Arms Professions for Elves

Copyright Xavier Martin © 2012

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"Elves usually develop their fighting skills along other paths: Versatile Rogues for the Grey Elves, nature oriented Rangers for the Wood Elves, or magic oriented Warrior Mages for the high elves."

Fighters

This is not a common profession for elves, as it puts their immortal life in unnecessary danger. Elves usually develop their fighting skills along other paths: Versatile Rogues for the Grey Elves, nature oriented Rangers for the Wood Elves, or magic oriented Warrior Mages for the high elves.

Those elves who do choose this profession develop fighting as a personal art form (in the sense of martial art) and try to master "the perfect style." As a result, elves have created numerous, sophisticated weapon styles and tournaments to test them against each other. Most elven fighters specialize in melee weapon styles since a missile weapon does not need much more of an edge over an opponent at a distance other than firing first. Besides, the most famous tournaments are the melee duels. Note that these tournaments are fought with practice weapons and with the best magic healing available to prevent death.

Mounted combat is a human specialty (see their Knights) and, thus, the Darkwood elves have made no effort to develop the use of mounts in their forests. As for the Dustown elves, surrounded by miles of desert, they have little use for mounts. As a result, mounted combat is unusual for elven fighters. In actual combat, they prefer sprinting and distance running skills as well as magic transportation provided by their magicians.

Fighters also study tactics and strategy as a means to dispatch their opponents in the safest and most efficient possible way in real fights. This usually means using ambush, magic and ranged combat whenever possible. Elves have no standing army and it is the role of the fighters (and warrior mages) to coordinate elven troops in battle.

Fighter optional rules

In the following, a mastered skill refers to a skill which has been developed to at least 30 ranks.

  • A Fighter who has mastered his non-restricted combat maneuver everyman skill may switch to a new non-restricted combat maneuver everyman skill. Switching back and forth to an already mastered skill is only allowed with GM permission.
  • Some advanced weapon styles below can naturally be split into two basic styles. In such a case, the fighter may choose to master one of the basic weapon styles first, and then develop the advanced style as a non-restricted skill. See, for instance, Irgaak's Two-handed Sword style below.
  • Instead of choosing a non-restricted combat maneuver as his everyman skill, a fighter may choose a restricted combat maneuver and develop it as though it were not restricted. Once he has mastered it, he may switch as described above. It is recommended that starting characters not be allowed this choice at level 1, but only after they have already mastered one non-restricted skill.
  • A Fighter may develop a new basic weapon style as a restricted skill after he has mastered a first weapon style. He is encouraged to choose this restricted combat maneuver as the single skill he may treat as unrestricted, as described above. If he wants to create a new, advanced weapon style, half of the options of that new style should be part of a weapon style the fighter has already mastered. If the new weapon style is extremely similar to a style already mastered by the fighter, the new weapon style may be developed at its normal cost (basic or advanced) with GM permission. Example: Developing a weapon style for the two handed sword with identical options to a style for the spear.
  • An elven Fighter may have inherited an unusual weapon, or know a weapon crafter who created such a weapon. In that case, for one background option he can start with that unusual weapon. If he uses two background options, he may roll on the special item list to give a special ability to that weapon. If he uses three options, he may choose any one ability he wants for his unusual weapon. See, for instance, Imyra's Silkrope Combo below.
  • A Fighter who starts with a magic weapon or heavy armor may have it made of treeherd wood if desired. He may also choose as a +20 item a robe of elvensilk (AT2); three +10 items as a +20 robe of elvensilk (AT3); or two +20 items as a +20 robe of elvensilk (AT4).

Weapon styles

Because weapon makers are as eager to craft the "perfect weapon" as fighters are to create the "perfect style," some styles use unusual weapon designs. For rules on them, see the layman profession.

These rules are for campaigns with more a European than Oriental feel, so when designing weapon styles, basic weapon style range from 10 to 25 points, and advanced weapon styles range from 30 to 40 points.

