Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Lets make elves nightmares again
Inspired by these blogs
Has been a few articles on keeping elves scary and not just for sake of a tired-for-Tolkien tropes mode. Probably ore inspired y fairy tales and mythology. I had attempted to keep elves a bit otherworldly and had options for earth born and other elves but this gives me interesting ideas to push the ideas more.
Snippets of Elves in Games and Fable
One book of elf stories (Modern writer i cant remember) had elves using werewolf hunting dogs, human slaves, changelings and using humans as toys which I like.
I kinda like Moocock's Eldren and Melnibonians as elves too. Apparently the Later DnD games had their version of Eldren become far more popular than elves which to me is breaking something core to DnD if your new thing is so much more preferable it surpasses a basic core of game.
One book of elf stories had elfmaids tease people with breasts to enslave them or use elf food to make humans adicts.
In some DnD books elves have spirits not souls. I don't believe in either so Im not sure what this means. In one RPG elves had no souls and that was supposed to make them scary.
Dryads and banshees might just be types of elf. I never liked half elves as a race.
In Glorantha elves are plants with own history and antithetical to stasis loving lawful dwarves. They are suitably aloof and alien.
I like Viking and Irish Myth. Elves could be a lost old pre human race or possibly degenerate gods who lost power as cults faded. Another version is that spirits of dead inhabitants of sacred burial mounds become elves. Thus a old burial hill of a older people now is regarded as being full of elf halls with feasts and court life. Possibly this is a intention of a culture's religion, to prepare dead in such a way they become immortal elves.
Spirit folk in oriental adventures especially tree spirits interesting. I guess I made my changeling race to be a more magical and flexible version of elves that could include animal spirits, faeries, and all kinds of magical beings.
One story a man tricks a fairy into being his wife. She gives him rules about seeing her undressed at certain times. They have several kids. One is a a savage brute with a huge fang. Other two are odd like mom. Anyway dad spies on her and sees she is a bat winged horror and snake from the waist down so she an the two ok kids fly away forever. The brutish one causes trouble for the whole kingdom till he is killed.
In my setting
Elves are aloof and distant with humans. At home they are warmer and prone to celebrations and festivals and dancing and orgies. They don't do this just for fun, it is a ritual necessity to maintain the universe. There are bright elves and dark elves (and some others). The king and queen of the elves are gods. The bright and dark elves have the same rulers but with more than one physical body and different forms. Older tribes of humans worship humanised versions (Frey and Freya). Elfland is mostly off limits to humans. A few druids and heroes are let in by invitation. Elves an Humans in a state of truce. The Baron of Shadelport and the Empire both have tried to make peace Elves and made it murder to kill a elf. Both states fear that elves would tip the balance either side. The elves are happy to let humans think like this and have had unicorn hunting as a sport almost finished. The bright elf land has a buffer land with few humans in between.
Elves uses goblins for all kinds of menial grotty chores. They establish elf and orc barrier states around them. Goblins plant glamoured babies on humans that turn into horrible goblins. The human babes they steal become slaves. Humans don't see elves often and most are in superstitious awe of them. Commoners are scared but unwilling to harm them because elves are very vindictive. One elf is worth a thousand humans or more. Elves don't breed much bu may produce goblins and faeries and brownies more rapidly. Elf women might bare these non elves if needed (or cursed or punished or breed with non elves) but human women slaves are preferable. Elves prefer human wet nurses and some elves are fond of humans as they remember their nurses. Grandmothers warn you not to eat elf food, accept their gifts, children or sexual favors.
Elves use addictive food and ointments to make humans their slaves. Slaves often are unclothed unless needed to survive or for work. Slaves are fed well and are fanatic and worship the king and queen of Elfland. Elves have a different relation to time and space. Elvish kingdoms have shrunk over thousands of years as humans have grown. But inside Elfland distances seem to expand. Inside a old sealed hill mound could be a elf village or small kingdom. Elves have access to other planes, their great retreats where dreams and spirits and the ever living ones all mix. Human sometimes are brought inside but mostly to be enslaved. Human slaves live longer in Elfland but are lucky to be treated as favourite pets. Certain fairy stones or mushroom circles or megaliths are places where worlds connect. Often these are yearly or monthly Accessible my moonlight. A plethora of faerie beings may come through such places to dance. Many elves on other side experience time faster.
A young child lke elf adventurer might be absent a few days an return looking taller and more adult as their power grows. They might live for years and and even have children on the other side. Adventures in human land are just a bit of a thrill on the side an don't detract from their duties in Elfland.
Lawful elves follow some code or order or ethos or purpose and are consistent. Chaotic elves change moods rapidly and can flux between fair and foul in a instant. Even their appearance will change depending on their mood. All elves may act arbitrarily and seemingly cruel. Caring about short lived breeds is like humans think of farm animals or pets at best.
As elves mature from young and perky to lean and serene their personalities change too. First level elves take the most risks and are more likely to hang about with humans. They are more fun at that age. As they make periodic returns home and mature they become more aloof and uncaring about worldly things. Many remain with humans for some secret purpose. Young elves are often only 5 foot tall but gain a inch per level easily.
Earthly born elves tolerate Iron and steel. Elves born from other worlds find it painful to touch but have the benefit of being able to plane shift with more ease. Otherworldly elves enchant other metals to be as strong as steel often referred to as elfmetal. They use bronze if they cant get elfmetal or El metal. Such metal armour and weapons are fine, ornamental and shine brightly. The most common "plus" weapons are old abandoned elf weapons, but human made weapons are becoming increasingly numerous.
