Armaddict on: Why I play City Elves

Started by Armaddict, October 26, 2018, 04:17:50 PM

This is not an attempt to write documentation.  Some things are on the line as far as documentation.  This is not me telling you how to play.

This is a list of things I have read, explored, tweaked, or justified in ways that make the city elf race the most interesting race for me to play, and I do not expect universal acceptance or anything of that nature.  Moreso, with people trying out elves and being dissatisfied with mechanics, stats, or 'hard mode' altogether, I wanted to point out some things that may or may not resonate with people trying things out to see if they enjoy these things too.

Elven History, Oppression, and -Magick-
Most documentation of city elven tribes, all that stuff that we don't really use today, included some sort of long-standing history of the tribe; they aren't brief surges of a family, they are usually a very long term memory, some of them predating the consolidation of tribes in Gol Krathu and Vrun Driath into what we now know as Tuluk and Allanak.  Simply put, elven society has a rich history, coming from a place of what could be conceived as elven dominance into what they are now; second class citizens.  A large part of this has to do with the neutering of their ability to fight other powers through the eradication of their tribal sorcerers.

I know that sounds extreme, but that's actually written into documentation; sorcery was outlawed as a means of securing power.  This is something that tribal humans also experienced...but for them, that lack of ability to fight back was not translated into oppression and second-class citizenry.  Thus, it is my opinion that elves, while suffering from the same fear and distrust of magick as everyone else, are very possibly more able to view a reliable magickal tool as useable, insofar as they can control it.  Think of it as a very pronounced realization among some of their populace that they are at a constant disadvantage to those who use it, and so some cases, they will bend a little farther to use it than the average commoner.  Importantly, that is not done lightly, nor without caution; they don't build parties, they don't immediately jump to it, but for a rogue mage or dissatisfied mage, an elf is probably a prospect for alliance more than we'd care to admit, purely because of the history of elven tribes and where they came from, to where they are now.  This familiar oppression of elves that we -all- know and acknowledge, often turn directly into real racism, is long lived and has molded elves into an entirely new methodology which will be discussed at length in other topics; the gist of it is?  Elves play a lot of stealthy roles or shady roles for a reason.  It's adaptation for the treatment of mainstream society.

Two Societies - Only Elves have them
A very unique part of playing city elves is that there is a fully fleshed out, fully realized elven society that lives and thrives juxtaposed to the mainstream society that -everyone else- is indulging in.  There is not a lot of dwarven separatism.  There is no half-giant separatism.  Half-elves have a personal dichotomy, but not a societal one.  This makes city elves in particular unique, with impacts that are not often reflected but can be tons of fun to pull into the psychology of your character.  For the most part, most people are pretty familiar with mainstream society, the 'real' society, so I won't go into it much aside from how it plays with the other.

Elven society, as a whole, is separatist from mainstream society.  Some of them are violently separatist, some are merely 'Don't tread on me' separatist, and some are actually leaning closer to mainstream society than others like; a historical parallel would be the celtic tribes interacting with Rome.  Elven society has its own 'noble houses', the named families in documentation who are the large players, the static tribes, the ones who have vast wealth and resources due to longevity and greater power projection.  They are actually very comparable to mainstream noble houses, save for a couple key things:  They are not recognized powers of the state.  They do not have a unifying, all-powerful babysitter that prevents power plays from interrupting a common goal.  Thus, they are far more prone to in-fighting, they are much less checked in damage they will cause to 'elven power' as a whole, and it's hard to get them all contributing to a single cause.

However, as the lonefoot elf that we all play, it's important to realize that these two societies exist, and that they are on the same scale from each other.  Your elf will be constantly at odds...the more you lean towards, and are loyal to, elven society, the less favored you are by the mainstream society.  The deeper you immerse into the normal society, the less trusted you are by the elven society.  But it should be noted that almost all elves are somewhere in the middle; even the 'noble houses' of elven society will still make beneficial deals with the parts of mainstream society that will grant opportunity or power to them.  To be 'pure' elven society would be terrorists akin to the ALA of old, and to be 'pure' mainstream society would be a socially accepted elf who would be utterly rejected as lost by the elven community.

