Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy Newsletter. It has been trying a week. If you are a fan of the Nerdarchy Facebook page you may have noticed some weirdness over there. On Monday the page was hijacked, or stolen if you would. We would appreciate anyone who reaches out to Facebook on our behalf. We are working on getting the page restored, but haven’t had a ton of headway yet. We were also given the sad news that Nerdarchy writer, community mod, and friend James Leslie has passed. His friends and family are in our thoughts. He will be missed. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: It was a great pleasure to work with James here on the site. He put his heart into everything he did, including a lot of terrific writing. You can check out James’ posts here.]
This week’s topic is fey and the Feywild in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
The fey and feywild is such a fun topic. Here are some ideas to introduce into your games.
Fairy Rings: These naturally growing toadstools pop up in a ring. They may only appear at certain times or they could always be there. Under the light of the full moon, during the first rays or last rays of daylight, for one day out of every hundred, or only during a light drizzle — whatever your campaign needs at the time. These operate as portals between the Feywild and the prime material plane.
Maybe you’d like to differentiate fey creatures even further from other monsters in the D&D-verse. Cold iron is kind of a big deal among D&D lore. Here are some ideas for using cold iron weapons in your games. This is in addition to what Nerdarchist Ted has to say below.
Cold Iron: Method one is a slight change to any fey with resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks. Just change “nonmagical attacks” to “weapons that aren’t cold iron” to represent the fey’s aversion to this mythical metal. Method two is to add damage vulnerability to all fey creatures. Both methods make cold iron more special.
Pixie Dust:Storm King’s Thunder introduces pixie dust as something adventurers can find. It produces random effects. In my own game, I awarded my players with a pouch of pixie dust each and dded a twist — as long as the characters had the pouches on their persons they could speak and understand Sylvan in addition to drawing on the magical effects listed in Storm King’s Thunder. My players could decide to use the pixie dust and access those magical effects until it was used up or keep it and have access to the fey language.
From Ted’s Head
Fey can be used in a variety of ways. They can be weak agents of a greater power. They can be those higher powers I was speaking of. Fey are in their own right an alien mindset like aberrations. The true fey are immortal and operatie under a particular set of rules. These rules must be followed — but only to the letter, not the spirit of the law.
With those rules come the ideas that fey like to bargain and manipulate others. Here is where we get to have fun. As a Dungeon Master, you can have a powerful fey anywhere you want. They could play as a quest giver, foil, rival, Big Bad Evil Guy, or even random NPC. The same fey could even be multiple of these all trying to direct the characters in a certain direction or towards a certain course of action. These kinds of tricks can be fun and interesting to pull off.
Form the player side we already have access to the fey with warlock’s Otherworldly Patron. But it can go further if you are seeking them out. What if you are playing a character who already has a tie to nature or magical power? If so you could be trying to bargain for power. Multiclassing or feats that grant more power could potentially represent these powers coming from the fey. If we look at the Dresden Files as an example, he has a relationship with a powerful fey and the interaction is great.
In earlier editions of D&D fey were affected by cold iron. It could easily be brought back in as a new metal type. I would charge twice as much for cold iron weapons but if used against creatures unaffected by the cold iron it does nothing extra and weakens the material over the combat. At the end of the combat roll a d20, on a roll of 8 or less the weapon breaks and is useless. For each combat you do this increase the target number. This would give you 13 combats at most against non-fey before the weapon would be useless. A magical weapon made of cold iron does not break from use against a creature not vulnerable to cold iron.
From the Nerditor’s Desk
I may be late to the Midsummer Night’s Dream here, but time in the Feywild is wonky anyway so let’s go with me being right on time for a deep appreciation and whimsical mirth when it comes to fey in fifth edition D&D.
Exploring what fey creatures and concepts bring to a D&D game opens a door (or portal YMMV) to a wealth of fantastical opportunities. The fifth edition D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide includes a terrific section on the Feywild — and its dark counterpart the Shadowfell — handing DM’s the keys to a magical universe of adventures D&D characters will never forget.
Well… they could forget completely if they fail a Wisdom saving throw. And even if they succeed, their memories of time spent in the Feywild will be hazy. They could also return home after a few days chilling with fey creature and discover years have passed on the Material Plane. So there you go, DMs — you’ve got two incredible narrative tools baked right into D&D. Time travel and unreliable memories can make for some pretty interesting scenarios.
“The Feywild exists in parallel to the Material Plane, an alternate dimension that occupies the same cosmological space. The landscape of the Feywild mirrors the natural world but turns its features into spectacular forms. Where a volcano stands on the Material Plane, a mountain topped with skyscraper-sized crystals that glow with internal fire towers in the Feywild. A wide and muddy river on the Material Plane might be echoed as a clear and winding brook of great beauty. A marsh could be reflected as a vast black bog of sinister character. And moving to the Feywild from old ruins on the Material Plane might put a traveler at the door of an archfey’s castle.” — From the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide Chapter 2: Creating a Multiverse
As far as fey creatures in D&D 5E go, at first glance there’s not a lot of work with. In the Basic Rules there are six fey creatures, from the CR ¼ blink dog to the CR 3 green hag. The fey realm really opens up with the rest of official D&D 5E content to 27 fey creatures up to basically CR 10. Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica includes a unique fey creature, the CR 18 Trostani, the Selesnyan Guildmaster. Beyond these sources, lots of designers out there have created tons of great fey content. Here are a few recommendations:
My own home game took a fey turn after the players become intensely curious about some of the myths and legends they’d heard around their new home, and the more the campaign goes in this direction, the more enchanted I become. I went back and reread my favorite story arc of the Sandman comic book, The Kindly Ones, for some additional inspiration of just how fickle fey creatures can be. What I like about the fey world from our own world’s myths and legends is how the chaotic nature of these creatures still has an underlying set of rules for how things work. But good luck trying to understand without at least Fey Ancestry!
Adding fey elements to your D&D game gives your group a chance to really lean into the fantastic. Navigating Fey Court intrigue, dealing with powerful emotions and striking perilous bargains with beings of light and darkness, warm compassion and chilling indifference is the stuff myths are made of, and the adventurers have a rare opportunity to become part of these legends themselves.
So the next time your D&D adventuring party traverses the primeval forest or any place where the wild things are, take heed — their travels may take them through an unexpected jaunt into the places of mystery and beauty, or melancholic despair and gloom, where fey creatures await!