Almost forgot to share this, it was a rush, but I go through nine different level 1 characters for Dungeons and Dragons. I was hoping that I could knock them out fast, but it took a little bit, but I got them done. And I…
I figured I’d go next for playing Dungeons and Dragons and talk about playing the different races. Previously I’ve done series on classes and backgrounds, but there’s another piece to your character creation, and that is picking your race.
For this series, I’m going to be focusing on races from the PHB (Players Handbook) and not some of the extra places that might have more races like Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, or Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Those are extra things that are cool to pick up and add into your game, but you don’t need them, having the PHB is needed.
Elves will be the first race that we talk about, for no other reason than they popped into my head, and as I was reading Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, t here was a nice section on them that I remember fairly well.
Dungeons and Dragons, like most fantasy, pulls from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings when it gets its idea for elves. The elves are long lived, generally lean towards being stand offish and aloof, because they see the world in a different way than your average human would.
An elven adventurer is probably a couple hundred to five hundred years old and has had more of a chance to hone their craft. For elves, the reason that they do go adventuring, often, is because they want to leave their mark on the world. They have hundreds of years to do that, but that also means that their mark on the world is going to be more permanent. It also means that something that might be bad for a human, because it affects their short life, might not seem as pressing for a elf. If, for example, a goblin horde was threatening an area, it might be easier for an elf to just leave that area for a little bit and let the natural infighting and breakdown of goblin society happen through a couple of generations before returning, because the elves live so long, they can simply outlast the issue. Needless to say, that view might annoy your other party members.
That long view and ability to see the larger picture are useful in dealing with some situations, but it also is going to cause issues in other situations. You aren’t going to be able to relate as well to your shorter lived companions, and you might not become attached as easily. This is another reason that elves tend to be aloof. So think about that as you play as well, as you want to have a balance and not just be the outsider who is observing everything. It might also mean that you are more apt to overlook a more pressing issue as you’re paying attention to the expected longer term outcome.
Another thing to consider, based off of the age of your elven adventurer, is how they are treated in both elven and non-elven society. In a human society, an elves knowledge when they are one hundred is going to be considered impressive. In elven society, an elf who goes adventuring at one hundred is going to be considered an impetuous youth. So even though human society might treat them differently, an elf who is one hundred is still probably going to show respect and defer to the human elders.
Let’s talk a bit about the other thing that is often taken from Lord of the Rings, and that is the elf and dwarf rivalry and mistrust. This is something that still shows up fairly often in games, and is something that you want to handle fairly carefully. What you’re trying to avoid is the racist elf and dwarf interactions where they hate each other and just pick at each other. In Lord of the Rings, Legolas and Gimli don’t trust each other at the start, and it comes out in rivalry in battle, because they have a central focus they can both get behind. In your game, you can certainly play to that, and you can certainly have the characters poke fun at each other as well. But try to avoid open hostility or combat with another PC or even with dwarves in general, as that’s not something you really want to bog down a game with.
Finally, let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of an elf. Obviously, we’ve talked about their age, but there are a few other components. First, elves start out by getting dex bump. That means your elves are going to always make good rogues, monks, and rangers who focus on the light or dexterity based weapons. They also have darkvision (most races do), but they have a couple other big things. Fey Ancestry means that they can’t be magically put to sleep and they are harder to charm, aka they have advantage to being charmed. They also don’t sleep, elves trance. In Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, they really go into what trance means for an elf, and why that happens, but what it means for mechanics in the game, it means that they only need four hours of rest to refresh each night, and are not as oblivious to their surroundings as someone who is asleep would be. They can’t be the lookout (or they’d be a bad one) while trancing, but it makes setting watch easier.
So let’s come up with some elven character concepts and backstories.
As a member of the royal household you thought that your position and life was going to be set and simple. You lived for a couple hundred years in the lap of luxury before your younger sibling decided that they wanted your spot. When your parents died, you prepared to take on added leadership and responsibility that was expected for you, however, you had missed that your sibling had been planting lies and distrust around you in the community. They decided that your sibling was more fit to rule and you were exiled from the tribe. After thirty years of living off of the land and plotting your revenge, you feel like you might have an idea, you just need a few things first.
Alignment: Chaotic Good
You were sent away by your parents to the wizarding school in a neighboring nobles lands. It was a great school, and since you’ve always had aptitude for learning, you dove into your studying. After fifteen years, you started teaching introductory classes, but you mainly did that so you could stay around and continue your own studies and have access to the library. Your teacher, who has other responsibilities than just teaching you, eventually got fed up with you after another ten years and told you that you were going to be kicked out of the tower and your library card suspended until you got some practical experience in your life and maybe had an adventure or two. You took the opportunity to visit another wizarding school, but your teacher was one step ahead of you, and they knew to send you on your way. Now you’re looking for an adventuring party to give you some simple experiences, just enough so you can get back into the school and to the library to learn some more.
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Your family was a lesser known one in your elven community. People didn’t look down on you, but it had been generations since anyone in your family had done something that people really appreciated and remembered. Otherwise you were just kind of there. Your parents weren’t content with that, however, and they sought more for you. Eventually reaching out to an Archfey to see if they could help your family. Knowing fey creatures, that wasn’t that great an idea, but it did help their standing to have that connection. For you, when you were born, there was already a claim on you, and your parents didn’t treat your like your sibling, but you were kept separate. When you were seventy-five, you were sent off to work for the archfey as they had agreed upon before you were born. The work there was interesting, and they sent you out adventuring. In your mind, though, you feel slighted, you feel like you haven’t head the real life you were supposed to have, and you are looking for a way, and trying to hide the fact you’re looking, to get out of the deal that your parents made.
Alignment: Chaotic Good/Chaotic Neutral
Elves can really work for any class and background combination as they live such long lives they can study a lot of things and try a lot of different professions. I tried to come up with things that seemed particularly elf like for each of the backstories, but I think that, because of their long life, a lot of these stories also work for other races.
Have you played an elf before, do you lean into their age or their aloofness when you play them?
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Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. Von’thre and Nori find out that what they think is happening isn’t quite what it seems. Syldi on the other hand has to spend some time with the enemy. If you have questions for Nerdologists:…
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Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons.
After making some shocking discoveries deep in the underground, our adventurers begin to wonder if they actually know there way back out of there.
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Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. Resting after their nearly fatal encounter with the drow, Von’thre, Nori, and Syldi decide to use the tunnels that Von’thre had found out about to see if they could track down the drow and their way…
Welcome back to season two of Dungeons and Flagons. When things seem to be at their worst, can they figure a way out? Von’thre, Syldi, and Nori find themselves in a rocky situation that they need to find their way out of. If you have…
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