Friday, June 8, 2012

Demons of the North

Unarmored Northern Elf  - Apologies to Booth and Goddard

I have never liked elves, either as melancholic noble ancients or fey wild creatures.  Orcs are missing from ASE and ASE Elves are morphologically the next step up from goblins on the classic goblinoid tree.  As such I can't help but see elves, specifically these grim man-eating creeps as replacement for hobgoblins/orcs. Sure there are buffoonish Moktars, but they're more savage barbarian man-eaters, while these horrible elves are real monsters.

The Elves of the North are not a friend of man.  Even in a land dominated by megalomaniac Wizards and exotic lifeforms from distant stars or ancient times the Northern elves are a menace.  Of all the elven peoples in the Land of a Thousand Towers the Northern elves remain unscattered and entrenched in their traditional homelands above the great haunted lake known as the Eater of Cities.

Northern Elves are a culture out of time, their ways adapting only slowly to change and their deep cultural xenophobia preventing meaningful contact with most other peoples in the area.  Unlike the Dwarves of the deep hives they do not trade, unlike the Halflings they do not ape human civilization and unlike the Elves of the South they are not wandering hucksters, tinkers and prestidigitators.  The culture of the Eater Elves remains largely as it was when elf-kind was first created by the Hive-Minds: militaristic, arrogant, strict, and stoic.  Northern Elves believe that they are the pinnacle of evolution in the Land of 1,000 Towers and they look down upon other intelligent races.

In addition to their warlike and contrary nature Northern or Eaten Elves view humans as a domestic animal, raising debased human stock as food, labor, and slave soldiers.  Most Northern Elves have never met a human that was capable of speech or complex thought. Elven anthropophagic practices lead even greater distrust between elves and man and Northern elves are likely to attack humans on sight, except for those accompanied by elves, who may receive an offer to parley before having their human "livestock" rustled. 

Northern Elven Culture is based around the "fighting society", each of which is an independent unit of elves numbering from around 50 to 500.  Each Society lives in a fortress/bunker complex, camouflaged in the deep forest, generally dug into bluff with hidden sally ports, observation galleries, trapped approaches and a ring of trenches or other fortifications. These complexes can stretch hundreds of yards under the forest floor and contain not only elven work and living space, but armories, training halls, defensive structures and pens for the elves' livestock and oversized humna mounts/war beasts. Each society is ruled by a group of elder war counselors and led by a commandant.

The Northern Elves constantly battle between Societies, though this warfare is almost always limited to a series of constant skirmishes and raids, with each Society afraid to commit large amounts of resources for fear that an uninvolved Society recognize them as overextended and exterminate/incorporate the exhausted combatants.  Elves respect strength in battle, cunning, and little else.  Their inter-society diplomacy reflects these values, with constant betrayals and double-crosses.  Elves should be the most common random encounter in the woods North of the Eater of Cities, and a very dangerous one.  While each elf is a 1HD creature, their squads are large and tactically sophisticated: attacking from prepared ambush and using spells to the best of their ability.

Northern Elf: AC 4, 3 w/shield, 2 w/shield and Platemail, HD 1+1, HP 7 #AT 1, 1D3 or Weapon, MV (40'), SAVE E1, ML 9 Typically armed: Splintmail/Polearm and 1D4 Throwing Axes(50%), Plate-mail/Shield/Scimitar/ (20%) Splintmail/Heavy Crossbow/Scimitar (30%)
Spells (x1): (50%) Magic Missile, (10%) Sleep, (20%) Burning Hands, (20%) None

Human Warbeast: AC 5 HD 4+1, HP 20 #AT 1, 1D10, MV (30'), SAVE F4, ML 6 (10 w/elven encouragement). Hulking 8' tall, vaguely human brutes with limited intelligence and a docile vegetarian nature - unless goaded into a battle frenzy by their elven handlers.  Their intelligence is very low, with the most intelligent having an intelligence approaching that of a small child or very clever pig.  The smarter specimens are often ridden into battle by an Elven lancer or crossbow dragoon.

Sometimes, perhaps due to resurgent genes, perhaps as a result of the Elves' magical manipulation of their thralls, a warbeast is born with intelligence, drive, and usually heightened magical ability.  These sports are culled as soon as they are discovered, but the human spirit is indomitable and some escape.  Only the strongest of these savants manage to free themselves, and those that do are truly formidable, having gained sufficient magical knowledge or fighting prowess to escape their masters and become the monsters that elves fear in the dark woods, brooding alone and killing any elf they find while perfecting their skills.  Savants are naturally hostile, but will trade with non-elves and occasionally join them to attack Northern elven outposts or patrols.  The least paranoid Savants often attempt to gather groups of less intelligent "humans" and rule over small bands or tribes, but the low intelligence and lack of survival skills possessed by most elven warbeasts make this a doomed labor.

