Author Archives: twigglethetreeling

Whatever Happened to Faerie Wood?

Sometime in the mid-1990s, we ground to a halt. I’m sure there were lots of reasons.

One of the frustrations that I remember from that time was that I felt that I needed Garry, but he didn’t really need me: he could write rules and supplements, and produce illustrations for them, while I could only write the games themselves. If the artwork wasn’t forthcoming, there could be no more books – and I wanted there to be more. Looking back, it seems terribly immature to have been keeping score, but in a sense I was. I wanted to be the author of more Faerie Wood material.

Of the supplements we’d produced, I was the author of just one and a half (the one being ‘Goblins!’, while the half is ‘Airy Faeries’ which appeared as half of a double booklet, along with Garry’s ‘Bagpipe Blues’). Garry had also created ‘Bowls!’ / ‘The Starwood Tree’ (another double booklet), and The Garden Snatchers.

Although the limitation was frustrating, it wasn’t the reason I had to give up on the books: that was down to the supply of artwork. I had edited and typeset Garry’s ‘The Ghost of Gwinbosch Castle’ but after the cover itself no further illustrations were forthcoming. I finalised the maps of the castle (engineering and architectural drawing I can do…) but I couldn’t produce ‘classic’ Faerie Wood illustrations, and without pictures there could be no new books. There were a lot of adventures that might have been published, but something had changed. Perhaps our living hundreds of miles apart had finally had an effect: significantly, I don’t recall what was going on in Garry’s life at that time. There may well have been good reasons to call a halt, but since I was no longer close at hand I couldn’t know them – and as we entered our mid-twenties it was quite natural that there were other things afoot.

Cover detail from The Ghost of Gwinbosch Castle

Previously unseen: the Ghost of Gwinbosch Castle

By 1995 I’d be a homeowner, I’d be engaged (disastrously, as it turned out) and I’d be working on a PhD. There were lots of reasons not to create Faerie Wood material. No doubt Garry could write a list of his own.

One reason for the supply of pictures running out I can guess at: new artistic media to be explored. I recall that at this time Garry had largely ceased to be interested in line drawings of the kind that we had relied on for Faerie Wood. If you look at the artwork for ‘Airy Faeries’ you can see that a new style is used: I was expecting more of the same, but Garry was branching out. New styles, and new interests.

Detail from the village map in Airy Faeries.

Detail from the village map in Airy Faeries.

Alistair was given a (in fact, the) print copy of the Game Master chapters (sans illustrations) and ran a game or two, but playing in those marked the end of my Faerie Wood experience. I continued to be very proud of what we had done, to the extent of showing the Players’ Book to prospective employers… but no more books would be completed, and we were almost at the end of the creative journey.

There remain about seven unpublished Faerie Wood supplements (being imprecise, because it depends upon your own standards in terms of quality and completeness) that reside on this computer, and its ancestors. Coming up in the next instalment, therefore: a sneak peak at some of the unfinished symphonies of Faerie Wood. 


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Herbalism – Simples!

(Introducing the idea of “folk remedies” for faerie folk.)

If you’ve ever played a herbalist character, you’ll have endured occasional frustrations where you’re either unable to find anything useful, or you keep on finding the wrong things. Naturally enough, upon finding a herb that one currently has no use for, the herbalist player is tempted to seize the ingredients anyway, in an effort to build up a stock of materials over time… but than can introduce long-term game balance problems.

Here’s a quick-and-dirty set of optional rules that allow a player to get a little more out of their herbalism skill – rather than being a supposedly good faerie carrying around a bunch of poisons for no better reason than because the ingredients turned up.

The existing rules that describe how to make ointments and potions remain unchanged, but there are other things that a herbalist can do to provide aid, such as mixing a remedy for a sore throat. Potions and ointments remain ‘special’ in that they are formulated to last a long time, but herbalists can also derive beneficial effects from relatively common plants, and other ingredients such as honey. These herbal remedies are prepared and used on demand: they aren’t stockpiled like potions, because they only work when fresh.

The ingredients for these minor remedies are easily found: nothing is particularly unusual, so if the herbalist is prepared to expend the stated time they are likely to be able to gather all the required ingredients, and make enough medicine to treat several faeries. The Game Master does not need to make a die roll to determine what herbs are present: the simple ingredients required for these remedies are always available – unless the character is trapped underground, it’s the middle of winter, or it’s too dark to search for the required ingredients, etc. (The Game Master can rule on any such limitation.)

If the player declares that he/she is going to make a herbal remedy, any of the following may be chosen. The character then expends the stated time to gather the ingredients, and chop, crush, boil, etc. as appropriate. At the end of that time, 1d100 is rolled. Making herbal remedies is a relatively easy aspect of the herbalism skill, so if the roll is less than double the character’s herbalism skill, the remedy is found to be a success, and can be used for treatment.

If the 1d100 roll is greater than double the character’s herbalism skill, the herbal mixture is clearly absolutely awful, and won’t do any good. It is thrown away… but the herbalist can try again by expending more time.

A list of herbal remedies follows. Game Masters may wish to allow additional herbal remedies (learned from books, or NPCs) during gameplay…


Herbal remedies table

That’s it! Thanks for reading, and I would be interested to know what you think…

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We need a ruling on rules

Garry contacted me out of the blue, requesting copies of the ‘Game Master’ notes that I could give him. (Yes: he’s thinking about running some games!) This is almost reason enough to sell up and move south, quite frankly…


We’re looking at game mechanics that were designed a quarter of a century ago. We’ve changed, and we think we can do things better, now. The rest of the world has changed, too. FaceTube; Tweets; immediate gratification in all things. Are people really going to plough through a hefty rulebook, in order to join a game? Are those special people that we call Game Masters still willing to go to all that trouble?

We’re not sure.

Garry has in mind some changes. In fact, his deliberations cover a whole spectrum, from “leave it unchanged” to a card-based approach. Options include a system with no miniatures and no maps… and some approaches that fundamentally change the role of the Game Master, or even eliminate it. We’ve discussed solo gamebooks, web-based services, ready-made ‘encounters’… all kinds of things.

And we’re no closer to a decision.

So I thought, let’s see what some other people think – and here’s my little opinion poll.

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