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Overview of Dark Ages: Fae

Some episodes back on All Games Considered I did a review for

Dark Ages: Fae. Well, it turned out to be more of an overview,

and I had a lot of help from my co-GM, who was also running a

DA: Fae game at the time.

I’m going to start this review out the same way I did for

Deliria. With what this game is not. First of all – this game

is NOT Changeling. It isn’t meant to be. That has in my

experience caused some people to really not like the game, but

to them I say “give it a chance”. It doesn’t have as much in

the way of a connection to the modern game, but the

connections that are there are significant. It is, in fact, a

different system than Changeling. You’re not dealing with the

same kind of restrictions and powers that are in the modern

game, and the reason is this: DA: Fae deals with what *could

have happened* *before* the Shattering, a time that was never

well defined in the modern setting book, which gave the

developers great freedom in interpreting what that backstory

could be. It doesn’t *have* to be what happened before the

Shattering – but that’s the beauty of it I think.

That being said – they can be tied together of course. Because

no one knows exactly how the Fae got from where they were

before the Shattering. In Changeling, the Shattering is the

series of events that caused the Fae to flee this plane back

to the Dreaming and Arcadia and left those behind the choice

between clothing their Fae souls in human bodies, or dying as

human disbelief and distrust eroded them into nothingness.

DA Fae goes back before that – explores the Good Folk, the
True Fae, and their half-human or human-adopted offspring (who

were the Changelings back then) and the Inanimae – elemental,

primal forces that walk and talk like men.

First – the Fae: From the mists of creation came these fair

folk, and they do believe they are the first – calling

themselves the firstborn, they have no human or alternate mein

and hence rely on their powers and the mists to hide them in

times of danger. Sprites and other magical beings with enough

accumulated power can become firstborn – the key here is that

there is no human part to these beings. They live forever and

believe themselves masters of the Realm of Flesh so much so

that they believe they can leave it untended, in the hands of

the humans they believe they dominate while they fight each

other for dominion over the lands. Lands they didn’t want to

damage – so while they fought elsewhere, their caretakers took

over – multiplied, and the serfs became the masters.

Changelings have both a fae and human mein that they can

switch back and forth to – not quickly or easily, but they

can. They have some human in them – either through their being

raised as such or being a human child stolen away to the fae


Inanimae can break down to their component parts and reform

them – this heals all damage and they can look human or – well

– not. They are primal forces, men made of leaves and twigs

who can trod upon the earth or fall back into its embrace.

All of the Fae made oaths with the humans – oaths which gave

humans tremendous power over them. Certain sacrifices would be

made by humans, in return for the Fae protecting the lands.

Certain things, called Echoes now existed that the Fae could

be harmed by if they didn’t fulfill their side of the deal.

When they returned to Earth they found that these Echoes could

be devastating. Throwing salt over your shoulder, a simple

rhyme or incantation, or the sign of the Cross, and the Fae

could be hurt, or banished.

They made a truce with each other that after the war ended

they would not raise another army to fight each other until

the sun went black. Roughly a century is thought as the

timeframe, it’s agreed that it will come to an end pretty

soon, so even though they haven’t gotten a handle on the

humans – they’ll soon be free to fight each other too. Yay.

In the game you have the three kinds of fae and 5 courts. I’ve

already talked about the types of fae, now the courts. Instead

of the two courts that Changeling has (Seelie and Unseelie)

there are 4 seasonal courts and the courtless court.


Your court doesn’t ironclad define your personality. Your

choice of court is more defined by the court’s purpose than by

personality traits.

To tie this to Changeling, I think that the Spring/Summer

courts could have easily – in my mind – morphed into the

Seelie court, and the Autumn/Winters could have morphed into

the Unseelie court, with the Solstice Fae falling into either.
Spring and Autumn are the ones most likely to work with the

humans – seeking to understand them for various reasons –

common reasoning is however that the humans cannot forget

them. The spring Fae wish to change – they’re most attuned to

adaptation – and they want to remain within this realm and

preserve their ties with humans. Not to say they don’t feel

superior to them, but they don’t see them only as pawns. The

Spring Fae I played in the Marcon demo was forever trying to

figure out just how the humans had changed during the Wars and

sought to understand them more – partially out of the love of

their mercurial changes, partially because she wanted to see

the humans and the Fae have tighter bonds than before.

