Shadow Elf

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Shadow Elves are a subspecies of Elf native to the Dungeons & Dragons setting of Mystara, where they serve as, more or less, that world's equivalent to Drow.

When Blackmoor destroyed itself in the Great Rain of Fire, elven survivors in the land that would become Glantri fled to the Broken Lands, where they were ultimately driven to take shelter from the fires by hiding in caverns deep below the surface. Through elven magic, they bred and cultivated fungus to serve their dietary needs, and shaped surviving seed samples to produce otherworldly plants that could survive in the depths (real-world science note: photosynthesis is almost the defining characteristic of plants. A plant that has been bred to survive without light is basically a shitty, less efficient imitation of a fungus, and you're better off just cultivating fungi, unless you can supply said plants with an alternate source of light. And in that case, why bother with plants? If your light is being provided by some bioluminescent organism like glow worms, then just eat the glow worms. If the light source is magic, just use magic to conjure food instead of light...). Eventually, over eight hundred years later, they cautiously resettled the surface, unaware that other elves from the southern continent had beaten them there.

This lasted for 250 years, and then elves of the southern continent dug up a nuclear reactor from Blackmoore and accidentally blew it up; the shadow elves immediately fled back down into the underworld, retreating to the same fungal forests they had cultivated centuries ago.

But they were not alone there anymore; here, they came into contact with a community of Azcans, whom they drove out. More importantly, they found temples to Atzanteotl, and in their fearful state, they were so desperate for protection that they turned to worship of this dark Immortal, building a new city around the temple, called Aengmor. However, he grew tired of them and their lack of a willingness to shed blood in his honor, so he caused a volcanic eruption that destroyed Aengmor, slaying many shadow elves and driving the survivors deeper into the underworld. Aengmor ultimately become the Kingdom of Thar, a fractious alliance of various monstrous humanoids - orcs, goblinoids, trolls, ogres, gnolls and kobolds.

In the depths, the shadow elves discovered a cavern, on whose walls were inscribed the Refuge of Stone: 14 verses written by an Immortal named Rafiel that promised the elves protection, and a great and bountiful future. Though cautious at first, the elves dared to settle down, and ultimately came to found a new nation, one that has remained in the depths ever since.

Unlike the drow, shadow elves are extremely pale, with almost albino-white skin, white hair, and "clear-colored" eyes, typically a sparkling blue or grey. One distinct characteristic is that shadow elves have much larger ears than normal elves; they rely heavily on their hearing to navigate in the dark caverns they call home. Their voices have a high, almost squeaky pitch to them. A minority of shadow elves are born deformed, to the point they could be visibly mistaken for orcs, goblinoids, or the other races of Thar; these unfortunates are abandoned at birth, and Rafiel secretly arranges for them to be adopted by those same humanoids. A larger minority are born with distinctive birthmarks; purple markings (almost always symmetrical) around the eyes and extending up the forehead into the hairline, and often appearing on other parts of the face and/or body, such as the backs of hands and the tops of feet. These birthmarks are regarded as holy symbols by the shadow elves; a marked shadow elf is given over to the shamans of Rafiel, to be raised as a shaman in turn. Strangely, 70% of the shadow elves born with the Mark of Rafiel are female, although unlike drow is there no stigma against male shadow elves becoming shamans, nor is shadow elf culture as insanely misandric as drow culture.

Shadow elves live in clans, which are linked by the practice of exogamous marriage; much like surface elves, these marriages are not life-long monogamies, and are usually dissolved after about 20 years or so. The typical shadow elf lives to be about 800 years old and will have about 4 children on average, not counting the aforementioned deformed children.

Mechanically, shadow elves function the same as elves under the basic rules. Like elves, after achieving 10th level, they can choose to progress to the 20th level as either Elf Lords (gaining increased Fighter abilities) or Elf Wizards (gaining increased spells). Alternatively, a shadow elf can take the Shadow Elf Shaman racial class; these shadow elves are pure magic users, but possess access to a number of cleric spells. To qualify, a Shadow Elf Shaman needs a minimum of 9 Intelligence and 9 Wisdom; a Shaman with Int 13 and Wis 13 gains +5% Experience, and one with Int 13+ and Wis 16+ gains +10% Experience. They possess the same default abilities as any shadow elf, but require an extra amount of XP to gain each level, and gain bonus spells of 1st to 7th level; they can reach level 22 in total. They are considered to be following the "Elf Wizard" upper-ranked class automatically; this means they cannot gain the increased attacks or attack rank of an Elf Lord.

One major drawback to shadow elf shamans is that they cannot cast their shaman spells without access to a specifically powerful soul crystal - and these crystals disintegrate when brought up to the surface.

Like the drow, shadow elves hold a great deal of hatred for their surface elf kindred. Unlike drow, it's a matter of historical mishap, rather than religion. In the year 131 AC, by the Mystaran calendar, a team of human adventurers exploring the caves were captured by shadow elves; before being slain for their ancestors' unleashing of the Great Rain of Fire, they revealed to their captors that the surface world was healed from the destruction, and that a great nation of elves - Alfheim - now resided on the surface. When shadow elf envoys made their way to Alfheim, they were welcomed with open arms by King Celedryl, who was more than happy to try and find accommodations for these long-lost cousins.

And then he learned that the shadow elf population was equal to that of Alfheim itself. And then the shadow elves demanded, as "fair retribution", ownership of more than half of Alfheim (even though they could no longer bear to live on the surface) and to be made the leaders of all elven clans! This was too much for King Celedryl to agree to, and the stubborn, proud shadow elves would accept nothing less.

