[Proposal] A Blast From the Past

okay, so I was just reading the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea World Guide and it mentions something in the section on Elves that brought back an old memory from back in the day when I used to play Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition.

This reference was their mention of a sub-race of Elves known as "Aquatic Elves" who aside from the following differenes are virtually identical to traditional elves:


  • They have to have the aquatic sub-type.
  • They have the amphibious special quality.
  • They have a swim speed of 30 feet (same land speed as a normal elf).
  • They replace the standard Elf weapon familiarity with the following weapons: Rapier's, Short Swords, Tridents, and any weapon with the word "Elven" in the name.
In effect these Elves are the classic Aquatic Elf that was present in Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition, and featured prominently in the Dragonlance Novels. I was wondering, since we have Mermaids, would it be so far fetched to assume that we also have Aquatic Elves in the oceans of our game world? I am not asking whether it would be possible to add these as a player character race necessarily, but rather just for the possibility of adding them as a tool for Dungeon Masters if they so wish it.


Reference Material was found on page 25 of the Inner Sea World Guide.
 

HolyMan

Thy wounds are healed!
The world has a lot of ocean in it there could be aquatic -gnomes, orcs, and ogres. A whole other world as it were.

You mentioned merfolk and that got me to thinking. Have we ever done a history of the merfolk race? I remember starting something as I was trying to give them a reason to be on land or at least crossing it to get to the larger of the two inner seas.

I don't see why an adventure with aquatic elves couldn't be made. This is RPGing and their is no limits to the imagination. If the race is added maybe they are like a myth (even to merfolk - who envy them having legs) or they don't have a nation and cities but are nomadic and follow the currents, and are seen rarely.

What were you thinking of doing with them?

HM
 

GlassEye

Community Supporter
I'm not a fan of a myriad number of sub-races. There are plenty of unique races, aquatic or otherwise, to fill niches without having to rebrand all the 'regular' races in those niches.
 
To answer your question HolyMan, I was thinking of the possibility of an adventure at some point that centers around a community of Aquatic Elves. But I haven't worked out all the details as of yet.

I'm not a fan of a myriad number of sub-races. There are plenty of unique races, aquatic or otherwise, to fill niches without having to rebrand all the 'regular' races in those niches.
So you wouldn't want to have Drow existing in the storyline for this very same reason? Or how about Deugar? Just because these races are additional sub races doesn't mean they aren't important parts of the fantasy experience.
 

GlassEye

Community Supporter
Drow and Duergar are a different case. They have their own entries in the Bestiary. Yes, we could use the 3.5 aquatic elf updated to Pathfinder (if and where necessary) but merfolk have been the main underwater race since early on in LPF and I kinda think that using aquatic elves would detract from that. Undines and locathah are other neutral to good underwater races in the Bestiary. Plus elves have a very specific history in E'n that I don't really feel aquatic elves fit into.

Let me ask you this: what do aquatic elves bring to the table that can't be filled by merfolk or one of the other aquatic races already in existence?
 
Drow and Duergar are a different case. They have their own entries in the Bestiary. Yes, we could use the 3.5 aquatic elf updated to Pathfinder (if and where necessary) but merfolk have been the main underwater race since early on in LPF and I kinda think that using aquatic elves would detract from that. Undines and locathah are other neutral to good underwater races in the Bestiary. Plus elves have a very specific history in E'n that I don't really feel aquatic elves fit into.

Let me ask you this: what do aquatic elves bring to the table that can't be filled by merfolk or one of the other aquatic races already in existence?
I fail to see what in that history specifically excludes Aquatic Elves from being part of E'n. In fact logistically speaking the very fact that the history doesn't mention the existence of Aquatic Elves (or for that matter the existence of the Drow) could be said to be a further reason to allow them both specifically. It could also be argued as a reason to ignore them both, but either argument could be made depending on who is arguing it.

Fact remains that Aquatic Elves have traditionally been a part of Dungeons and Dragons for a rather long time, and they are specifically mentioned as existing in the world of Golarion, even if they aren't part of the Beastiary. In point of fact one of the alternate Racial Traits for Elves that is present in the Advanced Players Guide already puts Elves pretty darn close to being Aquatic Elves to begin with.

Spirit of the Waters: Some elves have adapted to life in tune with the sea or along the reedy depths of wild rivers and lakes. They gain a +4 racial bonus on swim checks, can always take 10 while swimming, and may choose Aquan as a bonus language. They are proficient with longspear, trident, and net. This racial trait replaces elven magic and weapon familiarity racial Traits.

