Xvarts are a race of small, blue-skinned, black-haired, orange-eyed, goblin-like and wholly redundant humanoids who snuck into the canon by way of the Fiend Folio's backdoor. Some leaf submitted them to White Dwarf's Fiend Factory as the "Svart".
On publication in issue #9, WD readers loved these little guys, rating the "Svart" third-best as of issue #15, just behind the admittedly-awesome Necrophidius and that issue's own Russian Doll Monster. Yes, ahead of the Hook Horror and the fucking Githyanki. Guess you get the magazine you deserve. But anyway...
Xvarts can more or less be described as "goblins, but smarter, cleaner, and not as evil" - despite the fact they're supposed to be Chaotic Evil and, in fact, they're no more related to goblinoids than kobolds are. Greyhawk plunked them into the Bandit Kingdoms region, the rubbish tip of the Flanaess.
Tribal by nature, xvarts have little interest in fighting humanoids, who they consider bigger and scarier than they are, and will normally avoid conflict with humanoids unless starvation or the depredations of adventurers gives them a cause to make raids on human settlements, or something bigger and nastier has come along and forced them to do its bidding. They do look down on kobolds and like to kick them around to feel bigger, however. Dwelling in deep, remote forests or underground caves, xvarts will fight to protect their own against other humanoids, but aren't known to war with themselves, unlike goblins. Furthermore, their lairs tend to be well-patrolled and surprisingly clean - especially compared to the typical goblin's squalor.
The original (based) Factory entry had that "hobbits" like to pit these guys against kobolds in the arena. Then issue #42 (June 1983) claimed the X/Svarts worship A'Gallamiull. Yeah right.
Per the 1983 Greyhawk box, Gygaxian Xvarts-with-an-X worship Raxivort, a fiendish demipower who created them and who claims dominion over rats and bats. As a result, they have the ability to speak to these animals and so their lairs tend to feature them as allies, especially giant or dire variants thereof. They consider the rat and bat strains of lycanthropy to be holy blessings, and so are often allies for wererats and werebats that happen to share their territories.
Xvarts appear in one mountainous area in Baldur's Gate 1, where you end up massacring the entire tribe and then face off against their guardian, Ursa: a rather pissed-off cave bear.
Why the Stupid Name?
As mentioned above, they were originally called "Svarts" in White Dwarf #9 although, as you can see, the stupid title font made it look like "SVARF".
That article mentions that they are based on the "Svart Alfar" race from the book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. TSR probably changed the name to protect themselves from any possible lawsuits (after having learned their lesson with hobbits). However, Garner did not actually invent the word, but had taken it from Old Norse svartálfar ("black elves"), so the name was already public domain anyway.
"Svart" is cognate with English "swarthy" and Tolkien's archaic "swart". The Ashkenaz Jews use "svart" as well, their Yiddish being yet another Germanic language; and some have played the shande and applied it to black people. (Oy.) Perhaps someone in TSR was aware of that.
Attempts To Buff This Smurf-Turd
Xvarts appeared in 4th edition's Monster Manual 3 - this means they're one of the few races that've actually appeared in every single edition, which isn't bad for a race defined as a low-quality knock-off goblinoid. The 4e version renames them Xivorts so they don't sound so much like a humid gas-pass. It also tries to un-redundant them - by tying them to a demihuman race, in this case the gnomes like spriggans and svirfneblin. Xivorts are a gnomish subrace born out of their long slavery to the fomorians. Specifically, the xivorts descend from the gnomish slaves of formorian colonies either in the Shadowdark or in close proximity to a portal leading from the Feydark to there: a prolonged exposure to the eerie energies of the Shadowdark gave them both their ability to speak to rats & bats and a natural affinity for shadow magic that manifests in an innate ability to reactively teleport from danger. Whilst the bulk of the race was freed from slavery by a hag coven that wanted to piss the fomorians off, others still linger in slavery. Even the free xivorts are a dangerous menace, because they want to make all of the bigger races suffer for what they went through. Races of their own size are okay, though; in fact, they regularly team-up with evil gnomes and halflings.
