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My daughter wants to run a Changeling game. However, she's never tried to run a pen and paper RP, and is very nervous about it. What are some things I can do to help her get a good start?

For more detail: she's an avid RPer online, though not structured (mostly freeform play-by-post kinds of things that don't have rules). She's played in a couple Shadowrun and Star Wars : EoE games I've run, plus a D&D 4E basic-rules game a friend of ours ran a couple years back.

In all likelihood, the players will be me, my wife, and maybe one or two of my sons. If we can get a friend or two of hers to come over, then at most I think we're looking at five players. My wife and I have experience with other classic WoD games, but we never had a chance to play Changeling before our old gaming group fell apart. I've gotten her the Players Guide and the Storytellers Guide and a couple adventures to look over. I'm just looking for ways I can help get her over the initial speed bump of nerves. Thanks!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this the original World-of-Darkness Changeling ("The Dreaming"), or the new World of Darkness version ("The Lost")? I presume the new one, but it will make a difference to some answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Tynam Sep 25 '14 at 13:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ You said she's never run a game before - has she played? How old is she? How many players will she have? What age? What gender(s)? Really, the more detail you can give us, the better we can help you. \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Sep 25 '14 at 13:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, I've just thrown my hat in the ring with what I expect to be a controversial answer...also, 5 is a lot of players for a first game. It's the absolute top end of what I'd recommend - but with two experienced adults in the mix, it would probably be fine. \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Sep 25 '14 at 14:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ I still think it's important to know her age. This way we can figure out how much information she is able to handle. \$\endgroup\$ – Flamma Sep 25 '14 at 16:15
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1) Understand the basic White Wolf rules

I'm not sure how much she's actually looked at the rulebooks, so that would be my first recommendation. She probably doesn't need to read them cover to cover yet, but she should especially know the basic White Wolf "roll Attribute + Ability" mechanic and the common difficulties/number of sucesses need. It wouldn't hurt to know some of the common rolls as well, like Perception + Alertness and Strength + Melee

2) Understand 'fae seeming' and 'chimerical' objects.

One of the hardest things for me to understand about Changeling was the "fae seeming" and how chimerical objects interact (or fail to interact) with the real world. The best explanation that I ever read was comparing Changeling to Calvin & Hobbes. Hobbes is a chimera based around a specific real-world object. Normal people, like Calvin's parents, only see the physical object, the stuffed tiger. Calvin, however, sees the "real tiger" version of Hobbes and can talk to him, climb on his back, hug him, get pounced by him, etc.

3) Look at the Changeling: the Dreaming-specific rules and concepts

She should study the specific Kiths, as they are a pretty large part of the game. She would need to know how each one's powers and weaknesses work. The players are going to want to try out those powers right away,so it's important that she's ready to handle those. She should also understand Glamour and Banality, as those are very key game concepts. She should at least skim the section on Arts and Realms. Those may not come up in the first session, however.

4) Make her own character, but don't play it

I would recommend that she makes her own character to get a feel for the system and the various options that the players have. (She shouldn't actually run it in the game, though.) That will let her see how the various parts of the character interact. White Wolf usually has good step-by-step instructions for character creation and they always have an example of it, but having her make her own will give her a better grasp on that than just reading it.

5) The first session should be character creation....

For the first gaming session, I'd recommend having the players make their characters at the same time. That way, your daughter can answer any questions that they might have and cover any concepts/options that might not be clear, like Kiths.She can also encourage players create bonds between their characters, like being relatives, friends, etc.

It also lets the players see what the expectations are around the table. There are no character classes to choose from, but some players may want to choose a Kith that no one else has. The relative 'nobility' of each Kith can come into play as well, becausehving a party of a Redcap, a Pooka and an Eshu is going to play a lot different than a party of several Sidhe and a Troll.

By allowing the entire first session to be character creation if needed, you make sure that none of the players feel rushed.

6) ...And running through some basic scenarios. Once the characters are made, it would be a good idea to run through some basic role-playing and rules scenarios, as there probably won't be enough time for a full session.

These would be things like:

  • Trying to get information from another fae at a bar
  • Chasing someone down the street
  • Getting in a fist fight
  • Trying to sneak your way into a secured building (or, for specific Changeling fun, out of a mental hospital)

The important thing here is to try different combinations of attributes and abilities and to give her a feel for narrating scenes. I would play these almost as video-game 'tutorials: the characters are in a certain place and then this happens. What do they do?

7) General Storyteller tips

  • She can always call for a short break from the game if she needs to think something through.
  • If she gets stuck on a rule, make a quick, common-sense judgement and then move it. She can always look it up later.
  • The players know that it's her first session, so she'll cut them some slack.
  • Start out small and work your way up from there.

Changeling the Dreaming is one of my favorite games and I wish your daughter a lot of luck!

