Dark Elves (Ulka-Enyalie)

Copyright Andrew Mussell © 2015

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"Dark elves are a tortured and paranoid race. This often disturbs them without apparent cause."

Overview

The race known commonly as Dark elves is a bitter and vengeful race, prone to plotting, scheming, manipulation, and guile. At least, they are if commonly held beliefs are true.

It is true that there is a very real hatred and antipathy towards their apparent cousins, the elves who inhabit the surface world. It was believed that it was the dominion of “good-aligned” elves over the lands beneath open skies allegedly drove them beneath the earth. Whether it is true that they fled, were banished or some dark ambition led them underground is mere conjecture. However, antipathy between these two similar races appears to be mutual and persistent. Unlike their relation with the surface elves, which is tainted with outright hatred, they appear to merely disdain or ignore other races. Any escalation in the antipathy between them and other races seems to be based on the competition for space and resources which is obviously at a premium underground.

Historians have discussed the origin of the dark elves at some length. There is some speculation that they are, in fact, not true elves at all, but only another form of the many lesser faerie races (e.g. sprites, gremlins, and the other faerie-folk.). Academics that hold this view prefer to describe the members of this race as “Darklings” or “Shadow People.” They theorize that they are a “missing link” between the smaller -sized faerie folk and the elves. The major difference being that the dark elves, unlike the majority of the lesser faerie race, have obviously rejected or successfully escaped the rule of elves en-masse and fled (or were forced) underground before the rise of humans. An alternative and slightly more popular theory is that they are simply another playful manipulation of the elves by a spiteful god (as is often thought is the origin of the Orcs).

As a race, they have many names, none chosen or favored by them and probably none entirely accurate. The men of the north, who encountered them first amidst the shadowy fjords and nearby mountain caves, knew of them as Dock Alfar, Trow or a crude amalgam of both. Surface elves rarely refer to them at all, then only if pressed to do so. They call them the Ulka-enyalie (trans. Evil Memory). This does little to explain their origins. Neither race appears to lay claim to know the truth. All that is known that Dark Elves are certainly no friends of surface elves and the subject matter behind the cause of their mutual animosity is raised now only in whispers. Other mannish tribes, at least the less prejudiced ones, refer to them in guarded conversation or as threats to children as Shadow Elves, Dark Elves, Darklings, or “The Dark Ones.” The dwarves that on occasion encounter them within the deeps are not so generous or polite when naming them. With their natural distrust of the political intentions of elves in general a clear distinction is often not made between the two. Knowing that a measure of antipathy exists between the two may actually lead a less tactful dwarf to simply call them “elves.” A more diplomatic speaker might classify them as “Deep elves” distinguishing them purely by proximity. Indeed, the Dark elves’ actions, influence, and machinations may very well have caused much of the strife that exists between the Dwarves and the Surface Elves in the first place.

Physical Characteristics

Build and Physiology

Dark elves are a slender and graceful race, almost identical to surface elves except they lack the stature and their skin hues are often significantly darker. Whilst retaining the noble proportions of “true” elves they are rarely comparable in height. Generally height is in the region of 5’8 whilst surprisingly retaining the equivalent built and weight of a slim human (about 100-120lbs). There does not appear to be such a thing as an overweight dark elf though they actually weigh slightly more proportionately than the far taller surface elves.

An outstanding feature and one that lends some weight to the theory that they are not, in fact, true elves, is that there is a pronounced size difference between females and males. Females are generally noticeably taller (at least 2-3”) than the males. Also, should a dark elf be above average height for the race then it will almost certainly be female. This could be for several reasons. The most likely of these is simply that females are often better treated in childhood with better diet and living conditions. The other most popular speculation is that the race has more in common physically, sexually and in the manner in which they live to spiders and other hunting beasts, where the “Female is more deadly than the Male”.

Colouring

The most obvious descriptor for a Dark elf, in comparison to surface elves is their dark skin tones. It is a commonly held misconception that all have a pitch black complexion. In fact, the reverse is true, very few do. Darker shades of grey are actually more common. There are two possible reasons for this misconception. The first is that those encountered above ground are usually on raids at nighttime. The second is that their preparations to be in light tend to negate heat radiation, rendering areas of exposed skin darker when viewed with infravision. Thus, being “blacked up” serves both as camouflage and protection. About one in a hundred dark elves are actually born with fair skin. This is a strange form of albinism that affects the sexes differently. Depending upon their sex, albinos suffer very different fates.

