Sunday, February 6, 2022

Elves in Calidar

Calidar's latest gazetteer is now out. Alfdaín Ascendant and its Series 3 product arc address everything you want to know about elves in this world. The execution draws inspiration from different sources without adhering rigidly to established mindsets.

The focus aims at the elves' ancestries, their in-game abilities, as well as two extra classes (which will actually be released as part of the upcoming PG3 Players' Guide to Alfdaín): elven druids and rangers. All of this is eminently transferrable to other fantasy settings. Since Calidar closely tiptoes around general D&D/OSR game mechanics, instructions are included for systems like the D&D® BECMI game, the AD&D® 1st/2nd Editions games, and others. Later this year, conversion booklets should be released specifically for Labyrinth Lordtm and OSRICtm systems.

People of Alfdaín are often seen as forest dwellers, with a culture reflecting a sylvan environment. Other elves, however, thrive in cities, in mountains, in the shadows, or below the sea. From a gaming standpoint, all traditional character classes are in use. Some flexibility was needed with respect to certain old-style game systems uniformly defining elves as spellcasting fighters. This has been done away with here, opening demi-human races to all careers, which better fits Calidar.

Alfdaín Ascendant describes five separate elven ancestries. Each is adapted to a different native environment. So, there are wood elves of course (the Sherandol), but also winged elves who dwell in the mountains (the Elëan), aquatic elves (the Meruín), nocturnal shadow elves (the Tolarin), and city builders/military types (the Sòldor). Each ancestry features its own set of natural abilities and limitations.

The biggest change to elves is their plant-whispering ability, which enables sending messages through plants (all of the elves except the Sòldor whose focus isn't on nature).

The Sherandol are best in forests. They have combat benefits with bows, superb talents at moving through woods and from tree to tree along their branches, as well as being silent and able to hide well in their preferred environment.

Winged elves... fly! They can withstand colder temperatures than would be the norm for other elves. Some detailed game mechanics are given for traveling by air and maneuvering in 3D.

The Meruín are amphibious, so they can live on the ground and below the sea. They avoid hot and dry conditions. In their natural environment, they are fast, possess empathy with marine wildlife, and enjoy an echolocation ability.

The Tolarin prefer living in the wilderness, away from everyone else, so they can focus on their magical interests. They know how to manipulate shadows, how to move quickly through them, and disorient their foes. Most importantly, they sense residual traces left by spellcasters using their magic, which they can analyze and track later on, much like a ranger does with footprints.

Finally, the Sòldor are urban elves, somewhat like gray elves. They are warriors with a culture resembling that of real-world samurai. Therefore, they get major combat benefits with swords. Their social conformity clashes with the other elves' free-spirited, individualistic ideals.

Two alternate races are also introduced, although they are meant as NPCs. Also known as Qeluín elves, the Qelwë are off-world elves who fled a monstrous invasion and the ensuing dark ages. During the following millennium, they adapted to life in their moon’s Arctic and Antarctic confines. Calidar's world soul progressively altered their bodies to better acclimate them to their glacial environment. They live under the ice, possess snow and ice-related abilities, and travel on the back of flying beasts. They honor elven gods but under other names, appearances, and background stories befitting their culture.

Called the Zindír, the Outcasts, these desert elves aren’t a distinctive sub-race but rather an ethnic group of diverse people, descendants of fugitives from past centuries. Seen as renegades, misfits, cowards, or outlaws by other elves, the Zindír entertain an ideology promising a return to better lands where they will exact revenge upon all who shunned them and usurped their clan lands. Their abilities are most useful in deserts, although mixed with a quarrelsome culture stained with blood feuds.

Fighters and rangers are a must in Alfdaín. Wizards are common, reflecting elven fascination with magic. Conventional priors are an important facet of their followers' culture, with a good number of gods to select from. Those are listed in CC1 Beyond the Skies. Meruín paladins should be expected among the Order of the Rising Tide defending Alfdaín’s eastern shores from sea monsters. Elven druids are equally important: they stand as the first line of defense against magically corrupted forests. Druids also act as advisers to clans and can help settle disputes. They work closely with rangers. Thieves will always exist in any setting, with opportunities to join a local guild or side with law enforcement as bounty hunters. Monk-like heroes aren’t mentioned in Alfdaín Ascendant, but they’re not impossible. Conventional demi-human careers described in some OSR systems are of course entirely acceptable.

Elven clans receive special treatment. Aside from races, cultures, statuses in society, wealth and personal clouts, nationalities, religions, political preferences, and what secret sects elves may belong to, clan lineage remains one of the most important factors in how they deal with each other. Some clans are more powerful than others, some form alliances, others are rivals, etc. The system described in Alfdaín Ascendant can easily be transplanted to another campaign world.

Early in their careers, PCs may be invited to join secret guilds. Dangerous forces are at work in Alfdaín. The Acorn seeks to replace organized governments with the old clan-based structure. The Eye of Mythuín employs spies working for Alfdaín’s matriarchal government. On the darker end of things, the Guild of Shadows notoriously controls thieves throughout the realm. Night Snatchers are universally feared for abducting gnomes, fellfolk, and prominent enemies of Alorea, a military dictatorship on Alorea, the elves' ancestral moon. The general population is well aware of these groups’ existence. Other actors are less well-known although quite relevant.

Altogether, this gazetteer offers a very granular perception of what elves are individually and as a people.