This supplement clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page ToC, ½ a page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Disclaimer: While I have joined Legendary Games as lead developer, I have no stake in this product. It was created prior to me joining the team, and it was provided with the intent of getting the usual fair and harsh treatment. I was not involved in the creation of this product in any shape, way or form, and I have nothing to gain from this review.
All right, that out of the way, what are faerie bargains? They are a means to bind a fey unavoidably to the bargain’s terms, and serve as a means to reward the mortal associated with the bargain. As such, they basically represent a reward mechanism that is not tied to gear. Something I generally tend to enjoy, as it helps combat the dreaded Christmas-Tree-syndrome of high-level characters decked out in ridiculous amounts of magic items. A bargain’s terms must be spoken or sung to the mortal in a language that the mortal understands, and magical manipulation of the target is expressively forbidden. The shortest type of faerie bargain lasts for a moon cycle, but most last so long as to make their duration irrelevant for the purpose of a campaign. Each such bargain has, in tradition with real world lore, an escape clause. If a fey is slain, the bargain is undone, but once it returns to life, the bargain is reinstated – considering how fey tend to reincarnate, this means that slaying targets may not be the wisest choice.
Activation of a faerie bargain’s benefits is, unless otherwise noted, a spell-like ability that provokes AoOs. Emulated spells use the character’s level as CL, while those not based on spells use ½ character level for the purpose of determining their potency. Such abilities also default to a standard action to activate. The mechanic base for access to these, should you want one, would be the Faerie Bargainer monster feat, which also represents the mechanics for spontaneous creation of bargains. The Faerie Friend feat lets you make +2 faerie bargains, as well as providing a +2 bonus on Diplomacy and Sense Motive vs. fey. Said bonuses also apply to faerie bargain-related skill checks. The normal cap of faerie bargains per character is btw. 1 + Charisma modifier.
A faerie bargain is codified in a statblock of sorts: They have a CR value and XP rating – this is awarded for fully researching and undoing the faerie bargain. Nice: Novice GMs get a note here that gives carte blanche to prevent XP-cheesing by PCs. Bargains have a magical aura, a payment, and note the faerie creature likely to be able to grant this boon. Some bargains are tied to an object, which is called “token” – these only apply their benefits when the token is worn. And yes, the pdf does codify interaction with AoE effects, sundering et al.
Faerie bargains obviously provide benefits, and have associated skill checks that need to be met to research the existence of such bargains. The DC is stated as a complexity rating, with knowledge points (kp) and milestones provided – in short, we have nice library usage synergy. If you’re familiar with the standard research rules, you’ll know how to use these. The pdf does go beyond that and provides intricate guidelines for GMs to create their own faerie bargains, including a table that correlates temporary and permanent negative levels, conditions that are hard to remove (by e.g. a greater restoration or even only by a wish and analogue power!) with gp values, making sure that WBL guidelines can be properly maintained. Similarly, CR-modifiers are explained and collected, and using faerie bargains as rewards is properly accounted for as well. A handy table that lists them by CR and with their treasure equivalent makes usage of the bargains provided swift and painless, should you be not inclined to make your own, at least from the get-go.
To sum it up: We get a means of rewarding players that is somewhat akin to Mór Games’ emergences, save that its mechanical guidelines are more tightly codified, putting more emphasis on reward structures beyond the roleplaying-relevant context. The faerie bargains, no surprise here, also are themed around fey and mythology.
The lion’s share of the pdf is devoted to a TON of faerie bargains, so even if the DIY-bargain-crafting guidelines do not appeal to you, you’ll get more than enough such bargains to run whole campaigns (yes, plural intended!) featuring them. The intriguing component about them, though, is that they genuinely matter. Faerie bargains are not simply numerical boosts. Getting vermin scent from a mite, grig, gruen etc. will allow you to influence vermin with Handle Animal, for example. It’s also a good example to note the benefits of doing your research prior to jumping into a bargain: In the case of this example, we have a -4 penalty to Perception and Sense Motive versus faerie creatures (deviation from type fey is definitely intended here) and saves versus vermin abilities…and suddenly, we do have a good reason to think twice. The bargain also exemplifies why a PC may want to take this – being able to Handle Animal vermin can be a huge boon for roleplaying, perhaps even a plot point…but it is not a boost that every PC will necessary want to undergo.
And this is EXACTLY how faerie bargains should work. Sure, you can get illusion tutelage from e.g. a nixie – a strand of the fey’s hair, and bam, you can use veil or invisibility thrice before the bargain ends, but become more susceptible to the fey…oh, and talking about *how* you got the ability ends the bargain! That is a classic trope and considering the curiosity of players, using this one as the aftermath of a 1-on-1 session can make for super interesting interactions. Want to learn some basic magics? Well, you can – you just have to pay with an emotional memory. Since memory and identity are inextricably entwined, this can make for very intriguing roleplaying scenarios as well. With the right bargain, you can deal yourself damage and anoint a rare wood with your blood, creating a lesser simulacrum…but this double may be controlled by the fey. Wanna get out of this bargain? For the low price of handing the fey a child of your species to adopt, you can…
See what I meant regarding the fact that these resonate with real life mythology? For a bit of madness, you can have the blood rage universal monster ability; you can have a frozen heart…and there are some that are downright genius. Rhymer’s truth would be one of these: This bargain strips you of the ability to lie. If you utter a factual statement that *may* be true, you have a pretty high chance that you can’t finish the sentence. This is frickin’ intrigue gold. If you pay with your shadow, you can make your kingdom (yep, kingdom-building synergy included!) help recover hit points from resting and magical healing! It also improves the benefits of holiday edicts and settlement stats are improved…but the faerie does get a pretty potent ability…namely to assume your form! Once more, the potential is amazing. And yes, there are multiple such bargains included.
With the curse of spilled blood, being reduced below 13 hit points (of course – love this!) targeting attackers with ill omen. Now, I wouldn’t be me sans things to complain about – in hallows of rulership, there is a “See page XXX” reference left. …Yeah, I don’t have much to complain about these bargains. Amazing: Fey Queen’s Ransom will take 20 hexes, with at least 200 BP from your kingdom, replacing it with featureless wasteland…but you do gain your mythic tier and may even pay more to grant this power to allies. This is the stuff tales of villains…or of desperate gambits, are made of.
The pdf does contain more than these bargains – we also get 6 magic items associated with these bargains: A magical cauldron, a green girdle of invincibility that allows you to become the green knight of myth…and yes, the items often are associated with themes of seasonal courts. Did I mention the stone throw of destiny? Yeah, the items feel potent and distinctly fey. The rules provided are precise and tight.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of the Kingmaker-plugins, and the pdf features a blend of previously used and new full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
David N. Ross is an author who manages something few designers achieve: He exhibits an impressive mastery and precision regarding the quality of his crunch, and supplements this with thoroughly novel and cool themes. In a more modern parlance: He’s got both A-game math and crunch design skills, and knows how to clad them in roleplaying-relevant components. This is not just a dry collection of numerical boons, it is a true ROLEplaying supplement, one suffused with the themes and tropes of real world mythology, contextualized through the lens of Pathfinder. Moreover, the bargains are pretty much tailor-made to represent things in Kingmaker and allow for unique responses and narrative tricks. Both PCs and GMs are certain to adore these. In case you haven’t noticed: I absolutely ADORE this supplement. It is precise, potent and genuinely intriguing. It is one of those underappreciated gems that folks overlook since it doesn’t explicitly state “here there be magic items” – and honestly, if you have so far skipped this one, get it. It is an inspired little gem of a book.
My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this glorious supplement here on OBS!
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