Hi again Reddit, I’m back with another attempt at mining old DnD books for ideas/content for a modern 5e game. My previous instalment can be found at Complete Wizard
As always comments and criticisms are very welcome, and if there are any specific books (or types of book) you’d be interested in seeing here feel free to suggest them, my library of old content is quite deep.
But anyway, on to this weeks book – PHBR 6 – The Complete Book of Dwarves
Chapter 1 – The Creation of the Dwarves
This is a chapter of the myths and legends of dwarves. Primarily their creation myth obviously, but also some legends that happened after that. Its really well written, excellent content for Dwarf players.
Chapter 2 – Dwarven Subraces
Here they discuss the societies that the different types of dwarves tend to form, and what the differences between them are. We start with the 2 that made it to the 5e players handbook – Hill
. Next we have Sundered
Dwarves. They live above ground, but not in cities of their own- they are scattered amongst the lands of the humans and other surface dwelling races, having lost their ancestral homelands to some tragedy which is not specified here. They are a scarred people, described as miserable but still clinging on to the dwarven ideals of honour and craftsmanship. Frequently nomadic, or at least rootless, they do form enclaves in larger (usually human) settlements, to keep the stories and traditions of their clan strong. Pitied and avoided by the Hill, Mountain and Deep dwarves, but not hated. Then onto Deep
dwarves, the clans that live far, far underground. In 5e the fifth group of dwarves – the Duergar are often called Deep dwarves, but back in 2e the two groups are separate, with Deep dwarves still being goodly and honourable types on good terms with the other dwarves and Duergar being the clans corrupted by evil forces who abandoned the dwarven gods and are at war with the other dwarves. I suppose maybe the deep dwarves were finally overrun and defeated by their evil cousins, or perhaps its just that the distinctions between underdark cultures are not readily apparent to surface dwellers. Deep dwarves are basically just even more isolated and insular versions of Mountain dwarves. The Duergar
are the fallen dwarves, corrupted by dark entities and commanding terrible magics. Lastly there’s Gully
Dwarves. Surface dwellers and scavengers who tend to live amongst filth and garbage. Despised by even the sundered dwarves they have abandoned the traditional dwarven values and culture, not at the behest of some evil influence like the Duergar, but for reasons unknown. These dwarves are mostly described using the same phrases other books use for goblins – cowardly, sadistic, etc. This is in contrast to the earlier depictions of gully dwarves (in DragonLance) who were described a little kinder. Still filthy refuse dwellers whose very existence is an embarrassment to Dwarf-kind, but not specifically selfish as they are depicted here.
Chapter 3 – Your Life as a Dwarf
This chapter goes into how clans are organised and how they form, dwarven guilds and how such guilds operate either within or across clans, and is generally a deep dive into dwarven culture – it talks about what makes a good joke, how individuality and clannish stability are both expressed within their culture, the ways they tend to express emotion, their attitudes to war and to other races, and lots more. This is a fairly dense chapter, and its excellent material for anyone into worldbuilding.
Chapter 4 – Character Creation
Here we get the actual rules behind the subraces mentioned in chapter 2, plus height and weight charts and some stuff like that.
5e has rules for Hill, Mountain and Duergar dwarves already. Deep Dwarves
are really just Mountain Dwarves with Superior Darkvision
(120ft) and Sunlight Sensitivity
. In 2e they also had improved toxin resistance, but 5e dwarves all have that level of resistance now. Sundered
Dwarves are taller and thinner than the other dwarves. In 2e they got boosts to the sneaking around and lock picking thief skills but only 30’ infravision (darkvision). They are pretty much built to be dwarven thieves. As a 5e subrace Id peg them as -
Sundered Dwarf Ability Score Increase - +1 Dexterity Sundered Crafts - You gain proficiency with one of the following – Jeweller’s tools, Land Vehicles, Calligraphers Tools or Thieves Tools. Slip Away - You gain proficiency in the Stealth Skill Swift Stride - Your base walking speed increases to 30 feet.
