Character Creation – The Dread Elf

Like any TTRPG loving person I have a tidy library of character ideas and fully filled out character sheets for PCs I’d like to use and stories I’d like to explore.  This is well in excess of the number of games and campaigns I could possibly participate in.

I make up a lot of characters for The D&D World of Eberron. It’s an easy world to brainstorm for.  The canvass in a published setting Forgotten Realms is just too big and too blank to think too much about.  I can think up a Drow explorer or a Baldur’s Gate mercenary but they have little weight to them.  In Eberron the proper nouns really matter.  Your players vote with their sheets what matters to that game.

At some point in the last couple years I’ve gotten a little hyperfocused on Eberron’s Elves.  I could not tell you why.  I’d recommend the very good episode of the Manifest Zone podcast that talks about Elves.  Also Exploring Eberron and Keith Baker’s essays on his blog.  Through those sources I’ve found stories I want to explore with Eberron’s elves.  And for some other reason this has turned me to clerics.  Again, I could not tell you why.  But I love the religions that Eberron has and the sort of unique place for elves in those faiths.  There are living elves who would remember Tira Miron, the paladin who’s sacrifice gave birth to the Church of the Silver Flame.  What have they seen their church become, what do they do about it?  Then there’s Aerenal and the Undying Court.  Aerenal in Eberron is almost comparable to Wakanda and the rest of earth. I like the idea of earning your immortality and your place on the Court.  For a darker game I also really like the Bloodsails and Mabar Elves of Farlnen, exiled from Aerenal as it’s dark mirror.  Then you have Drow in Eberron.  I think an Umbragen Warlock or Sorcerer or maybe a Sulatar Artificer would be a great fish out of water character.

However, of all the places and factions of Eberron, I have not been much interested in the Elf Nation of Valenar.  Above all it seems to have too much jargon, too much baggage to build a character.  I hear Valenar and think “that sounds neat…for someone else.”  Setting creator Keith Baker puts out a ton of his personal thoughts about the setting and lore.  Reading the Valenar portions of these I think…man this is dense.  There are a lot articles and posts and comments and over the last 20 years of Eberron that shit is complicated.  If Exploring Eberron showed anything, I think there’s a market for Keith Baker to write as “In Keith Baker’s Eberron…” aka Kanon as he wants.  What’s a working DM or player to do?

The idea I like most for a Valenar character in Eberron is what I call, The Dread Elf.  This is a very Solas from Dragon Age inspired character.  Solas would be a very easy NPC to fit into Valenar.  For a PC you want to go a different way.  In Valenar culture, elves are chosen by patron ancestor spirits who are all legendary figures.  Your job is emulate the life of that patron ancestor.  If they were a swordmaster, you’re supposed to be a swordmaster.  If they were known for mercy, you’re supposed to emulate that quality.  And if they were known for cruelty or treachery well you’re supposed to emulate that too.

I wanna be a half-elf Valenar.  In the canon, half-elves don’t get chosen by patron ancestors.  Sorry kid, you must be this elfy to apply.  The character I picture is a Half-Elf Trickery Cleric.  The patron ancestor they are emulating is a legendary trickster. The Loki of their culture.  The Dread Wolf.  Isn’t it more trickstery to emulate this person without being chosen formerly?  You’re supposed to be a rebel damn it!

I usually don’t play half-elves.  They’re kinda OP?  Skills, stats, Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, they’re a mechanically powerful choice.  At least one other person always wants to be a half-elf and I don’t usually like to compete with someone else in the party.  Eberron has at least multiple half-elf cultures.  You can have more than one half-elf but you’ll probably be the only Valenar.

Fortunately the Trickery Cleric is…not OP.  Blessing of the Trickster grants someone other than you advantage on stealth.  Why not you too?  I don’t get that.  And then their Channel Divinity.  You can create an Illusory Duplicate.  You can cast spells through it and it grants you advantage when you’re both within 5 feet of a target, so Melee.  But it’s a Concentration effect which makes it pretty expensive for a Cleric which is your primary buffing leader class.  Does it really matter if The Cleric casts offensive spells from a safe duplicate?  Or has advantage in melee?  Neither of these options are particularly powerful on a cleric.  The Trickery Domain doesn’t even get a bonus weapon proficiency for christ’s sake.  The level six channel divinity feature is the invisibility spell!  For one round.  *jerk off motion*.  Then the absolute nadir, not sure how this got through the playtest, at level 8 clerics get a damage bump.  Most clerics get radiant damage.  Trickery Clerics get poison damage.  You know, that thing 50% of monsters are resistant to and the other half are immune to.  Fortunately Tasha’s Cauldron fixed this feature but I think someone should have to come up front and apologize to the rest of the class first.

So that’s my thinking on a Valenar Cleric.  Maybe put a few levels of Rogue on there, and try to be the best damn trickster you can.  You’re on a mission from God.  One of them at least.

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