Faeries Disappointment

I suppose I didn't know what I was expecting. I didn't really expect a rehash of 4th edition, after all, and I do give it credit for trying, buuut...

Well, let's get started.
First of all, What Faeries Are. I like that it doesn't try to say where faeries come from, merely giving weird ideas and suggestions (never even thought of them being the halfway between demons and angels, amusing thought, though I would never, ever use it.)
However, what makes a faerie... was this really the direction we wanted to go with?
For those who haven't read Faeries yet, a Faerie is basically this: A spirit who pretends to be legendary beings of various sorts for the purpose of collecting vitality, which is the quality of life, found in food, emotion, blood, struggle, so on.

Where do I even begin with this? Shall I start with how this is basically cribbing directly from Exalted, which did the exact same thing?
I think, instead, I'll issue my complaint in the direction that this doesn't seem to have a great deal to do with myth to begin with.
Now, let's be clear... in myth and stories from the time, magic and faerie are not distinguished. Faeries are magical, magical stuff is related to faerie stories, because there is no difference. In Ars Magica, however, we have created this distinction, and I have agreed with that distinction as a setting decision and have no problem with it.
I think I see where the need for this decision comes from... Faeries, frankly, are difficult to separate from 'magical' beings in Ars Magica, so they needed to be made unique somehow. This is the way the writers chose, and it's terrible. There's a few reasons for this...
First of all, and most damning of all, it instantly saps all the interest out of running faerie stories or playing faeries. Where once there was a sense of awe and mystery in pursuing faerie goals, now it just feels like a crock of dung, a task put together by some interdimensional leech. When the faerie queen sends you to look for her heart, it's no longer because she really, really needed it, it's because she's actually wants to make you suffer a little more than normal so she can have a tastier-than-normal snack.
I can't emphasize enough how much this bothers me, I went from being very interested in faeries to absolutely loathing them in the space of a single read through. All of a sudden, faeries aren't characters any more. Faerie stories now have no relevance to me as a player except to avoid (and gain whatever benefits I can), because I no longer have any personal interest in faeries (mind you, my characters don't know this, but why would I, as a player, want to suffer through that any more than I have to? It's like gritting your teeth in a smile at family members you don't like.) As a ST, I look at the new Faerie stories, and find no real value in them.

Second, I don't agree with the faerie realms being mutually inaccessible. Don't much like the third realm, either.
...no, no real reasoning, it's purely personal, and I think it actually fits in to the setting well. This one is easy to fix for me, if I wanted to, too.

Third, Faeries seem too weak, vis a vis the other realms. Again, really more of a preference, I don't mind this one to a large degree.

Fourth, the faerie sympathies thing is interesting, but making the magic magnitudes so dependent on them... it strikes me as an unnecessary hassle. Not really a big problem.

That first thing is the killing blow for me, the great giant rotting elephant carcass in the laboratory. Why was this chosen? Were there no other, better notions? Would it really have been so bad to have blurred the line between Faerie and Magic?

Perhaps most importantly, what can I do about it? If I wanted to obviate this fluff, what alternative would I go with?

I disagree with just about everything you wrote.

I think the new distinction provides clarity and a level of in-game logic that was lacking in previous editions. But you've clearly thought your objections through so I'll not try to persuade you otherwise.

If you wanted to go your own way, you could still embrace the distinction and have Magic the realm of the static and the true, and Faerie as the realm of the mutable, fluid, and the deceptive. As I say, it's one way to draw a line between them. Not perhaps the best, I think we have that with the fifth edition treatment, but it's something to get you started.

FYI IMS we destoryed the distintction between the fae and magic realms 2 editions ago. "Magic beings" and "Faerie beings" is just a level of granularity that people with nothing better to do (like hermetics) do to waste vellum and look smarter than everybody else at conventions. You only need to dump both Faerie Lore and Magic Lore into a single ability (Legend Lore suggested as a name) if you do that, and have only 3 types of aura (magic, infernal and divine). Faerie and magical beings are the same. Some are interested in humankind and others are not in the same way that some humans are interested in gardening and others are not. I would suggest that this might solve your "problem" with the distinction.


I guess I should declare an interest here, as one of the authors of RoP:F. Clearly you are disappointed, and I'm not sure that my comments will mollify you, but I have to try.