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd add one thing to this (great) answer; let her know that if she gets stuck, there's absolutely nothing wrong with asking the more experienced players for help, especially when it comes to rulings. After all, even the president has advisors. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandalfoot Sep 25 '14 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sandalfoot Indeed. I was going to suggest almost the same, that dad or mom learns also the game, and helps the daughter when she needed it. But without overruling her. \$\endgroup\$ – Flamma Sep 27 '14 at 0:27
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Give Her the Tools to Succeed

You've set yourself - and your daughter - quite a challenge! You've chosen a White Wolf oWoD game! My memory of The Dreaming is dim at best, but I think I can safely assume its about politics, intrigue, and (since it's faeries) dangerous promises and favors. She can't just sketch a map, drop in some treasures and enemies, and go.

System Does Matter

And since it does, I'm going to recommend that you switch. My decade-long experience with White Wolf games ended when I realized that while the games were themed around interpersonal relationships and social power, the mechanics did nothing to support that theme. So the game was entirely at odds with itself and I ended up running games despite the rules instead of with them.

For your situation, I would start with Fate Accelerated Edition instead.

I've written about FAE in the second part of this answer, here, and here.

The Tools

In addition to the reasons laid out in those answers, I think you'll find this a better toolkit for success for the following reasons:

  • Fate (and by extension, FAE), encourages (and systematizes) more collaborative play. This allows you and your wife as players, to contribute to and guide the game without stepping on her toes or taking away her agency as GM.

  • Fate's conflict rules support social conflict as throughly as they do armed conflict - so your unseelie intrigues will have mechanical backup.

  • The simpler, more interpretive rules will allow your sons and the other players to implement more of their ideas in-game because they won't find that their actions don't quite fit the letter of their powers' descriptions.

  • By using the collaborative methods described in FAE to create the setting, you can easily tailor the world to the interests and sensibilities of everyone involved.

  • FAE puts the success of the game in everyone's hands. It states plainly what each role is responsible for - and part of that is making everyone look awesome.

  • If she's used to no-rules freeform games, Fate's narrativst stance is probably an easier leap for her to make.

  • Character creation is play - and contributes to the background. So instead of having a dull-ish session of looking up rules and filling out forms, you get right to the heart of the issue, telling stories about these amazing characters.

  • Fate, like many modern games, doesn't put all the weight on the GM. The players are expected to contribute to narration, flipping a question back to the players is perfectly acceptable: "You've snatched the boggan spy out of the bushes! He's about 2 feet tall and smells like rotting leaves...what does he look like?" Taking away the presumptive omniscience of the old-school GM makes life easier, at least in my experience.

  • If she likes the system, but wants more, she could then step up to the parent system, Fate Core. All the concepts and rules still apply - there are just more options and details available. FAE is not so much a version of Fate Core as an Implementation.

The game is available for no-to-low cost (pay what you want on DTRPG), and also has the SRD I linked earlier. So for no more investment, your daughter can reap the benefits of a modern, streamlined system while harvesting all the interesting setting tidbits from the sourcebooks you gave her.

What Else To Do?

Obviously, you will want to explain this change, and show her the FAE materials. Then, give her the choice. If she's in love with the stained-glass motif I remember from The Dreaming and can't wait to use cantrip cards, then FAE just isn't going to do the trick. But if she likes the idea, you want to give her time to read it, and time to absorb it before the game starts.

Also, if she likes the ideas of FAE but wants more detail and more crunch right off the bat, all the arguments I make here for FAE also apply to Fate Core. Fate Core is itself considerably streamlined and rationalized from the Fate implementation in The Dresden Files - itself, one of my favorite games of all time.

A social game requires a social background - and existing tensions. Help her figure out which factions are important and what their conflicting goals are. She can then tell players what they know about the status quo when character creation begins - and her setting will probably grow details in the process.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Discord - I thought it would be contentious. But I really do stand by it. I kept trying to write this answer without switching systems, but this is what kept coming out. Thanks for including a note with the downvote! \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Sep 25 '14 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I, for one, think this is a good answer because it does answer the How can I Help a New GM Get Started? which is the main topic in my not so humble opinion. It addresses why a different system would be better which is a valid criticism of Channgling. Although, a little more why Channgling is a bad idea could potentially improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion Sep 25 '14 at 15:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sardathrion - Thanks! Though frankly, I tried to say my bit about Storyteller and just move on. I didn't want to bash anyone's game - I loved those games - I just wanted to say why I thought there was a better way today. \$\endgroup\$ – gomad Sep 25 '14 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ The more I think about it, this is a good answer, even if it's not the way I would approach it. You would definitely want to point out to a new GM if there is a major flaw in the system they want to run. (Like if you wanted to run magic-less 3.5, or to run FATAL at all.) My vote is locked in right now, but if you edit the main post, I will retract my downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – Discord Sep 25 '14 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Having read through Fate recently, as much as I like it I found everything beyond the basics of the system to be extremely confusing. I have the feeling it might be too complicated for a young, first-time GM unless you throw out everything related to aspects. \$\endgroup\$ – Sandalfoot Sep 25 '14 at 18:31

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