Savant AC 4 HD 5+2, HP 27 #AT 1, 1D12, MV (30'), SAVE MU5, ML 10 
Spells (at Will): Invisibility, Darkness (10'), Polymorph Self. (Once per Day) Charm Person, Gaseous Form, Cone of Cold, Sleep. Regenerate 1HP a round.

1D10 Elven Encounter
1 Feral Warbeast – When a Savant is waiting in ambush, 20% chance she is supported by 1D6 Feral Warbeasts. If alone her place of concealment will be adept (a spider hole or camouflaged platform in the trees) and will surprise on a 5 in 6. If with her entourage, roll for initiative normally as the brutes are likely to give away the ambush by giggling in anticipation. There is a chance she will not attack if the party is mostly human. She speaks elvish and goblin and wants to acquire weapons, spells, trade contacts and information about both elven troop movements and the outside world.
2 Society of the Plump Raven – This elven Society is made up of nomads, hiring on as mercenaries and feared by all. They specialize in Assassination and fell magics.  Each group encountered is 70% likely to be led by an Assassin of 1D4+1 levels and 20% likely to include an elf that can cast magic as a 1D4+1th level magic-user. These elves are slightly more likely to parley than most, as the nature of their nomadic existence has led them to develop a broader understanding of the world and the nature of other peoples.
3 Fighting Society of the Raider's Moon – This is one of the largest and most conservative of the elven Societies, its forces are large, highly regimented and well organized. Units will be a standardized make up of 70% military fork armed melee fighters and 30% crossbows.  Every 10 elves will be led by a 2nd level sergeant (in plate mail) and every fifty a 3rd level captain.  Every 50 elves will have a squad of 5 Armored Warbeasts (AC 4) and a 5 Shocktroops - 2nd level, plate armored elves).  This Society is also known for its use of siege engines and engineering.
4 Society of the Squared Skull – A small Society dedicated to mounted combat. Their soldiers are Warbeast mounted dragoons, usually encountered in squads of five. Even more contemptuous of other races than the average Northern Elf, Squared Skulls roam far from the Northern forests on their bipedal mounts and raid as far as the Western Certopsian. As mounted troops they tend to wear heavy plate armor, distinctive boxy brimmed helmets and shields while wielding light repeating crossbows, lances and scimitars.
5 Society of the Bone Eaters – This Society is often disregarded by others as they obstinately persist at remaining at a barely neolithic level of technology.  Bone Eater warriors use bows, bone maces and bone scale mail rather than the more sophisticated equipment of most elven Societies. Despite their lack of technology the Bone Eaters are feared because their elite berserks have made pacts with an alien entity that mutates them into strange monsters and grants them great prowess in battle.
6 Society of the Grey Mist's Embrace - Elves who have discovered that their thralls can serve them equally well in death and life. The Grey Mist has long specialized in necromancy and its squads will use waves of (human) zombies and skeletons to wear down their enemies. They have a proclivity for eating their victims alive and are deemed to be strange and excessive even by other Northern Elven Societies.
7 Society of the Devoured and Regurgitated Sun - This Society follows a slightly different combat doctrine than most, and are devoted ranged weaponry, mostly crossbows.  They tend to ambush their enemies from the treetops and deluge them with bolts rather than advancing slowly as a pike line.  As skirmishers and archers Devoured Suns wear lighter armor and even their shock troops carry ranged weapons, usually javelins.
8 Society of Dancers in the Garden of Corpses - More nature oriented than the other Northern Elf Societies, the Corpse Gardeners tend to cast druid rather than magic-user spells and their leaders are often accompanied by tamed forest animals such as bears, dire pigs, giant beetles and on at least one occasion a crystal jaguar.  They have a habit of burning their captives alive in giant wicker constructions before eating them.
9 Society of the Emergent Regard - The most formal and monastic of Elven Societies, these elves train rigorously with sword alone and prize individual swordsmanship and honor.  They are as merciless as most Northern Elves, but will challenge opponents to a battle of champions before joining in general melee.  The champions of the Emergent Regard tend to be elves of at least 3rd level, often wield magic swords and always gain at least a +2 to hit due to their swordsmanship.   Common Society soldiers are also superbly trained and strike at +1 to hit with their swords.  Captured outsiders will often be forced into gladiatorial contests to train young swords-elves.
10 Society of the Whetstone of Discipline – A small lesser know Society until recently, these elves were almost pushed into surrender by the Raider's Moon only ten years ago, but have made an astonishing comeback. This is in part due to their use of firearms and human or possibly goblin technology. They obviously have a supplier of advanced technology and unorthodox magic. More important to their success is that they alone of the Societies appear to have embraced the concept of complete mercilessness – they simply kill, without efforts to show style, prove superiority or remain within elven traditions

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