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Elven Subraces

by David Knott

Here is a crude attempt at accounting for the variations in elven types described in the gazetteers as well as the apparent conflicts between OD&D and AD&D/2E sources. With any luck I should also be able to deal with the issue of half-elves and set up Mystaran elves in 3E terms.

In most AD&D game worlds the dominant elven subrace is the high elf. On Mystara that is not true -- there the dominant subrace is the forest elf, a variant of the grey elf. Forest elves have a natural talent for magic -- in fact, they are invariably trained so that when they reach adulthood they have attained 1st level ability in both the fighter and mage classes. They receive a bonus of +2 to dexterity and intelligence and a penalty of -2 to constitution and wisdom. With a minimum of 9 (adjusted to 11) for rolled intelligence, they are guaranteed the ability to cast arcane spells of at least 1st level.

During the Blackmoor era some elves turned away from the formal study of magic and became fascinated with technology. However, the magic that they would not study became available to them by instinct, and thus they lost their intelligence bonus and replaced it with a charisma bonus. Prior to their removal to the Hollow World, the Blacklore elves invariably began their careers as sorcerers.

The next race to develop from the forest elves was that of the aquatic elves, who gained the ability to breathe air or water freely but who lost their night vision and had to immerse themselves frequently in salt water in order to retain their vitality, but in all other regards preserved the characteristics of their ancestors.

The shadow elves were descended from elves who retreated deep under- ground to avoid the consequences of a major surface cataclysm. Their nightvision became true darkvision, and they became so adapted to life underground that many of them died when exposed to sunlight. As they became comfortable with serving the Immortals Rafiel and Atzanteotl, their wisdom penalty went away and was replaced with a charisma penalty that precluded most shadow elves from pursuing careers as sorcerers or bards.

As elves colonised the Savage Coast, the effects of the Haze surrounding the areas affected by the Red Curse mutated many of them into high elves who had only the dexterity bonus and constitution penalty associated with AD&D high elves. Some of these high elves became the ancestors of the aerial elves later known as the avariel or ee'aar.

Finally, water elves evolved from matings of shadow elves with forest elves as well as matings of aquatic elves with any and all other subraces. The water elves have a bonus of +2 to dexterity and intelligence and a penalty of -2 to constitution, wisdom, and charisma but are compensated for their net penalty to ability scores by their superior navigation and direction senses.

Since forest elf traits tend to dominate those of other subraces, matings between forest elves and other subraces tend to result in forest elf offspring. However, the recessive traits of high elves and other subraces could easily resurface among forest elves, with effects that become increasingly obvious in the post-WotI period.

Matings of all of these subraces with non-elves had wildly varying effects. The merging of a clan of forest elves with a clan of ogres resulted in the creation of the N'djatwa people. Forest elves who mated with humans led to "humans" with noticeable elven characteristics as well as high elves, as described in Gaz 5. Matings of high elves with humans resulted in half- elves that bred true -- offspring of half-elves with elves, humans, or half-elves would invariably be half-elves.

Matings of aquatic elves with humans never result in offspring, but matings of aquatic elves with tritons and merfolk would result in tritons, while matings between tritons and merfolk would result in merfolk.

Wood elves and grugach would have no Mystaran counterparts.