Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SoSA the 18th: The Fair Folk (Avalon Lost).

This is post 18 out of 25 in the Cygnus Series of a September of Short Adventures. It's also the 6th and final post in a mini-series about the post-Arthurian Avalon Lost campaign setting.

That thistle-down hair looks nice, hmm?
Remember the rule about no demi-humans in the Avalon Lost setting? The reason that I didn't want to litter the place with clones of Gimli and Legolas was that I wanted to leave ample room for these guys to shine....

Faeries, fay creatures, the wee folk, the sidhe: It's clear that humans don't have a good idea of what these things actually are. Although they can appear human-like, at other times they seem to be more protean, or simply pure spirit. Rather than some type of demi-human or semi-human, it makes sense to think of them more as anti-human, i.e., a slightly twisted shadow version of humanity -- stuck, with us, in the realm between angel and beast, but just different. Zak S. gave an awesome quote that sums it up nicely:
"I don't feel as though the fairy folk really should have to have any well-defined ideas about people. An adventure involving fairies should be about culture shock on both sides. Your armor and your magic should seem as ridiculous to them as their shoes do to you."
Still, we're talking RPGs here, so I'd be remiss if I didn't give you some kind of anal-retentive systematization! :-) Thus, let's consider the Faerie Folk to be a very special kind of NPC race-as-class...
Click for larger version.
The various types listed under "physical form" can be inspired by the various entries in the Monster Manual, but they're really all just variations on a single theme. As a faerie ages (and/or gains experience by interacting with those strange things called humans), it gains the power to transform itself into increasingly larger and more substantial beings when in our world. Within the limitations of size and time spent in the human world, they are otherwise totally unconstrained by our quaint ideas of continuity of form, or even basic physics.

Faeries do seem to enjoy taking on the classic forms listed in the table above, but they're also fond of becoming dancing lights, Will-o-the-Wisps, and even various things that D&D classifies as coming from the elemental plane of air (Air Elementals, Wind Walkers, Invisible Stalkers, Aerial Servants). The HD given in the table apply to the physical forms they choose when appearing in our world. If these forms are reduced to zero hit points, the faerie abandons the form and zaps back to their other-dimensional homeland. (Now, destroy them at home, and you've done something!)

Alignment: Forget about human concepts such as law, chaos, good, or evil. Faeries have their own spectrum of alignment that is foreign to us. Humans classify them into Seelie (roughly chaotic good to chaotic neutral) and Unseelie (sort of chaotic evil), but that's a blunt instrument compared to the true nuances we can never hope to grasp.

Literature abounds with interesting things to do with the Kindly Ones, but here are a few classic adventure hooks...
  • The Changeling. Human children are taken, and changelings are left in their place. The stolen human eventually transforms into a Faerie being, but it takes time: nominally 1 day per year of age of the human, but the bare minimum is 3 days. (So you'd better get them back quickly!) In our world, a changeling may wither and die; it may always be wistfully detached (semi-autistic?); or it may grow up to be a strange outsider in human society -- much like an adventuring PC...?
  • A faerie challenges a human to a contest. Riddles? Drinking? Fiddling? Once the DM determines what's at stake, and what compels a PC to accept such a scary bargain, one must figure out how the rules will be twisted.
  • Many fay ones don't understand human love, so they perform some interesting experiments....
  • Some faeries do fall in "love" with particular humans (though it's far from our
    idea of romantic love) and abduct them to their realm. What, huu-mahn, you don't think this is a great honor?!
  • There are dozens of stories of strange people appearing in the wilderness and offering mounds of gold to buy something precious carried by a local person. Of course, they're using fairy gold, which turns to leaves and gorse blossoms when they are safely away.
Hmm, as I look over the above list, I think that the creators of Star Trek: The Next Generation used just about all of them when writing episodes for Q. No wonder they had him channel Shakespeare's Puck to once say "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"


  1. Excellent quote from Zak--and a wonderful take on the Kindly Ones as well. It's nice to see someone delving a bit deeper into this area and your Avalon Lost project sounds very interesting and quite promising, if this is any example of what you're up to...

  2. What I'm up to THIS month is just getting 25 SoSA's out the door... I'm not sure where it will go next... :-)