A female “albinos” appear to have a markedly different genetic make-up from normal. They suffer far less from the effects of sunlight than would their darker-skinned sisters. They are treated with the highest respect, even by warring factions; they are thought to be a blessing by the dark gods: a divine tool that will eventually allow them overcome the races genetic failings and operate freely against their enemies in the surface lands.

Male “albinos” are in all respects, albinos. These are considered liabilities. These unfortunates face a completely different fate and appear to have a totally different genetic make-up to the females, suffering far worse when exposed to sunlight. They are often simply sacrificed when still infants at the first opportunity to whatever deity that the particular clan plays lip-service to.

A dark elf has facial features, eyes and ears, and a bone structure which are all flawless and identical to surface elves. They share the same advantages regarding visual acuity. Dark elves however, have a significant advantage over the surface elves in that they can see to a degree even in pitch-dark conditions even in the absence of light. Their eyes are often the most colorful part of a dark elf, with pale blue, violet, pink and shades of red not uncommon.

Compared to the fair beauty of the surface elves, dark elves might also be considered beautiful, if it were not that their visage appears permanently tainted. It is not unusual for a dark elf to have a natural expression that indicates mockery, derision, or disdain. This is especially true when dealing with other races. Only the most sincere diplomat or most proficient dark elf actor can remove this look of superiority from their face.

Hair color varies, but, once again contrary to a popularly held belief not all their hair is naturally pure white. In truth, it varies considerably. Why this misconception? Well, that along with the erroneous belief that all have pitch-black skin comes from the rare encounters outside of their natural environment. Above ground, exposure to UV rays causes bleaching and eventual hair loss. Dark elves of higher castes often go to great lengths to temporarily protect their hair using a lotion/dye. This results in the pure white color but prevents permanent bleaching and hair loss. Also, somewhat confusingly, a high proportion of encounters with dark elves also appear to include large numbers of orcs and their kin. This situation is not always as it first seems. It is not uncommon for heavily drugged male dark elves, thralls, to accompany raiding parties. These usually have shaven heads, scarred/tattoos, filed-down teeth, and dosed with combat drugs. Because most encounters are in darkness and also include orcs this often confuses the accounts made by few survivors that live to tell the tale.

Their skin is hyper-sensitive to actual sunlight. This causes pain and a small amount of cosmetic damage (similar to the blistering experienced with sunburn) to an un-prepared individual when exposed for extended continuous periods. Even during periods when the strength of the sun is not great (cloudy days, dawn and dusk) their skin is still as sensitive. In game terms, the brightest sunlight causes 10/hits per hour with proportionately less when exposed to lesser intensities. It is important to note that a dark elf does not suffer lasting skin damage or scarring from such exposure and will rarely die from its effects alone. Generally the worst that will happen is that exposure may eventually cause unconsciousness amongst the less hardy individuals.

They suffer no additional physical damage from other forms of light, unless created by spells which physically damages others or is specifically intended to replicate ALL the effects of sunlight.

This sensitivity to sunlight is also allied with a psychological disposition that simply does not favor any form of bright light and borders on a form of agoraphobia. This mixture of both discomfort and dislike causes them to suffer lethargy with the same penalties to activity that are suffered by common orcs and goblins.

These sensitivities, along with the issues that they face with their vision in bright light, make for a very uncomfortable environment for a Dark Elf. (10 hits/hour, -40 activity and -40 to all skills)

Imagine having a bad migraine. Double it. That is what a Dark Elf feels when exposed to sunlight.

Female albinos suffer only half these penalties (5 hits per hour and -20 to activity) for operating in bright sunlight and no penalties from operating in bright light. It is a commonly held belief that if a female albino also has an albino daughter then it will also be able to operate freely whilst in sunlight.

Male albinos ironically suffer double the normal penalties in sunlight (20 hits per hour, -80 to activity, -80 to skills) should they ever manage to survive long enough to experience it.

