I wrote this piece for Game Geek 16, now available at the previous link for free.
In Game Geek 10, I talked about the importance of tailoring adventure scenarios to the player character’s strengths. My starting point was the ranger’s favored enemy class feature. The basic claim: If a ranger has undead as a favored enemy, then that ranger needs to encounter undead monsters often.
In my current We’re Not in Arkansas Anymore! campaign, one of my players runs Rob Braden, a former baseball player turned ranger whose favored enemy is fey creatures. Rob’s player Wes expressed concern that whatever favored enemy he picked would turn into that type of creature Rob would never bump into again. I assured Wes that would not be the case, and fey enemies continue to play a major role in the campaign’s events.
Most recently, the PCs have been investigating a criminal gang’s attempts to fix the upcoming first annual baseball tournament in Harvest, the region’s primary agricultural community. As part of their investigations, Rob and his allies have discovered that the renegade elves of the Wild Hunt are involved. At the same time, I introduced the Dark Taint into the campaign lore.
The Wild Hunt
My campaign has a few god-like beings known as Entities. One of these entities is the Wild Hunt, a chaotic neutral being whose followers can be chaotic neutral, chaotic good, or chaotic evil. The Wild Hunt’s domains are Animal, Strength, Travel, and War, and the Wild Hunt is the main entity worshiped by elves in the region.
Most elves are closer to the chaotic neutral and chaotic good spectrum of alignments, and the Wild Hunt’s influence among them can be volatile but is seldom malevolent. My campaign’s elves aren’t sophisticated, effete tree dwellers. Instead, they are a warrior people of strong passions ruled by codes of personal honor and divided into dozens of competing clans, each led by their own elfking and elfqueen. These elves value strength of arms, the ability to stalk and catch prey, and the comraderie of their elfsovereigns’s drinking hall.
The chaotic evil aspect of the Wild Hunt is different. Those who follow this aspect revel in strong passions but reject personal codes of honor. Instead, they see all of life as a battle to survive. The strong prove their worthiness by hunting the weak. Whatever happens is the will of the Wild Hunt. Those destined to prevail survive. Those not destined to prevail die.
The consequences for surviving on the chaotic evil side of the Wild Hunt are more than just spiritual and moral depravity. The monstrous acts also warp the adherent’s flesh and mind. Elves that serve the Wild Hunt’s chaotic evil aspect often become subject to the Dark Taint.
The Dark Taint & Quick Templates
The changes associated with the Dark Taint eventually lead to one of two transformations. Either the elf becomes a dark elf, or else he becomes a grimlock. In my campaign, both dark elves and grimlocks are fey creatures and degenerate forms of the Wild Hunt’s chaotic evil elven followers. Unless noted otherwise, transformations are cumulative.
Initial Stage Dark Taint – Dark Elf Transformation
An elf on the road to becoming a dark elf first passes through a first stage transformation. The elf’s appearance changes slightly. His flesh darkens. His hair become lighter. His eye color fades. Elves in the first stage of the dark elf transformation have the following modifications:
* Ability Scores: -2 Int, +2 Cha.
* Senses: Lose low-light vision. Add darkvision 60 ft.
* Spell-Like Abilities: The elf can cast dancing lights once per day, using his total character level as his caster level.
* Special Attacks: The elf gains the Poison Use special ability. This lets the elf use of poison without risk accidentally poisoning himself.
* Weakness: The elf suffers from light sensitivity.
Final Stage Dark Taint – Dark Elf Transformation
An elf that survives with the Wild Hunt’s chaotic evil aspect long enough becomes a full-blow dark elf. Apply the following modifications:
* CR: Increase CR +1.
* Type: The elf’s type becomes fey (elf).
* Ability Scores: +2 Dex.
* Senses: Increase darkvision to 120 ft.
* Defensive Abilities: The elf gains DR 3/cold iron. He also gains Spell Resistance equal to 6 plus his class levels.
* Spell-Like Abilities: A dark elf can cast dancing lights, darkness, and faerie fire each once per day, using his total character level as his caster level.
* Weakness: The elf no longer has light sensitivity. Instead, he suffers from light blindness.
* Lost Racial Trait: The elf no longer has the Elven Magic racial trait.
Not all elves who acquire the Dark Taint become dark elves. Some become grimlocks. These two templates represent this gradual transformation.
Initial Stage Dark Taint – Grimlock Transformation
The elf becomes more muscular. His facial features become more bestial, and his eyelids grow thicker, turning his eyes into squinty slits. Apply these modifications:
* Ability Scores: +2 Str, +2 Con, -2 Cha.
* Senses: The elf loses low-light vision. He gains blindsense 40 ft. and scent.
* Tough Flesh: The elf gains a +2 natural armor bonus.
* Lost Racial Traits: The elf no longer has the Elven Magic and Keen Senses racial traits.
Final Stage Dark Taint – Grimlock Transformation
The elf’s transformation into bestial grimlock is complete. His eyelids have grown shut, and the eyes behind them have atrophied. He becomes strongly muscled and monstrous in both appearance and appetites.
* CR: Increase CR +1.
* Type: The elf’s type becomes fey (elf).
* Ability Scores: +2 Str, -2 Int, -2 Cha.
* Senses: The elf gains a grimlock’s heightened nonvisual senses. Lose blindsense 40 ft., and gain blindsight 40 ft.
* Defensive Abilities: The elf gains DR 3/cold iron. The elf also gains immunity to gaze attacks, visual effects, illusions, and other attack forms that rely on sight.
* Racial Hit Die: The elf gains one racial HD (1d6). He acquires skill points equal 6 + Int modifier. The following are class skills for the racial Hit Die: Acrobatics, Bluff, Climb, Escape Artist, Perception, Sense Motive, Stealth, and Swim. Also, add Will +2 to base saving throws.
* Tougher Flesh: Increase the natural armor bonus to +4.
* Lost Racial Traits: The elf loses the Elven Immunities racial trait.