalists, my character, on his side, became a country-famed juggler, and created its own show, and even his own kind of art, influenced by Faerie magic. And, frankly, that was the thing that marked the most

To finish, I'd advise you to read the books (all of them, if you can), as they are full of good ideas.

(nota bene : I'm not an English native, so please excuse the eventual errors. And if you need any more info, feel free to ask :))

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Beautiful answer, and extremely helpful. Kudos, good sir. –  Standback May 3 '12 at 10:06
    
I have to admit CtL is my favorite RPG, so it was a pleasure to answer :) and as I said, if you need any help starting a campaign, don't hesitate to ask for more help :) –  Valentin Rocher May 3 '12 at 11:26
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A very simple arc is that there is an immediate fae threat to the local freehold. Everyone is already there but don't need to have anything else in common. They can have different pasts and be associated to different courts but they should all be united in wanting to defend the freehold. Or at the very least being opposed to the fae.

How to approach resolving the problem can depend on how the motley is composed. If they are mostly aligned towards resolving problems by force then set up a story where they need to defeat the incursion by some martial means. This story is as simple as the motley encountering an ogre dragging a helpless victim back into the hedge. What a coincidence that local Changelings have been disappearing lately! When the pursue and overcome the ogre they find a note indicating that some changeling in the freehold is colluding with the ogre and gives a time and place to the next meet.

Each time they solve a piece of the puzzle things get a little bigger which scales with the horror. First it's just an ogre who leads to the traitor who has negotiated with a Faerie lord to allow it to capture all the freehold's Changelings. Each step can easily lead to another step allowing a straightforward plot (that also supports various strengths of different Changelings if you do it right).

Might be broader then you are looking for but it's hard to be more specific without more details about the motley and the setting it's in.

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Threats to the freehold is one of the suggestions in the book, but I don't really get it. Practically by definition, the freehold is full of changelings who are more powerful than the PCs. I'd have difficulty sustaining the freehold as a conflict point without actually bringing in the freehold members to do the real work. :-/ (Also, what the heck is a group of strangers doing hanging around the Hedge watching for ogres?) –  Standback Nov 21 '11 at 21:13
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There are lots of reasons they might be by the Hedge. Gathering goblin fruits, looking for new Changelings, patrolling for minions of the True Fae, going to the goblin market, or investigating said missing Changelings. Those Changelings may be locked in some byzantine power struggle and unable/unwilling to commit their our resources to deal with the issue. (It's only one ogre after all...) The players are free agents or lackeys they can spare for these tasks. More powerful usually means less time to deal with things. That's what minions, I mean the players, are for. –  mirv120 Nov 22 '11 at 1:37
    
So maybe a good addition would be: the freehold faces some kind of threat; the PCs begin as a "task force" carrying out a specific, seemingly-minor mission, which gradually leads them closer and closer to the center of the conflict. I like that. –  Standback Nov 22 '11 at 10:19
    
Actually (nothing personal, really), it's, like, the most cliché plot of all the RPGs. I wouldn't be enthusiastic about it. It's not bad per-se, but it's so overused pretty much every-fucking-where I'd keep it as a last resort, and I'd be hesitant even in that case. –  Lohoris Jan 17 '12 at 18:40
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I'm about 6 sessions into running my own CTL game. I have a group of fresh out of the Hedge players. The first hook I game then was a task given to them by their freehold in exchange for new identities and basic amenities while they decide what they are going to do. It is a diplomatic mission of sorts that has potential for direct conflict but rewards players that take the time to explore and investigate.

There is town just on the outskirts of the freehold. The woods nearby are the territory of a werewolf pack but also has a Trod that the freehold wants access to. The freehold has authorized the newly formed motley to approach the werewolves to try and secure access. In my campaign this is complicated by the fact that their are some spirits making trouble for the werewolves. Will the motley alleviate the werewolves problems earning their goodwill? Will they jump to the wrong conclusions and decide the werewolves are the cause of trouble in town, etc.

Hopefully that basic explanation gives you some ideas but I find that freehold socio-political issues provides good and potentially deep fodder for story telling.

Good luck!

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Start off with a journey in progress and a fateful arrival that binds the group together on a personal, humane level. Introduce C:TL elements (society, background) step by step, leave time for the players to focus on each new hook.

An example: Model your group plot arc on Lost, the TV series. Have the players create characters who all have some reason to travel to a certain city. In fact, have them believe you'll start the game right after their arrival - then begin with their plane crashing and them surviving, mostly and wondrously unhurt, perhaps thanks to their supernatural nature - but not alone. Add in a few more survivors. Have the PCs find out what or who (of the other survivors?) caused the crash (for it was definitely not a random accident) and for what reason. (Were the PCs the target? Was the crash needed as a sacrifice to unleash something on the territory where they landed, something that the perpetrator wants to get now and take into the city? Etc etc.) Have them find clues, treasure, NPCs or any other plot hooks that they'll need to, or, rather, want to follow up together once they get rescued, then let them struggle to get rescued (preferably not after a seven or so years long period IRL, though ;)), leaving them time enough to get to know each other* and form bonds - and to keep them focused on the core plot without the interference of a cityful of other changelings.

Of course, this is just an example - but I do hope it illustrates my point(s).

/* perhaps through flashback one-shots, where focus would be on one PC with the other players playing NPCs.

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