One of the aspects of 4th Edition that has me most excited is the introduction of the Feywild to the D&D universe. I have always felt that the fey were given a bum rap in previous editions of D&D. I think this is less the fault of the D&D creators and more a consequence of what I call the “fairy” vs “faerie” dichotomy in most people’s minds.
I am using “fairy” to refer to the popular image of friendly fairies with butterfly wings. They are generally friendly, silly, and beautiful. They can be mischievous, but are rarely portrayed as malicious. This is the way the fey have generally been portrayed in D&D since its inception.
On the other hand I use “faerie” to refer to the fey as traditionally depicted in myth. They are powerful, intelligent, and capricious creatures. It is dangerous to be around even the most benign of them because their sense of morality is alien to our own. People use terms like “The Good Folk” or “The Kindly Ones” when describing them not because it is an accurate description, but because they fear incurring their wrath. This seems to be the direction that fey in D&D are moving in 4th Ed.
I am glad to see 4th Ed moving towards the “faerie” side of things for many reasons. Frankly, they make better monsters. That is important in a combat oriented game like D&D. More importantly, they can make complex opponents. With a plethora of magical abilities at their disposal, combat is more interesting than fighting it out with a group of orcs.
Also, many fey are highly intelligent, and will likely have more complex goals than most monsters. In the new game it might be just as likely that a village is being threatened by a group of fey as a band of orcs. But the reasons why a group of fey is threatening a village may be just as interesting as the combat itself.
Just as interesting as the fey themselves is the introduction of the Feywild as an adventuring environment. One advantage the Feywild has as an adventuring environment is it can literally be used at any time. Much like the “Mists of Ravenloft” coming in, an adventuring party stumbling into the Feywild can totally change the tone of an adventure. As long as it is not over used, this can be an effective way to add an unexpected sense of danger and excitement to an otherwise standard gaming session.
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