Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?
Clarice Starling: He kills women...
Hannibal Lecter: No! That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing?
— Silence of the Lambs
We already know what drives most people: fulfilling basic needs, vices, virtues, chasing big dreams and running from deep fears. Similar things drive changelings and then we add new drives to the mix, based on the freakish fairy tale we live in: learning about dreaming and the Hedge; mastering our powers; interacting with hobs and goblin markets; foiling the True Fae.
Ketches tend to be observant sorts with keen senses for what’s normal and what’s not, so I’m not gonna bore you with the same old stuff. What I will say is that fetches have all the usual motivations but develop some important twists of their own. And no, their drives aren’t just like ours. Thinking otherwise will leave you open for some nasty surprises down the line.
One of the first and most obvious drives is to be unique - that is, different from the changeling they were based on. Fetches might not even be aware of what they are but will still feel a burning need to be their own person. They may take big risks and make big gestures without even knowing what they’re reacting against. They just need to be themselves (whoever that is).
Other fetches want nothing more than to blend in. In fact, they’ll panic if they get singled out for special attention, good or bad. It’s like they sense the danger they’re in, and being noticed means they’ve failed at their most important job. Coming off as normal and harmless is their only concern. They don’t care about being special; they just want to be like everyone else.
The next motivation is straight-up Pinocchio territory: A fetch can want to feel real. Feeling dissociated from their bodies and cut off from the rest of humanity is just the start; having no society of their own makes it worse. So they’ll become adrenaline junkies, centers of attention, or whatever it takes to reassure themselves they’re truly alive, vital, and here.
A fetch can want to be whole in a way few others can imagine. Fragmented memories, crazy nightmares, and incomplete programming lead to a broken experience of the world. The bitch of it is that the fetch senses they’re the one who’s wrong and broken, and they’ll try anything to fix those failings. The problem is, they might never be able to fix what a Keeper broke.
Fetches can yearn for something that’s entirely theirs and to possess what they value most, lock, stock, and barrel. Since they only have a stolen life with borrowed family and friends, this urge is understandable. What’s harder to figure out is how deep their jealousy and obsession can go. Even if they claim their target, they never trust they’ve won and never feel satisfied.
The drives to live or die can be ramped up in fetches, especially once they figure out what’s really going on. Learning they have shreds of a soul and fake bodies will lead some of them to fear the great unknown like nobody’s business. They’ll do anything to keep going. Others see it all as proof that they never belonged here, and they might not care who they take out with them.
Those who want to be more involved with the fae can be tricky. Every now and then, a fetch will learn their way around their powers and goblin markets. That’s not always a bad thing. But when they enjoy torturing their other half in dreams, worry. If they get curious about the Fae who made them, panic. Everyone’s in danger if they get their creator’s attention.
It’s not uncommon for fetches to want to be superior, not just to those they replaced but everybody else. And why not? They weren’t born; they were made. And they weren’t made by just anybody - they were created by the greatest narcissists of all time. Sometimes that self-centered egotism rubs off on fetches, with all the denial and twisted logic that goes along with it.
Then there are those who want a sense of desire and direction but can’t do it on their own. They want to want but can’t feel anything deeply, so their own lives seem hollow. This can manifest as envy, boredom, or promiscuity. They rack up milestones and follow through on projects, but they never feel satisfied and they never know what should come next.
A few fetches seek revenge for real and imagined slights. They might go after personal enemies, including people who hurt their original (whose memories they share). Some hunt criminals and use their abilities to keep from getting caught. Most will get addicted to the high of throwing their weight around and start to take offense at everything; that way, they never have to stop.
From what I’ve seen, fetches don’t usually have as many layers to their personalities as normal people. They might have more than one typical motive, but they won’t usually have multiple drives like the ones above. They also tend to embody one goal and stick with it for a long time. It takes a big shake-up, like learning about their condition, for changes to happen.
These urges aren’t necessarily tied to their archetypes. The Biggest Fan may want to possess their original, or just feel more real when their other half is around. They might stick around to be more involved with the fae or because they don’t know what they want. None of these motivations is automatically a sign of danger; it’s what they do and how they see that counts.
A good ketch weighs everything about a target, when it’s possible. Sometimes, a fetch cracks and they’ve gotta be put down fast. But most times, there’ll be weeks or months to watch, and taking that time can make the difference between victory and disaster. A great ketch makes sure what they’re seeing is really there, every day - not a mistake or a fluke, but a bona fide pattern. It’s the best way to learn what a fetch is likely to do and how bad they’ll get.
