[Necro][Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

Dorchadas

一期一会
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Note: This is my first "Let's [foo]" thread, so please bear with me. :eek: Any comments, criticisms, or rage-filled rants about players demanding to play bladesingers are welcome!

Ah, yes. The Complete Book of Elves. Fondly (or not so fondly) called The Complete Book of the Master Race and still fighting words to some DMs, even over a decade after it was published.

Before I begin, I have a confession--I think elves are awesome. In basically any game where elves are available, I play one, including in sci-fi if there's some kind of Space Elf version. Nowadays I tend to riff off the archetype for my own games instead of just running with the standard Tolkien derivative elves, but every D&D character I've played? Elf. My World of Warcraft character? Elf. My Lord of the Rings Online character? Elf. My Baldur's Gate PC? Elf. My Dragon Age character? Elf.

You get the idea.

Despite that, even I cringe a bit when I go back and re-read the Complete Book of Elves. When I first bought it as a middle schooler, I thought it was amazing and came up with tons of ideas for characters that nowadays I would be embarrassed to make even privately, much less try to play. I...

Well, we'll get to that later. Let's open this up and see what's inside!

Introduction

So, you crack the Complete Book of the Master RaceElves open, flip past the table of contents to the introduction, and what's the first thing you read?
We do not deign to acknowledge the slanderous propaganda spread by the stunted humans who call themselves dwarves. The little miners have always had a rather, shall we say, biased outlook on history and the true workers of reality. They call themselves the finest creatures to grace the worlds--with bodies like that, we suppose one would have to have an active fantasy life.

For those graced with true vision, Elves comprise the finest race in all the worlds. We are that which other races aspire to be: Our longevity, our beauty, and our craftsmanship are all the stuff of legends. Certainly, each of these attributes can be recreated in some fashion by the lesser races, but theirs is an artifice of face and form and creation--never as fine as those that come naturally to us.

Our lives are long and filled with happiness, for we recognize the impermanence of all things, excepting ourselves. Indeed, we do not suffer death as do the mortals. Only through violence, accident, or disease do we die at all. Although we vanish from the ken of mortal knowledge after hundreds of years of existence in this plane, you may rest assured that we continue on elsewhere. Even those who perish on the battlefield do not truly die, but instead become part of the earth's cycle of growth and rebirth. Our spirits linger on, for we are intimately tied to the world and its core. Indeed, we are the integral part of that core.

We would now turn now to other matters, for to continue on in this vein would, no doubt, lead you to beleive that we are boasting of elven prowess. We do not boast. Anyone who has seen even the slightest fraction of elven ability knows the truth of what we say within these pages.

Yes, we are a proud race, but do we not have just cause? Are we not Elves--creatures of most wondrous might? Simply understand that we are what we are and that nothing you can do will change us--then may we become good friends. But beware: We are a complex race, and the workings of our lives will ever be a mystery to you, our dreams are foreign from yours. You will never truly understand us, no matter how you try.
So we're half a page in and we've already learned something that will serve us well as we read the rest of the book: elves are gigantic dicks.

This leads into my personal interpretation for how I justify including the Complete Book of Elves in a game--it's written by elves. Yeah, I know that's in-character boxed text, but if you assume most of the other stuff in the book is also from a biased point of view, it makes it a lot more palatable. The book is about how much better elves are than everyone else in the multiverse because elves think they're better than everyone else.

The rest of the intro chapter just does what an intro should do. We learn that Chapters 1 through 8 are about elven cultural background and Chapters 9 through 13 "detail elven role-playing." I admit, my first thought on reading that phrasing was a bunch of bored elf teenagers sitting down at a table and pretending to be members of the "lesser races." Probably kicking down doors and murdering orcs for their pie, too.

There's a bit on the other Complete books. The Complete Book of Elves is the only one I own, but from the list, it looks like Fighter, Thief, Wizard, Priest, Psionics, Bard, and Dwarves all came out before Elves did.

The note on the Complete Book of Thieves fits in well with the theme so far:
Whether the elf rogue is simply a street thief or one who leads such a life as a demonstration of the impermanence of physical things to the shorter-lived races, there are myriad ideas for the player in this book.
"Oh, no. See, I'm stealing all your money to help teach you mono no aware. Bow before my superior wisdom, untermensch."

Does the Complete Book of Dwarves have long screeds about how dwarves are amazing and everyone taller than them bangs their head on doors of the proper height when they visit the Mountainhomes, but that's okay because it teaches them to be cautious or something? Because otherwise, this is already pretty over the top.

