Mythic Menagerie: Faeries of the Fringe (PFRPG) PDF (based on
Super Genius Games
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Welcome to Faeries of the Fringe, the tenth in our Mythic Menagerie line of monster books. Each volume in this line presents a small set of monsters tied to a single theme, but spread over a range of CRs. For Faeries of the Fringe that theme is fey folk who dwell off the mainstream (and are often tied to niche environments the way more common fey are tied to trees and forests). As an added bonus, author Sam Hing has put together an awesome set of fey-related magic items, spells, and feats to round out your wicked wise women.
While fey are classically considered to be most dryads and fauns, perhaps knights of some otherworldly Fairy Court, there are many cases of spirits tied to specific locations or ideas from mythology that could be considered to be "fey" in rules terms. This product looks at both some examples of such creatures in mythology and some niches common to fantasy roleplaying game campaigns, and posits what kinds of faeries would be attached to them. The end result is a whole new set of foes ranging in power from CR 2 (the glade maiden) to CR 10 (the river mother), ready to force the PCs to fight, flee, or negotiate.
So stay out of the fairy-rings, put some milk out on the sill, and keep your cold iron handy. The charnel-kin are stirring, the nightswans are counting their tribute, and the river mothers are always on the lookout for new husbands.
That's why it's taken me so long to write a review. I honestly did mean to write this a long time ago, but for some reasons I'd rather keep to myself I'm only now getting 'round to it.
Sam Hing has a gift. The man just keeps on keepin' on, and the creatures he lays down for our wonderment are consistently interesting and challenging. The creatures contained in "Faeries of the Fringe" come from several different sources and cultures (I love the Gahonga from Iroquois mythology) and seem very interesting, offering new challenges to PC's who have become used to encountering "the same old fey" all the time.
The magic items section is a little disappointing, with only three in the offering, and the only interesting one being the nathair, an animated rope made of woven metal strands that can be used as a double weapon. And likewise, the feat selection is a bit disappointing, with three of the six feats being useful only when using the nathair.
The only two spells leave plenty to be desired. Fang Call is just a reworked Summon Nature's Ally, though I will admit Razor Birds could be fairly useful.
My last thing is the artwork. Let me just say that while I'm no artist (I can't even draw attention to myself, let alone fantastical creatures), the art in "Faeries of the Fringe" is disappointing. The best piece is the River Mother and the worst by far is the Glade Maiden. There are hundreds of artists on deviantart.com who produce beautiful fantasy art who'd offer their work for a song just to get the exposure in publications as widely seen as those published by Super Genius Games products.
This would've been a 5 star product if everything had matched the quality of the creatures themselves. I know space is a premium in these .pdfs (they're meant to be small, I think), which means the magic items, feats, and spells need to be real attention grabbers. These fall short of the mark, unfortunately.
This PDF is 15 pages. One is devoted to the cover, one the intoduction, one to the SRD, and 12 to content. It contains 7 new fey, of CRs 4, 8, 2, 2, 6, 10, 3, three magic weapons, 6 feats, and one spell of 2nd to 3rd level, depending on class. I won't go in depth on these, as other reviews have already done so. I can't really say much for the quality of the stat blocks without playtesting them, but there isn't anything that immediately stands out as unbalancing. The art is fairly good for a 3PP budget. What I really like is the descriptions of the fey included. They do a good job of explaining what these creatures are like and how they are motivated, and a couple of the creatures are especially inventive. I've heard it said that some don't really feel like Fey, and I could see where the claim comes from, as a couple could fit other creature types, but I have a pretty liberal view of what Fey are, so I did not have this problem with the document. The powers listed in the stat blocks make sense given the fluff, and I understand how these creatures are supposed to act. That, combined with stat blocks that look reasonably balanced, admittedly at a glance, is enough for 5 stars in my book.
3.5 stars- Good ideas along some rather bland ones - unrealized potential galore
This installment of the Mythic Menagerie-series is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page introduction, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 12 pages of content for the new fey, so let's check them out!