Marash's spear Style (25 style points) This is an ancient basic style developed by the Wood Elf Diif-Marash for the spear. The style combines the defense of a shield spell with the deadliness of a two-handed weapon. It was later adapted to the two-handed sword by Irgaak. Practitioners of both this and the following weapon style often use bracers of shielding to augment their defense (see new magic object in alchemist section).
Recommended skills: Spear or two-handed sword weapon skill, shield spell (typically on the open Mentalism "attack avoidance" spell list)
Weapon style abilities: Spear or two-handed sword attack [5 points], defensive ward (using shield spell) [10 points] and paired weapon attack with shield spell (yields an additional unbalancing critical) [10 points].

Irgaak's two-handed Sword Style (40 style points) This advanced weapon style was designed by Irgaak as a variant of the previous style by adding both stronger offensive and defensive abilities. It requires excellent coordination to combine three actions simultaneously (two attacks and a defense), but it made him the undisputed champion at tournaments for several decades. This style can be developed as two basic styles (see fighter optional rules): One defensive (without the additional melee weapon attack), and one offensive (without shield training).
Recommended skills: Two-handed sword and shield bash weapon skills, shield spell (typically on the open Mentalism "attack avoidance" spell list)
Weapon style abilities: Two-handed sword attack [5 points], shield training (with shield spell) [20 points], Additional melee weapon attack (with shield spell) [15 points]
Special: This complicated style is usually split into two basic styles: the defensive style (two-handed sword attack, shield training), and the offensive style (two-handed sword attack, additional melee weapon attack). It can be learnt as two successive basic styles by fighters as described in the options above.

Imyra's Fencing Style (40 style point) Imyra uses an unusual combination of a rapier and a light throwing dagger attached to a 10 feet long rope of elvensilk. The rope is normally kept coiled in the off-hand. The fighter can use it to ensnare his opponent's weapon, or to retrieve the dagger after throwing it at an opponent. This style can be developed as two basic styles (see fighter optional rules): A melee style (without the additional thrown weapon attack and swashbuckling bonus), and a thrown style (with the additional thrown weapon attack and swashbuckling bonus abilities).
Recommended skills: Rapier melee attack skill, dagger throwing skill, disarm foe, swashbuckling.
Weapon style abilities: Rapier melee attack [5 points], additional thrown weapon (throwing dagger) [15 points], defensive ward (using the dagger) [10 points], +10 to disarm [5 points], +5 to swashbuckling [5 points].
Special ability: The practitioner may make a swashbuckling skill roll as a 40% activity action to recover the dagger after a throw using the spidersilk rope. If he succeeds, he may throw it again or use it in melee for the defensive ward ability in the current round.

Muldek's Rapier Weapon Style (25 style point) this basic weapon style has sparked controversy for focusing more on tournament displays than on real combat efficiency: swirling one's cloak around, switching the rapier from one hand to the other mid-attack, or drawing dazzling patterns with the rapier point in the air. Still, this basic style actually requires a lot of training (see the numerous recommended skills), is a crowd favourite, and Muldek did manage to win a tournament with it.
Recommended skills: rapier weapon skill, feinting, disarm foe, swashbuckling, dancing.
Weapon style abilities: rapier melee attack [5 points], defensive ward (with a cloak) [10 points], +10 to feint [5 points], +10 to disarm [5 points].

Greatwood Archery Style (25 style point) this basic weapon style relies on mobility and is most adapted for harrying enemies in a cluttered environment such as a forest. It is therefore a favourite in the Darkwood principality and is widely practiced outside the fighter profession (in particular by rogues and rangers).
Recommended skills: short bow weapon skill, sprinting
Weapon style abilities: short bow missile attack [5 points], movement [10 points], lesser Reloading [10 points].

Ring Archery Style (25 style point) this basic weapon archery style is best used from an entrenched position with a clear field of fire such as in a desert. It is a favourite of the Dustown principality and is widely practiced outside the fighter profession (in particular by laymen and rangers).
Recommended skills: longbow weapon skill
Weapon style abilities: long bow missile attack [5 points], -10 to range penalties [10 points], lesser Reloading [10 points].