Dwarves had lower attribute maximums than the other dwarves, but not actually any new penalties (all dwarves in 2e had a charisma penalty), they kept full infravision, had a different set of thief bonuses to the sundered, and had a special ability to grovel in combat. Conveniantly 5e Kobolds have a similar ability, so we can grab that for the 5e Gully dwarves
Gully Dwarf Grovel, Cower, and Beg - As an action on your turn, you can cower pathetically to distract nearby foes. Until the end of your next turn, your allies gain advantage on attack rolls against enemies within 10 feet of you that can see you. Once you use this trait, you can't use it again until you finish a short or long rest. Sticky Fingers - You gain proficiency in the Sleight of Hand skill The Better Part of Valor - You can use the Disengage action as a Bonus Action.
That kind of pigeon holes the Gully a lot, but the source material really does that.
Chapter 5 – Proficiencies
I’ve mentioned before how 2e’s proficiencies were generally far too specific to be used in a 5e game, and this chapter provides another bunch of sterling examples of that fact, with skills like Slow Respiration
, or Fungi Recognition
. I like giving out special training as a player reward, so these things do give me ideas for specific skill sub-specialisations for that training advantage, but this chapter is pretty useless to most games I’d guess.
Chapter 6 – Kits
The chapter that usually takes up the most text in these articles, since it’s the content most likely to need work to bring into a 5e game. Kits were class based, and this is a race book, so the classes are clumped by what class/multiclass they were for – W (Warrior), P (Priest), W/P (Warrior-Priest multiclass), T (Thief), W/T (Warrior-Thief Multiclass) Animal Master
(W) – The Animal master is the guy who trains and cares for the Wolves/Bears/other animals the clan keeps as guard animals or hunting animals. The fact that there isn’t yet an official background for being a Master of Hounds, or Falcon Keeper or other trainer of working animals is frankly astonishing to me. This is a gap that needs filling. Axe for Hire
- it’s the mercenary dwarf. But the Axe for Hire is generally a solo operator rather than a cog in a large organisation, so the Soldier and Mercenary backgrounds don’t really work here really this is more a kit that represents being a traditional DnD adventurer currently, so its not even really best translated as a background, its just a motivation really. Clansdwarf
- Dedicated to the clan, and having better ability to get sheltehelp as a result. That’s the same mechanical benefit as the Clan Crafter background from SCAG, although this is ostensibly someone who is good with a war hammer not a smiths hammer. Probably best represented as a blend of Soldier and Clan Crafter, taking the proficiencies and equipment from Soldier and the background Feature from Clan Crafter. Hearth Guard
- a special kit for female dwarven fighters. it notes that female dwarves often fight in other capacitites, as dwarves aren’t an especially misogynist society, but that lady battleragers or rapid response riders/etc might have problems visiting particularly archaic and isolated clans, whereas the tradition of Hearth guards is generally more respected. They get a bonus to fights when they stand in defense of their settlement or clanmates, which really means they are just fighters who take the Protection fighting style. Battlerager
- in 2e Battlerager’s were actually quite good. Obviously they’ve already been translated into 5e, as a barbarian subclass that’s possibly the weakest of all barbarians. Playing a barbarian is definitely the most accurate translation here, but maybe be a berserker. Highborn
- this is just the Noble background. For some reasons there’s always a Noble kit. Outcast
- Kicked out of your clan, either justly or unjustly. The outcast gained skill in hiding and Moving silently as a ranger, as they needed to fend for themselves. In 5e this is an outlander background dwarf. Rapid Response Rider
- because what enemy wouldn’t falter when a pack of dwarves riding bears charges towards them. This would just be the Cavalier subclass in 5e. Sharpshooter
- dwarven warriors specialised in fighting with crossbows. They could fire crossbows faster than anyone else, getting a custom fire rate rather than the default system everyone else used. In 5e terms that means they “ignore the loading property of crossbows” which is a function of the Crossbow Expert feat, so this kit is best replicated just by taking that feat. Crafts Priest
(P) – this is absolutely just a cleric with the Clan Crafter background. Pariah