Just to be clear, faeries are not spirits (really), and they do not pretend to be legendary beings. Rather, they are beings of glamour that embody the tales told by man. The distinction is fine, but an important one. Even the most cogniscant faerie is not pretending to be a legend - as far as it is concerned, it is the legend. Cognisance just allows it to understand more of the rules, so that it is aware which actions lead to vitality, and why.

Or perhaps they stem from a common source, such as folklore and folklore research? Plagiarism is an ugly accusation.

No, she really, really needs it. More than she needs anything else in the entire world. She is prepared to do anything to obtain that heart, up to and including her own destruction. That makes a good story, IMO. You have a solid basis to predict the faerie queen's behaviour when the player characters act in an unexpected manner.
If she is cognizant, she knows why she needs the characters to find her heart, but that doesn't lessen her aching need for it.

Where as I would say that this is exactly what they are. Characters in a story. It's just a story within the story that you and the other players are telling.

Yes (to the final point). If the lines are blurred, then you might as well just have one Realm to cover both. Because this was not desired, Faerie had to be something completely different.

The story of the Greek Gods is an excellent example of this: the Magic Realm is represented by the titans, who order the universe. By their very nature they are disinterested in man, and remain aloof and not amenable to persuasion. However, the need of man for a higher power that can be cajouled by prayer and sacrifice leads to the creation of the gods of Olympos. These are intrinsically tied to mankind; they derive vitality from worship, on which their existence depends. They are able, for a time, to suborn the power of the primal magical spirits and reign supreme. But when man loses interest, they fade from view, their power gone. A solid example of Belief defines reality exists in the Faerie Realm. (You can find similar parallels in other European cultures)

The concept in RoP:F is a natural extension of the description given in the core rules, in that faeries embody stories: they are the hopes and fears of mankind, given form (if not flesh). They are motivated by their need for vitality, which they get for obeying the rules of their own stories.

This is where I won't comment, since I'm perfectly happy with the current interpretation. But then, as I say in my opening paragraph, I'm biased.



Yes, as the guy who came up with it, yes, it was.

Oversimplified, but let's roll on.

Did it? I have never read or played Exalted. The source which we drew from is a piece of original research by Dianne Purkiss, an Australian academic working out of London, published as "Troublesome Things: A history of faeries and faerie stories." As to your accusations of "cribbing": there's no polite way to tell you what I think of your accusation, so I won't try.

I have to say I'm suprised Exalted does this, because from what little I've seen on RPG.net, I thought Exalted was about being central to reality and kicking ass, whereas this construction makes faeries supporting characters ot humans.

Which myth and story, exactly? You can find divisions if you look for them, but the labelling of one thing or another as a faerie is a bit arbitrary. That's why barguests seem to come from three realms, or kelpies. In Norse myth there are two tribes of gods, one elemental and one humanocentric, in Greek myth there are two tribes of gods, one primordial and one humanocentric, in Irish myths there are two tribes of gods, one cthonic and one humanocentric. So, to say that they are all just magic in together doesn't quite cut it, in my opinion. In many folklores there's a division between the primordial gods and the civilisation gods.

Well, this is just false. That faeries are drawn to life stages and other forms of mythical creature are not drawn to life stages, that faeries are liminal and other magical beings, like angels, are not, has nothing to do with Ars Magica. It is found in the original folklore. I direct you back to Purkiss for a fuller elaboration of her argument, though. As roleplaying material it works really well, IMO, because it forces stories. It means you don;t need to find a human motive for the faerie before it begins a story with a PC.

No, because she doesn't know what you know out of character. This is silly, it's like saying werewolves in RPGs aren't scary because you know they are just threshold guardians keeping you from treasure. Sure, you can metagame the interest away if you like, but that's your choice, not the writer's. In character, the queen needs her heart: she just either knows, or does not know, that this is typical of her type of faerie, and that other people have found a heart for a similar queen before.

You did get the faeries are willing to make you kings and harvest your joy, right? You seem to link them entirely to negative emotions, but a faerie that helps you meet your true love is still helping you cross a lifestage barrier. Anteros is a faerie, for example.

Well, that's a pity...sucks to be you. The idea that faeries are based on stories is in the core rules, though, it's not like its new to this book. Let your players muck with it and see if they can grok it for you.

Faeries are as strong as they need to be for the stories they are in: they have the old ArM2 idea that the mechanics of monsters change to suit the story. As such they are as weak or as strong as the story needs them to be. As PCs, they are more powerful than spirits in some ways, and less in others.

Well, it kind of sucked in previous editions, because you were never quite sure what the point of Merinita magi was. If Faerie is just "magic that's kind of joky and cutesy", then there's no point to them at all, really, and you could never really understand why they and House Jerbiton, who did illusions, didn;t get on, because they obviously had a lot in common.

Also, it gives us touchstones for writing new faeries, that make the task easier. Faeries are now strongly culturally based: they are also pc-reactive, and they refresh (so that covenants don't just clean the board of them as they did in previous editions.) All of these are in many ways better than the old form, of being aloof, goegraphically pinned, non-refreshing after defeat, and not closely related to surrounding humans.

Whatever you were doing before?

My pre-ROP:F conception of fearies was as "things as they could be". This is in contrast with Magic, which is "things as they really are" (essential nature), the Divine which is "things as they cannot be" (transcendence, drawing things beyond their essential nature), and the Infernal as "the annihilation of things" (corruption, decay, and loss). Faeries are spirits from outside reality that seek to shape reality to fit their whim, to impose order on primeval chaos and dilute the pure essence. [A bit like Exalted, but in reverse - they are agents of order more than of chaos.] They and their human minions tame wild land with agriculture, bind the power of the earth into iron, separate the heavens from the earth (the binding of Atlas to his post), the world of the living from that of the dead (by the tyranny of Hades over tartarus), build the limes to shatter the great forest spirits, bind oceanus to quiet the storms and borealis to tame the wind, enact great rituals to create the seasons, and so on. All of this is illusion, however - they can bind and subjugate, but they cannot undo the essential nature, which remains below. Faerie is not an alternate reality, not an alternative to Magic, to thing's essential nature; only a reshaping of this nature. I had a saga built around this, based on the idea that as the power of Faerie dwindled the old bindings got loose, creating lots of undead and sea storms first, then abonrmal seasons, the freezing over the north sea as its Magic spirit is released, and so on - gradually returning nature to its primeval state - stark, chaotic, and utterly inhospitable to human civilization. Never got to play it out, though.

Well, that's one direction. Each has its own spin, I guess.

I find myself disagreeing with your main critique. For myself, I absolutely loved ROP:F. It presented faeries as very different from Magical beings, and as something that is absolutely golden for a roleplaying game - beings centered around the story, giving the SG tools and ideas to weave stories rather than create world-elements. Golden.

I agree more with your other points. I didn't much like any of the fearie realms, and certainly not the strange division into past, present, and future stories (well, oversimplifying). I understand how the main concept would lead to a faerie-land that is story-based, but I would rather have had a more solidly defined "reality" for arcadia, as its own realm with its own interactions and a more central place for the faerie queens and deities, and with a direct link to dreams. I guess I would picture arcadia more like the Shared Unconscious of Jung, or the Shadow World of Birthright - a reality touching on our world, especially in our dreams and stories, and seeping power and innovation from it - but ultimately a separate reality, a different Realm.

I agree faeries are too weak, but then I think all realms are. Even the Divine one, and especially the Infernal one.

And I agree sympathies are a great idea, but cumbersome to use.

The central idea of ROP:F is one I like and you don't, so I find the book great despite the above flaws and you find it poor. Oh well.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that it's ALL cribbed from Terry Pratchett, who, while he may not have done it first, did it best, with the most humour and satire possible, and the knob turned to 11 and then broken off.


I consider RoP:F to be one of the better AM supplements, even though I prefer to handle the realms differently in the saga I don't run.

What I like most about this book is that it got me thinking about not just Faeries but about stories in general. Really, in any game you run, any game, don't your npcs exist to consume the attention--the vitality--of the players? The advice given about running faerie stories deserves any GM's consideration, even if the game to be played is Cyberpunk or Star Wars, no faeries at all.