High Rider Archery Style (25 style point) this basic weapon archery style is destined to the High Riders, wild rangers who have befriended a griffin. It concentrates on firing a short bow while flying on the back of a griffin.
Recommended skills: shortbow weapon skill, Griffin riding
Weapon style abilities: short bow missile attack [5 points], +10 bonus to Griffin riding [10 points], Movement [10 points] (penalties to OB due to activity used for riding is halved).

Robinwood Archery Style (40 style point) this advanced weapon style for bows is not very common but Robinwood is one of the few fighters having chosen to specialise in it. As a result, even though he is not as popular as the melee fighters, he consistently wins the bow competitions at tournaments. It is also an efficient style in combat: with his magic two form bow (short bow and long bow), Robinwood has excellent mobility, and can have a good rate of fire or range as needed.
Recommended skills: short bow and long bow weapon skills, running
Weapon style abilities: bow missile attacks [10 points], Movement [10 points], greater Reloading [20 points].
Special: This advanced style is actually a synthesis of the two previous styles and can be learnt as two successive basic styles by fighters as described in the options above.

Thief

This profession is not available to elves brought up in the principalities. In such small communities, thieving is not a viable profession: There just are not enough marks or suspects to get by. As for spying or information gathering, rogues and dabblers are much more appropriate. As a result, an elven thief should take the multi-cultural lesser talent to explain this profession and look up thieves professions for other races.

Warrior monk

Warrior monks belong to an eastern style culture and are inappropriate for this campaign. For the same reason, the following skills are not available in this campaign:

  • All skills in the "Martial Arts Maneuvers" category
  • All skills in the "Special Defense" category
  • All skills in the "Martial Arts" category except boxing and wrestling
  • All skills in the "self control" category whose name contains "adrenal"
  • All Chi power skills

Rogue

Rogue is the perfect profession for Grey Elves who take to wanderlust at a young age. The possibility to learn as they go with a mentor and later alone is perfect for these elves who cannot abide learning a profession for long years in one place. Furthermore, the class's versatility serves them well in their travels. This same characteristic is what repels other elves who like to focus on a hobby and mastering it. By the same token, these Rogues will seldom develop weapon styles, and then only a basic one.

Layman (layelf?)

Layman is not an unusual profession for elves, although the proportion of Layman elves is much lower than in humans or dwarves.

Obviously, high elves naturally prefer craftsmen occupations, while wood elves prefer outdoors occupations (farmer, fisher, shepherd, or spiderherd in particular) and grey elves are attracted to the mariner, scholar, and trader occupations.

Layman optional rules

In the following, a mastered skill refers to a skill which has been developed to 30 ranks at least.

  • A layman who has mastered all his occupation skills (i.e. all occupational and everyman skill of the profession) may switch occupations. If he does, he should not be allowed to switch back later. For most races, this non-adventuring class seldom reaches high level, but elves being immortal, they will eventually master their occupation and may want to switch focus.
  • An "unusual success" for a crafts static maneuver table allows a special design. With their long life to experiment and their desire to master their craft, this is not so unusual for elf crafters to come up with interesting new designs. The +10 bonus may be replaced by a non magical effect equivalent to a Weapon II, Armor II, or General II special effect if appropriate. For instance, a fire "minor effect weapon" should be disallowed as it cannot be reasonably achieved non-magically, whereas a "minor decreased fumble" could be appropriate. In any case, such an object will be unusual, and such a weapon, armor, or instrument would usually be difficult to build, have some weakness, or require a special skill to use, explaining why its use is not more widespread. See below for examples.

Example occupations

Spiderherd: this is a misnomer as caring for giant spiders is nothing like caring for sheep, since, among other things, they are solitary. Giant spiders will usually have a territory and stick to it. The spiderherd job is to make sure they get enough food, stay in their valley, and to harvest the non-sticky strands of their old webs. The Arachnemancer essence training package is highly appropriate for this occupation.
Occupational skills: crafts: spinning, animal handling: spiders.
Everyman skills: animal mastery (giant spiders), fauna lore: spiders.

