Sunday, January 30, 2011
Like A Good Neighbor
"We call them faerie. We don't believe in them. Our loss."~Charles de Lint
The fantasy stories that stir me most were not written by Tolkien, Howard or Vance. No dear friends. While I respect those men they have never drawn me in as does the will o' the wisp, wondering with no purpose except to capture its brilliance in my eyes and hands. I look to Byron, Yeats, Barrie, Baum, Froud, Black and DiTerlizzi. These are my muses for things magical. These, and others, are my guides through the secret places under the hills.
One of my favorite RPGs ever has to be Faery's Tale Deluxe, published by Firefly Games and Green Ronin. Written by Patrick Sweeney, Sandy Antunes, Christina Stiles, Colin Chapman and Robin D. Laws (Robin Laws people!), the game is a perfect introduction into the world of Role Playing for your kids while at the same time being a fun and light change of pace for adults. Of course, being Adam "Modify'em-If-You-Got'em" Dickstein, I made a few adjustments that turns the game, IMHO, into a workable long term campaign system.
First the basics...
Set in the fantastic woodland forest of Brightwood, the default fairy tale setting of the game, players choose one of four faerie types (referred to both as forms and patterns). Each has a predetermined number of dice to each of the games three attributes, Mind, Body and Spirit. The total number of dice always add up to 6. So for example the Brownie has 2 dice in each stat while the Pixie has 1 Body die, 2 Mind dice and 3 Spirit dice.
Each faerie form also has special abilities that come with their particular type. This is one area where I changed things up based on my knowledge and love of faerie folklore. I took away the Pixie's ability to fly and gave it to the Sprite, switching it for the Sprite's Animal Friend.
One figured stat is Essence, determined by doubling your Spirit stat for the start of every session. Essence goes up and down during play and you can be awarded Essence points in a manner similar to Force Points in Star Wars D6 or Hero Points in other games. Essence is used to power the more impressive feats of magic you can do with the aforementioned abilities. It is also your hit points. It is also one of the things I changed right away.
In order for the game to last longer and the magic to be more common, I determined that before a faerie takes damage to their Essence they take it to their Glamour, a new stat I added. Glamour is figured out by adding your Body to your Essence. In my games, damage, magic and last minute saves are pulled from your Glamour, keeping Essence well protected and hidden. If you have no Glamour left than Essence is used. A Glamourless character is unconscious unless a Body save is made. A character with no Essence no longer exists.
Essence also comes in two 'flavors'. Bright Essence, possessed by good natured fae of the Seelie Court and Dark Essence, the life force of nasty and foul tempered denizens of the Unseelie Court. These are handled in a fashion similar to Force Points and Dark Side Points in the Star Wars D6 game. If a Bright Faerie has more Dark Essence than Bright Essence they may find themselves changing into a Goblin or slipping into madness. Once your Essence is all Dark you change into a Goblin for sure and you loose your original form's abilities which are replaced with Contortion and Black Magic. A Dark Faerie can attempt to redeem itself and gain Bright Essence. In my homebrew a Dark Faerie with Bright Essence is a Hob (i.e., Hobgoblin, Hobnob, Hobdobie).
The basic mechanics are ridiculously simple. Good or 'Bright' faeries score a success when they roll an even number on one of their dice. Bad or 'Dark' faeries and other enemies need to roll odd numbers to succeed. Magical items (called Charms) can give you a free or bonus success. The more successes the better. Some actions may require a minimum number of successes to really work. I sometimes determine more successes than you need gives you a critical success and less gives you a less than critical failure. No successes is bad news.
There are a number of other elements to the game such as the aforementioned Charms, Titles, Boons and my added houserules of Banes and Bunks (things dangerous or detrimental to the fae - the latter term borrowed from the 1st Edition of White Wolf's Changeling: The Dreaming).
I could go on and on about this game and I most likely will but first I'll let you absorb this bit. I leave you with Yeats...
"Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame."
~William Butler Yeats
The Land of Heart's Desire
UPDATE: I didn't like the original title of this entry as it didn't quite have that 'double meaning twist' I like to include whenever possible. I like this one better.