View Full Version : Fairies and Non-Fairies

2012-07-24, 02:30 AM
Often, I see fairies in fantasy settings either being centre-piece, or sort of awkward in fantasy settings. What do you do with fairies and fae, and the fairy-world in your settings, to make them interesting?

How do you see fairies interacting with mortal persons and cultures?

Do they have wars, or are they peaceful?
Are they well-known to each other, or is one side mysterious to the other?
Is one side much more powerful than the other, or do they balance out?
Is the relationship between fairies and mortals constant, or does it change a lot throughout history?

2012-07-24, 10:17 AM
I consider fae to be outworldly.

Please note that this is different from being alien. Most of the times something is represented as alien, it is fundamentally human/animal but bizarre or freakish nature. Illithids eat and sleep and want to expand their territory. The Greys are curious and experiment. Even the titular Aliens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_(film)) were pretty much about surviving and reproducing.

An outworldly creature, however, pretty much does not have a human nature. Something like a spirit wolf may hunt, but probably does so for completely different reasons than food - perhaps it is bound to do so under a full moon, or it uses hunting as a means of communication. An immortal elven noble would not have the same priorities of sex, social communication, or perhaps even food as a mortal person, and so their actions of what they consider important or even moral would be quite different. And then there is the mythical Cthulhu, who most certainly is not concerned and such trivialities as taxes and politics.

You'll frequently see outworldly creatures as the centerpiece of fiction they are in because the outlook and worldview is so foreign. People tend to assume "human" by default when looking at something and tend to assume human-like qualities to a character when introduced to them. In order to properly frame something distinctly non-human to readers, there generally needs to be a substancial amount of text demonstrating the difference.

2012-07-24, 11:06 AM
I have the fey (in Etherworld) as supernatural predators that feed on human dreams. In the dreamscape, there are only very few of them, and they probably all know each other personally. They are not really mortal, as they all represent a kind of dream, and as long as someone dreams that dream, they live. So, given these two, they don't really go to war, but they love scheming.

2012-07-24, 11:48 PM
You both have interesting takes on the fey. How do the fey interact with each other?

2012-07-25, 12:38 AM
You both have interesting takes on the fey. How do the fey interact with each other?
Depends on if you mean other fae of the same type or completely different fae.

See, the thing about fae is that they have rules. Do not touch iron. Do not step in sunlight after a rooster has crowed. Do not rescent on a promise. These are rules that a fae cannot violate. Perhaps it is because they are physiological laws that they simply cannot escape. Perhaps they are magically bound to follow the laws. Perhaps they are the equilivant of a morality. Whatever the reason, a fae simply will not violate such laws, frequently in the sense of "will not violate the strict letter of such a law".

Same-type fae have the same laws, and thus operate in a community within that frame of laws - much as how human societies operate together within the frame of physics or human morality. Fae of different types with different fae laws would pretty much treat each other as any different creature. An Elven Vampire Lord would not treat a water sprite any differently than a human, and wouldn't grant one any special privileges simply for being "fae".

(Not that "being fae" is somewhat similar to "being alive" or "being a mammal". Said Elven Vampire Lord may recognize that a water sprite shares more similarities to it than a human, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will treat it any differently.)

2012-07-25, 05:27 AM
I have the same with Fey and laws, actually. Though I'd add a few more. If a favour or gift is given, it must be returned in kind. If bread and salt is shared, the guest right is sacred. Children can not be harmed, unless they attack first, refuse a favour or their parents sell them (this makes orphans particularly save).

When I play Fey in Planescape or a normal D&D campaign, these tend to come up when Fey interact with mortals, mostly. However, the fey know about these rules, and they love to abuse them. They try tricking each other into accepting small favours, or breaking any of the other laws by mistake.

Basically, being not only immortal, but also absolutely immoral, the Fey see life as a great game. Mortals are rarely players, they are pieces, but the other fey are. They can not destroy each other, not permanently, but if they can get their rival to break a promise, it weakens their essence and their magic forever.

2012-07-25, 06:24 AM
The Fae are a major player in my current campaign, and i've decided to totally remove them from the nature spirit motif thats most common in D&D and go with a much more Lovecraftian story.