Endurance

Dark elves are much like other faerie races in that there appears to be no requirement for them to sleep. Instead, like surface elves, they are capable of entering a meditative state or trance for a limited period. During this period they recover the same amount of power points as would gained during a normal nights rest. Outside in daylight, Dark Elves quickly become weary, though this is almost purely psychological and is reflected in the penalty applied to their activity whilst above ground. Below ground they can operate for 16-20 hours per day without the requirement for rest.

Unlike surface elves, dark elves are a tortured and paranoid race. This often disturbs them without apparent cause. For each period of mediation entered, a dark elf makes an Alertness check. Success means that they wake up after only half the intended mediation time. This is more obviously more prevalent amongst nobles (and other high-level Dark Elves) whose senses have become honed through experience.

Lifespan

Much like other faerie races they have the potential for immortality. The truth is, very few survive long enough for this to happen. Their competitive society often causes their lives to be cut shorter than perhaps they would like. And the intense paranoia that is rife amongst the race often causes the eldest examples to go insane. It is a bit of a catch 22 situation, those that suffer least from paranoia tend to die fastest, those who do live longer but have more tortured lives.

Resistance

Dark elves share the same resistance to cold as do true elves (receiving +10 DB/RR versus Cold Attacks). They are virtually immune to disease and cannot be scarred. This resistance to scarring apparently doesn’t extend to the receipt of tattoos (or branding) which has been observed on the heads and bodies of male dark elf thralls. These are presumably marks of ownership or rank. What methods are used to overcome the natural resistance to scarring are unknown and probably closely guarded secrets of the various Dark Elf factions.

Another peculiarity is that the majority of Dark Elves have developed a tolerance to toxins of all sorts.

All dark elves should be considered to have a minimum +10 DB/RR to poisons regardless of age, profession, or status. This tolerance is not a natural resistance but due to a lifetime of an increasing exposure to drugs and other toxic infusions throughout their lives.

Members of higher-ranking clans, high level individuals and especially priests have developed a near immunity to poisons and venoms for the same reasons but have access to superior qualities and quantities. Such an individual receives a maximum bonus can be up to +50. This is based upon half the age of the individual.

Special Abilities

Their innate ability to see in the dark is legendary. This ability, even the pitch dark of the deepest caves is more likely to be restricted by the environment than distance. Above ground, at night, their vision is as good as surface elves. They cannot differentiate colours in the dark.

Their alchemists have perfected eye-drops and protective lenses to prevent physical long-lasting damage from bright light, though this actually does little to lessen the penalties. Without them though bright light renders them almost blind (-40) and persists for 1-10 rounds after exposure ceases. Exposure to sunlight for extended periods actually destroys their sensitive retinas. Fortunately, eye drops are relatively easy to manufacture and although relatively short lasting they are more comfortable and a far more economic alternative than expensive lenses.

Culture

Clothing and Decoration

Dark elves have a highly developed sense of style but conversely have an extremely staid fashion sense. Which is to say, they know what they like, and they won’t change. Almost without exception clothes tend towards dark tones, generally black. Dark silvery-grey, purples and deep reds are also worn, though usually only on official or social occasions where an individual wants to stand out. This is particularly true of religious ceremonies. For normal attire, working and travelling garb other colors simply have no relevance for them as in the dark they cannot differentiate colors only shades.

Without exception, the fabrics they use are light, tough, and generally sheer. Females in particular are notoriously vain, and because they suffer little from the cold, tend towards standards of decency that would barely be acceptable in other societies where clothes are the norm. In fact, the innate distrust within the race itself leads most to believe that the only reason they wear clothes at all is so they can conceal weapons about their person.

Thus a heavily clothed dark elf is not to be trusted and one that is confident enough not to do so is to be feared.

Males, generally being treated as a lower class, tend toward more utilitarian clothing, but the quality is still the best that can be afforded by their mistresses. As noted above. It is not uncommon for males to have tattoos or brands on them to distinguish rank (or ownership in the case of thralls)

An interesting aspect of dark elf clothing is that most items are designed with visibility (or lack thereof) in mind. Normal clothing, whilst universally dark in nature, often has a weave that itself forms a pattern that is only distinguishable with night-vision. It is believed that this weave actually is a form of disruptive camouflage. It breaks up the outline of the wearer when viewed with those with night or dark vision though the effect is slightly reduced when the wearer moves.

