Playing the race card: Elves

January 4, 2019 at 9:11 pm

It would be interesting to find out what goes on in that moment when someone looks at you and draws all sorts of conclusions.”

― Malcolm Gladwell

We mentioned in a previous post that the race rules in The Fantasy Trip were a little lacking, even if they have not changed much from the previous edition. They are so stripped down that they can be easily summarized by this table:

Race ST DX IQ Pts. Benefit/Drawback
Human 8 8 8 8 n/a
Elf 6 10 8 8 MA12 unarmored /-3DX vs. insects
Dwarf 10 6 8 8 Double carrying capacity
Halfling 4 12 8 6 +1 Reaction, Thrown Weapons talent
Orc 8 8 8 8 n/a
Goblin 6 8 10 8 n/a

As you can see, other than a few shifts in starting attributes the races are virtually indistinguishable. They did write some fluff about the greedy nature of dwarves and how obnoxious an orc can be, but no real rules to back any of it up.

At first this struck us as a real failing. But we have had a change of heart. What could seem like a failure of design, could also be an opportunity to make something more personal to your campaigns and your players. Should every elf really be afraid of spiders? Are all halflings really that likeable?

In a series of previous posts we created a number of ‘packages’ to guide players in making the more standard types of fantasy characters without limiting their choices. After all, the true strength of TFT is the ability to fully customize a character. We thought this same process could for fantasy races as well.

Flavor for elves: are they magically delicious?

By the listed rules, elves are more dextrous, faster, and weaker than baseline humans. The text adds that they are an ancient race, aloof, and not very business savvy. But lets dig a little deeper into some of the typical varieties:

High Elf–
Most commonly thought of in terms of Tolkien or the Norse Ljósálfar. They are proud, haughty, and arrogant, and purposefully keep their distance from lesser races. They are perhaps the most magical of elves, and would more often become wizards rather than heroes. Without a major investment in ST, their martial choices are limited, but they would take advantage of their dexterity with fencings and missile weapons. They would lean toward artistic skills, over practical concerns, and have a natural affinity toward ste

High Elf Starting Package: ST9(+3), DX14(+4), IQ9(+1) Hero. Talents: Sword(2), Bow(2), Fencing (3), Alertness (2). Suggested advancements include master fencer, courtly manners, poet, missile weapons. If you use our Drawbacks system, High Elves are often afflicted with Overcondfident or the minor social flaw of Aloofness.

New Racial Talent: Magic Affinity (1), prerequisite: Elf. A figure with this Talent has a natural ability to work magic even without long training. A Hero can learn one spell for one points as if they were a Wizard. This Talent can be taken multiple times

Wood Elf—
This is the wilder, if not lesser, cousin of the high elf. They tend to be smaller and stealthier than the high elves, living closer to other races but staying hidden in the deep forests. They very much keep to themselves (and the creatures around them), choosing the natural world of the artificial nature of civilization. They, too, never magic, but in a morte practical manner.

Wood Elf Starting Package: ST10(+4), DX13(+3), IQ9(+1) Hero. Talents: Sword(2), Bow(2), Missile Weapons (1), Naturalist(2), Silent Movement (2). Suggested advancements include increased ST for larger bows, Stealth, Woodsman and Tracking. Wood Elves are often Distrustful (minor psychological Drwaback) of non-elves.

Deep Elf–
Whether they are a fallen branch of the high elves, or merely elves that have chosen to seek power in the depths of the Earth, deep elves (known as Drow or Svartálfar) are often portrayed as villains. They are deep blue-black in coloring, and covet power more than anything. They live deep underground mining and working gems and precious metals, subjugating all they come across. They are as fleet as any elf, and often more intelligent, but they use their wits for cruelty and manipulation. Deep elves are masters of chemistry and use the secrets they have unearthed to create powerful poisons and potions.

Deep Elf Starting Package: ST8(+2), DX12(+2), IQ12(+4) Wizard. Talents: Knife(2), Chemist (3),; Spells: Staff I & II, Magic Fist, Dark Vision, 3-Hex Shadow, Silent Movement, Drain Strength. Suggested advancements include Alchemist, Thrown Weapons, Invisibility and Control Person. Deep Elves are Outsiders away from their lands, and are often Mean or Vindictive.

Cobbler Elf–
Contrary to their reclusive kin, these elves seek out other societies and work with them, even if they do not blend in. They adopt the clothing and mannerism of those around them, but maintain their elven goals and aspirations. Many become sought after craftsmen and artisans, bringing their long years of skill and deft hands to good use creating objects of near magical wonder. These elves may not often take up the adventuring trade, but occasionally curiosity gets the better of one and the leave the workshop to see the world.

Cobbler Elf Starting Package: ST10(+4), DX11(+1), IQ11(+4) Hero. Talents: Sword (2), Crossbow (1), Mundane Skill, Professional (3), Literacy (1), Charisma (2), Diplomacy (1), and Recognize Value.(1) Suggested advancements include additional mundane skills, Assess Value, and even Mechanician. Cobbler Elves are known to be curious, and can be Perfectionists (minor Psychological drawback).

New Talent: Mundane Skill Mastery (IQ10). Gives a figure complete mastery over any mundane skill they already have. A master can usually demand 50% higher wages (on the Table of Jobs), and uses one less die on any roll regarding the use of a skill. A skill master can make an IQ test to create objects for 50% higher value, or in 50% less time.

Do guidelines like these help players create characters with flavor and personality without having to start from a blank slate every time? Are elves in your campaign different in a cool, new way? Or have we missed the mark on this completely? Let us know in the comments below.