Elves are often depicted as guardians of the wilderness, be it forests, plains, mountains, desert, swamps or tundra in RPG games. In the case of the Drow/ dark elves, they would be living in the Underdark, or other such underground areas in your gaming world. Although these stereotypes as to what elves are may be a starting point, in and of themselves they are, quite frankly, boring. What if these ideas could be refreshed, made alive by combining ideas of class into the mix by showing how the different classes would fit into their everyday lives? Read on:
Unless the elves in the world are atypical, they are a people who goes out of their way to protect and live within their chosen environment without upsetting the delicate balance there. This means that they’ll do what they can to build structures that work within the environment, incorporating it into how they live, instead of clearing land to erect a town. In the case of living in the plains, they might even be nomadic, similar to the Native Americans. In the desert, they may be living in naturally formed caves they carved out of the sandstone from windblown particles or past flooding. Due to their long lives, and inherent nature, they also tend to be masters of magic and martial abilities. Many times they’re portrayed as serene, aloof to the problems and cares of the outside world, though that does not necessarily need to be so. Drow, on the other hand, are shown as a very matriarchal society, separated from the main branch of elves, having been transformed by a goddess and driven underground by other elves due to a disagreement in worldview.
Rangers & Druids
In elven society rangers and druids would be the most prevalent class for a variety of reasons. These classes are the ones that are most concerned with the protection of the wildernesses that they inhabit. They also keep know the pulse, knowing the ebb and flow of the animals and monsters that come through their land as well as the creatures that live on its outskirts. They are the first line of defense against invaders, and would be the ones who are able to send warning to the rest of their kin in case a more consolidated force is needed to face the threat.
The consolidated force that we just mentioned would be the elven fighters, which would be the vast majority of the army. In an interesting video listed here, they talk about how (in real life) they would excel in the use of bows and fighting with twin swords of the same size. This would be altered, of course by a combination of the culture or sub-race, their own natural abilities, the enemies they’re fighting, the terrain, and, of course, the level of danger the threat posed.
Desert elven fighters should be experts in using sand dunes and environmental hazards, using the shifting sands to the best of their advantage, causing the ground underneath their enemies’ feet to give way, or setting traps so they know exactly where to step.
In a snowy environment, for instance where movement is hampered by snow and ice, and they may not be quite so willing to rain death from above by shooting countless arrows as they would either have to make or buy more/ the few they have would need to be either used for important things or for hunting food. They might specialize in patient ambushes for their prey to come by.
When fighting in the tunnels and caves of the Underdark Drow could be armed with adamantium spider silk battle-cloaks* and poison tipped hand crossbows. *Battle-cloaks are exotic weapons that count as armor. They allow those equipped with them to increase their armor class, and still be deadly if disarmed, as the cloaks themselves have spears built into the cloak’s construction. One particular ability that the Drow have that their surface-dwelling cousins do not have is darkvision, which they take full advantage of.
Wizards & Sorcerers
Those with in born magical abilities, as well as those who need to study the arcane arts will find them used to a great effect. Elven society is filled with magical wonders. This is a necessary byproduct of how they view the world. They use their magic to adapt their environment, infusing it into the structures, and sometimes the very air where they live. They use it to beautify their surroundings, create magnificent pieces of artwork, many of which are not only beautiful, but functional as well. That is why they’re almost as well-known for their magic clothing, weapons, and armor as dwarves.
Elven mages (whether sorcerers or wizards) are nothing to be trifled with on the battlefield either. They have magic that can turn the very environment the enemies are traversing through against them, summon monsters to do their bidding, or divert their attention elsewhere so that they do the least damage possible. Only in extreme circumstances will they cast spells that can damage the environment.
It should be noted that just because within the confines of their own culture, their own environment there’s this taboo against casting spells that might cause widespread destruction if allowed to get out of hand, doesn’t mean that elves raised outside their homeland will have those selfsame prohibitions. Also, it should be noted that adventurers don’t typically have those same restrictions.
Bards & Entertainers
The elven people are, generally speaking, shown to be an aloof and serene people. But this is only the appearance, an illusion they present to the outside world. That’s not to say that elves don’t do everything in their power to try to reduce the amount of stress in their lives; they do. The aloofness that outsiders detect is based on the internal politics of elven society. In private circumstances, among themselves, and / or among people who they trust, elves are a friendly people who are a people who are lively and friendly people who are quick to laugh and love. This is why they’re known to have offspring among many of the other races.
