Posts Tagged With: Half-Elves

Half-Elves, the Tudarin

“We are the children of joy and sorrow, sometimes born out of love, more often born of illicit desire and as mistakes.  We have the passion of our elven heritage matched to the determination of our human blood, and we have numbered some of the greatest heros, and villans, of the Heartlands, amongst us. But even at the best of times and with the best of us, elves look down upon us for what they see as human weakness and humans fear and distrust us because of our elven otherworldliness. That is, at least, when our exotic nature doesn’t inspire a prurient interest that both races can barely forgive themselves for. Is it surprising that we finally created kingdoms of our own in the wake of the Mad God’s War? We stand with the legacy of the Thrice-Blessed and the Thrice-Cursed ever at our shoulder, and there are those who would slay us out of hand as perversions of nature merely because we had the misfortune to be born and live our lives unbound and unafraid.” – High Princess Aliannatulian of Silverveil


The Half-Elves, also known as the Tudarin or the “People of Two Paths” in the Faerie tongue, are a race that is both blessed and cursed by their heritage. While none would deny their beauty or their skills, they are often viewed with suspicion and disdain by others simply for the fact that they exist. The taboo against cross-racial sexual relations is a strong one, and the children of such liaisons bear the brunt of it. Always a small and often persecuted minority at the mercy of those in power, the vast majority of Half-Elves are born of the union of human and elf, most commonly male elven and a female human parents, and raised in human culture.

Statistic Modifiers: None

Languages: Faerie and the Local Human Language.

Size, Speed, and Appearance: Half-Elves stand 4′ 9″ tall (+2d8), and weigh 110 lbs (x2d4) lbs. Half-Elves are Medium in Size and their Speed is 30. Both sexes have with average builds that tend towards the slender, and fair complexions rarely marred by either scars or sun. Female Half-Elves are considerably more buxom and curvaceous than Elves, but are generally slimmer than Humans. Their eyes are commonly grey or blue, with hazel occurring sometimes, and the violet or emeralds of an elven relative appearing rarely. Similarly, their hair tends to come in the same shades as human hair, with the occasional appearance of the silver-blonds, snow-whites, and blood-reds of their elven heritage appearing as well. One significant difference with Half-Elves is that they are able to grow beards as full as any human’s and those desiring to pass for human will usually do so.

Common Dress: Half-elves will generally dress in the manner of the culture they were raised in, but will often mix garments and styles of dress from other cultures that they have travelled to or like the looks of.

Lifespan: Half-elves are young adults at age 24, considered mature adults at around age 40, and can live up to 325 years of age. They generally begin play at 21 + 3d4 years of age.

Common Culture: There is very little that can be described as “common” half-elven culture because they are primarily raised either as humans or by the elves that dwell in human lands with a strong desire to acculturate. It isn’t uncommon for Half-Elves raised by humans to pick up various affectations that they deem as elvish or to adopt some element of elven culture that they learn about that appeals to them. Most commonly this is either hair styles or jewelry styled as elvish, but it can often encompass eating habits, music preferences, or simply peppering their speech with elvish words and phraseology. Half-Elves raised in Elven culture often become “more elven than Elves” by way of compensation, or become so disenchanted with the prejudice they encounter that they begin to deliberately flaunt human customs (speeding their expulsion from polite Elven society).

Common Backgrounds: Like their human parents, any Background is appropriate for Half-Elves, though they do pick up more than their fair share of Charlatans, Entertainers, Outcasts, and Outlanders.

Naming Conventions: Half-Elves often have names that reference both parents in some way. For those raised in Elven society they do not use Great House name but instead reference their own nature instead. For those raised in human society “Half-Elven” is sometimes used a surname, as well as other variants upon that (Faeblood, Elfson, etc.).

Common Alignments: Any, though Half-Elves lean slightly towards the various Chaotic and the various Neutral Alignments.

Common Religions: Half-Elves will tend to follow the religion of the culture and the parents that raised them. Among humans this often seems to mean the Old Faith while Half-Elves raised among the Elves will tend to follow the precepts of Li’vicor.