- an outcast priest. Like outcast it gained some ranger skills, and like outcast its best represented in 5e by the Outlander background. Patrician
- it’s the noble priest. Ritual Priest
- a priest with a stronger connection to his church, its hierarchy and traditions. In 5e it’s a cleric with the Acolyte background. Champion
(W/P) – the champion could buy weapon specialisations despite not being a single class fighter, and gets a blessed weapon, but can not refuse a challenge to combat related to his religion. Blessing your own weapons is easier now, especially as a forge cleric, so this is really just a champion fighteforge cleric multiclass build in 5e. Temple Guard
- the Temple Guard gets a bonus to fights where he is protecting his religion, its buildings/artifacts or its worshippers. So similar to a hearth guard except ungendered and religious. This is another kit for taking the Protection Fighting Style. Vindicator
- the vindicator is a war priest who can enter battlerage. Notably the rules require a raging vindicator to either attack or move towards the nearest enemy but don’t actually bar casting a spell as a manner of attacking the enemy, so just being a multiclass barbarian/cleric wont be a perfect fit here. It’s likely the closest we can do in 5e, but not perfect. Actually since I did some things as Feats while writing up Elves, Ive decided to come back and do Battlerage as a feat (posted as a comment), since it was an option available to more than one kind of Dwarf, and because Feats that define how you fight- like XBE, GWM, Dual Wielder and such can be a good way to replicate things from 2e that aren’t otherwise well translatable. Plus this kit gives me a name for this other than Battlerager, which is already used in 5e. Diplomat
(T) – the most respectable way for a Dwarf to take the thief class was if they aren’t actually thieves as such. In 5e the diplomat is best represented by the Far Traveller backgrounds benefit – invites to the fancy folks parties/courts to discuss your cultural similarities and differences. Entertainer
- dwarves couldn’t be bards in 2e (as they couldn’t use arcane magic) so they had a thief kit to fill the gap. This is very much the Entertainer background in 5e Locksmith
- the first idea most folks have for an above board thief rogue. In 2e they got a boost to opening locks and disarming traps and a penalty to picking pockets and climbing walls. I’d probably do a locksmith as a Guild Artisan in 5e. Pest Controller
- Another great idea for a law abiding thief, although far less obvious than locksmith. Pest Controllers got boosted sneaking and climbing and such and reduced locks and traps skills. I’m not super enthused by any of the official options for replicating this. I guess a ranger taking favored enemy beasts is OK but its not perfect Ghetto Fighter
(W/T) – They fight in ghettos not against them. It’s pretty much built for sundered dwarves, as it’s the defender of the dwarven ghettos within non-dwarven cities. This kit is focused on smaller weaponry and the support of the poor. In 53 its clearly a folk hero with a specific weapon outlay. Trader
- Just an honest merchant. A Guild Merchant in 5e terms. Or a Smuggler. Either background works depending on your proclivities. Vermin Slayer
- here vermin means kobolds and goblins and such, not literal vermin. In 5e id do this as a RangeRogue, since really this is all about favored enemy. Wayfinder
- going deep underground, looking for new caves and openings, trailblazing new pathways. Its an underground outlander. The Adventurers League offered a Variant Outlander benefit Deep Miner
for their Earthspur Miner background, and its note perfect for dwarven wayfinders.
OK, so I have a few backgrounds to sketch now. Ghosts of Saltmarsh did some things with backgrounds we hadn’t seen before, invoking a bit more mechanical specificity, and unlike the Ravnica backgrounds they are ostensibly balanced against the normal backgrounds. They seemed fine to me, but I thought id wait a while before using their ideas in any of my builds in case my perception was off, but its long enough now that the lack of discussion on the matter suggests noone was really bothered by the shift.
Animal Rearer This background is for stablehands, falconers, houndmasters and all sorts of specialised animal trainers. Proficiencies - Animal Handling, Perception, 1 language and 1 musical instrument Feature - A Way with Beasts Select a specific type of Beast that you practiced in training (horses, dogs, bears, etc) you have advantage on Ability checks to calm or train that kind of Beast, and can readily find employment anywhere such beasts are commonly employed.
