Friday, 20 June 2008

On Elvishness

My 2nd edition Monstrous Manual thread has reached 'E', and Elves.

As I wrote over there, I'm not into Elves. When it comes to demihuman races, it's Dwarves for me every day of the week and twice on Sunday. In fact, I usually try to gloss Elves over entirely when running games, so as to imply that they don't exist or are incredibly rare. It's always my hope that by doing so I can subtly persuade my players not to take on Elf characters. One of them usually does, though, and as I don't want to be one of those DMs who says "No such-and-such in this campaign!" I usually have to grin and bear it. No Orlando Bloom-like antics, though. I liked the LOTR films, but what they did with Legolas was one of the most ridiculous episodes of masturbatory nonsense that I think I've yet seen in a movie. The character was almost like Peter Jackson's very own Mary Sue.

But! I've been doing some thinking.
It seems unfair to dismiss the race if I'm not prepared to do my bit to make them interesting. I like Elves in Birthright and Dark Sun, after all; maybe all I need is a fresh perspective. Meanwhile, over at RPG Corner, Sirlarkins has been posting up some Rules Cyclopedia D&D versions of character classes from one of his favourite settings, Uresia. I love the simplicity of Rules Cyclopedia D&D and how easily modifiable the rules are, and Sirlarkins's recent posts have inspired me to play around a little bit with them myself. So I'm struck by the thought: Hey, why don't I come up with some 'Elf' variants for RC D&D, so as to spice them up a little bit? I can't think up a good reason why not.

So watch this space. I may post some of what I come up with over the next few days.


  1. I'm with you on this one. Dwarves have long been my favorite non-Human race in D&D. It got to the point that I was actually getting pissed off at the Legolas vs. Gimli interpretation in the LotR movies. I've made Elves weird fae kind with very few redeeming qualitites in my campaign. They are strange, aloof and non-sensical at times.

  2. I'm a big fan of elves, though I also prefer my elves a bit more fey and dangerous, a la Birthright and Melniboné. The elves in my Moldvay/Cook/LL hack will probably undergo some minor, mostly cosmetic changes to bring them into line with this sort of thinking. At the very least, they'll be the tall sort, rather than D&D's traditionally short, Keebler-esque elves.

    That said, I'll be looking forward to what you come up with here. I'm certainly an experienced enough DM to enjoy borrowing another's ideas rather than do all that work myself. ;)

    - Brian

  3. Couldn't agree with you more. I hate the little buggers, although in a contest between elves and halflings... well, I'm not sure which one I hate more.

    I had the same problem about trying to influence players not to play those races, and guess what happens? My party turns out to be two halflings and an elf. Where's my gun?

  4. I really like the Mystaran Shadow Elves that were detailed in GAZ 13.

    That said, with this great interpretation of the OD&D rules, I sort of like the flavor of Elves choosing to be either Fighter/Magic-User at the start of the adventure (or perhaps after a period of "meditation" lasting a an hour or so). I see this transformation perhaps even altering the personality of the elf to some degree, adding to the otherworldly, creepy factor of a sylvan race.

  5. Yeah, that alternate elf spell list really breathed new life into the bog standard elf class. But I can't really offer any real love for the elves either, I'm afraid. Dwarves all the way--my favorite of the 2e PHBR series was the Complete Book of Dwarves, and I think it had far too much of an undue influence on my malleable young mind. (That and I was going through a teenage obsession with German culture and to me Dwarves are the Germans to the Elves' French.)

    And I totally agree about the Birthright elves; that was my favorite 2e setting by far, and the interpretation of the elves were a big part of why I liked it. Just felt right.

  6. Interesting that everybody's comments draw similar conclusions:

    a) Dwarves better than elves (except Brian);
    b) Elves are interesting if depicted as otherworldly, creepy and weird.

    I'm in agreement. I'll be coming up with some otherworldly, creepy and weird RC hacks, I think.

  7. I think that from a DM perspective elven characters always have more player investment. There's an expectation that has to be met at the table (whether it be from Tolkien, or what-have-you). Elves seem to have lost most of their inherent mystery over the years. Maybe that's why the more aberrant Sidhe-styled elf appeals to me. Now, just give me Dwarves with backwards feet and I'll be set.

    I'm totally with you on German Dwarves and French Elves. As a young polyglot, I totally used my knowledge of these languages to flavor my campaign (and still do occasionally to this day). Also: FANTASY WARRIORS! I had completely forgot about that until I perused one of your blogs. I purchased it with allowance money on sale for $6.00 at a clearance sale at a hobby shop. Sadly, due to the lack of monetary funds, my Goblin Rabble army never saw the light of play...

  8. I always saw Elves as being more Spanish, for some reason. I quite like the idea of Dwarves being a scattered, wandering race like the Jews or Armenians; I remember reading Tolkien saying as much somewhere.

  9. @ktrey: Heh heh, good ol' Fantasy Warriors. I was always intrigued by the goblins, with their fantatic/poor morale shift depending on the time of day--and that Goblin War Giant was no slouch either.

    It's actually a pretty decent system, although not without its bugs. I'll be switching over to Armies of Arcana when I get back into the swing of fantasy minis.