The Schemes of the Archfey
In my last three articles on the fey, I presented a collection of fourteen Archfey. Today I’m going to talk a bit about how to make their schemes against one another, and against the other powers of the world, intersect with the PCs. This will be a combination of story hooks, metaplot ideas, and things I did in my own campaign.
Fey Chivalry | Fey Huntsmen and Leashed Terrors | Faerie Tales: Naiads, Pixies, and Sprites for 5e | A Visit to the Shadowfell – Shadar-Kai & More | In a Goblin Market | Fey of the Elder Starlight | Fey Enchanters and Their Lairs | Treasures of a Fey Market | Archfey Patrons | Archfey Patrons, Part Two | Archfey Patrons, Part Three | The Schemes of the Archfey
The Seelie Queen
At least superficially, the Seelie Queen is one of the most benevolent Archfey. She believes, as John Keats wrote, that “beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” What does this do, though?
- She concludes that a beautiful relic in the hands of a repugnant person is a wrong that needs righting. To separate the two, she opens with persuasion, but fey persuasion is inextricable from magical might. Depending on the beauty of the object, she might arbitrarily find anyone
- As the monarch of the Summer Court, she’s obligated to defend her vassals – including all of the other Seelie Archfey – from the Queen of Air and Darkness and the Unseelie. A lot of problems between the Courts wind up escalating to her intervention. Why might this be a situation best avoided?
- As GMs, we want the PCs to have as much agency as possible in solving problems, and we don’t want NPCs solving problems for them.
- …unless there’s a really heinous cost attached.
- Truth and beauty are great ideals. “Mortals should be free of influence” isn’t either of those. She orchestrates a test for a mortal paladin, so that the paladin discovers a secret that, if it comes to light, probably gets a lot of people killed. It may even be necessary to create the secret from whole cloth. But just framing someone violates her principle of truth, so she needs them to actually be complicit. A fey in mortal guise, who seems to need saving by the paladin’s order, is a great start.
- If she gets what she wants and the paladin chooses truth over discretion, she contacts the paladin in a dream and attempts to persuade them to change to the Oath of the Ancients, which is fairly sympathetic to the fey ethos. This might involve a quest to a particular fountain or spring to wash away the binding of the previous Oath.
- If she doesn’t get what she wants and the paladin chooses to be discreet, well, the Queen of Air and Darkness might take an interest in capturing the paladin, as a way to taunt the Seelie Queen.
- Playing on mortal lust is the most traditional technique, but it’s both hard to sell in a tabletop game, and has all kinds of problematic elements. Know your gaming group and avoid this approach if you have any doubt on the matter. Consider this a recurring general statement for most of the Archfey.
The Queen of Air and Darkness
Fear and passion guide the Unseelie as much as truth and beauty do the Seelie. The Queen of Air and Darkness rules the fey for half the year, but probably finds the transfer of power back to her counterpart even more objectionable than the Seelie Queen does. I expect that the Seelie are more invested in the high and courtly traditions, while the Unseelie prize ambition and don’t mind some treachery.
- The Queen of Air and Darkness profits by dividing her enemies and setting them against one another. This could be as simple as telling humans of the powerful magic items that the Seelie possess, or something impossibly byzantine involving capturing three stable-boys (one of which has a latent sorcerous talent), invoking the curse of deadly nightshade on the princess whose parents snubbed Her Darkly Imperious Majesty… and a bit with a dog. How does it end? It’s a mystery.
- But let’s not overlook all the good things she does. She is more than happy to take in young children who arrive in her realm unannounced, alone and frightened, and feed them Turkish Delight.
- She also takes care of any unlicensed lions that may be bothering you. #explainamovieplotbadly
- On a more serious version of that note, the local church of the sun god probably isn’t allied with the Seelie Court, but they probably have an enemy in common. The priesthood of the sun god, or relics in their possession, might be just the thing to stop the courts from shifting again.
The Silver Knight
Like I mentioned a few articles back, the Silver Knight doesn’t care about your personal safety at all. It’s much more glorious to suffer nobly along the way!
