View Full Version : Elves

2007-03-27, 08:37 AM
I want to bring back the Elf.

It seems to me that most newb players (especially the Gameswork**** kiddies) want to play Elves. That's fine I suppose.

Here's the problem I have: Even the most experianced gamers tend to see elves as "Humans with pointy ears, that tend to be a bit aloof"

As a GM (or even a player I suppose), I want to return the sense of magic and mystery that comes with being Elven. it was in D&D 1st Ed, they were a completely different class, with some, rather nifty, spellcasting abilities.

Through both roleplaying, and maybe modifying the rules, I would like to re-instate the Elves as a race of mystery and wonder. The problem here is that people have READ tLotR, they have played 100s of games of D&D, where elves are everyday and the half elf goes "oh look, I'm an outcast!" but no-one really cares...

The modern view of Elves has really taken it's toll and I HATE them now, and I hate players who play them. I want to have the magic again, that feeling of wonder and shiny amazement you get in the Lord of the Rings when the characters first meet Elves.

Help and Suggestions welcome

2007-03-27, 08:46 AM
In my homebrew I've relegated elves to NPC status and made them disappear after a savage war agains the rest of the continent. All the players get hear are the war veteran stories of how terrible it was to fight against that kind of enemy.

And they can still play the half-elves, which in this setting are pretty much stuck up and aloof long-eared humans.

2007-03-27, 08:49 AM
Well, first off I think you need a low-magic world. And by that I mean really, really low-magic.

Then you need a party that has little or no idea of things magical. Basically, all fighters/rangers/barbarians.

And then you start doing mystical magic things. Preferably subtly if you want to keep it in thread with LotR, but you can do it more obviously if you want. And try to keep what you're doing to yourself; a lot of the "ooh" factor disappears when you go from fading away while everyone is looking at you and then returning later with advanced intelligence of the enemy's fortifications to saying "Okay, you guys, I'm going to use my Invisibility spell".

That's all I can come up with at the moment.

2007-03-27, 09:04 AM
In my current campaign, Humans, dwarves, and orcs were the only races known to exist. Then the elves showed up on the doorstep, and started conquering a swath through the human lands. No one speaks their language, knows anything about their culture, and no one knows their motivation.

The reason is that they see humans as savage brutes who need to be enlightened. However, to prevent them from being destructive with the power enlightening them would give, they must first conquer and disarm them.

There have already been confusions about physiology that have been harmful (I.E., elves giving prisoners two hundred year sentances and expecting them to still be mostly young when released.)

2007-03-27, 09:04 AM
I'm sure it's been discussed, but look! In a nutshell, the most major problem with D&D!
Everyone knows everything! And everyone takes everything for granted!

I'd say: no elven PCs, no half-elven PCs, possibly a quarter/eighth-elven PC or regular NPC who is a COMPLETE AND TOTAL outcast just for that...

In all fairness, though, in your last campaign we were actually headed to elven lands... in fact the characters still live there in some between-campaign-space... you put elves everywhere until our characters were cranky from lack of humans...

And aren't you supposed to be working?

Edit: The 200-year-sentences thing is VERY cool

Sam K
2007-03-27, 10:14 AM
Lets look at some of the basic ideas about elven people:

* Elves have long life spans, and take longer than other races to reach full maturity.

* Elves live in harmony with nature.

* Elven society requires relatively little labor. Because of knowledge of nature and magic, resources are plentiful. Perhaps because of this, material gains are less important to elves.

* Elves only need 4 hours of rest (meditation) per night. This essentially means they have 4 extra hours per day. They also dont care much about day and night, considering their dark vision and excellent senses.

Right here, this makes elven society extremely different from human, and makes the race very different as well. Elves have more time in the day than other races, and less to do with it. They dont have to work (as much) for a living, and there's little need to amass money. Elves would have far more time to study, practice, create and interact than other races. I imagine elven society runs around the clock (unlike human society, that pretty much shuts down when the sun sets).
Because elven society didn't spring out of the need of survival, but rather from the desire of company, I imagine their morals is also fairly different. Elves care little for posessions, except possibly a few highly valued things of great beauty or personal importance. I imagine they would borrow things freely from eachother, and many services would be free. An elven inn wouldn't be ran for profit, but rather because the owners enjoy preparing food and drink (and receive much respect and appreciation for it if they are skilled).