Autumn works more towards being the influence over humans that

they used to be – there’s no need to cater to the whims of

these ephemeral beings – but understanding is paramount if

they are to subtly wrest control back and once again pull the

strings. They also prefer to stay more hidden than their

springtime cousins, manipulate, and gather information and

power from the shadows. There’s no need to beat the humans

over the head with their superiority, they can rule just as

well from the shadows and dreams.

Summer and Winter are both pissy at the uppity mortals who

think that simply because their masters were gone for a spell

that they now had the run of the place. Summer wants to come

down hot and furious upon their heads and remind them who

their true masters are. Winter wants to frighten them into

submission while they take over as the true rulers.

Because let’s not forget they warred not over if the Fae

should rule the Mortals, but WHICH Fae should rule. Though

there is a faction that believes that Rule should come with

each Season, not all think that way.

Solstice Fae for whatever reason, because they didn’t get

sained in time, because they were banished, or because they

just didn’t fit – they are bound together by their outcast

status. Allowing them more freedom with their powers, but at

the same time at a higher cost. In the story, they generally

hire themselves out as mercenaries, and most have their own

agenda and feelings towards the mortals.

Building your characters.

I think they knew there would only be one book. I really do.

The absolute stunning beauty in this game – in my opinion –

lies in the endless possibilities of character combinations.

There are specific aspects: Features, Oaths, and Echoes. The

book gives you ideas on what to do with those, but doesn’t

define what you can and cannot use. The benefit in this is you

can plumb the faerie tales of old and make your character one

of those beings – or come up with something entirely new. A

point where the players and storyteller can work closely with

each other on creating characters that will really fit within

the storyworld. Characters that will really help build it.

Mists and Weaving – remember – it’s not Changeling – there’s

not any glamour or banality. In the DA times, there is the

sliding scale of Magic Versus Reality. What is already woven,

what is already defined so strongly in the human mindset, in

their beliefs and dreams that the Fae cannot manipulate this
as easily as they can the unformed potential of the Mists.

Changelings have better chance with the Weaving – but less

with the Mists than their firstborn kin. Inanimae are

perfectly balanced between the two.

Cantrips are ruled by Weaving – you’ve done that abracadabra

before – you know it works – but it can get a little boring.

And depending on if it is your time of year, and the dominion

you are using is your favored one – it might be easier to

cast. There are cantrips in the book – but players and

storytellers are encouraged to work together to create new


Unleashing – you reach into the mists with an idea of what you

want to happen and hope really really hard you don’t blow

yourself up. This is one of those points where the storyteller

and the player work together. The GM rolls for you – and you

want them to roll low this time :).

You really should explore both – as going too far one way you

loose touch with the realm of Faerie – too far into the Mists

and the Chaos can destroy you – drive you mad with power, or

just drive you mad.

Dominions – each court has an affinity with a time of day –

Day – Summer, Dawn – Spring, Dusk – Autumn, Night – Winter. If

you cast anything – cantrip or unleashing near your ideal time

(shortly before or after sunrise for the Spring for example)

and it is a dominion cantrip – then your difficulty is

lessened – even more so if it is near your Equinox or Solstice

(vernal equinox for spring).

However difficulty for unleashing can never go under 4.

Now – the dominions are self sufficient – one group doesn’t

get cool mad powerz over the others because they all have a

balanced set of healing and damage dealing cantrips. Other

cantrips are closer to that court’s dominion, but I don’t

think any one court is broke.

But, how does it play?

Like I’ve mentioned before, I got to play at Marcon with one

of the Developers – Black Hat Matt. It was a lot of fun, and

though I really love the Urban Fantasy genre – I love this

exploration of where the Fae went and what preceded the flight

back to the Dreaming and Arcadia.

Even better, because this isn’t Dark Ages: Changeling, there’s

more open interpretation with what you can do with the game.

Now, it can be argued that you can do that with any game, it

isn’t required that the metaplot be followed to the letter.

I’m just saying that it is easy to do so with DA: Fae. How it

plays is up to the group – in my albeit limited experience –

we had a great deal of fun just discussing humans in the

forest and what we thought of them

Spring Court: “They’re so fascinating! How quickly they have

adapted, I’ve been studying them for years and each one holds

such potential!”
Inanimae “They’re there – and part of the balance though they

grow quickly”
Winter Court “Lead them into the bogs and stumbling in the

forest, their fear tastes just as good as their flesh”.