When encountered, the majority of items wielded by Dark Elves appear to have been alchemically treated to be non-reflective, and some cases actually absorb light. Occasionally, certain items are manufactured to permanently have these properties. These are generally only owned and manufactured to order by the highest-ranking members of their society. Principally, weapons, helms, and bracers are treated thus.

All special clothing is of very high quality and cost to purchase but also comes with an additional price. This is that the special fabrics themselves are very sensitive to UV radiation. Basically the patterns and weave fade and in the majority of cases disintegrate in a matter of days if exposed to sunlight. It is not fully understood exactly why this happens. The dark elves have developed several spells and alchemical treatments to protect the weave for short periods of time, these treatments usually last 6-8 days.

As alluded to in a previous section, very few Dark Elves are naturally white-haired or naturally have pitch black skin. This incongruity is simply explained since those expecting to experience bright light will often treat their hair and exposed skin with similar, but weaker, alchemical preparations. These last 6-8 hours. A dye for the hair and a lotion for their skin. Nobles often carry a small supply with them at all times. The dye bleaches hair and the lotion darkens the pigment of the skin. These give them some degree of protection when exposed to sunlight much like sun-cream. Therefore, most, if not all Dark Elves encountered above ground will, at least, appear as they have bleached white hair and pitch black skin. An important note is that the skin lotion often causes hair loss when applied to the scalp. Since the lotion is cheaper to manufacture, it is not uncommon for male slaves (thralls) to be permanently bald or have shaven heads. These preparations will half the hits/hour that a dark elf suffers when exposed to sunlight. It has NO effect on the penalties to activity suffered.

Dark elves tend to avoid armors that encumber or restrict their movement. Therefore, where armor is worn it will generally be light, well-designed and most importantly custom fitted. Of equal importance is its appearance, Dark Elves, especially females will often wear armor that is as stylish as their clothes.

Fear and Inabilities

Dark elves don’t appear to have any specific fears as such; generally they induce it in others. However, the race suffers from a universal and near constant psychological state that is similar to the effects of both paranoia and agoraphobia. This condition is not only confined to dealing with members of other races as their own can often prove a very real threat to their mental stability.

The condition generally appears as a lack of trust or dependence on others, particularly others of a different race. This fits well with their general disdain of others so unfortunately it is rather difficult to make a clear appraisal as to exactly what a particular individual's emotions are.

Their greatest psychological weaknesses stem from exposure to bright light (specifically but not exclusively sunlight). As well as being sometimes painful, there is a major subconscious reaction. Outwardly, the only obvious signs are that a Dark Elf will narrow their eyes in distain. This further extenuates their cruel visage but in itself is not a major disadvantage.

Although having discovered methods of avoiding many of the physical penalties associated with sunlight, the psychological dislike and agoraphobia often outweigh these measures. The penalty to activity still remains despite all such innovations. The dark elves simply dislike, feel uncomfortable, and are distracted by surface environments regardless of the preparations they make.

Lifestyle

Dark Elves are clannish, forming fairly large communities comprising relations, near-relations, subjugated lesser families and slaves. The clans are lead by the most powerful female (usually the eldest). There are numerous clans that surprisingly tend to live in fairly close proximity. The reasons for this are probably that the space available is somewhat restricted and that the common phrase “keep your friends close but your enemies closer” is apparently very appropriate in dark elf society. However, the main reason is strength in numbers. Due to their reputation, it seems as if everyone else is “out to get them”. Although this is not always strictly true, for the Dark Elves at least, it just as well might be.

Even though Dark Elves are intensely competitive/defensive of their survival, they are, relatively speaking compared to other races, very few in number. This is a fact that is not lost on them. This allied to the fact that they have made a lot of enemies outside of their race means that although no love is lost between the various clans, and although the occasional assassination does occur, it is rare for an attempt of outright extermination of one clan to occur. More often than not such a clan’s leadership is weakened and the lesser family simply subjugated. However, assassination is still regarded as an art-form amongst them and being overly dominant just makes you a challenging target. Thus, the end result is normally a status quo, with a Machiavellian web of power-sharing and intrigue.

