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What happened to Mystara's Dark Elves? (Not Shadowelves)by Håvard
In this thread the following came up:Lost Woodrake wrote:Havard wrote:So this is clearly unrelated to Shadow Elves. Did the Dark Elves disappear completely from Mystara? This is quite rare, given that other cultures are "stored" in the Hollow World. I like the idea of having one race that is entirely left to the mythical past. I think this deserves a separate thread.
[*]Svartalfheim - Home of Norse Dark Elves. Most likely these are Ljosalfar who turned to follow Loki and other Entropic Immortals. We don't know much about them except that they taught their rituals to the Moulder Dwarves of Mystara and that these rituals involve binding souls into items.
Its hard to say when the concept of Mystara's Shadowelves was finalized. Their introduction in Gaz5 The Elves of Alfheim gives a somewhat different impression of the race than Gaz13 The Shadowelves and the depiction on the Gaz5 cover shows a woman closely resembling a drow.
In Gaz7 The Northern Reaches introduces the idea of Dark Elves mentioned in the quotes above. They are mentioned both in the section about the Norse Planes of Existence and in the section about the Morigsverg (Moulder Dwarves) whom they taught their secret rituals.
So I would agree that this is a separate race from that of Mystara's Shadowelves. Decades ago, I wrote up Ljosalfar and Svartalfar as Exalted Level Creatures similar to Mystara's Demons/Fiends. However, it is possible to introduce mortal level variants too in order to make them interract more with mortal PCs. Perhaps the Exalted Level Elves are "Nobles" or something like that.
On the other hand, Gaz7 also identifies the High Elves (Ljosalfar) as the ancestors of Prime Plane Elves and the Dark Elves (Svartalfar) as the ancestors of Prime Plane Dark Elves. This last part is confusing since outside of the Shadowelves we don't know of any Dark Elves on Mysara.
Are they Drow?
If a DM wants Drow in their campaigns, this is an opportunity to include them. I personally prefer Mystara not to have Drow just to keep the setting different from the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk etc. I could see using Drow stats, but changing how they appear visually and culturally. In my writeup linked above, I presented the Exalted Level Dark Elves like this:
Black elves*, also referred to as Dark elves or Dock-alfar/svartalfar, are White Elves who were corrupted by the secret whispers of Loki. They now live on Loki's Homeplane Svartalfheim. The Black elves are pale vampire like elves with black or red hair. They are always surrounded by unnatural shadows, obscuring their figures. Black Elves make no sound when moving. When they speak it sound like they are whispering.
The Black elves have had some contact with the Moulder Dwarves of the Northern Reaches, and have taught these dwarves secret magical rituals. Many Moulder Dwarves are puppets of Black elf plots. Black elves are motivated by greed for power and magic and are creatures of deception rather than violence. They are not brave and will rather flee than risk serious injury.
It is interesting that the Dark Elves represent all the values Antalians detest, such as deception, magic and greed.
*=I used the term Black Elves back then because it is the most direct translation of Svartalfar. These days I think it might be better to use the norse terminology or use the term Dark Elves.
What Happened to Them?
Lost Woodrake raised this very good question. Many Dark Elves are clearly still found on the Outer Planes, but what about those who once inhabited the Prime Plane?
Here are a few theories:
1) They are still on Mystara. They are masters of deception and could perhaps still be found below the Northern Reaches.
2) They were instrumental in the corruption of Nithia and were banished by the Spell of Oblivion.
3) They were driven from Mystara as a part of Thor's quest for Immortality. Perhaps he was even aided by Loki in his own quest.
4) They were only found on Mystara before the Great Rain of Fire and were destroyed in that cataclysm or fled.
What do you think?
BTW, I found this old MMB link preserved on Pandius touching some of the same issues.