I first encountered Changeling: The Dreaming when it first was released in 1995 and quickly purchased the 2nd Edition of the game in 1997 (I was not a fan of the gimmicky card-based mechanics of the cantrip system which 2nd Edition thankfully removed). In a fit of nostalgia (because I had sold all my role-playing games in 2000) brought about by Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition and because I cannot wait for the 20th Anniversary Edition of Changeling I purchased the print-on-demand soft cover version of this game (and pdf) as something to tide me over until that time.
The book itself has a soft cover (duh!) and the binding is very similar to what I recall of the 1st Edition soft cover. The pages are not as glossy and have a heavier weight than what I recall from the 1st and 2nd Edition copies. This translates into a slightly thicker soft cover book. Otherwise the pages are still full color and the illustrations in this print-on-demand version are the same as the 1997 edition.
Changeling: The Dreaming is the 5th game in now what is called the Classic World of Darkness games. Unlike the previous games the presentation implies a more whimsical and upbeat setting, although there are some arguments for Changeling being one of the darker World of Darkness games. The illustrations in the first few chapters present bears painting and dancing Sluagh (one of the Changeling Kithain). On the other hand reading though the setting description highlights the struggle for survival a Changeling undergoes within a world that does not believe in magic or faeries, a struggle that can end in the death of the Changeling's faery soul.
The players take on the roles of Changelings, Fae (or faery) souls wrapped up in the bodies of mortals. The setting of Changeling is composed of two realities - "Real" and Chimerical. This creates a conflict for the characters as they try and deal with both worlds (the normal and the chimerical) because they reside in both at the same time. Also introduced into the World of Darkness cosmology is the Dreaming, another realm separate from the Umbra and the Underworld (or Dark Umbra) with tenuous connections to them, in which Changelings can enter but with consequences as the Dreaming is not a very friendly place.
Changeling uses the familiar Storyteller system used in previous World of Darkness games, with new systems for Banality and Glamor. Glamor is the magic of Changelings and the living force of the Dreaming, Banality is mortal disbelief that erodes away at the existence of Changelings causing them to forget their Changeling selfs. Banality also has its agents who seek out Changelings with the intent to destroy them. Unfortunately Changeling never received a "revised" edition which would have updated the system, addressing some problems within the 2nd Edition Storyteller system (I eagerly await a 20th Anniversary Edition which hopefully addresses this).
Changeling Kithain as presented in this book are based on European myth, Sidhe, Boggans, Redcaps etc (although Eshu are based on African mythology). The society of Changeling: The Dreaming is firmly set in medieval times, with Kings, Queens, Dukes and Commoners. All but one of the Kithain (the Sidhe) are Commoners which is the cause of past and present conflicts within Changeling Society.
I enjoyed Changeling because of its introduction of faeries into the World of Darkness and its feudal-based society. It was the closest to a traditional fantasy setting the World of Darkness had gotten to date. At times I still struggle with the dual nature of the setting - "reality" and chimerical reality. I think the whimsical illustrations do not do any favors to the game and are best ignored despite them featuring prominently in the first chapters of the book. If you are looking for a new hard copy to replace a much-loved and battered book then the print-on-demand version is a very good alternative if you cannot find a copy in a second hand bookshop and/or the prices are obscenely high.
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