I’m not a fan of Elves, but I am a fan of Shadow World. Can those two feelings co-exist? Fiction has exposed us to many portrayals of Elves but one constant is that Elves are very long lived or immortal. In a past RMU discussion, the immortal “trait” was discussed: how do you subscribe a value to a trait like immortality when it has little impact on gameplay?
From a world-building viewpoint, immortality has had a significant impact on the role of Elves. Reading through the Master Atlas, Emer and the other major SW core books, Elves make up the majority of the powerful characters in Kulthea. How could they not? These immortal NPC’s have had THOUSANDS of years to gain experience, level up and accumulate wealth and power. A general summary:
Priest Arnak: 100% Dyar
The Silver Dawn: 100% Erlin
Steel Rain: 75% Erlin
Golden Eye: 100% Loar
Loremasters: 60% Elvish
The Secret Circle: 100% (mostly Iylar)
Navigators: 30% Elvish
So we are left with a disconnect between the negligible impact of immortality on gameplay and its significant effect on the world order. How do these immortal creatures dominate the powerful roles they have in Kulthea. I have a few theories to explain this:
- Theory of Inevitability. Only immortality can provide the time needed to achieve higher levels, power and wealth. However if this is correct than mortal PC’s couldn’t possibly achieve higher levels. This obviously “breaks the game”.
- Theory of Racial Superiority. Something about Elves gives them a competitive advantage for resources or their natural abilities are superior to mortal races. However, if this theory is correct than there is an inherent advantage to Elves that favor them over other races. From a gameplay standpoint what could this be?
- Theory of Environment. SW is not really all that dangerous, allowing these beings to grow in power without threat or harm until the PC’s show up. However if this theory is correct than the PC’s are some sort of historical aberration: a gang of Elf killing, murderhobos. Like #2 this is a bit of a “game breaker”.
The only theory that really works is #2: Elves are superior to mortals. This superiority is not just immortality but some inherent ability or quality that allows them to surpass other races. So I’m reluctant to allow PC’s to play “High Elves” (Iylar and Linoeri) due to their appearance and implied superiority. Do they even fit as a PC in a low level adventure?
Anyway just a few thoughts–what’s yours?
3 thoughts on “Musings on High Elves in Shadow World”
Possibly for most of their lives Elves advance very slowly. Not due to disadvantages; they simply take their time, because they have the time to take. This could be interspersed with periods of much higher activity – the sort of activity normally seen in the mortal races.
I suspect that elves are so incredibily irritating that any one with the opportunity would want to kill them after only a relatively short exposure. That would mean that the elves that survive gain experience and they have had to form all these secret societies to survive.
Afterall, an elf is just a nerdy orc and no one thinks twice if you kill an orc.