Monday, September 26, 2016

Monsters with a twist: The Fae

In my campaign, as you will see, I went a bit more gonzo with the Fae (or Fey, or Fay, or Faerie, etc.).  To call-out influences, I would say my primary one is Robin Laws creation of the Soulless from GURPS Fantasy II: The Madlands.  

Speaking of which, I can't recommend this supplement enough.  It's old and out-of-print, but you can buy the PDF straight from good ole Steve Jackson games.  The Madlands are all about unique and terrifying monsters, and the entire setting is batshit in the best sense of the word.  It might not be easy to actually campaign in, but the setting is ripe for theft and just raw inspiration (see: this post).

In addition, I was also inspired by works like the Misty Islands of the Eld (from the wonderfully gonzo Hill Cantons setting), which in turn also lists the Robin Laws work as an inspiration.  And also Elric and the Eld of the Dwimmermount campaign...and yeah, I was influenced by those, too.  Is this what they call a monoculture?

Anyway, despite the common goulash of influences, I have a bit of my own take on faeries.  They aren't cruel like the Soulless or the Eld, but they are amoral and capricious, and place no value on the lives of mortals (beyond their entertainment value).  My players ran into the one I describe below as an example, and they had no idea what was going on.  I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing, but oh well.

Just a bit more background about some of my setting-specific terminology: I've mentioned that glamours and illusions represent intrusions of a pseudo-reality more than they are strictly hallucinatory.  Well, in the sample Fae below, I reference different classes of these spells according to their power, as follows:
  • Seemings are the slightest of illusions, only changing the appearance of something real, and they can be penetrated by close scrutiny.  
  • Phantasms are simple illusions that last until touched.  
  • True illusions are entirely convincing, unless they do something that violates physical reality.  
  • Actual glamours will cause viewers to find ways to compensate for any violation of the physical reality, including unknowingly taking actions to maintain consistency with reality (like moving objects on behalf of the glamour).  Only under extreme conditions can they be disbelieved.  Those "killed" by glamours fall unconscious until the spell ends.
  • Conjurations are almost real, and cannot be disbelieved.  Those killed by a conjuration will actually be dead, trapped in a vegetative coma, or irretrievably mad. Conjured monsters can be quite deadly.
  • Miracles (not mentioned below) are effectively real for the duration of the spell.
Without further ado...


Fae are a very unusual kind of being.  They were originally a lot like humans, many ages ago.  Perhaps they are even the future humans of the real world.  They are the aristocracy of a parallel timeline, masters of parachronic travel and creating glamors.  Their world was destroyed in their own timeline, as well as a number of other timelines which they had conquered.  They lost a war with a great enemy, and the timelines collapsed into Chaos.  The refugees have since taken up residence in Lushoria.

The Fae live in pocket universes of their own creation, where the distinction between reality and glamours does not exist.  These realms open both into the spirit realm and physical space, making it possible to meet embodied spirits within the domains of the fae.  The fae themselves control their realms and their bodies almost in full, since these are made mostly from the illusory stuff of glamours.

These fae often seem idle and mad when encountered by humans.  Due to their natures, they do not experience time the same way, so not everything they say will make sense to ordinary mortals.  Likewise, they are used to an immortal existence in a world where they can conjure their merest whims into existence.  As a result, fae are not very concerned with worldly affairs, and do not operate on the same timeline as mortals.  In addition, it is possible that they are truly mad, since the fae are the last remnants of an aristocracy that destroyed its own universe, although their amoral demeanor betrays no regret.

For the most part, the fae keep to themselves.  Human affairs interest them little.  On occasion, some fae may develop an uncharacteristic interest in power and dominion, but more likely, interactions with mortals are initiated due to boredom.  This is not to say that the fae are innocuous; they are deeply amoral in human terms, and a given faerie lord is as liable to invite humans to a feast as to capture and torture them for amusement.

Although they were once much like men, faerie now can take a wide variety of forms.  Most of the time, they will appears as a splendid version of their usual bodies, arrayed in exotic and unlikely finery and possessed of inhuman beauty.  They may just as easily appear as terrible monsters or diminutive sprites.  They cannot spend much time in normal physical space, since their unreal bodies will eventually lose form.  They have a number of secret doorways to their realms, often hidden deep in the wilderness.  It is easier for them to manifest near these doors, and in fact the locations of the doors are chosen where the walls between realities tend to be less restrictive.

