Roleplaying Resources

Making Fey More Alien

In most RPGs, elves and other fey are basically just slightly eccentric, differently-sized humans. Here are some tips on making them more alien.

By Prime32 on Brilliant Gameologists.

My image of the fair folk, as pieced together from mythology and pop culture:


While they are generally mischievous rather than cruel, fey have a serious case of Blue And Orange Morality going on, with completely different senses of morality and value to mortals. A fey might pursue a vendetta against ten generations of a family for helping him, or remain cheerful while his friends are killed around him, or trade a kingdom for a piece of string, and yet this will make perfect sense to other fey.

I Think Therefore I Am What I Think

A fey exists in exactly the way it sees itself. The least of the fey are flighty, shifting constantly, and are usually visible as little more than balls of light. The most powerful fey (the lords and ladies) are those with strong personalities, and are more or less fixed in their current shape.


Fey as a whole are immortal, though they may not exist with the same form or the same mind over the span of their existence. It's even possible for fey to merge together or split apart, though few beyond the least of their kind are willing to do so - the strange woman dressed in white who wanders through the forest might be a school of minor fey acting together, which could solidify into a true individual or disperse the next morning. Generally, “killing” a fey disperses its essence into minor fey or recreates it in a death-related aspect; some fey lack the ability to die altogether, having no understanding of the concept. Or maybe killing a fey causes it to be reborn as a mortal, and killing a mortal causes it to be reborn as a fey.

There Are No Boundaries

Most fey have trouble telling the difference between fine clothing and rags, between people of different ages/races/genders, between mortals and fey, or even between physical things and abstract ones. As such, they freely offer humans drink not safe for mortal consumption, and can steal someone's eyes or voice as easily as their wallet. For this reason the Wild Hunt treats all things as prey. Feycrafted weapons have powerful magic effects, being shaped from raw concepts. The names for different “species” of fey were invented by mortals, and the fey themselves do not understand them (using only names and titles).

We Are The World

Fey as a whole are connected to nature - disrupting one has an effect on the other. For instance, killing the lord(s) who embody Spring would prevent Spring from coming; a fey who lives in a river is most likely river-like, and damming the river could kill it or mutate it into a different form. Industry symbolises man's dominance over nature - thus most fey are harmed by manufactured items which do not occur naturally (eg. high-grade iron, plastic) and have trouble entering settlements larger than a small town. Canny fey will abuse this by hiring/tricking humans into killing their enemies.

The Between Places

Fey live somewhere which is not quite a separate world, but not quite this one. Certain places exist in both worlds, some are larger in one than the other, and a rare few have no equivalent. Entering their realm requires specific paths, which are not always two-way and do not necessarily require travel (eg. falling asleep in a mushroom ring). In any case, it's impossible to tell when you have crossed over except occasionally by a feeling of wrongness. At certain times of the year (such as the solstice), more of these paths open and fey travel between worlds more freely.

Time? What's Time?

Time flows differently in the fey realms. Someone who spends an hour in a court might return seconds after he left, or crumble to dust as soon as he sets foot on mortal soil. The fey themselves don't notice or care.


Because of the nature of their existence, fey have the ability to create powerful effects which blur the line between illusions and reality warping. The most common examples are transforming one substance into another (eg. dirt to gold) or making themselves appear inhumanly beautiful.


Fey must always keep their word, and can compel others to do so to a limited extent - lords can use this to command their subjects. Many fey become vulnerable when held in a certain way or when one of their possessions is stolen, cannot enter a house without an invitation, or are unable to lie. These restrictions are always to the letter rather than the spirit, meaning that plenty of loopholes exist.

Humans Are Cool

Fey will frequently try to imitate others, and since they see humans as no different from fey (and certainly more interesting than most animals) this leads to their lords adopting some human customs… more or less. While they have a better understanding of humans than most, extended interaction will show that they are still alien. Plus, they tend to mimic negative human qualities as well, like jealousy and vanity. At best, some lords have been known to find particular humans impressive and offer them eternal life and comfort in their lands (eg. King Arthur, Oisín); others do not make it a choice.

Give In To The Lizard Brain

Fey are primal beings, and uncontrolled exposure to them and their creations can send humans mad or turn them into fey themselves (there is not much difference between the two). Some lords will place mortals under their custody, protecting them from their lesser siblings; others induce the effect from excessively beautiful glamours.