What Is This?
The Nightmare Incursion system is meant to make the threat of accumulating nightmare points immediate and thematic. Written mostly before C20 was available, this system was originally an expansion of the 2nd edition Nightmare rules. While C20 went in a different direction with what nightmare does to a changeling the system they wrote is not very threatening in short or one-shot games.
Nightmare incursions provide the possibility of nightmare accumulation, even in one-shots, having serious ramifications for characters. In longer games, nightmare incursions give the storyteller (and players) another tool for developing the stories they’re telling. As we’ve played with the system and refined it from its original form we’ve found that some of our best sessions revolved not around our characters’ dreams, but their unresolved nightmares and baggage. Unexpected deep dives into a changeling’s shadow can build some amazing stories.
All that said, these rules aren’t for every table. Putting your characters through nightmare incursions without being an asshole to your players relies on proactively interrogating and establishing boundaries around what is acceptable play. Part of being proactive about establishing boundaries is revisiting the process while the game is in motion. No one should feel like they can’t call a time-out if they need it. Changeling is a storytelling game, and even though some stories are sad or scary, the storyteller and players should never leave the table at the end of the game feeling hurt or numb. Your players should never feel like their characters’ grief or trauma was their trauma or that the storyteller was trying to humiliate them in front of their friends.
When dealing with potentially heavy things like grief, terror, personal trauma (even of characters in a game) always follow the Silver Rule: Don’t be a dick.
Cantrip behaves as a berserk unleashing (but doesn’t generate more nightmare)
Changeling develops a noticeable echo (chilling the room they’re in, rotting the things they touch, voice sounds like little bells) for the duration of the scene.
For the rest of the day the changeling experiences minor hallucinations (text they’re reading shifts when they blink, hearing whispers that aren’t there, objects are half an inch farther away than they appear) in any scene that they use magic.
Caster summons/creates a nervosa who torments them for the duration of the scene. These torments are irritating, but not dangerous.
Caster summons/creates several nervosa who torment them with gusto. Their pranks will not cause direct physical harm, but might lead the changeling into dangerous behavior or environments (the nervosa might use redes to hide oncoming traffic from the changeling).
Caster summons/creates a single manifestation that will torment them (possibly quite subtly) for one scene in the future.
Caster summons/creates a troupe of manifestations who coordinate their activities over the next day (or completely dominating a single scene) and work to subtly or overtly make the changeling’s insecurities real and apparent to all present -- always with the goal of punishing the character (though the manifestations may not view it as such).
The caster’s nightmare energy blurs the divide between the chimerical world and the Dreaming. The caster and all present in the scene are drawn into a dark, chimerical, version of the scene coloured by the caster’s fears and secret desires. Leaving the immediate vicinity draws characters into a malebolge in the Dreaming created entirely from the caster’s subconscious insecurities, populated by a plethora of nervosa and manifestations and other dark creatures from the Dreaming.
Zeta Incursions end when either the caster’s deiform is overwhelmed (chimerical death), when the victim resolves the insecurity that generated the incursion, or at another point the storyteller decides is appropriate.
The Distant Ones Draw Near
The caster becomes a beacon of nightmare and dark glamour. All changelings present acquire a point of nightmare and a point of glamour. One of any of the lower tier incursions will occur during this or the next scene.
Additionally, the Thallain, Adhene, and/or Shadow Court take note of the caster and will either approach the changeling or draw them into their domain soon.
Planning Nightmare Incursions
Manifestation [Variable Flaw]
No successes, but no 1s