D&D (2024) Elves without racism [+]

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
The description for the Elf species in this thread seeks to avoid the racism that occasionally appears in the Elf traditions since the earliest editions of D&D.

The species design navigates concerns about narratives that echo reallife racist tropes (such as "brown" Wild Elves that are "savage" "tribes" with low Intelligence) and concerns about mechanics that imply racial segregation and essentialism (such as the inability to represent offspring who share traits from different kinds of Elves). At the same time, the design finds ways to preserve the positive aspects of elven diversity and maintain continuity with D&D history. The species design here has in mind some of the complex and nuanced discussions in other threads.

The Elf design strives to be as simple as possible, while also allowing for a potential multitude of different "kinds" of Elves.

What started as an attempt to list the diverse elven features as species traits − pretty much immediately − became too many and too unwieldy. But these multitudes of elven traits actually make great background feats. The 2024 background design space can manage most of the earlier "race" design space. Thus the 2024 Elf species design is reasonably simple.

Re the elven background. Each elven community can magically grant certain elven traits. Earlier Forgotten Realms editions mention the concept of a "Mythal", a powerful magical effect that a community of elves work together to create. Especially the "High Mages" of the "High Elves" do it. While it is the high level mages of a community who create a Mythal, it is the entire elven community that benefits from it and sustains it into future generations. For the Elf species design here, players can choose one of the "Mythal Feats" for their character as part of the background. The feat represents the communal magic of the specific elven community that the character comes from.

The Mythal grants the elven traits. In this way, the Nonelves who the Elf community embraces as members are also able to benefit from a Mythal. A Human or Tiefling or any other Humanoid species can take a Mythal Feat if the character is part of the elven community.

There is one Elf species. The species traits grant one free Mythal Feat, such as the "Moon Mythal" from an elven community of the "High culture". At the same time, the player can choose a different Mythal for ones Elf character, depending on what the various elven communities make available.

In the process of integrating and organizing, the design sometimes takes liberties. For example, the "odd" Sea Elf race that breathes water, is here understood to be Breathless without needing to breathe at all. This emphasizes the otherworldly flavor of the Elf, associates the Mythal with the deathly Shadar-kai, and helps distinguish the Sea elven culture from the tropes of the Triton species. Note, some versions of eladrin − especially high level ones − have a fly speed, and it appears as a Mythal hopefully in a mechanically balanced way. In any case, the methodology for how to avoid racial essentialism should be clear enough.

An elven community can have several Mythals at work. A player can choose any of them for ones character. There is no racial or cultural essentialism. A single elven community is diverse and pluralistic. This helps avoid an ethnic stereotype − and undermine any future ones that might show up unintentionally.

Even so, the different kinds of Elf concepts from earlier editions can continue onward, cautiously.



This thread is Positive [+]. It takes for granted that it is necessary to remove all racist traditions from D&D. The Elf appears to be the most racist of all earlier D&D traditions. At times, the earlier D&D Elf even overtly seeks "race purity". The 2024 Elf requires serious attention from designers. All of the intentional and unintentional racism must discontinue. Constructive criticism is appreciated, to improve this design of the Elf species, to be inclusive of diverse D&D players today, and also to salvage and update the benign aspects from earlier D&D editions.
 
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Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage

ELF TRAITS​

Creature Type: Fey Humanoid
Size: Medium (about 5−6 feet tall)
Speed: 30 feet
Lifespan. Elves reach adulthood at about age 20, same as Humans, but afterward remain eternally youthful. Due to other causes of death, Elves live 750 years on average. There are still alive today individuals who are many thousands of years old.

Trance. You remain otherworldly, even if incarnating in a material body. You dont need sleep, and magic cant 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 remain conscious of your surroundings.

Fey Ancestry. Many Fey develop Magic Resistance at higher levels. Among Elves, the trait first appears as Charm Resistance. You have Advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the Charmed Condition.

Innate Spellcaster. You are a being of magic and can spellcast innately. At level 0, before you gain levels in a class, you exhibit a cantrip. At level 3, you figure out how to cast a slot-1 spell innately, and at level 5 a slot-2 spell. Your innate spells can be Prestidigitation, Detect Magic, and Misty Step, or different spells that are prominent in your elven culture, or you can choose your own spells from the appropriate slots of any spell list. When you gain a new level, you can change one innate spell to a different innate spell of the same slot.

Mythal. You magically acquire traits that your elven community emanates. This communal magical effect is called a Mythal. Mythals can manifest wonders of the world, as well as alter the members of its community. The transformation is magical, but its resulting effect is instantaneous and nonmagical. A community might accumulate various Mythals, especially if ancient. Typically, parents determine your Mythal at your birth. If your parents come from different elven communities, you belong them. You can gain the Moon Mythal, or an other Mythal Feat that your elven community emanates. When you gain a new level, you can change your Mythal to a different one from your community. You can also gain additional Mythals by using the Feats you gain from your background and at higher levels. If your are an Elf who is a member of a nonelven community, you can choose a different Feat that you qualify for instead. The mutability of Mythal traits derives from the shapechanging fluidity of your primordial elven ancestors.

MOON MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You haunt the night, bathing in its moonlight and reveling in its twilights.

You have Darkvision 60 feet. You gain the Advantage to Perception checks to detect any faint visual clues, sounds, and scents.

ELVEN CULTURES​

In the Forgotten Realms setting, the High culture allows time for an Elf to decide who oneself is and what one wants to achieve during an eternal life. It considers Elves under 100 years old to be "youths", and those 100 years and older to be "elders". Typically, High Elves encourage youths to adventure to explore the many possibilities that life has to offer, and especially to discover new magics. Elders feel a duty to settle down to improve their community, but even they adventure to pursue a magic of importance. Some other elven cultures have communities that adopt these High customs.

Minimally, an elven community comprises ten elders. But an Elf-majority city often has many thousands of elders.

The following Elf traits tend to be prominent in certain elven cultures. A culture is diverse, comprising many communities, and each community includes alternate traits as well.

Culture: Mythal − Common Innate Spells
Aevendrow: Dark/Glamor − Guidance, Charm, Suggestion
Astral: Celestial − Sacred Flame, Healing Word, Misty Step
Eladrin: Fey/Glamor − Frostbite/Sacred Flame, Charm, Misty Step
Grugach: Roam − Druidcraft, Beast Bond, Invisibility
High: Moon/Sun − Prestidigitation, Detect Magic, Misty Step
Lorendrow: Dark/Fey − Druidcraft, Entangle, Darkness
Sea: Death (Cold) − Resistance, Alter Self/Beast Bond, Enhance Ability
Shadar-kai: Death (Necrotic) − Chill Touch, False Life, Misty Step
Tulani: Celestial/Sun − Mage Hand, Shield, Phantasmal Force
Udadrow: Dark − Dancing Lights, Faerie Fire, Darkness
Wood: Moon/Roam − Druidcraft, Longstrider, Pass without Trace

ELVEN MYTHAL FEATS​

Elves are beings of magic. They wield magic innately. The most ancient change their shapes at will, and some younger Elves regain this capability. In the Feywild, the elven ancestors chose enduring humanlike forms for themselves and their descendants. These Fey forms change more subtly, by mood or circumstance.

When Fey Elves make a home elsewhere in the multiverse, their shapes can alter to adapt to the new environment they bond with. The transformations are magical, but the resulting forms are nonmagical and persistent.

A community of Elves together can weave a powerful magical effect called a Mythal. It is these Mythals that can transform an elven community to adapt to a new environment. Even the Nonelves who the Elves adopt into the community, can benefit from the magic of a Mythal.

Here are Elven Mythal Feats you can choose for your background Feat. If you are an Elf, your species traits include a choice of a Mythal Feat. If your parents come from different elven communities, you are a member of both. As an Elf, you can use your Mythal trait to gain a Mythal Feat from one of the communities, then use your background Feat to gain a Mythal Feat from the other community.

CELESTIAL MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You are a being of a thought scape, such as the astral sea or the astral dominion of Arvandor.

Telepath. You exhibit Telepathy 120 feet and have Resistance to the Psychic damage type.
Communion. When you Trance, you experience glimpses of other lives. You gain a Proficiency of your choice of one skill, tool, or weapon. At the end of each Trance, you can choose a different Proficiency instead.

DARK MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You inhabit a realm of sunless darkness, such as under a dense forest canopy or in the Underdark deep in the earth.

Darksight. You can see normally in dim light and darkness, both magical and nonmagical, to a distance of 120 feet.

DEATH MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community
Repeatable. When you take this Feat again, you can choose any Damage Resistance instead of Breathless.

You adapt to an environment that is deadly to others.

Breathless. You dont need to breathe.
Damage Resistance. You have Resistance to your choice of the following damage types: Acid, Cold, Force, Necrotic, Radiant, or both Lightning-and-Thunder. Instead of Breathless and the above Resistance, you can have Poison Resistance or Fire Resistance.
You have Immunity to any environmental occurrence of your resisted damage type, such as the Cold of the arctic, the Fire of lava, or the ambient Necrotic of the Shadowfell.

FATESPEAKER MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You navigate the timelines that form the tapestry of fate, pursuing the more successful threads and circumventing the disappointing ones.

You have a number of Luck Points equal to your Proficiency Bonus, and regain any spent when you finish a Long Rest. Immediately after a creature rolls a d20 for a d20 Test, you can spend 1 Luck Point to grant Advantage for it or inflict Disadvantage against it.

FEY MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You are a being of the magical forces that comprise the Fey Plane.

You Detect Magic within 30 feet, at all times, without concentration. This sense is innate and nonmagical. You exhibit an Advantage to Arcana checks, and can use your casting ability for it instead of Intelligence.

GLAMOR MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You are a member of a Fey court and present your image intuitively.

Transfiguration. You can at will enhance the appearance of you and your equipment. For example, you can become opulent and stunningly beautiful when joyous − or ragged and emaciated when mourning. Hair and cosmetics can change, such as hair short and wellgroomed or long and disheveled. Voice can be sonorous melody or keening wail. You remain recognizably you.
The appearance of clothing and equipment can change dramatically in color and shape, and become new or worn. Nonmagical items can repair or break. But there is no change to function, and substances stay recognizable, such as gold or steel, or silk or linen. The transformations are magical but the resulting appearance is nonmagical and persistent.
Impactful Presence. Your appearance attunes your observers. You exhibit an Advantage in Persuasion checks, and the targets of your Charm effects incur a Disadvantage to saves.

MOON MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You haunt the night, bathing in its moonlight and reveling in its twilights.

You have Darkvision 60 feet. You gain the Advantage to Perception checks to detect any faint visual clues, sounds, and scents.

ROAM MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You roam a rugged wilderness, such as the branches of a primeval forest or across a desert of shifting sands.

Your Speed increases to 35 feet, and you gain a Climb Speed. You have Advantage on d20 Tests to climb, balance, jump, and fall.

SUN MYTHAL​

Level-0 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You inhabit a luminous elven city high above the clouds, or on an earthmote drifting across the sky, or in a supertower piercing the cloudlevels.

Shine. Your body can magically radiate an aura of sunlight. As a bonus action to start, change, or end it, the 10-foot aura can be dim, or bright with an additional 10 feet of dim. The luminosity is diffuse and nonglaring. It affects creatures sensitive to natural sunlight. You can use your spell slots for Shine to suppress a magical darkness of the same slot level or lower, while your aura overlaps it.

Skyey. You can Hover effortlessly, and cant fall even if Prone or Unconscious. You can use your Action to drift 10 feet in any direction.

Members of a Sun Mythal community often shapeshift by other means into birds to travel more quickly and to reach farther distances.

ELUSION MYTHAL​

Level-4 Feat
Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You slip between the nothingness to evade the eldritch harm.

You have Advantage on all Dexterity saving throws versus magic. Magic Attacks against you are at Disadvantage.


SKYBORNE MYTHAL​

Level-8 Feat

Prerequisite: Member of an elven community

You are sky made manifest.

You gain Fly Speed.
At higher levels. At level 13, your Fly Speed improves to 60 feet, and at level 17 to 90 feet.


WARD MYTHAL​

Level-8 Feat

Prerequisite: Elusion Mythal, member of an elven community

You will magic away.

Magic Resistance. You have Advantage on all saving throws versus magic.

GLOSSARY​

Innate Spellcasting. You cast the specific spells without spell components. For each innate spell of slot 1 or higher, you can cast it once without a slot, and regain the ability to do so after a Long Rest. You always have the innate spell prepared and can use your slots for it without components.
 
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Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I understand what you are going for but I think there is too much implied setting in this design. In addition, the mythals are no balanced and there are options that are clearly superior to others. That's okay if you are explicit about it: some elves just elf better than other elves. But from a gameplay design standpoint, it might be a problem. And finally, there are some contradictions in your mythal types. The Fey mythal is explicitly a creature of magical energy, but its detect magic ability is somehow nonmagical?

This is a good foundation but definitely needs some design massaging.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
I understand what you are going for but I think there is too much implied setting in this design. In addition, the mythals are no balanced and there are options that are clearly superior to others. That's okay if you are explicit about it: some elves just elf better than other elves. But from a gameplay design standpoint, it might be a problem. And finally, there are some contradictions in your mythal types. The Fey mythal is explicitly a creature of magical energy, but its detect magic ability is somehow nonmagical?

This is a good foundation but definitely needs some design massaging.
The Mythal Feats need to be mechanically balanced with each other. Obviously the flight of the Sun Mythal is a concern. Which Feat traits concern you?


Where the Fey Mythal has a "Detect Magic" that is "nonmagical", it means no one can ever "dispel" this ability to detect magic. It is innate and natural.


My feeling is, the Core Rules must be setting-neutral (as much as possible) to be usable as-is in many different kinds of settings.

However, I am comfortable with backgrounds being setting-specific. If discretely contained within the backgrounds, it is easy for a new setting to supply a different list of backgrounds to choose from. It seems safe to assume, Forgotten Realms will remain the "default" setting for 2024 too. But, if all of the FR setting can only be found in the background section, that seems fine. For example, Moon Mythal might not exist some settings, so a different Mythal from the other setting can be chosen instead.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
The Mythal Feats need to be mechanically balanced with each other. Obviously the flight of the Sun Mythal is a concern. Which Feat traits concern you?
I was mostly talking about the Sun mythal for too powerful, but also the Dark Mythal and Moon mythals seem particularly weak compared to the others. Also I would be careful about "climb speed" because it grants spiderclimb like abilities. if you don't want that, I would suggest "always succeeds at Strength (Athletics) rolls to climb."
Where the Fey Mythal has a "Detect Magic" that is "nonmagical", it means no one can ever "dispel" this ability to detect magic. It is innate and natural.
I thought it was something like an old 2E supernatural ability. I lament the loss of those categories for ease of dealing with anit-magic, counterspell, etc...
On that always on detect magic, I assume that means they just see magic while walking around but still have to intentionally use an action to concentrate and make the Arcana check to determine its school, etc?
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
I was mostly talking about the Sun mythal for too powerful, but also the Dark Mythal and Moon mythals seem particularly weak compared to the others.
Ideally, the Sun Mythal and the Dark and Moon Mythals need to be equally desirable choices.

The value of Dark and Moon, might depend on the particular gaming table. The Dark Mythal lets a character see thru ones own Darkness spell, which can be powerful in combat. For Moon, the Darkvision is worth a cantrip albeit one of the excellent ones. DMs can adjudicate skills differently. At my tables, Perception is frequent and frequently game-changing, and Advantage to it is a big deal. But other tables, players might see less use.

I will think more about the flight of the Sun. Using an Action (instead of a Move) helps prevent its use in combat. But it can still make certain exploration challenges a cakewalk. I will think more on it, and welcome suggestions.

Also I would be careful about "climb speed" because it grants spiderclimb like abilities. if you don't want that, I would suggest "always succeeds at Strength (Athletics) rolls to climb."
As I understand it, some monsters have a "Spider Climb" feature, such as the Giant Spider. This is different from the "Climb Speed". Normally, climbing is at half-speed, but the Climb Speed allows vertical movement at full speed. Climb Speed doesnt do anything else. The special "Spider Climb" feature is necessary to move across difficult surfaces, such as upside down across the ceiling.

For the Roam Mythal, the main interest is to allow the Elf to move effortlessly from the branches of one tree to those of an other. Probably, Climb Speed is enough to do this − tho maybe Jump is necessary here too.

I thought it was something like an old 2E supernatural ability. I lament the loss of those categories for ease of dealing with anit-magic, counterspell, etc...
On that always on detect magic, I assume that means they just see magic while walking around but still have to intentionally use an action to concentrate and make the Arcana check to determine its school, etc?
I interpret the Detect Magic spell as follows. One senses magic is present whenever one is within 30 feet of it, but wont necessarily know which direction it is. One needs to spend an Action to "see" the magic aura, to pinpoint its location.

Re the spell description, I hope the 2024 version of Detect Magic deletes the annoying sentence: "The spell can penetrate most barriers, but is blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt." If the DM wants to hide a magic item or magical effect, just use the Nystals Magic Aura spell to cloak it.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
As I understand it, some monsters have a "Spider Climb" feature, such as the Giant Spider. This is different from the "Climb Speed".
It is entirely possible that I am misremembering it or mixing it up with a previous edition in my head. Stupid aging brain...
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
It is entirely possible that I am misremembering it or mixing it up with a previous edition in my head. Stupid aging brain...
The Climb Speed seems unclear. In my mind it means autosuccess when climbing, so it remains unclear to me if this means an ability to scale up a smooth wall. I guess not, but its kinda a guess.

Maybe 2024 can update Climb Speed to mean, exactly, Spider Climb, thus end confusion.
 

So Drow would be a culture rather than a sub race?
And then we can apply the same concept to Dwarf culture, orc culture, human culture?
Orc eladrin?
Dragon born drow?
 
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