Monday, September 19, 2016

Player's Choice (Elf Edition)

(It’s Elf day)
So you’ve taken a hard look at Dungeons and Dragons and decided that it’s time to make your first character for Dungeons & Dragons.  First off, welcome to the family.  You’ve taken your first steps into a world of shared storytelling and high adventure.  We’re going to take a look at the process for building your character and go over the options you have available in the Player’s Handbook (we use the 5th edition, as it’s the most recent, and we think it’s one of the most accessible systems we’ve seen in a long time.).  So grab your scratch paper, your pencil, and your character sheet as we explore the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons.

The first step you should really take when building a character is to think about what kind of a character you want to play.  Before you make any decisions or write anything down, you need to stop and think what you’re going to enjoy playing.  A secondary consideration would be what the party of adventurers you are going to be a member of needs.  You may desperately want to break out a brand new half elf warlock, but your party desperately needs a tanky fighter or a healing cleric.  You decide what you want to play, and what story you’re going to enjoy telling and playing.  Whichever character you decide to make, you’re going to have to make a few decisions.  Let’s take a look at the options for the first one of those decisions.
What Race is your character?
Your character’s race defines a lot of the basic physical and mental characteristics.  It more than anything else will be the first thing an observer uses to define you.  How many times have you read a passage that starts “And we saw the Dwarves standing there in their armor, beards immaculately groomed…” In a fantasy setting Race is a defining trait that gives other people a rough idea of what your character is, and how they can be expected to behave.  In Dungeons and Dragons, Race has a couple of other features that we’ll discuss.  
The Player’s Handbook offers nine racial choices for a new player to consider for their character.  Each one is distinct, and has several subraces to choose from.  When you select a Race, the offered selections of a subrace are offshoots of that main racial group.  It may change baseline racial features, add new options, or give different physical and mental characteristics.  The character creation process starts with choosing your race, so let’s go through the races and see what looks like fun to us.  
Elves represent one of the elder races of most fantasy games.  They are ethereal creatures of superlative grace and agility.  With their long life spans, mastery of both the woodland and arcane realms, Elves often represent idealized human notions of attraction and power.  With their sharply pointed ears and keen eyes, Elves notice things other people miss.  With their mastery of bow and blade, the elven peoples often keep the ancient enemies of freedom and peace loving people everywhere at bay.  
Mechanically, in game, the elves have the following benefits
Elves are dextrous.  They gain a +2 bonus to their dexterity scores.
Elves are the slowest aging race that a player can select.  They start adventuring at around 100, and can live to be over 700 years without using magic.
Elves are the exemplar of the chaotic good alignment.  With their love of freedom and self expression, they embody chaos.  They also respect the freedom of other races and are willing to step up to protect that freedom.  Dark Elves are an anomaly in this alignment pattern and are more often wickedly evil, than protectively friendly.
Elves are around five and a half feet tall, and often are slender than similarly sized humans
Elves can move 30 feet per round unless otherwise stated.  
Like the Dwarves, Elves can see in the dark.  They see can see darkness as dim light (within 60 feet) and dim light as if it were bright light.
Elves have keen senses which give them proficiency in the Perception skill.
Elves are descended from the creatures of the feywild, and that ancestry makes them immune to magical sleep spells and gives them advantage on charm effects.
Elves don’t sleep the way other races do.  They have a meditative period that gives them the benefit of a full 8 hours of rest while only taking up four hours.  They also have the benefit of being awaken while in trance, so they can still keep an eye on their surroundings.
Elves can speak their language (Elvish) and common
These are base elven traits, and you’ve got a mandatory choice of either High Elf, Wood Elf, or Dark Elf.  Each one has options that add to (in some cases, replace) the elven racial traits, and each one can support a variety of traditional (and not so traditional) fantasy themes.
High Elves are intelligent and nimble.  They add +1 to their intelligence scores.  
High Elves are trained in the use of a variety of weapons.  Specifically, every high elf is trained in the use of the longsword, the shortsword, the shortbow, and the longbow.
High Elves are magically inclined.  They know one cantrip from the wizard spell list, and use Intelligence as their spell casting statistic.  
High Elves are linguistically inclined.  They are proficient with one additional language (both written and spoken).  
