Publisher: Bastion Press
Review Dated: 30th, April 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Where are the illustrations? Rather surprisingly that was my first reaction to Faeries, I don’t think it’s entirely unjustified but it sounds a bit harsh. I’ll say from the start that Faeries does well enough, it’s just not a wild success.
The book begins with a character race faeries: Bogies (and there’s no illustration), Deep Fey (re-visited in full from Minions: Fearsome Foes), common Faeries (without illustration), Feeorin “noble fey” (without illustration), half-fey, Scath and Sprites. Spirits are about two feet tall – so is that a very small sprite posing on that leaf or is it a very large leaf? I might have been spoiled by publishers of Bastion Press‘ quality in the past but I’ve come to expect illustrations for all new player races. There’s some good stuff here though. The common faeries are especially clever in that there’s a table of physical characteristics and spell-like abilities that you can pick entries from and add to your fey. By doing so you start to increase the character’s ECL modifier. Butterfly wings that allow you to fly at move 20ft increase your ECL by a half and natural invisibility (at will) increases your ECL by one and a half. In this way we really can produce a whole faerie host.
The faeries in Faeries are D&D in flavour; grabbing the best bits from Celtic and Russian myths and mixing them all together. That’s probably the best way to go, the Monster Manual pretty much corrupts any attempt to stay true to any “real” faerie legends. We’re told that the faeries here come from over a dozen cultures. Hmm.
It’s this grabbing and mixing that defines Faeries for me. It’s a bit of a squeeze. I like some bits; other bits – such as Santa Claus, a less than epic Father Time, Rumplestiltskin and a Queen of the Dryads at a not quite mighty 12th level – fail to win me over.
The first chapter contains plenty of new feats. The one to watch is the Evolve feat. Evolve gives faeries access to Prestige Races, a concept first introduced in Oathbound and then widely wowed at by people afterwards. Prestige Races allows a character to (as the evolve feat suggests) evolve their body up specialised advancement paths. The Focus of the Shapeshifter, for example, runs through Skinflow Creature, Boneknit Creature, Flexible Creature and to Sizeshifter Creature. The other Foci are the Focus of the Beast, Focus of the Changeling, Focus of the Fey, Focus of the Green, Focus of the Hordes and Focus of the Seersighted.
There are Prestige Classes. Bound to be. The PrCs are actually pretty good, I rather like the Faemancer and appreciate the twist wherein the fey tend to choose the latent wizard and move her into the role rather than the more typical Necromancer who forces and uses the undead into their new roles. There’s the Faerie Hunter, Faerier, Fae-Walker (perhaps related to the Shadowdancer), Fey Guardian, Fey Prankster, Fey-Touched, Knight of the Fey, Mage of the Circle and Mortal Slayer. These are all 10 level classes and I wish more of them had been illustrated.
I also like the Aspect of Nature rules. There’s a bonus and a penalty for being a fey with a close tie to a certain aspect of nature. These are similar but lesser than Prestige Races in many ways. Within the Aspect of the Plant, for example, we can find “The Ferns” which offers a bonus of +1 to Will saving throws and a penalty of -1 to Reflex saving throws. There are three large summary tables of possible Aspects, plenty to choose from.
The second chapter, the Lore of Faerie, brings together some of the common and most interesting faerie legends. The fey like music but not like it when you wear your clothes inside out, always be polite to the fey but never accept a gift from one.
It’s the World of the Faerie where I really start to pick’n’mix my likes and dislikes in the book. Faeries tries to be world neutral. It’s just hard to be world “neutral” and have Beltane on the 1st of May, or more simply, harvest in autumn. The book can be world neutral because the fey are just visitors to the material plane and that leaves the GM to use them as much or as little as she wants. FaerieLand is where the fey are really from and we get a nice Manual of the Planes style introduction to it. Normal Gravity, Normal Time (kinda), Mildly Good Aligned – because the Twilight Lands are primarily good and Between is mildly evil, Enhanced Magic and Infinite Size. FaerieLand is infinite, it has no edges but it fits on to two pages. I laughed. That just amuses me. The colourful map of FaerieLand shows the interesting middle bit where various realms meet. The chapter looks at such issues as distances in the infinite FaerieLand and doorways to and from the plane. Most of the chapter is busy with a tour of key places in the Plane and biographies of certain NPCs. There are just fewer than 30 pages of this tour, 30 pages in the 128-paged product. Nothing leapt out the section to grab me except to make my “Not in my world” list (Santa, a Half-Fey Baba Yaga, etc).
The book, for me, picks up again with Chapter Four and the Magic of the Faerie. I’m not normally a crunch fan but having a nice and long percentile table of random effects for faerie dust (okay, magic sand) is just a useful timesaver. There’s a whole bunch of new spells here. The Dream, Fey and Fey Road Domains are introduced. There’s the Summon Fey family of spells as well. There’s also a family of “Iron” spells that the fey can make good use of; Ironblight, for example, rusts away any ferrous (read: iron) objects it makes contact with. Sneaky – and that’s what you’d expect. There are magic items aplenty; lists of charms and dusts. There’s enough new magic to successfully use the fey as creatures of natural magic in your campaign, even if your campaign is already loaded with magic.
The book finishes with an appendix of monsters. It’s the templates that do best here, the fey-born, half-fey and shadow-born templates provide easy game access to nice plot hooked NPCs.
There’s plenty in Faeries, it could perhaps do with more character races but the approach that allows you to design your own common fey is a real winner, in fact, it’s a reason to buy the book. Similarly, if you want access to the campaign rocking (often in the good way) Prestige Races but don’t want to risk the expensive hardbound tome that Oathbound is then there’s another reason to buy Faeries. I just felt for every “Good idea” there was a matching “Er, I think not”, for every plus there was a minus. The book does well enough on the whole; there will be something for most players and GMs to take from it.