07 August 2017

Earthdawn 4E: Anatomy of a Namegiver 06 - Blood Elf

This is the sixth 4E Anatomy of a Namegiver, an ongoing series about Earthdawn Fourth Edition. Introduction and Index.

Everything contained here is the work of a fan and not associated with FASA Games.

Blood elves have been part of Earthdawn since the beginning, representing a unique portrayal of elves in fantasy. However, they weren't a playable Namegiver race until The Blood Wood was released some four years later. Truth be told, they still weren't easily accessible to players for a variety of reasons. Playing a blood elf character means you are going to have a lot going on.

This is a first draft updating blood elves to Fourth Edition mechanics because the odds are reasonable at some point I'll be doing this for real. There are no illusions this is going to accurately resemble the final draft, but the process has to start somewhere. Hopefully someone will get some use from this.

Typically there would be a brief background on the race, but I'm going to skip that because they're pretty iconic and part of the common lore. That being said, if you are serious about playing one, The Blood Wood is an absolute must. Some mechanics are referenced without going into details (e.g. wood longing).

Getting down to business, blood elves have some significant restrictions. The first is armor: unless magical, fernweave is the only option. Most armors can be enchanted (increasing the cost by x3-4) for a blood elf wearer. Other armors cause a penalty to all Dexterity and Perception-based tests (see a table in The Blood Wood), so it's not really worth exploring them. It can be inferred thread armor in unaffected by this, but it also isn't clear and the specially enchanted armor certainly muddies the water with regard to how this is intended to work. It's likely best for each group to decide how they want to handle this restriction with regard to thread armor. Second are attitude modifiers: all* NPCs' attitudes are reduced by one level towards blood elves. The exception to this is if the NPC is affected by their unnatural beauty, in which case they get an improved attitude by one level. The third and final is wood longing.

Wood longing is blood elves' compulsion/desire to be in Blood Wood. There's a table in The Blood Wood showing how long it takes a blood elf to progress through the stages of wood longing based on their Willpower value: Wishing -> Obsession -> Consumption -> Attribute Loss. It is worth noting there is a paragraph specifically calling out how it is intended to add flavor and depth, rather than forcing blood elf characters to return. Which is odd, because it is the exact opposite of what including them accomplishes. If a character with Willpower 14 stays out for 13 months, they're losing Toughness and Willpower every day (that first loss drops them down to the Willpower 13 row).

Doing a more-or-less straight port from 1E to 4E (and assuming the racial abilities all balance out) looks like the following:

Game Information
Starting Attribute Values
DEX 11, STR 10, TOU 8, PER 10, WIL 11, CHA 13
Movement Rate: 14
Karma Modifier: 4

Racial Abilities:
Armor Restriction: The only non-maigcal armor blood elf characters can wear without penalty is fernweave.
Attitude Adjustment: Blood elf characters find NPC attitudes reduced by one level, unless the NPC is taken by their unnatural beauty. In which case, their attitude improves by one level.
Improved Defenses: Blood elf characters gain +1 to Mystic and Social Defense.
Low-Light Vision: Like elves, blood elf characters have the racial Low-Light Vision ability (see Player's Guide, p. 46).
Pain Resistance: Blood elf characters reduce Wound penalties by 1.
Reduced Recovery Tests: Blood elf characters have one less Recovery test each day.
Wood Longing: Blood elf characters are affected by wood longing.

If that works for you and is what you want, awesome. Look no further.

However, to start, the attribute modifications as compared to the "standard" elf don't quite make sense to me. Taking a closer look, blood elves have a reduced Dexterity bonus (+1 v. +2), no Perception bonus, and a significantly increased Charisma bonus (+3 v. +1). In fact, that's the highest Charisma bonus in the game. Which is really weird.

I know they're described as being frighteningly attractive, but that's only part of what Charisma represents. The other part (arguably more important) is being able to relate to people. Where blood elves are freakishly bad. We also already see their beauty being handled through Attitude Adjustment, making this somewhat redundant. Also, that same modifier makes it clear just how unlikable blood elves are.

The Dexterity reduction could be explained by their thorns just generally impeding movement (rather than looking for places to pay off that huge Charisma bump). However, the lack of Perception bonus is also strange. We know it's not due to their constant pain, which doesn't bother them at all. It could be explained by their detachment, but I would argue that should increase, rather than decrease, their Perception as they aren't distracted as easily.

Examining their racial abilities as a whole they seem to balance out, but it's hard to tell as they are numerous. We've got +2 to defenses total (similar to Windlings) and reduced Wound penalties, balanced by -1 Recovery test, armor restriction, and wood longing. I'm going to call their attitude adjustment a wash as it can go either way and it's difficult to predict which outcome is more frequent without providing specific instructions to GMs (which they aren't under any onus to follow). It's not out of the question to value this package as a whole at +1 Attribute value.

I don't see any reason to change blood elves' Karma Modifier as that takes them too far from their elf roots. With that, we know the Attribute value total we are playing with (+3). Applying the previous analysis, I'm going to bring back +1 Perception and reduce their Charisma modifier to 0. The latter is a significant change from their original presentation, but I think it is a more accurate reflection when paired with attitude adjustment. I'm accepting the reduced Dexterity modifier because I'm generally in favor of making them a little more different to increase diversity in the various options. Based on their description, I feel a +2 to Willpower is highly appropriate. A +3 might even work, but I'm reluctant to have that much creep over the currently available races.

This still leaves a +1 Attribute value modifier on the table. There are a few options on how to deal with it. 1) Restore blood elves to +2 Dexterity modifier. This is viable, but boring. 2) Consider their racial abilities worth +1 Attribute value modifier. It might be the answer, but needs some feedback first. 3) +3 Willpower modifier. It might be appropriate, but as discussed previously, it's more creep than I want to introduce. 4) +2 Perception modifier. This is my current favorite as it plays into their detachment and being a little more alien - they see everything. With their enhanced Willpower, this makes them excellent spellcasters, which also fits their typical portrayal. This also helps to present a more different character option without too much creep. There is definitely some (+2 to both spellcasting attributes), but this is also present in jubruq characters and there is enough other stuff going on blood elves aren't an automatic choice for min-maxing a spellcaster.

All this being said, option 2 may be the better choice once some additional perspectives have been considered and data gathered.

The alternate presentation of blood elves is below:

Game Information
Starting Attribute Values
DEX 11, STR 10, TOU 8, PER 12, WIL 12, CHA 10
Movement Rate: 14
Karma Modifier: 4

Racial Abilities:
Armor Restriction: The only non-maigcal armor blood elf characters can wear without penalty is fernweave.
Attitude Adjustment: Blood elf characters find NPC attitudes reduced by one level, unless the NPC is taken by their unnatural beauty. In which case, their attitude improves by one level.
Improved Defenses: Blood elf characters gain +1 to Mystic and Social Defense.
Low-Light Vision: Like elves, blood elf characters have the racial Low-Light Vision ability (see Player's Guide, p. 46).
Pain Resistance: Blood elf characters reduce Wound penalties by -1.
Reduced Recovery Tests: Blood elf characters have one less Recovery test each day.
Wood Longing: Blood elf characters are affected by wood longing.