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Despite the many dangers, it is possible to create a refuge within the Hedge. Thorns can be trimmed back, the trees cut down and hewn into wood and the stones built up into structures, given time and patience. Such places are called Hollows, and they afford Hedge travelers respites from their journeys… or final resting places.
A door under the old town bridge that opens up into a quiet forest grove. A broken-down old shack that contains a fabulous mansion for those who know the right secret knock. A town high in the mountains that can only be found by the outside world but once a century. All of these are examples of the pockets of reality that changelings call Hollows haped into a stable location for inhabitation. Some Hollows are little more than a clear patch of grass in the midst of the great Thorn maze, while others are dwellings quite elaborate and fantastical.
Any fae being can create a Hollow, ostensibly, but that’s a bit like saying that any person can build a house. It’s true, assuming a degree of ability and resources. Establishing the size and amenities of a Hollow are easy to adjudicate, even if the process is grueling; the changeling must clear a swath of “land,” build or claim a den and bring in or build any furnishings. Some changelings actively create many of these locations through sweat and toil, while other Hollows are simply found and adopted in an almost fully formed state.
A motley will have an easier time establishing a new shared Hollow, of course, as the members can share the work amongst themselves. Cutting entrances and exits is also physical work, but may require some extra attention to make sure that the appropriate gateways in the mortal world remain accessible. Establishing the wards of a Hollow is potentially the trickiest aspect. Physically concealing the haven by planting goblin vines or other strange Hedge plants might rationalize a dot of Hollow Wards, while the most elaborate wards might be arranged via the help of powerful Autumn sorcerers or favors wrested from oathbound hobgoblins.
Hollows of NoteEdit
Hollow as a MeritEdit
The Hollow Merit assumes that the character who owns the Hollow either built or otherwise acquired it at some time before the chronicle starts, but a character can also construct one after play begins. Although Hollows are always a welcome refuge from problems of the mortal world and Hedge alike, not all Hollows are created equal.
A tiny cave in the Hedge might be easily overlooked by enemies but also be cramped and contain few escape routes. A fantastic Victorian mansion might be able to house an entire motley and be packed with all manner of amenities, but without the proper wards, the mansion will also act as a beacon for all manner of freeloaders and other undesirable entities.
A Hollow's strengths and weaknesses are thus tallied according to four factors - size, amenities, doors and wards. Players who choose this Merit must also choose how to allocate these four factors when spending points. Thus, a player who spends four dots on this Merit might choose to allocate two to Hollow Size, one to Hollow Amenities and one to Hollow Wards.
Each aspect of the Hollow Merit has a limit of 5. In other words, Hollow Size, Hollow Amenities, Hollow Wards and Hollow Doors may not rise above 5 (to a maximum of 20 points spent on this Merit). The combined pool of points is used to determine the cost in experience points for raising the Hollow Merit during play.
The Hollow Merit may be shared among characters in a close-knit group, but if any group member does something to diminish the Hollow, its dots decrease for all group members. That's the weakness of sharing dots in this Merit. When a character leaves a shared-Hollow relationship, the dots he contributed are removed from the pool. If the individual still survives, he doesn't get all his dots back for his own purposes. He gets one less than he originally contributed. If all motley members agree to part ways, they all lose one dot from what they originally contributed.
Characters whose players spend no points at all on Hollow simply do not have access to any sort of special location in the Hedge and don't enjoy the mechanical benefits of it. They might come as guests to another's dwelling from time to time, but if they wish to have regular access to any particular location, they must purchase this Merit on their own or pool points with other changelings who already own an existing Hollow.
Hollow Size is perhaps the simplest defining characteristic, governing the amount of raw space the Hollow encompasses. A Hollow with no dots in Hollow Size is barely large enough for a pair of changelings to fit comfortably, and has little if any storage space.
- - A small apartment, cave or clearing; one to two rooms.
- - A large apartment or small family home; three to four rooms.
- - A warehouse, church or large home; five to eight rooms, or large enclosure.
