I don't recall atomies being so warlike in the world’s oldest role-playing game—pixies were always the more martial fey, especially in “basic” D&D—but in Pathfinder atomies rattle their tiny sabers (or rapiers) indeed. The Bestiary 3 says they “never back down from aggression, and take tremendous pride in defeating and humiliating foes larger than themselves”…so atomie encounters basically write themselves. (“Add blowhard adventurers. Mix well.”)
Assuming you play them for comic relief, atomies can be hilarious at the gaming table. And we have plenty of role models: Harry Dresden’s sidekick Toot-toot comes almost straight out of the Bestiary 3, and Labyrinth’s Sir Didymus works as well.
But taken seriously as saboteurs, sneak attack specialists, and reduce person-hurling bombardiers, atomies can be straight-up solid assailants (or allies), especially if they've earned some class levels along the way. Despite their distractible natures, atomies are steadfast in their roles as guardians of the woods and its many dryads, nymphs, and grigs. Who needs a white knight when you have green on your side?
An owlbear has been sighted in the woods! In the little hamlet of Telam, this is big news: The last owl bear slew eight men before it was brought down, and portraits of the successful hunters still hang in the town hall. In truth, the “owlbear” is a hoax perpetrated by a band of atomies and some clever puppetry. They hope to warn folk away from a cache of gold they recently discovered too close to their tree home.
A bard wants to perform in the Springheel Rounds, a music competition usually reserved for grigs. Part race and part recital, the bard and his companions must speed from the edge of the forest to its heart and arrive before the last fey entrant. Among other hazards, several gangs of atomies flitter in the way. Then again, befriending some of these atomies might ease the final stretch of the race, which involves a maze of oak roots. Such a labyrinth would be difficult for a full-size human to navigate, and reduce person or shrink item could ease the trial significantly.
Elves have spirits, not souls. So no psychopomp comes to claim them after death. A secret society of atomies has that role, and they guard it jealously. Adventurers who enter Fernhope Wood on clerical business or accompanied by a nosoi find themselves confronted by warriors decked out in squirrel skull masks, brandishing rapiers, and tolerating no excuses.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 28
I’ve sung its praises several times before, but Dragon Magazine #155 may be one of the most perfect issues in the magazine’s entire print run: stunning cover, great theme (that carries all the way through even the fiction), two elven subraces and four new gods, an ecology, an entire Dungeon adventure(!) (sadly only available in print versions, I believe), “The Voyage of the Princess Ark”…heck, even “The Marvel®-Phile.” But I bring it up today because the adventure seeds in Vince Garcia’s “The Folk of the Faerie Kingdom” are pretty much why this blog exists…and were my introduction to atomies. Worth tracking down.
Also, I went back and double-checked: Atomies were actually portrayed in the 2e Monstrous Manual as so flighty that they avoid sprites for being too serious. Clearly atomies were traumatized by the Great Fey Purges of 2000 and 2003, hence their more combative attitude today.
Elves having souls rather than spirits is an element from Tolkien’s legendarium. It’s been referenced off and on in gaming—mostly off—but it played a big role in the Ghostwalk setting. Honestly, in Pathfinder gnomes would be the more appropriate candidates for such an alternate afterlife, but I’m a traditionalist.
This is why I can’t take a day off—because the second I do someone awesome links to me and I look stupid for having a placeholder post up. *facepalm* Sorry to any first-time visitors who were disappointed by the lack of space whales this weekend. And cheers to Hammith for both the link and a very nice email! Hammith also wrote a post of more than 20 adventure seeds that you should totally check out. I like the darkmantle, ettercap, desert caravan, and town inside a turtle shell especially.