Elven Theft
As much as the present documentation may make it sound, elves are -not- kleptomaniacs.  For a time, I actually tried to play them like kender in dragonlance, where they just didn't understand the idea of personal possessions, but I find that such doesn't particularly fit well either.  What I've settled on is that there are two big 'reasons' for theft, and they are both controlled, purposeful, and products of the methodical and well-tuned mind rather than the kleptocracy that newer players or non-elf players try to make it into.  Those reasons are business and merit.

Theft for business is how it sounds.  The cons, the opportunistic grab, the services-for-hire mentality is where you will find what I think is the -majority- of elven theft.  Contrary to popular belief, this theft does not need to fuck someone over.  Let me restate that, because it's important.  Theft in a business model does not need to fuck someone over.  All it needs to do is provide additional benefit, 'the cherry on top', the unforeseen consequence that makes a deal better for the elf than someone expects.  Elves in all avenues push for personal or tribal advantage in addition to foreseen benefit; if you can manage to make mutually beneficial arrangements in all deals and enterprises where you -also- always glean more than expected, you're playing a fantastic elf.  You've made more than your share, and the other side will continue to make deals, because it always benefits them as well.  An elf who does nothing but 'fuck you over' cons with consistency will probably just run themselves out of business opportunities and make an unfightable number of enemies.

Business and opportunity creation is the staple of a successful elf.  You are always trying to be one step further ahead with solid plans and shrewd interaction. I will hold off on theft for merit until I speak about meritocracy as a whole.

Elven Methodology
Elves have a reputation.  Sneaky, shady sons of bitches.  Mysterious to the outsider, unpredictable, they are a risk factor in various facets of mainstream society's outlook.  This is for a reason, however.  Remember that elves as a race have been systemically oppressed for centuries.  Elves -know- that interactions with the city-state's justice are not generally in their favor (in most cases; deals can be made with said justice, but I'm speaking purely in the 'criminal vs law' arena).  Elves -know- that there is a time honored tradition of them being made into scapegoats.  Elves -know- that negative attention on them in most specific circumstances makes them enemies, not allies or tools or opportunities.  Yes, they keep their heads down and try to avoid any attention.  Only the most extreme are prone to sending direct messages claiming credit.

As an elf, lose the impulse to tell other characters when you 'beat' them in things.  When you fuck them over.  As an elf, the pleasure of winning comes in the win, not in the other party's realization of it.  The latter, generally, results only in bad things.  It is far more beneficial in the long run for people to know that your adversaries generally seem to disappear than for you to be known as a bloodthirsty assassin who posts their heads in the road for all to see not to fuck with you.  Elves do not make allies in the mainstream society's methodology.  Be a shadow warrior, a mist raider, not a warlord or templar.  Trust me, your reputation still grows, and you still garner respect, but it's all based around a concept of...'Everything always falls into that elf's favor, don't fuck with him', rather than 'If you fuck with that elf he might gut you.'  If you're going to outright claim credit?  Make sure you've manipulated all the factors around it to the best of your ability; they have to die when they find out, or their means of getting retaliation has to run them into brick walls of 'I still win, nice try.  You're beaten, go on your way.'

This is, of course, very hard to follow, particularly with a persistent negative connotation to fight through, but is, essentially, fruitful and satisfying.  Just remember:  Elves are underhanded, and respect results and gains.  Not honor. 

Elven Merit
Theft for merit and Elven Society play a role with each other.  Again, it isn't kleptomania; they're feats of daring, moments of victory, that when appropriate, -can- be claimed for your credit.  But that appropriateness is based on your purpose and your audience.  Elven society, as a whole, is much more appreciative of merit than the more rigid social structure of mainstream society, precisely because of the oppression it faces.  Elven 'nobles' are useless if they do nothing, unlike real nobles.  You can be Regtagh the Kanosh and still have your family name respected for what it is, while garnering no personal respect of your own.  Theft for merit is based in this, rooted in this.  It shows gumption, ability, intelligence, and capability.  Other elves will see consistent merits in your favor as an interpretation of worth.  You will take risks, and succeed in them.  If you consistently fail in risks and mainstream society doesn't -kill- you for it, you'll face a very critical elven society that doesn't think you're useful for anything.

