The Autumn People are unconscious servants of Banality.
The Autumn People are the quintessential party-poopers. They are the sticks-in-the-mud who do not believe in anything magical or special. They are very rational, thoughtful and exact in their dress and speech. Kithain can spot an Autumn Person right away.
There are really two kinds of autumn people, spineless ones and aggressive ones. Spineless ones are lesser threats, although they raise the local Banality in the vicinity and encourage others to become spineless Autumn People. These people are couch potatoes, video game junkies ,and anyone else who gambles, drinks or is otherwise harmfully addicted to something.
The aggressive kind are the censors, the monitors, the mindless authoritarians who hate dreams and the Dreaming instinctively. An aggressive Autumn Person is the worst kind of mortal, and one to be avoided. A few such Autumn People seek the destruction of the Dreaming and are often found as allies of the Dauntain.
Weaving the Web
Why does the world become so Banal? The Dreamer within us wakes us up in the middle of lonely nights and reminds us of the possibilities we've lost. Corporate sell-outs in luxurious homes, failed artists trapped in mindless jobs, passionate lovers in stifling relationships: all wake up and wonder, "What happened?" The human experience is filled with rituals of mundanity that kill the mind and crush the soul. The word "spirit" becomes an obscenity; the word "myth" becomes a lie; the word "dream" becomes synonymous with false hope. The word word "mundane," which once meant "worldly," is twisted into a hateful utterance. Sympathizing with quietude, sanitizing their miss for the sake of survival, the mundanes bring a cold chill to the world.
Just as there are people who dream, there are people who kill dreams. Some of them don't realize what they do, mindlessly spreading conformity, denial, and narrow-mindedness. They are the Innocents; the know not what they do. Their activities are fully justified from their point of view. Why create a world where we follow our dreams when we know reality will reject them? Why should people fill their heads with "foolish notions" when we know that they serve no purpose? There are a few who believe in their vision of a quiet world so strongly that they make their fear of the unknown part of the environment around them. The coldest of them are insidious. Their ignorance kills and their apathy taints, but their innocence absolves them of all blame. They can't believe in a world of magic because they simply do not understand it, and instead, they create its antithesis.
Not all of these people are so oblivious to the Dreaming. In a world where the supernatural is real, there are also people who know of the existence of the magical. It threatens them with its vitality. They root it out and disinfect it for the sake of keeping their quiet lives of desperation. The world has driven them to madness, and they live in a state of envy and fear. Reacting to false knowledge and indignation, they destroy the world around themselves for the sake of their own survival. They are the Dauntain.
The average Autumn Person, on their own, is at best only a minor nuisance. You can see then in many forms: the teacher who takes away a child's comic book because they're "trash," the boss who don't understand why you don't like being shackled to your meaningless job, or the concerned parent who wants to censor books and television to protect children. There's a message that comes though loud and clear: Don't think, don't dream, and don't hope. The mere fact that they exist in such numbers makes the crafting of Glamour a far more difficult task. Living in a world where our desires are denied again and again hardens us as we block joy and trust from out lives to lessen pain.
The hollow men are the leaders in any flock of conformists. They're shining examples to the people around them of the triumph of conformity over vision. Stay in line. Obey. Follow. Trust us. We know what's best for you. The walking wounded who follow them lose the will to flee the pack instincts that have been burned into their souls. The sleepers who follow the Children of Autumn can't see the wonder around them, and the Autumn people are even more determined to keep them asleep. In defiance, the dreamers who deny the life of the Autumn People live in a lucid waking dream, caught in the reverie of their dream world.
There are also children of Autumn whose minds are so patterned by stasis that they can blind the mind's eye of the most imaginative of Dreamers. Unaware of their effect on the people around them, they weave conformity wherever they go, crushing hope, sapping will, and closing minds. Their quiet Autumn magic is hard to detect and harder to resist. The only followers of the Fall who are more dangerous are the ones who are aware of the existence of the magical in the midst of the mundane. The suffering brought by the Innocents is nothing compared to the havoc wreaked by the Dauntain.
The people of Autumn who know of the existence of the supernatural are far more effective than the Innocents. Life brings them pain, and they seek release. The fae are a mystery to them, and they answer with destruction, cleansing the world of joy. Among their number is the grandfather of deprogramming imagination, a visionary yet deviant scientist named Dr. Anton Stark.
His first victim was a young girl who had escaped into another world. To her, truth and beauty were the same, for she believed she lived in a world where magic was real. She told stories of her vivid life: she danced with satyrs, played with pooka, and knew trolls and elves by name. It was clear to Dr. Stark that her "dangerous tendencies" had to be stopped. If fantasy was the disease, reality was the cure. He slowly shattered her dreams, rationalizing away her fairytale with psychological counseling, cold reason, and arrogant condescension. His victory brought on childhood's end.
Stories of his techniques live on in infamy among changelings. The fae refer to any soldier of conformity who follows in Stark's footsteps as one of the Dauntain. Many of the Kithain don't realize a darker truth: the Dauntain are actually kin to the fae. They burn with faerie blood. Each Dauntain once had the potential to break through the Chrysalis, but the world denied each of them that opportunity. Trauma and sorrow, nightmares and pain, made them what they are. They reject their fae nature, deny their own Glamour, and strike out at an uncaring world. Once all Glamour is gone, their suffering will end.
They rejoice as the leaves tumble into piles. They ready the flames of twisted reason to burn spirituality from the world, and they prepare for the coming of Winter.
See also the larger article Dauntain.
The Seasons of a Life More Banal
- As recounted by Arthur Fishlips
When I think of what my parents told me when I was a kid, I think of all the ritual phrases. “Keep your hands to yourself! Settle down!” The best things in life are the things you aren’t supposed to go near. What’s so bad about wanting to move a dead cat to the side of the road, or croaking in mud puddles with frogs? My parents were always trying to keep me away from cool stuff: slugs, worms, and snails were off limits. After all, I didn’t “know where they’d been!” My dad always said that I didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain. I think he didn’t have enough sense to come out into it.
That’s where it all begins. All the best things in life are called childish: cartoons, comic books, games… even make believe. Children are the only people who realize how powerful “make believe” really is. Changelings know the truth: we all play make believe. Look at a guy walking in a suit to work, or some happy employee behind the counter a O’Tolley’s. I watch and learn; they look back at me like I’m some kinda freak. Banality makes us forget that we all play roles. If you take your life too seriously, you forget the unlimited potential you have.
Children don’t give in to the tedium of life. They don’t define their lives by their jobs or let themselves get trapped in regret. The most serious humans forget that throwing off the pain is as easy as dancing a jig in the moonlight or letting out an elaborate belch. Unfortunately, propriety discourages us from doing such things. Parents teach us all the things we shouldn’t do. Girls are supposed to be ladylike, boys are taught to hide how they feel, and all kids are told to “act their age.” I think the grown-ups are just envious. Children have inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm, and adults exhaust themselves trying to condition it out of them.
Other kids can be much worse about it than adults. In any large gathering of children, all the “normal” kids get together and reaffirm how normal they are. That’s where Banality begins. You hide, conform, or you stand tall.
When you live like that, you don’t want to see the magic around you. It hurts. Anyone who has that magic automatically has something you don’t. When Autumn People are confronted with magic, part of them wishes it away. I don’t blame them. Change is the essence of magic, and when you see reality change drastically in front of you, it reminds you of all the ways the world can change without you. Witnessing Glamour involves admitting that the world can be much different from the safe world you know. Breaking free can be painful, and it’s sometimes easier to just hide.
Changelings realize how much possibility they have in their lives. That’s how children are too: they really can become anything, but it means breaking free of many of the things they’re taught. Some of those ideas come from home, but conformity is something we learn in school.
Sure, I understand the need for education. I’m not saying all schools are inherently bad, but I will say that school is the place where kids learn to obey. I saw all kids around me rewarded for conforming. The one question you’re never supposed to ask is “Why?” Some kids learn that too well. There’s a different set of rituals. You stand in line, raise your hand before you speak, take part in sports you don’t like, listen through boring lectures, and sit still in your seat. When the bell rings, you run out to the playground. When the next bell rings, you run back. If you don’t stay within the system, or if you try to beat the system, you’re punished.
