Friday, March 31, 2017

The Ganthian Guide to Elves

The Book of Elves and their Kind and Kindred
 "The Ganthian Guide to Elves"

     New Notes: On the old blog this post belonged to a Swords & Sorcery appreciation day post, it was exciting to be a part of that event, however things have changed and my eternal quest at designing Ganth continues. One of the major changes was deciding on Labyrinth Lord for my rules of choice. that should have little effects on my article, however I have taken the liberty of changing some points to the article. Pfft, I do what I want.
      Design Notes: What follows is a collection of elven subspecies, loosely based on myth and legend. It of course will become a part of my own homebrewed campaign setting of Ganth. I did remove the special characters from the scandinavian and germanic words, more because I honestly have no idea how to correctly pronounce them, and because chances are when I further adapt these races to Ganth I may rearrange their spellings.   In my attempt to create stats and such for each race I am looking more into the folklore behind each race, then attempting to put my own twist on each. Some of the elves below may be more non-traditional when it comes to our common look at elves in fantasy gaming. I am hoping that is a good thing. Some of these elves have appeared in other articles I have written, and as of this writing, it supersedes past articles lore wise. Least of all, it is important to know that I have built each race or subspecies with level limits and racial restrictions in mind. I understand that some may not favour this and it would seem there is a movement among some in the OSR to abandon this concept, but I feel it is important not only to game mechanics but also it makes each race feel more unique. 

"It may be said that the true origins of elven kind are lost, each of the Houses claims different paths to their distant forebears, and each arrogantly charges, they are the true form of Elven Kind. What the most learned scholar knows however, is each of the Houses may each hold bits and pieces to the Elves true Origins. But the Elves are unwilling to allow anyone to explore these possibilities."

                                                                         Surge Cheskin, Scholar of the White Robes

Design Notes: Of all my creations I think I love the Meadow Elf the most. The Satyr is also a love on mine, I love the race and I really enjoy playing these types of characters. The lore behind the Sayr seems to really mesh well with what I did with the Meadow Elf, it seems a natural blend of two mythical races into one. Another aspect of Meadow Elves is the Wayward Wood, a very old adventure site I have used for decades. More or less inspired by any other "enchanted" wood, the Wayward Wood could be considered the heart of my Ganth Campaign Setting, Gath is the Wood and the Wood is Ganth.

The Angsalvor (Meadow Elf) 
"Elves of the Court of Spring and of the Houses of the Glades and of the Groves, Queens of the Wayward Wood, and the Beastkin, Lovers of the Satyr and the Faun"

The Meadow Elves live among their final refuge, the vast and enchanted Wayward Wood. Reaching from the Swamps of Nender and streching to the World Spine Mountains the Wayward Wood has been the domain of the Meadow Elves for untold millennia. The Meadow Elves themselves, like their name suggest build small villages and hamlets among the many meadows hidden and scattered throughout the Wood. Unique amoung elf kid and many other races of Ganth is the fact that Meadow Elves are all female, they however court with and marry Satyrs. The offspring of these pairings are either Meadow Elf if born female or Satyr if born male. 
Druid of Spring

Meadow Elves average at around four to four and a half feet tall. Lithe in build and shape, Meadow Elves skin color vaires in shades from light greens to pale yellows. Their eyes reflect the colors of spring and hair colors can be striking as well.

Meadow Elves share much with Fuana, Flora and Fey, being very much tied to the natural and supernatural elements of the Wayward Wood. Staunch protectors the Meadow Elves are quick to call on the support of the many creatures of the Wood. 

The Lifespan of a Meadow Elf is a strange thing to understand. It has been known that some Meadow Elves like the Queen of Spring, Aria of the Great Tree, have lived since the First Age. But some Meadow Elves have chosen to give over to their fey sides and become more or less apart of the Wayward Wood. This is why many scholars believe Dryads are one in the same with the Meadow Elf, and why Dryads have such a close kinship with Meadow Elves.