The first new creature herein is the Charnel-kin (CR 4) is a disturbing undead fey that can reanimate bodies via a kiss and shares some undead qualities. Sorry, but I've seen the undead-fey-angle done better.
The next one would be the Caith Sith (CR 2), essentially a disease-carrying fey-cat with a cool weakness.
Number 3 is the first fey I really enjoyed - the CR 8 Gahonga is a stone creature that can have rocks explode - kudos for a cool way to dispatch it, a neat signature ability and for simply being an original creature.
The CR 2 Glade Maiden is a good fey that is essentially tied to a glade and has a halo of butterflies and the ability to create hallucinogenic pollen.
The CR 6 Night Swan is another fey associated with darkness and undeath and comes with a formatting error: Undead Kin is cut-copy-pasted from the Charnel-kin. While I like the idea of a deadly swan-creature, I do think that it and the charnel-kin combined could have made for an interesting critter - as written, I did not enjoy either.
The CR 10 River Mother is an aquatic, serpentine fey that drowns and then resurrects/enslaves her victims. The idea of the creature is quite ingenious and the signature abilities rock, but the appearance of yet another female/serpent-creature somewhat felt boring - with a more far-out appearance, this one might be awesome - mechanically, it sure is.
The Waterbaby (CR 3) is disturbing - aquatic half-kelp-like fey with a cry that makes people kill each other makes for an iconic and disturbing fey creature.
Speaking of iconic: Beetles that work as arrow-heads and fly back to their owners are simply awesome and the Nathair-rope-like weapons are cool weapons for the fey folk. Three of the 6 new feats are devoted to the weapon and the other 3 provide neat customization options for your fey. The pdf also includes two new spells, one to call creatures from fangs and one to attack via razor-sharp bird swarms! Great ideas!
Editing and formatting are ok, though I noticed a rather obvious formatting glitch that could easily have been caught and some further hick-ups. The pdf adheres to the 2-column standard, has no bookmarks and the b/w-artworks are ok, though none reach the quality of e.g. Demonic Harlots or Covens of Chaos. I love fey from the bottom of my heart and really wanted to love this pdf - unfortunately, it more or less disappointed me. While by no means bad, I do consider ZSP's take on fey ore exciting and in the end only three of the fey truly felt like fey to me - the others could be undead, magical beasts, aberrations etc. While grounded in real-world mythology, a further detour to less-known mythologies might have proven fruitful for the endeavor of providing truly far-out fey. I'm still waiting for one book to capture the brilliance of 3.5's Van Richten's Guide to the Shadow Fey. While the additional material rocks, I've been missing cooler beasts with more far-out abilities than "Energy Drain" and "Reviving Dead" - especially the Black Swan had potential galore and fell painfully flat. My verdict - above average, but not a pdf that blew me away - 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.
The latest offering in the Mythic Menagerie Series, Faeries of the Fringe weighs in at 15 pages:
(cover1, foreword 1, New Fey 9 pages, New Items & Feats 2 pages, Spells 1 page, OGL I page).
Right off the bat the cover tells you this edition of the Menagerie has taken a different step as far as the feel of the artwork goes. This style of art is represented on both the cover and the foreword page, before returning to more of the style of art that typically represents the Menagerie series. Not being a fan of the style of art used for the first two pieces, I personally was pleased to see the internal art was a more familiar style. The first two pieces are full color, the rest of the art is presented in B&W, with 11 illustrations total (including the cover).
Formatting is the standard dual column, with embedded illustration. First error in regards to spelling/grammatical to catch my eye is that the name of the book (included in the page numbers at the bottom of each page) is spelled wrong. Instead of Menagerie, it's spelled Managerie...small thing though, doesn't affect anything major, just kind of amusing. Second formatting error would be the Undead Kin Special Ability of the Night Swan is credited to the Charnel-Kin...methinks cut and paste might be to blame here.
