Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Roleplaying Fey Elves

I really like the Fey Elf in the excellent Theorems and Thaumaturgy, and wanted to give players of Fey Elves a way to play them that makes them even more alien and folklore-ish. Here's some of my crack at that:

As Mankind settles the wilderness and becomes more numerous, it is becoming harder and harder for the Immortal Fey. Mankind destroys their meeting-places and homes, fences and plows the meadows and clears the forests; Man can even kill the Fey with iron and steel weapons. It is slowly becoming clear to the Fey that they will have to adapt in order to survive.

Elves are one way in which some Fey are experimenting with adapting; the Fey have always been able to shape and change their own natures and Elves are Fey who have changed their natures to resemble those of mortal Men. Much that is typical of the Fey is lost in this transformation – perfect memories of the millenia past become faint and the ephemeral form is traded for solid flesh and a connection to the material world – yet much is retained. Elves are immune to mind-affecting spells such as Sleep and Charm as well as magical paralyzation and remain familiar enough with Faerie to identify Faerie objects such as portals or writing.
Elves have trouble grasping mortal conventions and different Elves have more or less trouble with different concepts that Men and Dwarves take for granted. Roll 1d4+1 times to determine mortal concepts an Elf is unable to grasp.

  1. Distinguishing between actions under self-control as opposed to those not under control (eg. charmed or coerced)
  2. Any belief or concern with what happens after death (including nothing)
  3. The idea of children, parents, caring for children and legal minority
  4. Differentiation between genders or sexes
  5. The mortal understanding of magic as special, not-normal or not-natural
  6. Daily routines such as sleeping, waking, eating based on time of day
  7. The existence of status and rank among mortals (does recognize Fey courts and hierarchy
  8. Religion
  9. Property
  10. Incongruence between thought, speech and actions
Each time an Elf levels up, roll 3d6. If the roll meets or is below the Elf's level + any Wisdom modifier then the Elf has mastered one of the conventions the Elf previously could not grasp (player's choice or randomly select).

Elves have trouble fitting in to Men’s society and are attracted to adventurers who are themselves on the fringes of society. Adventuring parties who accept an Elf into their ranks will need to supervise the Elf during interactions with Mankind, as Elves are prone to faux pas ranging from the awkward to the capitally illegal. As Elves gain more experience, they will become more accustomed to Man’s ways and will require less guidance, eventually becoming able to function, more or less, on their own among mortals. Elves are often worth the inconvenience and worry to adventuring parties, offering familiarity with Faerie and a number of abilities beyond the ken of mortals along with the headaches of associating with them.
That said, players of Elves should not feel that they must play their characters as totally unable to interact with society. Elves are still Fey and the Fey are able to interact with Man in ways generally understandable by Men; that is, Men generally understand what the Fey are doing, whether they understand their motivation or not. Players of Elves should not feel constrained to make every visit to town end with the party narrowly escaping a lynch mob; neither should they play Elves as normal mortal Men.

For example, an Elf that does not understand the idea of property is just as likely to give away valuable “possessions” as to “steal;” an Elf might begin a relationship with a store-owner by giving a fortune in gold to him when the Elf sees other characters giving the store-owner gold to buy items, expecting nothing in return. During another visit, the Elf might take items the Elf needs without paying for them, but the shop-owner will likely not mind, or will at least not make a fuss, not wanting to anger a Fey creature over an irregular situation that is, after all, at least currently resulting in a net profit. When fellow party members are present to explain and smooth things over (or cover the costs of the Elf’s actions, temporarily or permanently), these kinds of irregular relationships are even more easily established.