Then again – the hardest part as discussed below is getting a

concept – it’s not that easy when you’re playing something

without a human side to it. The Changelings might be the

easiest ones – but the others – the Firstborn and the Inanimae

– are sometimes too alien.

My Spring court character during the game was put in a

situation where we had just started to sink a boat full of

Inquisitors. She knew that they couldn’t be allowed to live to

reach shore – they’d seen too much and their purpose for being

there was suspect and potentially dangerous to her kind. She

was a Firstborn mind you. So as fascinated as she was – she

had them go to sleep in the water. It was an unleashing and it

went surprisingly well – they sank peacefully and quietly to

their deaths. And she wasn’t truly bothered by it. It was a

shame – but she didn’t lose any sleep over it.

But, how does it run? My co-Gm has a game running right now

and she had a few things to say about running the game, which

she is allowing me to share in this review: I’m paraphrasing

so most of this is her and my comments at times.

She liked the idea the being in a court or of a particular

origin doesn’t force the character into an exact molds as it

easily does in Changeling (Satyrs are horn dogs, Trolls are

knightly, etc.)

The multiple plot lines offered in the book – you could have a

game dealing with religion and humanity or a game dealing with

the different courts and the upcoming war and the twain may

never meet – just from information from the book.

She’s not as thrilled at having only one book, because there’s

so much that could have and should have been explored more.

The dominions are extremely powerful – she found that was

overly much so in some circumstances. The Winter court coming

straight out of the book can be too easily made into the

baddies. Of course that is how the Unseelie can be interpreted

as well, something that we have worked to change in our modern


Some of her general thoughts:

Character creation will take about a session to get through.

In her opinion it is second only to Mage in complexity. The

vague mechanics made creating Echoes and Oaths for her game a

major speed bump. She said, and I agree, that the concept is

easy enough to grasp, but the mechanics are lacking.

Another thing that we agree on is that it does require the

storyteller to be extremely creative. Unleashing powers are

left completely to the storyteller to describe, and to also

define the mechanics of the result. The same can be said for

Echoes and when humans see Fae in their true forms. Power

levels were hard to deal with in her game, and the players she

had created their characters straight out of the base creation

rules – of course she had a highly creative group of

roleplayer as well. When the enemy NPCs lost saving throws the

combat was pretty much over. Of course her players also didn’t

go automatically for the physical kill rather than powers like

Atonement, which gives a “sense of extreme guilt towards the

caster and with enough successes they will serve the caster

for a full year to atone for their transgressions” to halt a

Templates for some baddies – which a Storyteller guide might

have done – would have been helpful. Overall though, she loves

it, and her players enjoyed it too. It’s very different from

most other White Wolf games. She doesn’t think it’s well
suited to combat, but she and I both have issues with running

combats :).

In conclusion – the rules are vague vague vague – but they are

good guidelines that a dedicated storyteller and troupe can

really turn into an incredible journey through the middle ages

and the origins of the Fae.

Other mentions:
Another good thing to mention is that it *does* require the

DA: Vampire book to use, because essentially in this, which is

the DA series that starts the metaplot in the year 1230, makes

DA: Vampire the core book, and all the other DA books were

considered supplements. However there is a free core-rules

download from White Wolf’s site, as well as a copy of the DA:

Fae character sheet, which I recommend for download because

the initial sheet printed is wrong – it has six dots, there

should be only 5. Link here:


DA Fae is also OUT OF PRINT. And White Wolf proclaimed that

once that run was over it was over, there won’t be a

reprinting, I realize that White Wolf is a business and must

make business decisions, hopefully the new Changeling game

coming out in 2007 even though it is a limited run, will give

us a new spin on the game.

I still purchase WW products, I still enjoy games other than

Changeling and DA Fae. They produce good games, I just feel

strongly about certain decisions they’ve made regarding

anything with the fae lines. I know I should be grateful we

got what we did, and I again want to thank Black Hat Matt and

everyone else who fought for ANY inclusion of a fae-game in

the first White Wolf Universe as it came to an end. (Read Matt

McFarland’s discourse on the End of Changeling and its short

inclusion in Time of Judgement here: )

Anyway – if you can find it in a game shop or online – that’s

great – I have a copy of the book myself (pre-ordered of

course) and I love it – however, it is available on for $20.99.

There are no official supplements to DA: Fae, however the

worldbook Dark Ages: British Isles (print $21.95, also

available on DriveThruRPG

s_id=1484 for $10.98) is the perfect companion for a DA: Fae


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