Wood elves are traditionally more naturally inclined than their high elven counterparts and spend their days roaming their forest homes.  
Wood elves are wiser than most.  In addition to the elven bonus to dexterity, Wood Elves gain a +1 bonus to their wisdom scores.  
Wood elves are also proficient with the a variety of weapons, including the longbow, the shortbow, the longsword and the shortsword.  
Wood elves are fast on their feet.  They have a natural movement rate of 35 feet per round.  
Wood elves are well known for their stealth.  They can attempt to hide even when they are only lightly obscured by natural phenomena.  
Dark Elves are underground dwelling elves who’ve basically turned their back on being nice and helping other people.  They are aggressive, sadistic slavers who delight in the cruelty they visit on the lesser races.  
Dark elves are more willful than other races.  They add +1 to their charisma score
Dark elves see even better in the dark than most creatures with darkvision.  They can see 120 feet in darkness as if it were dim light.
Dark elves are sensitive to sunlight.  When exposed to sunlight, they suffer disadvantage on Perception checks, and they suffer disadvantage on attack rolls when exposed to direct sunlight.
Dark elves are natural spellcasters.  All dark elves know the Dancing Lights cantrip.  Furthermore, when they reach third level, they can cast Faerie Fire once per day, and when they reach fifth level, they can cast Darkness once per day.
Dark Elves are also trained with specific weapons.  They are all proficient with rapiers, shortswords, and hand crossbows.  
Let’s take a look at some of the interesting class combinations you can put together with the elven subraces.
High Elves have a strong martial tradition and pair it with arcane proficiency.  As a result, we think the following are decent options for the High elf.
·         Fighter.  With an eye towards picking up the Eldritch knight arch type, High elves excel as a Fighter.  They are more likely to use medium armor that allows them to utilize their high dexterity scores, and more often than not will use a combination of ranged weapons and spell before closing to melee to finish a fight.
·         Wizard.  With a natural intelligence bonus and a bonus cantrip, Wizard is a good fit for the High Elf.  Don’t expect your +2 bonus to dexterity and weapon proficiencies to get you out of combat.  Play to your strengths and cast all the spells you can.
·         Rogue.  Again, aiming for the Arcane Trickster arch type, the high elf can get a lot of mileage out of his racial abilities and a free cantrip.  Rogues with access to Dancing lights can make their own distractions for guards.  It only gets better as one gets more experienced.
Wood Elves, with their combination of woodland history and speed fall into a slightly different category of adventurers.
·         Ranger.  Combining the wood elf’s affinity for the natural environment with statistical bonuses that fit, the ranger is the perfect class idea for a woodland elven warrior.  Stealth, ranged combat, and generally being hard to find are iconic to the woodland people.
·         Druid.  For the player who wants a little more spellcasting in their diet, the wood elf recommends itself to the druid class.  Either arch type lets you enjoy the splendor of the natural world while still being mysteriously elven.  You can also throw a lot of lightning.  
·         Monk.  This one may feel like a stretch, but it’s really not.  With an eye towards preserving and being at peace with the natural world, the monk makes an excellent direction to go with a wood elf.  The stat boosts and the natural speed benefit are also in line with the wood elf profile, so you are getting synergy with your race and class pairings.
Dark elves are a little trickier, but they have some iconic villains that can be duplicated with the right class choices.
·         Cleric/Paladin.  The iconic dark elf villain is probably the vile priestess of Lolth who’s going to feed you to her pet spiders.  There are a couple of different ways to pursue this, but a divine spellcasting class with martial power is a good call.  Which one you pick is more a matter of personal choice, whether it’s heavy spell casting with a dash of martial hubris, or heavy smiting and a smidge of cleric healing.
·         Sorcerer/Warlock.  Like the dark elf cleric, the dark elf arcanist is a classic.  Traditionally those are typically wizards, but with the dark elf bonus to Charisma, they can make incredibly potent Warlocks and Sorcerers.  It’s a matter of player taste which pact/bloodline they choose, but there are a lot of interesting characters you can build out of this combination.  
·         Ranger/Rogue.  Dark elf society is a treacherous affair, and having a skilled person who can move around unseen is a boon to any dark elf family.  Combine this with the Ranger’s preferred terrain, or the rogue’s expertise, and you can have some extremely skilled observers and murderers.  
So that’s where we’re going to break off for the day.  That’s our look at the Elf race for Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition.  Next week we’ll be back to review the Halflings.

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