Meadow Elves are Ruled by the Court of Spring and the Houses of Glades and Groves a druidic order that at one time rivaled the size of the Great Order of the North Star and Human fellowship of Druids. The Court of Spring is ruled by the Maiden Queen, Aria of the Great Tree an ancient Meadow Elf believed to have lived since the First Age. Aria is a kind leader of almost god-like power, she has never taken a spouse and refuses the advances of Man and Beastkin alike. Aria is advised by Bitter Root a Elder Treant that may be as old as Aria. Bitter Root is the only one of the Court that can change Aria's mind or advert her wrath. The rest of the Court is made up of many of the Noble inhabitants of the Wood, to include Bevery the Bold a giant of a Satyr who has long wish to bed the Maiden Queen.
The Spring Queen

Meadow Elves tend to dress in flowing gowns of many colors. The material is spun from silk worms raised in some hidden place by Dryad seamstresses. When called to war the Meadow Elves craft Leaf Armor that shares the strength of hardened Leather.

Meadow Elves will never willingly leave the Wayward Wood, to do so, it is believed dooms an Elf to a mortal's death. When a Meadow Elf dies they fade into the earth and soil to rise the next spring as new sapling tree.

The Court of Spring offers little heed to the coming and goings of gods and man, they worship the Wood and all the Wood offers. Deep within the Wayward Wood spring never ends and the safety of its enchantments protects and nurtures the Elves. In their hearts they are true isolationist, they do not fear the outside world, they just don't care about it. The Court of Spring will only support the Court of Summer, and then only when the Wood is threatened. 

Racial Abilities:
Meadow Elves can see in the dark to a range of 60 feet. They can move through undergrowth as Druids, and never leave tracks in a natural environment. Meadow Elves will never be attacked by animals of the natural world unless they attack first. Meadow elves have a 2 in 6 chance to discover hidden paths or tracks in natural environments.

Racial Alignment: Neutral

Classes Allowed & Level Limits:
Druid-Unlimited Class Levels
Fighter-8 Class Levels
Thief-12 Class Levels

"It is a common misconception that elves have pointed ears. No my students, they do not. For even with their ties to the Fey and that wild kind, they very much mirror man in shape and form. From the fingers on their hands to the toes on their feet. Even their internal organs are mirrors of each and every one of us. Student's know this the elf is tied to the fey but they are not it's children."
                                                             Surge Cheskin, Scholar of the White Robes

 The Dokkalfar (Dark Elf)
"Elves of the Court of Winter and of the Grand Marches of the East, the Lords of the Fells and the Loyal Servant's of Pitch and the Kingdom of Nender"

The Dark Elves, one of the Cursed of their kind, doomed to a life eternal. While one may see this as a blessing, Dark Elves and the Court of Winter is cursed with Undeath. They find no rest in life or the grave. Cursed for the betrayal of their King, the Dark Elves have bore with them undeath into the realms of Ganth. Before the Curse the dead remained in their graves, now the dead walk, spread by the Curse of the Winter Court. As the Dark Elf grows in age and come closer to his end of life, he is judged. Spirits, powers or what it is none can say but or as to which the elf is judged. But at the moment of his death he is "born" the next day and on of the Undead. Ghouls, Ghasts, Vampires and even the Lich are all the product of the Dark Elf. Even the lesser forms of undead are the sole product of the Dark Elf Curse.

Proud but utterly bleak in their existence the Dark Elf stands at an average height of five and a half feet to six feet tall. Born more likely than not with ashen colored skin that reflects the bogs and fens of the Nender the elves of the Winter Court have only one feature that remains as it was before the Curse, the Eyes. The eyes of every Dark Elf are the deepest of royal blues, appearing almost black in low light. Before the curse the Dark elf was born with white almost alabaster skin, long locks of blue tinted hair and blue lips and fingernails, all these features reflecting the Realms of Ice and Snow they believe they hail from. However now that is all changed.
Nender Swamp

Weather through the curse or by dark pacts the Undeath nature of the elves has spread to all races and creature of Ganth. Because of this they are fear as well as hated among all. Even their own kind of the Other Houses and Courts turn the hand of friendship away from the Dark Elf. This has made a bitterness grow over the centuries, and if not for their King's own wishes they would rage across the face of Ganth tearing the world apart.