Their diet is known to be widely omnivorous. Due to the space constraints put upon them by their environment, meat is generally derived from captive livestock (goats and sheep mainly) and rarely, farmed livestock (such as rodents, lizards and fish). The subterranean habitat is ideal though for the growth of algae and fungi which forms the mainstay of the dark Elven diet. The long-term effects of this diet are cause for some speculation, as some elements of the diet appear to have little or no nutritional value and would be harmful in most cases to members of other races. Like their surface relatives the dark elves requirements are somewhat less than that of the other races and can subsist on only a very small quantity of food. The main part of their diet appears to be in the form of liquids and jellified pastes. Their food tends to be well-prepared and cooked to their own exacting standards. If it were not for the persistent and habitual tendency for it to be laced with substances that are toxic to others it might be considered haute cuisine.

Marriage and Family Pattern

Because clans are matriarchal in nature it is the female bloodline that is important. Marriage is almost universally political in nature and this is one of the only occasions that a male appears have any real worth in Dark elf society, either traded as good breeding stock or as a political tool. Often such marriages tend to be short affairs with the groom often dying mysteriously soon after. Polygamy is not unheard of and a female will frequently take additional lovers as well to supplement the gene-pool. Love is a strange thing amongst Dark Elves, the term “motherly love” is often the closest that one will feel. The females will express a measure of concern for their offspring, even to males (though not to albino males). However, this should not be confused with “real” love, rather the concern expressed in the continuance and expansion of their own personal power-base.

Religion

Dark elves seem to treat religion purely as a potential source of additional power not appearing to have any strong meta-physical aspirations or any faith in anything but themselves. Thus the deities promising “fast-track” power usually are those favored, these are also generally those with fewest ethical restrictions, thus Dark Elves lean towards those deities associated with Chaos and Evil. Even so, such worship tends to be mere “lip-service.” It seems that the majority of Dark-elves simply are so paranoid that they are unable to have any “faith.” Therefore, very few choose to become priests.

Whilst not a religion as such, Dark Elves hold a fascination for spiders. This could be considered veneration and it is not uncommon for them to use these as a physical manifestation of their chosen deity. Many scholars have speculated that the dark elves also have an empathy with spiders and that very few healthy individuals ever fall victim to spider venom because of it. Whether this is true or that the dark elves simply have taken extraordinary steps to protect themselves, including developing tolerance over time, is not known. Some have also suggested that the disparity in size of the male and female dark elves and their attitudes to each other is also related to their reverence towards spiders and their mating habits.

The fate of the unfortunate male albino is generally through quasi-religious sacrifice to the gods which may have arisen by the shame that the mothers feel when such off-spring are born. These may also have evolved from “kill or cure” efforts made to “make” their off-spring normal. Regardless, mothers have little concern for these poor individuals, expressing great pleasure in ensuring these ceremonies last several hours even days by force-feeding them a cocktail of spider venoms and drugs. The resulting mixture ensures that the maximum pain and psychological discomfort is placed upon the victim before they normally expire, bodies bloated, broken, and, ironically, blackened.

Though not strictly related to their religion there is an interesting convergence with these sacrifices and the myths the surface peoples have of the Dark Elves and their apparent alliance with intelligent spiders. Folk-tales exist of beings with the upper body of dark elf and the body of a large spider…a dark-elf/spider/centaur amalgam, all of whom appear insane and only barely controllable by their Dark Elven mistresses. Of course, some simply dismiss these tales as shadowy sightings of giant spiders trained as mounts being ridden by a dark-elf. Perhaps, it is true that these tales are true and that such sacrifices sometimes spawn these monstrosities to further extend their torment. Certainly, encounters with Dark-elves using giant spiders have occurred. However, appears unlikely as to whether such survivors would be encountered anywhere but in the secret recesses of a clan enclave or banished into the subterranean depths far from sight.

Other Factors

Demeanor

Dark elves are renowned for their dislike of true elves and those that associate with them. They are thought to be bitter, hateful, and untrustworthy. They are feared and reviled. Their haughty attitude much like their surface cousins does not sit well with the other races that deal with them add to this their innate distrust simply makes them thoroughly unlike-able.

Language

Dark Elves are accomplished linguists; however rarely use any language other than their own to communicate. More often than not they learn additional languages just to understand what their enemies might be saying. Amongst others they will often favor using Dark Speech.

