Monday, May 8, 2017

Gamer ADD: In Need of Some Fey

In the wake of receiving the Swords & Wizardry Legion Packet, I have been hit pretty hard with Gamer ADD, so much so that I have persisted in trying to put together campaign ideas for the map provided with the SWLP despite the fact that the last couple of weeks have been brutally busy for yours truly.

Besides the issue of scale, the first issue I had to deal with was choosing which part of the map to focus on to build a campaign around. In my experience, an area of 4x6 five to seven-mile hexes is plenty to run a goodly amount of a campaign with. I decided to focus in on the village of Darnagal because of its proximity to several different evocative features on the map:

  • Shorsai Forest (which just screams fey to me)
  • Isle of the Blessed Serpent (which is a mid-high level adventure waiting to happen)
  • The Haunted Keep (which sounds like a great excuse to make the top levels of a mega-dungeon)
  • The Sacred Glade (which just solidifies the idea that fey are going to play a big role in the campaign)

In addition, The Great Salt Marsh and the Ruins of Varagost, though outside the 4x6 hex area I will originally focus on are close enough to suggest a high-level adventure area for later in the campaign once players start to get the itch to explore far and wide.

When I start a campaign, I generally like to make a few rules for myself so that I keep things focused and by delineating limits on what I will allow myself to do, I tend to be more creative with what little I am left with. Since this is campaign is inspired by S&W and Frog God Games, I decided to limit myself to the Tome of Horrors Complete, one of my favorite monster collections of all time. In terms of sheer inspiration (there are many campaigns I would run out that book if I could) I rate second only to the Fiend Folio and that is primarily because the Tome converts and updates a lot of the material in the FF to the OGL.

Since the area I have chosen evokes the fey so strongly, I decided to go through the Tome and collect data on all the various creatures therein that could arguably be called fey. Two things struck me:

  • The vast majority of fey creatures are neutral.
  • There was a pattern of powers that was reasonably consistent.

This gives rise to two thoughts:

  • The fey are not going to be either the protagonists or the antagonists of this campaign. The main difference between seelie and unseelie fey is whether or not they are willing to cooperate with humans. Regardless, their main goal is to protect their own. If a party is killed off by fey, it is because they did something to threaten the fey domain; however, the party could potentially go through an entire campaign without one real whiff of a fey presence as long as the fey interest is protected.
  • I am not a big fan of the way D&D and its clones categorize and portray the fey. By having both brownies and buckawn (which are described as being related to brownies) there is a strong implication that these two populations are separate entities, even if they are related. When I think of fey, I think of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream where the fey kingdom is portrayed as being a hodgepodge of all kinds of fey creatures. Since all of the various fey in the Tome of Horrors are quite similar in power and scope, I decided to boil them all down to a single monster entry.

Arthur Rackham's The Meeting of Oberon and Titania

Shorsai Fey
HD 1d6
AC 3[16]
Attack Weapon (1d3)
Save 16
Move 12 (+special, see below)
CL/XP 2/30
Special: see below

Shorsai Fey come in a wide variety, but all have the following abilities:

  • Magic Resistance 25%
  • Invisibility (self) at will
  • Detect Good/Evil at will
  • Illusion Magic (choose one of the following: Confusion, Mirror Image or Phantasmal Force) once per day
  • Light/Darkness once per day
  • ESP once per day
  • Poison Use (Seelie use White Moonberry Poison which induces sleep on a failed save while Unseelie like to use purple Moonberry Poison which does 1d8 damage on a failed save)
  • Each individual Shorsai Fey will have a special move that they can do in their favored environment which allows them a Move of 24. For example, a water fey would have a move of 24 in a river while a wood fey would have a move of 24 in forested areas.

To reiterate: these fey are what I like to call background noise. They will react to events in the world and may prove boon or bane to a party depending upon whether or not their activities are seen as a threat.


Michael Lee said...

I love stuff like this! A good set of bones you can hang all sorts of cool bobbins and glitter on.

Baron Opal said...

Very nice.

I was struck by a passage in... Revelation? where it mentions the angels were split into three camps. I always thought that the fae and the majority of the pagan gods were these angels. I find it interesting that, in games, demons and angels are far more powerful than the fae and yet the fae have more choices, if not actual free will.

FrDave said...

It took me a while to find the reference you are talking about because it isn't from the Bible, it is found in the Book of Enoch which isn't canonical. The angel Azazel and his host quit doing their jobs as angels in order to enjoy the pleasant aspects of creation intended for man, but did not try to overthrow God. They were punished and stripped of their powers.

I have seen FRPG world building where this story has inspired the creation of elves, which is kind of an interesting way of envisioning why they are so alien and why they seem so intent on being care-free and (in a 5- or 9-point alignment system) Chaotic Good.

Normally, I would dismiss this notion because angels are bodiless, but in a world where sin is personified as monsters it provides an interesting back story for an FRPG race.