Pathfinder’s Soul of the Fey by Miya Kressin

Pathfinder’s Soul of the Fey

by Miya Kressin

Capricious; given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior. Emotional. Determined. Willful. Spontaneous. Those are all attributes Paizo’s Pathfinder associates with fey.

Having played my fair share of characters from most of the primary classes as well as prestige classes and custom designed thanks to an awesome DM in a home campaign, I have been drawn again and again to sorcerers. I revel in magic and crave the wildness of the fey creatures. When I first saw the beta-testing rule set for Pathfinder, my gamer heart let out a fangirl squee over the fey bloodline for sorcerers.  I finally had a home for the mixed-breed humans I wanted to play while avoiding the cliché elven mage on paper that you pretend is some fairy warlock.

A sorcerer is the scion of a magical bloodline. While remaining similar to the standard Dungeons and Dragons sorceress traits of having a lesser spell selection, the flexibility of the class and now the flavors within that have made it more desirous to play. With heritage choices such as Aberrant and Elemental, or even Undead, I’ve had several party members scoff at my choice of Fey.

Sure, adding a class skill of knowledge (nature) to a sorcerer can come in handy when you don’t have a druid or ranger in the party, but taking skills outside of the standard class list is not often in your best interests. However, I have found for my characters, that it’s the lesser utilized skills taken for flavor instead of how useful they will be that truly make your character history well-rounded. Having fey on paper does not mean much if you cannot show it.

Spells are where a player can start thinking of what type of fey his or her character has in its heritage. A dryad in your family tree could have you leaning towards choosing entangle or tree stride as your bonus spell at their appropriate levels instead of avoiding them in favor of crutches like magic missile. Maybe a jinkin played a trick on one of your ancestors and mixed its blood into your heritage, leaving you happiest when causing trouble with hideous laughter—a spell originated as Tasha’s Hideous Laughter by Gary Gygax at the whim of a child who sent him a note written in crayon asking him to make a spell involving laughter.

Pixies like to leave their foes laughing, distracting them while they attack. Individually, the pixie is far from fearsome, but a targeted spell can leave you swearing at their damage reduction unless you have a cold iron weapon. That ability is saved for you until you near epic level games, though I have enjoyed a home campaign where the DM house-ruled that the fey sorcerer had minor resistance earlier on in exchange for cold iron sensitivity.

You stay sensitive to luck changes, however.

No matter which obnoxious pugwampi your party comes across before encountering its unluck aura, you fey heritage will not save you. You still have to reroll saves, attacks, and ability checks, taking the lower of the two scores while you are within its radius effect.  Easily hidden and able to scurry over and around terrain one would normally avoid, these small fey are no match for more powerful members of their subtype, but they are still an obnoxious foe even at higher levels.

Evil dungeon masters might toss in a few pugwami while high level parties battle the Cold Riders to increase the challenge rating.  These fallen fey princes are chaotic evil creatures found in wintry reaches where they serve the queen of Irrisen. While not often seen outside of their frozen realm, it is easy to imagine a storyline of a priestess of Sarenrae –the Everlight—or Desna—the goddess of freedom, luck, and dreams—trying to rescue one of these fallen princes and somehow save him from his fate.   *jots down a new plot bunny*

Desna's Holy Symbol

Desna’s Holy Symbol

While a character could be accused of having a negative intelligence mod to tackle a Cold Rider early on, at first level, a fey blooded sorcerer can reduce its opponent to taking a single move action when he succeeds on a melee touch attack to cast Laughing Touch. Your character goes on to become light on its feet when walking through thick undergrowth without being damaged by thorns, and then can even go invisible levels later.  Fey tricks abound with these bloodline powers before you even factor in abilities that allow you an increase in compulsory sub school spells and at-will rerolling of any caster level checks to overcome spell resistance.

Willful and determined, compulsive and impulsive, fey sorcerers are as different from one another as fey NPCs and monsters are. Pathfinder legends relate tales that some early fey creatures may have become the first hags, which in turn mixed with humanoids to make changelings. These racial fey come in three varieties. Annis hags mating with a human male create the Hulking Changelings, ones who are more formidable physically. They are stronger in melee than their cousins.

Feiya - Witch

Feiya – Witch

The Green Widows, half-green hags, are innately fond of tangled forests surrounding swamps where they can lure in potential mates using their bonus to bluff for those possibly sexually attracted to the character.  A Green Widow bard or priestess dedicated to Calistria would make a great choice at exemplifying the heritage while also leaving room to make the character its own.

The third Changeling, a Sea Lung child of a sea hag and humanoid, has an increased ability at holding its breath under water. While this may not seem that strong of a character trait if you’re in the middle of a desert, if your campaign is out on the open sea, a Sea Lung rogue or monk could make an amazing pirate.

While the playable races grant a character’s fey nature more and more control over its magic, I feel it is the player who becomes more supernatural. It is as much our connection to nature or another place that creates an amazing story as it is the character we pretend to be.

Are you quick and willful?  Or perhaps you have a thing for diplomatic persuasion and trickery. Maybe your stealth has better uses than a sneak attack.  Fey magic calls to you, tugging you from other paths you could take, and spins you down the path of arcane secrets boiling in your blood, whispering of the power you could hold if you just surrender.

At the end of the day—or character creation—it comes down to one decision. When you stat yourself out to twentieth level, do you have (or want to have) the Soul of the Fey?

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Beware the Fae (or at least the Quickling)

You nasty little beast!

“O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider’s web,
The collars of the moonshine’s wat’ry beams,
Her whip of cricket’s bone; the lash of film;
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid:
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on court’sies straight,
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O’er ladies ‘ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as a’ lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again. This is that very Mab
That plaits the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the 
elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the 
hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she—”

Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene IV

In light of KV Taylor’s desire to dismiss the myth that the Fae (fairies) are Tinkerbell type characters, dispensing goodness the world over (even though Tinkerbell herself was not too friendly to mortals upon their arrival in Neverland – but that’s for another post), I decided to discuss the darkest of the Fae in the gaming world – the Quicklings.

The Quickling has been a favourite of the D20 canon of monsters, featuring in all but one of the versions of the various game systems available. The ideas behind the Fae have changed during the versions but the overall concept remains the same.

The original Quickling

In saying this, however, I have yet to meet one in my 26 years of playing various RPGs (on and off this is, and very seldom of late) so regardless of whether they are a favourite of the D&D creators, nobody running games that I have been involved in thought them as interesting as I do.

In truth in the gaming world of D20 or Dungeons and Dragons or even D&D (as it is affectionately known) the fairies are generally a goodly bunch, albeit a little mischievous and occasionally wicked (too many to name and describe here), it is the Quicklings that are the epitomy of that which casts a deep dark shadow over the D20 fae.

My inclusion of the above speech from Romeo and Juliet, is in regards to the opinion that Quicklings are Brownies that have been corrupted by The Queen of Air and Darkness, also known as Queen Mab. Brownies have various names in folklore but are seen as a helpful fae in D&D, cleaning homes while the owners are away or sleeping (perfect!). This doesn’t mean that the Quicklings are responsible for messing the homes back up – if only that were the case. No, Quicklings involve themselves in much more sinister deeds and ally themselves with all sorts of nefarious characters.

Not wanting to get into the technical details of the Quickling (as in game mechanics), they are rather weak and an easy kill, that is if you can catch them. It is here where the Quickling’s strength lies, as they are incredibly small and incredibly fast and their speed pretty much makes them invisible to the human eye.

I only used a Quickling in a game once, although he appeared to the characters much later than expected, as he had made sure to keep himself at a distance and out of sight (see above) whilst helping his chosen master, a black paladin. The characters when eventually put into a situation where they had to deal with the Quickling found him impossible to catch, deal with or subsequently kill. He was a menace for two or three sessions before he finally made a blunder, falling prey to his own ego and being caught by the party’s sorcerer. The sorcerer was not aware of what the Quickling was, however, (being as my groups were used to the not using of out-of-game knowledge) and was tricked into believing he was a Pixie, thus enabling him to go free. However, he plagued them no more, as after being caught by the heroes once he was aware that there was a risk of this happening again. Ignoring his pledge to the black paladin, he left the campaign and returned to the Sylvan lands to tend his bruised ego, before his return to the realm, some two hundred years later.

As mentioned earlier, the idea with Fae Awareness Month was to remind us that the Fae aren’t really the loveable, helpful creatures that some would have you believe but usually have a hidden agenda, one which as well as benefitting the giver, almost certainly has unwanted side effects for the recipient. The Quickling is a step beyond the Fae in that the Quickling is very rarely in a mood to help and will only do so for its own gain and to the detriment of goodly beings (rather than helping for a price). They have a deep hatred for their Brownie kin and will generally attack their cousins on sight.

The modern Quickling (aka a bit naff)

Taken at face value the Quickling is one of the less interesting Fae, as its role falls into a classic fantasy trope of pure evil. In reading the descriptions in the various monster manuals, it has no redeeming qualities and is utterly without morals or remorse…that is if you want to read that way. I see the Quicklings as the black sheep of the Fae family, misunderstood and mistrusted, leading to deep seated resentment for their failure to be accepted as true Fae but rather described as deformed and twisted Brownies.

If you’re worried about the Fae and their tricky deals and offers of help then you best hope to god you don’t come face to face with the Quickling.