Common Class Breakdown: Preferred: Bard, Fighter, Rogue — Common: Druid, Ranger, Wizard — Uncommon: Cleric Sorcerer, Warlock — Rare: Monk, Paladin — Very Rare: Barbarian

Common Professions: Half-Elves tend to be born to the adventurous, and in turn tend towards professions that reflect a yearning for something other than a quiet and staid existence by a hearth. Mercenaries, explorers, merchants and travellers of all sorts – these are the sorts of professions that often appeal to Half-Elves as they search for a place and people that will accept them. Their half-blood status also means that many find a welcome home as courtesans and Tantrics, their good looks and partial blood making them both exotic and attractive to those interested.

Racial Traits

Darkvision: Due to their elven heritage, Half-Elves have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. Under the light of the stars they can see up to 120 feet perfectly well, and twice that distance as if there dim light.They can see in dim light up to 60 feet as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it was dim light. They cannot discern color in darkness though, only shades of grey.

Fae Magic: Half-Elves benefit from their elven ancestry and may chose one of two Cantrips to know, either Prestidigitation or Minor Illusion.

Fae Ancestry: Half- Elves have Advantage against being charmed and magic cannot put them asleep.

Fae Legacy: Half-Elves may also wear Ultra Light, Light, and Medium non-metallic armors and cast Arcane spells, or enchanted metallic armors.

Skill Versatility: Half-Elves gain proficiency in two skills.

Special Vulnerabilities: Half-Elves are also uncomfortable around Cold Iron and cannot benefit from a Long Sleep if surrounded by large amounts. They also suffer from a fair amount of prejudice from many Humans and Elves due to their mixed heritage.

Psionics: Reserved.

Death: Upon death, Half-Elves travel either to the Realms of the Dead or into the service of their deity if they are holy enough. There are no restrictions on Raising or Resurrection. If Reincarnated they invariably come back as Half-Elves, though some come back as High Men, Sh’dai, or even Common Men. A few, exceedingly rare Half-Elves are so in tune with their Elvish nature that they have spirits rather than souls, they are treated as elves after death.

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Listen! Did you smell something? (1e)

People don’t realize, but AD&D has always had a Perception system and Perception checks, if you check out page’s 59 and 60 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide it has rules for both “Detection of Invisibility” and “Listening at Doors” that apply to all classes – outside of the Surprise rules or the Thief’s ability to “Hear Noise”.

This also ignores the whole set of special racially-based detection abilities of Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, etc. and the rules for detecting Poison in the Player’s Handbook

First off, it says that Humans, Dwarves, and Half-Elves has a base 10% chance to Hear Noise, Elves and Half-Goblins have base 15%, and Gnomes have a base 20% (which matches the bonuses in the Player’s Handbook for racial bonuses to Hear Noise). Furthermore, at character creation roll a d20, on a 1 you have a +5% and on a 2 you have +10% to this base chance due to “Keen Hearing”. There is of course, no statement as to how this applies to Thieves…

Furthermore, in the Detection of Invisibility table it is a function of Level or Hit Dice as indexed with Intelligence on a matrix – starting at 17+ Intelligence and a 7th level character having a 5% chance to Detect the Invisible. At 15th level this character will have a 95% chance, and the progression is rather clunky and uneven across the matrix. But according to this, a character of average Intelligence will have about a 5% chance to Detect the Invisible roughly around name level and will have about a 50% chance at 15th level and higher.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just integrate these two things into one damn table with a more even progression?

Perhaps even something that might grant some of those of those Roguish types something even a bit more to make them a tad bit more special that just a fighter?

Perception / Hear Noise: Base 10% (Note some races have different bases)

  • Roll 1d20 at Character Generation, on a 1 you have Keen Senses and gain a +5% to that Base, on a 2 you have Very Keen Senses and have a +10% to that Base. (Note, this also gets used when checking Surprise)
  • Rogues and Warrior Monks get +5% for every odd level.
  • Entertainers and Psychics get a flat +10% to the Base.

If attempting to Detect the Invisible, characters add their Level (or creatures their Hit Dice) to their Intelligence score and multiple the result by two, they then add this to their normal Perception / Hear Noise percentage. Penalize it by -60% (-30% for Name level characters or higher), and this is the chance to Detect the Invisible.

When there is the chance to Notice Poison, easy checks (poison on a blade) tend to use the normal Perception base while determining if food or drink has been poisoned generally uses same percentage as Detecting the Invisible. This is a non-cumulative roll, and is instead merely checked against the base each relevant interval of time (usually per round of exposure).

