Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gamer ADD: Fiend Folio Part 5

Dark Fantasy

As I have meditated upon this thought experiment — envisioning a Basic Edition that uses the FF for its monster section — I have pointed out the fact that it heavily implies science fantasy rather than pure or high fantasy. That does not mean, however, that the FF is purely science fiction or exlusively science fantasy. Take a look at the number of monsters that are distinctly or peripherally creatures of the fey:

  • Al-mi’raj
  • Booka
  • Carbuncle
  • Dark Creeper & Dark Stalker
  • Dire Borby
  • Forlarren
  • Galltrit
  • Gryph
  • Hellcat
  • Hound of Ill Omen
  • Kelpie
  • Killmoulis
  • Meazel
  • Mephit
  • Mite
  • Needleman
  • Poltergeist
  • Screaming Devilkin
  • Scarecrow
  • Skulk
  • Snyad

What is striking about this list is that the alignments of these creatures are overwhelmingly Neutral and Evil. Yes, both the Booka and Killmoulis are listed as Chaotic Good, but only parenthetically (their primary alignment is Neutral).

This overall orientation suggests that the fey are indifferent to the human codition if not downright malevolent. Indeed, some are positively demonic.

This is a world where the Summer Court, if it exists at all, does not care one whit what happens to humanity. The Winter Court is happily tormenting the civilized world if not plotting its demise.

Personally, I hold that this is as it should be. I don’t know exactly when, but somewhere in our literary and popular culture, fairies became something cute, cuddly and helpful. One need only look at the original Grimm’s Fairytales to get a taste at how gruesome the fey were once understood to be.

There was a time in my life when I was heavily involved in theatre and was even trained in dramaturgy. I was particularly interested in Shakespeare and have often fantasized about doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream as horror. There is a BBC production that comes close, but I always wanted to push it further.

Thus, while it is quite possible to understand the generic campaign world of a Basic Edition using the FF to be science fantasy, there is still a strong fantasy element (via its depiction of the fey) to the monster section. And, according to my own proclivities, it is happily very dark indeed.


John Matthew Stater said...

The fey became cute when technology took the day to day torments of "living in nature" out of the consciousness of the people who were doing most of the writing and reading. Of course, by that time we were dealing with the day-to-day trouble that technology was causing, and thus was born science-fiction.

FrDave said...

Hmmm. Good point. I grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains and saw the raw brutality of nature on a regular basis — this may very well be why I long for the older tales of the fey and don't think much of today's sci-fi...