Twilight Isles – Houses of the Shadow Elves

   The Shadow Elves are organized around a few basic principles:

  • Bloodlines and family names are passed on through the female line; children may be born with wild talents on occasion, but the vast majority of the time, they will be born with the talents of their mother – and thus the techniques for best using the better talents are also passed on through the female line. The houses and clans are thus organized around maternal lines, and males marry into them.
  • Given the tremendous, and obvious, inequalities of power between individuals, there is no point in trying to pretend in equality. The mighty will seize power if it suits them and the weak will be exploited. Those in the middle are best off staying out-of-the-way while the powerful sort out their own pecking order; there’s no good way to control them anyway.
    • As a corollary, what the powerful get up to is more or less their own business. If they want to kill each other off or indulge in weird activities, as long as it doesn’t involve the population at large – or at least no more than a few people from among the population at large – no one will pay much attention to their antics.
  • There’s a basic trade-off in any species; number of offspring versus investment in each one. Shadow Elves may have twenty or more children over the course of a long lifetime – and most of them will slide towards the bottom, despite parental efforts and influence of wealth. Parents do care for their children and their society accommodates that, simply because any society that does not will be overwhelmed by the ones that do – but the investment in any given child is less. Like classical earthly parents with large families, losses are expected.
  • A sizeable chunk of the population never gets past level zero, and usually winds up in very low-status jobs or as slaves. A solid majority make it to level one, and stick there, whether as slaves, lower class, or hanging onto middle class status via specialization. Level two is notable, but not too uncommon. Levels three and up are one in a hundred or so at best – and even the vast majority of those individuals never get past levels four to five. Levels six and up are only found amongst the most powerful nobles.
  • The major houses – accumulations of wealth and property – are thus dominated by the powerful and cunning, and will be passed on to the powerful and cunning, even if it has to be by adoption.

   Of course, within that basic framework, there are a lot of variations – in fact there are hundreds of them. There are also some relatively common bits of house training:

  • Mana Channeling – meaning, more level zero or level one Innate Enchantments. Limited-use talents are usually known as Lesser Channels, while unlimited-use abilities are classified as Greater Channels. In general, purchased Innate Enchantments:
    • Count as “external” abilities. They may be inherent in the user, but they’re still a conscious method of channeling magic, not something natural to the race.
    • Stack with the abilities that are part of the racial package.
    • Count against the limitation on the number of spells a given Shadow Elf can handle at one time while active (the automatic racial abilities do not).
    • Normally require buying off the Specialization on their Immunity to the XP Cost of innate enchantments (+1 CP).
    • Within those limits, however, many Shadow Elves a few CP worth of extra Innate Enchantments.
  • Masteries: Shadow Elves who show exceptional potential will often learn a Metamagical Theorem or two (Specialized in Innate Enchantments, Corrupted/level one and zero effects only) at 2 CP apiece and a level or two of Streamline (Specialized in Innate Enchantments, Corrupted/level one and zero effects only) at 2 CP per level to go with them – an ability which can increase their power quite substantially.
  • Arcane Focus – Empowerment, Specialized in Innate Enchantments for unlimited use (6 CP). This is only really useful to Shadow Elves who will be advancing beyond the first level – but, for them, it can be a substantial boost to their power level.

   Sample Houses:

   Brecanasti

  • House Talents: +2 Con, +3 with mundane skills (Appraise, Craft, Handle Animal, Perform, Profession, Ride, Speak Language, and Use Rope), and unlimited use of Unseen Servant.
  • The Brecanasti are one of the more widespread, and quieter, houses – the quiet backbone of many professions. Even Brecanasti slaves are usually quite well treated, simply because they can be so productive. They usually try to stay out of the major power struggles, only moving against members of other houses if they feel that they’ve become a major menace to their own survival. The house most commonly teaches it’s more promising members various Masteries – focusing on improving the abilities of their Unseen Servants by giving them a portion of the user’s skills and – sometimes – a limited ability to attack, allowing them to inflict modest area-effect damage to resisting targets, to harass people effectively, or to effectively attack sleeping or otherwise helpless opponents.

   Draiocht

  • House Talents: +2 Chr, +3 with charisma-based skills, unlimited use of Stabilize Magic I – allowing them to use third-level spells without difficulty. Unfortunately, this also illustrates one of the major limitations of Stabilize Magic spells; they have to be cast by an intelligent, and magic-sensitive, creature to work. Putting them into non-sapient items won’t work.
  • The Draiocht have mixed fortunes; those who don’t practice magic find themselves at a slight disadvantage, with a fairly useless house talent. Those who do, usually work with Theurgy (using Augmented Bonus to base it on Charisma), where precisely-tuned spells can make the most of their slight casting advantage. In the great competition, Draiocht is noted for their subtle social manipulation, often leading from behind the scenes as coordinators and managers.

   Elthik

  • House Talents: +2 Wis, +3 bonus on magic-related skills, unlimited use of Detect Magic, unlimited use of Prestidigitation, and Read Magic 1/day.
  • The Elthik have carefully cultivated a reputation as formidable militaristic magi, but their true strength lies in their magical senses – which allow a skilled member of the house to keep careful track of the power levels of those around them, to evaluate their house talents and any Channels they may employ, and to tell what effects they have active on them. Their innate talents may not match the raw power of some houses, but knowing exactly what spell to use is often better than having a powerful spell and using it at the wrong time and place. At the moment, thanks to a series of feuds and skirmishes among the other notable houses, Elthik is doing very well.

   Galano

  • House Talents: +2 Con, +3 bonus on dexterity-based skills, and Weapon Mastery/Sabre (+4 BAB with Sabres – a type of Scimitar).
  • The Galano possesses a powerful edge in melee combat with their favored type of sword, often gaining multiple attacks very early on, and possessing excellent martial skills – further focusing on those advantages with a house-specific martial art. Unsurprisingly, they usually attempt to divert any conflicts with other houses into personal duels and favor ongoing low-level conflicts, where their particular advantages come to the fore. Their house training tends to focus on Lesser Channels and – occasionally – on Greater Channels doubling up on their innate talents, which can make them quite formidable.

   Gynt-Haaken

  • House Talents: +2 Wis, +3 bonus on scouting-related skills (Climb, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Search, Spot, Survival, and Use Rope), unlimited use of Produce Flame.
  • The Gynt-Haaken are strongly militarily-oriented, focusing on skirmish tactics and sniping with their own fire-based house martial art. Unlike many of the other militaristic houses, they like things a bit tense – with lots of calls for scouting and deniable missions – but a bit short of outright warfare. Many members of the house are, however, excessively hot-tempered, leading to a constant embroilment in minor quarrels. Their house training usually focuses on conventional military skills and Masteries – allowing them to upgrade the effectiveness of their flame powers even further.
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One Response

  1. […] and Racial Traits). Since the Shadow Elves have numerous bloodlines, here are some samples – Part I, Part II, Part […]

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