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)."


Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 00.22.33.png

 
Last edited by a moderator:

log in or register to remove this ad

pukunui

Legend
And all of this is completely by the rules.
Not really. The half-elf variant sidebar in the SCAG doesn't allow for open season on all elf subraces. Just the ones listed. It's possible they might open it up in the future, but at the moment, using it to give a half-elf an avariel's wings would *not* be "completely by the rules".
 

log in or register to remove this ad

EvanNave55

Explorer
Not really. The half-elf variant sidebar in the SCAG doesn't allow for open season on all elf subraces. Just the ones listed. It's possible they might open it up in the future, but at the moment, using it to give a half-elf an avariel's wings would *not* be "completely by the rules".
Ah, I guess you are right. The way I remembered it, it listed some options as examples and said any elf subrace trait could be the replacement, but I guess not.

When I tried just looking it up online earlier to confirm I came across several places that just said a trait from the elven parentage like this one, so it might confuse other people as well. However, looking it up from the book, it does restrict to that specific table of options.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

pukunui

Legend
When I tried just looking it up online earlier to confirm I came across several places that just said a trait from the elven parentage like this one ...
I think the problem there is that the Half-Elf Variants rule isn't open content, so it appears blank unless you've paid for it. Note how the last sentence ends with a colon, suggesting that there is meant to be more content following.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
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.

Yep, I totally understand why making human "subraces" can easily descend to yucky territory and why I would never ever think of using racial modifiers for existing human cultures. Our earthling humans would all work the same, that's for sure :)

Never thought about Genasi, Aasimar etc. as human subraces to be honest. I read them in a way that could apply to a lot of parent races (i.e. an aasimar who originated from a dwarven bloodline or an elven air genasi). But it would work just fine as "magical human".

Also, I really don't *need* these subraces. But it feels very weird to me that all these majorly altering features still produce "elves" and not, for example, undines, gremlins (goblin's already taken), fae and... avariel as fey subspecies and closest siblings to the original elves.
 

A while ago, there was a thread about someone being uncomfortable with stealing stuff from the barbarians in SKT, because they had some Native American elements added to the Viking elements (apparently it is totally cool to desecrate Vikings burial stuff). Even if the devs created a "brand new" race of humans, someone somewhere will decide that the "brand new" race is really just a reskinned version of a RW race, and problems will ensue. For a homebrew, go for it, but I think there is practically no chance of racial differences among humans in official D&D, particularly since you can transfer any gimmick for the new race to a new subrace of elves, dwarves, dragonborn, halflings, etc. with minimal social risk.

The Drow I think are a particular good example of how to make this work. Every so once in a while a protest that "the black elves are the evil ones" comes up, but it rarely goes anywhere. Partially (and possible the major reason) is that the Drow are popular. But it is also that the Drow don't do stereotypical "evil black" things: no shrunken heads or cannibal stew pots, native Drow don't go on rampages, Drow religion is as sophisticated as any other, the government isn't based on a petty warlord, and I don't recall any "gangsta" Drow (although if Michael Bay directs D&D the Movie, I am sure that will change). If anything stereotypical Drow fit the "Yellow Peril" type of evil, but they aren't yellow or oriental....
 
Last edited by a moderator:



Zero Cochrane

Explorer
For most campaigns, I don't think it is a good idea to just give a character the ability to fly, especially when fly is a 3rd-level spell and the draconic sorcerer doesn't gain wings until 14th level. It allows him to overcome many situations that would challange any character who cannot fly.

For player character races that can fly, consider the following progression of flight ability, based on character level:
1st level -- You can use an action to descend slowly as if a featherfall spell were cast upon you.
2nd level -- You can use a bonus action to descend slowly as if a featherfall spell were cast upon you.
3rd level -- As part of a move action, you can cause yourself to descend slowly as if a featherfall spell were cast upon you.
6th level -- You can make a "flight-assisted jump": your minimum horizontal jumping distance equals half your racial Fly Speed.
10th level -- You can fly at half your racial Fly Speed, but must land at the end of your turn or descend as per 3rd level.
12th level -- You can fly at your racial Fly Speed, but must land at the end of your turn or descend as per 3rd level.
14th level -- You can fly indefinitely at your racial Fly Speed.
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
IMO, you get sub-races of Elves, Dwarves etc. and not Humans because there are physical differences between the other species sub-races, and not just cultural ones. The Elves in AD&D were differed in size, life span, level limits, base characteristics and so on, it was more than simply cosmetic or cultural. Drow were not Drow just because of pigmentation. Cultural differences can be accounted for with Backgrounds or access to different Classes or Sub-Classes. You wouldn't need different sub-races for that.

If you want sub-races of Humans, they should be physically / biologically different as well. Standard Humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) versus, say Neanderthals (Homo Neanderthalensis), or one of the other existing (or some imaginary) types of Human. Then you have some reason for differences in abilities (and life span, etc.). Otherwise the differences between standard Humans are best done as Backgrounds.

Of course, given the rough similarities in form between Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Orcs, etc. and the apparent ability of some of them to interbreed, you might say you already have your variant Humans. Or Humans might be the variant...

Just a thought. In my game world the differences between the different sub-races of the species go back to a cataclysmic ancient war fought with high magic, divine power and raw chaos. Hence the physical differences between sub-races within a historical rather than evolutionary time frame. It works for me. It explains the physical differences, the divergence in culture, their adaptations to radically different environments (i.e. the sea) and so on. Oh, and the hatreds :) The origins of the separate races go back further in my games history.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
Virtually every elf subrace is "(insert environment type here) Elf." Sky Elves, Water Elves, Forest Elves, etc.

Generally, I feel like elf subraces are sort of lazy: we get a new race, but not really, because it's just another elf, frequently with little to no real cultural differences in their descriptions. I'd have much rather gotten a merfolk race than aquatic elves. On the plus side, at least we got winged Tieflings and Air-a-Coca-Colas before getting winged elves.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
Virtually every elf subrace is "(insert environment type here) Elf." Sky Elves, Water Elves, Forest Elves, etc.

Generally, I feel like elf subraces are sort of lazy: we get a new race, but not really, because it's just another elf, frequently with little to no real cultural differences in their descriptions. I'd have much rather gotten a merfolk race than aquatic elves. On the plus side, at least we got winged Tieflings and Air-a-Coca-Colas before getting winged elves.

To be fair, environment is a primary reason for biological diversity as species adapt to a different set of circumstances. On the surface, it makes sense to have different types of Elves etc. by environment. In an intelligent tool using species however, technology should, to an extent, insulate it from having to adapt biologically tp different environments. That's why I tossed war, magic, and de-civilization into the mix in my game worlds history to explain why intelligent species would see physical changes to adapt to environments rather than simply using technology (or in D&D magic) to mitigate environmental challenges or to bend the environment to their will.

Culturally Elf (or any other races) sub-races should have adapted their culture to suit their environment. The question here is how much is nature (biology) and how much is nurture (culture).
 
Last edited by a moderator:


MechaPilot

Explorer
To be fair, environment is a primary reason for biological diversity as species adapt to a different set of circumstances. On the surface, it makes sense to have different types of Elves etc. by environment. In an intelligent tool using species however, technology should, to an extent, insulate it from having to adapt biologically tp different environments. That's why I tossed war, magic, and de-civilization into the mix in my game worlds history to explain why intelligent species would see physical changes to adapt to environments rather than simply using technology (or in D&D magic) to mitigate environmental challenges or to bend the environment to their will.

Culturally Elf (or any other races) sub-races should have adapted their culture to suit their environment. The question here is how much is nature (biology) and how much is nurture (culture).

Elves origins in folklore as nature spirits has a lot to do with environmental theming, I reckon.

Sorry, but I believe you missed a significant part of my objection and why I call many elf subraces lazy. I have bolded it below.

Virtually every elf subrace is "(insert environment type here) Elf." Sky Elves, Water Elves, Forest Elves, etc.

