Archive for the ‘Faery’s Tale’ Category

Actual Play (AP):

The game started a little slowly, as I had been hammered with work that whole week and hadn’t made time to review my notes before the game.  We went over some of the game’s rules, especially those concerning bright and dark essence, since the players would be playing faeries whose hearts were at least partially blackened.  Then we reviewed the three characters’ kickers: the vicious cat had finally found Yak’s squat in The Brambles, and chased him out; Aiden Mistletoe had just returned from a sea voyage, but had taken the wrong crate from the ship, and caused an expensive accident at the docks in the process; and Conor Hops now owed a boon to the neighbourhood witch, recently returned and especially grumpy.

Yak was just making himself at home at Conor’s space between the walls at the Bryskett’s, when a commotion erupted at Lewis Wright’s house, next door.  Wright was the reluctant leader of the nascent (and illegal) labour union of dock workers, who were enraged by the morning’s announcement of wage garnishing to pay for the damage at the docks and the missing crate of valuables.  Missing valuables?  The three faeries snuck into Wright’s basement where Aiden had secreted his crate; they found not foreign faery handiworks but fine French cognac!

Things started to pick up after that, as the players settled into their characters and started to drive the story themselves.  They agreed on a plan to spirit the spirits back onto the ship and save the dock workers from the charge of thievery, at least.

With a boisterous labour meeting upstairs, getting the crate out unseen was quite a trick, but the ingenious trio managed it (a hairy looking man-beast that some called a “monkey” was spotted in Echo Park hopping from rooftop to rooftop, carrying a crate).  Returning it to the ship, however, did not go as smoothly.  Aiden, in the form of a monkey, attracted unwanted attention, and then the discovery of liquor on the docks nearly started a riot.  The well-intentioned faeries prevented the spirits from being drank, at the cost of enflaming the ensuing fist fight!

Other fun goings on:

  • the new union of dock workers declared a strike in protest of the wage garnishes
  • Yak and friends were ambushed by the cat, scarred from crashing through Yak’s sharpie collection and looking for revenge; Aiden turned himself into a dog and chased it off
  • the faeries overheard orphan Little Joseph tell homeless Joe Stillgar that he’d seen Wilkins Booth (the developer) storm into the orphanage and demand to be allowed to search the premises for some piece of missing property; further eavesdropping on the nuns revealed that Booth was searching for something which he believes was included in a box of cast-offs donated to the orphanage last year when his old manservant passed away
  • the witch, Ludmilla, called in her boon over Conor, demanding that he search the faery palace (under The Paddocks neighbourhood) for a missing amulet of hers
  • the three faery friends descended under the orphanage to the hidden and magnificent faery palace, where Queen Leannan was hosting a celebration of Orange Blossom Day; a quick search of the accessible areas revealed nothing
  • Conor slipped into an off-limits area while Yak, whose goblin presence was barely tolerated as it was, created a messy diversion; Conor found two sprite soldiers guarding a dead-end passage
  • Queen Leannan, trying to be rid of the noisy goblin, asked Yak to convey an invitation to the Spider King for a champion to attend the next month’s jousting tournament.

Conor put the sprites to sleep.  His examination of the guarded blank wall revealed nothing, but clever Aiden, joining him, saw the wall for the illusion that it was, and passed through.  Conor followed.  Beyond the illusory wall was a dark and dank passage not unlike a human-built storm sewer; it led to a large chamber that covered an old human well, from the bottom of which could be heard a crooning.  Conor and Aiden descended the well; about 50 feet down they encountered a vine that blocked the well like a grate, and a red glint.  Interwoven with the living vine was a gold chain and a red jewelled amulet.  From below could be discerned: “Hmmm hmm, I’m a frog, happy frog, in a well, hmm hmmm, nice and wet…” etc.

The faeries cut loose the amulet; the vine turned gray and the happy crooning from beneath suddenly boomed loud and angry: “I’m no frog!  Why am I in a well!?  I’ve been tricked!!   RAAOOOOAR!!!”  Something massive began to claw its way upward;  a reptilian head approached.  Conor and Aiden fled, along with the rest of the panicking faery court.  Shortly after gaining the surface, the three friends witnessed tremors and the sounds of rending stone as a dragon burst from the roof of the orphanage.  People ran in terror.  The great black beast circled once in the air, spraying the neighbourhood with flame, and then few off.  Picture three pint-sized faeries, jaws adrop at their handiwork!

  • feeling conflicting responsibilities and obligations concerning the amulet (and the palace, and the dragon…), the faeries decided not to give it to the witch yet; Yak swallowed it and ran off;
  • the witch was observing the destruction from her front porch; “Good old Ludmilla,” she cackled, “I should have known!”
  • Conor admitted that a goblin had run off with the amulet; the witch threw a fit, and ordered the brownie to find and retrieve it immediately.

As we closed this chapter of The Faeries of Echo Park, Yak was strutting around the court of the Spider King, holding his belly, boasting that “somebody” would be kicking some bright-faery butt at the upcoming joust!

I’d say that the session was a great success.  I was very happy with the results of my first story-now GMing attempt, and I think the guys had a good time too.  I was surprised that they decided to cut loose the amulet, despite all the foreshadowing that Dire Things would follow; but it was a conscious decision on their part, it was in character, and it served the story very well.  I’m still not completely into the mindset that players in a narrative game will act in the interests of a good story, not necessarily in the best interests of their characters!

I was also surprised to find that we had burned through almost all of the hooks and bangs that I had planned for 3-4 sessions!  I’m glad that I’d had enough prepared to run a rich, fast-paced story for 3+ hours.  There is certainly enough unresolved action left on which to plan hooks and bangs for the next session!  A faery palace destroyed, a dragon on the loose, a witch enraged, and a goblin with a magic amulet in his gut!

There was very little dice-rolling, and only one failure: when Conor failed to discern the nature of the illusory wall (a Hard magical Spirit challenge).  The combat with the cat didn’t turn out to be very interesting; Aiden turned into a dog and the cat ran away.  I’ll have to plan a re-match on more even terms!  I should also plan some more interesting challenges that target the PCs’ weaknesses.

Good times, can’t wait for the next session in 2 weeks!


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In the game Faery’s Tale, “boons” are serious business.  A boon is a favour formally owed or promised.  Boons can be traded.  Amongst a people who can create gold with a sprinkle of pixie dust, boons are the only currency of the realm.  Many an interesting adventure has been kicked off by an unsavoury character who holds a boon over another.

What if a character refuses to honour a boon?  I searched the rulebook, and it only says that a faery “must.”  Surely such a situation can inspire creative ways of undertaking to honour the favour demanded while simultaneously trying to subvert or defeat the intent of the requestor!  But what if the faery who owes the boon is a player character?  It’s never cool to say “you must” to a player.  It should be possible to refuse to honour a boon; and there should be consequences.

And like any house rule, we must consider what purpose the rule serves: gamist, simulationist, or narrativist?  I’m going with narrativist; the rules that I propose around unhonoured boons will serve the purpose of making the story more interesting.

Of course, any faery should feel ashamed to leave a boon unpaid.

Unhonoured Boons:

Andro (an honourable sprite) owes a boon to Blark (a vile goblin!).  In other words, Blark holds a boon that was originally “issued” by Andro.  Blark calls in the boon, but the favour he asks is unconscionable, and Andro refuses to honour the boon.

  • Any other faery, upon contemplating giving, redeeming or trading a boon with Andro, will instantly know that there is an unhonoured boon (but will not receive knowledge of the circumstances).
  • Any curse cast by Blark upon Andro need have no other escape clause except “unless and until the boon be honoured.”
  • Blark gets +1 dice in any challenge, duel or combat against Andro unless/until Andro is actively working to fulfil Blark’s request.
  • If Andro can somehow acquire a boon over Blark, then Andro can use that second boon to cancel the first. Blark’s consent is not required.