The Dark Elves worship no gods of man or beast, they offer no satisfaction to any deity at all. They like the Orcs of the Prynn hate the gods. However small sects of "Light Bearers" as they call themselves preach and teach of the return of the Betrayed One, who will one day lift the Curse and lead the Dark Elves out of their punishment. These sects tend to be hunted down and destroyed, but as with most cults they have a way of always returning.

Racial Abilities:
The Dark elf is a master of the dark, able to see as well at night as they can in the day. Dark elves can sense a living being within 30 feet of them on a roll of 2 in 6. They also are never attacked by undead unless they attack first. Intelligent undead always show themselves friendly to a Dark Elf unless the Elf in question is known for his behavior.

The Curse and its effects:
The Curse effect all Dark elves, period, end of story. This of course creates a situation in which a GM may not feel comfortable. Upon the death of a Dark elf, regardless of means he will rise in the swamps of Nender the next day as one of the undead. Regardless as to how he is destroyed or where he is. The Curse has lasted for several hundred years and has had a severe effect on the mentality of the Elf, they see no glory in death, no happiness in life. Children of the Dark elf are mourned and the elderly cast away. They are proud and noble, but are bitter to the end. No one knows how an Elf is judged but all know they will be. 

(Design Notes: It is of the opinion of this GM that players expecting to be rewarded in death as some form of undead instead be punished. Dark Elves were not created in this manner to reward munchkins.)

Roll on the table below to discover what the dying elf will be reborn as.
1  Skeleton
2  Zombie
3  Ghoul
4  Shadow
5  Wight
6  Wraith
7  Spectre
8  Vampire

Racial Alignment: Chaotic (Neutral)

Classes Allowed & Level Limits:
As per standard elves in the S&W Complete Rulebook
Special Classes (with GM approval):
Clerics of the Betrayed One-6 class levels

"Elves have never been to religious  Not like Man. So it was astounding to discover that the Elves of the Court of Summer have so embarrassed the Church of the Holy Daughter. The elven kingdom of Serith is even the home to the Grand High Bishop of the Church. As to why this happened, why did the Elves turn from the Fey? I do not fully understand." 
                                                                   Surge Cheskin, Scholar of the White Robes

The Ljosalfar (Light Elf)
"Elves of the Court of Summer and of the Temples of the Church of the Holy Daughter, Lords of the Eastern Kingdom of Serith"

Noble and arrogant the Elves of the Court of Summer stride across their marbled halls, whispering prayers to the Holy Daughter and blissfully ignorant of their lost nature. The Court of Summer once ruled much of Ganth, the Elves controlled so much that it was near impossible for the King to handle the day to day needs and events of an empire its size. 

The Kingdom of Serith, founded by Disciple of the Holy Daughter is all that is left of an empire that spanned the whole of Ganth. Serith and it's capital city of Terrinth now hold the palace of the High Bishop of the Church of the Holy Daughter. The Summer King is no more a power in Serith than any other merchant of beggar prince. Long lost is the ancient ties to Fey and the Wild. Mocked by many other elves these High Elves or City Elves no little of what it once was to be "Elf".
Hall of the Summer Court

So tied to the Mortal realm and Man the Summer Court now has little authority to Fey and Fairy. Even in appearance the Light Elves appear more and more "Mannish". Grace hais slip them and though they still have an unearthly beauty  it to is dimmed when in the presence of the Meadow Elves or even the Black Elves a courtless lot.

