Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Trouble With Divine Elves

Upon further reflection, I'm not sure Divine Elves is such a good idea.  My main reason for this conclusion is that if you remove elves as an arcane race, spellsword and nightblade are no longer really viable by the classbuilding rules as written without the introduction of another arcane race.  Further, fighty-mage and thief-wizard are fun archetypes, and to remove them seems a bit unfortunate.  Since the cost in points for a decent divine value is so low, we also don't gain much in the class design space by adding a race which provides divine value; an elf divine 2/fighter mix is pretty close to the existing paladin, and divine/thief, while interesting, is also an easy enough thing to hack together as a human with divine 1, fighting 1, HD1, and thief 1 (or drop HD to 0 and boost thief or divine by 1).

So, considering the following solutions:
  • To hell with the rules - if I want to build an 8-point wizard/fighter class, I can make it work as a human with a lower max level and justify it as 'jack of trades, master of none.'
  • Another arcane race - probably the Zaharans.  Honestly they match the flavor I'm looking for for elves in the new setting anyway, where the elven empires of the south have fallen to darkness from within in the Melnibonean style.  Ruinguard fits the fighty-mage archetype well (though it could stand some better casting and fewer prime reqs), and a Zaharan nightblade equivalent would be both thematic and easy to cook up.  About the only thing I don't like about the Zaharans is the name.  I need to spend some time reskinning things and coming up with better names, I guess.  I suppose High Elves (arcane, fallen) and Fey Elves (nature-based divine casting) will do as working names for now.  Then it's just a question of unifying a few racial traits and tweaking a few new classes (ruinguard/spellsword, nightblade, elven ranger as explorer + fey divine, and then a wood elf shaman+arcane sage/farseer class).


  1. Divine elves might work better in a race-as-class system. It makes sense in a system where all elves, regardless of vocation, are inherently magic. Giving them divine spellcasting ability, as well as the rules that govern it for clerics, is more sensible than all elves lugging around spellbooks.

    1. ACKS is about as close to race-as-class as you can get without actually being race-as-class, though...

  2. I disagree. I think the Divine Elf can fulfill most of that design space, and you can rework the existing elven classes from ACKS into a divine mode. With the spell creation rules you can create custom tailored spell lists to fit into those niches.

    That being said, I agree that there is room for both the arcane and divine elf... and having them being High and Wood or whatever split could certainly work.

    I've redone all the existing classes on my blog:

    1. It is true that the existing classes can be reworked into a divine mode, and your reworks seem solid classes in their own right, but I don't think that's really the most interesting possibility for divine elves. Part of this I suspect is that the published elf classes just don't feel elfy to me to start. There's no sense of strangeness, of the inhuman, the alien, the inscrutable fey, with wisdom beyond human ken and a wry, condescending smile when questioned about it. ACKS' elf classes seem rather bland to me, and changing them from arcane to divine while preserving their flavor doesn't help much.

      What I like about divine elves, though, is that it opens the door for more 'fey' elves, with a spell list drawn mostly from Shaman and Witch spells and minimal overlap with Cleric, and with a selection of elf-only spells (until some wizard duplicates them as arcane). In Magic the Gathering terms, green elves rather than white. I think I will likely build an explorer + green divine elf 1 ranger and an arcane + green divine elf loremaster / sorceress class to illustrate these possibilities.

      Finally, I disagree that a divine nightblade or spellsword feels the same as an arcane one. Part of the joy of playing an arcanist is the development of a personal style and unique signature spells, the uncertainty about the opponent's capabilities when you step into a wizard duel, and the thrill of stealing an opponent's spellbook. It's a game of secrets, deception, trickery, and contingency planning, and it's a lot of fun. When you switch to set divine spell lists, you lose all of that. I'm OK with all elves having a standardized divine spell list, but I believe that arcane + fighting and arcane + thief are their own separate niches from divine + fighting and divine + thief because they play very differently.