Seems OK to me. I struggled with ideas for this schtick in the past because a concrete advantage to a very narrow field of rolls seemed a bit much for a background, but evidently not. And since this is mostly a background benefit Im not fussed – yes Calm a beast can come up in combat, but most likely only on friendly beasts – if you’ve gotten into a combat encounter with a pack of ordinary horses you are a pretty far outlier for DnD groups, I’d guess.
Pest Catcher This background is for rat catchers, Insect exterminators and others who protect their home from vermin and pestilence. Proficiencies - Survival, Athletics, A toolset for making chemical deterents (Herbalist’s Kit, Alchemy kit or Poisoner’s kit) and a toolset for making traps (Carpenters tools or Smiths tools) Feature - Pest Lore - any food or other perishable/delicate objects you oversee the storage of will not be eaten by natural pests or otherwise infested, and you have advantage on survival checks to track tiny vermin and insects or locate their nests.
That’s a pretty good set of proficiencies actually. I suppose protecting food from insects and books from bugs might come up? Probably not though.
Chapter 7 – Roleplaying and Personalities
As with the earlier books we get a chapter with a bunch of sample personality archetypes and the ways they can grow and change and react to different things. There’s a lot of variety here, since they have to cover many class possibilities. As always, it’s a solid chapter.
Chapter 8 – Mining
Yes it’s a whole chapter dedicated to mining, opening with the best ways to perform mining surveys, structure patterns for mines, random tables for minerals found in a region and a mine, mine quality, the important differences between how you mine for gems vs how you mine for metals (very different), a brief explanation of why different mine patterns are better for different materials, some charts for success of mining based on chosen method and random charts for mapping out mines the players might find. Ways to shore up and secure a mine and what happens once a mine is played out. Yes really. This is an excellent resource that I don’t expect I’ll ever need. But if you think you might then I highly recommend it.
Chapter 9 - Equipment
We start with a brief description of the purchase costs and operating costs/staffing requirements of different sizes of ore smelter, and a direction to complete fighter rather than reprint all the information on smithys. Then on to weaponry. We get a 2 handed battle axe – which is now called a great axe, the chain flail, which is just a long heavy chain, and various Body spikes- Head spikes, elbow spikes, knee spikes, and the glove nail (which is just a slightly variant spike). SCAG had what can generously be called “rules for spiked armor” in its battlerager section, but since they explicitly only worked for battleragers, and spikes are for everyone I’m going to do my own version here, that’s closer to the original –
New Weapons Head Spike – Simple Melee Weapon - 8gp - 1d6 piercing - 8lb – Worn, Special Elbow Spike – Martial Melee Weapon – 2gp – 1d4 piercing – 2lb – Light, Worn, Special Knee Spike – Martial Melee Weapon – 2 gp – 1d4 piercing – 2lb – Light, Worn, Special Glove Nail – Simple Melee Weapon – 4 gp – 1d4 piercing – 3lb – Light, Worn Chain Flail – Martial Melee Weapon – 10gp – 1d8 bludgeoning – 10lb – Reach, Two handed
a worn weapon is strapped to the user as part of their armour or clothing. It cannot be disarmed. A worn weapon is considered a weapon held in another hand for the purposes of the two weapon fighting rules A Head spike
is always part of a large helmet, to use it effectively the wearer must be proficient in either Medium or Heavy armour. Attacks with a head spike against smaller opponents are made at disadvantage. Elbow spikes
can be built into any weight of armor, but the wearer must be proficient in the kind of armour the spike is built into to use it effectively. Attacks with an elbow spike in the same turn as that arm was used for any other action or attack (excluding other elbow spike attacks) are made at disadvantage. Knee Spikes
can be built into any weight of armor, but the wearer must be proficient in the kind of armour the spike is built into to use it effectively. Attacks with a knee spike against a target you are grappling, are grappled by, or is otherwise sharing your square are made at advantage. All other attacks are made at disadvantage. Both Elbow and Knee spikes when added to armour cause it to inflict disadvantage on Stealth rolls for the wearer. A Glove nail
is an armoured glove with a long spike sticking out of the palm. You can not hold anything in the hand that is wearing the glove spike.
Now technically the way the two weapon fighting rules for 5e are worded if you are using your main weapon in two hands you can’t invoke them at all, even if you have weapons that aren’t in hands, or have more than two hands. But the primary purpose of armour spikes in 2e was squeezing in an extra attack despite holding a giant weapon. So I could have worded these weapons as just being able to make a single attack as a bonus action, effectively replicating the two weapon fighting rules (instead I made that part of a feat earlier), but I opted for just playing them straight, so you only get to BA attack with them if your main weapon is Light or you have the dual wielder feat (in which case id say damn the rules feel free to have a two-hander and a spike as your two weapons, but that’s just me)
After weapons we get War Machines. Ballistae have 5e rules in the DMG, but the others don’t. A Grinder
is traditionally purpose built to exactly fit the passage it is meant to defend. It’s a reinforced wooden wall on wheels, with rotating blades slicing anything in front of it (3d8 damage), powered by the dwarves who are pushing the thing turning cranks and operating pedals. In its intended use, there is no chance to squeeze around the grinder to get at the dwarves operating it, but dealing 100hp of damage to it will at least stop it working. Sensibly they don’t list a cost with this (or players would definitely try to buy one).
In 5e this kind of thing is more the domain of Rock Gnomes than Dwarves, but why discuss such a terrifying battlefield technology if we aren’t going to let players get behind it? Whether it’s a Gnomish or Dwarven (or both) battlefield weapon it’ll work using similar rules -
In 5e a basic Grinder is a Medium Object. A single Medium or Small creature can occupy the same square as the Grinder and operate it by using an Action (Use an Object) to turn the various cranks and pump the pedals and levers. This causes the blades to begin spinning. Any creature in the square directly in front of the Grinder must pass a Dexterity save (DC 13) or suffer 3d8 slashing damage. The blades will continue spinning until the start of the operators next turn as long as the operator remains in place, during this time any creature entering the square in front of the grinder or starting its turn there must also make the Dexterity save or take 3d8 Slashing damage. The operator and anyone behind the Grinder’s wall has full cover from anyone in front of the Grinder. A creature standing in the square behind the grinder can attempt to push it forward if it possesses a Strength score of at least 20. alternately two creatures, 1 in the square behind the grinder and one in the square behind that can combine their efforts to push the grinder if their total strength is at least 20 (one of the two will likely need the Ready action to ensure simultaneous pushing). The grinder can only be moved straight forward, but an action from the pushers can be used to turn the grinder by 90 degrees. This grinder breaks after taking 50 hp of damage.
Bigger Grinders might be Large and have 2 operator chairs and 4 pushing squares (with a higher total strength needed to push). Others might do slightly different damage, or be more easily manoeuvrable or any number of variations. Gnomish Grinders may have nozzles for spraying alchemists fire for example.
… yeah I’m definitely putting one of these into a game soon.
The other war machine not already in 5e is the Orc Masher. Not really a machine as such a masher is just a standard part of dwarven structure defenses- it’s an exceptionally heavy weight plus spikes- either a heavy slab on a hinge in a corridor, or a roller (like a log or boulder) that is pushed down a slope. In 5e a roller masher can be pushed by a combined strength of 30, but moves by itself once rolling on a slope. If it is rolling on its own weight any creatures in its path must make a dexterity save (DC 16) or take 5d6 Piercing damage and be knocked prone. Creatures who pass the saving throw take half damage and are not prone (having crouched between the spikes/jumped over the rollesimilar).
I include this here more as an example of how I would do something like this – knocking a heavy thing downhill at someone is a fairly classic tactic for both enemies and desperate PCs after all.