The fae do engage in parachronic travel, and often their realms open into adjacent timelines.  Those entering their domains may exit into a slightly different universe at an unexpected time.  As a result of these powers, fae have access to unlikely resources and information, making them hard for mortals to anticipate.  Usually, humans give fae a wide berth, since they are dangerous and unpredictable.  

For their part, fae usually keep to themselves.  But when they don’t, beware.  Most of them are haughty but content to while away eternity, entertaining themselves with the substance of their realm and the occasional tormented mortal.  A few, however, pine for the days when their race was mighty.  These fae are not content to wait within their hidden spaces.  Instead, they attempt to expand the faerie realm.  

Expanding Faerie requires actually taking space from the physical universe.  This means, first of all, that a region must be yanked out of the mortal realm.  To accomplish this, two terrible conditions must be met.  First, there must be no mortals living in the space that the fae want to annex.  Second, the practice requires great power, and that power is most easily obtained through human sacrifice.

Despite the arrogance and the irrational-seeming nature of the fae, these ambitious lords are careful not to convert so much territory to their realm that they attract the negative attention of humans.  Although the fae regard themselves as vastly superior to man, they are wary of attracting too much mortal ire.  If humans could find the hidden gates to Faerie, the fae might be overwhelmed.  They are mighty, but very few in number.  So the ambitious among their number bide their times.

When encountered, if the fae allow humans to see them at all, they will typically appear as a retinue of beautiful ladies and lords.  Their finery will be impossibly fine, rare, or just plain impossible.  A fae could be draped in a cloak of living butterflies, or naked and bejeweled, carried on the shoulders of bleeding skinless slaves.  

They will usually act very superior and bored, but otherwise, fae are very unpredictable.  A party of them might engage the party in a horse race, lavishing fine silks, platinum chains and scented oils on the winners; these prizes melt away by daylight, and the PCs slowly comes to realize that the world has subtly changed.  Meanwhile, another group of fae might hunt the party as sport, as lords would hunt a prize boar, after feting them with fine wines and choice viands.

The more ambitious fae are unlikely to simply round up human inhabitants and sacrifice them to the faerie cause.  This would create far too much attention and resistance.  Instead, they tend to be more careful, and will either encourage enough disorder to create an opportunity, or simply bargain directly with unscrupulous human highborn or magicians.

Slaying a faerie in battle rarely does much.  Often, the fae will pretend to fall when the tide of battle turns, using their powers of illusion to effect a retreat.  And when they are slain, their deaths are no more real than their bodies.  Generally, their souls will return to the faerie realms, where they reincorporate themselves with the dream-matter of their realms, having no memory of anything that transpired after their last departure.  To prevent this from happening, it would be necessary to either trap the fae soul, destroy its home realm, or expel it from the universe. None of these are easy, and the last two are probably beyond a mortal sorcerer.

Lord Spidersilk (fae), HD: 4, HP: 16, Move: 140’
HC: 12, AC: 18, Protection: 3 (armor of living swans)
Initiative: 4, AM: +5, PM: +3
Ref: 10, For: 16, Will: 13, Wits: 10, Mind: 10
Attacks -
  • Silken rapier - Damage: 1d8, Thrusting; each touch reduces one’s saving throws by one for the next hour (save Reflexes on a hit)
Special: Lord Spidersilk may create seemings and phantasms at will which fade after a day, and illusions upon active concentration that fade a turn afterwards.  Glamours may be created for a total of an hour a day, and a conjuration can be created for five minutes.  It takes a single action to create an illusion, and it requires a Mind save each round to maintain concentration if any other actions are being taken.  Mage level counts as six when relevant.  Regenerated 1hp per round at night.

Lord Spidersilk is a typically fatuous fae.  Pompous and absurd, when encountered outside the fae realm, he could be found on such unusual steeds as a giant human baby or a carpet of hissing cockroaches.  His usual attire is a suit of armor stitched together from living swans.  Lord Spidersilk wields a blade spun to a sharp point of wispy silk.  Lord Spidersilk must cloak himself in a glamour to avoid taking damage in the physical world at the rate of one per turn.  Sunlight dispels his glamours, meaning he is only safe at night.  Lord Spidersilk may be pompous, but he’s not especially malevolent unless insulted.  Instead, he’s far more dangerous when he tries to be helpful, sometimes making the happiness of a mortal his personal project.  These people usually end up dead.

Lord Spidersilk likes to spend a lot of his time in a reverse-time fae realm.  This means that if you meet him multiple times, he may know you very well the first time, knowing less each successive time you run into him until the last time you see him, which will be the first time he meets you.  But sometimes he vacations in forward-time, so this can be all over the place.

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