Silent Speak, their spoken language, is an Elven dialect supplemented by a rich sign language that is surprisingly intricate and exquisite. Dark Elves rarely speak above a whisper. The “signing” element of the language when used independently is actually only a stripped down version of their spoken language, dealing only with functional explanation and simple direction. When used in conjunction with the spoken language it adds inflection and meaning. A dark elf could not use it by itself, for instance, to perform prose. It is also important to note that when used with the spoken language some gestures actually have entirely different meanings from those used in isolation. This means learning the language in its full form is very complicated.

Prejudices

They have a hatred for true Elves of all kinds. They are merely disdainful of any other race. This attitude is not really that surprising though however, for it is not unusual for other races to, at the very least, distrust a dark elf on sight. This probably due to the common tales and rumors circulated as gossip and here-say rather than personal experience. It is therefore very rare for a dark elf to maintain an association with members of other race unless they stand to directly gain from the relationship in some way. Thus dark Elven merchants and diplomats (who are themselves very rare) are the individuals most likely to establish any form of long-term relationship with members of another race.

Professions

The profession that an individual dark elf pursues is somewhat dependent upon their sex and station in life. Males being sub-servant and regimented for the most part generally train in the military or menial careers (craftsmen and no-profession). Females generally follow whatever career their station allows and it is they that fill the ranks of the various cults and religions used by the Dark Elves. Whilst it exceedingly rare for a male to do so, they often pursue the darker magical arts, those that do so are exclusively of noble birth.

Whilst it is unusual for Dark elves to practice the arts of thievery as a profession most are naturally adept and unsurprisingly talented in many subterfuge skills. However, those that do so are likely to part of a guild or simply completely detached from the normal social structure.

Training Packages

Dark elves are bound by their clans for the most part and are unlikely to spend any-time outside of the realms of their profession, thus only training packages appropriate to their profession will generally be taken.

Special Skills

Dark Elves are exceptionally subtle, the skills of Stalk and Hide come naturally to them, and both are learnt as Everyman skills.

Standard Hobby Skills

PC's will generally have had to acquire specific skills to survive their quite brutal upbringing rather than chosen to do so as a “hobby.” A player’s choice of these specific skills perhaps explains why the character survived to be a PC at all. True “hobbies” for a NPC Dark Elf are something that is developed as the character progresses in their chosen career. More like an extension of the skills base that would benefit them in that career. Dark Elves tend to be very focused in this respect.

Hobby skills: Alertness, Ambush, Armor (Light & Medium), Body Development, Caving, Direction Sense, First Aid, Foraging, Leather-crafting, Languages, Locate hidden, Observation, Region Lore, Stone Craft, Survival (Underground) , Tumbling, any Weapon Skills

The Individual as a PC

It is exceedingly rare for a Dark elf to chose to live outside their own community, or survive to escape the limits of the class-structure should they choose to do so. Even if they do overcome these restrictions it is equally difficult to be accepted into another society. Dark elves are evil, bitter, vengeful, paranoid, and have great problems disguising this fact, especially those as inexperienced as starting level characters. They do not easily trust others and their predilection towards Evil is well known. The secrets of their specialized equipment, dietary requirements, and lotions developed to assist their survival above ground are jealously guarded and available to only the most powerful Dark Elves. Even if these items are available they will quickly deteriorate in time without requiring considerable skill to maintain them. A rogue Dark Elf is therefore unlikely to ever be trusted by its own kind, let alone outsiders and will most likely quickly experience all the unfavorable side-effects of exposure to sunlight and also being forced to go “cold-turkey” from drug-dependence. Unless the campaign is centered around evil characters and subterranean in nature, survival for any length of time will be problematic.

A player’s choice of profession should be made with the characters background in mind. Males especially are very restricted; usually the only ones with the chance to escape are those from martial backgrounds. Other professions are occasionally taken up by males, particularly crafting ones. However, only those belonging to the higher noble clans have greater “freedom” to fill the useful esoteric professions such as Alchemist, Magician etc. These are rare opportunities and these individuals would normally be treated rather like valuable goods with little freedom. So exposure to adventure and the related chances for escape would be somewhat restricted by their mistresses.