Chapter 10 – Dwarf Strongholds
This chapter discusses the designs and common activities within dwarven settlements and strongholds, and includes many charts for randomly determining the nature of such a settlement if you need to quickly construct a dwarven city. Charts for settlement age, form of government, relationship with nearby settlements and such were pretty common in 2e. This chart spends a lot more energy on the types of war the settlement might be engaged in than most, which says a lot about what people wanted from dwarves back then. It follows these up with an example – the fortress of Bazzakrak, a name I absolutely could not use with my players, but otherwise a pretty good sample settlement.
Chapter 11 – Dwarf Campaigns
This is a Dm focused chapter about running adventures and campaigns focused around dwarf themes, or for an all dwarf party. It is as usual really good advice, with some interesting ideas and points.
And that’s the end of PHBR6 – Dwarves. But in a shocking twist to anyone who didn’t read the post title, I’ve decided to double up and do two books this week, so lets go straight into PHBR8 – The Complete Book of Elves
Chapter 1 – The Creation of the Elves
This is a chapter of the myths and legends of elvves. Primarily their creation myth obviously, but also some legends that happened after that. Its really well written, excellent content for Elf players.
Chapter 2 – Variations on a Theme
This chapter is about the different Elven Subraces – Aquatic Elves, Dark Elves (Drow), Sylvan (Wood) Elves, High Elves, Grey Elves (Which the 5e PHB specifically mentions are just a type of high elf now) and even a section about half elves. Having described the major subraces, they back that up my detailing the specifics of the elves of every official campaign world TSR was still actively supporting at that time – Al-Qadim, Dark Sun, Dragon Lance, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Ravenloft (which it gets very wrong actually) and Spelljammer. The Elves of Darksun are sufficiently different from all other elves to really warrant being considered a distinct subrace, but this book spends the most space discussing the Spelljammer elves, and their vast and glorious space empire and how through them all elves everywhere are connected. That’s a fairly specific slant on how Spelljammer actually treated elves, not technically incorrect but certainly misleading. They definitely hired someone who really liked elves to write this, which isn’t an inherently bad decision, but is certainly noticeable here.
Chapter 3 – Physical Attributes
This chapter opens up with sections on some of the unique physical traits of elves, like Elven Sight which is apparently slightly superior to regular infravision/darkvision, Manifestation a heretofor unmentioned ability to suddenly seem impressive/imposing (picture what Gandalf does in the LotR movies), new specific benefits of the reverie (elf meditation instead of sleeping) and how exceptionally tolerant to extreme weather they are. But then it gets over itself and goes on to discuss the various stages of life and development an elf goes through, the common diets of elves, a whole section on their interfertility with other subraces and other species and a section on their inclinations towards music
Chapter 4 – Mental Attributes
This is a much more restrained chapter, briefly discussing the common elven outlook, Individualism, the balance between emotions and logic, the generation gaps they experience and how elves tend to approach non-elves.
Chapter 5 – Elven Society
This chapter discusses the elven language, the various cultural rituals of elves (what they do for Births, coming of age, marriages and such) as well as common elven holy days.
Chapter 6 – Myths
This chapter is just a bunch of short stories, the fables elves tell to impart their values to their youngers, listed with a note off what the moral is meant to be at the end. This is actually really good content, very useful to have for old elven storytellers, or story books or similar occasions in your game.
Chapter 7 – the Death of Elves
Oh woe it is a tragedy when such a long lived race dies early! This goes into how elves approach deaths by accident/violence, and the funerary customs of the elves.
Chapter 8 - Elven Dwellings
This chapter gives a rundown of the different kinds of settlements common amongst the major subraces of the elves with examples – a Grey elf City, a High elf Tree town, and a Sylvan elf encampment.
Chapter 9 – Optional Rules
This chapter is about the various special skills and secret lore taught amongst the elves. We see Bladesong, which at this point is just a special fighting style available to all elves, although from a purely logistical standpoint only readily useable by Elven Warriors or Elven FighteMages (bladesong takes at least 3 weapon proficiency slots and only warriors or multiclass warriors start with that many). Its rather strong, maybe not GWM/SS strong although that was its reputation, so a 5e version of it would probably be somewhat similar to those A-tier feats. Then we get a long list of different kinds of specialty Archery tricks available to elves. Collecting some of these together would make a decent feat actually, and since I’ve already mentioned I think 2e Bladesinging is more accurately considered a feat in 5e terms, Ill do both the Singing Sword Style and Trick archery as Feats in the Comments
Chapter 10 – Character Creation and Kits.