The Xvarts have the dubious honor of being a race who received a 5th edition rewrite that pretty much changed everything about them in Volo's Guide to Monsters. In 5th edition, Raxivort was once a fiend of some kind who used to serve as the treasurer for Graz'zt, until he stole a powerful magical artifact called the Infinity Spindle. This ascended him instantly to the rank of demigod, after which he fled Graz'zt's domain and founded his own territory in Pandemonium. Naturally, even if he'd outgrown the power that the Spindle could give him already, Graz'zt was kind of pissed off at this, and so got creative about expressing his displeasure: he went and told pretty much everyone what the Infinity Spindle could do. As you might expect, a lot of unpleasant characters promptly went after Raxivort, scaring the piss out of him. So, he used the Spindle to visit world after world, creating countless inferior magical duplicates of himself to throw off any efforts to track him down. Those magical constructs are the Xvarts.
So, yeah, they went from actually being fairly peaceable, for goblin-folk, to being shoddy knock-offs created as expendable body-doubles. Worse, the xvarts know this, and so they seethe with jealousy and frustration. Greedy, conniving, and obsessed with loot, they're constant thieves who steal everything they can that looks like it might be valuable. Also, because they're desperate for their "father's" approval, they tend to kidnap people and sacrifice them to him. On the rare occasions they do entice him to show up - Raxivort appears like any other xvart, save for being nine feet tall - their creator steals all of the treasure that the "lucky" tribe has gathered and then pisses off without saying a word. What an asshole. He will sometimes grant low-level warlock powers to an xvart who manages to steal magical items and sacrifice them to him, though.
Yeah, this does kind of make the 5e xvarts into essentially a race of thieving, evil, Smurf knock-offs.
- Minimum Ability Scores: Strength 3, Intelligence 2, Wisdom 2, Dexterity 3, Constitution 2,, Charisma 2, Comeliness 2
- Maximum Ability Scores: Strength 14, Intelligence 16, Wisdom 16, Dexterity 18, Constitution 16, Charisma 16, Comeliness 8
- Increase Charisma by (2 * level of experience) when interacting with members of own tribe
- Available Classes: Shaman (10), Fighter (7), Magic-User (8), Thief or Thief-Acrobat (12), Assassin (12)
- Available Multiclasses: Witch Doctor, Fighter/Shaman, Fighter/Magic User, Fighter/Witch Doctor, Fighter/Thief, Fighter/Assassin, Shaman/Thief, Shaman/Assassin, Magic-User/Thief, Witch Doctor/Thief
- Thief Score Adjustments: +r5% Open Locks, +5% Find/Remove Traps, +10% Move Silently, +15% Hide In Shadows, +5% Hear Noise, -15% Climb Walls, -5% Read Languages
- Thief-Acrobat Adjustments: -2' Pole Vaulting, -1' High Jumping, -2' Broad Jumping, +10% Evasion, +5% Falling
- Infravision 6 feet
- -1 penalty on "to hit" rolls and on saving throws when in bright light.
- Base movement speed 6 feet
- Base Armor Class: 10
- Can communicate with rats and bats; can call off an attack from such creatures if can roll (Charisma + 2) or less on 1d20.
- -2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Charisma
- Base land speed 30 feet
- Darkvision 60 feet
- Speak With Animals (Sp): For up to 1 minute per day, an xvart can communicate with Rats and Bats, and all variants thereof, as if using a Speak With Animals spell.
- +2 racial bonus on Move Silently.
- Favored Class: Fighter
|Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Races|
|Core:||Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human|
|Dark Sun:||Aarakocra - Half-Giant - Mul - Pterran - Thri-kreen|
|Dragonlance:||Draconian - Irda - Kender - Minotaur|
|Mystara:||Aranea - Ee'ar - Enduk - Lizardfolk (Cayma - Gurrash - Shazak) |
Lupin - Manscorpion - Phanaton - Rakasta - Tortle - Wallara
|Oriental Adventures:||Korobokuru - Hengeyokai - Spirit Folk|
|Planescape:||Aasimar - Bariaur - Genasi - Githyanki - Githzerai - Modron - Tiefling|
|Spelljammer:||Dracon - Giff - Grommam - Hadozee - Hurwaeti - Rastipede - Scro - Xixchil|
|Ravenloft:||Broken One - Flesh Golem - Half-Vistani - Therianthrope|
Book of X:
|Alaghi - Beastman - Bugbear - Bullywug - Centaur - Duergar |
Fremlin - Firbolg - Flind - Gnoll - Goblin - Half-Ogre - Hobgoblin
Kobold - Mongrelfolk - Ogre - Ogre Mage - Orc - Pixie
Satyr - Saurial - Svirfneblin - Swanmay - Voadkyn - Wemic
|Dragon Magazine:||Half-Dryad - Half-Satyr - Uldra - Xvart|