Sometimes you get so caught up in obeying a system that you never question it. That’s what school is. You aren’t supposed to question the assignments you do, you just do them. Don’t dare ask why you’re supposed to learn something. Just follow along. Don’t be late for class, pay attention, keep your mind on your work, don’t look out the window, don’t doodle, and don’t daydream. When you’re done, the teacher will grade you on your conformity.
The Autumn People learn early on to define what’s “acceptable” and reject what’s different. It’s a matter of degrees. The soul chills in some people far more than it does in others. Every human has a touch of autumn, but only a few have it so badly that they hate the fae, seek them out, and destroy them. I never ran into that until I got into high school.
The social part of high school does have some advantages. If I hadn’t learned about cliques, I wouldn’t have survived. Most of getting by in any social environment involves finding the cool people and staying away from the people who aren’t. That’s how a lot of wilders find each other. They’re drawn together.
Unfortunately, the Autumn People band together as well. For instance, some Autumn People are the paragons of so-called virtue who make the honor roll. They get showered with praise and accolades because they conform to the system. High school football heroes, cheerleaders, student body presidents… it’s all so banal because the whole social framework is based around conformity. Don’t question, smile! If it wasn’t for finding the right clique of freaks, the right storm tunnels, and the best time to ditch class, I wouldn’t have made it out alive. Where did I go? Straight to college.
When I think of all those lecture notes I crammed through in college, and all the information that I forgot a few days later, I’m stunned. College is a time when a group of academics decide what you should learn and test your ability to withstand bureaucracy. Your measure of your conformity, your grade point average, is extended into a series of digits. The university becomes your whole life, and after that, it only gets worse.
If you’re going to escape from college, you have to wade through a vast bureaucracy, beginning with a curriculum set by other people that defines what’s important for you. You need allies. I saw a lot of people around me who didn’t have them. Mindless sorority girls going for their “MRS.” degrees. Dorm rats who skidded through in an alcoholic haze. Brooding loners who desperately tried to paint and draw and ended up with a lot of paint stains on their clothes.
Now most of my motley is gone and I sit in this crummy apartment warming up fish sticks in the toaster oven and wonder what went wrong. If it gets really bad, I turn on the television.
My television usually sits in the corner. I don’t know why I keep it. I was watching the X-Files for a while, but now the TV sits in the corner with a “Kill Your Television” sticker across the screen. Television is one big advertisement for the way other people want society to be.
You know what it’s like to watch someone watching television. That screen starts flickering, their jaw drops, the eyes glaze, and the mind shifts into neutral. The lips babble back at the screen. The hands on the clock slowly turn. Once in a while, they see something wonderful, but they sit and graze through the channels, letting other people show them pretty pictures and listening to the droning voices tell them what useless product they need to buy.
Excuse me, I need to set fire to my television… I’ll be right back.
The Day Job
We’ve all got our various crummy jobs. Working used to seem really exciting, but any job can become tedious. Eventually, you get to the frame of mind where your job is just something you suffer through, and you take on another personality when you’re working. Or maybe you try to get so wrapped up in your job that you don’t want to have to think about your life outside of work. We all have to go through it, and over time, it starts to turn you slowly mundane.
I’ve drifted through a lot of jobs. Yeah, I could mooch off some faerie freehold, but I don’t go around those places much anymore. In fact, I don’t leave the house much anymore. It’s easier to just hide. After a while, you stop caring, stop trusting, stop falling in love. If your job really stinks, you don’t have the energy to move by the end of the day.
Of course, you can always sell out.
Lemme tell ya about corporate life. I had a roommate who used to work for a corp. He needed the money really bad, so when they offered him a salary that made his eyes bug out, he said yes. He used to be one of the noble sidhe. Now he’s in real estate.
Money always has its price.
A corporate environment is one where the structures are more important than the people. The people are the cogs in the machine, and they turn until they’re worn down. If the structure made sense, there would be some slight justification behind it, but as the structure gets more and more complex, there are more and more ways for it to break down.
First there are departments, gatherings of specialists who don’t know how to talk to the other departments. On the occasions when they do work with other people, the personal side of it is played down. All the employees live in a maze of cubicles and bureaucracy, so it’s difficult to walk through that maze to get to the other rats trapped inside. Even rats deserve better.