It has even been rumored that the Great Fey Lords of that Other Realm have moved to strip the Summer Court of it's immortality and give it over to one of the newer races. And still the Light Elves show little or no care. They have in Heart and Mind given all to the worship of the Holy Daughter, the Daughter of Man.
Noble Ladies turn from the Fey

Taller than most elves and many other races in Ganth the Elves of the Summer Court shine with an inner glow when in the summer months. Calling it the Light of the Daughter, the Summer Elves dye their hair black to reflect what many believe the Daughter hair color was. Summer colored eyes and a summer color hair is natural for them but in these things, either through mundane means or arcane arts they change. No longer do they move as elves or even sleep as elves, they grow more and more mortal every few generations.

And nothing changes, except for a hatred for Nender and the Dark elves. A blight they believe and a cancer to be removed from the world. Light Elves pity the other elven races for their ignorance in the light of the Holy Daughter. It was also the Light Elven Crusaders that spear head the attempts to kill the White Prophet. 

Witch Hunters are common among their kind as well as Clerics of the Daughter and mighty Crusaders. A small group of Light Elves dabble in the arts of Illusion, but often more for cosmetic reasons than anything else, this of course has angered the Gnomes and the Order of Fitt.

Racial Abilities:
As Per the S&W standard Elf, except Light elves have lost there resistance to sleep and charm spells.

Racial Alignment: Lawful

Classes Allowed & Level Limits:
Fighter/Cleric-12/Unlimited Class Levels
Cleric of the Holy Daughter-Unlimited Class Levels
Paladin (Crusaders)-Unlimited Class Levels
Illusionist-12 Class Levels

"To see the dark heart of an elf, to know that it was these creature that brought about the mad kin, the slavering hunger of goblin and troll. The once mighty and noble Alvor, defenders of the Realms both above and below, now a bigger threat than anything Man has ever done."
                                                               Surge Cheskin, Scholar of the White Robes

The Alvor (Forest Elf)
"Elves of the Court of Autumn, The Fallen and Forgotten, Goblin Lords of the West, Eater of Man and Beast"
The Kin Falling

The Blasted Kind, the Tainted of Chaos and Goblin Brood Lord, these are the Elves of a court so entrenched in the chaos of the fey they have not only bowed knee to Chaos and the Fey they breed with it. And in so doing they have brought the Goblin and the Bugbear and the thousand and thousand hordes of the Wicked and Wily terrors of Chaos.

The Fell-Gods, the Rotting Lords, the groping, maddening elements of madness shaped the Court of Autumn. They promised power and savagery, what the court received was twisted forms, mutant children and a hatred greater now than ever before for all Humanity is and represents. The Autumn Court love the Rotting Lords and regardless of the coruption done to their race they are fervent worshippers.

The Autumn Court rules the Bronze Felds, a large and twisted forest, prone to fires and plaques east of the vast plains of Prynn. It is here the last few nobles of the court struggle against their now inherent taint of Chaos to maintain the purity of the race. Powerful masters of the Arcane arts the Forest elves delve into the secrets of the inner workings of creation, either changing their forms or restoring bits and pieces lost to the taint of Chaos.

Some, the most high in the courts and the Red Lord himself, have forsaken their ancient name, Alvor and instead have named themselves Gobeline an elven word for retribution, revenge or recklessness. This shift is only one of many things that has slowly caused the other courts to pull from the Autumn Court. Even the Black and Vile Winter Court has little to do with the Gobeline.
Bugbear of the Shadow Heart

Bugbears, hobgoblins and even trolls all owe their existence to the ancient Rotting Lords and the Pacts drawn up during what is called among elves the Kin Falling, a war that has been all but forgotten to the other races of Elven Kind except the Gobeline.

Most High Born Gobeline or members of the Court, and those that have attempted to turn from the Courts Chaotic Lords, appear as tall seven to eight foot tall elves. Slender of build and with strangely angular features, almost bird like. Their skin ranges all the colors of autumn with hair that appears burt or brittle like leaves during the fall.

Goblins are hated by the Elves and are hunted without question, even though Goblins owe their very existence to the Autumn Court. Humanity is enslaved or killed as well as many other races. Elves of other courts are tolerated but not the Courtless tribes, which are treated as severely as humanity. The Orcs of the Prynn have taken on a special liking to the Autumn Court, alliance are common even though the Orcs despise most of Goblin King  This is made even stranger by the fact that the Autumn Court openly worships the Rotting Lords.