Since then, the two races have been opposed to each other... well, technically. It's more of a one-sided hate on the shadow elves' part; in what seems to be typical for the race, although they have made multiple efforts to attack, spy on or subvert Alfheim so they can conquer it, none of those efforts have ever worked out yet. Attempts to manipulate monstrous humanoids into attacking Alfheim have just resulted in those humanoids being wiped out by the surface elf defenders, and spies have variously defected to the surface or brought home deadly plagues.

So the shadow elves sit in their caverns and just get on with their lives, trusting that, eventually, Rafiel's promises will come true. They seek out the rare and precious soul gems, which they believe hold the unborn souls of their people, waiting to be reincarnated, milk giant slugs of nutrient-rich slime, cultivate fungus, and generally live fairly peaceful lives, all things considered.

Schattenalfen[edit]

Deeper than even the shadow elves normally go lies the Hollow World of Mystara; a secondary planet on the interior surface of the planet, lit by a crimson sun that never sets. Here resides the Schattenalfen; a splinter group of shadow elves still loyal to the dark Immortal Atzanteotl. Their history stems to the time when the shadow elves retreated from the surface back into the catacombs, after elves in Glantri accidentally detonated a nuclear device left over from Blackmoor; a number of these foolish elves survived, fled into the catacombs, and were adopted into the shadow elf society, taking the clan name "Schattenalfen". When Atzanteotl corrupted many of the shadow elves to his worship, it was amongst these "adopted" shadow elves and their descendants that his worship prospered, and he ultimately divided the clan into two groups; one settled the ultimately doomed city of Aengmor, whilst the other, he turned towards the depths.

In their explorations, the shadow elves had learned of the Hollow World, although they did not understand its mysteries. Under the guidance of their dark patron, the schattenalfen clan forcefully colonized a mountainous region of the interior, despite their negative reaction to the sun's light and their failed attempt to conquer the Kogolors. Now, the schattenalfen pursue a lifestyle of constant guerrilla warfare against the Azcans, whom they wrongfully believe have stolen their culture and twisted it to their own ends, whilst intermittently and reluctantly trading with other races. Though they are dimly aware of the existence of their shadow elf relatives some where in the caverns "underground", they have forgotten the way back to the City of Stars; the two races haven't spoken for over two thousand years.

Schattenalfen culture is a weird blend of shadow elf and Azcan elements. Though most of their culture is clearly shadow elf, they do not worship Rafiel; only Atzanteotl is honored, and as such they pursue vengeance as a holy sacrament - this doesn't require hasty attacks or formal duels; Atzanteotl teaches that slow, thoughtful, carefully planned vengeance is the sweetest of all. Likewise, their building styles and decorations are clearly Azcan in nature. They practice equality of the sexes, although inheritance is based on matrilinear traditions; authority ultimately rests with an Elf-King and an Elf-Queen. They do not mine soul crystals like shadow elves do, and don't believe these crystals to hold unborn shadow elf souls. They do not possess shamans (indeed, the Mark of Rafiel doesn't appear amongst schattenalfen at all, although they still suffer the deformities that leave one in five of their offspring resembling orcs or goblinoids, who are abandoned), and in fact they are generally less magical than their underworld-dwelling kinsfolk; like all denizens of the Hollow World, the Spell of Preservation stifles magical talent amongst their race.

Schattenalfen, like shadow elves, are extremely pale-colored; albino white skin, pure white to pale steel-gray hair, ice-blue, gray, light green or yellow eyes. However, schattenalfen are even more adapted for a lightless existence than their shadow elf relatives are; they burn in agonizing pain when exposed to sunlight, which can kill them, and they suffer a race-wide affliction of agoraphobia; they are so used to living in enclosed environments that an open sky fills them with deep, subconscious dread. Why they are so mutated is unclear - it may be a side-effect of their prolonged worship of Atzanteotl. It's also a litttle contradictory as to whether all sunlight hurts them, or just the red sun of the Hollow World. Whatever the reason, the schattenalfen can never live outside of the cave again, at least not without the aid of total body-concealing garments. There's a reason that the standard schattenalfen attire is dark, heavy, long-sleeved tunics, long trousers, knee-high soft boots, gloves, and broad-hooded cloaks.

What makes things worse is that schattenalfen culture constantly torments them by making them yearn for the surface. Rather than accepting the world they have and striving to embrace it, their culture continues to push them to aspire to reclaim the brightly lit surface world of their ancestors. Schattenalfen are bitter creatures, full of self-loathing for their own inability to be what their ancestors were, and hatefully resentful of other races which lack their physical limitations. Just the way Atzanteotl likes them to be.

Playing a schattenalfen is possible, but only Basic D&D stats exist for them. Due to being members of a Hollow World race, PC schattenalfen can't use the standard Elf racial class unless they have a minimum of 16 Intelligence; otherwise, they have to use the Warrior-Elf variant class introduced in the Hollow World. Unlike shadow elves, there are no schattenalfen shamans. They do have a unique racial trait; a schattenalfen not wearing an entire body-covering suit of heavy, dark clothing will take 1 hit point of damage per hour they are exposed to sunlight. They are restricted to the following cultural arms & armor, and must take the Caving skill and at least one professional or labor skill.

Cultural Melee Weapons: Hand Axe, Dagger, Short/Broad/Two-Handed/Bastard Sword, Mace, Club, Staff, Pole Arm, Spear, Javelin, Lance, Net, Whip
Cultural Missile Weapons: Light and Heavy Crossbow, Longbow, Shortbow, Sling
Cultural Armor: Leather, Scale Mail, Chain Mail, Banded Mail, Plate Mail, Suit Armor Shield (not Horned/Knife/Sword/Tusked)
Banned Armor: Barding