Wizards today announced a sneak preview of elves in fourth edition. What’s interesting is not just what it tells us about the one race, but what it reveals about 4th edition’s rules changes, big and small. Lets see what we can glean.
The first thing we notice is that the elf’s had a beefing up, a little like Andy Collins’ Umber variant. They now have +2 to Dex and Wis - no races have ability score penalties any more, the article reveals, presumably because it wasn’t any fun to waste a 16 by dropping it to a 14.
The elves also have 7 squares of movement, equal to 35 feet in our system, solidifying their place as the “quick” race. Elves also get +2 to the Nature and Perception skills, and while we haven’t seen the official skills system just yet, changes are clear: it’s obvious, for example, that Spot and Listen have been effectivelly rolled into a single skill.
New to the race is an elven racial power, Elven Accuracy, allowing you to reroll any attack a free action once per encounter. The phrasing that seems to be official is “as an encounter power” - I like the blurring of the line between magical and mundane, here. A similar ability is that the elf shares half his Perception bonus with nearby allies, which we can assume to be always active.
Further, we can see that there appears to be an action, the ‘shift’, analogous to the old “five foot step”. It’s not clear if the circumstances of shifting are the same as the old five foot step action, but I suspect it will be something similar. Favoured class is also out the window, replaced by suggestions - the elf is recommended for ranger, rogue or cleric. Given that the elves have been made even more nature-loving, one might speculate that the druid is out, relegated perhaps to a cleric variant. Interestingly, wizard is no longer the elf’s recommended class.
As expected, there are also some flavour changes. Elves are now about as tall as humans, are described as ‘wild’ and ‘tempestuous’, and can have sideburns now - think more Wolverine than before. There’s a definite push here to make elves much cooler - violent and heroic, rather than the frail wizards of third edition. I attribute this in no small part to the popularity of Forgotten Realms dark elf anti-hero Drizzt do’Urden - the article specifically mentions that the drow and Lolth are still in (and canon at that), so we should see a lot more in the way of fighter-types than before.
I like that no race has a negative modifier to ability scores. WotC has already won me over with 4E, but I have no qualms about not using rules I don’t like and adding new ones so only good things can come out of the next edition - at least for my game.
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