The really bad corps make sure that other people monitor and supervise every aspect of what you do. Review cycles, process checks, process flows, procedures… they can all be summed up in five words: Conform, conform, conform, conform, conform.
Don’t think, don’t hope, don’t dream. Don’t talk about taboo subjects. Don’t talk about sex or religion or personal stuff because you might offend someone. Minimize personal contact. Get in, do your job, and get out. If you’re really unlucky, you’ll also have a dress code. They’ll start to mold you into a suit.
The suit is the uniform of conformity. Everything you do is given a veneer of respectability by being dressed up in formal clothes. A suit is just another type of make-believe, except that over time, you become that role. All the feelings you have about your job become complications that you have to put aside. Your emotional feelings (like being trapped) don’t have reasons attached to them, so you have to set them aside. After all, those emotions are harmful to the work environment! Your feelings are something you have to set aside to do your job. Doubt and skepticism are disloyal. The only emotions you should feel are team spirit, team pride, and empowerment. All of these emotions become as starched and molded as the suit you wear.
But what the hell, I’d be making more money, right? I’d have security, and I’d allegedly have more time for other things if I have a nice secure job. I can make commitments that will hang over my head for years to come: car payments, a marriage, a lease, children. Build the walls around me, and I’ll be empowered.
Every day will be Autumn. I’ll be sheltered from the world, safe from any bad emotions, safe from any dangerous ideas, and anything that’s new or different that’ll come along will be kept away so that I can keep up my car payments, go back to the same home every day, feel the same guilt every night, and swill down a nice glass of expensive alcohol to make all the bad feelings go away. Then, when Winter comes, I’ll be safe in my nice house and won’t have to acknowledge anything outside of my little world.
So, what’s the goal of this whole system? Settling down. I guess I’m supposed to get to a point where I don’t feel the call of the road anymore. I’ll have a nice safe little apartment filled with junk I don’t need. Then I can block out all the possibility in the world, sit in my safe world, and stare back at the TV screen. Of course, if you don’t make it, you’ll be bitter and living in a crappy little apartment like mine. If the Autumn People get to you, that’s the future that’s waiting for you.
That’s not my life. I fight and I lose. I hope and hope dies. But I never give up.
Excuse me. The fish sticks are done.
There is a way out. It waits in the Dreaming. It burns in your faerie blood. If you have the right clique behind you and can keep the hearthfire burning, you can survive against the cold. If you can resist the conformity and keep warm, if you can fight off the webs that constrict you and keep your imagination alive, you can survive.
You know what? I’m really tired of them looking at me like I’m a freak. I know that they’re the real freaks. The people who want to limit your freedom and trap your mind… the blue-haired old ladies with their beehive hairdos and tight-pursed lips, the television evangelists who say that you’re sinful, the uptight parents who label records, and all the repressed people who condemn sex and freedom… they look like the freakish ones to me. You’ve got to see the Autumn People for who they are.
The Classification of Autumn People
There are three common varieties of Autumn People. The first is the Heavy Sleeper. All humans act like they’re asleep; magic is around them all the time, but they refuse to see it. Sleepers have been so conditioned to believe that magic is not real that it actually becomes harder to use it in front of them. Heavy Sleepers are more effective than the average human at keeping Glamour from the world. (See Below)
The second type of Autumn Person is far more dangerous, but also far rarer. There have been cases when an individual of fae blood, or partly of fae blood, has been so frightened by the empty world around them that they never break through their Chrysalis. Rather, they are so shocked at what they see that they gain the unconscious ability to use their latent magic to affect the world around them. They never wake up; instead, they remain innocent of the true world around them. These rare individuals are known as Autumn Fae. Although they’re unaware of the existence of magic, they unwittingly use their own abilities to increase both their own Banality and that of their neighbors. While the Dauntain have a twisted understanding of the world around them, the Autumn Fae don’t realize the effect they have. The most charismatic of them hide in flocks of Heavy Sleepers, directing and controlling their actions. The tragic fact is that they are completely oblivious to the harm they cause. They, and the Heavy Sleepers, are the Innocents.
