The Tuatha are a small, gracile people, reaching right at the five foot mark when full-grown. There are so few deviations to this rule that anyone more than a few inches above or below five feet are regarded with some suspicion as to their bloodline. They have long, tapered ears that can rotate slightly toward sound. They have medium-dark complexions with a rosy or bronzy tint and an epicanthal fold to their eyes. They also have minimal body hair. Otherwise, outwardly their anatomy closely resembles a human (with one major exception in the male Tuatha but, um, we don’t talk about that. Please ask if you want to play a male Tuatha; we’ll fill you all kinds of in).
Tuatha tend to categorise themselves as “bright” (slightly lighter-than-normal skin tone, red hair) and “dark” (average coloured skin tone, dark brown hair), although “bright” and “dark” have no bearing on social status, personality, or magical abilities. There are slightly more “dark” Tuatha than bright ones. All Tuatha have blue-grey eyes, although a fairly common genetic tendency to have green eyes crops up; green eyes are said to be unlucky. To a modern human eye, they might resemble an Asian phenotype.Physiology:
Tuatha are famous for having a very high tolerance to alcohol. They do not become intoxicated on human brews, which are too weak to have an effect on them. They also are not much affected by either human medicines, meaning that an injured Tuatha outside of his own country might be able to shrug off pain medication that would knock a human cold. Conversely, substances that act as normal drugs (recreational or medicinal) on Tuatha tend to be either poisonous or hallucinogenic to humans.
All Tuatha are highly allergic to iron. Being touched by iron on bare skin produces a sensation of deep, burning cold, and prolonged exposure can cause blisters that cannot be healed by most traditional or magical means. Iron scars are for life, and cannot be disguised by magic. Tuatha glamour cannot affect iron (for example, one could not glamour an iron door to look like a wooden one). Getting iron in the bloodstream, as through a cut, is agonising for a Tuatha. Infection spreads rapidly and gangrene can set in within twenty-four hours.
Tuatha are possessed of extremely good night vision, exceptionally keen hearing, and a strong sense of smell. To provide an example by contrast, a Tuatha briefly enchanted into a human described the experience as “like having wool in [her] ears and wax up [her] nose” and “like seeing the world through a grey mist.”
Tuatha females are fertile for about one month of the year in late autumn, around the festival of Samhain. Needless to say, this is an extremely important time for a species on the verge of extinction, and Tuatha females can be very, er, demanding around that time of year (to the point of attacking one another and all but pissing in a circle around their chosen mate of the season). Gestation takes six months for the Tuatha, although there is a very high rate (estimated 75%) of miscarriages during the first half of pregnancy, dropping to about 45% thereafter (and, sadly, surging back up to around 60% of all infants born dead, deformed, or dying shortly after birth). Tuatha males, however, are fertile year-round.Tuatha Longevity:
The oldest Tuatha currently in-game (with the exception of the sea-witch) is the high bard Aisling, whose age is guessed at around six hundred. However, the Tuathailli are generally recalcitrant about admitting exactly how long they actually live. For practical purposes, and to avoid the problem of having super-ancient PCs, the Tuatha live to be around five hundred, barring illness or accident. The “illness” part is negotiable; normal mortal diseases don’t seem to affect them very much. It’s why Titania had to whip up a magical plague to kill off Bride of Oireachteigh. For this reason, Tuathailli ailments do not often spread to humans (or vice versa).
The earliest period of a Tuatha’s life (birth to puberty) is known as the common years or just “the commons,” and is regarded much the same way as humans regard those awkward teenage years. During the commons, children progress through much the same milestones as human children. Between the ages of twenty and twenty-five, normal aging becomes prolonged and eventually ceases, leaving the Tuatha at roughly the same physical appearance for the remainder of her life.
There are a secondary perks to being Tuatha, such as going through not two but five sets of teeth in a lifetime (usually a new set every hundred years or so). On the downside, adult teething is a bitch.
There is no exact conversion between Tuatha age and human age. A Tuatha approaching three hundred may look much like a human in his late twenties or early thirties. Toward the final hundred years of their lifespan, however, the retardation ceases and Tuatha begin to age rapidly, showing the usual decrease of physical vigour, greying hair, wrinkles, and mental degradation associated with old age. As if in payment for their long, long youth, the majority Tuatha spend their final decades of life in prolonged senility.Magical abilities:
It’s said that all Tuatha children are born with the ability to vanish at will. This is an exaggeration, but from birth all Tuatha have the uncanny ability to blend with their backgrounds and move in near silence (if you’ve ever read Stephen King’s Eyes of the Dragon, the ability to become “dim” is pretty close).
All full-born Tuatha have glamourie--the ability to change their own physical appearance (and that of people near them) at will and without physical effort. Glamourie does not require the concentration of the caster; a glam will hold until it is either broken by the touch of iron, altered by someone else, or dissipated by the caster. It is widely rumoured that glamourie is not a physical change, but a mental one: that the caster has somehow managed to psychically convince the rest of the world to see something other than what is. However, this is not backed up by a lot of in-game mechanics; someone who has glamoured himself a coat, for example, would be kept warm because of it. However, a person who eats nothing but glamoured food will soon starve to death. This is one of those points where we just call it “magic” and assume it has its own internal logic somewhere.
Fayerie is a higher form of glamour that can actually change one thing into another. Fayerie is for all purposes a permanent change and cannot be broken by iron, and it is generally used and perceived as a sort of curse. A very small number of Tuatha, usually the very old, possess true fayerie, and only the original caster (or, occasionally, someone else versed in fayerie) can remove such a curse. The caster can also set a condition (geis) on his fayerie so that it will be removed if a certain set of circumstances are met.
Individual Tuatha may also have small magical gifts (called Talents) beyond their usual glamourie. These gifts can be nearly anything, good or bad, from the practical to the worthless, and include things that humans might not consider magical (perfect pitch is considered a Talent). A small listing of Talents currently used in game are:
Jinx: bad things just happen around you.
Luck: good things just happen around you.
Warding: the ability to control natural lines of magical force.
Healing: Heal others by touch.
Sight: the second sight; precognition
Light: ability to manipulate light as a physical object
Reading: a form of the Sight limited to reading the history of objects
Internal compass: being able to locate persons or places
Witching: usually involves calling up or calming storms and winds
Knack: Involves simply being in the right place at the right time--all the time (but as this is an RPG, for all practical purposes, everyone has this Talent . . . )
Anything, however, can be a talent. If you have a talent you’d like to play, talk to a mod and we’ll work something out.Halflings:
It’s probably telling that humans refer to halflings as “half-faerie” and Tuatha refer to them as “half-humans.” For sake of reference, we’re just going to use “halfling.” Halflings, as if they haven’t turned up in elf-related media since the invention of the genre, are born of a human and a Tuatha. It has been noted in-game that the likelihood of a Tuatha woman being able to conceive with a human male is far, far higher than conceiving with one of her own kinds . . . which brings up the question, why don’t they interbreed more often? Short answer: pure prejudice.
It is an urban legend amongst the matriarchal Tuatha that a child with a Tuatha mother will be more Tuatha than human. This seems to be the case only because halflings raised in the Erins by their Tuatha parent are more likely to develop traditionally Tuatha skills such as glamourie, and because it is more likely for a child to stay with its mother. But even halflings raised outside the Erins usually pick up more than the odd bit of magic.
In addition, there is a rare but not unheard-of genetic disorder that causes some halflings to be born albinos (specifically OCA4). This form of albinism in halflings is further linked to a very rare magical ability: true invisibility. Less fortunately, it is also linked to several real-world consequences of albinism--poor vision, extreme sensitivity to light, and a heightened cancer risk. Changelings:
Changelings are a special case of a human child being solely raised in the Erins. They are usual stolen as infants and raised by a Tuatha mother. Changelings brought into the Erins at any point before the start of puberty can become for all intents and purposes fully Tuatha, eventually learning most magics. The Tuatha legend maintains that the less familiar with the human world the changeling child is, the more quickly and thoroughly it will acclimate to Tuatha life. Changelings brought very late in childhood are subject to the curious transformation known as hobbing. More about that in a moment.
A full changeling will carry all magical abilities attributed to the Tuatha, with all the physical attributes of a human (i.e., it might be able to touch iron, but it won’t have night-vision).Hobbing:
Full humans brought into the Erins after the critical period of puberty have this nasty habit of slowly changing into a four-foot-tall hairy half-mad little monster known as a hobgoblin. Hobgoblins get full control over all Tuathailli magics, including fayerie. The downside is that in exchange for this, they give up their humanity and turn into what amounts to a walking id. Whatever the hobgoblin’s base nature was as a human becomes the entire sum of their personality as a hob. They have absolutely no impulse control.
How long this process takes depends on three things: the age of introduction to the Erins, the amount of raw magic they are exposed to during their time in the Erins, and how long they spend there at a stretch.
1) Age of Introduction: A full-grown adult would change into a hobgoblin much more quickly than a teenager, who would in turn change more quickly than a twelve-year-old. A child below twelve stands a good chance of never changing at all; a person above twenty-five wouldn’t stand a chance.
2) Exposure to raw magic: Every act of magic performed on a human incrementally alters that person into a hob. If your character has been glammed even once, the process has already been started. Glamourie, travelling via circle, being cursed or blessed, accepting and using magical gifts, and above all eating indigenous plants or fruits will all accelerate this process.
3) Time spend in the Erins: Returning to the outside world will cause the hobbing process to go into remission. Returning to the Erins will invariably react the process once more. One could spend, say, a year in the Erins, leave, and the hobbing would nullify. However, returning to the Erins will reactivate it.
So the critical question is, how long does it take?
For a fully grown human residing permanently in the Erins and exposed to what would be called an ‘base’ amount of magic, only occasionally partaking in foods, gifts, or travel via circle, the time may be anywhere from fifteen to twenty years. That is not fifteen to twenty years before the process starts; it is fifteen to twenty years before it is completed--meaning that your character would spend that entire time both gradually gaining powers and losing her humanity.