The Fae are the last remnants of an ancient civilisation which fell before the mortal races came into being. They died, but those whose dreams had a powerful presence in the Otherworld lingered, trapped within nightmares that will now never end. The world is rightfully theirs, after all they were its rulers first. The mortal races are upstarts and children who need to be manipulated for their own good. Being unable to physically manifest they work through mortals (and can posess them by imprisoning a dreaming mind within a nightmare and wakeing in its place). But even when making deals or bargains with mortals they consider them pieces in their schemes rather than partners in them. The Fae are honourable, but not moral or ethical, their society had totally different laws and ideals to ours to start with. But also they have become used to the insane logic of the dreamworld. They are not malicious, many don't care about humans at all, but those that do are machiavellian masterminds and are very dangerous to deal with,

The Stranger
by Alex Barrett (C) 2012
Once there stood an old house on a lonely moor. It was so old in fact that no one then alive knew why it had been built in such a lonely place, or indeed who had built it at all. Runestones were set into its foundations as might once have stood within a henge, and so some said that the house had stood on that place forever. Now at that time there lived in the Runestone House a woman named Elyn and her children, alone since her husband hadn’t returned from the wars. They got by, but only just, and living so far from the nearest town everything was a struggle. One night, realising that her shoes couldn’t be mended any further the Elyn resolved that the next day she would have to walk barefoot to market and spend the last of their coin on a new pair. She went to bed not looking forward to the gruelling walk that would follow, for she would be the whole day upon the road.
However when the morning dawned she found that the shoes she had left upon a table by the hearth were as good as new. Astonished she went about the tasks of the day and wondered how this miracle had come to pass.
Another day came and, coming down stairs she found that the stockings that she had been darning for her eldest child had also been repaired, magically, during the night.
So the following night, Elyn decided to stay awake and watch to see what occurred. She left a tin pan, which she had been meaning to mend upon the table by the hearth and sat down amidst the shadows as the moon passed across the sky.
It was almost daybreak when she looked up to see a strange pale man sitting in her chair, carefully whispering words of magic over the pan. How long he had sat there she couldn’t say for she had assuredly dozed, but as the first light of dawn crept into the room she watched the stranger stand and place the tin pan, not just mended, but renewed, by some strange art to be as good as new, upon her table. He then strode towards the door, but before he reached it he had faded away to nothing!
Elyn was astounded. Night after night she left something out for the stranger and day after day she found it restored upon the morrow. Many a time she watched the stranger, but he never seemed to tire of his work or in it and returned night after night diligently working his spellcraft. She left a little coin, to thank him for his work, but he didn’t even seem to see it.
After more than a week Elyn decided that she would have to speak to this phantom, and learn who he might be and if there was anything she could do to repay him for his kindness, for he had mended almost everything within the house save for a few iron pokers and a leaking cauldron, which he seemed not to have noticed yet.
That night she kept the fire burning and when the pale man appeared in the room she started forward, a greeting on her lips. Her guest turned startled and for the first time seemed to see her. There was something uncanny about his gaze, something strange an alien. Elyn felt as though she were staring into a great depth, as deep as the sky was high, and like the sky countless stars swam within its firmament, the light of infinity caught within the waters of the deepest well.
In an instant the man was gone and the fire went out all of a sudden. Elyn returned to her bed shaken by what she had seen, and though she often watched at nights the stranger never returned again.
Some weeks later, one of her sons was taken ill and Elyn had to call upon an old woman who knew all manner of lore. As she left her shoes at the door the old woman frowned. “How have you come by fairy’s work?” she asked.
Elyn told her tale and the old woman nodded. “It weren’t charity.” She said at last, “and you didn’t scare him off, just woke him.” She explained that even as mortals stray into faerie when they dream, so sometimes the fair folk, sleeping in their crystal caves will chance to wonder into the waking world and, like sleepwalkers, will go about the tasks of their waking day, all in a daze and a dream.
As Elyn walked home in her faerie shoes she reflected that this must be true, as the only things her visitor had never touched were those made of cold iron.

2012-07-26, 09:00 AM
I would not go so far as to say that the Fae are immoral; that would suggest they have an understanding of human/mortal morality and flaunt it voluntarily. I would, however, call the Fae amoral, or lacking an understanding of why some things are so distasteful to a mortal while they wouldn't think twice of doing it.

The Fae are otherworldly, yes, but they are also bound to this world in the way alien beings such as aberrations or creatures of the Far Planes are not; theirs is a world without mortal influence, a kind of dream that overlaps the mortal world and sometimes spills over into the Material Plane. The Fourth Edition, I think, described the Feywild as what the Material Plane would be like without the influence of mortals throughout history. A similar description is given of the Emerald Dream in Warcraft mythos. The Fae are the natives of this dream world of untamed nature and primal forces clashing; unbound by moral concerns but bound by more ephemeral laws and rules.

