In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.
The Toybox is the first adventure and supplement for Changeling: the Dreaming in the Immortal Eyes trilogy. It’s not really a standalone scenario but rather a companion to the novel The Toybox, by Jackie Cassada.
Most of the book is actually a setting guide to San Francisco as seen though changeling eyes. Reading it, I was reminded of why I liked Changeling: the Dreaming so much in the first place. In the World of Darkness family of games, Wraith: the Oblivion and Changeling: the Dreaming are distinct from Vampire: the Masquerade, Werewolf: the Apocalypse and Mage: the Ascension in that they feel like they’re about ordinary people.
Vampire, Werewolf and Mage are about extraordinary individuals in unusual circumstances. In contrast, Wraith and Changeling have an everyman quality to them. In Wraith, you could be anyone. What matters is that you’ve died and emerged into a dark purgatory where you’re just one more ghost among the multitudes.
In Changeling, the whole game feels like its about the fragile glamour, magic and beauty in the lives of children, working people, folks like you and me. This is borne out in the people we meet through The Toybox. There’s a balloon salesman and the proprietors of a gay bar. The previous ruler of the local changeling court was killed while picking up wine from a local vineyard with his pickup truck.
I also like the human touch in the crises threatening the realm. Perhaps the most serious in The Toybox is that the Queen has taken up with a fuckboy. She’s not performing her duties and instead just lies in bed with him all day. In describing the Queen’s lover, the book says that he feels lonely in the court where everyone hates him so the player characters will find it easy to get him to join them on a night of partying.
This is a far cry from the sort of story prompts that you see in adventures like The Chaos Factor.
As an adventure, The Toybox is thin, just a few scenes that can occur at the edges of the story in the novel. It’s clear that the real action happened in the novel. It’s suggested that you can also play out the events of the novel so the characters can be in the middle of the action but this idea is supported only halfheartedly.
One element of note in the book is it’s inclusion of gay themes. The gay club Chainges is a significant setting element and its proprietors are major characters. Read through modern eyes, they hold up fairly well, especially considering how LGBT+ themes were handled in roleplaying games in the mid-Nineties.