It’s true; half the fun of roleplaying games is the creative process of rolling up new characters. However I can think of quite a few reasons why Personae: A Motley of Ready-Made Player Characters for Changeling: The Lost is a fine purchase.
Let us take a moment to honor and bury Lost’s predecessor, Changeling: The Dreaming. I loved it back during the rowdy Clinton administration; but for a game about imagination the character creation system was surprisingly limited. Lost flipped that situation. You could create nearly any being of modern fantasy fiction using the big tents of the five kiths. Go ahead and find a character in, say Gaiman’s Neverwhere that you couldn’t remix. It is so sandbox that you sometimes get overwhelmed so if you want to toss down a pre-canned Storyteller Adventure System session on a whim you might waste an entire session making up concepts, fine-tuning stats and running preludes. Another option is to use the Personae motley as a rival or ally in your existing Lost campaign. Just five bucks could save a Storyteller a lot of prep time. Personally, I printed out this supplement and keep it in a bound notebook with the Lost Demo adventure, The Fear-maker’s Promise, The Rose-Bride’s Plight and the Camarilla’s master list of Changeling character options. I can bust out a game anywhere anytime as long as I’ve got that and the Core Rulebook handy.
In Personae you have an established motley of five changelings with distinct abilities fitting into various niches amongst Lost society. All five Seasonal Courts including courtless are represented. They also have distinct personalities and well-conceived backgrounds of just the right specificity. The founder and nominal leader is a gruff Hedge-delver and Goblin Market maven; there is a lothario and potential spy; a heavy providing the muscle and braggadocio; a mystic and accomplished healer; and a newly recruited canny politico. Three have been made monstrous or ugly by their keepers were they once were beautiful and two are far more handsome or persuasive. All five are loners by nature who have gathered for mutual protection yet are uneasy with trust. Included in the final pages are tips on removing or adding members to the group. I really like the interpersonal dynamics and see where it could lead to dramatic tension; author Jess Heartly provides some suggestions about how that may come out in the aforementioned two Changeling SAS products. You’ve even got unrequited love and that old chestnut durance-induced amnesia. I dig Heartley’s use of the old World of Darkness format of listing Quotes, Background, Description and Roleplaying Hints before the stats. I always would submit characters in that format for moderated online games. To my eye the characters are correctly stated out, even having the free skill specialty with the Changeling template. Lots of players forget that. Each character has a second sheet for more seasoned advanced play with 30-40 experience points added.
As a digital artifact the ebook is gorgeous with the torn border integrated into every page, full “color” green-black-and-white palate, and striking artwork by Avery Butterworth. They didn’t skimp on the little things such as the border around Nicola (a Snowskin Elemental) being dusted with snow due to her Mantle. This isn’t really a surprise since every Changeling product has had stunning graphic design to date but White Wolf often rehashed artwork for their digital exclusives. I’m glad all of their Ready-Made releases have original artwork.
Just so I don’t miss anything you get an introduction on the motley as a whole, five character profiles easily printed off separately and given to players, Storyteller advice on running a motley-focused campaign, advice about modifying the group and then three brief story seeds on all of the characters.
I do have some criticisms. I love Heartley’s work but as in my Rose-Bride’s Plight review she can get a little too precious at time, guild the lily a little fine. All of the characters chose names based on literary figures hence the motley being named Dramatis Personae but having the lion-like character named Aslan was one step beyond for me. Also, a character that had a med school education and spent her entire durance healing wounded comrades only has one dot in Medicine? You can change all of these of course.
The characters were created so you only need the Lost Core Rulebook for use but some would benefit from further sourcebooks. The Hunchback for instance would greatly value the Merits provided in Goblin Markets which was released months after this product.
Another bit of foresight on Jess’ part is that all five can fit into any city in the World of Darkness in nearly any time period with a bit of adaptation; you can use them with the upcoming Victorian Lost book or a Changeling-themed New Wave Requiem game.