A smart ketch will only hunt when a changeling takes out a contract on their double, or when someone seems like they might be a fetch on the edge. Seeing the original will help you stay focused on the best part of the job: giving people their lives back. The changeling will be able to fill you in on their old life, which can reflect on what their fetch is like and how they live. Meeting the original will also keep the difference between the changeling and the fetch front and center, which is good for a ketch’s mental health.
If you start hunting randomly, looking for whoever might be a thing, you’ll do yourself more damage than anybody else. You think you’re paranoid now? Fall into that bad habit, and you’ll never feel alone again. Going after anyone you suspect is a fetch is even worse. You’ll end up killing innocent people for sure. Once a ketch develops too many cracks, it’s all downhill. Freeholds have hunted down well-respected ketches after they’ve gone rabid. So remember: You only need to worry about the signs normal people don’t know how to read.
Here’s the thing: People don’t know how to read each other very well, which is why killers leave behind so many shocked friends and relatives. Either they don’t want to see the worst or they misinterpret it. So the danger signs in everyday Joes and fetches are mostly the same: layers of lies, emotional disconnection, major shifts in character, increasing aggression, never accepting responsibility for the harm they cause. The more of these issues they have, the closer to D Day they are.
Problem fetches have a hard time staying connected. The ones they claim to love usually get crushed first, so check on them. Some fetches never know how to care how others feel. Others at least pretend to care but give up the charade too easily, like they’re just waiting for an excuse to show they don’t give a damn. And then they start to slide into the madness that created them. By that point, they usually see everyone around them as objects.
Fetches are prone to objectification, and I don’t just mean the sexual kind. In a strange reversal of what’s actually going on, they believe they’re real and others are artificial. When a fetch starts talking about people like they’re alien or fake, that’s an early clue. If they start getting off on taking advantage of others and hurting them, that’s bad. When you’re surrounded by worthless things, it’s not hard to for torturing them to become a hobby.
Another very bad sign is dissociation. What others experience for days or months, fetches can go through for years. That could be why it gets so deep. They might speak of themselves in the third person or stop recognizing their faces. Some create new personas to cover up how unreal they feel. A few start to see everything else as fake: plants, animals, buildings, the sky, the universe. The worse this condition is, the less stable and reachable a fetch will be. Even if you want to be nice, they could be impossible to reason with.
Casual abuse is when alarms should go off with anyone, but especially a fetch. It doesn’t much matter if they’re hurting an animal, a stranger, or a loved one. Fetches might not see much difference between those categories, and it doesn’t matter if they do. Torture, imprisonment, and rape are not accidents, and no, the criminal justice system won’t be able to handle them. Fetches have powers of their own. They know how to pretend nothing is wrong really well and they don’t always leave traces behind like they should. And if you let them go too long and they escalate, the blood they shed will be on your hands.
But what about those times when you’re not sure which way a fetch will go? That’s when you can try some tests. Throw situations their way carefully, and see how they respond. Remember, the simpler the test, the easier it’ll be to pull it off and judge the results from a safe distance. Just don’t stack the deck so much that they can’t make the right call; nothing good will come from it. Either you’ll regret not giving them a fair shake, or you won’t (which is worse).
Offer real options and see what they choose. Plenty of fetches go through unstable times, but the dangerous ones don’t re-stabilize or get better. You’ll be able to see the damage. A few strange bastards stay on the fence, and you’ll never know what to expect from them. Checking in on the fickle ones can be tough because by the time you go back for a peek, they’ll be gone.
What if a fetch seems like a good person, after weeks of watching? What if you look everywhere and find out they’re a nice guy just trying to get by? My advice: Encourage them or leave them be. A ketch should be grateful when they don’t have to kill a target. I know it’s easy to be jaded. When I first started out, I was sure every fetch was a ticking time bomb, but over the years, I’ve learned there are exceptions to every rule. Some of them are better people than some of us, and I’ll swear to that on my Keeper’s name.
If you’re cut out to be a ketch and not a mad dog, you’ll watch and wait. You’ll see what they truly are - fair, fickle, or foul - and deal with it like someone who has a heart and a mind. Because we didn’t come back to be like the True Fae, and They have no heart to use, for good or ill.
* Please note: This is a fictional guide based on a tabletop roleplaying game, Changeling: the Lost. It is not meant to be taken literally and does not condone violence of any kind in the real world.
Written materials are free for personal use.
Please don't try to sell or misrepresent them.
Please don't repost material elsewhere; link to this site instead.
Thank you, and happy gaming!