Playtesting: the Hidden Folk (Non-Human Heroes) in Swords of the Serpentine

By Kevin Kulp

This is the seventh in our series on non-human heroes which has so far covered the spider-like Arakene, the Considerata (humans whose souls are contractually linked to gods), Constructs, the fungal Drowned, Intelligent Animals, and Unsleeping Advisors (secret undead). This month’s Ancestry is inspired by cobbler elves, house elves, Icelandic legends, and tiny fey. Be sure to read the previously published rules on Non-Human Heroes if you haven’t already.

The Hidden Folk

Ancestry abilities: Ancestry (Fey), Prophecy, Ridiculous Luck, Spirit Sight

  • Ancestry (Fey) reflects your culture’s heritage, knowledge, and any special abilities
  • Prophecy represents the fey ability to have prophetic visions of the past, present, and future, often while advising a mortal in need of assistance
  • Ridiculous Luck represents your tendency to have folk tales – and actual events – go your way
  • Spirit Sight reflects your fey ability to sense magical auras, see the true nature of people and spirits, and to identify other fey by their glamour

You are one of the hidden folk, who are small, kindly or wicked fey creatures such as gnomes, pixies, brownies, sprites, redcaps, and tiny faerie dragons. Humans consider your people to be folk tales, but only because you seldom want to be seen. You’ve always lived in both the spirit realms and the houses of Eversink until Corruption kills you or drives you away. Humans who follow the old ways know enough to leave you tribute – a bowl of milk, a crust of bread, a pair of old shoes to mend. In exchange you step away from the spirit realm to watch over their families. When something bad happens to the humans you protect, your mercurial nature drives you out into the mortal world for adventure or vengeance. Some things are more important than secrecy and safety.

This secrecy gives you huge power; you’re likely to be completely underestimated (especially if you take ranks of Servility), and those who already know of the hidden folk may well pay you the respect you’re due, at least if they want to remain in your folks’ good graces. Spending your points of Ridiculous Luck to bedevil someone who has disrespected you is a time-honored tactic of the fey.

Hidden folk who are Sorcerers have a predilection for curses (SotS p.)122, and often select Curses as a sorcerous sphere just to be that much more effective at bedeviling those who treat them cavalierly.

Play one of the Hidden Folk if you want to inject the feel of a fairy tale into the game, when you want a hero who’s at least partially removed from human politics, or if you loved the brownies from Willow. They’re also handy when you want to play a particularly small or mobile hero, especially one that doesn’t rely on brute strength.

Designer Notes: The Hidden Folk

I love the idea of unseen fey dwelling in the houses of Eversink, especially the idea of setting up their own mansions deep beneath ground level. In a game where people may well need to spin straw into gold and where a sorcerous curse could deliberately put a household to sleep for a hundred years, the hidden folk fit right in.

Letting heroes fly is slightly tricky. It needs to be possible but possibly not all the time, because I’m not convinced that fluttering over a fight raining down taunts or sorcerous blasts is a fun tactic for every combat. The balance we struck in these rules is allowing flight during a scene when the player spends an Ancestry (Fey) pool point. That balance seems to work well for everyone, especially when fluttering just out of reach is no defense against Sway attacks.

Investigative ability: Ancestry (Fey)

You’re knowledgeable about fey, including both high elves and the hidden folk. You have knowledge of fey culture, behavior, history, politics, art, tactics, and customs.  You speak the fey language, a beautiful and musical tongue. You may travel through the spirit world to faerie, and can navigate the twisting roads of faerie without becoming endlessly lost.

This Investigative ability points you towards leads and clues that are linked to fey societies and roles. You will need to rely on other Investigative abilities to gain leads from specific fey, who aren’t under any obligation to like you just because you are one as well.

Sample spend: Pass from the mortal world into the spirit realms, or vice versa; for a 2 point spend you may take others with you. If you pass through a danger-haunted spot where the veil is already weak, such as a site of deep Corruption, the cost of passage is lowered by 1 or more.

Use the mesmerizing cadence of fey speech to inflict an extra die of damage on a Sway attack. Make a hostile fey delay from attacking you long enough to at least listen to what you have to say.

