Unearthed Arcana Four New Elf Subraces in Unearthed Arcana

This month's Unearthed Arcana article gives us four new elf subraces to playtest. "After the positive response to the eladrin a couple of months ago in Unearthed Arcana, we decided to explore four more elf subraces: avariel (winged elves), grugach (the wild elves of Greyhawk), sea elves, and shadar-kai (deathly servants of the Raven Queen)."


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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
At the risk of a slight thread tangent, what do you mean by this, in terms of the Raven Queen warlock patron? What do you think they were actually testing/looking at?

I personally think they were looking at trying to create a patron type from the Shadowfell, the same way they have the 'Archfey' patron for the Feywild. They gave it the identity of the Raven Queen in the UA because she is perhaps the most known quantity of powerful entities that live within the Shadowfell and thus the easiest for people to grasp what they were going for... but I never believed they would make her specificallty the actual patron. One, because she's a god and thus divine and not warlockian... and two, because generic patrons give players a more open interpretation for whom they make a act with.

But by making the Raven Queen for UA, it gave them another complete set of subclass levels to create and test new shadow-based warlock features, in addition to the levels of features they were giving us from the Hexblade. Then as need be once they got back the surveys they could mix and match features as necessary depending on what people liked. In the end... it turns out they just chose to combine the two concepts together, where you have the "Shadowfell lord" and the "intelligent magic weapon" as one cohesive unit of a patron. And they tossed aside the 'Raven Queen' flavor text as now unnecessary.

Of course that's just my opinion.... I could be wrong.
 
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I'm not sure what DEFCON1 is thinking, but for me the Raven Queen warlock pact seemed connected a bit to Mearls' comments about turning another 4e deity Torog into a powerful fiend, extraplanar entity or warlock patron. Considering that they probably don't intend to do bring Nentir Vale back as a setting they might be thinking about grabbing a few more interesting pieces and bring them back in a "new form."

They could easily make her an archfey.
 


Mike: Hey, Jeremy! We should push out some new crunch for D&D!

Jeremy: Yeah, great idea. Hmmm... whaddya thinking about?

Mike: Well, we could do a campaign setting. Maybe Eberron?

Jeremy: ..... wait ... wut?

Mike: Ha! Got ya. Of course not. We're just going to keep teasing that until 6e. What else. New classes?

Jeremy: Naw. That sounds hard. And then people will be all like, "Hey, what about psionics?"

Mike: Good point. More spells?

Jeremy: Why? They will just complain that they are either overpowered, or just go back to spamming cantrips.

Mike: New races?

Jeremy: Good idea. But what can we do that isn't too labor intensive, yet people will always still like?

Mike: Tough. Wait, I know .... ELVES!

Jeremy: That's it! Oh ... don't we already have more elves than Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors?

Mike: Yeah, but there's always more. Let's see. Space elf. Pond elf. Keebler elf ...

Jeremy: ...Elf on the Shelf. Elf without pointy ears. Big elf! Small elf. ... umm ....

Mike: Santa's Elf! Valley Elf! Stone Elf. Rock Elf. Help me out ...

Jeremy: Dwarf Elf! Dragonelf! Elfling! Wait ... I've got it! HOW ABOUT A HUMAN-ELF HYBRID?

Mike: Hmmm.... that sounds familiar. Why don't we call it a Elfling?

Wait until you see next month's UA: more gnome races. I would pay good $ if there was a Bytopian gnome in there (maybe two kinds, one for each layer).
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
They could easily make her an archfey.

But that doesn't solve what I think they were going for, which was the Shadowfell-equivalent to an Archfey. As it stands, there are quite a number of characters from folklore and the various editions of the game that are considered under the designation of Archfey. If you go to THIS THREAD on the Candlekeep forums you can find a huge list of characters, mainly from the 4E books dealing with the Feywild, that could all be consider potential Archfey patrons.

But what is the equivalent list of Shadowlords? There really isn't any. The two biggest names that were designated as living in the Shadowfell were the Raven Queen and Orcus-- one of which is a god (and thus not a patron) and the other is a demon lord (and thus would fall under the Fiend patron designation.) The only other entity that I know of and can remember that lived in the Shadowfell as a potential Shadowlord patron (and I know this because I have a player whose Warlock PC was specifically created with Shadowfell patronage) was the archlich Mourne, from the Shades of Darkness organization article in Dragon 387. And even he's technically undead and thus should really be an Undying patron.

