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Flavour Shots: Light Fey Portals

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A Flavour Shot is a short description of game artefacts and phenomena for use by Dungeon Masters, Game Masters and Storytellers in their games. Feel free to drag and drop these into your own games, and modify to suit. Let us know if you end up using them. Some will be portals to other realms, some will be magic items, others will be monster encounters. This time, it’s…

Seelie Court fey portals

D&D fey
The Feywild and fey realms are places of beauty and magic. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
The nicer fey portals have variety! (The nastier dark fey portals strike a significantly different tone!)

I love ambiguity and interpretation when it comes to high fantasy concepts; things that maintain the need for imagination and mystery. It’s popular to set up a concept and keep it that way for the sake of consistency, but having a rule change while keeping it consistent behind the scenes can enhance the fun.

By this, I mean having the final arbiter of how and why something works be an unknown and unseen quantity means you can change how something works without it being inconsistent. It’s like a king suddenly deciding the password for the gatehouse is now Tulips instead of Dandelions – there’s likely a reason, but the farmer outside the gates doesn’t know it.

The same goes for fey portals. My Flavour Shot for you this time comes in many guises. Fey, and especially archfey, are powerful creatures with a modicum of control over localised spacetime and interdimensional travel if one is to go by the usual legends. To whit, they would usually have some control over who would gain access to their realms.

Activating fey portals

Fey portals to sacred groves or minor demiplanes should have some form of activation mechanic that’s relatively mundane and possibly accidental to trigger. Some examples that sit among my favourites are:

  • Two trees of a type associated strongly with the fey in question, either naturally or unnaturally forming an archway near or in a woodland area. Passing through provides a strong pleasant smell and the vibrancy of colours seen using normal vision begin to slowly saturate and become stronger. Over time it becomes clear the characters are no longer where they once were…
    Flavour Shot D&D fey
    Fey spirits bound to trees by powerful fey lords are transformed into dryads, like this one as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
  • During a short or long rest in a natural setting like a riverbank or hillside, a local phenomenon like the sound of trickling river water or the rhythmic chirping of some birds, or perhaps the opening and closing of some especially dynamic flowers or the steady movement of bees from one nectar source to another, produces a mild hypnotic effect. Success on a DC 5 Wisdom saving throw means your mind quickly awakens and remains in the material plane. A failure means you have been lulled enough for a transportation to have taken place without your knowledge. The characters are now in a fey realm that looks immediately similar, but with stronger smells, sensations and colours. Sounds echo slightly and moving quickly produces a blurring effect. Should one wish to intentionally enter this fey realm, a successful DC 13 Intelligence (History) check would reveal that bard tales from this region are rife with stories about people falling asleep and waking up to find their belongings taken by impish fey creatures, stumbling for hours through a meadow before finally turning a corner and being exactly where they were before, having never met the thieves. Success on DC 13 Intelligence (Nature) skill checks show the strange effect of the natural phenomena, and success on a DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) would reveal the pattern of sights and sounds and how they’re hypnotic. A successful DC 15 Wisdom ability check would allow someone to consciously allow the effects to take hold and transport them to the fey realm; allowing one’s mind to wander is a difficult thing.
  • The moon shines brightly down on the famed Feywild Lake, where the great warriors of legend received gifts of power and magic. Staring at the pool and becoming mesmerised by the gentle ripples, at long last, the lake becomes completely still. Diving into the reflection of the moon while it’s completely still like this feels just like diving into any lake on a cold evening. The fish swim away, the bubbles erupt around you and you swim back to the surface, only this time the lake is different. Despite the nighttime hour, the land is diffused with an ambient light. Birds of many colours fly fervently between branches, catching large and vibrant insects mid-air. Flowers bloom and the moon is absent from the sky. Climbing out of the lake and peering back in, the moon is clearly seen. The lake on this side can see clearly into the material plane, and on the opposite side of the lake are some tiny giggling sprites, likely onlookers that amuse themselves by watching the mundane trials of mortal life.
A pixie, as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, is just one of the fey creatures adventurers may encounter in a fey realm. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]
Major fey realms, especially those personally inhabited by archfey and the like, should feature some more trickery or demonstrations of fealty; the haughty spirits enjoy the favour of mortals and will allow them entry should they show it.

  • A large and powerful tree associated with the fey, such as an oak or willow, with a sizable hollow in the trunk. By slowly tracing your hand around the edge of the hollow, a symbol seems to emerge among the knots and lines in the bark. Touching the symbol and saying a password allows anyone entering the hollow immediately afterwards to emerge through the other side of the tree in the fey realm. A level of exhaustion is removed and a lesser restoration spell effect is cast on all creatures entering the realm.
  • A standing stone structure like a henge or archway at the convergence of ley lines with an altar to the side of it. This altar is made of the same stone as the portal gateway, whether it’s the archway or a portion of the larger henge structure. Each archfey will have their own ‘sacrifices’ they want in order to open their portals, and once the ritual is performed to open the portal it remains open as long as the current celestial event continues. Did you perform the ritual at midnight? Your portal is open until sunrise. Does the archfey only want to open the portal during a full moon or planetary alignment? Well, you’d better do it right at the right time; that portal’s closing as soon as that alignment ends. This is a huge case for DM interpretation and allows this to be mostly a narrative choice and not a strictly and accurately measured thing. Perhaps the characters have no way of knowing how long the portal remains open, and this is part of the adventure. This can help with rationalising why the fey realms aren’t tourist attractions. With these ritual-based portals, the space between the stone pillars suddenly becomes a window to the other realm. You can see clearly the division, and stepping through presents a difference in air pressure, a blast of sweet aromas and the colours, again, are far more vibrant.
  • A small primitive wooden hut is in the middle of a small clearing. It looks abandoned, and inside is random clutter and plenty of dust and cobwebs. Amongst the clutter is a single artefact: it could be a key, a puzzle box, a door handle or any such thing. Once the riddle of the object is solved (key is placed beneath a floorboard, or puzzle box is solved and opened, the door handle placed on the door to the hut, etc.), the hut is transported to the fey realm of the DM’s choosing, presumably that of the archfey who set up the hut. Walking outside the characters will find themselves among other fey-folk who are settling down for a feast in the forest with song and dance.
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