Generally, I feel like elf subraces are sort of lazy: we get a new race, but not really, because it's just another elf, frequently with little to no real cultural differences in their descriptions. I'd have much rather gotten a merfolk race than aquatic elves. On the plus side, at least we got winged Tieflings and Air-a-Coca-Colas before getting winged elves.

Most elf subraces are basically this:
"They're ice elves. They live in the arctic, so they get different stat bonuses and have cold resistance. Culture? Ehhh, they're elves. But with ice."
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Sorry, but I believe you missed a significant part of my objection and why I call many elf subraces lazy. I have bolded it below.

Most elf subraces are basically this:
"They're ice elves. They live in the arctic, so they get different stat bonuses and have cold resistance. Culture? Ehhh, they're elves. But with ice."

Yep, that's what I found lazy as well. And especially strange when compared to humans. (Yes, I know and already discussed why it is morally acceptable to have elves "mutate" to adapt biologically to their environment and why it would be yucky to do the same carbon-copied with humans. But that doesn't make it better for elves).

Now I know that AD&D introduced a LOT of elves, depending on setting and environment. I'm not sure why they did this (maybe because of setting diversity, maybe because of Tolkien or because of popular demand), but that doesn't mean that re-inventing all of them just because they existed in the 80's is necessarily a good thing.

Now I don't want to say all elves (or humans? or orcs?) in all settings should be the same culturally or biologically. Doing a Dark Sun setting? Include the DS elf culture and - if needed - stat adjustments into the setting book. Doing Eberron? Remember to mention that their Drow are different and how this impacts their race in the setting. Doing FR? Then please include all the elf- and dwarf- and human people (Netherese? Firbolg?) that existed there, if not in the campaign setting, then please in a special player's guide.

And maybe, just maybe, some of the "elves" can become fully developed races. Like Mecha Pilot mentioned earlier, merfolk or Undine (if you don't want fishtails) could easily replace "sea elves" and I really believe that Tolkien would forgive the devs for this step forward.
 

Bitbrain

ORC (Open RPG) horde ally
I've always been of the opinion that the reason for all the different sub-races of elves in fantasy is because evolution is somehow accelerated for the elves.

Not sure how such a phenomena would be possible in real life.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
I've always been of the opinion that the reason for all the different sub-races of elves in fantasy is because evolution is somehow accelerated for the elves.

Not sure how such a phenomena would be possible in real life.

"Accelerated evolution" is usually seen in species that reproduce rapidly and in masses, i.e. bacteria. Biologically speaking, evolution is random trial and error. So considering that elves live long, have long childhoods and reproduce slowly... it would be biologically more likely for goblins to have myriads of subraces. If you want to put RL biology on the table that is.

What you mean is adaptability. Which means that a species is able to quickly adapt to any given environment without having to alter the "base code" of said species (remember how "bald" domestic pigs grow masses of fur after three genereations in the wild? That's not evolution, that's re-activating already existing genes...). And by D&D standards, the race with the highest adaptability would be humans as their base stats allow for the biggest variances.
 

Remathilis

Legend
The problem is you are all thinking about it in terms of science. Think in terms of magic.

Elves are fey, and as such highly adaptable to the environment they live in. Couple this with the fact their Gods are highly chaotic, and you get deities changing elves to be "in thier own image", winged elves for the sky God, sea elves for the sea God, dark elves for the demon goddess, etc. The change isn't immediate, but over a few generations, the environment and deities can take a group of elves and remake them into a new sub-species.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
To take this a step further, the long-lived elves are closer to the divine as a race, and through their association and close communion with certain gods they take on the affinities of those gods. This happens primarily through developing their culture under the tutelage of some god, but because of the powerful divine magic to which they have access, their physical nature is changed as well. So we have wood elves resulting from an association with the God of the Hunt, and high elves resulting from an association with the gods of holiness that dwell in the high places. It might be interesting to develop a system of elven subraces based on the divine domains.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Its my opinion that the plethora of elven species is so DMs can pick and choose the right ones for their style campaign.

Not necessarily all types existing in the same world/game. Of course exceptions exist (FR).
 

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top