I've been mulling around with a strange idea in my head for some time now, kind of inspired by Exalted of all things. To be precise I mean the Solar castes of Dawn (warrior), Zenith (priest), Twilight (sorcerer, healer, loremaster and or craftsman, not that a non-Twilight Solar can't be a sorcerer or any of those thing), Eclipse (diplomat/merchant/sea captain) and Night (thief/spy/assassin). So I thought to myself "why not apply those to D&D as subraces." I understood that that the Exalted castes and the their favored abilities don't perfectly translate to any race or subrace in D&D, but I decided to tinker around a bit with the elves, known for their readily identifiable subraces. So I applied five Exalted abilities (read as skills) to four elven subraces, explained how they all went together and gave my own take the elves. Here it goes. By the way, feel free to try this yourself.
I'm thinking of mainly using this as a basis for different elf classes for Basic (B/X to BECMI) D&D-style race as class options.High Elves
High elves are among the greatest warrior-sorcerers and commanders of all elvenkind. Not only are they some of the best scholars and warlords the elves, or really anyone, have produced, high elves, seem to have an innate knack for scholarship, close-quarters weaponry and the mystic arts. Equal parts boisterous and cunning, high elf warriors will patiently study an enemy, mentally probing its weaknesses and gauging its strengths and taking into account any like allies their foe may have. Then the high elf executes his plan, with the precision of a surgeon and all the bloodlust and battle madness of a Northman berserker on mushrooms. While somewhat slow to battle, high elves fight with a relish few sane races do. As Salvador of Borderlands 2
put it, "Killing bad guys is always
fun!" High elves also recover from wounds at a faster pace than humans, with wounds that would take minutes to heal taking seconds, and so on and so forth, with the proper medical attention, of course.Gray/Grey or Silver Elves
Craftsmen and sailors without rival, poets and bards without peer. While a bit of an exaggeration, these descriptors fit the gray or silver elves like a glove. Of nimble mind, swift hands and silver tongue, these gray elves are learned masters of crafts and the most personable of elvenkind. Yes, the high elves are charismatic, but often in an imposing and impersonal way. However their gray brethren are warmer and more personally charming, much better at gentle persuasion than their higher brethren. As a result gray elves serve as the back bone of the elven diplomatic corps. The lyrical voices of gray elves lend them a bardic bent, while their skill at crafting make them the greatest non-dwarven artificers. Lastly, gray elves have a touch of the sea in them. Sailing is in their blood, making gray elves the preeminent merchant marines of elvenkind.Wood Elves
Both at one with the natural world and competing with it, wood elves are the most reclusive and gruffest of elves. Living in and among the woods these wilder elves can see, hear, smell, taste and touch through the plants and animals of the forests they dwell in and around. Some have even tamed and bonded with the more predatory beasts of the forest, the better to hunt with them of course. Their inherent gift with healing plants and inborn talent for healing wounds and injuries, combined with their intensive training makes the top healers of elvenkind.
Strong of fingers, limbs and nerve, wood elves have scaled trees and cliffs that would give many another climber pause or even chills. The best among them have also leaped from tree top to tree top, 30 to 50 yards apart, and scaled tall mountains and cliff side by leaping up into the air and grabbing onto higher up ledges. Many a foe to elvenkind has fallen to the arrows of unseen wood elves. I also feel the need to mention this one last fact, wood elves are crazy. They make their more aristocratic high elf cousins look sane by comparison.Dark Elves
If wood elves are the rangers and snipers of elvenkind, dark elves are its assassins and spies. Others may adopt the dark; but dark elves are born in it, molded by it. The shadows betray the enemies of the dark elves, because the shadows belong to them! Masters of deception, disguise and stealth, the dark elves venture into the dark places to dangerous for others to tread. They trade in secrets and lies, not for selfish gain or petty spite, but for the welfare of all elvenkind, and to a lesser extent the welfare of the innocent and just of other races. Like their fellow elves it is considered shameful and of great dishonor to take the life of an innocent. Dark elves however are a tad bit more flexible about the non-lethal
shedding of innocent blood for the greater good.
While the high elves prefer their battle blades, batons and spears, and the wood elves their bows and arrows, when the dark elves slay their foes they prefer a knife. Whether a stab between the shoulder blades, a slice to the throat or, even better, sent flying towards an enemy's heart. In some rare cases a clenched fist or an open hand will do. In fact, dark elves possess an at least borderline supernatural talent for thrown weaponry, as well as a strong bent towards sorcery, like their higher cousins. From this of course comes a mastery of illusion and shadow bending that few non-dark elves can match. Dark elves act as the mirriorshades to the high elves, and some wood elves, mohawks.
As a side note: Archery in the table above also covers other projectiles and Bureaucracy also covers commerce. Integrity is basically Mental Defense (Mutant Future or Gamma World) or Will Save in 3.X and lie detection. Brawl is called Martial Arts in 2nd Ed. Exalted, but not all martial arts are armed, so Brawl is a better fit. With all that said, if you were to give these elves, or the races you apply this to, a sixth ability what would it be?
I'd also like some help deciding on physical descriptions for these takes on elven subraces and suggest you do the same for your submissions. I only picked elves because I figured that elven subrace a pretty low hanging fruit, so it would be easy to start with them.