08 December, 2010

The Elven Experience

Page 5 of Supplement 1, Greyhawk, arguably changed elves in DnD forever.

Elven thieves work in all three categories at once (fighter, magic-user, and thief) unless they opt to never be anything other than in the thief category. Thus, experience is always distributed proportionately in the three categories even when the elf can no longer gain additional levels in a given category.
With the words 'work in all three categories at once' the elf no longer had to choose what class he would be during an adventure. I have to admit I sort of missed it. Not only because it kept the elf from being two characters at once, but also because it was interesting and unique. A lot of players thought it was odd or inconvenient, or simply just wanted to squeeze as much 'high performance' out of their character as they could at every turn, like it was some sort of ridiculous racing car. They liked the change.

In my Greyhawk PbP game, we've just recently added the Greyhawk supplement, including the revised elf. I miss the old elf, but I also understand it's sometimes hard for a DM to explain. The way I ran it before, the player had to choose between operating as a fighter or a magic-user at the start of an adventure, and remained as chosen until the next safe point was reached, which is also when I awarded experience. From safe point to safe point they were locked in to their choice, whether it was the next day or several days later when they made it back to town.

My question to those reading this: how would you explain it? Suggest a reason why an elf might be forced to make this choice, and then abide by it until next he found himself safe.


Ethan said...

Do you mean to say, "How do you justify it?"

I think there are good mechanical reasons for keeping them separate. I can picture Gary thinking he would like to have elves both fight and use magic, but then come across limitations such as the MU using swords or axes and casting while in armour.

The easy solution would be to create a separation of the two classes - you must be one or the other; you cannot play both at the same time. That completely avoids the mechanics of what to do when an elf in full plate decides to try and cast sleep spell on the three orcs charging him.

Unfortunately, sticking to the hard and fast magic-use rules (and then thief rules if they 3-class it) will start creating in-game complications, I'm sure...

Elf Player: I'll try to pick the lock on the chest.

GM Troll: You can't - you're wearing plate armour.

Elf Player: I take my armour off, then.

Elf Player: OK, now I'll pick the lock.

GM Troll: OK, you pick the lock.

Elf Player: Now that I've picked the lock, I'm going to put my plate armour back on.

Dwarf Player: Oh, for Pete's sake...

GM Troll: Ok, that will take six rounds. Just as the elf is about half way through putting their armour back on, three orcs round the corner 30' away. They see you and charge, screaming, "Kill them!"

Elf Player: I cast sleep on the orcs.

GM Troll: You can't. You're partially in plate armour.

migellito said...

Haha, I love the example :) Actually though, I meant how might one explain it for purposes of roleplaying in a game world. Why would an elf in your world behave that way?

Ethan said...

Oooooohhhh... How do you role-play the limitation of just being one class or the other?

Hmm... I'll have to ponder that. But I will give you my thoughts after I do.

migellito said...

Nobody? C'mon Hive Mind, do your stuff! :)

Jim Pacek said...

Elves are an eccentric, quirky bunch. I figure they wake up in the morning and they adopt a role and they stick to it. I don't need to justify if they are a fighter or wizard -- they picked; they have to stick with it.

Paul said...

I always took it to be an encumbrance issue at root. The LBB's imply that each real world gaming session maps to one excursion into the dungeon. The elf packs his gear for that particular delve, so he must choose his role when packing.

migellito said...

hehe, interesting practical solution Paul :)