Comments welcome!


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I’m not going to get a big enough span of free time to write about our planning session all in one go.  Today, I want to post briefly about planning conflict.

A good story-game scenario starts with some NPC organizations and characters that are at odds with each other; some tensions that are about to explode into open conflict.  The PCs will (by virtue of their player-authored backstories) want to get involved, and/or some NPCs (for selfish reasons) will want to get them involved.  The question is: how does one generate some juicy conflicts?

My first shot consisted of asking the group assembled “what juicy conflicts are afoot?”  Silence.  We were all jazzed about the setting as developed so far, but my prompt was too open-ended.  Ryan jumped in and got things going with his Elements of Conflict theory (which he explains well on his blog).  I’ll summarize it here: conflict will arise when you have:

  1. People in Need
  2. Objects of Desire
  3. Events that Add Pressure
  4. People Misusing Power

If you have enough of these then a nice, complex, tangled set of conflicts will arise which is perfect for story-telling.

For our faeries-in-a-Victorian-London-neighbourhood scenario, here are some of the elements of conflict that we generated:

    • an unwilling union leader
    • homeless people living in the park
    • youngest daughter of the ailing faery monarch
    • families about to lose their homes to a developer
    • a deed confirming peerage and ownership of the land on which the neighbourhood stands
    • a missing ring (engagement ring of the developer’s dead fiancé AND The Witch’s wedding ring!)
    • a magic silver cup, now part of the Park fountain
    • mistreatment of workers, an illegal labour strike
    • heartless developer displacing working-class families and building mansions
    • gentrification of neighbourhood at one end; friction between rich and poor kids
    • ailing faery monarch, offspring jostling for position to succeed her
    • more cats & dogs in neighbourhood
    • eccentric professor discovers faeries, begins trapping & studying them
    • dragon, trapped & guarded by faeries, may be released by construction work
    • bitter real-estate developer
    • greedy owner of company (90% of neighbourhood men work for him)
    • The Witch
    • the Spider King
    • Rats (talking)

    Following that, the players each came up with a Kicker to hook their character into the gathering storm.  Now I just have to come up with a bunch of ideas for Bangs to keep things moving at a rollercoaster pace!

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    You know, I used to really over-prepare my home-brew adventures.  I mean, they looked like the store-bought ones: read-aloud text for every location, fully stat’ed NPCs, the whole bit.  Come to think of it, my intention was always to submit them for publication after the playtest… anyway, I am now aware of my tendency to deal with GM’s anxiety by over-preparing, and am trying to resist the compulsion.

    But I’m looking at all the excellent, creative story elements that we came up with in the brainstorming session, and i realize that: I have a lot of work to do!  Lots of NPCs to name, some to stat, some locations to map out.   And for whatever challenges and conflicts that I can foresee, I’ve got to select and stat the opponents, and make sure the difficulty levels are appropriate to the PCs.  I don’t think this is over-preparation, I think this is just necessary given the number of story elements that we generated.  Everything needs an appropriate level of detail to be useful and to add to the atmosphere.  Right now, there’s no detail at all!

    The cat that has it out for Yak: should it be a bog-standard cat?  Maybe a real bruiser (bump up his Body score)?  Maybe a faery cat (magical and more intelligent) that somehow ended up as a house pet?  And what to name it: something ominous like ‘Tiger,’ or something ironic like ‘Fluffy’?  Both seem a bit cliché, actually.  Hmm.  How much effort should go into detailing a cat?

    I’m putting it all in one document: NPCs, monsters, organizations, locations, secrets, planned Bangs, stat blocks.  Let’s just try not to call it a campaign encyclopaedia.  I’m hoping “GM’s Notes” won’t be too much of an understatement.

