Should I admit this Companion?

Hello again,

here is a Companion-Concept of the-player-I-have-to-pay-close-attention. I´d be interested if you´d allow the character:

The Companion is a Faerie. The player wants to integrate the character as a kind of Faerie-Librarian of the Covenant.

The Flaws: Traditional Ward (-1), Freshly Sprung (-1), Clumsy (-1), Ability Block: martial (-1), Magical Animal Companion OR Faerie Friend (-1), Ambitious: being the most famous chronicler of magical creatures (-3), Continence (-1), Higher Purpose: protect magical creatures (-1)
Virtues and further properties: Might 5, Faerie Sight (1), Humanoid Faerie (1), Faerie Speech (1), Highly Cognizant (1), Infiltrator (Wanderer: 0), Faerie Trainer (0)

And now the Virtue that gives me headaches: External Vis (3 - Grant circle magic).

The player explained to me, that the Faerie possesses a ring (the prop for the external vis). The minor virtue, the prop provides its bearer with, is circle magic (HoH:S, p. 113). Is it pandora´s box, I´m opening, if I allow this character? And if so, do you have a point I could give the player, why the character isn´t possible?


I don't see glaring problems with the character from a mechanical point of view. Sure, the character will be able to grant a Minor Hermetic Virtue to anyone he trusts with, quite literally, his existence - but it costs a Major Virtue to do so. No big deal.

From a "flavour point of view" I have some issues, however. Keep in mind that Faeries:
a) are characters who live for taking support roles in stories and
b) are very "stereotypical" characters - the ancient, long bearded sage, the black knight, the damsel in distress etc.

So, in general, most Virtues and Flaws should be "fundamental" to the portrayal of the role the faerie plays. "Ambitious: become famous as a chronicler" is perfect in this sense (particularly for a cognizant faerie). As is some "protege'" Story Flaw (Faerie Friend or Magical Animal Companion) - basically a fellow actor in the great play the faerie sees itself part of. "Clumsy" or "Continence" however, are not things that appear so central to the concept to me, so I'd swap them out. Similarly, what sort of relationship does granting "Circle Magic" have to the essence of the faerie?

No glaring problems? Well, I think "ring/circle magic" is quite a powerful minor virtue (only think about the big circles you can draw without concentration roll!). I remember that the power of "ring/circle magic" was an issue in some past threads. This character is able to grant this virtue to all of the five Magi of the covenant (this means: potentially to every single troupe that experiences a story - and why not trust them: they provide the library with books the faerie needs for vitality).

On the other hand, your issues about the "flavour point of view" I don´t catch. I think, highly cognizant faeries can be more than playing support roles. They are able to do things consciously that humans cannot (a quite complete kind of personalitychange). And if I look at the example faeries in RoP:Faeries, the NPC´s doesn´t seem stereotypical to me. Nearly everyone of them is special somehow or other. Why does every Virtue and Flaw have to be central to the concept?


  1. I wouldn't allow Faeries (or at least the External Vis Virtue) to grant Hermetic Virtues.
  2. The faerie is unlikely to share this ring willingly. The granted virtue is meant as a kind of safety measure to keep the faerie's vital vis from being spent, not as a more sustainable version of a "Grant Virtue" power.

Faeries can't be the centre of the story, even if they are highly cognisant. They can make the story start, and prod it along, but they can never be the central character. Faeries are innately ridiculously powerful, and they remain in the game (which is humanocentric) solely because they can't take centre stage. Magical creatures have a similar limit: if you are too powerful you need to hide in Magic regions or your magic fades away.

When you say "I think, highly cognizant faeries can be more than playing support roles." you are right in the sense that they can drive plot, but also wrong, in that they still need humans to do the things that make the story. A faerie can't be the protagonist of his own story, because that's like eating his own fingers. High cognizance just lets them know that. So if a faerie king sends an adventurer to kill a dragon that's a story. If a mortal king who sends a faerie knight to kill a dragon, from the faerie's perspective, that is just the setup for a story, it is not a story of itself.

As to circle magic in a ring...what's the link to the faerie's role, please? I don't understand it. I'm not saying it doesn't exist...but it needs to be explicit. Similarly, why is Continence a flaw in this case? A Flaw that's not a Flaw is not a Flaw. For monks its a flaw because if they break continence they lose their place in society, and their living, and they basically become beggars.

As to why every virtue and flaw needs to link to the character's concept: it's because it's a faerie, not a person. There's a good argument to be made that faeries don't have personalities, and don't ever do anything if people are not watching them. Faerie roles exist to elicit a particular human response. That means they don't have random idiosyncrasies, because they aren't made up of random bundles of experience, like people.