Because elves live so long, family is probably less important to them. You dont raise children to carry on the family name; in a hundread years, you'll still be around. In fact, I imagine the main reason new elves are born is because elves enjoy making other elves. While parents would still take pride in and responsibility for their children, raising the young is far more of a communal responsibility than for humans. Elves dont have the same interest in instilling loyalty to the family, and young elves would have a greater freedom in what interests to pursue than humans. If your child shows an interest for magic and you're a craftsman, you just find a mage that'd be willing to teach the child something about magic.
Elven life spans would also mean that families are temporary rather than permanent. A human couple that raises children have invested a significant portion of their life in that family, and by the time the children reach maturity, the parents are likely past their prime. Elves, on the other hand, could raise a child to maturity and still be young (by elven standards) themselves. Hell, they could raise 3 generations of children (taking some 100 years or more) and still be fairly young. And they normally dont leave any goods or money to their children, because they dont die. All this means that elven couples have few practical reasons to stick together than human ones. Elven couples form and break up as their interests change- if they have children, they may raise them together, but they may not, and there's no social stigma in this.

These things put together mean that elven society and world view would be very different. In elven society, you may see people walking into eachothers houses and borrowing things, or for that matter, couples 'going at it' in the parks, without anyone raising an eyebrow. But they take 'dont walk on the grass' very seriously, because someone may have spent 10 years creating the perfect lawn.

If an elf enters human society, expect sever cultural shock. "What do you mean you have to PAY for food? What if someone doesn't have any of this 'money' you speak of, would you let them go hungry? What are you, some kind of monster?"

From a rules perspective, I would increase elven bonuses a bit:

+2 dex, +2 wis, +2 cha, -2 con. Elves are described as graceful, harmonic, wise and fair, but not very sturdy (and they live a fairly sheltered life).

Elves take no penalties to awareness when resting (meditating).

Elven spellcasters can prepare their spells after 4 hours of meditation, they do not need 8 hours of rest.

Knowledge: arcana and Knowledge: nature are class skills to all elves, as magic and nature are integral parts to elven society.

Level adjustment +1

Elves have 2 racial hit dice. An elf who has just reached maturity is considerably more knowledgable and experienced than a human. The elf has spent more than twice the time developing and learning, and has had far more time per day to do so (remember, in a fantasy setting most young would be expected to help around the house). Im not quite sure if elves should even count as humanoids, since they are so different. Maye fey or outsiders, or a custom racial level (d6 hp, 2/3 bab, good will and ref saves, high skill points). This is pushing it a bit, but it does make elves substantially different.

2007-03-27, 11:11 AM
I totally know where you're coming from. I, too, have wanted elves to be, well, elfier. More specifically, I want the elves to be like Tolkien elves, inclined to be staring at the stars and making up pretty songs the majority of the time, but able to become one of the world's most fearsome fighting forces if they have a reason.

I came up with a way to do this for a homebrew world that I still haven't finished homebrewing, so it's not tested or anything, but since it's mostly fluff that doesn't affect combat I don't think it's a huge problem for other people to use in more standard settings.

Basically, in this world Elves are descended from the same proto-human ancestor as the other races, but they also have a bit of Fey blood. It's not enough to make them fully magical, but it does change the way their minds function. Basically, all elves spend most of their time in a dreamlike state called the Fugue, in which they are mystically connected to each other. However, they can banish the fugue by touching iron, when they need to do things like go adventuring or fight a war or basically concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.

So, if you're interested, allow me to copy and paste:

The three mindstates of elves in this system are:

Iron Mind: The elf is fully aware of her surroundings and can act normally. Touching iron automatically brings the elf back to this state. Unfortunately, since elves do not sleep, they need to stop touching iron and enter Reverie (below) in order to rest.

Reverie: 1d4 hours after the elf stops touching iron, she becomes able to enter Reverie if she wishes. In this state the elf is still aware of her surroundings and able to take conscious action, but is distracted and unfocussed. To the elf, Reverie is a pleasant state in which they remain aware of their surroundings, but everythings seems peaceful and faraway. Elves gain all the benefit of a full night's rest from 4 hours of Reverie. If an elf stays in Reverie for longer in order to speed recovery, every full 24 hours of Reverie gives the benefit of 2 days of rest. Elves may take a single move action per turn while in reverie, but cannot hustle or run, take a -2 penalty on spot and listen checks, and cannot take any complicated actions such as combat or most skill checks (GM's discretion). Most elves keep a small iron item at hand to be able to leave Reverie at will.

Fugue: 4d6 hours after entering Reverie, the elf enters a deeper state in which her mind joins into a unified dream with all other elves, or at least all other elves nearby. Non-elves often find it disconcerting that an elf seems to stay awake and active during the fugue, even though the elf is not conscious about anything that happens to her. Elves in the fugue can also shock non-elves by performing complicated actions in unison due to the whims of the dream they share. It is a common experience for a visitor to an elf settlement to have extemporaneous poetry about their appearance recited at them, in perfect unison, by any elves that happen to be nearby. Mechanically, any elf in fugue should be considered unconscious, and unaware of their surroundings. The fugue has the same benefits as Reverie, but the elf is unable to intentionally touch iron to bring herself out of the state. Elves in fugue feed and clean themselves by a sort of autopilot, but cannot be trusted to avoid environmental hazards.

Elves spend the majorities of their lives in the fugue, and half or more of the elves in any particular settlement will be in the fugue barring war or other troubles. Elves consider the fugue responsible for their long lives, and usually feel old and worn out after staying in Iron Mind for more than a decade or so. This is what keeps elves from dominating other cultures with their magical might and long lives to get things done. Elven children in particular require the fugue to develop normally, and must stay in an uninterrupted fugue for the first 50 years of their lives or risk permanent psychological damage.

Consequences on elf culture:

Elves share a deep intimacy with each other that other races cannot understand. This makes them seem cold and aloof to the other races.

Elves cannot keep secrets. Anything that one elf knows could theoretically be shared with others when they dream together. This isn't reliable enough to serve as a library for elf characters, but as a rule elves just don't tell non-elves anything they don't need to know, as a way to protect the privacy of other elves.

Elves must take care of each other. The fugue leaves them vulnerable, and the iron-minded elves of a community are responsible for the protection of the others. They have an obligation to the others because they, too, need to be protected when they are in the fugue.

So anyway, that's my attempt at elfier elves. Certainly not for everyone, but it gives them the extra strangeness I want without making them completely alien or useless. I also just love the idea of a whole forest full of elves frolicking about and singing songs to the flowers, but when trouble comes the guards just make sure everybody touches a frying pan or something and suddenly you've got a small army of archers and wizards and other dangerous types, ready to kick some butt so they can get back to frolicking. It makes me giggle.

2007-03-27, 03:01 PM
Sneak preview of Gyzaninar elves!

Medium Size: As medium creatures, elves have no special advantages or disadvantages due to size (but see the following).
Slight Build: The physical stature of elves lets them function in some ways as if they were one size category smaller. Treat them as one size category smaller for purposes of Hide checks and Escape Artists to squeeze through narrow spaces. They may wield weapons of one size category smaller than normal without penalty. The elf's space and reach are unaffected. This ability stacks with any changes to size that the elf experiences due to other effects. If the elf acquires Powerful Build, it and this ability negate each other.
Speed: Elven base land speed is 30 feet.
Abilities: Dexterity +2, Constitution -2
Low-Light Vision:[b] [as standard rules]
[b]Weapon Focus: An elf gains Weapon Focus: Longbow and Weapon Focus: Shortbow as bonus racial feats. If the elf is not proficient in these weapons, then the feats' benefits and the nonproficiency penalty both apply. The bonus racial feats cannot be used as prerequisites to qualify for other feats or abilities unless the elf is proficient with the weapon.
Skills: An elf gains +2 racial bonuses on Move Silently, Spot, and Listen checks.
Languages: Automatic: Elven, Common. Bonus: Celestial, Giant, Orc, Sylvan.

Things to note that I think will make elves more attractive than in other settings:

- No subraces. People are sick of elven subraces. They don't make sense in such a slow-breeding race, and they fragment the elves' themes.

- Focused theme. Gray elves are supposed to be these scholarly, artistic, refined, serious, somber, aloof, focused-on-arcane-magic types. Wood elves are supposed to be these instinctive, crafty, stealthy, frivolous, cheerful, focused-on-nature types. High elves are supposed to be ... both ends of the spectrum at the same time? In Gyzaninar, it's time to focus on just one end. The wood elf end. Elves don't make good wizards anyway.

- What was that about lifespans? The whole "elves live 900 years" thing really only fits with the Gray Elf archetype. The wizard theme, the "annoyingly aloof" theme. Forget that. Elves live shorter than humans. Their music, for example, isn't high-quality because they spend centuries gradually and passively perfecting the fine details of their art; it's high-quality because they have a drive and a passion to live in the moment while it lasts.

- While the elves, like any other race, can adopt a number of templates that enhance their racial features in various ways, they have particularly good synergy with a fey-related template.

- All of this connects the elves in a number of ways with their Fey roots, which provides a lot of plot hooks for the elves (since the Fey are an important, if mysterious, political force).

2007-03-27, 03:17 PM
Well, in my homebrewed system and setting, I actually made humans treat elves like uncivilized savages. Elves on the other hand treat humans- as well as other races living in cities, dwarves for example- as spineless weaklings incapable of embracing the wild and being the one with nature. Not very original, but ceratinly better than "refined, magic-focused society looking down on humans as uncivilized brutes" that I'm personally sick of. They also live about 250-300 years, and are celtic-themed and religious. They are skilled musicians, but mostly because music is almost religion to them. Arcanists are rare among them, and they look different than other races' wizards.

2007-03-27, 03:28 PM
Very difficult to make this happen in default D&D. My Elves have a minimum of 13 in every Attribute, which goes some way towards making them more powerful.

Here's a nifty idea. Remove the 'pointed ears' aspect. Elves without pointed ears forces you to work beyond the cosmetic aspects of the character to make them 'identifiabe'. Notice, Tolkien's 'Elf Ears' thing was a late addition the mythos. You won't find a single mention of this aspect of Elves in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion.

It is also worth noting that in The Silmarillion, Elves are very much like Men, prone to the same weaknesses. They are just more powerful and skilled.

2007-03-27, 03:46 PM
You could try replacing elves with killoren from races of the wild. Just take the racial abilities and flavor and call them elves.

2007-03-27, 04:34 PM
I totally know where you're coming from. I, too, have wanted elves to be, well, elfier. More specifically, I want the elves to be like Tolkien elves, inclined to be staring at the stars and making up pretty songs the majority of the time, but able to become one of the world's most fearsome fighting forces if they have a reason.

One problem with that is that even Tolkien's depiction of elves is highly variable. I mean, if you compare the elves of Rivendell in The Hobbit to the elves in The Silmarillion, you might wonder for a split-second if these books were really written by the same author. (I find the elves in LotR to be somewhere in between these two extremes). Anyway...

I've been toying with the idea of elves having a yin-yang relationship to civilization: they are considered highly cultured and sophisticated by outsiders, but they also possess a strong blood-lust that makes them bellicose to the point of savagery if not properly checked. In this perspective, elven high culture can be seen a tool to keep their more negative passions at bay.

2007-03-27, 04:52 PM
I've been toying with the idea of elves having a yin-yang relationship to civilization: they are considered highly cultured and sophisticated by outsiders, but they also possess a strong blood-lust that makes them bellicose to the point of savagery if not properly checked. In this perspective, elven high culture can be seen a tool to keep their more negative passions at bay.

Are you purposely basing them on Vulcans or is it just a coincidence?

I prefer that my elves have a more alien feel to them. Subraces are divided between elemental (tied to nature, air, or water) and extradimensional (tied to magic). I'm still working on the fluff, but I definitely am trying to make them otherworldly with very little in common with humans.
They are also responsible for the destruction of an ancient human empire. Most humans are not aware of this, but the elves remember the war and are not particularly well-disposed towards humans.

2007-03-27, 05:17 PM
Are you purposely basing them on Vulcans or is it just a coincidence?

That would be a coincidence. In retrospect, the idea is quite similar to Vulcan culture, although perhaps not as extreme. I would imagine elves would still be able to express normal levels of emotion; they just need to suppress the urge to react violently to stress.

2007-03-27, 05:45 PM
Heh, surely the wrong way round. Vulcans and Eldar are more likely to have been heavily inspired by Tolkien's Elves...

2007-03-27, 07:05 PM
Heh, take a look at the Eldar from Warhammer 40,000 some time. THAT'S Elves done well. It's impossible to understand them, because most of their technology, culture, language, etc is in some way linked to their natural abilities as Psykers (effectively wizards in 40k, Psykers are gateways between the material world and a sub-dimension of pure energy, inhabited by instinctive sentiences).

So, for example, their language is incredibly context-based, but the context is tied into their extensive mythology, which in turn is hard-wired into their brain from birth. So, an Eldar instinctively understands the language, while a human literally cannot. In turn, most of their technology is keyed to Eldar mental patterns, and almost always thought-activated.

In some ways, they're incredibly standard (the whole "big bad catastrophe in distant past, race teetering on the brink of destruction" thing, but on the other hand I find it's done exceedingly well.

But enough about that. My take on Elves? I tend to like the intricacies of what it all means, and usually warp their abilities a bit (900 years? Hell no, try eternal youth). Okay, so Elves live for ages... So why haven't they swarmed the world by overpopulation and massed armies? The answer, to my mind, is very few kids.

So, that means that they're children are rare, which means they're precious. So, by extension women, the most vital part of childbirth, are precious. That, to me, leads to a heavily matriarchal society, and one based on groups of "expendable" males protecting the females, along with the children.

I actually built an entire race of my own interpretation of elves based on those concepts. It's not finished yet, and it's already about 7000+ words, so I don't think I'll post it, but some of the touches include me attempting to make them treat as many human taboos as normal as possible. So, an orgy in the street or walking around naked would be normal, as is cannibalism.

Another touch was that they did, at one time, rule the planet through a combination of force of arms and clever use of fear. They didn't have the strength to keep everybody in line, but people who advocated alliances tended to mysteriously dissapear. People who survived long enough to BUILD alliances tended to become a mile-wide area of blasted wasteland. Then everybody broke free while the Elves were distracted and... They haven't forgotten, so the Elves see the other races as errant children disobeying their parents.