I also like how a magus who knows the way faeries work cannot get around or 'game' stories using this knowledge. I once played in an AM3 saga where the players and their characters knew all the faerie rules. You know, things come in threes, never do this, always do that, faeries arise from one of these causes, and so on. I was out of step with the other players in this regard--I found these stories tedious and dull, with scenes that were essentially like "One magus looks to the other who nods knowingly. 'Ah,' he says. 'This is a classic M412 followed by L21.2; we can take advantage of this by...'" except that the other players didn't seem to know about Aarne-Thompson. Thankfully.

These faerie rules don't allow that kind of prediction. Sure, a magus with a good Faerie Lore score knows that the faerie highwayman (anachronism be damned) is really after vitality, and that this faerie, like all faeries, is linked to the myths and legends of mankind. This knowledge won't let the magus deal with the faerie except as a highwayman, nor does this knowledge allow the magus to predict what happens next, because this faerie highwayman might really embody the story about the dire fate suffered by those who think they know what's going to happen next because they have plodded through someone else's research.

Knowing that faeries get off on vitality ought not ruin stories, especially not in a game where you already know that demons get off on evil, angels get off on virtue, and people in general get off on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Now, I think some of the game mechanics in RoP:F are problematic, but I think this is true of many AM supplements, and RoP:F is better about this than most.



I haven't read Fairies yet - but I think there is one point really worth considering for 6th edition: Do we need two realms for magic beings and fairies?

We are used to seeing Ars Magica with a fairie realm (and I liked the German 4th edition version). But whenenver I conceive a mystical creature - say: a talking tree - I wonder: Is it divine or indernal? Easy to answer.But fairie and magic: Okay, the hardcore Ars Magica Uber-geek (which I just realize includes me) knows about the differnce between static and dynamic, between interactive fairie and disinterested-in-humans Magic; but it feels arbitrary and it doesn't feel medieval (RoP: M even says somewhere that people always confuse fairies and magical beings).

So for ArM6 - why not reduce the whole thing to three realms. A simpler theory that can explain the world usually is a better theory. And you could call the supplements "Magical beings" and "More Magical beings".

Having said that - it's not like my hair is turning gray with grief when I hear the term fairie realm - I just wanted to preserve an interesting thought that our threadstarter had.

I think, had the current treatment and direction not been so artfully put together and made the distinction so clear and given me the tools and enthusiasm to exploit the two realms as being very different, then I might have more sympathy with your idea. Previous editions have felt a little arbitrary on the distinction, but this feels very philosophically grounded. Before reading RoP:Faerie, my troupe always asked the same question whenever we encountered a giant, ogre, troll, etc; Are they from the faerie realm or the magic realm? It was usually asked as a way to find an understanding of how the realms differed. But we were really looking at things in the wrong way. It's not so much about the type of creature and arbitrarily pitching into one realm or the other, it's about the role of that character in your story and the role of the player characters in its story.

Having got to where we are, I fail to see how we can improve the game world's cosmology and bring more opportunities for unique play experiences by collapsing Magic and Faerie together. The next phase should be, in my opinion, to bed the distinction down and make it second nature.

If you only have a legendary realm the question is moot. But thenk, we already collapsed both realms together at the end of 3rd edition.


Which is exactly what makes them onedimensional.

Faeries have become unreal, shadows without self or sentience.

That is fine for senior players like you and me, but there will always be newbies for whom roleplaying games are strange new worlds, or beginners who have not been there when the old auram magus who-may-not-be-named because of copyright issues; and for them, even a perfectly explained complication is just an extra complication.

The Middle Ages simply do not differentiate between Fairie and Magic the way Atlas Games does. It doesn't seem natural to someone interested in that time period, but only to a veteran player.

Ignoring new player's needs will eventually reduce the number of ArsMagica fans, which in turn will make Ars Magica books more expensive, which is the beginning of a vicious circle.

I think you do new players a disservice.

I frankly couldn't care less if medieval folk distinguished between magic and faerie. Medieval folk didn't distinguish between hedge and Hermetic wizards, either. The question is whether this makes for a better game. I think it does - it adds variety and a source of adventure which isn't quite magic but is close enough to be of interest. I think it's good to keep the two realms.

