Race as Class: Elf
Chimera’s take on the B/X elf
Last week suggested a Chimera conversion for the first of the Big 3 Moldvay demi-humans, the dwarf. Moving ahead with the Race as Class series, we’re now onto our pointy-eared wood-snobs, the elves. As always, check out the ground rules for conversion.
Moldvay describes elves as “slender, graceful demi-humans” who can “fight with any weapon and use magic spells.” (B9) They also get some useful special abilities, including infravision (60’), the ability to detect secret or hidden doors with a 2-in-6 chance of success, plus immunity to ghoul paralysis. They speak Common, Elvish, orc, hobgoblin, and gnoll, though they’re limited to 10th-level.
Again, I think we can credit Tolkien for Moldvay’s interpretation: Elves are distant, fey, wise, and magical. But they also kick ass in a fight. Certainly, these traits were covered in the LBBs, though with less clarity or in-game logic than I could ever wrap my head around. The convention allowing elves to chose their MO as fighting man or magic-user on an adventure-by-adventure  basis created (in my “I-played-B/X-first” mindset) ambiguity about what an elf actually could do during a given foray, how he advanced, how he attacked, and exactly when he could “switch” from warrior to wizard (or vice versa).
What I like about Moldvay’s version is its simple designation as a combination fighter/magic-user: The best of both worlds in a single, easy-to-grasp package. Spells? check—just like a magic-user. Attacks? check—to-hit rolls are clear, plus you can use any armour or weapon. Magic-items? check—you can use pretty much whatever. Demi-human abilities? super-check—great saves, detect stuff, speak humanoid languages, and you also get a permanent coating of Ghoul-B-Gone.
Naturally, the downside of all this was the whopping 4,000 XP required for 2nd-level. Ugh. Second level took, like, FOREVER.
But it was worth it. My very first D&D character of all time was a B/X elf, uncleverly named Melrond.  He wore chain mail and wielded a spear and a bow. He cast sleep whenever possible, though he also knew charm and <yawn> light. What he really wanted was magic missile and a magic spear. He got a spear +2, but died later in the same adventure, killed by an owlbear (B2 anyone?). He was only 3rd level, but whatever—I already knew that 16,000 XP for level 4 wasn’t happening anytime soon.
The offspring of man and fae, elves are graceful humanoids attuned to both the natural world of man and the Otherworld of their their supernatural parents. A long-lived race, elves are conflicted, always seeking accord between these vastly different worlds. As a result, elves appear aloof and distant to other peoples, though some do manifest the best qualities of their respective forebears.
|Elf (Elf)||Advancement Cost |
|Move Rate: 12”±1d6||0|
|Wound Limit: 1d6||2|
|Abilities: Athletics, Fight, Observe, Shoot, Wield||5|
|Perks: Magically Attuned (see below), Immunity (ghoul paralysis), Infravision, Insulation, Spells (select 2 schools at start of play, with 1 random spell per school)||9|
|Special Perks (Sperks)
Like the magic-user, elves (being inherently magical) should have some “automagical” abilities. An elf's martial training makes these abilities less broad than the human-magic-user's, but here's a thought:
- Detect Magic: A successful Wield roll detects magical auras within 1” per level; a Critical Success reveals the school of the power detected.
- Fey: Roll 1d8 for mana
- Read Magic: A successful Academics roll translates scripts written in arcane, lost, or forgotten languages; this skill is also required to understand a scroll before using it or scribing a spell into a spellbook.
Failed Wield rolls against the above do not impose Fatigue penalties.
So...elves...what say you? I'm having the same feeling with elves as with dwarfs, in that major variations would really be setting-specific. As a result, this is pretty much a direct translation of the Moldvay elf. Though in many campaigns, elves seem to be less popular than back in the day. Do you use elves, and are they different from what you see above?
- Or day-to-day? Out of curiosity, can any of the LBB experts help me out on this point?
- Embarrassing. But now, somehow brilliant. Actually, I can’t think of a better name.
- My target AdCost is 16 (4,000 XP / 250 = 16).
Moldvay, Tom, ed. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rulebook. Lake Geneva: TSR Hobbies, Inc. 1981.
Smale, Erin. Chimera Basic. Atlantic Highlands: The Welsh Piper. 2011.