After careful deliberations I came to the conclusion that neither the snooty knife-ears of modern fiction, nor the playful wisps and faeries of Celtic myth satisfy me. I went in a different direction regarding the elves in Stargod Song. Although I had ideas about a “failed civilisation” in my head for years, it’s The Day We Leave Our Forests To Die In Beautiful Silence that gave me the final push to put a shape to it.
Here’s a little bit of lore and a simple system to play them.
Although they often invoke strange magics, elves are fundamentally human, and indistinguishable from them to an untrained eye. Weaved seamlessly out of flesh and fairy-tale, they’re the characters of stories: the dragon-slaying knights, the wise wizards, the broom-riding witches, the princes in glass castles.
But the age of myth is ending. Stories are forgotten and disbelieved, and much like many before them, the elves will either forfeit their legend, or fade with it, defiant to the end.
Creating a Character
Pick an archetype from a medieval (or older) story or fairy-tale, and ask your referee if it’d fit the world.
Describe your character in ways that’d fit the archetype and define you within it. If you’re a knight, do you have a warhorse or are you on foot? Do you use a heavy blade, or an axe? If you’re a witch, do you ride a broom or some strange beast?
Avoid description that wouldn’t fit the archetype. For example, it won’t make sense for a knight to also cast spells, but great strength, bravery or charm certainly would. Try to be brief about it. You can define some of those in the middle of the game when they come up.
Answer a few questions in front of your table. The referee should negotiate with the players regarding their answers and weave a story based on them.
What is your purpose?
I will stop the fall of the elves, what I have to do is...
I am readying for my departure, but before I go, I must...
I will ensure I and the other elves are forgotten, because…
I will survive the fall, but to do so I must sacrifice...
What are you known for?
I brought ruin to...
What do you regret?
I failed to...
Ensure everyone at the table is satisfied with the answers and is interested in the fiction they paint. While elven morality may skew either way, it might be beneficial for the party to be in tandem.
Playing an Elf
Playing an elf is about telling your tale, making choices and seeing their resolutions, and eventually fading out of the world. It’s much less about managing health, equipment or positioning in combat. No matter how fearless or powerful your character is, they will fall and be forgotten.
There are no dice rolls. You can do anything a regular human can do within the archetype. If you try to do something beyond human limitation, address the reality section below.
You have anything it makes sense for your character to have. If you partake in combat, you’re likely to sustain injuries, and will need rest to heal them. If you want to draw on your fairytale nature to ignore the negative consequences of your actions, address the reality section.
You have a reality score of 6 at the start. That is the only specific number that defines you.
You lose reality when you go against your humanity:
Forfeit consequences you should be faced with
Declare you have something you shouldn’t
Accomplish something an ordinary human couldn’t do
You gain reality when you are remembered:
You offer mercy to those who wronged you or deny it to those who have not
You help those weaker than you, or challenge those stronger
You inspire stories to be told about you, for better or for worse
You can lose more than 1 Reality. You never gain more than 1.
When two elves oppose each other, they may take actions as logical for humans, or spend reality until one of them backs down. The one who spends more reality wins the conflict. If both of them spent the same amount, negotiate the outcome between yourselves and the referee.
When your reality reaches 0 or the game ends:
Describe the last action you take before you fade out of the world. Do you pierce the scales of the dragon, cut off the witch’s head or take a sip from the fountain of life?
Describe how you leave this world. Do you die a heroic death? Do you mount a ship headed Elsewhere? Do you disappear into the woods, never to be seen again?