2012-07-26, 09:32 AM
My approach to fey morality was, actually, this:

They study mortal morality in very intricate detail. It is not their morality. It is strange to them. But understanding it is their bread and butter.


Because they feed on human emotion. And few things can produce an emotion stronger than righteous outrage.

2012-07-26, 09:44 AM
The fey have a tendency in stories to like deals.

Milk for chores, gold for freedom, years for inspiration, teeth for coins..

Something about this appeals to them. They can't simply take or give- recompense is required.

Here's some interesting stuff. (http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=13524.0;wap2)

Jay R
2012-07-26, 10:38 AM
It's very hard to make them work in D&D the way the do in fairy stories and fantasy, simply because of the mechanics of the game.

The essence of the fay in most stories I've read in that they are very different from people - alien, mysterious, as from another world. That element is gone once they are reduced to a set of statistics in a Monster Manual.

If I were to introduce fay, the players would never see their stats. They would remain something unknown and unknowable.

2012-07-26, 12:59 PM
It's very hard to make them work in D&D the way the do in fairy stories and fantasy, simply because of the mechanics of the game.

The essence of the fay in most stories I've read in that they are very different from people - alien, mysterious, as from another world. That element is gone once they are reduced to a set of statistics in a Monster Manual.

If I were to introduce fay, the players would never see their stats. They would remain something unknown and unknowable.

I never show the players the stats of any monster they face... not something they have to know, and I think also not something they should know.

2012-07-26, 01:22 PM
I'm fond of Jim Butcher's take on fey creatures. They cannot lie. Promises must be fulfilled as soon as possible, usually as literally as possible, they'd make the best corporate contract lawyers in the universe. They take pleasure in games and wagers. Nothing can be given for free, it must be paid for immediately, or more dangerously for future favours. Fey must follow the direct orders of their superior (if they have one), speaking fey's true name thrice can summon them forth (he does this inadvertantly with Mab once) or even bind them if done correctly. Iin Storm Front Harry notes nobody has tried this with Santa Claus yet, and Harry pities the poor sod that will some day try.

Fey are completely amoral, they have no understanding of good or evil. They wouldn't think twice about permanently turning a child into dog and keeping them in a kennel if a promise was made to keep the child safe. They understand right and wrong in terms of their own psychology only. In many ways fey are creatures of absolutes. They run on the rules of Old World hospitality taken to the extreme, and while they might not be able to lie they aren't obligated to tell the whole truth either and seem to enjoy giving answers that literally true in a limited way.

For example if you asked a fairy if a path was safe if might say that it was perfectly safe for the asker. So Harry Dresden (wizard) asks if the way is safe while accompanied by a gaggle of orphans he just saved and the answer he gets is "Safe enough for one such as yourself". This means Harry is probably safe, but no mention is made of how safe the path is for a bunch of kids.

2012-07-27, 06:29 AM
Another point is that although the Fae keep to a bargain they will twist a wish to suit their own needs, being magnificent bastards of the highest order, its all very well to give someone something to get what you want. but its even better to pay them with their own coin, or even better, in giving them what they want, ensure that you get what you want or more.

2012-07-27, 08:27 AM
I had an intriguing idea. There is always this notion about faeries making deals. about the rules they have to follow. about being payed and not being, or wanting to do something for free.

and i got to thinking why. and it combined with the fact that i guess i've been watching to much star trek lately.

I got to thinking about WHY one would HAVE to require payment. Why one could be physically by a word. And why a deal or command must be made. and it reminded me of something.

A Spell

What if Fairies are alive....but not in the traditional sense. They dont have life energy. They arent carbon based. they werent molded by Gods or have ancestors.

They are energy beings literally made of the arcane magic that permeates the world. Every now and then, when enough thought is in one area (the mind energy of a civilization will result in emotions and thoughts radiating the magic), when simular energy combines in one area ( war constantly in one area, or a great bed of water. Their energy constantly affecting the magic in the area) or just a bunch of energy becomes very aged, it becomes self aware.

It is both liberating and binding. They are able to mold their magical essence into quasi physical form (just as you can evoke or conjure beings, or items) and shapeshift but only the most powerful can perfect that form by themselves enough to constantly alter the world. They can manipulate other magic as well. But since they are magic, they tend to be bound by its laws. Just as if you know the name of fire, you can cast fire spells. and if you know the name of a faerie you can control it as well.

