Between the time this article was written (Sunday 11.12.2017 afternoon), sent to editor (Sunday 11.12.2017 evening), and scheduled to appear in front of you (scheduled for release 11.14.2017) Wizards of the Coast released Unearthed Arcana update (11.13.2017) that is of near identical nature, offering new subrace options for elves. It is not my place to claim mine is better, and I do highly encourage checking out the WotC version and using both versions as you, and your table, see fit. Thus you would achieve a more thorough play-test when time for the survey comes around.
In my gaming group I got into a big discussion about things we wished would be brought from older editions of Dungeons & Dragons to fifth edition. This lead to the two older gamers in our group discussing the most varied classic player race we could think of, elves.
We began to describe the wild elves, and the most elusive of elves, the Lythari. Let me bring you these subraces, and my quick versions of them. As always these are in no way official or the limits of these subraces but are merely meant to get you started bringing these elves into your world.
I know the fifth edition D&D Player’s Handbook states wood elves can work as wild elves, but I view this as an alternate take. Please remember these are subraces of the standard elf from the Player’s Handbook put out by Wizards Of The Coast.
Wild elvesThe wild elves are elusive, living almost exclusively in deep forest areas. Their society is tribal with the shamans, almost exclusively female, on the top. This is further emphasized by the fact they have all but given up the pursuit of arcane magic in favor of following druids, shamans, and gods of nature. Their pursuits are often natural in their make like poetry, song, and dance as opposed to sculpture or painting. They are distrustful of outsiders, but not without good reason. The wild elves are known to be aloof to the extreme but tolerating no insult to themselves or those they care about.
They are noticeably different than other elves with bodies slightly shorter and stockier than most elves, skin tones of dark tan, with hair from dark brown to black. Their eyes are typically brown to green, with the rare blue or silver being found as well.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score is increased by 1.
Forest Runner. You can ignore the first square of difficult terrain on each movement action you take.
Elf Weapon Training. You gain proficiency in longbow, scimitar, blowgun, and net.
Druid Cantrip. You gain one cantrip from the Druid spell list.
The Lythari, or silver elves, are one of the most ancient castes of elves who have ever surfaced within the Feywild and even other elven lands. They are unique in that they are born of elven lycanthrope parents, or are converted from other elves in a ritual of bonding. This ritual will only work if both parties consent and will leave a bite shaped mark upon the recipient. The ritual, like most Lythari culture, seems to revolve around the moon. The Lythari organize into wolf like packs, typically 30 to 40 in number with a range of ages. They are even accepted into regular or even dire wolf packs, though not allowed to lead such.
It is worth noting that to their very core the Lythari are pacifists. They abhor violence, and even in war will only act as scouts, messengers, or spies and letting their natural speed keep them safe. This does not apply to their hunting, where they are dedicated hunters of all kinds of wild game.
Lythari are very slightly shorter than regular elves, and are full of lean muscle. Their hair is white to silver, with eyes running from silver to blue, and pale skin. This does mean the entire subrace looks similar but they can easily differentiate each other and can be confused if others can’t. In their wolf form, they are large wolves with fur and eyes matching those of their elven form.
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score is increased by 1.
Shapechanger. You gain the creature tag shapechanger, in addition to elf. Your creature type becomes humanoid (elf, shapechanger).
Wolf Form.You can take on the form of a medium-sized wolf. This form is able to carry a medium-sized rider, but not effectively or comfortably. All rolls while doing so are made with disadvantage for both rider and mount. This form is indistinguishable from a normal wolf. This shapechange follows all rules for the druid Wildshape feature. This includes the loss of some class features like spellcasting due to the change in anatomy and inability to speak. Bite, Keen Hearing and Smell, and Pack Tactics are available only while in Wolf Form.
Strength: 14 Dexterity: 14 Constitution: 14
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) piercing damage. If the target is7 a creature, it must succeed on a DC= 8+Strength+proficiency saving throw or be knocked prone.
Keen Hearing and Smell: The wolf form has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on hearing or smell.
Pack Tactics: The wolf has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if at least one of the wolf’s allies is within 5 ft. of the creature and the ally isn’t incapacitated.
Language: In addition to the normal languages an elf can speak, you can speak simple thoughts, emotions, and phrases with canines regardless of your current form. The ability to understand canines does not grant them the ability to form complex thoughts.
The Avarial, or winged elves, are unique among the elves in that they were the purposeful creation of militant forced evolution. In ages past, a group of elves (my theory is these were high elves due to their similar bodies) took up arms (and wings) through a process of magic-induced evolution to better the lives of elves everywhere.
This does mean they are not a naturally occurring race, though they have become true breeding and self sustaining. They have even a heavy hand in the creation of the raptorians, though not by their choice. That being said, the winged elves tend to think of others and the way any action will effect others before themselves.
Though they are mercenaries, the avarial think of what is good for elves above all else, even to the point of self-sacrifice, and thus it is not unheard of to see drastic population shifts within this subrace. One such shift was caused by a war with evil dragons, and has left a long standing grudge within the winged elf community.
Due to coming from very different environments and cultures, dwarves and winged elves tend to not get along. This is only slightly less true of the winged elves and the gnomes. To quote one dwarf, “It is hard to trust anyone who looks down on you, and impossible if they are on a perch.”
The winged elves are tall and lean. In fact they bare a striking resemblance to the high elves. That is until you count in their 8 to 10 foot wingspan. Lightly tan, their hair is the same color as their wings, and they have very angular features. Though they loathe to have it spoken of, they have evolved slightly longer noses than other elves.
Movement: The winged elves have a speed of 30 feet and flying speed of 30 feet due to their wings. Flight is impossible when wearing medium or heavy armor. If your campaign uses the encumbrance rules, flight is impossible when encumbered.
Language. In addition to the normal languages an elf can speak, you can speak simple thoughts, emotions, and phrases with avians regardless of your current form. The ability to understand avians does not grant them the ability to form complex thoughts.
Subrace options for D&D elves
There are my thoughts on how to bring the three elves of the past into the present. Perhaps you have already done so? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them in the comments below. Personally, I created a Lythari Order of the Lycan blood hunter who is giving up everything to try to save his mate from slavers. It was a rather interesting NPC and added a bunch of flavor to our game. Nonetheless, with Xanathar’s Guide to Everything out I am looking to see a lot of great flavor and roleplay in the newer games. I am certain Nerdarchy will be touching on it often. I know I will be next week.
Play on PS4 or PS3? How about Destiny 2? Did you know Nerdarchy has a community and clan that plays together often? Go ahead and search in the community section for Nerdarchy and for the player Nubz_The_Zombie!
Did I miss something? Have any Questions or Comments? Feel free to message me at www.facebook.com/NubzTheZombie or at email@example.com. I am now on Twitter too: @nubzthezombie
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Nubz hails from the American Pacific Northwest where he has spent the last 24 years living the gamer life and running campaigns of all kinds. Through this he has managed to sate his acting bug and entertain many. Now a father, he wishes to pursue writing to leave a legacy in Nerd culture for his offspring to enjoy.