There's a brief note on house rules, and how all the rules in the book are optional. There's a bit of wisdom that was sadly not as heeded as often as it should be, about how players and DMs should not try to force each other's views of house rules down each other's throats.

In hindsight of what a lot of people did with the book, this quote from the last section is hilarious:
Furthermore, many of the rules mentioned in this book are dependent on the use of the optional proficiency rules. It is strongly recommended that all players and DMs familiarize themselves with these rules in order to fully enjoy this book. Otherwise, they are cheating themselves out of the opportunity to fully exploit the rules contained here.
Emphasis mine. :p

Finally, it ends with a note that since elves have full gender equality, some of the examples use female pronouns. I'll try to see how often they stick to this as I go through the book.

Next up: Chapter 1: the Creation of the Elves
 
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Arachne

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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

Ok, I'm looking forward to this.
 

taichara

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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

So, so looking forward to this.

The boxed text is already giving me flashbacks ;3
 

Dorchadas

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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

Chapter 1: The Creation of Elves

Normally, I wouldn't entire chapters in one post, since it'd A) take forever and B) fragment the discussion a lot. But I will for this one, since it's really short.

The art at the beginning shows Corellon fighting Lolth in her "spider with an elf face" form. Corellon looks a bit odd here, but certainly not as crazy as he looks like on the cover of Demihuman Deities, where he looks like some kind of hair band singer. "And now, ladies and gentlemen...Corellon and the Seldarine!"

Anyway, boxed text:
From the primordial turmoil at the center of the universe sprang the gods full-fledged, full-formed. Each claimed jurisdiction over certain effects, all being equally endowed with the power and force of the cosmos. They cooperated for the first (and last) time to create the worlds. But some gods used their powers more wisely than their brethren.
Three guesses which gods those were.

An early alliance formed among these wiser gods. They knew how to manipulate their power. This gathering of gods, who called themselves the Seldarine (or the Brothers and Sisters of the Wood), imparted their very essence into creating certain aspects of the worlds.

While other gods squabbled over jurisdiction and possession of this virtue and that attribute, the Seldarine modified some of the lands, making their worlds lush and green and beautiful. In addition, they created vessels that would one day hold the spirit of the first sentient life to set foot upon these worlds--the race of beings known as Elves. They crafted these vessels with thought and care, and gave them extraordinary beauty. The other gods grew black with jealousy, and they thirsted to imitate the Seldarine.

These gods hastily fashioned their own vessels, vying against those created by the Seldarine. By they would not invest the time vital to creating a race, and so their results were flawed--the gods did not care. Their creations were nothing like those shaped by the Seldarine. Most were Monsters, creatures that would one day haunt the dreams of Elves. Of all the crude creations, only the vessel reserved for Man held a glimmer of potential, for they would one day have the ability to change the land as would the Elves.
Yep, only "Man." Short people and Irish need not apply.

The gods of the new races tried too hastily to reproduce a feat that had taken the wiser gods eons. But neither group's constructs would not[sic] come to life until the historic meeting between Corellon Larethian and Gruumsh, leader of the Anti-Seldarine.

--Larian Songshine, priest of Corellon Larethian
You're probably getting a hint of where the appelation "The Complete Book of the Master Race" came from. :p So far we're two for two on in-character text boxes that are ludicrously racist. Maybe I should keep a counter?

Ludicrously Racist Text-Box Count: 2/2

The next bit talks about how the elves think their myths are closer to history than everyone else's because they live so long and there have been fewer generations between the past and the present. The thing is, though, that in every published D&D world in 2nd edition, the elves weren't first. They were created at the same time as ogres and humans in Dragonlance, they didn't show up for millennia after the creation of the world in Forgotten Realms, the halflings were first in Dark Sun, the dragons and giants were first in Birthright...

Some memory. :p

On the subject of dwarven creation myths, our book says:
The dwarves have several more [than humans], and they constantly change them to glorify their race and tribe over others.
Irony, thy name is The Complete Book of Elves.

Next is a continued telling of the creation myth by our friend Mr. Songshine. It talks about how Gruumsh thought that the creation of the elves was an abomination (because he's evil, I guess) and went to war. All the gods polarized between Corellon and Gruumsh, and they fought until only those two were left. As night came closer, Gruumsh grew stronger, and it seemed like he was going to win until "tears from the moon" fell on Corellon's face, after which he finally blew those Daily Powers he'd been saving and cut out Gruumsh's eye with a single blow. Now that Gruumsh had lost, the Seldarine made the elves from Corellon's blood, the soil of the world, and the tears of the moon.