I come off a lot more vitriolic than I really am, it's my natural mode of criticism; might be advised to ameliorate it, but that's a thought for another time, and I suppose I was expressing genuine frustrations. Still, hey, one of the many reasons Ars Magica is my favorite system/setting is how involved the writers are, so this is actually very nice, thanks. ;D
I might have been a bit harsh with my Exalted accusation, I certainly didn't mean to say you were plagiarizing, though I definitely meant to denigrate both Exalted's and Ars Magica's faeries.

I don't think there's much value in going over everything point-by-point again, suffice to say I think you the writers have provided good justifications for the way you go about things and I apologize if my rather acerbic style ruffled any feathers.
As for things like the Greek gods? I tend to prefer my own interpretation, that they were instead hedged out by a rising power from the Middle East (read: Yahweh), I suppose (and was certainly under the impression from reading the various sourcebooks that they were Magic... but with Faerie versions as well? The 'but there are also faerie gods who crib worship' as noted in the Gruagach bit always struck me as a little artificial, and the way it feels so artificial is the crux of my objection... and, of course, merely adds fuel to the idea that the Divine is merely an exceptionally powerful faerie who deificially altered details of existence ;D)

Now, while I persist in my personal belief that it's not the direction I'd have liked it to go (and think it still should, but am I an Ars Magica writer? No sir!), that really has always been, as I said, personal. I think I would rather like the 2 Realms to be reconcilable in a future edition as opposed to the current treatment of faeries, and gods know you people don't want me going over why again.

For what it's worth, I like the Faeries book.

I've known the game since 2nd ed, and played a lot of 4th ed. Never played 3rd, but have some supplements. I found the Faeries to be somewhat vaugely defined in some points, and well enough in others. We did interpret them ourselves, and ran them as we pleased, in a somewhat coherent form.

When I read RoP:F, it resulted in raised eyebrows, at first. It was a lot to take in, but after a bit it really grew on me. Now I quite like it, and it seems to work for me.

Sure, there are sometimes some grey areas, especially with creatures. But it's doable. I like having the Faerie and Magic realms distinct, because the one is a mild ally to the other - as opposed to the Divine and Infernal, which are both detrimental to Magic. Faeries have always IMHO been beings who interact with humans, while Magic is more elemental/primordial/etc. and just is, regardless of humans

I found RoP: F a bit disappointing at first too (mainly because I didn't understand the rule mechanics fully), but hopefully even if you dislike the book's interpretation of the faerie realm some of the other contents will be useful in your sagas...


For all that I consider RoP:F to be the best of the RoP books, I have to diverge here.

I like the idea that many Hermetic magi partition the supernatural into four realms, yet prefer this classification to be speculative. I want the rules to leave room for divisions that better fit real medieval perspectives, or modern perspectives about medieval thought, whether true or not.

Thus, I want rules that support the following:

  • Most people who can sense the supernatural will perceive everything as one of two flavors, Holy and Unholy. A very few might just be starting to consider the possibility of a third distinction, rare and subtle, that of 'natural' magic.

  • Two people who can sense the supernatural might have conflicting perceptions of whether something is holy or unholy. Specifically, I want Christians, Muslims and Jews to be in conflict with each other; I want Cathars and Catholics to have a good reason for their fighting; I want enmity between Shia and Sunni, between Rabbinic and Karaite Jews. I categorically do not want people who believe they understand the supernatural to see the Divine in all monotheistic faiths, with the exception of the odd poet or mystic.

  • A magus will believe there are four realms, because he has noticed four different kinds of effects on his magic. A Kabbalist might perceive only one realm, knowing that each blade of grass has an angel that links it to God, thereby allowing it to survive, knowing that the 'evil' angels are performing their allotted duties. Other perspectives exist.

  • A magus who encounters a supernatural entity that is tormenting a village should not be able to easily determine whether it is a faerie enacting a story, a demon inspiring suffering and sin or a nature spirit who just wants those pesky humans to go away.

considers I am away from my own laptop, atm. I have written some supporting rules while periodically making my saving throw versus offering a PBeM. Since they are relevant to this conversation, I will post these when I have a chance.



And I would say you ought to punch those up and send them to Sub Rosa. The fanzine thrives when people submit material to it, and rules posted here will be washed down and into the archives eventually. An article in the fanzine will be printed and referenced...

something to consider...