1D&D elf: Swing and a miss

Remathilis

Legend
With four elves races under their belt at this time (astral, eladrin, sea, shadar-kai) you'd think the easiest race to nail would be elf. Somehow, they bungled that.

So, all elves get some common traits: darkvision, fey ancestry, keen senses, and trance*. We'll call those the common traits and they aren't going to be a factor except where an elf has a difference in this trait. So lets look at what the elf races get:

Astral: Teleport prof/day, bonus light-themed cantrip, floating skill proficiency
Eladrin: teleport prof/day with four different riders at 3rd level (damage, move ally, charm, or frighten)
Sea: water breathing, swim speed, talk with fish
Shadar-kai: necrotic resistance, teleport prof/day with rider at 3rd level (half-damage for 1 round)

So what does the UA elf get? First, they all share a single race (unlike the others which are technically four separate races that all count as an elf) and all of them get the same racial ability (a cantrip, a 1st level spell, and and 2nd level spell determined by lineage) plus a ribbon-like extra ability (double darkvision, +5 movement, swap your cantrip). Compared to the diversity of the other MotM/SJ elves, this feels wildly uninteresting. You get either the classic drow SLAs, a few generic arcane spells (plus misty step, meaning yet-another teleporting elf, except this one uses a spell and spell slots rather than prof/day) or a few movement-enhancing primal spells. It feels lazy and very grid-filling, whereas the previous ones feel they have unique abilities and not just a bunch of SLAs.

Ignoring for the moment that the UA elf doesn't get trance proficiencies (What?), I feel the drow is in a good place (they were always the elves with SLAs) but the high elf feels uninspired, and wood-elf feels like a grid-filler. Why can wood elves keep some variant of their "hide in woodlands" or some non-SLA ability to ignore difficult terrain? Likewise, high elves feel like a weak eladrin. I'm not sure how exactly you fix them, but detect magic isn't interesting and misty step is just a weak and boring version of what the astral, shadar-kai and eladrin are doing.

My suggestions:

1.) Give each elf a separate racial traits block. Yes, it's repetitive and will eat up extra space, but the fact that four other elves exist as separate write-ups and the three core elves are crammed together in one race looks terrible.
2.) Give wood elves woodland abilities that aren't just spells.
3.) Give the high elves something other than detect magic and misty step. I like the rotating arcane cantrip, but I think something else could be done to give them an arcane feel while being mechanically distinct.
4.) Drow are good as is.
5. Update the Trance ability to give the two weapon/tool proficiencies like all other elves (save astral, who get a unique version) get.

Right now, there is absolutely no reason to go with the UA elf over the MotM/SJ elves. When the survey goes live, I plan to address this, but I want to voice now how underwhelmed I am with the elf design at the moment.
 

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Although I agree with you about boosting the trance ability, I would go the opposite direction on the lineages generally: Merge high elves and wood elves. Those are cultural distinctions. Make all PHB elves skilled at moving in their natural environment and have them all be naturally skilled at their particular flavor of magic, whether that's primordial, divine or arcane.

Once upon a time, AD&D had grey, high, wood, sea and valley elves, along with the "oh, these are mythical, they don't exist, ho ho, why are we even mentioning them in the Monster Manual" drow. I don't think anyone's missed the grey or or valley elves in a very long time. I don't know that we shouldn't just toss "wood" and "high" elves as more different than humans who live in the country or city into the dustbin of history.

That said, if astral elves are a distinct people with their own write-up, it seems silly to suggest drow and shadar-kai are not. I would be fine with having "elves," "drow" and "shadar-kai" as three distinct peoples with their own write-ups in the 2024 PHB.
 
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FitzTheRuke

Legend
I suspect they are using this playtest to check if the audience agrees with MPMoM's method of splitting up all the "sub-races" into their own entry. My feelings are mixed: I mean, I prefer every race to have either their identity unique enough to deserve their own entry, or be consumed into the base-race (with perhaps only one or two "pick A or B" options to remind us they exist).

This was done in MPMoM with the Aasimar, who got one entry but a couple of choices. Honestly, I think the way MPMoM did it is ideal. The 1D&D Playtest is not ideal.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
My write up for elves will be:

Medium
Speed 35

Fey Ancestry. You have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the charmed condition on yourself.

