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In Changeling: The Lost, tokens have costs that must be paid on each use ("drawbacks"). The core book says that these drawbacks will always be present:

Every token comes with a drawback, a small curse or additional cost that use of the token invokes. ... For every benefit there is a price to pay, a toll taken by the whimsy of Faerie magic.

However, later on the same book notes the following about the drawback for the Ace in the Hole token:

No matter how diligently he protects himself, he'll slice his thumb, skin between fingers, even his chin. It cannot be avoided.

(Emphasis mine.) To me this suggests that some can be avoided. Are there any methods for avoiding an arbitrary token's drawbacks?

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To me that bolded sentence only means "no, I remind you you can't protect yourself in any manner. Because it's a drawback, you know." –  Zachiel Nov 22 '13 at 14:47

2 Answers 2

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Yup, the drawback is automatic and unavoidable.

However, note that tokens have two kinds of negative side effects: drawbacks and catches. Drawbacks are inescapable, whereas the catch is an alternate cost that can be paid to activate the token - this means that anyone, even mortals, could activate a token by paying the catch.

Description of drawbacks (from the custom Token guide):

All tokens are imbued with the fell magicks of Glamour. Glamour is the stuff of the True Fae and therefore has the tendency to corrupt even the most pristine object. This manifests in a token’s drawback. The drawback is a curse set upon the user for invoking the token’s power. Drawbacks can not be mitigate d or avoided; they are a toll paid for activating a token. An appropriate drawback can be a difficult thing to determine. It provides an additional layer to a token’s story. The drawback must be appropriate for the power level of the token. The drawback is either paid at activation, or paid shortly thereafter by the Changeling. Standard Tokens have a Drawback. Hedges pun Tokens and Trifles do not have a Drawback.

Description of catches (same source):

With the exception of Hedgespun Tokens and Trifles, all Tokens have a Catch. For most it is a means to activate the token without the usual costs. The Catch allows anyone to activate the token, even standard Mortals and character types of other venues. The Catch is a curse which should take a toll on it the user. Some catches involve a consciously paid cost (such as pain or penalties). Other tokens will take their grim tolls out of the character’s hide without asking.

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Not having played, that seems to say "Drawbacks are inescapable, but you can pay a Catch and escape the drawback". It's not clear if you suffer both catch and drawback or just the catch, and in the latter case, what does "cannot be mitigated or avoided" actually mean. –  Adriano Varoli Piazza Nov 22 '13 at 21:49
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@AdrianoVaroliPiazza: it is a bit confusing. However, it goes on to add that, ".. in addition to the catch, the token's drawback still occurs. Both negative effects go off .." –  ladenedge Nov 25 '13 at 17:26

I have played Changeling the Lost quite a bit. That particular example also gave me some annoyance. My Storyteller told me something along the following:

Drawbacks happen, they just do - some of them are direct and very specific, some are more subtle and generalized.

For instance, a drawback could be that when activating a token which grants night vision to the user, he also temporarily exhibits cat-like features, this could be interpreted by the Storyteller in many ways, you might have claws, or grow whiskers, or dogs might bark at you... etc etc.. up to much interpretation, and yet because no specific drawback is set - it could be something that affects you more or less depending on the situation.

In your case, the drawback of the Ace in the Hole is that no matter what you will cut yourself, that's it - there is no way to interpret or mitigate anything. Using the Ace in the Hole will always end up with you cutting yourself.

The extra phrase included there "It cannot be avoided." is to emphasize that the drawback is not simply "increased danger of cutting" or "tendency to cut fingers" - no, this token will always cut you.

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