Before getting under way with this week’s blog post, I want to give all the Companions Kickstarter backers a reminder that today is your last day to review the preview of the Player’s Companion. I’ll be closing up the document and comments tomorrow, so please do get those in for us. Your comments will help us to ensure we’re delivering the best product to you that we can, and your time to provide that feedback to us is greatly appreciated.
On the subject of the Player’s Companion, this week I want to spend some time talking about the new chapter (on Faries, if you missed the previous post with the reveal), and what it means for things going forward.
Firstly, I want to give a shout out to our art director, Don; he took on the art for this chapter himself, and though I may be biased, it’s probably my personal favorite overall section of the product line we’ve put together to date from an aesthetic point. There’s a lot of great pieces by all of our contributing artists, especially in these books, but I really think this one came together and knocked it out of the park.
One of the questions that had been asked earlier this week in the spoiler channel on Discord, and one that I think will be on the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, what are the fae going to be like in 1879? Potential comparisons came up to the role that Horrors and Invae played in Earthdawn (though I think that may have been at least partially influenced by the rap battles going on in General Chat), but then there are the competing ideas that are classic of the Victorian era; those that are small, mischievous and tricky, but mostly just annoying for what an adventurer would have to deal with.
The answer is sort of a mix of all the above, but also something else entirely.
First, it’s important to understand a bit about the nature of the fae. In excerpt from the chapter:
“Their exact origin is unknown, beyond that they come from one of the innumerable Netherworlds that connect to Astral Space. Given their curious nature, they tend not to remain in one world, drifting and exploring through Astral Space like an oceanic creature that flows with the currents, and these currents form the trods that portals naturally generate in. The fae’s existence is tied intimately with Astral Space and the flow of mana. While they can manifest themselves outside of Astral Space, they will need a form to anchor themselves to, with a strong enough presence in the belief structure of that world to sustain them. This is not the only thing that influences the form a fae takes on, and not all fae will take on the same form when they visit a world. It is factored in part by the local belief structure, part by the fae’s own motivations and intentions, and part by a conscious choice of the individual fae themselves.”
The fae are natives to Astral Space, essentially existing something similar to spirits in their natural form (this isn’t quite accurate, but it’s the closest that mortal perceptions are going to be able to handle, and works close enough for game terms). This allows them to travel through the currents of Astral Space freely and visit any worlds they choose, as long as they have enough mana content to sustain them. In this way, they are actually somewhat similar to Invae and dual nature Horrors, though they won’t require anywhere near as much mana on the worlds they visit. They’d be far more likely to avoid worlds that have a mana level that high to steer clear of exactly those same threats.
More frequently how they’ll be encountered, however, is when they manifest physically. Due to their native state as Astral beings, the physical plane is foreign to them, so in order to manifest they must latch on to the belief structure of whatever intelligent race inhabits the world they are on, using it like an anchor to keep themselves held in to this existence that is foreign to them. They will not be able to manifest physically on a world with no intelligent life, as there would be no belief structure to hold them down. The majority of manifested fae will not have sufficient power to take the form of the people that inhabit a world. Instead, they’ll take forms of lesser beings, animals (and sometimes plants) that live there. Since their manifestation is based on belief, they may also take on the forms of creatures of myth and legend that the people of that world believe in. This is where the classic Victorian ideas of fae creatures comes in to play, and from a narrative standpoint fit right into the theme of game line.
The oldest and most powerful of the fae will manifest themselves as members of the intelligent race (or races) of the world they are visiting. There aren’t pre-made game statistics for these characters because they will be built the same as you would for any major NPC, and should be unique in that respect. In fact, if using one in your game, you may generate multiple statistics for them, as they could choose to manifest as different people at different times, depending on their needs (and whims). These are going to be the major plot drivers for Game Masters, creating opponents (or potentially allies) for your players that are very powerful but also extremely tricky. If you enjoy messing with your players’ heads, then throw a fae at them and let loose on the bag of tricks.
Aside from their nature, what are they like as characters though?
Those that know the Victorian era and their perceptions of fairies will be familiar with the idea of the Seelie and Unseelie courts; the groupings of fairies who are respectively more benevolently inclined (though still dangerous and mischievous) versus those who are intentionally malicious. This idea of a split among the fae partially carries into how they’re represented in the game line, but it has a much more direct source for the split; the opening of the Rabbit Hole, or more specifically, the iron tunnel that spans through it. The portal extends through Astral Space, which is of course their territory, and iron has a baneful effect on fae. From the fae’s perspective, it’s as if humanity tore open the walls of their house and drove a tube made of something that would burn you like acid right through the middle of it.
Naturally, quite a few of them are upset by this. Their goals on Earth are to create chaos in the British Empire and disrupt their operations in maintaining the use of the portal to the point where they will withdraw and take down the tunnel. The fae are also quite curious by nature though, and some of them are more interested in figuring out exactly how these strange people managed to make the hole in the first place. Both see humanity as struggling children that have gotten hold of something well outside of their capabilities. One side of the fae want to punish them for transgressing with things they shouldn’t be playing with, the other wanting to see how they managed to get as far as they have first place, and maybe in time teach them a thing or two about how to do things right.
It’s been exciting to see the thoughts that have come out so far since revealing the chapter, and I’m looking forward to seeing more as people get hold of the final copies of the books and actually start bringing fae into their games. I’m hoping this gives people another means to introduce some mystery, chaos, and a new type of fun to their table. If you haven’t already, feel free to join in on the discussions in Discord, and let us know what sort of shenanigans the fae can bring to your group.