Sunday, May 22, 2011

Design Decisions: Dark Elves

I just posted information on another race for my World of Samoth campaign.  This time it's for the Wraith Elves, which I guess you could say is my campaign's version of dark elves.

When I started creating the World of Samoth back in the mid-1980s, I originally had regular old straight-up drow, based on their appearance in the G-D-Q series of modules and their write-up in the Fiend Folio.  My perception of the drow was much more in line with a "Greyhawkian" vision and not that of the Forgotten Realms, which was brand new at that time, only having been exposed little by little through one-off articles in Dragon Magazine.  I even have an old picture saved that I drew of a drow elf for my campaign.  It's done in a very Bill Willingham comic-book style, with the bluish-colored skin like the dark elf featured on the cover of the Saga mini-game.

At a certain point in the very late 80s or early 90s, I decided to completely get rid of the dark elves.  I felt that they were but a shadow (pardon the pun) of themselves.  Once they became a playable character race featured in Unearthed Arcana, it seemed like everybody wanted to play a brooding dark elf who had turned his (or her) back on their society and left to join the surface world.  As I was crafting my campaign world history, I just couldn't find a place for the dark elves.

A few years later, I had a change of heart, mainly sparked by an idea my friend and I had had while working on a series of novels based on my campaign world.  During this stage, I had given up on the idea of using the world for an actual game campaign and instead spent most of my time working on the history and the overall story arc.  I wanted a sort of new, but at the same time a familiar, race to fulfill a certain role in the story.  The wraith elves are what we came up with.

Like most races in my campaign world, their name was chosen for them by humanity, who, upon first encountering the Dorai (as they call themselves in their own tongue), decided that they looked like shadows, or "wraiths" of regular elves.  The name stuck, mostly because that's the way the humans wanted it. 

The wraith elves are treated with a mixture of suspicion, distrust, and apprehension, based solely on their somewhat sinister appearance and their rather mysterious emergence from a northern wasteland only a few hundred years ago.  I specifically opted not to have them be underground dwellers, to differentiate them from the traditional drow of D&D lore.  They also aren't inherently evil - like most humanoid races in my campaign world, there are good, evil, and neutral examples of the race found throughout the world. 

The differences between the wraith elves and the drow are not just found in their appearance, homeland, or ethical outlook, though.  It's mainly a difference of their society and culture, and the role they play in the campaign. 

I encourage you to have a look, even if you're not playing using Pathfinder rules.  If you just skip over the racial traits portion, you'll find a bunch of (hopefully) interesting information about the wraith elves.  Even the "character concepts" section, which provides role-playing hooks for each Pathfinder character class, is designed to be "rules-light" and instead provide background on the race. 


  1. Hey Martin! I really need to go back and read up more on Samoth! Interested to see how this has developed...

  2. Hey, @Drance - thanks! I hope you do check it out. Most of my posts here on Blogger are about the inspirations for the campaign or sometimes they're the adventure summaries. Over on the Google Sites website is where the actual "meat" of the campaign world is located.

    Let me know what you think!


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