Outfitting Options

Armor

Dark elves are naturally loathe to burden themselves with anything that encumbers their natural agility and quickness, this is a similarity with their despised relatives the surface elves. However, their environment and society often favors the requirement for such hardships. Ultimately, it is the wealth and sex of the individual that determines exactly what is worn.

Females of all castes are extremely vain and competitive, always having the most flattering superior equipment available. This often means magically enchanted protection but with a preference toward the finest, lightest and stylish available. If they choose to wear armor it will always, without exception, be treated and costed at the very least as fitted armor. It is not unusual for a female Dark elf to refuse outright to wear “superior” armor if it is not individually fitted or in anyway seen as unflattering. Therefore, given the choice between a superbly crafted set of Magical Full Plate and a fitted set of stylish leather armor they will invariably choose the later regardless of the circumstances.

Males cannot choose to be so fussy. As second rate citizens and in most cases almost treated as slaves, they wear what they are told to wear. For males associated with the highest castes in society they are expected to show their mistresses in a good light. They are therefore expected to outfit themselves (or are provided with) equipment that complements their mistresses but is never superior in appearance. However, this equipment tends not be of such high quality, tending more towards the more functional aspects of their position.

Shields

Much like armor, shields are routinely considered too constricting to a dark elf's natural agility and quickness. In addition, most are simply too heavy and bulky for use underground. However, in the rare occasions that their military forces gather for a defensive battle larger types of shield are used. The largest shield that generally will be encountered would be a buckler-type device. As is typical with dark elves these bucklers tend to be of good manufacture and an ergonomic stylish design. Limited access to wood also means that the majority are metallic or from alternative organic matter (such as carapaces and bones). Much like their clothes, cloaks, etc., it is not unusual for the shields/bucklers to be covered with the same material, its effects are therefore limited in application in actual combat usually degrading quickly after a few uses. When issued to their military, these fabrics are often also interwoven with inscriptions designating their clan.

Helms

Their vanity precludes the use of full-face helms and it is usually rare to see such in any eventuality other than perhaps on raids to disguise their origin. When worn, the designs of dark-elf helms are such that they protect the nose and ears of the wearer, whilst reducing the negative effects upon vision and hearing.

Weapons

The restricted environment in which they live and their own rather frail physicality has led the Dark Elves to favor light, short bladed weapons. Normally short swords as close combat weapons with several daggers hidden about their person. They tend towards using their agility and dexterity to parry in combat rather than rely on armor and shields. It is therefore not unusual to encounter Dark Elves wielding two weapons in combat situations. Their predisposition towards stealth means that they favor weapons that are non-reflective. With metallic weapons this is usually achieved not with the use of expensive black alloys but rather by treating un-enchanted weapons with a temporary coating, not unlike Teflon.

This coating is also excellent for accepting temporary enchantments that further enhance its abilities or for “parrying” spells cast at the user. The coating effectively makes the weapon “chargeable,” much like a wand, capable of “storing” a number of spells which are cast upon it. These can be retained almost indefinitely until a “trigger” occurs, either the weapon is used in combat, is drawn or a simple command has been given by the wielder. The total number of spell levels that can be applied (or parried) are limited by either the magical bonus of the weapon or 5 whichever is more. The normal practice is for a caster, which need not be the wielder, to equip a number of their subordinates in such a manner in advance of a combat. The caster specifies the form the trigger takes remains aware of weapons enchanted by them within 100ft and can cancel them with a single word.

Even an un-enchanted application of this coating to a mundane bladed weapon ensures that it holds a slightly sharper edge during combat adding a +5 NM bonus; this is in addition to any non-magical bonus that weapons material might already provide. When applied to a magical blade it provides no additional bonus but still allows the duration of temporary enchantment placed upon it to be extended to 120% of normal.

Usually after only minutes of combat use, these coatings chip and eventually shatter losing any additional enchantments. This means that the coatings only generally last one combat.

Missile weapons are not uncommon, though due to the constraints of the underground tend to restrict their usage to light crossbows and rarely shortbows. Nobles commonly use hand crossbows.

The dark elves predilection towards mobility has lead to a unique combination of attack and defense resulting in buckler designs that regularly incorporate weapons. These are usually those that can be made to make an additional melee attack with specific two-weapon styles without losing the functionality of the buckler. An ingenious combination of buckler and Hand-crossbow type weapon known as the “Triple Fang” is especially prized.

