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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SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Funny anecdote...

In my world, kobolds are highly area/terrain/association morphic. Just a generation or less depending on intensity/proximity and you have sub breeds. (the basic kobold is the yip yip dog type).

So dragonic kobolds. Kobolds that are worshiping a pig demon, start growing orc like tusks etc. Fishy kobolds (murlocs). Beast kobolds, etc.


So one day, a player in character noted that elves are also very morphic and adaptive to the environment. He was beginning to speculate a connection to kobolds when the rest of the group "shushed" him quickly.

They were in the High Elven Battle Academy feasthall...
 

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Lylandra

Adventurer
Sure, you can use whatever reason is appropriate to explain why there are so many elven subraces. But it boils down to (in your cases quite literally) "Word of God". There is no real, actual reason to exclude other races like orcs from more subrace options (like, those who really have different ways of living or physical qualities based on setting) or to simply not create a race at all (Undine, Merfolk) just to have another color coded elf. Besides marketing reasons, of course ;)
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Sure, you can use whatever reason is appropriate to explain why there are so many elven subraces. But it boils down to (in your cases quite literally) "Word of God". There is no real, actual reason to exclude other races like orcs from more subrace options (like, those who really have different ways of living or physical qualities based on setting) or to simply not create a race at all (Undine, Merfolk) just to have another color coded elf. Besides marketing reasons, of course ;)

I think I agree with this the most.

We can make it make sense in any way you want, but I'd rather see some more interesting races and options than more elves.

I find the Firbolg's from Volo's and the Goliaths kind of interesting mechanically (Goliath's not so much culturally) and it could be cool to have actual subraces for those, I'd be curious to see some differing versions of dwarves and gnomes, what about Dragonborn?

There are lots of different things we could do rather than 51 flavors of Elf, and some of them might even be more interesting to look into.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I would enjoy the game more if the design of the Elf race lets the player choose which traits the Elf character expresses. So far, 5e has twelve Elf cultures, yet none of them are the kind of D&D Elf that I want. If it would be easier to swap in the desirable traits, I would already have the kind(s) of Elf that I am looking for. Only one customizable Elf design is necessary, instead of tens of special snowflake Elf designs. The Elf is a central archetype of D&D, and it is important that players are satisfied with the Elf that they want to play.
 

R_Chance

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."

No actually I agreed with that part. That's why I said the culture should adapt to the environment. I should have made that clearer I guess :)
 


R_Chance

Adventurer
Sure, you can use whatever reason is appropriate to explain why there are so many elven subraces. But it boils down to (in your cases quite literally) "Word of God". There is no real, actual reason to exclude other races like orcs from more subrace options (like, those who really have different ways of living or physical qualities based on setting) or to simply not create a race at all (Undine, Merfolk) just to have another color coded elf. Besides marketing reasons, of course ;)

Uh, and "word of god" is a bad idea in a fantasy game? :) In my game it was a pair of wars involving lots of magic, chaos, and Elves who had essentially become gods. One war against a Demonic incursion followed by a civil war among the Elves (leading to the 4 Elvish sub-races; High Elf, Wood Elf, Sea Elf and Dark Elf). Thousands of years of war which nearly destroyed the world and magic well beyond the capability of "modern" magic.

Don't worry, I only have 3 Orc sub-races. Only 2 Goblin, because my Goblins are individually highly variable and tribes will sport different characteristics depending on their environment. 3 Dwarvish, 5 if you count Gnomes and Kobolds (degenerate Dwarves in my game). Oh, and Goblins (and Hobgoblins) are related to Elves. And Orcs to Humans. Then there are the Fey... and Centaurs and all those other "part of this, part of that" creatures. *sigh* It gets complex and less than PG. Arghh!!! And Giants and Dragons (my world started with only one type of each).

This explanation of diversity was the result of a long running (43 year old currently) campaign working to explain all the various sub races with a DM having degrees in history and cultural anthropology...

*edit* My Humans (not counting their racially diverged cousins, i.e. Orcs, and half breeds like Half Elves and Half Orcs, sport 3 main and a number of minor cultures, which differ in significant ways, but not physically.
 
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Azzy

KMF DM
While more elven subraces are (and have been) uninspired, I think it's a good thing to support options from previous editions (now if we can get some of those other, non-elven, races, too).
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
While more elven subraces are (and have been) uninspired, I think it's a good thing to support options from previous editions (now if we can get some of those other, non-elven, races, too).

Sure, but they should give us some significant cultural difference to enhance the roleplaying aspect of the subraces as well, instead of just altering the mechanics and slapping a "_____ Elf" sticker on it.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Sure, but they should give us some significant cultural difference to enhance the roleplaying aspect of the subraces as well, instead of just altering the mechanics and slapping a "_____ Elf" sticker on it.
I don't think so. Only a brief description is really needed. If they want to put in cultural information for them then that is more for a setting book in my opinion. The players and DMs should be adding the information for the culture to the subraces if they use them.

The signature of champions.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
I don't think so. Only a brief description is really needed. If they want to put in cultural information for them then that is more for a setting book in my opinion. The players and DMs should be adding the information for the culture to the subraces if they use them.

The signature of champions.

I didn't say they had to write 5-10 pages about it. I just said they needed to have a significant cultural difference. There should be something in the subrace that actually justifies its existence as more than a bag of alternate mechanics.
 

cbwjm

Legend
I didn't say they had to write 5-10 pages about it. I just said they needed to have a significant cultural difference. There should be something in the subrace that actually justifies its existence as more than a bag of alternate mechanics.
I guess I just don't see a significant cultural difference as a need for justifying a subrace.

The signature of champions.
 

I don't think so. Only a brief description is really needed. If they want to put in cultural information for them then that is more for a setting book in my opinion. The players and DMs should be adding the information for the culture to the subraces if they use them.
I'd prefer more information about their culture, place in the setting etc. For example I'm still a little fuzzy on why there needs to be a difference between wood elves and wild elves. I'd like something a little more nuanced than "This elf subrace is optimised for these classes, and this other elf subrace is optimised for these classes instead."
 

cbwjm

Legend
I'd prefer more information about their culture, place in the setting etc. For example I'm still a little fuzzy on why there needs to be a difference between wood elves and wild elves. I'd like something a little more nuanced than "This elf subrace is optimised for these classes, and this other elf subrace is optimised for these classes instead."

That's why I mentioned that it is for a setting book to expand on it. They have the stats of the subrace and a short blurb about them I really don't need any more than that for a UA article, they could have even gone "This is how we'd do sea elves" and left it at that. If they later add them to a book then that is where I'd like to see more information in how they fit into a setting but in an article providing playtest material, not so much.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
I didn't say they had to write 5-10 pages about it. I just said they needed to have a significant cultural difference. There should be something in the subrace that actually justifies its existence as more than a bag of alternate mechanics.

But wouldn't the culture depend on the DMs world?
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Sure, but they should give us some significant cultural difference to enhance the roleplaying aspect of the subraces as well, instead of just altering the mechanics and slapping a "_____ Elf" sticker on it.
UA is mostly about mechanics, not fluff too much: that's what the books are for once they've got the feel and mechanics down.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
But wouldn't the culture depend on the DMs world?

Yes and no.

Yes, because DM's can make their worlds be whatever they want.

No, because if "culture depends on the DM's world" were actually applied then none of the races or subraces in the PHB would have any culture descriptions. Either culture depends on the DM's world, and none of the races or subraces should have culture descriptions, or DMs have the right to make their worlds however they want but each race and subrace will be described with a default culture (which is the paradigm that the PHB uses).
 

ZickZak

Explorer
I play only elves really, or half elves, and the Shadar-kai subrace is exactly what I would want for Hexblade, my main. Not only from RP PoV, but also because Thaumaturgy and Teleportation are the two features I would pick for my race if I could chose from anything.
Whether or not the Teleport resistances are there isnt important to me.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
Sure, but they should give us some significant cultural difference to enhance the roleplaying aspect of the subraces as well, instead of just altering the mechanics and slapping a "_____ Elf" sticker on it.

Oh, I certainly wouldn't be opposed to that. Definitely something I plan to do anyway the next time I run a campaign (which will be using a homebrew setting).
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Yes and no.

Yes, because DM's can make their worlds be whatever they want.

No, because if "culture depends on the DM's world" were actually applied then none of the races or subraces in the PHB would have any culture descriptions. Either culture depends on the DM's world, and none of the races or subraces should have culture descriptions, or DMs have the right to make their worlds however they want but each race and subrace will be described with a default culture (which is the paradigm that the PHB uses).

Fair enough.
 

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