There, now that is a simple and unified system rooted in the Dungeon Master’s Guide ideas and rules. You can use it to roll on all sorts of Perception checks if you want, but between this and the Surprise rules, you have pretty much everything you might need to figure out what people notice, and how surprised they are if they don’t. All of these percentages can be adapted to use for other related situations, and all of them can be modified up or down as the DM sees fit depending on the circumstances. I don’t tend to modify them down, but am more like to have a character roll and see how well or how badly they make it in order to dole out less or more information – but that’s also my DMing style.


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Surprise! (1e)

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that I have a house-rule for Surprise in my game given that rules for Surprise in pretty much every edition of D&D before 3rd are considered kludgy and screwed-up – and for all I know 3rd and 4th are just as bad, I just haven’t played those systems so I have no clue.

Mine is an infinitely more simple system that tries very hard to keep the flavor of the original system. In short, roll 1d6 (I have my players do this individually, monsters I tend to roll in groups) – if you roll (three or more (3+) over your opponent you get a round of surprise. This is then further modified by a number of things:

  • Dexterity Reaction Modifier: -3 (for low Dex) to +3 (for high Dex)
  • Distracted: -4
  • Asleep: -8
  • Keen Senses: +1 or +2
  • Encumbrance:
    • Normal Gear (35#- and Low Bulk): No Penalty
    • Heavy Gear (70#- or Fairly Bulky):  -2
    • Very Heavy Gear (105#- or Bulky): -4
    • Encumbered (105#+ or Very Bulky): -8
  • Armour:
    • No Armour: +1
    • Wearing Chain & Plate or Plate Armor: -2
    • Wearing a Great Helm: -4
  • Intoxication:
    • Moderate Intoxication: -1
    • Great Intoxication: -5

There are also a handful of other bonuses based on class or race. Here is a representative sample:

  • Goblins: +1
  • Rangers: +1
  • Barbarians: +1 (+2 in Familiar Terrain)
  • Warrior Monks: +1 per 3 Levels
  • Rogues: +1 per 4 Levels (Bounty Hunters get an additional +1)
  • Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Elves when not in metal armour and only in the company of other Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Elves that are similarly clad, or are 90′ distant from the rest of party: +2

Now, Scouts and Barbarians still have their “Back Protection” as per the normal rules (and I give that to Warrior-Monks as well) so while they may or may not always Surprise opponents they have an additional chance to avoid being Backstabbed or Assassinated. I also tend to give hunting predators and skittish prey a bonus to their surprise rolls equal to their Hit Dice. In general, I allow Backstabs and Assassinations when there is surprise – and this lets Rogues be somewhat more combat effective (though not overly so). This system seems to work pretty well, and it replaces all of the oddly mismatched dice of the different character classes and gets rid of the utterly contradictory rules in the Player’s Handbood and the Dungeon Master’s Guide.



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High Men, Psionics, and Psionicists (1e)

So, James has posted today about the Psionicist over at Grognardia. I’ll add on to say that it is one of the ways that I’ve handled psionics in my game world – and certainly the major way that players have had psionic characters in my game for a while now. Coincidently I’ve been thinking about psionics the last couple of days and came up with a new tweak that I like and that makes more sense to me from both a character development and a game balance perspective.

Personally, I never had a problem with psionics in AD&D, first I was reading Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series at a young age because my mother loved them and they were sitting in the huge pile of speculative fiction that inhabited our house (along with the rest of the books the bibliophiles that my parents were had collected). The simple fact is that psionics hardly ever came up, what was noticeable was that they were often something that either immediately doomed a character because psionic encounters really, really suck or foretold a long and successful career because certain abilities just made the characters quite powerful. This was a s true of the psionicist as it was of the psychic but actually emphasized the “psionic encounters suck” end of things because the progression was slowed down so much.

