It’s late August, and for most of the writers and readers of WWAC, summer is almost coming to an end. It’s such a beautiful time of the year, with long afternoons fading into warm evenings, perfect for a good roleplaying session. One could say it’s almost magical.
I think one of the most perfect role-playing games for lazy afternoons has to be Changeling: The Dreaming. Published by White Wolf in 1995, as part of the original World of Darkness line, it has seen a re-edition and, according to Onyx Path, a 20th anniversary edition is coming soon. If you have never heard of this game before, don’t let the words “World of Darkness” deceive you. Changeling is the least somber game of the WOD series, and it lends itself to stories that can get more whimsical than gritty.
In Changeling, you are a fae soul that was born in a human body, and after undergoing your “chrysalis” stage, your true magical nature awakens. Duality is a major theme of the game. You are at once fae and human, living in the human world as well as in “the dreaming,” the magical realm where fae souls originate.
The root of conflict is not clear-cut in this version of Changeling. It can be provided by an opposing faction of fae, a shortage or disturbance in the sources of “glamour” (the magical power and life-force of the fae, a product of human dreams), or a few other dangers included in the lore, but I think the magic of Changeling lies in its subtlety. Set in a world almost like ours, only a bit more mysterious, it allows us to let a little wonder seep into our ordinary lives. Are there any urban legends in your area? Something inexplicable ever happened in your high-school? Changeling would be great for exploring those stories.
But what if you’re just not feeling in the mood for pen and paper right now? After all, hot summer days can be tiring, and if you’re an introvert like me, you might just need some time to unwind on your own. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, released in 2012, was Big Huge Games’ one and only published game before it filed for bankruptcy. I’m not going deeper into this event, although it seems obvious to me that the horrendously wordy title they chose for their game must be to blame. But the game itself? Oh dear, it’s wonderful. Just take a look.
Amalur is a deeply magical game set in “The Faelands,” and its lore draws from Celtic mythology as much as Changeling does. Fate is one of the central elements of the game. Your character awakens after death, fateless, and starts out her journey simply trying to discover what the heck is going on. I won’t spoil a thing, but it’s safe to say, your character will see herself entangled in fae affairs right from the start.
So, of course, this game ties in beautifully with Changeling, but what makes Amalur a summer pick for me is its accessible gameplay. It is the kind of game you will never feel you’re bad at, because it allows you to change up your character at any time and try out every style of combat until you find the one that is right for you—and then you can change it again if you feel the game has become repetitive.
There are quests for every palate and lots of breathing space, and although Amalur will draw you in, I’ve enjoyed playing it along many short sessions last summer. It’s just a beautiful place to visit; the graphics are not astounding—bear in mind it is already an old-ish game—but the art is among the most colorful I’ve seen, full with detail. You will find some real marvels, from enormous stained-glass window in towering cities by the sea, to grass that blooms in magical light as you walk by.
While dreaming of summertime has been lovely, I’d like to finish up this piece with something for those who, like me, live in the southernmost parts of the world. Winter is leaving, but it’s still chilly for the most part, and the nights are long and cold, perfect for playing games under an assortment of blankets.
My favorite RPG this winter has been The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda, 2011). I had been meaning to play this hugely popular game for a long time, but I only started it a few months ago when a dear friend gifted it to me. And what a timely present! When the temperature outside was close to freezing, it was quite easy to feel immersed in Skyrim’s unforgiving, wintery landscapes.
But there was something that immediately threw me off: my character’s clothing. Her little get up of a skirt and fur bra was the best armor I had available at the time, so covering her up would actually have worsened her chances of survival. Still, I wouldn’t venture outside my apartment in such a weather-inappropriate outfit, and there she was, my happy-go-lucky character, climbing snow-covered mountains half naked and completely undaunted.
The solution I found for this problem was the fantastic mod Frostfall – Hypothermia Camping Survival by Chesko. Now, my character actually feels the cold weather around her and gets soaked in the rain, so she needs to avail herself of heavy coats and warm armor. With this mod, all armor gets a new “warmth” stat that helps me determine how well prepared I am for a journey exposed to the elements. With the addition of Campfire, by the same modder, my character can set up camp and create bonfires to increase her warmth rating and dry up her soaked clothes.
Death by hypothermia is absolutely possible with Frostfall —and a lot more common than I had imagined when I decided to try it. After dying repeatedly, I had to adjust my gameplay. I did as many side quests as I could in the areas with more temperate climates, and only ventured into the mountains once I was properly equipped. I started to use fast-travel a lot more sparingly than before, to give myself time to feel the transitions from one climate to the next, spend time camping, and enjoy the wilderness.
Campfire mod by Chesko
These mods have made Skyrim even more fun for me—a greatly immersive wintery adventure. I was surprised by the many ways in which this game is similar to Amalur, but Skyrim’s aesthetic and gameplay set them decidedly apart. It is a perfect game for long, cold nights, when you will probably stay up much longer than you should. And when fall and spring finally roll in, I’m sure we’ll find some more games to help us weather the season.