- - An abandoned mansion, small fortress or network of subway tunnels; equivalent to nine to 15 rooms or chambers.
- A sprawling estate, fantastic treetop village or interconnected tunnel network; countless rooms or chambers.
Having a lot of space doesn't always do much good if there isn't anything occupying it, which is where Hollow Amenities comes in. Reflecting the relative luxuriousness of the Hollow as well as how well-stocked it is with supplies and other material comforts, this rating gives an idea of how elaborate the Hollow is as well as what a character can reasonably expect to find within it at a given time. (A character who wants a humble cabin doesn't need to allocate much here, but a character who wants an elaborate treetop village stocked with delights should be ready to invest quite a bit.)
A Hollow without any dots in Amenities contains few if any buildings or possessions - it might be big but it's mostly empty space. At the other end of the spectrum, a retreat with five dots in amenities is likely fully stocked with all manner of luxuries, and while most of these Amenities are made of ephemeral dreamstuff and thus cannot travel across the Hedge or even that far from their origin within it, they still make for a very pleasing stay. (In other words, Hollow Amenities cannot be used as a substitute for other Merits such as Resources or Harvest, and if the character wants the things found in his Hollow to travel outside of it, he must purchase the appropriate Merits to represent these riches.)
While a high Hollow Amenities rating often entails a high Hollow Size rating, exceptions do occur for example, a changeling might not invest much in Hollow Size, but then make that small cabin a veritable wonderland full of excellent food, interesting books and a magical fireplace that keeps itself at the perfect temperature all the time. Likewise, a motley might invest a lot in Hollow Size to get a giant Victorian mansion, but without much spent in Hollow Amenities, it will be sparsely furnished and likely a bit rundown. Although Hollows cannot have access to some high-tech facilities such as phone service, Internet connections or satellite broadcasts, some of the more impressive Hollows make up for it with minor magical touches.
These magical elements should not mimic anything as powerful as Contracts, but can provide basic household services and serve as excellent descriptive details and flourishes to create exactly what the player desires for the look and feel of their Hollow. A game board with living chess or gwybdyll pieces that can play against a living opponent is a perfectly acceptable entertainment amenity, for example, as might be a battered arcade cabinet that changes every new moon to a different video game never seen in the mortal world.
- - A couple of homey touches, but otherwise quite plain.
- - A comfortable Hollow with a few notable features and decent fare.
- - An elaborate Hollow with quite a few clever details and an excellent supply of refreshments and diversions.
- - An impressive Hollow containing abundant mundane delights and even one or two noteworthy minor magical services as well.
- - A lavish dwelling with nearly every comfort of modern living as well as quite a few magical conveniences.
Use the list below to get some ideas not only of potential magical touches within a character’s Hollow, but also to help determine just how many dots one should possess in the Hollow Amenities Merit to allow for such flourishes.
- Gruel Pot (•): It’s better than it sounds, but not by much. The changeling can place this pot on any surface, and throw into it any materials organic or not-so-organic. After a half-hour, the materials break down into a hot, glutinous stew of overcooked meat and potatoes.
- Dream Chaise (••): This chaise (which can actually be a couch, bed, or recliner) is stuffed with soft downy feathers of various Hedge birds. A changeling who sleeps a full eight hours upon the chaise does not regain a Willpower point upon waking, but instead gains a point of Glamour. One is guaranteed potent dreams from sleeping here — never nightmares, even if one possesses the flaw or the derangement. Such potent dreams sometimes incur oracular visions, but one cannot control the content or the frequency of such dreams.
- Mood Lighting (••): The lighting in the Hollow — which may come from torches bracketed to the wall or from strange glowing pill-bugs that gather in the corners of the room — responds to the changeling’s wishes. She can demand that it’s bright (obviating any perception penalties due to dim light) or that the shadows grow long and dark (incurring up to –2 to penalties in the half-dark).
- Twin’s Chest (••): The character has a chest or set of drawers whose clothing contents mirror the sets of clothes that the changeling possesses in the real world. The chest magically reproduces them, though each reproduction features a minor flaw or offset item: a label in the wrong space, differently-colored buttons, one sleeve slightly longer than the other.