The only thing that this alternate racial trait doesn't do is grant the Elf in question the Aquan Sub-Type, or the Amphibious Trait. So if a character really wanted to play an Elf with an affinity for water they effectively could even without your say so I suppose. All I am suggesting is that we go ahead and approve Aquatic Elves for use for Dungeon Masters.
 

GlassEye

Community Supporter
None of which answers my question.

To be blunt, I don't care what happened in 2nd edition D&D. I don't care what happens in Golarion. I care what happens in E'n.
 

Systole

Community Supporter
I'd like to see the race balanced before it were even submitted for consideration, and frankly, freebie amphibious subtype is clearly not balanced.
 

Qik

Visitor
As an aside, I personally view the Spirit of the Waters racial trait as replacing the conventional elven affinity with the forest with an affinity with water, but not giving them the necessary abilities to actually live in the water (i.e. amphibious and with a swim speed). So elves with that trait in my view would be very different from Aquatic Elves. I'm thinking more like Swamp People Elves - living on the bayou, comfortable with water, that sort of thing.
 

HolyMan

Thy wounds are healed!
My thinking is why do they have to "be" elves and thus confer with the elven history and not just be merfolk with legs?

If a captain sailing upon the ocean ran into a triton he won't know what it's called but as soon as he saw the pointed ears he'd say "Look mates a sea elf!"

Or aquatic elves in E'n could be like assamir and tieflings. But they come about through human sailors mating with tritons. They gain the amphibious trait being the offspring of both water and air breathing parents.

Just thinking they may be called sea elves or aquatic elves but they really don't need to be related do they?

HM
 
Let me ask you this: what do aquatic elves bring to the table that can't be filled by merfolk or one of the other aquatic races already in existence?
Since this apparently wasn't the rhetorical question that I thought it was, let me attempt to provide an answer for it that at least makes some sense.

First off, in my opinion Aquatic Elves provide the GM's with a means to explain the relationship between Elves and the Aquatic half of nature. Further they provide an introduction to the various Aquatic Fey of the world that otherwise may not have been possible. And yes, there are aquatic Fey out there.

Additionally it could be argued that what Holyman suggested could actually be true in that Aquatic Elves are simply the byproduct of when an Elf and a merfolk or other aquatic humanoid species mate with each other, as it is plainly clear that Elves are more than capable of mating with other species of humanoid as was evidenced by the creation of Half-Elves.

So really the question that should be being asked, is why shouldn't we allow Aquatic Elves. I think your primary nit-pick at the moment is with the assumption that if we allow these creatures as a race for use by our Dungeon Masters, that somehow the players should also be allowed to use them. This is not an accurate assumption in my opinion. Not all races that are allowed for use by the Dungeon Masters are automatically allowed for use by players. If that were the case we would have polymorphed Dragon Player Characters running around Venza right now, but we don't now do we?

I'd like to see the race balanced before it were even submitted for consideration, and frankly, freebie amphibious subtype is clearly not balanced.
so then Merfolk aren't balanced? because frankly that is essentially what they are, aquatic creatures with the amphibious subtype for free. So I fail to see what your complaint is all about.
 

GlassEye

Community Supporter
I don't think we need to explain the relationship between elves and an alternate racial trait by adding a race to the mix.

You make a fair point about aquatic fey but I still don't think that it necessitates the existence of aquatic elves. I don't need an aquatic elf to introduce or otherwise use a nereid. Just like I don't need an aerial elf to use atomies. That is my point: we don't need them; other races can fill the civilized sea creature niche. (Please note that the balance/player use objection was never mine.)

The whole 'cross-breed' issue is more a statement about human versatility than elven, I think. I've never liked the idea that just because two races are humanoid (or not, in some cases) that there should be a cross-breed race. I much prefer the idea of mistaken identity: "Look! An aquatic elf!" Well, no, it's actually a merfolk...

If you want aquatic elves in the setting you would be much more likely to sway me with a well-written proposal that deals with how they fit into E'n (like the elf & dwarf write-ups on the wiki or HM's recent Pell proposal) rather than saying we should have them because they exist in a monster book somewhere else.
 
If you want aquatic elves in the setting you would be much more likely to sway me with a well-written proposal that deals with how they fit into E'n (like the elf & dwarf write-ups on the wiki or HM's recent Pell proposal) rather than saying we should have them because they exist in a monster book somewhere else.
I would argue that denying the existence of alternate subspecies out of hand completely disregards the path that evolution would take on a planet. Afterall even on a planet like our own (Earth) there are hundreds of thousands of subspecies of a given superspecies of creatures.

Take Dogs for example, there are approximately over 150 breeds fo dog registered with the American Kennel Club. That doesn't even include the breeds that have yet to be registered with the Kennel Club, nor does it include breeds that are not present in the United States. Further it doesn't even take into account Mutts either.

So in essence the multiplicity of subspecies is something that happens in the real world, so why on earth would it not happen in a fantasy world on a much smaller scale than it would in the real world.

Further, I would be inclined to write up a in depth article explaining the place of Aquatic Elves in the world of E'n. However my desire to write up such an article would be largely dependent on my ability to utilize Aquatic Elves, and possibly some other species of elves such as the Drow, in a possible adventure I am thinking of running in the near future. I wouldn't really be inclined to write up such an in depth article for either race if one or both are disallowed as available races in E'n.
 

Systole

Community Supporter
Merfolk do not have the amphibious subtype for free. They pay for it (and other things) with a 5' movement on land.

Elven racials are balanced. Elven racials with amphibious bolted on top of them are not balanced.
 
Okay since it appears I am going to have to do this in order to get it approved for use by the Judges. Here is what the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Monsters Manual uses to describe an Aquatic Elf.


  • Gains the Aquatic Subtype
  • +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence.
  • Medium Size.
  • Base Land Speed of 30 feet, and a Swim Speed of 40 feet.
  • Gills: Aquatic Elves can survive out of water for 1 hour per point of constitution that they have (After that, refer to the suffocation rules on page 304 of the Dungeon Masters Guide).
  • Immunity to Magic Sleep Effects, and a +2 Racial Saving Throw Bonus against enchantment spells and effects.
  • Superior Low-Light Vision: Aquatic Elves can see four times as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of low illumination.
  • Weapon Proficiency: recieves Martial Weapon Proficiency feats for Longswords, Rapiers, Longbows (including Composite versions), and Shortbows (including Composite versions).
  • +2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. And an Elf who passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a search check to notice it.
  • Automatic Languages: Common, Elven / Bonus Languages: Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan
  • Favored Class: Fighter
Now looking at the Aquatic Elf from Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 it would be easy to make an Aquatic Elf subspecies for Pathfinder that conforms to the rules apparently set out by the judges of Living Pathfinder.



  • Aquatic Subtype
  • +2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence
  • Medium Size
  • Base Speed: 30 feet // Swim Speed: 40 feet
  • Superior Low-Light Vision: Can see four times as well as humans in conditions of dim light.
  • Spirit of the Waters: +4 Racial Bonus on Swim Checks, can always take a 10 while swimming, and may choose Aquan as a bonus language. Proficient with Longspear, Trident and Nets.
  • Elven Immunities: Immune to Magic Sleep Effects and a +2 Racial Saving Throw Bonus against Enchantment Spells and Effects.
  • Keen Senses: +2 racial bonus on perception checks.
  • Gills: Aquatic Elves can survive out of water for 1 hour per point of constitution that they have (After that, refer to the suffocation rules).
  • Languages: Aquatic Elves begin play knowing Common, and Elven. They can further learn Aboleth, Aklo, Draconic, Sahuagin, and Sylvan as bonus languages based on their Intelligence Modifier.
I have to wonder if that particular drawback is a sufficient drawback to enable Aquatic Elves to exist within the world of E'n or not? As that was the traditional drawback associated with Aquatic Elves afterall.
 

IronWolf

blank
In looking at this proposal should I be doing it through the as a GM option lens or through the as a possible player race lens?
 
In looking at this proposal should I be doing it through the as a GM option lens or through the as a possible player race lens?
Currently I would like it as a GM option, not as a player race. So I would assume you would look at it through the GM Option Lens. That was the assumption I was going on. Though I get the impression that many of the other judges are looking at it from the perspective of a player race lens for some reason (hence the balance issues that seem to be arising for some reason).
 

Qik

Visitor
I'm not trying to be a grumpy guss here, but my feelings are similar to GE's: I'm not really keen on the idea of just having elves that swim and live under water, and otherwise are just elves. It just clashes with my sense of the race.

I'm not passing judgement; just giving my initial opinion.
 

IronWolf

blank
As long as we are looking at it from the GM's side of the screen I don't have much trouble with a Sea Elf. They could make for another fun underwater civilization, perhaps a small one and really in the end is simply another tool for the GM.

While I know the history of other campaign worlds does not dictate what happens in E'n or is necessarily justification for what happens in E'n, it certainly isn't like Sea Elves are a new concept or have never been done before. I don't see it as game breaking (either mechanically or fluff-wise) in E'n.

Mechanically I can see not wanting the amphibious special quality handed out. I'm not the crunch guru here, but I think taking the elf race, slapping acquatic and gills on it (possibly swapping something out for the addition of gills), weapon swaps, would put us in the right ballpark, right?

In either case, I think the mechanics could be pretty easily hashed out with some back and forth with Systole and SK on this one to come up with something that is a non-issue mechanically.

That would seem to leave us with the fluff portion. So far we've talked a lot of mechanics. So maybe adding your thoughts from a fluff perspective would help a bit DC. How do they fit in with the world and such. Is this a large group of elves? A small civilization? How pervasive are they?

Keep in mind, all of my thoughts on sea elves are with regards to them being an NPC only race. I would not support opening them up as a playable race, but I've made that more or less clear in other race threads!
 
Okay I went ahead and came up with some fluff for how I feel that the Aquatic Elves fit into the world of E'n as an NPC only Race. I hope this meets with approval from the judges because this is the best I think I can do here.

AQUATIC ELVES

The Aquatic Elves or Uisceach Sídhe (translated from Irish it means "Aquatic Fairy"): are similar in many regards to the Elves of the surface. Unlike their landbound cousins however, these Elves are almost completely forced to dwell under the surface of the water. They can come to the surface world for only short periods of time. Any longer and they would effectively drown in the environment that is as alien to them as the underwater world is to humans.

Like their land born cousins, the Aquatic Elves hail from the Otherworld. The vast oceans and above ground tributaries and aqueducts of the Otherworld allowed the Aquatic Elves far more freedom in where they could go than is granted them while they are on E’n. However they still manage to survive here with relative ease in a few centralized communities around the world.

The music of the Aquatic Elves is at once haunting and beautiful. They have refined art forms that utilize Coral, Aquatic Mammalian and Fish Bones, as well as Shells to create some of the most beautiful items on the face of E’n. The Laws of the Aquatic Elves are as shifting and malleable as the tides of the Ocean. Thus it is usually up to each individual Aquatic Elf to determine his own path in life and what is right or wrong for him.

Most of the population of the Aquatic Elves has opted to remain in the Otherworld. A small percentage however have come to the Border Realms and freely traverse between those realms and the mortal world. This allows for a continuous flowing of knowledge between the Aquatic Elves and the non-Fey Aquatic Races such as the Merfolk. Without such interaction the Aquatic Elves could likely be considered the most xenophobic of the Elven races, an honor that usually goes more readily to the Drow. Unlike most other types of Elf, the Aquatic Elves have not built any cities on the mortal world, as they really have no use for such cities living in the Ocean and all. They live, and seek shelter wherever they can find such accommodations in the vast oceans and rivers of the world.

The Aquatic Elf Courts, while similar to those of the Surface Elves are also structured differently in many ways. Instead of being a feudal system, the Aquatic Elves seem to be based more on a judiciary system. They have a council of 100 Magistrates who oversee any disputes between any individual Aquatic Elves. This in effect allows the various individuals in the community the most freedom of choice in their lives.

It is even rarer amongst Aquatic Elves than it is among the surface dwelling Elves for a member of the community to be exiled. This is because of the fact that it is rather difficult to exile an Elf who cannot survive on land for very long from the bodies of water that make up the homes of the Aquatic Elves. Thus Exile amongst the Aquatic Elves usually ends up being commuted to a death sentence instead and even that is rare. The most common case for an Exile/Death Sentence would be something on the scale of a violation of the laws of nature or something that endangers the balance of the waters on such a grand scale that it risks turning everything in the world on its head.

Aquatic Elves tend to be longer and lither than their land based cousins. The males rarely have hair so as to streamline themselves in the water, though the females will usually wear their hair long. What hair they do have is usually in shades of blues and greens. Additionally their skin is also a shade of yellowish-green. Their fingers and toes are webbed much like a fishes fins. And they have gills that oxygenate the water so that they can breathe. Unlike more traditional elves, their favored weapons are Nets, Tridents, and Spears. They are however also somewhat familiar with Elven Blades, though they rarely use them.

Aquatic Elves rarely if ever leave the oceans. Thus to find an Aquatic Elf as an Adventurer is exceedingly rare. Those that are found are likely to be some form of spellcaster who is able to make it so that they can breathe while on land without suffering for too long. And even then the Elf would be uncomfortable without getting soaked in a large body of water frequently
 

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