So this chapter starts with rules for the different elven subraces, all of which already have 5e rules. Then it moves on to Kits. As with Dwarf, this book includes Kits for multiple classes, so I’ll mark the different bunches for Clarity Herbalist
(P) – Skilled at making and using herbal remedies to heal, this is really just the Healer feat combined with using Herbalists Tools proficiency to restock your Healing kit. Archer
(W) – the elven archer could for short bursts either fire faster than other archers or try trick shots with a minor bonus. The classic Elven Samurai archer build is perfect for this, especially combined with the archery feat I mined from the last chapter. Wilderness Runner
- Tracks as a ranger (or ranger+ if already a ranger) tolerates extreme weather, and can craft their own gear while in the wild. Honestly this is an Outlander ranger with proficiency in Woodcarvers tools and a Tanning kit. Wind Rider
- Hippogriff/gryphon/Pegasus cavalry. You don’t actually get given your flying mount until level 4 though. This is just a cavalier with a better mount, although if you built as a paladin and used Find Steed
to get your mount that would also work fine. Elven Minstrel
(M/T) – Elves couldn’t be bards in 2e, so they had a Mage/Thief multiclass kit to approximate it. Now Elves can be bards, so just be a bard. SpellFilcher
- unlike ordinary thieves Spellfilchers could attempt to disarm magical traps safely. 5e doesn’t really have serious trap subsystems. Really just playing an Arcane Trickster covers this ground pretty well. Bladesinger
(F/M) – The legendary bladesinger. In 2e it was much more focused on the stabbing than the spellcasting. The 5e Bladesinger gives a little nod in that direction, but is often and not just played as a blaster. A multiclass Bladesinge Eldritch Knight is a more accurate translation I’d say. War Wizard
- this is a blaster wizard, with some combat tactics as well. In 5e this really is just a Bladesinger wizard, maybe having gotten a Guidance cantrip from either multiclassing or the Magic Initiate feat. Huntsman
(F/T) – The huntsman specifically hunts people rather than game, but they gained Ranger tracking and some boosted stealth. It existed for folks whose stats weren’t good enough to be a ranger to kludge together the basic concept using classes their stats were high enough for. Collector
(F/M/T) – the very rare 2e triple multiclass. Collector is a Lara Croft/ Indiana Jones type. They got a boost to identifying artefacts and translating ancient writings, which is the Archaeologist background from ToA now. Infiltrator
- another triple threat, the infiltrator is a disguise expert and spy, specifically good at pretending to be other races. Honestly If I was doing this in 5e Id make a bladepact warlock with Mask of Many Faces and proficiency in a Disguise kit (nesting disguises is always sensible) Undead Slayer
(any class) – Get a bonus to fighting undead in exchange for your character not being happy if he’s doing anything else with his time. Im not sure you really need a small bonus on a specific enemy in 5e, but multiclassing a single level of Ranger to get favored enemy undead will cover you.
Chapter 11 – Elven Equipment
Most of the gear here is actually fun flavour text stuff – specific names and textures for the different fabrics elves like to make clothes from, fancy elven booze, and stylish accoutrements like a sashling (a sash with pockets). They do specify that an Elven Bow (longbow +30gp extra cost) can be used as a melee weapon without damaging it – in 5e the elven bow can be used as a melee weapon without being treated as an Improvised Weapon – and they add one kind of Arrow we have not seen in any of the earlier books –the Flare arrow. Not actually just a way to do fire damage, the flare arrows head has tiny air catching holes that open with heat to slow its descent if fired in a high arc. If fired upwards after its wick is lit the arrow takes at least 2 rounds to land. While its floating to the ground it lights the area around it as a torch, and can be fired such that it lights up any area within the bows range. That’s actually a really novel trick that could be quite useful in some combats.