Elves were made by gods to administer any functions of nature during creation. They mixed freely with gnomes, changelings of all sorts, beast folk, brownies , sylphs, dryads and many diminutive beings. Dwarves are more kin to giants and trolls but have mixed with the plethora of fey folk at times. Smaller nicer trolls found living in barns or behind stoves get along fine with elves. Bigger fiercer hungry ones that eat elves are a greater threat. Dwarves know their enemy races are part of the fey and might include elves in their hatred. Having lived so long side by side many traditional grudges develop. Gnomes are somewhere between elves and dwarves and get along with both. Hobbits are a humanised fey race willing to use technology for every day convenience and comfort instead of slaves. They prefer to live hidden near humans or even among them.
As elves have fighting spirit of men (not the resilience) as well as the arcane power akin to wizards and sorcerers they are powerful. They prefer to keep foes at bay and often use spells to demoralise enemies. Illusions are a popular choice of spell. They keep lesser races afraid with clever magic use. Bright and Dark fey use fear and beauty as weapons and many say the differences are skin deep.
There is talk of celestial elves who dwell in the sky and bodies of the heavens like the sun and moon and stars. There are bone elves who dwell in the bone forest among undead and plague ravaged ruins. They seem hostile to everyone and possibly came from the underland shadow elves. Blood Elves served chaos and used blood magic but they were killed and mostly forgotten aeons ago. Sea elves possibly dwell under the sea but most have become changelings, shifting into sea creature or plant or merfolk forms. It is more likely that there are otherworldly pockets that can be entered through certain bodies of water at certain times where elves can live with fish and even humans can survive. Certainly large and talking animals dwell in he other world accessible from land. Elven woods are rich in otherwise extinct, talking and magical animals.
I let elves use wizard druid or priest spells either as those classes or like sorcerers (points and less choice of spells and no ability to learn from books). Has not caused any harm.
When elves fight each other they mostly skirmish til one side is injured. Ambush and sniping preferred. They do fight if cornered or to chase off retreating foes but dislike evenly matched melee. When you see a fully armoured elf pike army you know they are serious. They kidnap wounded and take dead bodies. Elf champions might duel over a issue rather than have a battle and terms are discussed sometimes for days. In not fighting elves they are less concerned with honour or fairness.
So I FAILED....?
Suggestions for making elves creepier
So at the end of the day while my elves are a bit different and players are wary of interacting with them I don't find them quite as scary as I would like. I have considered making a specific spell list for them mixing wizard and druidry or creating new spells to reflect planar nature. Spells that drain stats and cause weakness and other spells that work through arrows or elf darts. Maybe just poison.
I think I will have to have elves do more strange and eerie things.
Possibly some fey land d100 lists.
More supernatural encounters, night encounters and seeing elves doing strange things.
Need to hear rumours of strange things, and locals afraid to go near or touch elf things.
This could escalate into accidental incursions into elfland where anything could be taboo for humans.
Possibly being trapped or enslaved or charmed might make them think twice.
Meeting victims of elves like former slaves or mothers who have had children stolen or village idiots who used to be a normal before they disappeared as children chasing elf lights in the woods only to return decades later as a moron.
My dark elves like to kill all life on farms near woods and make everything into undead. Evil farm animals vs low level parties are always fun.
You might come through a area with farms on the forest edge and then next year they are gone and overgrown with adult trees and crawling with werewolves.
I have druid magic that can change a seed into another or a unborn child into another species which elves use for mischief. Farmers find all their animals giving birth to wolves and women giving birth to goblins or orcs. Perhaps a cockatrice takes over the hen house.
Elves are vindictive so killing any will make you enemies with their nation and will do things to bug you like cripple your horses, make you impotent, spoil your food etc. Then fireball your favorite pub, swallow your manour with mud, and worse. The price of buying a truce will be very difficult. If you kill a dark elf the bright elves are still unimpressed and wary of you.
People disappear and nobody knows why or how. Turns out to be elves.
Snipers with bows or spells menacing travelers or lone people near woods.
Charm person or sleep magic is a kidnappers dream. A few elves cast sleep on a farm house and next day neighbors find everyone missing. Every night a house is emptied.
Elves are like grey aliens from modern mythology. People are fearful of alien elf agendas.
Changeling allies of elves infiltrate humans to spy on them and sabotage them. They may even breed with humans occasional to strengthen their bloodlines or make slaves. Elf sexuality might be a bit more flexible than most humans making intolerant humans more suspicious.
Possibly elf hunters might offer sham aid vs elves, stir up mobs and persecute people to grab their land.
Humans escaped or touched by elves could still be spies and will obviously be reclaimed with elven food.
Druids might be suspicious too. Human cults might sympathies with elf land and worship the rulers as gods. Even animals cant be trusted and could be elf land beast spies. Barbarian might regard elves as ancestral spirits and respect them more. Elves might reciprocate such respect and even have ancient truces with such humans.
Possibly some priests could turn elves as a option and specialize in neutralizing elf magic.
Many people are scared of elves and are happy to move away to more human lands. Possibly elves might make seasonal invasions and farmers lock up animals and families and put elf wards or symbols of appeasement on doors.
Elves have a host of natural spirits and even elementals that aid them and deal with magicians. All kinds of elf kin like goblins, gremlins, faeries, brownies, pixies, sylphs, dryads may act to restrict humans on the border lands.
Find villages where no children or goblins instead of children.
Some changelings specialise in baby and child forms and cast charm person on parents to live a easy life for years. If they get to charm whole village they might not bother to hide true forms.
Killing them is a option more trouble than it is worth. Better to make truces and leave them cakes and beer or milk.
I guess these are more promising possibilities and why humans keep away from them.
Please post more suggestions in comments.