I imagine there are probably other entities named in some of the various 4E Shadowfell-based articles or books, but none of them have gained any real foothold into our consciousness. Especially considering that unfortunately, most of the powerful entities you might consider for Shadowfell patronage are actually undead too, and thus would also fall under the Undying patron as well.

Which is really why I have to wonder if Mike & Co. were actually thinking that quite possibly the most well-known "evil" and "darkness" type of entity that was NOT already a god, devil, or demon was in fact Blackrazor. Which is how they came upon the idea of using Blackrazor (and other evil intelligent weapons like it) as the potential patron for Shadowfellian PCs. Personally... I'd love it if they just went through their history to find other "Shadowlords"-- shadow or darkness-based entities that are not gods, demons, devils or undead that they could begin to emphasize and build up to the level we already have for all the various archfey. But my guess is that's a tall order and easier said than done.
 

I am currently playing a sea elf tempest cleric with the sailor background in a campaign that started last week. I was using the wood elf stats minus Fleet of Foot for being amphibious with a swim speed. This UA is perfect timing for me! I was always slightly bothered about the SCAG references to the elf subraces without stats to go with them. It would be nice if the Lythari and star elves showed up in a future UA.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Mike: Hey, Jeremy! We should push out some new crunch for D&D!

Jeremy: Yeah, great idea. Hmmm... whaddya thinking about?

Mike: Well, we could do a campaign setting. Maybe Eberron?

Jeremy: ..... wait ... wut?

Mike: Ha! Got ya. Of course not. We're just going to keep teasing that until 6e. What else. New classes?

Jeremy: Naw. That sounds hard. And then people will be all like, "Hey, what about psionics?"

Mike: Good point. More spells?

Jeremy: Why? They will just complain that they are either overpowered, or just go back to spamming cantrips.

Mike: New races?

Jeremy: Good idea. But what can we do that isn't too labor intensive, yet people will always still like?

Mike: Tough. Wait, I know .... ELVES!

Jeremy: That's it! Oh ... don't we already have more elves than Baskin Robbins has ice cream flavors?

Mike: Yeah, but there's always more. Let's see. Space elf. Pond elf. Keebler elf ...

Jeremy: ...Elf on the Shelf. Elf without pointy ears. Big elf! Small elf. ... umm ....

Mike: Santa's Elf! Valley Elf! Stone Elf. Rock Elf. Help me out ...

Jeremy: Dwarf Elf! Dragonelf! Elfling! Wait ... I've got it! HOW ABOUT A HUMAN-ELF HYBRID?

Mike: Hmmm.... that sounds familiar. Why don't we call it a Elfling?
Hey, Elves sell: I'm hoping my Dwarves get some love, they've already hit two of the core races...
 

Could a winged character use her wings to avoid damage by fall, or cross a underground hallway without touching a floor (with traps)? Or in a pitfall spreading out the wings to try griping the walls and reduce damage by fall?

Why not a gradual racial trait like the raptorans from "Races of the wild"?
 


But that doesn't solve what I think they were going for, which was the Shadowfell-equivalent to an Archfey. As it stands, there are quite a number of characters from folklore and the various editions of the game that are considered under the designation of Archfey. If you go to THIS THREAD on the Candlekeep forums you can find a huge list of characters, mainly from the 4E books dealing with the Feywild, that could all be consider potential Archfey patrons.

But what is the equivalent list of Shadowlords? There really isn't any. The two biggest names that were designated as living in the Shadowfell were the Raven Queen and Orcus-- one of which is a god (and thus not a patron) and the other is a demon lord (and thus would fall under the Fiend patron designation.) The only other entity that I know of and can remember that lived in the Shadowfell as a potential Shadowlord patron (and I know this because I have a player whose Warlock PC was specifically created with Shadowfell patronage) was the archlich Mourne, from the Shades of Darkness organization article in Dragon 387. And even he's technically undead and thus should really be an Undying patron.

I imagine there are probably other entities named in some of the various 4E Shadowfell-based articles or books, but none of them have gained any real foothold into our consciousness. Especially considering that unfortunately, most of the powerful entities you might consider for Shadowfell patronage are actually undead too, and thus would also fall under the Undying patron as well.

Which is really why I have to wonder if Mike & Co. were actually thinking that quite possibly the most well-known "evil" and "darkness" type of entity that was NOT already a god, devil, or demon was in fact Blackrazor. Which is how they came upon the idea of using Blackrazor (and other evil intelligent weapons like it) as the potential patron for Shadowfellian PCs. Personally... I'd love it if they just went through their history to find other "Shadowlords"-- shadow or darkness-based entities that are not gods, demons, devils or undead that they could begin to emphasize and build up to the level we already have for all the various archfey. But my guess is that's a tall order and easier said than done.

I think somewhere between the Shadowfell and the Feywild being on the same emotional spectrum (and being parallel in planar terms) and the history of seelie/unseelie in myth and fantasy, they may have come up with the idea that the Fell is another Fey realm. If that is the case (and they haven't specified this, although it feels like they are hinting around it), then at least some of the shadowlords are a subgroup of the archfey. One thing I did notice in the UA that had the hexblade is that they did not actually specify that the Raven Queen was a goddess; that seemed conspicuous in its absence since they did describe her. My suspicion is that outside of Points of Light, she has been ungoddessed (and turned into an archfey of the Shadowfell) so that she can fit in the FR or Ebberon (or any other setting) without complicating the religions of the setting. It is kind of like if Lolth showed up on Athas and they were like "that is the demon lord Lolth, not the goddess Lolth", then they could ignore anyone who complains "there are no gods in Dark Sun."

On the plus side, it is a good sign for her to be popular enough to be used across settings.

Also, so far there isn't a god type in 5e (Tiamat was a fiend), and since there also isn't a shadow or shade type, she needs something else if she is ever statted.

For patrons, I think they are willing to give the DM and players as much room as they want, so the sword itself, whoever forged the sword, or someone who put a curse on it are all viable patrons.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Sure. Elves are like, the Walmart of races. Cheap, disposable, and sold in large quantities under horrid fluorescent lighting. It's fine, if you're into that sort of thing.

Doesn't really appeal to my snob instincts, thought. I hear, "Elf," I think, "Oh noes, Brad wants to play Legolas again." I hear "Varieties of Elf," and I think, "Man, some people like sparkly vampires."

But that's because I'm a horrible, judge-y person.
As a rational being, it is your natural end to judge.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
To be fair, Shadar-kai were Fey in 3.0's Fiend Folio. 4e's Shadow Humanoid Shadar-kai was cooler, though. Is the idea to merge Shadar-kai with Dusk Elves?

Also, I'm confused, because Volo's Guide to Monsters cannibalized past artwork from both 4e Dark Ones and 4e Shadar-kai in the new 5e creature known as the Darkling. I thought Shadar-kai had been reworked into Darkling Elders, which was disappointing but not entirely off the mark given how the lore for the creature was pretty close to the Fiend Folio version.

New creature? Heh! that's the 1e Dark Creeper/Dark Stalker, not a new creature.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
But that doesn't solve what I think they were going for, which was the Shadowfell-equivalent to an Archfey. As it stands, there are quite a number of characters from folklore and the various editions of the game that are considered under the designation of Archfey. If you go to THIS THREAD on the Candlekeep forums you can find a huge list of characters, mainly from the 4E books dealing with the Feywild, that could all be consider potential Archfey patrons.

But what is the equivalent list of Shadowlords? There really isn't any. The two biggest names that were designated as living in the Shadowfell were the Raven Queen and Orcus-- one of which is a god (and thus not a patron) and the other is a demon lord (and thus would fall under the Fiend patron designation.) The only other entity that I know of and can remember that lived in the Shadowfell as a potential Shadowlord patron (and I know this because I have a player whose Warlock PC was specifically created with Shadowfell patronage) was the archlich Mourne, from the Shades of Darkness organization article in Dragon 387. And even he's technically undead and thus should really be an Undying patron.

I imagine there are probably other entities named in some of the various 4E Shadowfell-based articles or books, but none of them have gained any real foothold into our consciousness. Especially considering that unfortunately, most of the powerful entities you might consider for Shadowfell patronage are actually undead too, and thus would also fall under the Undying patron as well.

Which is really why I have to wonder if Mike & Co. were actually thinking that quite possibly the most well-known "evil" and "darkness" type of entity that was NOT already a god, devil, or demon was in fact Blackrazor. Which is how they came upon the idea of using Blackrazor (and other evil intelligent weapons like it) as the potential patron for Shadowfellian PCs. Personally... I'd love it if they just went through their history to find other "Shadowlords"-- shadow or darkness-based entities that are not gods, demons, devils or undead that they could begin to emphasize and build up to the level we already have for all the various archfey. But my guess is that's a tall order and easier said than done.

Queen of Air and Darkness could be a fey pact or a shadow pact. Two for the price of one.

Plus, for some reason...she really creeps me out. She's terrifying.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
New creature? Heh! that's the 1e Dark Creeper/Dark Stalker, not a new creature.

To be fair, Dark Creeper and Dark Stalker were the two main varieties of Dark One in the 4e Monster Manual. So yeah, Darkling takes influence deeply in a throughline of 1e Dark Creeper/Stalker –> 4e Dark One –> 5e Darkling. But what I was remarking on was the using of Shadar-kai artwork for the Darkling Elder, seemingly fusing the Shadar-kai character art into the Dark One's flavor and throwing away the Shadar-kai flavor.

I'm glad that Shadar-kai are coming back via Unearthed Arcana, but concerned that they will either have to redesign them from their awesome 4e artwork or else live with Shadar-kai that look exactly like Darkling Elders.
 

I present: The Random Elf Generator.

Table 1: Roll on this as many times as you like.
1) High
2) Sea
3) Grey
4) Mountain
5) Cave
6) Dark
7) Light
8) Shadow
9) Dusk
10) Fire
11) Morning
12) Earth
13) Wind
14) Avatar
15) Water
16) Lightning
17) Storm
18) Cloud
19) Undersea
20) Trailer
21) Park
22) Urban
23) Demi-
24) Half-
25) Semi-
26) Moon
27) Sun
28) Gold
29) Bronze
30) Copper
31) Thinly-Veiled Analogy
32) Brass
33) Tin
34) Cookie
35) Platinum
36) Fangirl
37) Mary Sue (re-roll. All elves are Mary Sues)
38) Merry
39) Dragon
40) Underhill
41) Fey
42) Fairy
43) Faerie
44) Olde
45) Young
46) Settled
47) Low
48) Tall
49) Short
50) Vulkan
51) Russian (reverse the order of the names and change any instances of "Vulkan" to "Wulkan")
52) Steel
53) Hybrid
54) Shapeshifter
55) Shapeshifting
56) Were-
57) Wolf
58) Bear
59) Tree
60) Hippy
61) Cat
62) Dippy
63) Leaf
64) Bark
65) Shark
66) Dolphin
67) Fish
68) Barricuda
69) Pirrhana
70) Tiny
71) Winged
72) Hovering
73) Levitating
74) Flying
75) Inexplicably-
76) Scientific
77) Curious
78) Lucky
79) Lovecraftian
80) Strange
81) Fate
82) Time
83) Space
84) Outside
85) Outsider
85) Out of
86) Ninja
87) Spy
88) Clan
89) Tribe
90) City
91) Culture
92) Horrifying
93) Rabbit
94) Roman
95) Teleporting
96) Glamourous (on a 1-5 on 1d6, looks hideous under glamour)
97) Alluring (on a 1-5 on 1d6, wants to inflict horrific tortures on you)
98) Shy (on a 1-5 on 1d6, is really faking it to trick you into something horrific)
99) Commanding (on a 1 on 1d10, their goals are more or less benign)
100) Sidhe

Table 2: Roll on this table once.
1) Elf
 
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Li Shenron

Legend
Any reason we get race after race and sub-race after sub-race of elves dwarves and halflings but we only get one race of humans? Why don't we get different races of humans in 5e?

We do, already in the PHB.

They are all mechanically identical tho, and the reason is not balance IYKWIMAITYD.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I don't really see why someone can criticize these elves subraces from a mechanical point of view, they are all very consistent with the PHB elven subraces, with minor variations around a clear pattern:

+1 to secondary ability score
3-4 bonus weapon proficiencies
cantrip (or something roughly equivalent)

The only subrace that's really different mechanical is the Avariels, which only get a flight speed, and this is IMO the REAL focus for playtesting... giving a PC flying capabilities at 1st level is always very risky, so they are probably pretty much looking for feedback on this one. Is the flight speed powerful enough so that the subrace should get no other bonuses? Is it even too much anyway?

---

From a narrative point of view, it's legitimate to complain on having too many subraces of a single race, particularly if it's the only race getting this treatment.

It should go without saying that even if these get published (but my bet is that they won't, or at most only 2 of them) nobody is forced to allocate them to every fantasy world (there are lots of DMs who don't allow even Drow from the PHB).

Still, if we keep getting lots of elven subraces at every edition, it's because there are still a lot of players who want them. "Deal with it".
 

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