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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Elves and Anti-Elves

There's an RPGNet thread about whether elves are too annoying to be allowed in role-playing games. It's not an important thread, since this exact same topic arises every 4-6 months. What gets me is that some people -- not the thread creator, in this case -- actually get deep into this discussion, as if somehow they are going to be able to convince people never to play elves again and the entire world will be safe. Of course, there's something like this attitude in a lot of internet discussions, but it just seems particularly absurd when you're discussing which character races should be allowed in a fantasy game. Isn't it just a matter of taste?

Anyways, the crux of these arguments always rests on a mythical "elf-fanboy" who never plays anything except an elf and insists that elves are incapable of making errors or being less than perfect. Now, there are fanboys of every conceivable variety, and some inconceivable ones as well; there are also fanboys who refuse to play anything other than a character that fits their obsession. But it's the second part -- elves must be perfect -- that riles up the elf-haters, and it's that same part that I doubt. None of the rules systems I know of would back up a character who can't fail. Anyone who seriously bought into the idea of elves as perfect would throw a tantrum the first time the dice didn't roll in their favor. And who would regularly play with such a person?

In my experience, elves were the choice of anyone who wanted to mix magic and physical combat. There's some other attractions, based on whichever fantasy novel or film a person may have read, but the main point was to be the guy who could fight and cast spells. So, they get a restriction that they have to either get magic weapons and armor or strip and disarm themselves if they want to cast spells, and they have to split experience between both classes. Simple. No subtext about playing a "Mary Sue" character that I can see.

So where did the elf-hatred come from, really?


  1. Our group thinks of elves being similar to Star Trek's vulcans. While there logic is rarely fallible, it is not perfect (as so many of the episodes have shown). Also, like many episodes have shown, vulcans (elves) have great/interesting interaction (roleplay) when dealing with other races.

    So, while vulcans (elfs) may seem outwardly superior to the other races, a great many players would still choose [in my best Dr McCoy voice] 'red blooded humans' or even the violent Klingons (1/2 orcs).

    The hate probably comes from any race that thinks of itself as superiour to any other. (Dr. Spock kept calling humans "emotional and illogical".)

  2. "Vulcans are elves" got some mention in that RPGNet thread. I think it's a valid interpretation. But I think the elf-hatred has less to do with the racial description than with... something else. Not sure what. But if it were because of perceived racial superiority, then much more recent creations should get even more vocal opposition, since the more recent the racial addition, the more goodies compared to elves.