Chapter 12 – The Magic of Elves
So this chapter starts with three new spells – Camouflage
Level 2 Priest or Wizard spell – its not quite invisibility, but it covers more than one person, allowing a large group to sneak around. In 5e we have the excellent Pass Without Trace
that does this exact thing, so this isn’t really needed. Conduit
Level 5 Wizard Spell – this spell allows you to place your other spells into arrows, such that those spells are realeased targeting whatever the arrow is shot into. That’s certainly an interesting effect, if a bit fiddly to figure out what the best uses are. In 5e its still a 5th level effect. 1 hour duration. VSM. When you cast this spell expend up to 5 additional spell slots of 4th level or lower and select one spell you could cast with that slot for each slot expended. These spells are placed into the arrows that are the material components for the spell. If any of these arrows are fired before this spell ends, the spell effect trapped within is released either centered on the arrow or targeting whatever the arrow hit as appropriate for the spell, even if this point is outside of the spells ordinary range. If the arrow hits something that cannot be the target of its loaded spell (for example an arrow of Hold Person
fired into a T-Rex) the spell does nothing and is wasted. Any arrows not fired before this spell runs out have there loaded spells expended harmlessly. If cast using a spell slot higher than 5th, the maximum level of spell slot loaded into an arrow is raised by an equivalent amount, to 1 lower than the spell slot used. Seeking
Level 2 Priest or Wizard Spell – This spell enchanted a few arrows such that they were autohits, like a magic missile, being able to turn corners or fly in whatever crazed path was needed to reach their target, assuming they were visible and within range when it was fired. In 5e I’m having a hard time deciding if this is a good deal. Given a duration of concentration (up to 1 minute) you enchant 5 ordinary arrows such that they hit any creature within range they are targeted at without need for an attack roll. These arrows add the casters spellcasting modifier bonus to their damage and not the users Attribute bonus, as they are aimed by the magic not the user. Is that worth a Wizards action? An arrow without an attack roll cant score a critical hit, and cant do sharpshooter bonus damage. 5d8 +5xStat damage out of a 2nd level spell slot is VERY good, but you’ve also got to use a bunch of other actions (not necessarily your own) to fire the things. I suspect that this is actually a bad deal for most wizards/situations. But I can’t tell for sure.
Then it moves on to a small number of Magic items. Helm of Valor
(requires attunement) – whenever the wearer of the Helm of valor is targeted by a ranged weapon attack they must roll a wisdom saving throw. If their total is higher than the attackers the attack misses. If the Attackers total is higher their attack is considered a Critical hit regardless of what was rolled. That is a crazy risk reward item. It doesn’t really feel in flavour for elves, but maybe that’s just me. Arrow of Extended Range
- this arrow has quadruple the range of an ordinary arrow. That seems garishly excessive. Arrow of Seeking
- just an arrow with a permanent Seeking effect and a +2 damage. Wooden Arrow
- this arrow passes straight through inorganic matter (like metal armor). It lets you ignore the AC bonus of metal armor, or rocky cover, or any penalty to your attack roll predicated on an inorganic obstacle.
Then theres a page and a half discussing the idea that Elves can craft magical replacement limbs for amputees, including upgrades reminiscent of cyberpunk, but also that they more or less never do because that is gauche as heck to them. No mechanics or very specific magilimbs described, mostly just as idea fuel for DM’s who’ve cut off a PC’s limb and maybe want to walk that back a notch. I’ve cut limbs off PCs before, and sometimes Ive helped them get better (not always though), so I can totally understand why they felt this was an important idea to mention here.
Chapter 13 Elven Campaigns
The book ends with a chapter for DMs, to give them ideas for elf-centered or elf-only adventures and campaigns. Good ideas, but much shorter than similar chapters in the earlier books.
And that’s the end of this special Double book instalment. Im not sure yet if Next week will see me going back to fill in PHBR7 – Bards, or finishing off the Main Race books with PHBR9 – Gnomes and Halflings (they shared a book).