Thursday, 7 January 2016

White Elves and the Ancestor Societies

"Not all the white elves are barbaric and pitiless – some are civilized and pitiless.... They are ruled by two blue-skinned sisters, frost giant queens." Vornheim-Zak S

So as I think I mentioned in an off hand, fluff fashion somewhere back, elves in my game are split into four distinct types, colour coded for easy reference: Dark Elves (heavily inspired by False Patrick's 'Black Glass' essay), Green Elves, Moon Elves and White Elves (Inspired by Zak S' two or three sentences in Vornheim). Here's a stab at a soulless White Elf, culture thing.

Mythos & Lore:

Across (and through)  the Porous Borders, the Hollow World of the gods, awaits in immaculate splendour. Beyond the physical , all things are conceived and known in an endless aesthetic instant. To experience the flesh,  is impossible. It does not constitute a part of a universe composed purely from the stuff of the imagination. And say that a god cannot understand experience would be quite wrong.  For the most part, they transcend it, but occasionally their aesthetic appreciation reaches a critical mass and they must find some way to feel first hand, the beauty of creation.

This is how the Elves came about.

In the case of the White Elves, two frost giant sisters emerged from the endless white wastes of the Kraal. By parthenogenesis, they gave birth to their people,  all for the sake of longed for sweet experience. To say they were shocked by the frigid cold (whose beauty was now somewhat offset by its tendency to kill) would be an any rate, they absorbed some of its bite and cruelty. In many ways,  they were fortunate: they at least were not dealt the bleak hand played upon the Dark Elves. All Elves feel dully as if they have been tricked.

Once one crosses the Porous Border,one cannot go back.

They created the frozen city of Nornrik. From that strange city,  they spread south. Their peculiar talents, beauty and immortality  ensured them a place in society,  especially in Vornheim. However,their soulless natures presented a series of unforeseen problems.

The White Elves live outside the fear of old age. Imperishable, only violence or other outside agency can end them. When they do die, often after countless centuries of life, their consciousness reject what is occurring/has occurred (knowing only oblivion awaits) and these psychic imprints are driven insane, enraged by happen-stance and fear. Death simply does not happen to them. Now rendered psychotic wraiths,  they are incredibly dangerous and cause havoc for their families.

At some point, the White Elves learned to control and bind the ghosts of their fallen ancestors, combining placatory rites, with harsh spiritual torments. This has become the very totem of their society, the frame by which all else hangs.

White Elf 'Mothers' rule their people with every cunning
tool at their command, knowing that ultimately they are the gate that stands between the elves and a murky realm of rage maddened spectres. The word 'Mother' and the word 'Host', are one and the same in the Elven tongue.

Elven women produce something akin to spider silk from their mammary glands. Mothers weave this silk into the Tapestries of the Beloved Dead. These Tapestries are constantly worked upon by Family members and they depict Ancestors engaged in heroic and noteworthy activity. They are vital components of any long term placatory activity.


Each Elven family is a mini-state unto itself, ruled by an autocratic Mother. She determines the laws they follow, the customs they celebrate, the punishments that are meted out. She leads the rituals of the Ancestor Societies, receiving visions and binding ghosts into servitude and fetishes called 'Kaaba'. In practice, she delegates much responsibility, leading only the major rites and observances.


White Elf society is a matriarchy. Something in the soothing nature of the feminine is believed to calm the insane ancestors. However, some have suggested that this is merely a ploy by the scheming Mothers to maintain the gender status quo. Either way, breaking this taboo seems to lead to madness more often than not.

During rites, The Mother wears a powerful Reindeer skin fetish called a Skikkja. All others wear black cloaks.

Whenever an elf is about to knowingly commit a sin, he/she puts a leaf in his/her hair to avow him/her from responsibility.

White Elf shaman are fond of using reindeer horns as symbols of their power.

Umbilical cords are kept and used as fetishes and jewellery. They must never be lost.

Hair and (Sometimes) fingernails must be not be cut, except during a rite to protect the original owner from malevolent ghosts.

Now D&D

Mechanically speaking, White Elves are the same as High Elves. However,  difficulty arises in terms of modelling the necro-animistic Ancestor Societies. I saw somebody handle shaman as essentially clerics who worship their dead descendants. I think this is probably a reasonable angle of approach.

Ancestor Domain

1st:  Protection from Evil/Good, Sanctuary
3rd: Gentle Repose, See Invisibility
5th:  Magic Circle, Speak with Dead
7th:  Banishment, Divination
9th:  Planar Binding, Dream

Bonus Proficiency: Persuade. Gains advantage on persuade with own people, due to deference.