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    I’m preparing a Story Now!-style Faery’s Tale game for grown-ups.  Faery’s Tale is a game I originally bought for my young kids, and they love it; now I’m going to try it out on my gamer friends who like nothing better than trying out new games.  The planning session went down, it was very productive and bursting with great ideas. Now the real prep begins!

    The setting is a working-class neighbourhood in Victorian-era Belltown (a.k.a. London). The people of Echo Park unknowingly share their careworn homes and gardens with faeries of all kinds! Faeries are ghost-world emanations of the families that live near Echo Park. Every faery is strongly tied to a family (though the faeries don’t know why this is).

    Here are the player characters — all faeries. We decided it would be fun (ie. more “grown up”) to play faeries that are already some ways down the road to the dark side.  No making flowers bloom for these guys!  Therefore each PC has some dark essence, and at least one dark Gift. *grin!* Those Gifts (bright and dark) which bear some explaining are detailed out with each character:


    Conor Hops

    Brownies are sturdy household faeries who live unseen alongside humans in their cozy cottages.*

    Body 2 / Mind 4 / Spirit 3. Starting Bright Essence 2 / Dark Essense 4.

    Gifts: Household Magic(p26), Invisibility(p26), Alert(p29), Curse Magic(p58).

    Family: lives with the Brysketts, and is highly protective of them.

    Kicker: owes The Witch a boon for helping young master Gabriel Bryskett versus some bullying rich kids. Conor begged her to throw down a wicked curse, the likes of which Conor could never manage on his own. Now he owes her, and her problems are about to become his problems…

    Household Magic: Brownies cast spells that affect things in and around households, from tools and crops to people, pets, and domesticated animals. Attempting to cast spells on things outside of the household is more difficult, costing an extra +1 Essence.  Effortless feats of magic, such as moving a heavy butter churn, dusting the hearth, or mending broken dishes, cost your brownie no Essence. Demanding feats, such as causing grapevines to entangle an enemy or making an apple tree drop its apples on someone, cost 1 Essence. Difficult feats, such as enabling a pet, pig, horse, or other domesticated animal to speak to faeries, cost 2 Essence.*

    Alert: Your faery is perceptive and observant. Effortless feats of observation, such as hearing someone sneaking up behind your faery, smelling stinky goblins nearby, or spotting a clue overlooked by everyone else, cost your faery no Essence. Demanding feats, such as discovering a hidden trap door or eavesdropping on a whispered conversation, cost 1 Essence. Difficult feats, such as finding a needle in a haystack, detecting the presence of an invisible being from non-visual clues, or deducing the way out of a maze by smelling fresh air, cost 2 Essence.*

    Curse Magic: Effortless feats of magic, such as bringing bad luck on someone or causing someone to trip, cost no Essence. Demanding feats, such as blighting crops, breaking something precious, or causing someone to become ill, cost 1 Essence. Difficult feats, such as aging someone, turning a prince into a frog, or causing a princess to fall into an enchanted slumber, require 2 Essence.  Curses must have some way to be broken—such as a prince cursed with frog form returning to his normal self when kissed. The caster may have to pay extra Essence for a curse that’s particularly difficult to break, such as requiring a kiss from a princess or the prince’s true love.*


    Aiden Mistletoe

    Pookas are wild faeries who are naughty tricksters.*

    Body 4 / Mind 1 / Spirit 4. Starting Bright Essence 4 / Dark Essence 4.

    Gifts: Change form(p27), Travel Magic(p.27), Magical(+2 Spirit/magical challenges), Hardy(+2 Body/constitution chgs), Glamor Magic(p58).

    Family: Wrights (unwilling union leader in an age when labour unions were illegal)

    Kicker: Caused an accident at the docks. Wright was blamed. Now, the company bosses are garnishing everyone’s wages to pay for damage, which turns up pressure on Wright to either sit down and shut up, or make this union thing work NOW.