To try to pull then into a single concept, looking for the region of limerance could be useful. Say this faerie feeds on people moving from ignorance to knowledge (about magical creatures) in this case: how does Continence help that? How does handing out circle magic help that?

What's his Traditional Ward, btw? Local folklore has a ward for him...why? He might come and catalogue your animals if you are not careful? If no-one is ever going to want to use the ward, then it's not a Flaw. A Flaw that's not inconvenient in game is not a Flaw.

One at a time, but yes. And ...? I really don't understand is if your issue is
a) the fact that "ring/circle magic" is too powerful as a Minor Virtue.
b) the fact that External Vis can "grant" a (Minor) Virtue to any bearer of the item encasing the vis.
Would it be ok if the Vis of the Faerie were, say, an large, old dusty bestiary tha granted "Puissant Animal" to the bearer? If it would be ok, then your problem is a) - easily solved by houseruling that "ring/circle magic" is a Major Virtue in your saga (almost all sagas I know either boost or reduce the cost of some Virtues and/or Flaws). If it would not be ok, then your problem is probably b)... though I don't understand why paying 3 Virtue points so that any one character at a time can gain a specific 1 point Virtue would be that unbalancing.

Uhm, would you entrust your life to your favourite bartender (for no other reason than he's your favourite bartenderer)?

On this, Timothy Ferguson (who is one of the authors of RoP:F) has just given, above, a very clear explanation.

I'm not conversant with 5e's Faerie rules. However,

I would not accept a player character that can grant a Mystery-Virtue to other characters, especially an Hermetic one. This is too powerful in my opinion. If a player character wants a Mystery-Virtue, he should be initiated into it or follow a story with similar oomph (like doing a favor to the local Faerie Lord/Forest Spirit or whatever, and being granted the Virtue in return). Being able to get the Virtue through another player seems to me to lower the story potential and create an uncomfortable dependence on the companion's ability.

I would also be very leery of allowing a highly cognizant Faerie player character. I am afraid that he will exploit his meta-knowledge and influence over the game to radically change the character during the saga, to the point where he'll become a Faerie god or something. Unless the character's change is something that is agreed upon in advance, I'd demand to keep the character merely Cognizant of his role with the promise that if the player will want to break from this role that we could discuss it and arrange for it in-game, in an appropriate manner. Being highly congizant gives the PC too much metastory power, in my opinion, allowing the player to basically rewrite the character rather than play a character.

I don't personally care for the idea that Faeries live off stories. So while I acknowledge that this is the official 5e position, personally I wouldn't mind a Faerie protagonist, and would not require him to facilitate stories rather than participating in them. I would focus more on the idea of the Faerie stealing vitality in a certain way, however - how does this Faerie companions subsist? I don't get it from his mechanics, and it might be a good idea to include Personality Flaws or so on to reflect this aspect of the character.

But the Companion here is the local Faerie Lord (of the Library). And indeed, he'll probably want favours in return: stories and quests and vitalitous adventures!

Uhm, and why is that bad? I played in a saga where the Beta Storyguide's Companion was indeed a highly cognizant Faerie who took half a dozen roles over the course of the saga (including that of a pagan god) and it was a lot of fun. The balance is given by the fact that it has to be a support role. Your faerie can be King Arthur, but then the story will be that of Lancelot and Guinevre.

I guess I'm just not comfortable with the blurring of the SG/player line here. The player can play a Faerie Lord when he SGs, of course, or order his knights around as King Arthur; but that shouldn't be what he does when he isn't SGing, when he is playing his player character. He can play a player character, and maybe slowly change it as the saga evolves, but shouldn't be playing a meta-character that can reinvent itself totally and at every session.

YSM, and obviously D, V :slight_smile:

The point of the character being the Beta Storyguide's was probably misleading. The Beta SG did play the faerie as a normal player, and only when not acting as a Storyguide. It's just that it was very convenient, because a Faerie who can change roles can be easily "moved out of the way" so that it does not interfere with the story when you storyguide. Hmm, is that any clearer? :smiley:

I don't really see that as any "worse" than playing a different grog every story. It's ok, and well suited to grogs and faeries being support characters. (Incidentally, it's not that easy even for a fully cognizant faerie to reinvent itself at every session).