Valuable thefts are always 'Oooooh, ahhh, nice score!', but not necessarily admiration.  Admiration through theft comes much like running your business well.  You take calculated risks, and you calculate them well, because things end up in your favor.  You're not scared to do those things, which means you can be asked to do scary things.  Other people see what you're capable of pulling off and are impressed, they don't get impressed because you happened upon a sleeping guy with a fancy dagger (That dagger is an opportunity for -you-, but does not indicate any particular skill or daring).

Elven Trust and Testing
Please don't do things the way the documentation says as far as testing.  It is, quite frankly, stupid.  As a framed system, it provides nothing, because everyone -knows- elves test and they can pass tests and manipulate those tests to gain trust.  I just take this concept as the product of a paranoid, oppressed mind where it knows that dice rolls are not usually in their favor.  Interact with people.  Make deals.  Do the whole mentality, and testing is actually a very organic, albeit slow, process; you are not limited in interaction until you trust people, you are constantly in the process of trusting people through interaction.  In the beginnings of relationships, since you are oppressed and careful, you do not expose yourself much.  You are secretive.  You minimize vulnerability.  Over the course of good arrangements where you consistently benefit and interact, you will naturally trust some people more than others.  They can still betray you.  But because you are this way, you are harder to betray because you expose less of yourself to betrayal.

If you find people who you will put yourself into ultimate vulnerability to as an elf, you've been very lucky and you're probably playing an elf with all sorts of exciting factors and involvements and all around, having fun.  But don't make finding trusted people the goal; it's not a -drive- of an elf to find a tribe, they are just the best friend you can -ever- have if you get them thinking of you as tribe.

You, the Lonefoot
Guys.  I'm not pleased with the lack of city-elf tribes or clans or avenues for groups of them.  I'm really not.  But there is still room here, if you interpret things through it.  What do I say about the prevalence of lone-foot elves for players?

Elven society is violent.  Since no one cares, elves kill each other.  Smaller families wipe each other out.  Elf-hunters wipe families out.  Families die off from disease and close-knit proximity.  Use it.  Our lonefoot elves are bred and survive to adulthood in a violent setting (Armageddon) where they are in perhaps the most violent setting for a 'civilized' race.  They are not usually idealists, they are realists.  They are not trusting, they imagine that acts of kindness is them being exploited.  You, as a lonefoot, come out of the shitheaps of even elven society.  You are the common ruffian, the uncared for, the unnotable.  That may sound incredibly unappealing, but if you're playing the elven mentality as I see it and have tried to look into here, that gives an incredible upward-movement feeling every time you make an ally.  Every time you hear someone in a bar actually say 'Don't fuck with that elf.'  Every time you play the elven part in politics, the third party, the meddler, the resource, and you succeed as the blindsider.

A city-elf tribe is tons of fun to play for the fact that it immerses you immediately into what -is- the elven power.  We don't get that, right now.  But the 'elven power' can be realized in a lot of different facets if you embrace all parts of elfhood.  The place where a lonefoot comes from is a true narrative of inner strength, mental conflict, and progress as the underdog.  Play it.  No one knows just what lengths you have gone through to get here, which means they have no respect for what lengths you will go to.  You're a fuckin' -elf-.

Again, this isn't a direct attempt at documentation, or a direct attempt to tell people how they should play.  This is me doing a little manifesto of my elves, why I enjoy them, and hopefully some little bits in pieces in there, whether you agree with them or not, give you facets in your own city-elves to explore and indulge in.  They are, characterwise, very Armageddon.  They are a verdant playground of self-run progression.  Make way for number 1, because number 1 is all that matters until people embrace number 1 as number 1...and then they run with you.
She wasn't doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together. --J.D. Salinger

You make playing a city elf a very tempting idea!
Talia said: Notice to all: Do not mess with Lizzie's GDB. She will cut you.
Delirium said: Notice to all: do not mess with Lizzie's soap. She will cut you.

Bit of a necro-bump but after being back for a while I'd like to congratulate the elven players. With the loss of Tuluk and Red Fang there was a huge drop in antagonists. I feel like the way c-elves are right now is great, giving everybody a reason to reignite some of the hate towards something, anything.

Anyways. Props and keep being devious elves.
Free your hate.