The last type of Autumn Person is the Dauntain, the malevolent fallen Kithain who hunt us. They are far from innocent; they hold onto their false reason and misperceptions for the sake of their own sanity. The Dauntain know of the existence of magic, and they actively seek it out and destroy it. The soldiers of Autumn, however, usually only have partial knowledge of the Kithain. Many of them act out of fear, striking out at a world they only partially understand. To them, the changelings are dangerous lunatics, menaces to the world, or reminders of their own failures.
In the World of Darkness, peopled as it is with the supernatural, there’s one group that often gets forgotten. Humans.
That’s understandable. They aren’t as glamourous or powerful as the supernaturals, but there are droves of them out there. In fact, it’s easy to forget that it’s really their world. The Kithain are guardians of creativity and imagination, and by eliciting it from mortals around them, they keep the spirit of the Mythic Age alive. Through Reverie and Ravaging, mortals are a source of Glamour, but because of Banality, they are a troublesome nuisance.
The fae can quite easily interact with human society. Their seemings protect them from discovery, allowing them to become involved in nearly any supernatural or mundane plot. Wise Kithain will try to find human allies, but will also try to shelter them from the truth. As exotic as the fae are, the ones trapped on Earth still have an occasional need of human assistance. Medical aid, research assistance, and even police protection are a few examples.
There are also rare cases when a mortal will become a part of Kithain society, of only for a short while. Humans of extremely low Banality have been known to cross the threshold into the Dreaming. This is relatively safe, for when a human regains their Banality, their memories of their encounters with the fae once again become clouded. When a lover or friend who provides a source of Glamour to a changeling finds out too much, the fae has the option of telling them information for the sake of their own survival. Kithain treasure these companions dearly, for human friends and lovers can bring a sense of objectivity to their lives that many fae lack. It can work the other way as well. A mortal caught up in faerie politics can become ensnared in romantic involvement.
Insightful children have also been known to cross into the world of the Dreaming quite easily. Their innocence protects them from harm, and childlings are always eager to come to their aid if necessary. Storytellers, musicians, enchanted glades, and even ghostly allies have been known to make this possible.
Mortals become sympathetic once they attain the proper frame of mind. Generally, a human with a permanent Banality score below 3 will be able to notice some elements of the Dreaming. Chimera appear as hallucinations, and Kithain either emanate a sense of unease or an aura of mystery. Humans with a Banality of 1 might even be able to see fae in their true forms, but a Perception + Occult roll would be necessary to understand details. Although attaining this state of grace isn’t easy, prolonged contact with the supernatural can lower a human’s mundanity. Some magic item, such as faerie food and drink, can actually lower a human’s score to 0, but this is obviously dangerous. If a human in the Dreaming isn’t exposed to sufficient Banality, they cannot leave.
Types of Heavy Sleepers
The Heavy Sleeper is a relatively harmless creature if you keep your exposure to them at a minimum. Prolonged contact with Heavy Sleepers has been known to have dangerous side effects, such as headaches, temporary loss of cantrips, the inability to forget repetitive popular songs, the contraction of mild rashes, and an affinity for daytime television. No sensible pooka would stay near them for long!
Powers of the Autumn People
The Autumn People are said to be able to infect others with Banality simply by being in their presence. In fact, it's not quite that simple, though Autumn People do indeed spread Banality through their influence.
An Autumn Person must have some direct contact with a changeling in order to spread their taint. This contact can be a quick, simple reprimand by a librarian, or an in-depth conversation with an accountant. Any time a changeling comes into direct contact with an Autumn Person, the Storyteller may decide to check and see how the character is affected. This is done by rolling the Autumn Person's Banality against a difficulty of the character's Glamour. Each success causes the character to gain a temporary point of Banality. The storyteller may choose to make this roll at any time in which the character has contact with an Autumn Person. In addition, this roll may be made multiple times if the character remains within the vicinity of the Autumn Person in question, though care should be taken that it is not overdone or the character will soon be lost to Banality.
- CTD. Changeling: The Dreaming Second Edition, p. 279.
- CTD. The Autumn People, pp. 12-14, 18-23, 38-47.