We're introduced to a healthy handful of new Fey, and not your run of the mill Fey, no these are some serious “off the beaten path”, not your grandpa's Fey kinda Fey...and they are as follows:
Charnel-Kin CR4 Quite possibly my favorite new Fey, these twisted dark ones play with the dead, and I do mean play with. With the capacity to awaken the dead, but not the means to control, they beguile and bully the undead into doing as they wish. And when things aren't going well for them, they simply step into anything handy with a strong tie to death, and teleport away. I do believe I have just found my new GraveTender....oh the dark hilarity that shall ensue.
Cait Sith CR2 Picture a cat, with a more human-like face, and hands instead of its front paws, now realize whoever thought this Fey up, owns cats, loves them, and did them justice with this interpretation. Love the fact that rules are included as a special ability to cover the effect of catnip upon the Caith Sith.
Gahonga CR8 A stone-built powerhouse, these Fey are literally a walking pile of rock. Tethered to an area by their most valued item, I found it amusing that they share a lich's weakness, as they have their own form of a phylactery.
Glade Maiden CR2 An interesting creature, the Maiden is essentially bound to a glade, but while within it, she is protected by it as per sanctuary. Abhorring violence the Glade Maiden welcomes any and all within her glade, quite possibly laying the groundwork for a GM to take advantage of for strange bedfellows at campsites.
Night Swan CR6 A seriously sadistic swan, these foul Fey rule over their waterways, demanding tribute from the local hunters and intelligent creatures.
River Mother CR10 A truly diabolical evolution of the lonely bride, this is an excellent river Fey for those parts of your world where tribal life still holds sway....just don't let your men folk near the water.
Waterbaby CR3 Having a weakness for creatures pulling the whole half humanoid/half animal this one and the River Mother both got a smile out of me. Remember the legends of a Siren's call and what it could do to a ship of sailors?? Nothing compared to the Waterbaby's cry, this kids got lungs, and the worse part, they enjoy watching folks go nuts from the effect, so they do it for fun.
Following the Fey we are introduced to new Magical Items & Feats:
Arrow Beetles Living arrowheads....oh bless you SGG, bless you.
Caledfwlh A Fey shortsword designed to take out that one character who always buffs up on the spells granting bonuses to hit, dmg, AC, or ability scores. You know who I'm talking about...time to pay them back.
Nathair A very cool concept for a weapon, it essentially is a rope made of woven metal that you wear wrapped around your upper body. It's attacks remind me of Anime cartoon shows in that you essentially will the rope to attack for you. Here we find the third error for the book, in describing a variant form 15% is mistakenly typed as 155. Not a huge issue, as the text makes it fairly clear what was intended.
Bless Supplicants You can reward those that leave you offerings
Channeled Glamor focus your supernatural essence to use Glamor to hurt as well as defend
Coils of the Nathair gain trip and grapple attacks with the nathair
Oddborn Cold Iron holds no fear for you
Nathair Defense Your nathair can enhance your AC
Nathair Spellstrike Your nathair can channel your touch spells
And of course a few new spells:
Fang Call Variation on the summon monster collection of spells, much more specific as to what will be summoned as it triggers off of a tooth from the creature type, including sentient creatures.
Razor Birds Creates quasi-real birds that you may direct to attack as a cloud of slashing damage.
All in all, this tome is well worth the money. The greatest compliment I know to give any RPG book I am reading is that I couldn't make it through my first read without opening a notepad to jot ideas. This book inspired me, instantly. The Charnel-Kin will be making an appearance very soon at my gaming table, and I'll be looking to work the River Mother in soon as well. Are there a few mistakes? Yes. But they are small ones, and with very little mental power, one can deduce what the intention of the passage was supposed to say.
The material is well written, and well presented. The artwork, barring a few that are not my style, was all good to excellent, with a few drawings feeling very retro, almost "1ed"ish if you will. The items give us a new weapon that I see a lot of folks going nuts with, how can you not love the mental image of a shirtless fey wearing a rope upon their shoulders and arms, while kicking some @ss? Add that item to the feats designed to go hand in hand with this weapon, and voila, you have a fun new toy. Me, I can't wait to pull the “harmless” arrow trick with my hungry new living arrowheads, (insert evil laugh).
Going to have to go with a 5 star rating for this one, because Paizo won't let me give you a 6.