- Looking Glass (•• or •••••): A two-dot Looking Glass is a mirror linked to a mirror in the character’s own home in the human world. She may gaze into the Hollow mirror and concentrate for one turn and see through the mirror in her own home. The five-dot version allows the character to concentrate for a turn and see through anymirror into which she has previously gazed: the mirror in a doctors’ office bathroom, a police two-way mirror, even a small hand-mirror she saw lying on the side of the highway.
- Horticulturist’s Box (•••): This planter box is filled with a heady, stinky soil that needn’t be replaced. If the character replants any plant in this, including a goblin fruit plant, the flora is likely to take root far more easily. Assume that if a Wits + Crafts roll is necessary for replanting Hedge foliage (see p. 130), that roll gains a +1 if the plant can be relocated to this planting box. Mundane plants in the box need no roll, and truly flourish as if given a heft dose of ultra-strength fertilizer.
- Unknown Amphora (•••): This little amphora (which may not be a Greek-style neck amphora at all but could be a glass decanter or some other booze-holding bottle) fills with some manner of Hedge beverage once per day. The amphora holds two glasses of said random beverage — it might be a bitter chartreuse or a nectarsweet mead. The effects of the Thorn liquor usually mimic those associated with alcohol, but may also mimic those of any other drug (see “Drugs,” pp. 176–177, World of Darkness Rulebook). The effects are gained upon finishing the one glass. Once the amphora is empty of its contents, it does not refill until the next evening.
- Telephone (••• at least): It is possible for a changeling to have a phone in her Hollow. Note, however, that having a phone requires at least three dots in Hollow Amenities, and moreover, the phone won’t really work all that well. The phone manages only spotty reception at best — about a third of every conversation is buried beneath static. The phone works only once a day, too, for one conversation. The rest are dead or lost in static.
- Feast ing Table (••••): The Feasting Table is a dining room table, usually of dark cherry wood and with elegant, ornate claw feet. One places a tablecloth over it and, upon whipping the cloth away, finds that the table has been filled with enough food to feed a squad of soldiers. The food is rich, luxuriant, a wide spread of strange gourmet meals. Some are earthly (duck confit and gnocchi, for instance), and some… aren’t (drained and rinsed venom glands braised in a syrupy dream-a-drupe brandy). One side amenity is that in the middle of the smorgasbord there always lingers a bowl of five goblin fruits of one type. The changeling cannot demand what fruit will appear, just as he cannot decide what the Feasting Table will serve as its spread.
Hollow Doors reflects how many entrances and exits a Hollow has, which can be equally important if a character is cut off from her normal access point in the real world or finds herself in need of a quick escape route while staying in the Hollow.
Without any dots in Hollow Doors, a Hollow is assumed to have one entrance in the real world and one small entrance in the Hedge - the Hollow can be reached through either side - of course a character may waive either of these "free" entrances if he only wishes the Hollow to be accessible from one side.
With each dot in Hollow Doors, the Hollow has one additional point of entry/exit, either in the real world or through the Hedge. For example, with the expenditure of multiple dots, each motley member might have a door in his own residence that allows him access to the group's private Hollow. Note that these doors must be tied to static access points in either realm - these places do not change.
Of course, a changeling might have the most gigantic and elaborate Hollow imaginable, but unless it is properly warded and secured against intrusion, it will most likely be lost to opportunistic scavengers in short order - or worse yet, subject to an unpleasant visitation from the Others.
Thus, it is wise to invest at least a few dots in Hollow Wards, representing the precautions both mundane and magical that protect the Hollow from unwanted visitors. Each dot invested in Hollow Wards subtracts one die from all attempts by unwanted visitors to find or break into the Hollow; in addition, those inside receive a +1 die bonus per dot on their Initiative compared to those attempting to break in.
Lastly, the more dots invested in Hollow Wards, the less likely the location is to be found by True Fae or creatures from the Hedge; each dot subtracts one die from any rolls made to find the Hollow.