28 November 2011

The Basic Elf -- Mentzer Reflections Part 12

Sorry about the unannounced Thanksgiving break.  I hope everyone had a great holiday.

Like the dwarf, the elf is presented as a version of another class.  In this case, it's the fighter and magic-user.  While this downplays the "cultural uniqueness" of the elves and other demi-humans, it makes them easier to learn to play.  This makes sense, given my argument that the Menzter sets are essentially the Moldvay rules presented in such a way as to allow someone to learn to play D&D by him or her self.

Mechanically, there's not a lot outstanding about the elf character descrption in the Basic book.  They have infravision.  They can cast spells.  They can speak gnoll, hobgoblin, and orc.  They can detect secret or hidden doors better than others.  They are also immune to ghoul paralysis.  Not a whiff of explanation is given for the later two abilities, however, so we learn nothing there about the nature and character of elves.

We do get a bit of what it means to be an elf in the introduction to the class, along with some implied setting elements.  Elves "prefer to spend their time feasting and frolicking in wooden glades."  They seem to have little contact with humans.  They also love magic, especially magic that's aesthetically pleasing; elves "never grow tired of collecting spells and magic items, especially if the items are beautifully crafted" (46).  The average elf day seems to be eating a decadent breakfast, hanging out in her magic library flipping through beautifully illustrated folios of spells, then going for some dancing after dinner.

This sounds, to me anyway, very Tolkien.  These elves are the elves of Rivendell, the one's who tease Bilbo and the dwarves, but also help them by giving them information and magical advice.

Interestingly, there's no illustration of an elf.  The closest we get is on the next page, where and elf and a halfling pose for a sketch.