4
\$\begingroup\$

The description for an ebony fly figurine of wondrous power reads (in part):

When animated, an ebony fly is the size of a pony and has all the statistics of a pegasus but can make no attacks....

I'm unsure of how to interpret this because a pegasus is normally Large size, whereas a pony is Medium size. Is the size comparison to a pony just fluff text and the fly is really Large, or is it Medium? The answer determines

  • if Medium-sized creatures can ride the fly, and
  • the fly's carrying capacity (among other things)

(I think the most helpful answers would be errata or clarifications regarding this or similar size discrepancies. Information from other editions might be helpful as supporting evidence.)

EDIT: I'm the GM in this game, and I'm looking for information to help me rule on this. My players recently discarded the idea of buying one of these figurines, thinking it would be useless because every character is Medium size.

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Bizarrely, the 3.5e source item is identical, except it says the fly has the stats of a hippogriff rather than pegasus—which doesn’t help anything at all, because a hippogriff is also Large. Crazy that they changed it without addressing this discrepancy. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 13, 2022 at 14:51
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you want a take-no-prisoners RAW answer or the practical answer? (I mean, the ebony fly being the size of a pony dates back to at least 1979.) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 13, 2022 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan The practical answer, I guess? I'm trying to figure out if "the size of a pony" is supposed to be a meaningful restriction or fluff text. I'm not sure how that lines up with your RAW vs. Practical question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben S.
    Oct 13, 2022 at 22:00

2 Answers 2

4
\$\begingroup\$

Either do the impossible…

Purely as written, the game presents readers with a contradiction. The description of the figurine of wondrous power (ebony fly) in Pathfinder tells readers that "an ebony fly is the size of a pony and has all the statistics of a pegasus." Those two things can't simultaneously be true, and the description offers no exceptions or advice on how to facilitate meshing these competing truths.

To be clear: If the animated ebony fly is the size of a pony then it does not have all the statistics of a pegasus: a pony is Medium, a pegasus is Large, and size is a statistic. If taking literally the animated ebony fly's description, you as the GM need to rule that either the animated ebony fly is Medium and adjust the pegasus statistics, or it's Large and that the size of a pony is a metaphor, or it's some horrifying, chaotic compromise between the two (and I have no idea how that works because the game doesn't do typically that). Until you make such a ruling, Schrödinger's ebony fly remains in a quantum state, functionally unknowable.

Personally, I find the idea of the size of a pony as metaphor both in keeping with tradition and playable.

…Or embrace the metaphor

I don't suggest taking literally that the animated ebony fly is pony-sized. Instead, I think this is just a matter of tradition butting against contemporary technology. See, the animated ebony fly has been the size of a pony but that's been (ahem) largely meaningless since well before the advent of hyperlinks. The phrase dates back at least to the Dungeon Master's Guide (1979) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons wherein the figurine of wondrous power (ebony fly), when animated, "grows to the size of a pony" then has unique statistics (144). A similar description of the animated ebony fly is repeated in its Encyclopedia Magica (1999) entry (478) for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition, the animated ebony fly there also having unique statistics. It took the Dungeon Master's Guide (2000) for Third Edition to put the animated ebony fly description into its present form (on page 116 or here, and, after the 3.5 revision, 256 or here). Then the Pathfinder Core Rulebook (2009) changed the animated ebony fly from having the statistics of the hippogriff to those of the pegasus but left the remainder of the description unchanged (513).

I put this all together as meaning that a Pathfinder reader should imagine that an animated ebony fly is the size of typical IRL pony, but it is mechanically—for game purposes—just a reskinned pegasus with no attacks. Although the site does a lot of things very well, it's the d20PFSRD site that added to the animated ebony fly description the hyperlink to pony, and I think that was a mistake (cf. the entry on Archives of Nethys). Absent that hyperlink—which obviously isn't in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook—the phrase the size of a pony is much more clearly (but certainly not completely clearly) a metaphor… and also an example of the relatively common and sometimes frustrating combination of fluff and crunch that's present in many d20 System games and, really, roleplaying games generally.

With all that in mind, I really don't think Pathfinder (or D&D 3.5) is using pony as a unit of mechanical measure in its description of the animated ebony fly, and when I GM I resolve this answer's opening contradiction by using no-attacks pegasus statistics and just describe the animated ebony fly as being roughly as big as a pony, picking the word big because of its lack of mechanical baggage. So far as I'm aware, my campaigns haven't suffered because I resolved things this way.

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • \$\begingroup\$ A lot of the hyperlinks in d20pfsrd are automatically generated (I've seen mentions of a fly - the insect - hyperliked to fly the spell, or to the fly skill), so it's very probably a mistake. On the other hand, AoN is missing a lot of hyperlinks, even where they would be correct, because they are manually added (things will improve, the authors say) so AoN not having a link is not a proof of anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Oct 16, 2022 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel My point was that I think that the d20PFSRD hyperlink is misleading and perhaps the main reason the asker had the question in the first place. I compared the presentation on d20PFSRD and AoN to show the reader how the ebony fly description looks different with and without the hyperlink. I don't think I said it was proof of anything. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2022 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't say you said it was a proof of anything, I just wanted to warn the OP about using this reasoning in general because it's not always true. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Oct 18, 2022 at 17:01
0
\$\begingroup\$

RAW,The fly is Medium.

The developers could easily have written "horse" instead of the slightly more obscure word "pony", and chose not to. As ordinary humans who cannot read minds, we can only assume that they did this for a deliberate reason.

This makes sense, too. The direct competitor to the Fly, the Bronze Griffon Figurine, can only be used twice a week and only for six hours--a mere third of the Fly's operating time--and is much slower, at 80 ft fly speed instead of 120 ft. Sure, the griffin can attack, but two 1d4+3 attacks at +7 are not really useful enough to justify the lost mobility at the level where you can afford a Figurine.

Talk to your GM.

No one likes getting loot that they can't use. If you don't have any characters in the party who can use the RAW Fly, ask your GM to fiat that Medium characters can ride it normally. If balance is a concern, they can always directly swap out the mechanics of the Fly for the Griffon, while keeping the aesthetics of the Fly.

If you're looking for a pure RAW solution: Reduce Person will allow you to ride the RAW fly. Getting the Permanency'd version is very affordable at your level, and will allow you to ride the RAW fly. The flavor may or may not suit your character, however.

\$\endgroup\$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .