Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Races: Common Elves

“A flawless rose of the deepest crimson for my charm *and* my company? M’lord is much too gracious...and too hasty. This one was plucked too soon, I fear- see how tight the petals are? Worry not, though, it will look as good upon my dress as I do on your arm tonight...but I fear a headache after dessert will force me to retire somewhat earlier than expected... alone. Crossbreed it with another rose? M’lord jests. I may be that kind of girl, but I am not that kind of elf.”

Silkentongue, a sorceress bartering a spell component for a banquet while forgoing the night’s entertainment

Common elves are the other side of the sylvan coin. They are a noticeably pale and small-bodied people who survive through charm, subterfuge, and the magic that flows through their veins. While it is a known fact that common elves and true elves were once the same people, no two sages can agree how they diverged from one another. Unfortunately, the most popular theory paints an unflattering picture.

When the borders to the Yggdrasil closed, the elves that were traveling the land found themselves dispossessed- all attempts to enter the Yggdrasil simply deposited them somewhere along its borders after a few hours or days of travel within. Angry and confused, they quickly blamed the Interlopers for their troubles. The zealots took up arms with the dragons and lent their eldritch might to their armies. As a result, they were responsible for the deaths of deities both great and small, and the most powerful of the Shining Ones cursed those responsible with their dying breaths. When the smoke from the Divine War cleared, they were changed. They had become pale and prone to the sun’s fury due to the curses of Denoth. Usharia, Goddess of the Seas, cursed them to be as fertile as humans. Haloush, the Winged One cursed them to be frail, and Wune himself twisted their magics to reflect their inner darkness. Thus, they became a race all their own- among the first of what would come to be known as the Third Races. That they were a new and different people was lost on them at first, as in the months following the Divine War many common elves simply believed their physical peculiarities to be a side effect of being away from the Yggdrasil for so long. A group of refugees eager to return home rushed into the forest ahead of their fellows. Upon entering however, they found that the plants and animals did not respond positively to their presence, shying away from them as if they were dangerous. This chilly reception turned into unease and lethargy as the hours wore on, and by the end of the day, it was as if the forest was sapping away their very souls. The sun rose the next day to find that the expatriates had died, their bodies turned into dried, withered husks not unlike the last leaves to fall off the tree at the start of winter. The true elves who had been quietly observing these visitors looked on with horror, and quickly circulated the story around Wune: The common elves were no longer welcome in the Yggdrasil- by the will of the Yggdrasil itself.

Relations: Their role in the war earned them the favor of the dragons, and ensured that the north would be forever open to any common elf that swore fealty, but made acceptance hard to find elsewhere. Today, common elves are despised by dwarves, mistrusted by humans, and outright hated by halflings, who see even common elf children as something worse than murderers. Most distressing of all is the fact that common elves are unable to return to the Great Forest. The forest drains the very life force of any common elf that dares enter, turning them into withered corpses within a day. Their true elven forbearers look upon this phenomenon with great sadness. To be rejected by the Yggdrasil as they were would mean that they had given up their elven soul, and they treat them with the same disregard they have for all non-elves as a result. Despite this, common elves are not completely alone in the world. Their physical beauty is almost always reinforced with a strong personality that helps to win over the less prejudiced among the Second Races, while half-elves are a source of love and support by the very nature of their being. The other Third Races- half-orcs and half-dragons- find themselves to be outcasts from polite society as well, and misery always loves company. The fertility of the common elves has proven to be as much a blessing as a curse, as over the span of a few generations common elves have grown as a race into a force to be reckoned with, although their numbers remain behind humans and halflings.

Although they retain the same height, Common Elves are even smaller bodied than their True Elf predecessors are, and look outright gaunt when placed next to a human, weighing no more than 90 pounds on average. It is important to note that although their skin is pale, it is not quite as white as snow or milk- albinism occurs as rarely here as in other races. Blue veins that sometime appear on their face or their extremities increase their pallor. Both eye and hair come in two extremes- either so dark as to appear nearly black, or as fair and bright as the sun on a summer day. Exceptions do occur, and infants with red or brown hair or purple or deep blue eyes are prized. These extreme physical features are rarely unbecoming, as they come together to lend common elves an otherworldly beauty.

Although they have an easier time finding their place in the world when compared to half elves and other Third Races, common elves are still a broken people. They have adapted to their situation as best as possible, honoring their past while coping with the realities of the present with a bizarre dignity that makes even the most maladjusted common elf seem more a noble eccentric. They do not return the hatred that the other races heap upon them so eagerly (although the suspicion of their elven cousins wounds and even angers them), as they have survived by being indispensable to their few friends and a mystery to their many detractors. Their frailty lends a vulnerable air to their beatific features, but they are far from defenseless waifs to descend upon at the first opportunity. Some use the pause it so frequently gives their aggressors to defuse and charm, while others match it with whip-quick reflexes to strike first and last. While many common elves actively work to find a way to return to the Great Forest and survive within it, there is a growing minority within their community that is considering severing emotional ties with the Yggdrasil- and temporal ones with the dragons- to become a people all their own.

Naming Conventions:
While many common elves retain the naming conventions of their true elf ancestors, there is a growing population that chooses names with no small amount of irony or bitterness. For example, a lame common elf may refer to himself as Longstrider, while a hothead with a penchant for brawling may go by the title of Peacekeeper.

Common elves prefer chaos over law, with neutrality in respect to the two a distant second- as a people in exile, they are willing to do anything and everything in order to survive. Much like their true elven cousins, common elves are disinterested in the vagaries of good and evil, often choosing neutrality.

Their preferred class is sorcerer- the arcane magic that the common elves used in the Divine War lingers in their blood and is passed down from generation to generation due to Wune’s curse. Most common elves are painfully aware of the stigma their magic bears, and multiclass as a way to fit in, although there are those who either do not care or turn their sinister reputation to their advantage. Some become wizards, attempting to add potency and an ersatz legitimacy to their arcane might. Others become fighters or monks, attempting to deny or transcend their inborn magic respectively. Common elven barbarians are surprisingly common, and model themselves after the true elves they yearn to be. On the other end of the spectrum are common elf rogues and reavers, who are of the mind that they should find a new home, wherever it may lie. Common elf clerics are by and large of the draconic bent, although there are a few who seek forgiveness from the gods- or feel that they inherited their power when they slew them. Common elf paladins are both frighteningly powerful and exceedingly rare. Although there are common elves who live in rural and even forest communities (outside of the Yggdrasil of course), to date there have been no instances of common elf druids or rangers. The birth of one would be a cause for celebration for their people.

Common Elven Traits:
As Elves in the PHB except as follows:

+2 Charisma, -2 Constitution. Common Elves are beautiful and strong-willed, but are quite frail.

Common Elves receive the feat Spell Thematics free at first level, but the theme of their magic must be one of a particularly unsettling nature. It applies to ALL spells they cast- even divine ones or ones from other classes (Warlock, Hexblade, etc.). The PC should work with their DM to come up with something suitable to the campaign. Perhaps cantrips are accompanied by the wail of a mother for her stillborn child, or healing spells take the form of the cleric’s long-lost wife, who tears strips of cloth from the wedding dress she was buried in to tend to wounds with decaying hands.

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