Everything that works for your game is cool :slight_smile: I can only say that for my (now-ex) group, I'd expect such a flexible character to create tension between the players and be troublesome to SG, and that we draw more enjoyment from more gradual character growth/change as in through Initiations and Quests. I would also be very uncomfortable with a player character directing the story of the session, as-in sending characters off on a quest as the Faerie Lord of the Library.

I do see why one could draw more enjoyment from the gradual, slow growth of one's character. It's definitely my case. But I fail to see why it could cause "tension" and "trouble" if some other player switched roles often. Could you elaborate on that? I'm just curious.

Hm. Maybe the faeries will stay strange to me.

This is my third or fourth Faerie-Thread in this Forum. Everytime I have a question, I get answers I don´t understand. Then I start to reread the rules and the answers in my thread. At last I´m not sure if I understood everything, but I have the impression my problem is solved, more or less. Then, sometimes later, a new Faerie problem comes up, I open another thread... and have to see that obviously I didn´t understand anything. The process starts again.

Well, thanks for your answers, nonetheless. Your answers were helpful, but I´m not sure if they explained me the nature of faerie. Well, maybe my problem is appropriate with respect to the subject of debate. Goodness knows what means "faerie"...

One last attempt, maybe you could answer one more question:

Generally I distinguish types and characters. Types are a rough outline of a figure: the ogre on the bridge, the greatest lover of the world, the evil overlord... Characters are figures with more facets: Essentially they may be loyal followers, but they also know, that you need a rope in the wilderness, they care about ponies and apart from that they may be gardeners, too. Is there any reason, why a faerie has to be a type and not a character? Why have the roles of them to be so single-edged? What about a faerie that gets vitality for playing the role of Samwise Gamgee?


Well, Faeries don't have to be quite so stereotypical, actually, but I'll get to that in a moment.

So the first thing to do is to remember that Faeries don't have souls, but rather things akin to rulebooks. They're always playing by their rulebooks, rather than by their desires, though only highly cognizant Faeries really know this, with incognizant and narrowly cognizant Faeries usually pretending to have desires so well they fool themselves.

Because that's most of what Faeries do right there. It's the reason they have Pretenses instead of Abilities, and why you notice them being more types than characters. They pretend, they play a game; people sometimes dislike Faeries because they, in a way, aren't really the characters they appear to be, and playing a Faerie is actually more akin to playing a mentally unstable roleplayer who thinks that the roleplaying game is real and the rules of the game are the rules of reality (with higher levels of cognizance really being more like higher levels of sanity, in that sense, as the character detaches more and more from considering what it does to be truly real). A Faerie who seems terrified isn't actually afraid, but acts like it is, and in some cases is acting so well that it convinces itself that it really is afraid. A Faerie who is sad isn't really sad, but is roleplaying a sad character. So on so forth.

To take the analogy a bit further, incognizant Faeries are people who have no life experiences except for playing the roleplaying game, narrowly cognizant Faeries are people who lead normal lives but have the aforementioned mental instability that causes them to think the roleplay is real, while a highly cognizant Faerie is like you or me playing a roleplaying game, sane and capable of differentiating between the game and reality.

In the same vein, imagine roleplaying a character yourself. When that character grows as a person, it's almost never a result of you yourself learning a valuable life lesson and applying it to how you roleplay the character, but rather your character going through something and you deciding that it would be interesting or fun if the experience caused your character to develop in a certain way, so you start playing the character a bit differently.

This all ties into why Faeries are almost always types, as you call them, rather than characters. The vast majority of Faeries are incognizant or narrowly cognizant. You've spent your life growing up, learning new things, developing perspectives on the world, and figuring out how other people work. You're capable of being introspective, looking at yourself in the metaphorical mirror, and learning from your experiences and mistakes.

Incognizant Faeries are completely incapable of doing that; whenever something happens to them or they make a mistake, they don't think about how that might affect themselves, and they don't learn to avoid mistakes they've previously made unless the rulebook for the game they're playing has rules on how to change as a person. This means that in the vast majority of cases with incognizant Faeries, they seem like caricatures and stereotypes rather than multi-dimensional, developed characters; they were told how to pretend to be whatever their character is at their basest level, but they weren't told how to do character growth, so they turn out to be undeveloped characters because, can you believe it, they don't know how to develop characters.