Oh, yeah, and the other gods infused life into their "sadly misshappen vessels" too, but who cares about those guys anyway, am I right?

The next bit says that the three components that went into the making of the elves explain their most obvious traits: the blood of Corellon is where they get their lifespans, the tears of the moon give them their beauty--"a beauty that often led the lesser races to think of the elves as gods"--and the soil is why they live in forests and have a connection to the land.

There's a story about the war that created the dark elves, but it's not really that exciting. Elves grew paranoid, Lolth was like, "Come to my yard, I've got milkshakes!", war of brother against brother, drow get stuffed under the earth, etc. It's interesting that this only applies to two published worlds, as far as I know (Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms) and is presented as The Truth of The Elven People. Then again, two is better than the zero we had last time.

Finally, we have mention of the different elven subraces, tracing their claims to the various responses to the war against the dark elves. The grey elves moved to the mountains, the sylvan elves to the forests, and the high elves "chose to remain in the elves' cities and be the keepers of the elven way of life." Which implies their cities were not built in the mountains or the forests, which is kind of interesting. There's a brief mention of the wars the elves and dwarves have fought and how they both blame each other, that contact with the gnomes and halflings was peaceful, and that elves are like "figures out of myth" to humans and humans totally hold them in awe except they're breeding like rats and spreading everywhere and it's, like, totally freaking the elves out, man.

Let's close out the chapter with some good old-fashioned xenophobia:
The elves are a proud people. They see the unbridled thirsts in the human race; that, coupled with their amazing fecundity, make them a serious threat to all that the elves originally accomplished. The elves watch the humans, and there is fear in their hearts.
I wonder how many elven nations that allow non-elves to live there have Elf Citizens' Councils?

Next: Chapter 2: Variations on a Theme about the elven subraces!
 
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Rachel Cartacos

Social Justice Dragon
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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

Wow that's just... wow.

Wait hang on

Now that Gruumsh had lost, the Seldarine made the elves from Corellon's blood, the soil of the world, and the tears of the world.
Huh? Wasn't it the creation of the Elves that sparked off the war in the first place?
 

Leonaru

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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

This is going to be fun. :D

Keep on, fellow Let's Reader.
 

mkill

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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

I think this thread needs MST3000-like commentator characters. Go on.
 

Ithaeur

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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

Ah, yes. The Complete Book of Elves. Fondly (or not so fondly) called The Complete Book of the Master Race and still fighting words to some DMs, even over a decade after it was published.
Oh, this is going to be fun! It's been ages since I read this piece of elf-supremacy propaganda, so I'm keen to be reminded of just how much better the elves are than everyone else. :D

(For full disclosure, I like elves in general, and one of my all-time favorite characters was a Faerunian sun elf duskblade who had this amusingly paternal attitude towards non-elves who, no matter how talented and good and worthy on their own, unfortunately weren't elves... not that it was their fault, of course! He toned it down eventually once he got a human wizard girlfriend. :D)

Does the Complete Book of Dwarves have long screeds about how dwarves are amazing and everyone taller than them bangs their head on doors of the proper height when they visit the Mountainhomes, but that's okay because it teaches them to be cautious or something? Because otherwise, this is already pretty over the top.
As far as I can recall, no, nothing like that. TCBoD is one of the better "Complete" books. and a far cry from this one!
 

Thane of Fife

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Re: [Let's Read] The Complete Book of Elves

The dwarf book actually does have long screeds on why dwarves are the best. But they're mostly reserved for IC text, and the book as a whole is more palatable bacause

a) It has counter-screeds by elves, orcs, and men on why dwarves are lame (yes, even the dwarf book makes elves look like racist jerks),

b) It has to present gully and sundered dwarves, both of which are very clearly not master races, and which prevent dwarves in general from coming across as such,

c) It has lots of useful, non-beneficial content, like dwarf personalities, mining, and strongholds, whereas the elf book is practically 100% 'You're an elf, here's a bonus!'

and d) If you've ever read any anthropology texts, some ome across as extolling a culture, and others as explaining it. The elf book generally fits the former type, the dwarf book the latter.

As for Rachel Cartacos's comment, I'm pretty sure the idea is that Gruumsh took offense to the building of the elves, but they weren't brought to life until after his defeat.

Also, looking forwards to this.
 
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