- In my own campaign, the Silver Knight is named Rathmorvan, He Who Cleaves with Silver. The PCs needed a ludicrous amount of electrum, substantially more than their current net worth, for a ritual that was going to destroy the electrum. They were going to have to make it out of gold and silver, so they considered cutting a deal with the fey so that all of the gold would be fools’-gold. You know, the kind that turn into leaves in a day? They went to Rathmorvan’s servant, who promised them all of the necessary electrum if the PCs would kill the Thornweaver’s most highly-favored warlock. Since the Thornweaver’s warlock was a terrible person and not casting the ritual would get lots of people killed, they cut that deal.
- The Silver Prince is less of a schemer than most, but he loves noble sacrifices enough that he drives back the forces of evil in exchange for awful costs, like the life of the monarch or the heir-apparent. (This was absolutely a part of my campaign.)
- He is also more than happy to put enchanted weapons into the hands of heroes. The weapons are very effective – so much so that it’s easy to get in over your head. At least your tragic demise will be remembered in song and story, and then another hero can come along to reclaim your silver sword from the dragon that ate you. Everyone wins! Sort of.
The Lord of the Hunt
More than almost any other Archfey, the Lord of the Hunt is like a force of nature unto himself. His huntsmen and leashed terrors are why you lock your door at night and hang iron on the lintel.
- The Hunt does not travel during the day, so he does things that delay travelers and keep them far from town after dark. Wagon-axles breaking and horses throwing shoes are often enough, but he’s fine with making you get lost in the woods as well.
- Of all possible prey, I expect (for horror-film reasons) that young lovers are his favorite – they epitomize the virtues of the Seelie Court, and hunting them is the perfect way to prove that fear is stronger than love (or that their love was nothing more than passion).
- The most direct and reusable application is to treat the Hunt like a timer and a failure condition for PCs traveling after dark. Each of those skill checks that you fail on your way back to town means the Hunt gets closer, and there are far too many of them to fight. Don’t worry, you don’t have to outrun them, you just have to outrun one of your friends.
- In my campaign, long ago the fey and the master of the Ghostlands fought a terrible war against one another, and the fey got the worse end of the fighting because so many undead are immune to their charming or frightening influence. That ancient enmity still burns between the undead and the intensely vital If the Lord of the Hunt’s prey hide among the undead or in the lands of the dead, he regards that as “cheating” in his game, and hires adventurers to chase his target back to where he can hunt them.
The Good Fellow
The Good Fellow is one of those Archfey that befriends mortals, but it’s almost worse than having him as an enemy. When Robin Goodfellow is your friend, he makes sure everything goes your way, and your enemies are punished swiftly and memorably. Oh, not lethally – he’s not really that sort. But public humiliation is a good time for everyone.
- You never know when he’s around, unless you can afford to keep see invisible running all the time. Someone cheats you at the market, or the Good Fellow thinks they did? Bam, now they croak like a toad whenever they try to do business of any kind. The king’s minister insisted on all the rules of courtly decorum during your audience? The Good Fellow makes sure a procession of “scorned women” interrupt the proceedings to harangue the minister both loudly and crudely. Don’t worry, everyone will know that these punishments came from cheating or offending
- Or maybe he’s your friend’s unwanted friend. Helping an NPC get the Good Fellow to move on and make a new friend somewhere else (without attracting all of that attention onto yourself) is probably an adventure or two in itself. The worst part is that he always wants to one-up his own past comic achievements…
- But best of all is when he’s traded places with a mortal court jester, who is now living life on Easy Street in the Feywild while the Good Fellow quietly takes over a mortal court. With his mastery of shapeshifting, probably the only person who can help you find him at court is the original court jester, so you’ll have to go to the Feywild, convince him to come back with you, break his enchanted dependence on fey food and drink, and provide him with enough new material that he can out-riddle Robin Goodfellow and get his old job back.
When I started this article I had some really good intentions about getting through three story bits for each of fourteen Archfey all at once. This was obviously silly! I hope this kind of content is useful in planning your own adventures with the fey.