It works on a similar but lesser scale for narrowly cognizant Faeries. They actually can learn from their mistakes, and their characters grow in a stunted version of how real characters grow and develop, learning from their mistakes and judging new experiences, but they still don't know how to be self-reflective, so they can't change who they fundamentally are (for example, a narrowly cognizant Faerie thief might learn to be kinder or develop new stealing techniques in response to anti-thievery measures, but they won't understand the concept of stopping their thieving ways unless the Faerie formed with the specific intention of pretending to learn that lesson). They also have memories of their previous "characters" and what those ones did wrong or right in regards to the role, though they always play the same role. (Seriously, John, the arrogant elf rogue searching for his kidnapped sister is getting really old! Play something else! "Never!")

Highly cognizant Faeries are the most capable of being true characters, because they're almost exactly like you or me as roleplayers, with the exception that they actually rely on their characters for tangible benefits unlike us, who just play for entertainment. They can have their characters learn lessons from things that happen even if they didn't expect those things to happen or plan for their character to develop that way; they can see what they did wrong from the outside and think "okay, I'll try this next time," and can draw on experiences other than the experiences of the character in that role; and, perhaps the biggest thing, they can grow "bored" with a role (which usually means that it would be in the Faerie's best interest to abandon it, because again they play the game for pragmatic reasons rather than for entertainment) and decide to change characters and play something else. Highly cognizant Faeries know all the bits and pieces necessary to play a multi-dimensional and believable character, and they aren't limited the same way incognizant Faeries are in not understanding how to pretend to change.

The analogy isn't perfect, because highly cognizant Faeries still don't have souls, but it's functionally identical, because highly cognizant Faeries both have rulebooks that are more complex than the average soul and a place to write corrections and, dare I say it, House Rules, if things don't work as expected.

@ Akriloth:

So you´d admit a highly cognizant Faerie that wants to personify Samwise Gamgee?

(that means: you´d admit a highly cognizant Faerie that wants to personify a multi-faceted character?)

Excuse me, that I insinst. This is the core of my question.


There still needs to be some kind of structure or "point" to it, so a highly cognizant Faerie probably omits small idiosyncrasies and extraneous details, but yes, a highly cognizant Faerie would be able to personify a complex, multi-faceted character with no trouble as long as the character still had an aforementioned "point" as a means to acquiring vitality or achieving one of the Faerie's goals. Narrowly cognizant Faeries can have some depth and be interesting non-caricatures too, but they won't have anywhere near the depth or complexity of a real person. And as I mentioned, incognizant Faeries almost never have any real depth because they don't know how to be anything except the content of the story they're based on, though they may still surprise you if they're based on a story you don't know all the details of. RoP:F points out how incognizant Faeries can seem to be more than meets the eye without actually being such, though I can't remember it off-hand... It involves a transforming sea captain, though.


In my opinion, the default position for "can I play a Faerie" should be No! I love SFB, because it adds great flavor to a human character. But a faerie is not human. It has motivation, yes, but the same kind of motivation that a rock has to remain solid, or a tree to grow. Or maybe even less. It does not have anything resembling human desires: It does not feel anger or joy, but simulates these things. Its needs are alien, even more than a Giger alien, because at least that has the basic needs and desires of life as we know it. The default case is like playing Speed Racer as an rpg, with one of the players asking, "Hey, can I play the Mach V?"

That's just the default position: If someone offers a really compelling idea, I'd say go for it and have fun. Otherwise, just say no.

Just me,


The other aspect of this is that faeries can be reprogrammed, and not y themselves, but by their stories. A gifted artist can literally rewrite part of what makes a faerie what it is. At the same time a faerie can have a drive to improve themselves, but can't actually do that by themselves, only elevate how well they pretend to do certain things.

Well, I have (had) two players that were min-maxing and rather competitive. I'm sure one of them would have picked up this concept and used it to tailor the character to each adventure, or just adopt and exploit new tricks as they came within reach, leaving the other's character "stuck" in its inflexible self. That would have led to lots of rule-arguments, and stress between the players.

This is a rather unique situation, but I think any min-maxer worthy of the name will heavily exploit such flexibility, which will lead to an explosion in the amount of rule-discussions, lack of plot/character continuity, and generally a mess at the table.

YMMV :slight_smile:

In my personal opinion, that should be the default position, but an easily-rebutted default. (Obviously, if a magus-level PC has the Spirit Companion/Faerie Friend Story Flaw, then duh a Faerie Companion is called for!)

The main problem is that a Companion-level faerie is still not a protagonist, he's a character in someone else's story, he exists to be an ally either of the covenant in general or a particular magus in specific, and to the extent that he has any ambitions of his own, they're related to that story. That said, one character I'm writing up may end up with a faerie "shield grog," but that's because sahirs get to do that sort of thing. :smiley: