This sumptuous visual treat opens with a Foreword by Jeff Grubb, in which he reviews the development of the legend that is the fey through history... after all, they were part of common consciousness and culture long before role-playing games came along! Over time, even in tales, they have been deminished from strange and capricious beings that must be propitiated to 'fairies' with insect wings that look cute: now it's time to regain their original role - more powerful than humans, less than gods but arrogant enough for a pantheon-full, determined to have their own way without regard for anyone else.
Next comes In Defence of the Fey, a look at why fey have so far been under represented in role-playing games and the sort of obstacles that writing good material about them face (the reasons why fey don't feature quite as much as the authors think they ought to, of course!). Challenges include deciding just who the fey are, what motivates them and what purposes and objectives they have, what history do they have and why are so few tales of fey from other than mediaeval Europe drawn upon when creating in-game fey? All good questions and ones that need to be answered by anyone embarking on a project with the scope of The Faerie Ring product line. Finding those answers give a fascinating insight into the ongoing design process driving the project. One key point is that fey thought processes are completely different from anyone else's, hence their reputation for being capricious and cruel... to a fey, what they do makes perfect sense, it's just that the rest of us cannot understand their reasoning. The section ends with an outline of the intentions of The Faerie Ring, in the main a sourcebook but also a mini-setting, one which - if you choose - can be interwoven with the game world you are already using, adding the extra dimension that is the fey.
The final section is The Realms of the Fey: An Introduction. Beginning with cosmology, this sweeps through the planes of existence to the home of the fey, the preternatural planes which weave around and through the material plane in dizzying arcs. Just what is going on, even scholars disagree. A sidebar gives the design reasons for having the preternatural planes: they're places in which literally anything can happen. If you want a given wierd effect, you can designate a preternatural plane on which said effect is the norm. Just like the 'otherworlds' the fey of legend inhabit.
The discussion moves on to the fey themselves, considering some of the questions raised earlier like the origins of the fey and their underlying philosophies. Intriguingly, much of this entire section is written from the viewpoint of a fey scholar, seeking to explain his kind to the curious. Varied in their opinions and approaches, fey also come from a wide range of habitats, and exhibit a variety of anatomy and physiology (assuming you get one to stay still long enough for a detailed examination, that is). Some of the more common types are discussed, however, as well as some idea of the hierarchies of power in which they exist.
And that's it, sufficient to tantalise, to make even the most jaded faerie-hater to want to discover more. The rest of the series has a lot to live up to. A word of warning, despite glorious appearance that still lets the words take pride of place, this is one to read on screen - both the landscape presentation and sheer amount of colour means that printing would be impractical. It's lovely to look at, though!
Return to The Faerie Ring: Along the Twisting Way Prelude page.
Reviewed: 1 January 2010