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. Concept: 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 lands. 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. Spring Summer Autumn Winter Solstice 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 ones. 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 game. 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 combat. 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: http://download.white-wolf.com/download/download.php?file_id=1 19 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: http://www.geocities.com/blackhatmatt/end_of_dream.htm ) 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 DriveThruRPG.com 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 http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/catalog/product_info.php?product s_id=1484 for $10.98) is the perfect companion for a DA: Fae setting.

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