A Roleplayer’s Guide to the Mythological Earth

For all those who are interested, the complete rules for Faerie Tales & Folklore can be downloaded in a convenient PDF format through the link below (click on the image, the link will take you to DriveThruRPG). This link will be updated along with the game and the rules are free to use for the purposes of play or personal reading. If you enjoy the material, please leave a comment and keep on the lookout for the coming KickStarter!

To the Otherworld and Back Again

It seems fitting to write a blog detailing the relationship between the mundane realm and the Otherworld of Faerie Tales & Folklore as I prepare to release the game itself into the “real” world. The project has consumed nearly two years of my life and in the end, it has shown me as much about myself as it has about my tastes for roleplaying in general. One of the main objectives I sought to achieve in the creation of this tome was to resolve the differences between the world we know and the mythology we find so fascinating. Historical fantasy has long been a favored genre of mine, but it only shines when the suspension of disbelief is upheld through logic, reason and a careful consideration of believability. The interaction between the mundane and the otherworldly in Faerie Tales & Folklore is an area in which I invested a great deal of time and thought, in hopes of achieving this very end.

What is the Otherworld, and why is it important? This is a fundamental question of no small importance within the mythological Earth. In short, the Otherworld is the source of all things supernatural. The longer answer is a bit more complicated, but the answers to that question are hopefully illuminating to the setting I have provided. To reach greater understanding of this topic, we first need a little background for reference. As a student in college, I studied with a cultural anthropologist by the name of Hank Wesselman. He was deeply intrigued with the world’s shamanic traditions and had penned several books on the topic. Hank would speak in great length about the higher and lower worlds and how neither should be seen is inherently positive or negative, they were simply different in intent and purpose. This single concept was the foundation of the game’s cosmology. It was from this basic understanding that I began to see an interesting conflict brewing and a believable resolution to one of the primary discrepancies of fantasy versus reality.

In the cosmology presented by Professor Wesselman, the two realms could be defined thus: the lower realm was one of adventure, challenge, and danger; while the higher was one of thought, creation, and consciousness. These two worlds are neither good nor evil in and of themselves and can be envisioned in myriad of ways. Most commonly, it was culture which defined how each would be viewed by the multitudes. The lower realm could easily be seen as both Hell to the fearful, or Valhalla to the brave. It could be both glorious and terrifying in equal measure. The higher realm could be Heaven to the those who sought peace, or as the Astral to those who sought to create. It could be both a place of unflinching law, and shifting chaos. It is important to understand that the higher and lower realms are the final destination of the spirits of all men. In that sense, they truly are the locations of one’s final judgement. In the end, these two realms alone did not provide all that was necessary for a complete fantasy cosmology however, for they could not explain the nature of the supernatural within our own realm. For this reason, I added the border realm to that model.

The border realms are the veil that divides the mortal world from the true Otherworld. It is here that most of what we might consider the fantastic will transpire. This realm is the very flux that allows facets of the Otherworld to shape our own. It is through this realm that thought can manipulate reality by way of what one would consider magic. Unlike the Otherworld proper, any creature may visit the border realm, but travel beyond its hazy confines is a death sentence for all creatures considered mundane or mortal. The border realms are a common place to which many travel in literature, and it is known by many names: Sidhe, Faerie, Neverland, Wonderland, etc. It is in this realm that common men are the anathema. The very existence of common men forces a division between the realms that grows ever deeper as more are born, or cluster in an area. As mentioned in the rules, when at least a million common men gather in a larger area (such as a city) a phenomenon known as The Black takes hold, destroying all spirit within its confines. The Black is the manifestation of the power common men possess to destroy belief and all things mythic. It is the destiny of common men to end the connection between the mythic and the real. It is this dynamic that shapes nearly every aspect of the setting presented in Faerie Tales & Folklore and it is the inevitable outcome of this conflict that allows the setting to resolve itself with the world we currently understand.

Being perhaps the only known thing not to be mirrored in the border realms, common men fill a unique role in the realms as a whole. Even the mundane animals, as well as the very plants themselves are mirrored within the border realms. This fact has led the common man to deep feelings of both loneliness and superiority within the game’s cosmology. Due to this natural separation from the Otherworld, it can be more difficult to draw common men across the veil and into the border realm. Spirits and high men are able to, but only if they outnumber common men in total. Common men are able to pull high men across the veil, but only if a high man is outnumbered by the familiar 100 to 1 ratio. Because of the fact that high men are able to choose which realm, mundane or border, they are in at a given time, they can move among common men they outnumber while remaining undetected. Though this can be thought of as a form of invisibility, that is not exactly the truth. If it is the destiny of common men to destroy the connection to the mythic, it is the destiny of high men to guard that connection. Though common men are those who stand against the fantastic, they do however dream, as all sentient beings do. It is in this last fact that even they are not truly divided from the Otherworld. (Continue below)

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This all leads us full circle, to the back door of the Otherworld proper, the realms of dreams. It is these strange individual shards of a greater realm which can never be taken from the dreamer or those who imagine. It is these places which always tie the mundane to the Otherworld. It is precisely the fact that each shard of the dreaming realm is a place only its dreamer can truly enter that keeps it protected from the ravages of common men and their desire to strip the multiverse of wonder. In fact, it is in this realm that even common men find solace in the mythic nature of the Otherworld. It is supposed by some that the realms of dreaming are the source of all things, real or imagined, and it is here that Faerie Tales & Folklore “breaks the fourth wall” and becomes aware of itself. Though not directly said within the rules, it is here in the realms of dreams, that the game’s various creatures and characters would find that they are the dreamed, the fantastic creations of the player’s imagination. Thus, it is here that dreaming realms have kept the mythology of our people alive and thriving. It is for this reason that none may truly enter the realm of another’s dreams. Though we may view them through our collective imagining, and character’s may experience them through magic, all but the dreamer is a voyeur in another’s shard of the dreaming.

This layered cosmology sets up a myriad of possible realities for an intrepid group of adventurers to explore. It defines a central conflict within the implied setting, and it offers a clean resolution to the differences between mythology and reality. Additionally, it provides a way to view the wide range of otherworldly locations common in the mythic tales of our many cultures without having to detail each. Each realm offers some of itself to the border realm to shape the formation of the fantastic. From the magic of creation through thought brought by the higher realms, to the eternal immortal agelessness of the spirits allowed by the lower realms. Even the mundane offers its mantle of absolute form, just as the dreaming lends its ever changing mutability. All of this is tied together by the mists of the border realms, and threatened by the great insurmountable wall of The Black. These are the five realms of Faerie Tales & Folklore, inseparable and bound by imagination.

In later blogs I will write more on topics such as the difference between a monstrous being and a spirit, as well as how the Otherworld shaped both. That however is not the intent of this article. Here I hoped to offer some bit of illumination into the complex interplay between the various realms of the game and how these realms were to shape the game itself. Cosmology as presented in many game systems often seems more of an afterthought, a mere way to create additional types of adventure, or offer a more broad range of settings. Seldom is it treated as a fundamental aspect of the game itself and the greater narrative it hopes to uphold. In Faerie Tales & Folklore, this was the very intent of the cosmology that was introduced. The Otherworld cannot truly be omitted from the rules I devised, nor should the attempt be made. Instead, the players and referees should try to embrace the greater cosmology and the nature of the game’s conflict. I would hope the relationship between the realms can be seen for its ability to resolve the mythic and the real, as well as provide reason behind the reality of meta-gaming within the construct of structured roleplaying.

Enjoy your time at the game table friends, and remember to set your imagination free from time to time… It can create whole universes! Peace friends…

Introducing, Your Character

One of the ideas presented in Faerie Tales & Folklore which may seem the most odd to those familiar with the OSR format will be the idea of an “introduction line”. What is this odd bit of both fluff and mechanics? What is the intended purpose of this simple and often formulaic line? How does it benefit the character a player hopes to create, and why is it considered by me, the game’s designer, to be one of the most important portions of character creation? In this blog post I will dig into the ideas behind the introduction line and how it allowed the game to cover a vast array of human cultures and archetypes in a simple, efficient way. The outline for creating an introduction line is as follows (a player need not adhere to this outline, as it is intended as a suggestion for simplicity):

“I am (name) of (hometown or nation), child of (father’s or mother’s name). I am a (alternative class name), and a (profession) by (birth, oath or trade)”

The introduction line, in one aspect, can be used exactly as it sounds, to introduce the character to whom it belongs during appropriate moments within the game. However, this is more a byproduct of what the line actually intends to accomplish, instead of the focus of the line itself. Within the written rules of the game there are but three lineages, three classes, and about a dozen backgrounds a player can choose from. Tying to stuff the whole of human experience, even in a fantastic environment, into those choices would be an exercise in futility without some further differentiation. If you intend to create a fighting-man, of what sort are you thinking? A knight in shinning armor? A noble and highly educated samurai? Maybe you wish to take the role of a vicious Norse berserkr? This line is how you make that choice clear to others in the game. If you are creating a common man, who is he or she? A Roman senators child? A fisherman from Huxia? Or maybe a Mayan boy raised during the time of the Spanish invasion? Your introduction line tells the other players of such choices. The introduction line is more still however. The introduction line forms the thematic basis of a character and will define what they know, and the trappings of culture they bear. (Continued below)

This line becomes the summation of who and what a character is. It takes the basic choices of creation and breathes life into those simple choices provided by the mechanics of the game. A samurai is likely to posses a set of skills and knowledge that a berserkr has no use for, and a Roman will have different cultural trappings then a boy raised in the Mayan culture. Instead of relegating all the particularlies of these choices to large, complicated skill sets and lists of minutiae obsessed equipment, this line offers a simple and effective method to use in place of such unnecessary detail. When a player tells you:

“I am Mourdagos mac Morrígan, clibanarii of the Sarmatian Auxilia, only heir of the Great Queen, and outlaw bardd of the Gaels.”

You have a relatively clear understanding of who is standing before you from the way he was introduced. You can easily surmise the man is of mixed heritage, Sarmatian and Gael are named. As a member of the Auxilia, he is likely more Roman then he is purely “barbarian” and the title of clibanarii is a cavalryman who utilizes both missile and melee weaponry. Less obvious is the otherworldly lineage of a high man, referenced by the association to Morrigan, The Great Queen. He is likely highly educated and possibly possessed magical skills as a bardd. In game terms, the character is a fighting-Man and magic-user of high man lineage who is both bardd and outlaw by background. Still this introduction line says so much more. It is likely this man bears lorica hamata, and carries a horse bow, spatha and lance, all common for the clibanarii. For those who really know their history, it would be likely he was trained at the Bremetennacum near the border of the Pictish lands, and his year of birth will be within the 2nd century of the Common Era. One  who hears the introduction may even notice the not so faint slight at his father by using his mother’s name after the word “mac”, or “son of’. That might indicate some unresolved issue with his Sarmatian family. All of these things can be said within a well written introduction line.

Yet this line still covers even more ground. In my last blog, “My Skills are Fuzzy”, I gave a deeper look into what I termed “fuzzy skills” and how they are used within the game. This line offers a more complete understanding of what a character’s fuzzy skill set may include, and it is here that the introduction line takes on a more mechanical value. This line will imply an acquired amount of knowledge and a reasonable set of skills. This will be the basis of a character’s professional skills and thus, in situations where the dice are used to determine an outcome, if the character may use their skill bonus to affect the outcome of the roll. Any character should be given a fairly wide berth in what sort of knowledge will be contained within the combination of class, lineage, and introduction line. The referee and the other players can help impose limits on this in favor of reason over convenience. The primary objective being to provide a relatively justifiable amount of knowledge and skill without creating false limitations, nor bogging the game down in the complexity of its own mechanics.

The introduction line should even affect a character’s initial equipment and property. A long sword carried by a Roman is likely to be a spatha. However, if the character is from Huxia, the same long sword would likely be a jian. The Roman will likely live is a home that is quite different from the character born in Huxia. Even the tools used by various professions are likely to be culturally different. In most instances, Faerie Tales & Folklore will make use of a standard silver based monetary system, but there will be exceptions to this for game’s set in the Stone Age and those set in later, more modern centuries. This will be one of the few cultural elements that will not commonly be defined by the introduction line of a character.

The idea of the introduction line was inspired by some of the more creative “aspects” of recent evolutions in-game design and is intended to offer the player a greater amount of control in defining who their character is. One of the primary intentions I had when writing Faerie Tales & Folklore was to create a game that was heavily multicultural from the beginning. To this end, I had to find ideas that aided in providing the flexibility to define and redefine things on the fly. As a fun experiment with any character you create, trying changing their introduction line and name to see how that can completely change the character. Simple alterations to those two elements of the character you created will often change everything about them. It is within this simple bit of language that three lineages, three classes, and a dozen backgrounds or professions is allowed to truly come alive. You do not need to be a writer, just follow the simple formula provided in the rules and begin play. It as easy as that. Enjoy you time at the game table friends!

(Note: This article reflects minor language changes coming in 5.6)

My Skills are Fuzzy…

In many rule sets that ascribe to the OSR ethic, the idea of a skill, or skill set,  is either left out, or only briefly touched upon. It has been said that “equipment is the original skills list”, and that the idea of a skill is itself counter to the core ideals of old school gaming. In many ways I agree with this assessment, and in many ways I do not. In the mechanics of Faerie Tales & Folklore, I attempted to address issues of a skill based system, along with the problems of a system which avoided the idea of skills altogether. I have commonly, at least in my circle of friends, referred to this system of skill mechanics as “fuzzy”, which is a loose association to the term “fuzzy logic”. The concept of fuzzy logic can be defined as:

“Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic in which the truth values of variables may be any real number between 0 and 1. It is employed to handle the concept of partial truth, where the truth value may range between completely true and completely false.’

To understand the idea of “fuzzy skills” we must first understand what 0 and 1 would mean in relation to the idea of skills themselves. First, let us look at why skills can be destructive to the idea of roleplaying, which would be our metaphorical 0. In many old school games, the player’s wit and personal knowledge was often allowed to be used in place of their character’s knowledge. Thus, if a player understood how to thwart a trap, or forge a sword, their character could do such things. It was also interesting that in such early systems, it never mattered whether or not the player knew how to fight nor cast spells, even if their characters could. This idea of a skill-less system left the game wide open for the another concept called “meta-gaming”. Meta-gaming is described via Wikipedia thusly:

“Metagaming is any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed ruleset, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game. Another definition refers to the game universe outside of the game itself.”

This concept does not lend itself well to the idea of “roleplaying”, wherein a player is taking on the role of an imaginary being and assuming the capabilities of that being in an imagined world. If one intends to take on the role of another being, the player should not utilize their own array of knowledge and skills to affect the imagined world. Instead, the player should attempt to utilize the knowledge and skills their assumed character would possess to solve the imagined situations they encounter at the game table. When games rely upon this system of meta-gaming skills, the less creative, or knowledgeable, player is punished in a way for a lack of worldly knowledge, or the creativity to apply that knowledge. This will also affect players who are less familiar with the methods and ideologies of roleplaying in general, especially the new player. This disparity of basic understanding can lead to disgruntled players and their eventual alienation from what could be an otherwise enjoyable experience. However, this skill model can conversely lead to a more thoughtful play experience, as the players are not simply allowed to roll-play. Roll-playing is a simple term for using dice rolls to resolve EVERY issue which could arise within the imagined world. (Continued below)

This brings us to the negative aspects of using a system of skills to provide an in-depth understanding of what a character does, and does not know, as well as their relative level of ability in any given area of knowledge or practical skill. This system would be the 1 of my continued metaphor. This method of skill determination and use tends to stifle creative thinking at the table in favor of using the dice to solve all problems. A trap no longer becomes a puzzle to be solved but rather an abstraction to be overcome with a strange form of gambling. Having the correct skill and rolling dice against predetermined odds delivers the prize, or signifies loss. In this model, their is no benefit to creatively solving a given problem. Instead, most players will simply reach for their dice bag and gamble.

So neither method, in and of itself, will produce the desired sense of an assumed role with any regularity, and that does not serve any game well. In light of this revelation, I choose to provide the players within Faerie Tales & Folklore with what I termed as “fuzzy skills”, these would be all the values between the 1 and 0 previously discussed in my metaphor. In order to fully grasp this idea, let us look at what each method gets right. In the first skill system, or the skill-less system, players are left with their ingenuity, knowledge, and what their characters can carry, or find on hand, to solve the problems they encounter. This can encourage creative thinking, promote group discussion, and provide a greater sense of accomplishment from finding the solution to any given situation encountered during play. In the second system, or the skill-based system, the characters can easily accomplish things their players know little about. This can offer a less creative or knowledgeable player a greater sense of participation and ease a new player into the concepts of roleplaying. As mentioned above, this system mirrors the lack of most players knowledge of combat or magical ability in a way that is not often discussed. If the point of roleplaying to to experience the existence of another being within an imagined world, then it is important to be able to accomplish things we ourselves cannot fathom. Reciprocally, we should not allow such imagined beings the access to all the information we as players bring to the game table. These two options pose a strange conundrum for a game designer, to avoid the specter of meta-gaming, we are often placed in a situation of accepting the reality of roll-playing and its strange method of gambling.

This conundrum is the very issue I hoped to confront with the way skills and knowledges are to be handled within Faerie Tales & Folklore. Skills are intended to define what a character knows and in some instances they even attempt to quantify that knowledge. However, they are not intended to be used as a crutch to facilitate poor roleplaying. This brings us to the final piece of the puzzle, the narrator or referee. The skill-less system requires more thought by the narrator or referee, and this can add a much greater work load to which ever player is filling that role at any given time. The skill based system not only allows the players to be more lazy in their solutions to the challenges they encounter, it allows the narrator or referee a certain amount of laziness in the creation of such challenges. In truth however, not every challenge needs to be a highly thought out puzzle for the players to work through with logic and reason. Some challenges are best handled through that strange gambling created by the skill-based system. In games that are being derived from the method known as “sandboxing”, or other randomization methods, the act of creating challenges which move beyond simple dice rolls can become even more difficult. It is very important however for a narrator or referee to create such challenges for the players if they wish to foster a more immersive sensation of their players filling a role apart from who they are as people. Think about the traps you use, the non-player characters you introduce to your players, and give real consideration to how these situations need to be resolved, or what these non-player characters desire. Most importantly remember to pay attention to the pacing of a game session, do not let challenges bog down the narrative. Try to understand when a challenge is best handled through a roll and when it is best handled by way of concerted effort and reason. Try and find your own line between, a player saying “I take to the shadows to avoid discovery” and if the statement alone is a good enough response, or when the dice will add to the tension of the tale. Like gambling, the dice can offer the thrill of the high stakes game, and this is equally as compelling as a brilliantly reasoned resolution to a complex problem. In some instances, both should be used in various degrees to truly up the sense of tension and doubt. This is the where the genesis of fuzzy skills was derived. It was in this blending of strange gambling and meta-gaming that I hoped to find a balanced approach to the successful triumph over an in game challenge.

With this concept understood, there are a few closing issues which should be covered. The narrator or referee needs to be careful not to become too attached to the ideas they create to challenge the other players, and the players should not simply ask for a target number then reach for the dice. Narrators and referees will need to be more familiar with the capability of the characters being played at the game table, and the other players will need to exert no small amount of will in avoiding the desire to meta-game through any problem. There will be times when both sides of the equation need to call the other on this process to keep things from sliding too far one direction or another. The idea of skills not being so concrete will take some getting used to, but if both the narrator, or referee, and the players embrace this idea, the game will take on a greater sense of realism without sacrificing its pacing. It is in this “fuzzy” area betwixt 1 and 0 that a good session of Faerie Tales & Folklore should find itself. In this space the story should take precedence over the exacting nature of rules.

Of Man, Spirits, and Conflict

In a large number of fantasy works, both in literature and gaming, there is a common narrative of some larger positive force pitted against some larger negative force. In many instances this is good versus evil, or chaos versus law. This ideology is pervasive enough that even when most try to step past it, they do so in a way that looks at the conflict from another angle, such as the antihero. In most cases, but especially gaming, this is often done to provide a certain ease of moral complication. If all the conflict a group faces can easily be seen as evil, those who experience the tale, or game, can more easily navigate the questions of morality which arise. This is also true for those games who seek to look at things from a villainous stand point. However this is not the reality of conflict as it is experienced within the real world. Morality can easily change depending upon the point of view of the witness. To a deer, a wolf is a monster, the personification of fear and evil. Yet to that wolf’s pups, the wolf is a hero and provider of continued life. In the real world, good and evil or law and chaos, are not so easily labeled. (Continue below)

In Faerie Tales & Folklore, the primary conflict is different. In the presented setting, there is a struggle between the mundane world we know, and the Otherworld most of us will never perceive. This conflict will breed both good and evil on either side, as they engage in the eternal struggle to exist. In this setting, the world we know is preordained to be the triumphant power, thus resolving the mythology of history with the reality of the world in which we live. Players should be exposed to the consequences of this conflict and to understand what will be lost at its end. This predetermined fate should hang across history like an ever growing storm. The world of man will prevail and all that is myth will fade from the Earth. This is seen as neither good nor evil, but an evolution of the universe as a whole. The morality of the individual characters is of little importance in this grand and ever present battle.

In our own world, as in fantasy, we like the black and white simplicity of good versus evil. It provides a simple way to understand our experience. However, it is never so cut and dry, and the actors influencing the world on a large scale cannot, or should not, be seen in such subjective terms. Here, among humanity, good works along side evil often ignorant of its existence. Here, a “goodly” hero often commits terrible and ugly acts of evil to further what might be seen as righteousness. By example, many Romans truly believed they were bringing civilization to the barbarians of the world, and those same barbarians truly believed they were fighting for their freedom. Good and evil existed in both sides and were often blurred by the struggle itself. In the tales of Irish mythology, the Sons of Mil fought the Tuatha Dé for the right to live upon the land. Neither side was wholly “good” nor utterly “evil”, they were simply in conflict. It is in that last example we find a bit more truth, conflict itself is often the source of a perceived moral dichotomy. An individuals idea of which side of that dichotomy they are on is often driven more by which side of the conflict they are loyal to rather then the morality of the conflict itself. Most of us wish to believe we are on the “right side” of morality, in fact, many seem to require that feeling to such an extent they force it upon those around them. These ideas are the basis of the conflict of Faerie Tales & Folklore, and these are the reasons the concept of alignment has not been covered within its pages.

It is my hope, as the game’s designer, that both players and narrators will explore this conflict in ways not common within many roleplaying games. I attempted to create an environment where there would be a sense of loss and consequence no matter which side was chosen. In Faerie Tales & Folklore, the humanity we are all part of will triumph, but in so doing, we will lose all wonder and magic. As the ages progress, the influence of the Otherworld and its spirits will slowly be cut from our reality and we will be alone with the rest of the animals. This conflict should force decisions of great evil and heroic good. Where both sides of that dichotomy work with one another, often without the knowledge of either. It is within the conflict between the mortal, mundane world and the  wonder of the Otherworld that I set the stage of the setting itself. It was this conflict that allowed me to keep the world of men from needing to be good at everything to maintain dominance. It aided in a more reasoned differentiation between the playable species, and created a viable dynamic which provided a unique usefulness for each. This same dynamic is why Faerie Tales & Folklore acknowledges no actual gods, for to do so would destroy the balance between the mundane and the otherworldly.

A great deal of thought as been placed into the cosmology and its interaction within the setting presented. I felt it was important to have the mythic elements resolve themselves over time within the context of a historically based game. Magic, otherworldly creatures, and impossible lands are not truly facets of our universe. They are however common facets of our fantasies and mythology. Providing a reason why the world we know is the way it is compared to the fantastic elements of our oral and literary tradition, adds to the believability of the game. Some may not see the need to resolve such elements, they may state that “it is fantasy after all”. I felt such resolution to be important, and considering its benefit in avoiding many of the good versus evil tropes prevalent in gaming, I hope potential players and narrators will come to the same conclusion.

Morgan T. Corey

Why Chainmail?

One of the first topics I would like to address about the design of Faerie Tales & Folklore is why I choose to move back further into the roots of modern roleplaying then what has become common in most OSR, or Old School Renaissance, titles. It would seem to many that the evolution of the hobby has taken us beyond its more humble beginnings and that should be a beneficial process, right? Well, the truth for me was not that simple. There are many factors that influenced this choice, each valid for very different reasons. First, I hoped to create a game, which through its very system of rules, helped immerse its players in anachronism and wonder. Second, many of the common ideas presented in more familiar roleplaying titles started with an old set of wargaming rules known as Chainmail and they have lost much of their meaning over time. Lastly, I myself wished to not only explore the history of our species and our myths, but of the hobby which has consumed such a large portion of my life. In the following paragraphs, I hope to expand upon each of these reasons, as it may shed some light on some of the oddities present within Faerie Tales & Folklore.

When I set out to write this tome, I had originally chosen a more modern set of OSR rules, largely in the hope that in so doing, I would make the game itself more universal in its appeal. It quickly became clear to me that such a desire was truly disingenuous to my original goal of presenting a historical exploration of mythology through what is now a popular hobby. Many “old school” titles had taken a more safe approach to their design through using more commonly played versions of the most classic roleplaying game. Editions such as 0e, 1st edition, and 2nd edition were common, and there is nothing wrong with such rule sets, nor the games which employ them. I also came to the understanding that by using a rule set which was the very genesis of the hobby itself, I could create a game that by its own presentation could aid in transporting the player back into history. By using anachronism as a tool inside the game, I could aid in that sense of suspending one’s disbelief. This idea, when coupled with art at least a century old and typefaces from the early printing, could cement the ideology of the game within its players on a deeper, more fundamental level. The idea has always been to create a tome which when sitting on a shelf, is inviting, intriguing even, in a way similar to pulling an old copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from a dusty shelf. (Continue below)

Modern roleplaying, especially of a sort based largely upon those early editions of the aforementioned “classic” title, use language and rule ideas drawn from miniature wargaming. The system of rules it drew most heavily from was a game written by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren known as Chainmail. This game included ideas such as “armor class”, initiative, and many others. As the editions passed through the inevitable process of evolution however, many of these concepts lost a great deal of their original intent. In the case of armor class, for example, the value represented actual combinations of armor type and shields that were not mutable. Each armor class value was specific to a certain combination and any additional bonuses or penalties modified the roll, NOT the class of armor. This was originally done so that certain weapons would be more, or less, effective then others when used against certain classes of armor. This original system improved the realism of combat and created a definable place for each type of armor a combatant could wear, as well as a reciprocal value for each type of weapon they might carry. Initiative, or who struck first in any given engagement, was determined by the type of weapon used: ranged weapons would make their attacks first, then melee weapons. During the first round of a melee, longer weapons of a higher class struck first and during later rounds, shorter quicker weapons struck first. Initiative was, in those early rules, only used to determine which player described what they were doing and how they were moving first and not what was resolved first. This itself is an important distinction, as initiative was more for order at the game table then it was used to determine the advantage of timing.

In many of the older sets of rules, magic was handled in a format that has come to be called “Vancian”. This system of magic was based upon the writing of Jack Vance and is based around the idea that a magician, of one form or another, memorizes a series of spells which are forgotten after they are cast. This system has often been criticized by players as being “unrealistic” and falsely limiting. Chainmail however uses a system of casting complexity which allows spells to be cast over and over provided a casting “complexity” roll is successful. This system, which was drawn from the earliest days of tabletop roleplaying, already dealt with the issues of Vancian casting and it dealt with it in an elegant and simple way. Once again, the system originally penned just before the onset of proper roleplaying had resolved issues created by later “evolutions” of the rules as they moved from wargaming, to roleplaying.

One aspect of game design which I personally feel is often overlooked is the ability for the game itself, through its presentation or the rules themselves, to evoke a greater sense of the environment in which that game takes place. This simple fact can have a major impact upon the “suspension of disbelief”, or the sense of immersion, that is often so sought by writers and filmmakers the world over. When the very book a player holds in their hands conveys the intent of the setting contained within its pages, it speaks in a gestalt whole which is more capable of capturing our senses and transporting us to another time or place. For this reason alone I choose the typefaces and art of the tome I penned. This was also a huge defining factor in my choice of a basic rule set. By going back before even the advent of proper roleplaying, I hoped to evoke a sense of the lost history and arcane wonder that I believed would have been impossible outside of that decision.

For all the reasons discussed above, Faerie Tales & Folklore was crafted using old rules, old artwork, and old type. It is for these reasons I choose to create a game which stepped outside of the more traditional OSR stereotypes. There are a great number of titles that will offer a player a more familiar feel from rules themselves, if that is what is sought by a player or narrator, I would suggest such titles be sought out in place of this one. If however, you seek something different yet familiar in its setting, Faerie Tales & Folklore is worth a look. The game will take a bit of getting used to as the rules, though familiar at times, will be quite different from its contemporaries. This fact is what makes the game unique in a crowded field, and is why it was designed with the ethic it holds to. It will be polarizing for some, natural to others, but it will always be unabashedly what it is– A vast and unique venture into our collective mythology through the pages of a tabletop roleplaying game.

Morgan T. Corey

An Introduction

Within the coming articles I will post to this page I hope to cover a variety of topics which relate to the game Faerie Tales & Folklore, as well as the subjects of history and mythology as they relate to roleplaying. I will strive to provide some detail on how the rules of the game came into being and the implications of many of the design choices I used in the game’s development. If there are specific questions which narrators, players, or even simply those interested in the game wish to ask, please do so in the comments. Most of the articles will be on major aspects of the game itself, and more minor questions will be likely answered via email.

Welcome to Faerie Tales & Folklore… I hope you enjoy the journey through the mythological Earth.