Trance. You don't need to sleep, and magic can't put you to sleep. You can finish a long rest in 4 hours if you spend those hours in a trancelike meditation, during which you retain consciousness.
Whenever you finish this trance, you can change your season, and you can gain two proficiencies that you don't have, each one with a weapon or a tool of your choice selected from the Player's Handbook. You mystically acquire these proficiencies by drawing them from shared elven memory, and you retain them until you finish your next long rest.

Piercing Sight. you have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Wisdom (Insight) tests that rely on sight. Furthermore, in conditions of clear visibility, you can make out details of even creatures and objects as small as 2 feet across from up to 1 mile away.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of yourself as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You discern colors in that darkness only as shades of gray.

Graceful steps. Ability tests made to track you have disadvantage, and you can move across difficult terrain made of nonmagical, natural occurring obstacles without expending extra movement.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Although I agree with you about boosting the trance ability, I would go the opposite direction on the lineages generally: Merge high elves and wood elves. Those are cultural distinctions. Make all PHB elves skilled at moving in their natural environment and have them all be naturally skilled at their particular flavor of magic, whether that's primordial, divine or arcane.

I've flip-flopped on high and wood being separate. There is a ton of elf lore that keeps wood and high elves separate (Rivendell vs Lolthlorian, Altmer vs Bosmer, etc.) so that an "arcane elf" vs "nature elf" seems appropriate. However, if the current division is just "primal SLAs" vs "Arcane SLAs" then the feeling is "why bother?"
 

Weiley31

Legend
It is quite weird/strange that they didn't even use the updated Trance. Like seriously, they had to be all in a huff to get the playtest ready for the 18th. But at this rate, I'm just sticking the PHB version.
 


Bladesinger

Explorer
I'm going to nay-say here and say I like this new playtest trance. The one the new Eladrin has is terrible. It has caused all sorts of issues at my table, so to my mind it is super-exploitable, especially with the Monk weapon proficiency in Tasha's. I'm fine for getting rid of it. or reduce it to skills and tools, not weapons.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
With four elves races under their belt at this time (astral, eladrin, sea, shadar-kai) you'd think the easiest race to nail would be elf. Somehow, they bungled that.

So, all elves get some common traits: darkvision, fey ancestry, keen senses, and trance*. We'll call those the common traits and they aren't going to be a factor except where an elf has a difference in this trait. So lets look at what the elf races get:

Astral: Teleport prof/day, bonus light-themed cantrip, floating skill proficiency
Eladrin: teleport prof/day with four different riders at 3rd level (damage, move ally, charm, or frighten)
Sea: water breathing, swim speed, talk with fish
Shadar-kai: necrotic resistance, teleport prof/day with rider at 3rd level (half-damage for 1 round)

So what does the UA elf get? First, they all share a single race (unlike the others which are technically four separate races that all count as an elf) and all of them get the same racial ability (a cantrip, a 1st level spell, and and 2nd level spell determined by lineage) plus a ribbon-like extra ability (double darkvision, +5 movement, swap your cantrip). Compared to the diversity of the other MotM/SJ elves, this feels wildly uninteresting. You get either the classic drow SLAs, a few generic arcane spells (plus misty step, meaning yet-another teleporting elf, except this one uses a spell and spell slots rather than prof/day) or a few movement-enhancing primal spells. It feels lazy and very grid-filling, whereas the previous ones feel they have unique abilities and not just a bunch of SLAs.

Ignoring for the moment that the UA elf doesn't get trance proficiencies (What?), I feel the drow is in a good place (they were always the elves with SLAs) but the high elf feels uninspired, and wood-elf feels like a grid-filler. Why can wood elves keep some variant of their "hide in woodlands" or some non-SLA ability to ignore difficult terrain? Likewise, high elves feel like a weak eladrin. I'm not sure how exactly you fix them, but detect magic isn't interesting and misty step is just a weak and boring version of what the astral, shadar-kai and eladrin are doing.

My suggestions:

1.) Give each elf a separate racial traits block. Yes, it's repetitive and will eat up extra space, but the fact that four other elves exist as separate write-ups and the three core elves are crammed together in one race looks terrible.
2.) Give wood elves woodland abilities that aren't just spells.
3.) Give the high elves something other than detect magic and misty step. I like the rotating arcane cantrip, but I think something else could be done to give them an arcane feel while being mechanically distinct.
4.) Drow are good as is.
5. Update the Trance ability to give the two weapon/tool proficiencies like all other elves (save astral, who get a unique version) get.


Right now, there is absolutely no reason to go with the UA elf over the MotM/SJ elves. When the survey goes live, I plan to address this, but I want to voice now how underwhelmed I am with the elf design at the moment.
First level feats would allow players who want to make "I grew up in X society" a big part of their character's identity & skillset. I think that's where the "separate racial traits block" fits wioth9in the designspace. Even better is that doing it that way allows a GM to more easily curate what is allowed by the setting/world/campaign they are running & it allows the benefits of those choices to be made at the expense of some other choice.
 



Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
I still don't see the need for separate High Elf and Eladrin, other than the fact that they've relegated Eladrin to MP:MotM.

If you have to have High Elves, don't give them misty step. That's too much overlap with Eladrin's teleporting step.

But yeah, I'd agree, High vs Wood are cultural, and Drow is separate (and the three FR cultures of Drow, plus other settings' cultures should be discussed as examples).

Notice how Aereni and Tarenal and Great House elves don't care whether they're Wood or High, in Eberron?

Also, don't forget that there are Pallid Elves courtesy of Critical Role. If Astral Elves are starry-eyed, Pallid Elves are over the moon. But also… Pallid elves could just be another culture of elf, rather than the very unique features of Sea Elves, Eladrin, Shadar-kai, and Drow…

In 2014 PHB, Sun and Moon and Grey elves are all considered cultures of High elves, while Wild and Green elves are variants of Wood elves. Back in earlier editions, there were also Dusk elves - a culture of Wood elf that were actually Drow that regretted their actions and didn't leave entirely and regained some wood elviness, or else maybe they were associated with Ravenloft, in some editions. I'd imagine they'd be considered a culture of Drow now.

And then there are Avariel (winged elves), Lythari (elf-wolves), and Gruagach which may just be Wild elves but might be something different if you're in Greyhawk, and there's desert elves in Dark Sun who are all thieves because racism…
 
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Horwath

Hero
Elf:

traits:
Elven immunities(sleep, charm resistance, etc...)

darkvision 60ft

move speed 35ft

keen senses: proficiency + expertise in perception

trance: complete long rest in 4 hrs, pick 2 proficiencies after every trance out of languages, tools or weapons

cantrip: know one cantrip, you can exchange it after every long rest. Or you can gain proficiency in one skill instead of cantrip(not all want magic)
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Although I agree with you about boosting the trance ability, I would go the opposite direction on the lineages generally: Merge high elves and wood elves. Those are cultural distinctions. Make all PHB elves skilled at moving in their natural environment and have them all be naturally skilled at their particular flavor of magic, whether that's primordial, divine or arcane.

Once upon a time, AD&D has grey, high, wood, sea and valley elves, along with the "oh, these are mythical, they don't exist, ho ho, why are we even mentioning them in the Monster Manual" drow. I don't think anyone's missed the grey or or valley elves in a very long time. I don't know that we shouldn't just toss "wood" and "high" elves as more different than humans who live in the country or city into the dustbin of history.

That said, if astral elves are a distinct people with their own write-up, it seems silly to suggest drow and shadar-kai are not. I would be fine with having "elves," "drow" and "shadar-kai" as three distinct peoples with their own write-ups in the 2024 PHB.
Unfortunately, WotC D&D (both 5e and the upcoming 6e) lacks a culture axis to character creation, requiring WotC to jump through hoops to give races the things they need, or just bland-ify what they produce. This is why Level Up's origin system is so much better that it's worth a little more complexity.
 

I think I would be fine with most of the elves being all one thing, but I do think* that (excluding a third 'other' category which might actually be the majority) there are at least two popular conceptions of elves -- one that is very nature/bow/sword/'where are the orcs/goblins?'-ish, and another that is very 'may live in treetops or crystal grottos, but are mostly about the powerful magic'-ish. I can see myself being behind splitting them out by type, or having that be a cultural difference (and hopefully an implementation that lets both concepts flourish).
*and this is all a very '77-99 mindset, I think people who came in in 3e probably thought elves were all things to all people and I don't know what things have solidified to at this point.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I still don't see the need for separate High Elf and Eladrin, other than the fact that they've relegated Eladrin to MP:MotM.

If you have to have High Elves, don't give them misty step. That's too much overlap with Eladrin's teleporting step.

But yeah, I'd agree, High vs Wood are cultural, and Drow is separate (and the three FR cultures of Drow, plus other settings' cultures should be discussed as examples).

Notice how Aereni and Tarenal and Great House elves don't care whether they're Wood or High, in Eberron?

Also, don't forget that there are Pallid Elves courtesy of Critical Role. If Astral Elves are starry-eyed, Pallid Elves are over the moon. But also… Pallid elves could just be another culture of elf, rather than the very unique features of Sea Elves, Eladrin, Shadar-kai, and Drow…

In 2014 PHB, Sun and Moon and Grey elves are all considered cultures of High elves, while Wild and Green elves are variants of Wood elves. Back in earlier editions, there were also Dusk elves - a culture of Wood elf that were actually Drow that regretted their actions and didn't leave entirely and regained some wood elviness, or else maybe they were associated with Ravenloft, in some editions. I'd imagine they'd be considered a culture of Drow now.

And then there are Avariel (winged elves), Lythari (elf-wolves), and Gruagach which may just be Wild elves but might be something different if you're in Greyhawk, and there's desert elves in Dark Sun who are all thieves because racism…
Part of me still wants the high/wood elf split, maybe because I altmer/bosmer of Elder Scrolls being different physically, not just culturally and want to see something like that in D&D. Which is actually my problem: the three elven lineages in the playtest are too alike, especially compared to the 4 other elf races. The difference is a minor racial ability (swap cantrip, +5 ft of move, or double darkvision) and which spells you get. It feels very phoned in: they decided to give them all Drow SLAs rather than think of something unique to each race.

I guess if they can't think of anything to separate wood and high elves, combine them into a single elf with lineages, but make their racial traits not "drow magic, but generic arcane/woodsy spells" and leave the SLAs unique to the drow.

Or if this is the standard, redo the sea, astral, eladrin and shadar kai to also just be a ribbon + cantrip, first and second level free spell. Commit to a design principle.
 

Unfortunately, WotC D&D (both 5e and the upcoming 6e) lacks a culture axis to character creation, requiring WotC to jump through hoops to give races the things they need, or just bland-ify what they produce.
Differentiating wood and high elves would be an ideal use of custom backgrounds, actually. (And rock and forest gnomes too, for that matter.)
 

Or if this is the standard, redo the sea, astral, eladrin and shadar kai to also just be a ribbon + cantrip, first and second level free spell. Commit to a design principle.
Yeah, that's one of my issues, too. Either every elf has the same chassis, with adaptations for their environments, or every elf is a different unique butterfly (which is I'm sure what the elves would tell you is true). The fact that they're publishing incrementally means we get stuck with different stages of design philosophy. It'd be nice if we don't have to have a new version of eladrin again some time after 2023, but I suspect we will.
 

I still don't see the need for separate High Elf and Eladrin, other than the fact that they've relegated Eladrin to MP:MotM.
I think there's an argument for making a planar elf core race, with eladrin, shadar-kai, astral elves and potentially more as lineages of that.

Then maybe you have an "extreme environments" elf, which fits with 5E lore, and that gives you drow, sea elves and potentially more. These are all probably too different to make as lineages.

And then you have the PHB elf, which currently has lineages for wood and high elves, but which could probably also be accomplished with backgrounds. Make them all adept at Stealth in natural environments and give them access to two cantrips and a first level spell from either the arcane or primal lists and call it a day.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
Yeah, that's one of my issues, too. Either every elf has the same chassis, with adaptations for their environments, or every elf is a different unique butterfly (which is I'm sure what the elves would tell you is true). The fact that they're publishing incrementally means we get stuck with different stages of design philosophy. It'd be nice if we don't have to have a new version of eladrin again some time after 2023, but I suspect we will.
Agreed. I'm afraid I'm going to be eating my own fist and buying ANOTHER special box set of the Rules Expansion in 2025, only now with errata that updates it to align with the 2024 Rulebooks. Wouldn't be surprised if there was a Rules Expansion 2 as well, compiling Fizban's, Bigby's, and the Book of Many Things…
 

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