Scholar: not all Grey Elves have wanderlust and those who don't often like to study languages and texts. Some wood elves also take this occupation to interact with the intelligent trees of the brightbosk. Scholar is actually a large group of occupations, and it is very common for an elf to move to a new scholar occupation after he has mastered one. The cloistered academic and the crusading academics training packages are highly appropriate for this occupation.
Occupational skills: research, one or two related skills among: the lore categories, and the languages (written and/or spoken).
Everyman skills: none.

Example of elven special designs

Some of these designs replace the fantasy weapons of the same name at the end of Arms Law which look terribly overpowered to me.

Imyra's Silkrope Combo: Imyra uses an unusual weapon made of a rapier and a light throwing dagger attached to a 10foot-long rope of elvensilk. See "Imyra's fencing style" above for details on the best use of this weapon.

The Kynac: this rapier special design is longer than usual so that it grants his wielder a +2 to initiative and a +5 to his OB. The design is known to a family of high elves and used almost only by them. Because of its distinct balance, the kynac weapon melee skill must be developed specifically for this weapon. Contrary to the Arms Law weapon, it cannot be thrown.

The sword of Irgaak: Irgaak was one of the greatest elven melee fighters ever. After learning Marash's spear style, he adapted it to the two-handed sword, and then developed his well-known weapon style. Then, he looked for further improvement of his fighting ability through weapon design. Working in cooperation with Carggik, a famous weapon alchemist, they came up with the design of a longer two-handed sword designed for cutting and thrusting rather than mauling. The weapon has a -10 STR modifier (it is hollowed to compensate for the additional weight of the increased length), gets +15 against AT1-4, +5 against AT5-8, -5 against AT13-16, and -10 against AT17-20. It was then forged out of Laen and enchanted with the "armor and shield slayer" and "increased critical" special weapon "effects." However, when Irgaak found out that Carggik was duplicating the weapon for a rival fighter, he killed him, burnt his workshop to keep the exclusivity of the weapon design, and fled the principalities. He first wandered the human empire challenging and killing weapon masters there, before having to flee yet again into the Orc Steppes to the West. He has disappeared since and is presumed dead. This weapon design is lost, and only two copies ever existed: the original non-enchanted steel design (available to PC if desired), and the unenchanted laen copy confiscated by Irgaak when he killed Carggik. Irgaak is still alive and has become a legendary weapon master among steppe orcs who respect so much skill at arms. He is a wandering mercenary who hires to whoever strikes his fancy, for whatever price he feels like.

Defense Staff: some elven essence spell users use a staff to enhance their magic (see "Magic Staff" Essence spell list). Most are not interested in the weapon aspect of the staff though, except for defense when attacked in melee. As a result, defense staves were designed with protection for the hands and small hooks to help block melee weapons which provide +10DB when not used to attack. This bonus increases to +15DB when at least 50% activity is also used to parry with the staff. Most staff wielding magicians caught in melee will use such a parry while casting one of the attack spells (not a Directed Elemental!) stored in their staff.

Lamellar Chain Mail: this is actually a Dwarven design described in the dwarves race entry of the Rolemaster Standard Rules.

Di Varius Harps: By putting hollows in the arm of the harp, di Varius was able to give deeper harmonics to the sound of his harps giving a +10 bonus to the "Play Instrument" skill of any musician playing it. Unfortunately, di Varius is arrogant about his harp crafting and paranoid about his designs and does not share them. Those few crafters who tried to take them apart did not manage to reproduce the design properly. These harps can only be inherited or ordered directly from di Varius.

Spider Shoes: These shoes made from sticky and non-sticky elven silk are mostly exported to the human empire where they are favoured by thieves. The side can be made to stick to surfaces helping climb, but hindering running and jumping. These shoes give a +10 to climbing and a -5 to any kind of running or jumping. You can also try to catch small objects by sticking them to your shoes with the Swashbuckling skill.