You’ll notice that Brother Illya is a “High Man” (aka Deryni aka Dúnadan aka Comyn aka whatever) and is a multi-classed Psionicist/Warrior-Monk (currently 3rd/3rd) while a couple of other characters are listed as “Minor Psychics” and “Psychics”. The “Minor Psychic” is a new category that I essentially invented when I came back to AD&D after running my own rules system to cover those races that I wanted to always have some innate psychic Talent to model certain abilities but without giving them the full range of psionic abilities automatically. High Men only count as roughly about 5-10% of the population and are considered to be the true scions of nobility – paradoxically because having the traces of blood of angels, elves, dragons, whatever running through their veins that grants them the mixed blessing and curse of psychic ability violates the taboo against inter-racial sexuality that the “civilized” races have in my game world.

Psionicists work pretty much as they do in the article, save that they use my attribute of “Talent” instead of the IWC (Intelligent-Wisdom-Charisma Average) to determine Psionic Ability – everything else is the same. High Men are able to multi-class as Psionicists with any other single class, and suffer the same 10% XP penalty per class as non-humans. Also, Psionicists automatically have the Minor Devotions of Rapport and Lights in addition to the other Disciplines gained as a result of advancement. At one point in the very distant past I allowed Psionicists to choose thier Devotions, Sciences, and Arts – but at this point I insist that they roll them like everyone else.

Psychics are pretty much the way psychics are written up into the Players Handbook, with the addition of automatically having the Minor Devotions of Rapport and Lights. I interpret the advancement for multi-class characters to occur as one ability (Minor Devotion or Major Science, all Minor Devotions first) to be added each odd level, the same as for single-class characters, but the multiple classes are added together to determine “level” rather than using the highest level class or some other arcane formula to determine how many abilities had been learned. This would also represent the abilities of “untrained” High Men if someone wanted to play one without multi-classing as a Psionicist. The chance for any non-human to be Psychic is the same as the basic roll from the Players Handbook – with the stipulation that Talent must be 16 or higher. This is limited to those races who even have the potential – Dwarves, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Sh’dai – Elves and Ithians are either Minor Psychics or Psionicists, never half-way. As an odd note, two “human” races are automatically considered Psychic if they do not specialize as Psionicists, the “Old Race” and the “Feyhd”.

One other note, only characters who choose to be multi-class as Healer/Psionicists can start with Cell Adjustment at 1st level, and other Psionicists or Psychics may only take it if they roll high enough to “Select One” on the table – and may only do it with my permission.

(As I write this, I think I’m just also instituting a rule that Psychic characters suffer a 10% XP penalty “as if” they had another character class as a multi-class. That’s another nice bit of balance for the benefits that you get for the abilities. If you are Psionicist, you already get it, and if you are a Minor Psychic the “benefit” is really not much compared to the potential downside for most adventurers.)

Minor Psychics have only the abilities of Rapport and Lights – as given in the Psionicist article. They can use all forms of psychic item, device, or consumable just like a Psychic or Psionicist. They only have one Defense Mode (G- Though Shield) and they only gain one Attack Mode (A – Psionic Blast) at 2nd level. None of this is rolled, either your race is considered “Minorly Psychic” or it isn’t. This is mainly Elves, Half-Elves, Sh’dai, and Ithians. Perhaps strangely, bit Gnomes and Dwarves are not Minor Psychics, their gifts manifest as thier other abilities to detect stonework, etc.

Psychics and Minor Psychics roll for Psionic Ability using the following formula: 1d100, plus one for point of Talent, plus one for each point of Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and Power over twelve. If two of the five attributes are above 15 then the “bonus” points are doubled, if three then they are tripled, if four, quadrupled; and if all five then the bonus points to the d100 roll are quintupled.

Here is the tweak for Psychics and Minor Psychics that I just realized this past weekend made much more sense. Instead of rolling to determine what the Attack and Defense Modes are known, just ruling that Defense Modes are gained at the rate of one for every odd level (and Defense Mode G being the first automatically gained at 1st level) and attack modes are gained at the rate of one for every even level. Psioncists advance as the table in the article.

It’s worth noting that I also consider Illusionists to use “Mentalism” rather than Arcane Magic or Divine Power, along with Oracles (Dragon #53) and Timelords (Dragon #65). This means that “Magic Resistance” doesn’t work against these “spells” (though for certain extra-planar creatures I have ruled that they have equivalent “Mentalism Resistance”). In some ways this might makes things more powerful for Illusionists, but at other times it means that a simple Thought Shield prevents them from doing much of anything worthwhile…




Categories: Game Design, Game Play, House Rules, OSR | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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