Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E: Elves Everywhere

If I were asked what single thing -- what lone, solitary crumb from the combined edifice of D&D in all its forms -- it is that I cannot stand, I could answer in one word.

Elves.

From their semi-pseudo "multiclassing" effect, warrior and spellcaster both, in BECMI to the explosion of umpety-dozen subtypes, each one more special than the last; from wild to dark to green to silver to, oh I don't know, rainbow sparkle tartan, right down to the annoying overpowered fangasm tripe that is 2e's Complete Book of Elves, the pointy-eared blighters grind my gears just by existing.

(that the CBoE is almost invariably held up as the example an evidence of the "horrors" of 2e and the Completes in specific when it was by far the worst of its kind is another rock in my craw. but I digress.)

Elves and my own self simply do not mix. I do not like having to read about, nor suffer through the playing of, the typical arrogance and overwrought trappings brought to the table by elven PCs or NPCs that pay even lip-service to the species as described in the game. Neither do I go in for the mouldy old chestnut of the genteel angst of the so-noble elves fading away from the world so unsuited to them -- which in itself is yet another strike against elves, their near0constant portrayal as being nobler, better, and all-around more-perfect-er-than-you. (even when they're killing you.) The notable D&D divergences from this template (the runner elves of dark Sun come to mind) speak a little too loudly of "look, we deliberately turned everything stereotypically elven on its head" -- but don't worry, they're still all arrogant arseholes. Can't shake that core elven personality.

The bloody elves even invade the ranks of Villainous Types Considered Awesome, because there is surely no more over-hyped D&D antagonist than the damned drow. Who also gives us the additional benefit of the most over-wrought example of the Angsting Protagonist From Eeeevul Stock since Elric, Drizzt Do'Urden. There is truly no escape from the elven plague.

... Although I admit, I do quite like Spelljammer's Imperial Elven Navy. Probably because the IEN makes no effort to hide or whitewash the fact that they're all condescending arseholes with a collective entitlement complex, and thus make excellent not-really-evil-but-still-annoying antagonists. Though they do come across much like a bad British Naval Empire stereotype with pointy ears.

6 comments:

Marcus said...

The funny thing is that I've hated elves for years, with the hatred of a 1000 suns, just like most D&D players I've met in my life. But ever since I started perusing Old School blogs a year or so ago, my Imp of the Perverse now leads me to kind of, sort of, have affection for them because everyone in the OSR picks on them so much. Go figure. ;)

Great rant, though!

Maria Kramer said...

I've always preferred the "elves as capricious amoral fey" slant myself. The ur-elf, as it were, from original folktales. Hard to use as PC's, though.

Locien said...

I'm also fond of the "capricious amoral fey" approach. I like elves, though I'm fine with letting the race in general be dicks(as long as PC elves don't have to be dicks themselves-but the can be, within reason, if they want). It could be interesting-A PC elf trying to do good when he has to overcome the fact that everyone hates his people for being a bunch of smug jerks that tend to mess everything up. Taking the 4e idea of elves being related enough to be fey typed further, the rest of the fey could have a sort of ancestral quality to them, but with a patina of terror because your average elf is more human-like than fey-like; being invited to a "family reunion" with some great-grand relative would be like being pulled into a land of madmen.

Reynaldo said...

Even though I like the Elf class in BECMI (Only because I like playing fighter/wizard types) I agree with you on nearly all other points.

Truth be told, I'm pretty much sick of all the standard, non-human races in D&D. I see the value in keeping them, but the desire to discard them all is something I fight off whenever I run a new game.

Chris said...

...they're all condescending arseholes with a collective entitlement complex, and thus make excellent not-really-evil-but-still-annoying antagonists. Though they do come across much like a bad British Naval Empire stereotype with pointy ears.

British RN? I always thought that they were modelled on the French myself. ;)

Yep. HAET elf-wank. Tolkien (arguably) floated that boat (Legolas, Feanor, Fingolfin, etc.), but he isn't responsible for the depths to which his imitators (inc. PJ) sank it.

Arwen rocked as a tragic character torn between love and duty; not as half-naked eye-candy or an ass-kicking, name-taking PC. Semi-related: trailer for Elfquest fanfilm. And I thought SuckerPunch was pandering trash. :(

IMG elves are fungal creatures (like Myconids, only more capricious and spiteful). Nice bait-and-switch for the "Oooh, I wanna be an elf (coz they're cool and stylish and snooty)!" types.

Tomira Eliyes said...

I know I asked this in person, but I have a mind like a sieve and want it in writing.

Given your feelings about elves would it be better, for you as a player, to not have to deal with them in a game, or to get to kill them?