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Posted: Sep 18 2008, 06:39 PM
Member No.: 3
Joined: 3-August 07
Or, The Science Of fey
By Sig (sigma999), Fall 2008, effectively version 3 of the original “Fey by Sig” drafts
The options presented here are presented to you, the d20 and/or Dungeons & Dragons gamer, as a series of modular setting inclusions.
Some people write settings as an integral whole but I see it differently; gamers pick and choose their favorite concepts anyway, so why not hold that assumption from the start?
Options presented in this document are as follows, with subsets wherever appropriate:
The Rules of Nature
Nature is cruel.
We all know that.
Life hurts, you eat a lot, poo some, do other stuff in between, and after a period of time… stop.
It’s a reductionist take on life but we all know it to be true. We eventally come to know our own mortality; it’s the most important part about being mortal.
Now suppose evolution takes place using the same rules of nature but in a different playing field.
In this instance, the parallel worlds of the fey creatures, mirroring ecosystems and forms similar to those of “normal” life-bearing planets.
The selective pressures for evolution are different due to a variety of different resources, but the stakes are the same; live the best you can, leave a big skid mark, and try to pass on your genes before the big crash n’ burn.
… but in this other game, the rules change.
Or rather, some of the players change the rules when in a home game.
They no longer must eat the fruit of the earth, each other, sleep, or die of old age.
Is it cheating? Is it still the same game as the one you’re playing?
Do Knights and Castles play against a team of Sprites and Walking Trees when the latter may change the rules to their benefit, and the referee didn’t even bother to show up?
Differences between Mortal worlds, referred to as “Solid” realms in this document, and the “Ethereal” fey as distorted mirror worlds are close matches to these analogies.
How They Play The Game
The evolutionary paths fey organisms take is one of far less pain, trauma, and population collapse as often as Mortals have it.
Most of their environments could be compared in diversity to the relatively newfound sulfur vent ecosystems on the ocean floor; in environments abundant with nutrients and isolated from most hazards or competition, creatures both alien in form and yet not so different in blood thrive by adapting to the very singular circumstances.
Evolutionary focus and specialization is of utmost importance in these unique environments.
Specifically, while resources are nigh unlimited in the Ethereal dimension, premium locations are unfortunately lacking; many creatures crowd near intense areas of magical flux, syphoning the reality-distorting energies to sustain themselves and reshape their surroundings in to favorable terrains.
While creatures attempt to pluck the choice bits of mana, other beings might simply skip the harvesting process entirely and eat the harvesters.
Such is life.
With such favorable conditions in place fey tend to sacrifice worldly goods for inborn ability, exchange privacy for safety in numbers, and forgo both short and long term goals for sating urges immediately and forever.
The Ether is a realm of eternal abundance and fey abuse that privilige.
Laws of the Blood [Biology Option]
Fey creatures are considered “manavores”, even those that feed on fey which in turn only syphon mana leaks as nourishment. Biologically they are a kingdom unto their own, neither mammal nor fungi nor plant nor bacteria.
They have DNA, lipids, and proteins, eukaryotic cells or more similar to plant cells at times, and can mostly breed successfully with Solid world creatures.
This has nothing to do with chromosome matchups; sadly, it’s the product of an evolutionary adaptation for mana energies that allows fey to restructure their molecular makeup as easy as any fluid can fill to fit any container.
In essence, they cheat.
Since fey creatures of radically different body structures and functions can somehow still register as “fey” to magic and other effects, they might as well be radically divergent offshoots of the same kingdom; the etheria kingdom, simply known as ‘the fey’.
As a result, no fey species is far in genetic code from any other.
Any fey has the chance to reproduce with any other, a strategy that gives the etheria kingdom a massive edge as far as overpopulating
A specific form of fey is known as a phenotype, or a breed for the casual term. Mortals tend to call these specializations races and species, as befitting their own genetic classification, but since essentially all fey may produce offspring with each other the traditional taxonomy is out of its element.
The various phenotypes could be compared to the varied sizes and duties of ants and termites, although not nearly as fixed in role or centralized in origin.
Etheria seem relatively unchecked as far as recombinant genetics are concerned; this is true to a certain point, since one does not see too many sprite-ogres (in fact, the latter tend to feed on the former).
There are some major limitations to etheria propogation;
1. Fey need mana to breed.
No mana, or no magic, means their recombinant exotic DNA won’t even match up between the same species, let alone between two types that look anything like each other. Breeding with Solid world beings is another matter, since Solid world rules apply normally while fey are thrown in with a quick glance and a “meh, close enough”.
2. Fey must be the same size to breed.
If you’ve seen the variety etheria have to offer, it makes more sense that pairing equal size fey would work. Anatomy tends to disallow fey trolls and sprites to pair off. Note that phenotype of fey (also termed ‘race’ although it tends to be inaccurate) does not matter; a fey gnome may have children with a pixie, a hobgoblin with a changeling. The children grow to become either phenotype of the parent, a phenotype of another fey within the same mana leak region, or some mix between those samples. Some rare fey are born with unique phenotypes, abilities, combinations, or traits, but not often enough to count on for genetic variation within a population.
Incompatible fey phenotypes are not hopelessly doomed for speciation, though. If such a thing were possible, the entire etheria collective would have split off into oblivion much like how so many Solid worlds do.
Capable fey use some magical techniques get by this size restriction by converting their malleable shapes in to other more compatible mediums such as, say, becoming glowing clouds of energy (Gaseous Form spell) or simply changing shape to match. Other exotic methods include telepathic insemination, sharing DNA by devouring pieces of each other,
For the fey reproduction is a “the ends justify the means” situation; if two or more fey want to reproduce, they’re going to find a way, dagnabbit.
Other than that, all’s fair in love and… other things.
With that said, one might begin to see why magical ‘hot spots’ are so important to beings reliant on shapeshifting as a means to reproduce. See the section “Laws of the Land”.
Eternal Blood of Etheria [Biology Option]
A curious trait is shared among fey as an overarching kingdom of creatures; they live forever.
They are not technically immortal, since this feature varies depending on the readiness of free-flowing mana or appropriate immortality-inducing magic, but also by how many other creatures die of old age within that same world.
If a fey is born among humans it dies among humans old and grey.
If a fey is born among fiends or celestials it will never die of age.
Even so, these rules are subject to change as by environment and magical decree.
The etheria kingdom is adaptable yet to a fault. It would seem that dying as a mortal has distinct disadvantages to individual life with nothing to gain.
Strangely, dying among mortals works in the favor of those adopted fey sometimes known as Changelings; by being born as and remaining mortal the individual etheria does not overtax the environment and resources and may produce offspring without the need for mana.
It is this normalizing factor of mortal worlds that sometimes drives desperate fey nations in decline to crossbreed or infiltrate their own offspring among mortal populations, ensuring that their own lineages survive in a manner at times very similar to the nesting behavior of a cuckoo bird.
Blooming in Spring
Fey can be expected to reproduce as quickly as most humanoids and aging as fast as elves do although the actual rate depends on the availability of mana. Some use mana to force maturation quickly but doing so is considered in bad taste (since the being’s childhood is skipped) and usually only performed in times of hardship.
• Upon reaching adulthood every being with the fey type racially acquires the Eternal Body trait (see Feats section). Eternal Body is identical to the Druid ability Timeless Body but with some exceptions.
Dying in Winter
Fey that mature in the Solid and Mortal realms do not have this option unless powerful magic is available; they will age but never stop until death, eventually becoming decrepit and feeble as any mortal elf. If a fey in the Mortal realms returns to the Ether, they age backwards until youth is restored and then gain the Timeless Body as long as they stay.
• All fey venturing to worlds in which over 50% of the intelligent native life dies of mortal aging also automatically suffers this nullification of the Eternal Body trait as long as they remain.
If they travel to a world with more immortal life than mortal, they will cease to age by otherwise remain unchanged.
If they return to the Ether, they will age backwards to the young adult stage until all aging penalties and bonuses are removed.
Laws of the Land [Environment Option]
The laws of energy exchange and physics function very similar in both Solid and Ether realms.
Fire is hot. Ice is cold. Gravity works fine.
As far as the basics go one could walk a countryside in Ethereal and be just dandy, as long as there were no mana geysers or chaotic rifts.
Then again, that’s just the default.
Once fey are added in the mix, the effect on the Ether environment is comparable to how humans pull petroleum products and accidentally poison surroundings with byproduct waste and alterations to otherwise balanced ecosystems.
In this instance, the ‘oil’ is mana, and the toxicity lies in changes fey bring that can sometimes be inhospitable to Mortal life.
Ether realms with fey in them, which go together like bodies of water and bacteria, tend to be modified according to personal whim.
Forests can grow overnight.
Mountains might be inverted or raised within single afternoons.
If a powerful fey decides they want to breath acid, you’ll be breathing acid along with them until you can escape their area of control.
And you’re probably not going to like it very much.
Average Ether Terrain
Most areas of fey worlds are relatively benign. Plants grow lushly, or not so lushly, and the air is breathable.
As a general rule, the spread of a landscape is essentially a twisted clone of the Solid world an Ether realm imitates.
Altitudes vary as much as in the Solid worlds, which means for every Solid ocean there is an Ethereal one, and for every mountain there is something equally big and rocky… although, some Ethereal mountains might be slumbering giants instead. The parallels are more like suggestions or synonyms than actual reflections; it's the intent that counts.
The differences is in presentation; an Ether landscape appears to be the same content of bedrock up to the deepest layer of topsoil, where rock gives way to clay and mud. In Ether, the actual
Beneath the land of every Ether realm is a massive collection of phosphorescent energy known colliqually as “mana”. This neon-colored material with a density between water and mist is ripe with unformed magical energy. It’s the equivalent of magma and lava from Solid worlds, welling upwards and geysering wherever pressure builds to a crescendo.
When normal Ether land erupts a mana geyser forms and is accompanied by a wild magic effect (use the Rod of Wonder chart, 3.0e or 3.5e DMG, affecting all objects and creatures within that square mile for 1 day before subsiding).
Mana geysers then quell after a day and become mana leak terrain, suitable for habitation. Mostly.
Every square mile (or kilometer) of good Ethereal land leaks (generates) between 1d4 and 1d20 levels of energy every day depending on the individual intensity. These regions are considered premium land, must be searched for with Survival checks vs. DC 20 + the maximum amount of the mana leak’s intensity, and are moderately to highly contested for. The best types are usually grabbed by very powerful beings and sometimes non-fey; lesser mana leaks are for the plebians, or whoever can fend for them.
Roll on this chart to determine intensity of a Mana Leak terrain (2d6):
2 or 12 : Delicious (1d20 levels)
3 or 11 : Great (1d12 levels)
4 or 10 : Rare (1d10 levels)
5 or 9 : Uncommon (1d8 levels)
6 or 8 : Common (1d6 levels)
7 : Dregs (1d4 levels)
This mana energy can be used by any being that knows spells, psionics, special powers, items, or other abilities with expendable uses; one simply occupies the local region, rests, and concentrates on the ability to activate or replenish.
These levels of energy are not spell levels; they represent the character’s effective level for choosing an ability.
For instance, if a level 5 Wizard drains a section of 1d4-land to refill their spells, they roll the mana leak’s intensity for that session. This result determines how many Wizard levels counts before selecting the ability. If they roll a 1 or 2 they may only recover a Spell Level of 1, but if they roll a 3 or 4 they may recover a Spell Level of 2.
The syphoning and replenishing process takes 1 minute once begun (although some beings might syphon faster as by any specific ability or item) but the mana of the land requires 1 full day to become ready again afterwards.
If any other being attempts to syphon that same energy at the same time once the 1 minute count down has begun, the newcomers must beat the syphoner’s defending DC of 10 + their level + their total Will save modifier + 1 for every other helping individual with mental scores all above 3. If a newcomer wins, the process is interrupted and free for anyone to begin.
If none succeed in displacing they may also knock the syphoner unconscious or remove them from the terrain to interrupt.
If the land is not currently syphoned, all beings contesting roll opposed Will saves every round; the winner gets the energy as long as they can syphon without passively losing any further Will contests for the entire duration.
If a group of beings share the same objective of displacing another individual or group syphoning, they may also add +1 for every individual beyond the first; the one with highest Will save makes the roll.
If two or more individuals seek to use a mana leak for difference goals, no one may use it until someone wins the Will contest.
The Eternal Twilight
A large difference between normal life-bearing Solid worlds and their Ether counterparts is how a day cycles.
As a Solid world spins in orbit around one or more stars, one side tends to be dark and the other tends to be bright.
Such an arrangement is not always so in Ether.
Due to the sometimes conflicted settings of locallized mana-shaped areas, illumination tends to vary. A lot.
A single square mile can be anything from jet black to brilliant blinding white, but by default an unmolested, non-mana leaking terrain has a mildly hazy cobalt blue-grey wash of sky and neither true night nor day.
Ethereal plants can thrive in the half-light just fine thanks to evolutionary adaptation, but they also draw mana from vast pools beneath the bedrock below.
The phosphorescence of various fruiting, flowering, budding, glistening, oozing, or spore-showering plants and fungi lends to this pervasive twilight condition even if localized changes push the default more towards dimmer illumination.
Beings such as vampires are unaffected by this half-light as well as how certain were-creatures depending on a Solid world’s lunar cycle (or cursed by it) are likewise free of effect. More undead would take advantage of this circumstance if not for the ubiqitous infestation of fey life to compete for it; undead in any sunless fey-dominant Ether realm are rare indeed.
The Fair Ones
The Shi; regal in posture, divine in countenance, as .
An ancient and poweful race of humanoids, the Shi have long ago ascended to dominance among the myriad hordes of relatively disorganized fey, looked down at the chaos, and said “My, how dangerous,” before setting about pre-empting the arrival of any other semi-divine fey humanoids as .
Not much has changed since then.
The Shi are often contested but yet still undefeated masters of an otherwise masterless series of worlds.
The term ‘Fair Ones’ might apply to some Shi skin tones but seeking to apply it to all Shi as a whole would be folly. In actuality, the term ‘fair’ applies more to their attitude than to appearance.
They are as diverse as any fiendish or angelic collective, but far less singleminded.
As a race they pursue comforts and economies as any humanoids and sapient beings might, but rather than struggle externally for dominance against other dimensions, Shi turn their efforts mostly inward in an ever-challenging series of internal battles to prevent their cozy, magical kingdoms from vomiting inside out with chaos.
The “lesser” fey subjects of Shi domains regard their self-proclaimed masters anywhere from beloved heroes to loathesome despots, but one thing is for sure; the Shi in general control the choicest bits of Ether, and whoever controls the mana flow, controls the realms.
Shi vary wildly in individual appearances, partially due to inherent shapeshifting abilities, but also due to the morphic state of a fey genome and individual choice.
The following traits are common among nearly all Shi not found in disguise;
• humanoid in shape, with idealized features free of assymetry (although the exact concept of ‘humanoid’ at times also varies)
• pointed ears
Beyond these traits, a Shi might appear as anything from human to bipedal griffon wearing the face of a hobgoblin to a tumbling wheel of arms with a grotesque face on each side.
Any biologist seeking to place the Shi as a whole in a genus or species is simply asking for a mental breakdown.
Shi Came From Elves [Culture Option]
Millenia before humankind ever picked up a sharpened rock and bashed their neighbor’s head in, elves pioneered the research and development of magical arts.
Naturally, these studies lead to extra-dimensional forays, be they accidental or deliberate.
By whichever purpose, groups of elves became trapped in the Ether or settled there, eventually calling the abundant wilds their new home far away from grimy dwarves and crap-wallowing humans.
Over time, these primordial pioneers either gave up or lost the scientific aspect of their magic and turned to the natural ways of reality bending. These changes led to a permanent, ingrained forced evolution of their own kind as they perfected both mind and body over centuries.
Unique inter-special arrangements developed as these new elves subjugated the natives, putting them to work and domesticating as any humanoid would with lesser beings at their disposal.
Just as how cats and dogs have shaped humans, the natives had subtle yet long term effect on the direction of this offshoot elfin culture; in time, the seperation between Master and Slave blurred to the point there one was only distinguishable from the other by means only they would know.
In the end all became fey, the many beings of one blood… but one yet still stood above the rest.
Shi Came From fey [Culture Option]
Either by cosmic accident, divine creationism, connections with mortal dreams, or a process more akin to the Boltzmann Brain theory, some ancient form of humanoid fey gained a working sense of self-awareness.
These beings grabbed the opportunity to structure their unique surroundings long ago and have held on to their homes like a small child grips their favorite toy.
In fact, with their mindset might be so alien from the humanoid norm, the fey and Mortals alike beneath Shi rule might as well be just another tool at their disposal.
It’s a matter of convergent evolution. Different origins approach a common end with shockingly similar results, like how both bats and birds can fly, but walking on two legs might be just about where the similarity between Shi and true elves begins and ends.
Feats and Traits
As an ever-changing mana-feeding collective, fey can’t be counted on to share the same morphology even within a single race, clan, or family. If one were to plot out the pedigree and lineage of any individual fey one would find an incredible number of common breeds in relation, as if millions of years of evolution were compressed within generations.
This adaptive and sometimes atavistic genetic shift both intrigues and terrifies many mortals… and for good reason.
In theory only chaotic demons can compare to the diversity and unpredictability of fey nations.
Other theories hold that there is effectivel no difference between demon and fey.
Fuzzy Neoteny [fey Feat]
Prerequisites: No natural weapons other than an unarmed strike, CHA 11+, Diplomacy 1+
Benefit: When interacting with beings that have an Intelligence score you are treated as one category closer towards “Friendly” as long as you do not make hostile actions. If you threaten, ready weapon, cast a spell, or otherwise make any sort of combat action (unless the other knows what you are doing, such as recognizing your Cure spell being cast) you lose benefit of this feat until you can convince them otherwise with a Diplomacy check or similar, or the encouter ends.
+1 racial bonus to Diplomacy checks.
+4 bonus to rushed Diplomacy checks.
Mirror Skin [fey Feat]
You may appear to be a generic member of a species near you.
Prerequisites: Disguise 4+
Benefit: You may Take 10 with Disguise checks when not impersonating an individual. When using this feat’s ability you remain recognizable as an individual but of a different race; all other benefits of the spell effects are disabled unless otherwise stated.
The effects of this feat advance with Disguise ranks.
Disguise 4 : You may use Alter Self to become any species equal to your size; only your appearance and breathing mode changes. Equipment held or worn does not change. You must have touched the creature to become but may only retain one shape known at a time per odd level. This effect lasts as long as you are conscious and can be used once per encounter (5 minute rest, not in combat) as a full-round action.
Disguise 9 : You effectively duplicate the Alter Self spell but without Hit Dice limit. You may use 1 natural movement speed and type, 1 natural weapon, and count as one subtype of the shape as you see fit each round.
Disguise 14 : You may retain any number of shapes known. Equipment worn can change with you. The effect may be used every round and lasts until dispelled.
Disguise 19 : The spell effect changes from Alter Self to Polymorph and you may now change gender.
Ether Wings [fey Feat]
Prerequisites: No pre-existing wings, Survival 4+
Benefit: The effects of this feat advance with Survival ranks. Wings form from the back with a burst of colored energy, appearing through clothing but not cloaks, robes, armor made of iron, or other beings.
Survival 4 : Gain fly speed (perfect) equal to Dexterity score + ½ of land movement speed, rounded down to the nearest 5, for 1 turn per point of Constitution bonus. This ability may not be used again until a full round is devoted to rest.
Survival 9 : Flight may be used for a number of rounds equal to Constitution score until 1 Move action of rest is needed.
Survival 14 : Flight is of unlimited duration without rest needed.
Survival 19 : Flight is doubled in speed.
Eternal Body [Trait]
Benefit: The character no longer takes ability score penalties for aging, cannot be magically aged, and does not age naturally. Any penalties they may have already incurred remain in place unless removed by aging backwards.
[/b] [fey Feat]
[/b] [fey Feat]
[/b] [fey Feat]
This post has been edited by Sig on Sep 28 2008, 05:08 AM