A Faeries power increases if it is given a command though, just as ambient magic energy is given power and form if a spell is cast. A Faerie is just magic, and it can spy and communicate but it cant fight for you. It can possibly affect the flow of magic. Perhaps its consciousness is to chaotic to even spy for you (at least to pay attention).

But if you know a faeries' name you can give it a command. Just like with a spell this gives its magic form and purpose. Allow it to affect the physical world and cause harm. For those faeries who's name you dont know, just with spells you can give it some sort of sacrifice (a material component) or a item to get its attention ( a magic focus). Though unlike with spells the difference between a focus and component arent that different, other than that one is a promise, and the other is a bribe.

2012-07-27, 08:45 PM
I always see in fiction that fairies delight in deals and contracts because, although they can't lie, they can bend the truth and twist words. But I've never read any actual folk stories/myths/legends/what have you in which this is the case.

So can anyone direct me to some actual folklore that says fairies can't lie?

2012-07-28, 08:09 AM
In my own long-running low-magic campaign world, I've gone the opposite route of many of the posters here. Instead of giving them bigger realms and more codified systems of behavior, they were just vestiges of days gone by, hiding out in little groups or groves of their own. It was unclear to most scholars, sages, and fey whether there used to be a lot more of them in the distant past, or whether the cataclysmic event that warped magic (trope-y, I know) actually created them as a by-product. There wasn't much really differentiating them from 'aberrations' in they eyes of most, including sometimes themselves.

2012-07-28, 09:35 AM
I treat fey like any other D&D character/monster. I take it on a case-by-case basis. By reading into the fluff each Monster Manual provides, I get a feel for how a specific fairy should be played and what their motives would be.

For instance, not all fey live in the woods, giggle frequently and pull pranks on unsuspecting travelers. Take this guy... one of my favorite fey:
Joystealer (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/mm4_gallery/98692.jpg)

He lives in the city and hunts people for their emotions. He's really not the type to kill anyone unless he has not other options, but he's a real pain in the butt against those with high CHA. They're fun and dynamic NPCs to play because of the unusual dynamic to their motivations. They are classified as NE, but they are nothing if not the product of their environment, and their tale is a truly sad one. A clever player with an emotionally dynamic PC could even sympathize with such a monster if they took the time to uncover the layers buried underneath the surface facade of evil. See MMIV pgs. 78-79 for details, and for a fun read.

Another fav of mine is the Grig (MMI pg. 235) and the Petals (MMIII pg. 120)

I'm not a prankster in real life. I don't know where the boundaries are, and I don't want to hurt anyone by going too far. So instead, I exercise my mischievous side by playing a Grig. Some of the pranks can get a little sick, but I can shrug it off as (it's only a Grig... they don't know any better.) As for the Petals, I love the little guys. All they're trying to do is help. They just want the adventurer to get a good night's rest, and wake up in a beautiful setting wearing something cheery. And it can be amusing watching the LG Paladin struggle with his inner rage when he wakes up near a den of Petals in a flower toga only to find out that the Petals threw away his best sword and armor because they didn't see why he'd need them anymore.

I love putting fey in a campaign... especially because of how they are typecast. It allows the player and pc to evolve together.

2012-07-28, 05:42 PM
Read the Dresden Files... I love how the Fey are represented there...

2012-07-29, 11:47 AM
Also, True Fae from Changeling the Lost: alien, powerful, incomprehensible entities who abduct humans as regular basis and twist them into the beings known as changelings, for their own vile purposes.

2012-07-29, 04:41 PM
Actually, both versions of Changeling can be mined for useful ideas!

2012-07-29, 05:12 PM
In a serious fantasy setting, I believe Faeries should be portrayed as powerful but distant, almost like gods in their own right. They are mysterious and enchanting, but also terrifying and vengeful. Even if a faerie likes humans and wants to do well by them, they can't understand basic human emotions and feelings.

I really like how the fae are portrayed in 7th Sea(they are called the Sidhe there, which is a more appropriate title for them anyways). They have an interesting game mechanic where they will succeed any roll, unless it is dramatically appropriate for them to fail, in which case they will fail willingly.

2012-07-30, 01:45 PM
Then again, Tvtropes is a great source for "interesting" fairy tales in any type of media: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheFairFolk