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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schnee

First Post
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?

Hey, start assigning skin colors and external features to inherent personality traits, athleticism, intelligence, capability for civilized behavior, etc. and let me know how that goes for you.

:heh:
 

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Azzy

KMF DM
So, if they're going to split grugach off of wood elves (*sigh*), are they going to do the same for grey elves and valley elves from high elves? Because moar elves, right?
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Hey, start assigning skin colors and external features to inherent personality traits, athleticism, intelligence, capability for civilized behavior, etc. and let me know how that goes for you.

:heh:

somehow this is acceptable for elves... but I totally understand the problem.

So maybe for humans don't change ability scores, but rather alter purely physical traits like heat/cold resistance, wings, being part undead, being an aquatic race (with Aquaman being a thing, one could have easily come up with an aquatic human race)

As much as I like elven subraces, I don't like the fact that only elves are the ones who need a subrace for every little schtick just because elves are so widespread in folklore and literature.
And "humans are ALWAYS and ONLY jack of all trades" seems a bit lame... (and yes, i'd totally play a winged human. Or orc.)
 

Horwath

Hero
As already mentioned Grugach Elf should have +2 str and +2 dex.

They are both weapon attack stats and most of the time they are in primary-dump combo.

As they represent wild elves from FR, +2 str and +2 dex best plays to barbarian and maybe ranger class. Most frequvent among wild elves.
 

schnee

First Post
somehow this is acceptable for elves...

Maybe it isn't. Go ask them and see if they like being categorized. :heh:

but I totally understand the problem.

So maybe for humans don't change ability scores, but rather alter purely physical traits like heat/cold resistance, wings, being part undead, being an aquatic race (with Aquaman being a thing, one could have easily come up with an aquatic human race)

Those aren't human any more.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
The best mechanization of the Elf concept in D&D 5e, is the Half Elf Variant in Sword Coast Adventurers Guide.

+2 Charisma score
+1 any two other scores

Then a choice of
• Two Skills
• Speed +5
• Cantrip

This is already a decent Elf concept, and a solid way to build your own Elf the way you yourself think the Elf should be.

This Elf is already better that all twelve kinds of Elf that exist in 5e so far.

If I could go further and swap out Darkvision, and choose both Two Skills and a Cantrip, even better. Add a few more (appealing, equally powerful) Elf traits to choose from, then even better.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
It would be even better to stat the Elf as:

+2 Any Score
Choice of 5 Major Elf Traits
1 Default Language

(Major Trait ≈ ½Feat = +1 to Any Other Ability Score)
(2 Major Traits = 1 Elf Feat = +2 Any Other Ability Score)
(1 Major Trait = 2 Minor Traits)
(Choosing a Handicap gains 1 Minor Trait)



Meanwhile have a list of typical Elf cultures.

Drow Culture (Typically)
Dexterity minimum 15
Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma minimum 11
Feat:
• Superior Darkvision 120
• Magic Resistance
Major Trait:
• Faerie Fire (per long rest) and Darkness (per long rest)
• Dancing Lights Cantrip
• Dispel Magic (per long rest)
• Dweomer (Detect Magic at will)
• Levitation (per rest)
Minor Trait:
• Skill: Arcana, Stealth, Perception, Intimidation (credible threat: magic, sneak attack)
• Combat Proficiency: Handbow, Finesse Sword, Chain Armor
• Tool Proficiency: Poisoner
• Language: Drow, Elven, Undercommon, Common, Abyssal
Handicap: Sunlight Sensitivity (Perception and attack disadvantage when in bright light)

Wood Culture (Typically)
Dexterity and Wisdom minimum 13
Major Trait:
• Speed +5
• Elven Accuracy (reroll d20 when Dexterity attack has advantage; or Wis, Int, or Cha)
• Darkvision 60
• Longstrider (per long rest) and Pass Without Trace (per long rest)
• Druid Cantrip
• Twilight (Perception advantage in dim light)
Minor Trait:
• Mask of Wild (Hide in dim light in natural terrain)
• Trance (cannot be put to sleep, per 24 hours treat 4 hours light activity as long rest)
• Enchantment Resistance
• Skill: Perception, Stealth, Nature
• Combat Proficiency: Longbow
• Tool Proficiency: Herbalist, Woodcarver, Musician, Leatherworker
• Language: Elven, Common

High Culture (Typically)
Intelligence and Charisma minimum 13
Dexterity minimum 11
Feat:
• Magic Resistance
Major Trait:
• Wizard Cantrip
• Comeliness (Persuasion advantage when in sight)
• Fey Teleport (Misty Step per rest)
• Dweomer (Detect Magic at will)
Minor Trait:
• Trance
• Enchantment Resistance
• Skill: Arcana, Persuasion, History, Performance
• Combat Proficiency: Chain Armor, Elf Magic (self as spellcasting focus)
• Tool Proficiency: Smith, Weaver, Calligrapher, Musician
• Language: Elven, Sylvan, Common

Grugach Culture (Typically)
Strength minimum 15
Dexterity minimum 13
Major Trait:
• Darkvision 60
• Pounce (Athletics and Acrobatics advantage in no or light armor)
• Druid Cantrip
Minor Trait:
• Trance
• Enchantment Resistance
• Skill: Athletics with Acrobatics, Stealth, Nature, Animal Handling, Survival
• Combat Proficiency: Spear
• Tool Proficiency: Poisoner, Trapper (Pit, Snare)
• Language: Sylvan, Beast Telepathy

And so on. Something like that.

Players can pick and choose whichever traits they want, regardless of whether it is typical or atypical. But the fuller descriptions of the diverse Elf cultures give a narrative context for what these choices of traits imply.

A DM can easily customize their own Elf culture for their setting.
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
Maybe it isn't. Go ask them and see if they like being categorized. :heh:

Those aren't human any more.
:D
Still a strange double standard that what is a human must remain pristinely the same and what is an elf can vary from wood-dwelling hobo to ang- I mean, bird-elf to Little Mermaid minus fishtail to Galadriel.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
:D
Still a strange double standard that what is a human must remain pristinely the same and what is an elf can vary from wood-dwelling hobo to ang- I mean, bird-elf to Little Mermaid minus fishtail to Galadriel.

Well, it probably has to do with the fact that to discuss racial variance in humans you must look to biology, geneology, history and genetics.

To look to racial variations in elves you look to mythology, folklore, fiction and the imagination.

I think that has a tiny bit to do with all of this.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Well, it probably has to do with the fact that to discuss racial variance in humans you must look to biology, geneology, history and genetics.

To look to racial variations in elves you look to mythology, folklore, fiction and the imagination.

I think that has a tiny bit to do with all of this.

Or... you can just make up some cool new (meta)humans. Blue ice humans! Pale underdark humans! Psionic humans! (oh, they existed back when Elans were still a thing)
Honestly, I don't see any reason why humans in a fantasy game *must* adhere to any given RL biology.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
somehow this is acceptable for elves... but I totally understand the problem.

So maybe for humans don't change ability scores, but rather alter purely physical traits like heat/cold resistance, wings, being part undead, being an aquatic race (with Aquaman being a thing, one could have easily come up with an aquatic human race)

As much as I like elven subraces, I don't like the fact that only elves are the ones who need a subrace for every little schtick just because elves are so widespread in folklore and literature.
And "humans are ALWAYS and ONLY jack of all trades" seems a bit lame... (and yes, i'd totally play a winged human. Or orc.)

To be fair, I always thought tieflings, aasimar and genasi were human subtypes, and that the underlying magical assumptions of the D&D cosmology suggests that humans are all racially identical for stat purposes.....except when something magical changes them, often by birthright.

To look at this from a more metacultural perspective, it's pretty easy for us to all agree that one reason you don't start assigning statistics to human racial groups is because A: it's a creepy judgement and how do you quantify this, let alone justify it, from a mechanical or scientific perspective when our own human experience already tells us that the real world does not work the way D&D mechanics do, B: it's uncomfortably close to the false science of past eras and fringe groups today who want to make those judgments; and C: even if this were culturally okay for some reason, actual science indicates that there are not, in fact, racial differences that can quantifiably be identified, let alone applied using D&D mechanics in a narratively coherent fashion.

Or put another way: if I were Inuit and you told me I get cold resistance, I'd laugh at you. (EDIT: But per othr post, if you told me I was of the Winter Ice Men and my goddess had gifted us with cold resistance, I'd be like....cool, sign me up)

Anyway: D&D as I said already does this, and it does this by adding magical elements to human types which makes them more than human, and also magical. Once magical, the rules suddenly make more sense and anything goes, pretty much.
 
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Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
Or... you can just make up some cool new (meta)humans. Blue ice humans! Pale underdark humans! Psionic humans! (oh, they existed back when Elans were still a thing)
Honestly, I don't see any reason why humans in a fantasy game *must* adhere to any given RL biology.

I do that in my own campaigns, with humans of exotic skin color or unique traits. You just provided an excellent example (elan) of D&D doing it without even consulting the planes. So we're already doing this.

Exotic humans who are magical are as near as I can tell well within the limits of what D&D can and does handle. It's just that the core "baseline human" of the game is not and should not assign racial modifiers based purely on skin tone.

EDIT: More examples from fiction of human exotic magical subtypes: the Melniboneans. Hyperboreans. Lemurians. D&D could have these, sure. D&D 3rd used to have the human paragon, too.

If that's more or less all you're meaning, then I don't see any issue here.
 
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Coroc

Hero
Let the complaints about the subrace overload begin!

Avariel: They get wings that grant them a fly speed of 30 feet, and they know Auran (I guess because some of them live on the Plane of Air). That's it.

Grugach: Greyhawk gets a mention. I'm sure that will excite some folks. Primitive elves with druidic magic. Oh, and they can't speak Common automatically. Just Elvish and Sylvan.

Sea Elves: I suppose this one was inevitable, since we can already have half-sea elves thanks to the SCAG. They scan swim and breathe underwater (duh) and communicate with otters and crabs and little fishies (but not dolphins!). Oh, and they can all speak Aquan because some of them live on the Plane of Water.

Shadar-Kai: This is going to make some people mad, I just know it. "How dare they turn my favorite emo humans into elves!" At least they've still got the pale skin and loads of piercings and such. And they're still tied to the Raven Queen's apron strings.

It does not make me mad because I did never like the shadar kai concept much, but I thought they were humans. Strange that WOTC breaks with a tradition here.

Ahm and are these meant to be a replacement for drow in campaign worlds where no drow exist?

Elves being longliving obsessed with an early and cruel dead, odd on so many levels.
 

Coroc

Hero
The Shadar Kai's features are good, but I'd add Chain Weapon Prof. But make them their own race or a human variant. PS the Drow are the Emo race, the Shadar Kai are the BDSM race.

Sea Elves are awesome, but add Dolphins to the list of sea creatures they can take too.

The Grurach make a passable stand in for Wood Elves in FR.

Averiel are fine, but will be disallowed for FR play, personally I'd start them off with gliding or a feather fall type effect at level 1, then have their wings grow stronger to give them actual fight at an appriotate level.

Drow EMO race? Lulz :)

A drow priestess has more of a domina than any of those piercing and chain freaks.

Shadar kai are somehow like cenobites a bit, (hellraiser movie) I bet the idea for them came from there.
 

pukunui

Legend
It does not make me mad because I did never like the shadar kai concept much, but I thought they were humans. Strange that WOTC breaks with a tradition here.

Ahm and are these meant to be a replacement for drow in campaign worlds where no drow exist?
The shadar-kai were originally fey in 3e and became "human" in 4e. Now it looks like they might be elves.

Elves being longliving obsessed with an early and cruel dead, odd on so many levels.
Sounds like the Eberron elves.
 

I think it is easy to split the difference on the shadar-kai: they were emo humans who were turned into (even more) emo elves. Of course, I like the idea of planar subraces, so my preference would be for the s-k's to be a subrace that you can add to any race that has subraces and represents what happens to those races if members spent too much time in the Shadowfell.....
 


EvanNave55

Explorer
Something crazy: While it's not -yet- AL legal (and probably won't ever be), and most DMs would be smart enough to prevent this you can play a half-elf variant and just give up two skills to get something like the Sea Elf's swim speed and water-breathing, or the Shadar-Kai's teleport, or even the Avariel' flight. So you can give up one small portion of the (already really powerful) half-elf's abilities to gain basically the entire subrace of of another Elf.

And all of this is completely by the rules.
 

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