Last of all are the Azure Mages and the Arcane Rite. A small group of powerful mages divided into to schools of thought. The Azure Mages are a group of Forest Elves that have rejected the Rotting Lords and the rest of the Autumn Court. They wage a type of guerilla warfare against the Court. The Arcane Rite is a group of mages with a similar calling but have allowed other races to join their cause. They currently are engaged in a war of sorts with the Orcs of Prynn.

Racial Abilities:
As Per the S&W standard Elf

Racial Alignment: Chaotic

Classes Allowed & Level Limits:
Fighter/Magic-User-12/Unlimited Class Levels
Magic-User-Unlimited Class Levels
Thief-Unlimited Class Levels
Illusionist-12 Class Levels

Other Notes about Elves from Ganth in General:

New Notes and Design Thoughts: The following was edited to fit more of my new direction rules wise with Ganth. Labyrinth Lord appeals to me as more of a "OSR" system, I am not saying S&W is a lesser system, it's just Labyrinth Lord reminds me more of the game I played as a 8 year old, all those decades ago. I really long for the feeling you had that first time you cracked open those old boxed games and delved into Dungeons Deep and Dark....
  • True Iron: All Elves of Ganth except the Elves of the Autumn Court have a severe reaction when they come in contact with True Iron. True Iron is a metal mined deep within the very bones of mountains, mostly by dwarves. True Iron seems to affect all Fey and Fey related creature to include Goblin Kind, Bugbears and Trolls. Merely touching True Iron causes severe burns that always scar unless magically healed. This touching causes 1d4 points of damage. This is in addition to any damaged received by a weapon crafted of True Iron.
  • Level Limits, an Optional Look: I understand some folks problem with level limits. However, I not only think it is important to balance but to the general feel I and the original game designers were looking for when dealing with Demi-Humans. Ganth, for all its magic and weirdness is very, very Humancentric. Because it is I believe racial limits are important. Humanity gets it's "edge" from it's unlimited class advancement. Humanity has no other edge. Remove class and level limits from Demi-Humans, stifles this "edge" and makes Humanity a worthless race to play except to the most dedicated role-player.
That being said, for those wishing either to use these races in your game or wanting to play using the Ganth campaign setting as a backdrop you can simply ignore the class and level limits. 
You can use this system however. Each race requires a certain attribute stat minimum to be rolled before a player can pick this race.
  • The Angsalvor (Meadow Elf) Requires a Wisdom score of 16 or better.
  • The Dokkalfar (Dark Elf) Requires a Constitution score of 16 or better
  • The Ljosalfar (Light Elf) Requires a Wisdom of 16 or better and an Intelligence score of 14 or better
  • The Alvor (Forest Elf) Requires a Intelligence of 16 or better and a Constitution score of 14 or better
  • Attribute Adjustments and Optional rule: In truth I can understand the reasoning behind not using Attribute modifiers in a Swords & Sorcery Game. This author does not fully agree, and while I did not include attribute modifiers in the design of each elf above, I will give my suggestions below. (Now that I have change my core rule set to Labyrinth Lord, here below has become the Standard.)
  • The Angsalvor (Meadow Elf) +1 to Wisdom, -1 to Strength
  • The Dokkalfar (Dark Elf) +1 to Constitution, -1 to Charisma
  • The Ljosalfar (Light Elf) +1 to Wisdom and Intelligence, -2 to Strength
  • The Alvor (Forest Elf) +1 to Intelligence and Constitution, -2 to Charisma
  • Using these Subraces in a non-Ganth Campaign setting: To be truthful I have designed each sub-race in such a way as to tie them as close as I can to Ganth. I have used Lore I have already written as a foundation. But it really shouldn't be that hard to adapt the rule mechanics to your own setting. Like any setting specific race, a designer has a reason behind the development of a race and it's lore. Ganth is a very "High" magic setting, and even though this may not be feasible with the Swords & Wizardry rule, set I feel that the simplicity of the rules allows this author to adapt it to Ganth. To be honest would suggest simply adapting the lore of each race to your own setting. Because not doing so, would be silly. Why you ask? Because why waste your time creating new lore when you could simply just use these as models or just create your own! (This still applies even now, Old School Play seems to "frown" on the concept of High Magic, Ganth changes much of this. I will soon be writing an article that cover much of what High Magic means to me and how it fits in Ganth.)
The Courtless Elves:

What follows below is a list of three tribes or clans of elven subraces  They each have a varied background and origin. They also are so small in numbers it is believed by this author that as of right now they need not be fully covered.
  • The Huldufolk (Ice Elf) "Elves of the North, Giant Friend, Faithful to the Storm Lords, The Hidden Ones and Those That Watch Over Us"
  • Wilde Leute (Wild Elf) "Children of the Wild, The Alien and Outcast, Lords of Moss and Wood, Stalwart of the Old Gods and the Old Ways"
  • The Svartalfar (Black Elf) "Elves of the Deep, the Courtless and Unbound, Kings Under the Stone and the Mountain, Dwarf Friend and Gnome Brother.
Remaining thoughts, and Why I have chosen Swords & Sorcery* for Ganth's future:

   Wow, This was tough, and I still feel I have not done you, the reader justice. This is one of the longest articles I have ever written. It will also shape the future when I continue to cover Ganth. Ganth is and will always be mine. It is my creation, although several years ago I discover I was not the first to use the term "Ganth", and as such I would say it's my goal to create something I like. No I am not here to please a mass market, I am here to share my creation with you, my readers. I understand some folks would disagree, with things like campaign settings or even doing what I do by sharing my thoughts on my campaign setting but you know what, bugger off, I don't care.

   In the end, is this gonna be something my players like, I would think that at least one of them will get a kick out of it. I would hope that local readers would be inspired to drop me a comment if they want to join in my game, I have the room. An no, I don't think I could handle a "Online" game, not at this time.

Last of all my choice of Swords & Wizardry. S&W wasn't an easy choice. I really struggled with it. I truly love and am very loyal to Goblinoid Games, My kids love Mutant Future and to me Labyrinth Lord feels more like "D&D" to me. Was that rude? I hope not.

But why Swords & Wizardry? It is very much what I would consider a tool box type of rule set, plenty of optional rules and very rules lite. So rules lite that it is very easy for me to adapt whatever idea or game mechanic I need to the rule set.

I Love S&W for this. I love the fact that at it's very core it is zero edition type of game. Your can see the core of gaming here, all gaming, and how it can be built upon. It begs the question, Why do I need a "Modular" edition of the World's Most Popular Game. Why with S&W and the rest of what comes out of the OSR and it's community I can glean any amount of optional rules. From Skills to Feats, to Powers and Tactical Miniature Combat. It can all be built upon this one single ruleset. It would be nothing to emulate any of the "editions" using S&W as a core foundation. Sure as you add more, you would create more work for yourself. In the end I will state this a little more clearly, "Why do I need a Modular Edition of the World's Most Popular Game, when I have the OGL, the OSR and Games Like Swords & Wizardry?"

*New Thoughts and Ideas that only reinforce the comments above:
Don't get me wrong, I love S&W, but as I have mentioned early on in this article and even above Labyrinth Lord "feels" more D&D to me. Does that mean I have put S&W to the side, of course not, each rule set in the OSR seems to reflect a "feel" to its designer, their thoughts or outlook of how the game should be played. Labyrinth Lord is what I feel in love with many a year ago when that old blog Grognardia introduced me to the OSR. I love the OSR and I love the work that has been done in it, the community is great and I am happy to have been a part of a little bit of it's evolution, mostly through my art.
Gaming is more of a way of life for me, than a hobby, it how I lok at the world, recharge and just deal with the crap reality throws at us. I hope that my writing in the least inspires my readers to creative or thoughts and I hope it encourages play.


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