    Change Form: A pooka can take the form of any natural animal or creature, though she cannot pose as a particular individual creature. For example, a pooka may change form into a mouse, but she cannot duplicate a particular mouse friend of another faery. Pookas cannot take the form of magical creatures, such as other faeries or dragons, nor can they pose as humans.  A pooka can turn into any roughly faery-sized creature, such as an insect or mouse, at will. Changing form into a creature up to the size of a cat or dog costs 1 Essence. For 2 Essence, a pooka can take the form of any creature up to the size of a horse.  When a pooka changes form, she also takes on the attributes and gifts of the creature. Whatever her form and other attributes, however, a pooka’s Essence pool remains the same. She may remain in the new form as long as she wishes; returning to her natural faery form costs no Essence. A pooka who falls asleep from expending all her Essence returns to her normal form.*

    Travel Magic: Pookas cast travel magic allowing them to cover vast distances, particularly in combination with an appropriate animal form, such as a horse or bird.  Effortless feats of magic, such as traveling without becoming tired or quenching thirst or hunger after a long journey, cost your pooka no Essence. Demanding feats, such as moving twice as fast as normal, cost 1 Essence. Difficult feats, such as transporting herself and any passengers anywhere in the world in a single night, cost 2 Essence.*

    Glamour Magic: This Gift allows a being to magically fool others into doing what she says. The person so ensorcelled trusts the caster implicitly and will go along with almost any suggestion.  Effortless feats of magic, such as charming someone gullible or trusting, cost no Essence. Demanding feats, such as charming an ordinary person., cost 1 Essence. Difficult feats, such as charming someone who is suspicious or hostile, require 2 Essence.*



    Goblins [are] mean and ugly faeries who cause trouble everywhere they go. These dire faeries are fallen pixies, brownies, sprites, or pookas, who have forsaken good for the power of darkness. Goblins lurk in the gloomy places of the world, spinning nightmares to send to sleeping children.*

    (yeah, Ryan just had to play a goblin! In this game, the Bright/Dark faery dichotomy does NOT lie right along the Good/Evil axis. Yak is impulsive, destructive, and obsessively collects sharp things, but he’s not evil. At least, I don’t think he is – Ouch! Hey, cut that out! No, i didn’t mean CUT out… give that back!)

    Body 4 / Mind 2 / Spirit 3. Starting Bright Essence 0 / Dark Essence 6.

    Gifts: Black Magic(p58), Contortion(p58), Burrow(p58), Night Vision(p59), Venom (delayed +1 dmg + “drunkeness”; p60).

    Family: Joe Stillgar (homeless/The Brambles), Little Joseph (orphanage, J.Stillgar’s son!)

    Kicker: Running from gentry cat.  Cat chased Yak out of his hidey-hole in The Brambles, and got all cut up in the face by crashing through Yak’s collection of shiny pointy things. Now Yak is homeless and has lost all his stuff, and the cat is out for revenge.

    Black Magic: Creatures with this Gift practice Black Magic, a corrupt yet powerful perversion of faery magic. Black magic spreads decay, fear, and darkness, bringing ruin on everything it touches and all who use it. Effortless magical feats, such as souring milk, wilting flowers, or breaking pottery, cost no Essence. Demanding feats, such as scaring animals, warping wood, or sparking a fire, cost 1 Essence. Difficult feats, such as frightening other beings, shattering metal, or calling darkness on a sunny day, cost 2 Essence.  Casting black magic for kindly purposes costs +1 Essence. Physical objects created by black magic vanish at daybreak.*

    Contortion: Creatures with the Gift of Contortion have twisty, stretchy bodies allowing them to squeeze through small holes or cracks. The creature can squeeze through any opening, although tiny holes take longer.*


    I think GMing this bunch of animals is going to be a treat.


    * quoted without permission from the Faery’s Tale Deluxe rulebook, published by Firefly Games.

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