Drugs, Herbs and Poisons

Such is the debauched and depraved lifestyle of the average Dark Elf that they have through either exposure, experiment or expedience developed an almost universal and standardized culture of drug usage. These drugs include, but are not exclusive to, alchemical and herbal preparations derived from natural sources. So high is this frequency of usage that it is often difficult to determine the difference between what a “real” dark elf and the drug induced one might be. It also goes some way to explain the tolerance they have to poisons since it is not uncommon for them to expose themselves to a life-long cocktail of these various extracts. They invariably become thoroughly addicted to most of the things they take and the side-effects, which would themselves be seen as sane individuals as disadvantages (such as rampant paranoia, hallucinatory effects, mood swings, violent irrational outbursts, and being edgy) are actually a “normal” part of a dark elves psyche. The blood chemistry of a dark elf is therefore a very complicated thing and the dependence upon these drugs goes someway to explaining their isolationist attitudes. Scholars and alchemists of other races are thwarted in their efforts to further investigate the truth of the matter since very few captives survive long enough to go “cold turkey.”

Background Options/Talents

No special restrictions on Talents.

Extra Languages

Whilst it is relatively uncommon for them to communicate with other races, Dark Tongue, Orcish Goblin and similar tongues maybe selected during character creation. These are generally learnt where the character has had exposure to these races when kept as slaves.

Extra Money

Dark elves value gems and jewelry. The majority of trade involves those. Gemstones are regularly cut to a standard size/weight and used as currency. However, whilst they don't appear to have a “minted” currency of their own, they recognize the value of coins composed of metallic elements for the purposes of trade with others. However, they will only reluctantly accept payment in that form.

Trade very rarely occurs outside their homeland. Where it does occur, foreign coins, such as those seized in raids, are primarily used in payment.

Acknowledgements

The popularity of “Drow” in the works of RA Salvatore meant that evil elves in general have had the ironic misfortune of being both related to them and brought into the “light of day.” These works started with the excellent “Ice Wind Dale” trilogy and popularized a culture which now persists throughout the fantasy genre.

This set of novels used the fantasy settings established by TSR that, at that time, used the AD&D system. He continues to use the TSR version of Dark Elves a.k.a. “The Drow” as the basis for the hero of many of his stories and elements of his work have been included within the campaigns released since. This race was first introduced in the classic AD&D “Against the Giants” scenarios. At that time, it was never intended as a player-character race. With the introduction of the AD&D Supplement “Unearthed Arcana” and in the editions of D&D since, the “Drow” have escalated in power, accessibility, and playability as a player-character race. As has the player knowledge of this supposedly rare and secretive race.

Whilst the version here has many similarities and is presented in the manner of a “playable” race it would not fit easily into a standard adventuring party. This version makes no attempt to pander to the survivability of a member of the race as a “character” by making “light” of their weaknesses. It also does not strive to make playing a member of the race a “cool” option, like the recent trend of sparkly teen vampires. The version here retains some of that original mystique of the “Drow” but remains a thoroughly depraved, evil, paranoid, and “alien” race with deserved “dark” reputation and substantial weaknesses that cannot be easily overlooked or forgotten.

Like many of the other fantasy races used in RPG's “Drow” were never fully original. Instead, they drew upon historical/mythological subject matter and in their case, a primordial human fear of the dark and the unknown. The “Elven” concept in RPG's and the differentiation from other “Faerie” races are derived from Celtic (Sidhe) and Slavic (Alfar) myths. It is important to remember that much of this folklore did not always paint “elves” in an entirely “nice and good” manner. Instead it portrayed them as a powerful, aloof, and ancient race with an entirely different agenda to that of humankind. The concept of “Dark Elves” as presented here, therefore draws much from these and the parallel “Dock Alfar” and “Trow” mythologies.

To summaries, these are simply faerie with a more pronounced “Evil” nature.

Dark Elves have been included in RM before, but never detailed to such degree past basic stat blocks attempting to distance themselves from any comparison to the works of another company. These were intended as variants of those used in the works of Tolkien. These too unashamedly owe a great deal to these original mythologies.

Thus the origins of the race presented here may not quite be what the players presume… although they might well doubtless still have a hankering to play a renegade ranger having good inclinations.