Elven bards are among those who are at the center of everyday life, though this is different from the dwarves. In elven society, they are the life of an unending party: everything from elegant balls at court to a small bawdy gathering at the local bar. They can be found encouraging and inspiring men to competence at the battlefront with their songs and performing musical masterpieces in front of an audience at the theatre. Elven bards are also found in traveling troupes throughout elven lands to spread the news of the outside world. They’re equally home at tricky negotiations, as well as the spontaneous celebration of friends.
There are a couple of notable exceptions to this trend, however, particularly in the snow elf and desert elf tribes. Snow elf bards are particularly adept at causing avalanches, thus burying or severely hindering their enemies. This ability is not without its risks, however. An unlucky bard, or one simply too close to the mountainside may end up getting buried himself. Desert elf bards are also adept at triggering the traps that lay underfoot in the dunes. They need to be especially surefooted when doing so, for they themselves may trigger the trap they are luring their enemies to, thus being entrapped themselves.
Another exception to this rule are Drow. Typically Drow bards, on the other hand would use their musical abilities to charm, manipulate, damage, and confuse their enemies, though this is not always the case. There’s the odd case of Eilistraee, the goddess of good Drow, whose portfolios include: Song, beauty, dance, swordwork, and hunting whose bards may act more typically of standard elves. Drow bard of Vulkoor in Eberron also honor their god by retelling stories of the great accomplishments of their god and his followers.
Clerics & Warlocks
In elven society there’s a tacit understanding regarding beings that grant power due to their past dealings with such: accept their power, but beware the price. Clerics and warlocks are aware of this and will be aware of any being’s machinations, for they have experienced the dark corrupting influences of such beings before. If they feel its commands are not in the best interest(s) of the elven people, will ask for clarification as to why what needs to be done. If they are not satisfied with the answer, may deliberately disobey the orders, even to the point of giving up their powers if need be.
Having said this, provided that the deities and beings providing power to them, the elven clerics and warlocks will (typically) use their power to fight evil and corruption, granting their powers to those who visit them in their temples (in the case of clerics), or however their powers appear (in the case of warlocks). Either of them are not opposed to helping out in time of war, or, if the case arises, to help an adventuring party out on a mission. Having said this, most of them, even after a stint of adventuring are keen to get back to their people and continue their respective mission(s), either for the deity or being of their choice.
In Drow society, on the other hand, clerics are at the top of the food chain. They command everything by the command of Lloth (in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting) or other such (typically female) deity. Interestingly enough, sometimes, in order to create havoc and create divisions, she’ll grant someone powers as if she were an extra planar entity, but these powers will be based on her theme. In the Eberron campaign setting, many of the Umbragen Drow use a type of dark type of magic learned from Qabalrin lore, which grants them warlock powers.
In elven society rogues have a unique place. While one thinks of rogues as ne’er-do-wells and scoundrels who are out to cause mischief, they have their uses outside such in Elven society. Unlike in Dwarven society, there isn’t a huge emphasis on physical locks for places where elves shouldn’t trespass; they have magical forbiddance to prevent intrusion for that. Instead, they are used to help create passageways, compartments, false-bottomed drawers, and the like that are nigh undetectable. Furthermore, they’re oftentimes hired to discover flaws and problems in elven security, so the ones who hired them can better protect themselves against other rogues who might be out to steal their valuables. Finally, they might be hired as a bodyguard to protect an important person from assassination.
On the other hand, in Snow Elf society, rogues are taught how to walk in such a way over the snow as not to leave tracks, and when they do, to cover them so as not to be followed. Similarly, desert elves are taught how to lay the traps their fighters lure their enemies into, but must do so without disturbing the surface level sand.
In contrast, in drow society, rogues are the standard troublemakers. In fact, they have their own deity, Vhaeraun, whose ideology passively opposes the matriarchy of Lloth, teaching that males are as skilled and valuable as females.
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Looking at all these ideas on how classes can work as a seamless part of elven society can help make your world feel more alive. See if you can incorporate these ideas into your campaign and let me know what you think about it in the comments, below.
Thanks for reading!
Image by Lena-Lara