Spend a point to perform astounding feats of household ingenuity overnight such as spinning straw to gold (1 Wealth per point spent), performing difficult repairs quickly, or cooking magnificent banquets in impossibly short amounts of time.

If you have wings, spend a point to fly for the duration of the scene.

Special: If you are a hidden folk with ranks of Ancestry (Fey) you may create minor magical effects such as scents, sounds, and colored lights at will.

Sample Hero – Hidden Folk

Pascalaskeon, a trickster of the hidden folk

Vindictive, clever, lucky, industrious, funny, proud

Drives (what is best in life?): Being industrious; keeping your people safe; tricking a human

Defenses – Health: Health Threshold 3, Armor 1 (an aura of luck), Health 6

Defenses – Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Grit 1 (cautious), Morale 12

Offense – Sway: Sway 8: Damage Modifier +1 (persuasive)

Offense – Warfare: Warfare 5: Damage Modifier +0 (bad luck)

Investigative abilities: Liar’s Tell 1, Servility 1, Taunt 1; Ancestry (Fey) 5, Prophecy 1, Ridiculous Luck 1, Spirit Sight 1

Allegiances: Ally: Commoners 1, Ally: Church of Denari 1; Enemy: Sorcerers’ Cabal 1

General abilities: Athletics 3, Burglary 5, Preparedness 3, Stealth 8 (Where She’d Go?), Sway 8 (Play to the Crowd), Warfare 3

Gear: a small but jaunty beard; ghost-infested dice; a small bowl of milk; cobbler’s tools; a very small, very sharp knife; key to the spirit realm; a hostile sorcerer on your trail who is determined to capture you for study; a few human first-borns paid to you as tribute, growing up back in faerie

Sample Adversary – Hidden Folk


Vicious, frenetic, bullying

Defense — Health: Health Threshold 4, Health 10

Defense — Morale: Morale Threshold 4, Grit 3 (Sadistic), Morale 10

Offense — Warfare: +1; Damage Modifier +2 (iron shoes or jagged knives)

Offense — Sway: +1; Damage Modifier +1 (terror)

Abilities: Malus 9

Special Abilities: Fearsome Blow (cost 3 – per combined attack), Monstrous Ability (cost 3 – Fey-like abilities)

Refresh Tokens: 3

Description: The redcap is the sly, vicious enforcer of the fey. Often appearing in groups of three, they’re named for their hats that they soak in the blood of their fallen enemies. Redcaps gang up on the physically weakest enemy, attempting to stomp them flat into the ground before moving on to the next foe. Redcaps can use their Monstrous ability to teleport to nearby hiding spots so long as no one can see them as they shift. That means that they’ll often bound out of a closet, stab a foe, and slide under a bed out of sight – whereupon they’ll teleport to a new hiding place as soon as they have the opportunity.

Sample Allegiances

Establishing the hidden folk as a new faction (instead of being included under Monstrosities as they normally are) indicates that the fey realms are taking an active interest in humanity. Perhaps they are fleeing something in faerie and have chosen to establish a new realm right here in Eversink, or perhaps a charismatic fey leader is driving them towards a goal. It would be rare for the hidden folk to become a political faction, however; most take the “hidden” part of their name very seriously.

Having the hidden folk as Allies means that you have eyes almost everywhere, and by trading for favors could perform miraculous and impossible deeds overnight. You can gain insight into faerie politics, if such things are relevant in your game.

Having the hidden folk as Enemies means that you’ll never see why your luck is so consistently terrible. Your milk will be bad, your horse will be lame, your shoes will pinch, your clothes will tear with inexplicably bad timing – and they’ll never, ever confront you to tell you why.

Kevin Kulp (@kevinkulp) and Emily Dresner (@multiplexer) are the co-authors of Swords of the Serpentine, out now in hardback and PDF. Kevin previously helped create TimeWatch and Owl Hoot Trail for Pelgrane Press. When he’s not writing games he’s either smoking BBQ or helping 24-hour companies with shiftwork, sleep, and alertness.

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