Starting at 2nd level,  you are joined by one of your Ancestors in the form of an invisible companion. This Ancestor is bound to your umbilical necklace 'Fetch Cord'. If the cord is destroyed, so is the Fetch. This is the only way to end it. It is a malicious thing, only visible to you. It  takes the form of (d12):

1 An eyeless crow
2 A horrible black moth
3 A rat with an old woman's face
4 A monkey that moves like a Ray Harryhausen creature.
5 A white hare, looks like road kill. Limps.
6 An elven child, mouth and eyes sewn shut.
7. A flat, naked old woman that lives under the bed.
8. An area of utter darkness.
9. A scarecrow that is always in the corner.
10. A puddle of stagnant water.
11. A crawling thing composed of flies.
12. A doppelganger of yourself, insane grin, reptilian eyes.

Initially it does very little but watch. Each Fetch represents tbe shade of an Ancestor and its stats are generated as for an elf. It can be consulted. It has the strange wisdom of the dead.  It will warn you if you are in danger sometimes. It can cast the Thamaturgy cantrip at will. But that is all.

(Channel Divinity) Bind Dead

Instead of destroy undead, at 5th level the you gain the ability to bind undead into fetishes. The table from the Player's Handbook is suitable for determining the level of undead which can be affected. The object in question must be prepared in a ritual that takes 3 hours, although it can be small and innocuous.

Upon binding,  physical undead turn to dust. Physical or ethereal, their animating spirit is drawn into the prepared object. There they will stay unless destroyed.

A fetish grants the use of any supernatural abilities possessed by the dead.  For example, a dagger containing a ghoul's essence,  will paralyse on a successful hit.  All saving throws are at the creature's original difficulty. However, every-time the fetish  is used in this manner,  you must test to bind the creature anew. Failure results in the spirit using the ability against you. A natural 1, means the spirit is immediately freed. In the case of physical undead,  they manifest as spectre.

Using a bound power counts as a use of Channel Divinity.

 Fetch Boon

At 6th level, the Fetch's relationship with you has grown to the point where it now provides a physical benefit.  Choose two from the following list. Choose another at level 9 and a final boon at level 17:

1. The Fetch can now venture beyond the animist's personal space.  It can travel around 100 mph. The Animist can see through its eyes (even if it has no eyes).

2. The Fetch obey commands.  It cannot interact with the physical world, but it is essentially loyal. Without this boon, the Fetch is a stubborn thing and must be persuaded to do the animist's bidding.

3. The Fetch can interact with the physical world, stars as generated.  In all other ways,  treat as a poltergeist. Can be dangerous.

4. Fetch can cast counter-magic once per day at the animist's level. It will do so instinctively.

5. Fetch actively wards the animist (or is it just the Fetch Cord it wants to protect?). +2 A.C.

6. Fetch can possess a target as a ghost. DC 10 + Fetch's Charisma bonus to resist.  Fetch can automatically animate a dead body. Stats as zombie, only with Fetch's mental attributes. Can animate objects or body parts. Can possess as many times per day as Wisdom bonus.

7. Fetch can cast any of the Animist's spells.  It can also deliver touch spells on the Animists behalf.

8. Fetch can see the future and will discuss it in the form of cryptic statements. See Vornheim for an excellent fortune system.

9. Can poison all food and water within 100m radius. Poison is deadly.

10. Can enter dreams and fight as an Invisible Stalker. If killed in dream, wake up with one random insane disorder.

11. Melds Ancestral memory with your memories. +2 Wisdom.

12. Can convert recently slain into Obol (currency used by the dead and demons) 1 HD/CR=10 Obol. For the purposes of XP, 1 Obol=5 XP  This idea is swiped from Matteo Diaz Torres and his 'A Most Thoroughly Pernicious Pamphlet'.

(Channel Divinity) Ancestor Strike

Add an extra d12 cold damage at the cost of a channel divinity use. Crist on a 19 or 20. At 14th level, this rises to 2d12.

Ghost Walker

At level 17, the you may concentrate for a turn to become ethereal. May force any spirit to parlay whist in this state.  May turn up to Wisdom bonus other characters ethereal also.

That's about all I can be bothered writing at the moment. I'll update this with some old school rules eventually, but I figure that it won't be far beyond you, my good reader in converting backwards.

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