Nowadays fairy tales are very much considered stories for children, with simplistic characters and morals that steer the reader (as well as the main heroines and heroes) toward the right-and-proper “happy ending”.
It hasn’t always been so—European “faerie tales” have historically been grounded in literal truths, considered legendary and as such potentially very real! They were designed to reveal the failings and foibles of the weak and gullible, the tribulations and triumphs of the downtrodden but hardworking, the fleeting nature of riches won without effort, and the value of dedication to a cause coupled with determination to achieve virtuous ends at all costs.
Snow White—classified by Aarne-Thompson as tale 709, “Other story of the supernatural,” and Grimms’ Fairy Tale number 53—draws on many of the themes associated with what we expect from such a story. There are plenty of magic items that do much more than expected: the mirror conceals much whilst revealing just enough, the apple (usually associated with health) is there to cause harm, an above ground coffin made of glass rather than a timber box below. The main players act in contradictory ways: the huntsman doesn’t kill, the queen and mother (in the original version) is out to do bloody murder, and the strangers hidden away in the woods are the heroes of the hour. And there are the faerie-like settings, the triumph over long-term adversity, the redemption of the heroine, and the punishment of the perpetrator of wickedness by the good all to consider within the tale.
Here at AAW Games we decided to use the Grimms’ version as our inspiration. Sure, we could’ve gone with the Albanian tale (where the heroine lives with her 40 dragons), the Armenian story where the moon took the place of the mirror, the Russian yarn where knights replace the dwarves, or the epic Indian poem where a parrot talks to the queen, but any of them might’ve been too much to believe in! And anyway, there is more than enough material in the German folklore to keep an adventure running for hours. So we took that final Grimms’ tale from 1854, with its faerie folklore and medieval motifs, and wove our own variation of the story into a glorious, adventurous romp.
Pathfinder is designed to allow players to develop sophisticated and thoughtful characters at the same time as leaving plenty of room for “muscle-bound meatheads”, and Snow White draws on this to great effect. Being able to crash your way through every encounter thanks to waving your greataxe around won’t necessarily get PCs through this adventure, but then again, a good, honest fight is never far away. However, cunning and guile, foresight and preparation, as well as at least one keen investigator, all means that players can approach Snow White with the required toolkit to hand. What could be more fun than pitching yourself against the warped familiarity of the fantastic, the phantasmagorical, the magical, and the mystical?
Our story takes all the key components from the original tale and shapes them into an expansive, immersive adventure, one where the next thrilling encounter, the next thought-provoking challenge, and the next caught-you-unawares twist are always on hand. In order to win the day, and even potentially win the hand of Snow White herself, the PCs must be stout of heart, quick of brain and hand, and wear a charming smile. Its no simple task to protect the princess from harm as the players will find out; their own lives are in great peril once they begin to put themselves between the heroine and harm, and yet they must readily do this to ensure the wedding of the year goes ahead—just as Morsain has panned. Is the party up for this challenge, capable of fulfilling the task, or just so much fodder for the monsters of the woods around the city?