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Thread: SV: elves on a pedestal? (was R
05-14-1998, 08:17 AM #1Ryan B. CaveneyGuest
SV: elves on a pedestal? (was R
Warning: this is very long, and is given over largely to logical,
occasionally technical arguments for or against certain rules. If this is
not what you want to read, by all means skip ahead now.
Oh yes -- below, "mage" means "wizard", not "non-specialist
wizard". I still call them "magic-users" quite a lot. =)
On Thu, 14 May 1998, Fredrik Lundberg wrote:
> Yes I know that Hammer Storm is the battle spell version of Spiritual
> hammer but for your information Fireball is already a battle spell just
No no. The cards of which you speak list conventional spells that
are useful in a war card battle; they appeared in the original boxed set.
"Battle spells" as a concept were not introduced until the Book of
Magecraft, and are not listed on any such card. As magic missile implies
rain of magic missiles, fireball implies rain of fireballs -- which has
been avoided, I feel, for the very reason that Pieter gives: it would be
immensely powerful. A battlefield version of Mass Destruction, as it
were. And thus, perhaps, not too powerful when compared to the spells
that can be cast at the realm level (the next step up in power) -- it
simply would render conventional warfare obsolete, so it was left out
because Birthright is supposed to have aspects of a wargame.
> to be 5th level when a cleric only needs 13.000 so a cleric also
> advances faster in level then a wizard do.
Random side note to TSR folks: clerics are spellcasters who
advance faster than *fighters* do. This *really* needs to be fixed.
> >As elves educate all their people, (no peasant tilling the fields in a
> >society of immortals),
The importance of these points cannot be overstressed,
particularly the last one. Khinasi lands appear to have an excellent
educational system by medieval standards, and the Anuireans and Brechts do
a fair job of educating those who care, but the vast majority of people in
all those cultures must by agricultural technology level be peasants with
no formal education.
This is one of the reasons I have spent a lot of time thinking
about elven society and lifestyle, but have yet to come to any
satisfactory conclusions: their society cannot be anything like a
historical human culture, given the way the people and their attitudes are
described in the various resources. No one is willing to farm or herd
animals -- but they still eat -- and they are all educated... my closest
concept at the moment is "modern university faculty and students". But
even then, where is the janitorial staff? Magic or slaves is all I've
come up with yet.
> there are likely a lot more elven spellcasters than humans ones,
Very much so. Magic is strange and scary to the vast majority of
humans, so they hide from it; elves think it perfectly natural, and
expose their children to it.
> >minimum intelligence required for a wizard = 9, minimum elven
> >intelligence = 8, as opposed to a human attribute minimum of 3!.
Actually, you need to read the fine print a little closer: if you
fall in all the ranges on the requirements table, *then* you apply the
adjustments, so ALL elves have Int between 9 and 19+, and can be wizards.
Humans need a bloodline (1% of the population) and an Int > 8 (160/216
most places; 181/216 Khinasi, 135/216 Vos), so in most places only 0.74%
of humans can become wizards. I would venture that culturally, with the
possible exception of Khinasi, a greater proportion of those elves who can
become wizards actually do than of those humans who can.
(That sentence was terrible. I hope its meaning gets through anyway.)
> Well I used TSRs own demographic figures to calculated my numbers and
Where did TSR publish these figures? Even more importantly, on
what assumptions were they founded? Anything designed for a mortal
population goes completely out the window when immortals are considered.
The same goes for standard human vs. wacky elven economy and agriculture.
> then I even made 1 in every 5 elves a wizard (same chance of being
> wizard as a human adventurer from the Monstous Manual. If I had used the
> figures from the elven part then 1 of every 40 elves would have been a
> wizard) and that gave me 6 wizards in a population of 16.000.
That gives me 3,200 wizards in a population of 16,000. Are you
implicitly using figures for how many people in a rpg-feudal-human society
are adventurers? If so, that is the problem: as I said, the elven setup
is radically different, so those statistics do not apply -- new ones must
> It is true that elves are immortal and therefor live longer then humans
> but humans live "faster" which makes humans accumulate xp at a faster
> rate then elves (I mean if you were immortal why rush things it's not
> like you will run out of time and die).
Here I agree completely with you. In my campaigns, I assess a
hefty XP penalty for being an elf. (The best model I've seen is the
RoleMaster Self Discipline stat: elves can work as hard or harder than
humans if they try, but it's much more difficult for them to motivate
themselves to do so, so *statistically* they learn slower... but that's
neither here nor there.)
> And concerning your last comment if we follow the rules (I have
> heard that you should do that sometimes)
I have always thought that it is only proper to follow the rules
when the rules *make sense*. The rules can be changed -- that's why TSR
came out with a second edition of the basic rulebooks, why there have been
Unearthed Arcana, Dragon Magazine, and in some ways even this list: the
people who play these games often come up with things the designers never
thought of. Different people want different things from the game, and
propose additional or variant rules to cover these situations. The most
important "rule" in any of the books is that the DM can change *anything
at all* for his or her own campaign: thus, in my campaign, I allow wizards
to research healing magic, because I do not find the official
counterargument ("that job is supposed to be for clerics") at all
compelling. However, I recognize that this is an uncommon house rule; I
strive to identify what portions of my posts are "canon", as it were, and
which are the products of my own fevered imagination -- if I have misled
anyone, I am sorry. This dual-vs-multiclass business is one of those
issues where I feel the urge to lobby for my beliefs, in an effort to get
people, whether TSR or just individual DMs, to change the rules.
End Philosophical Justification.
So anyway, what I feel is that original class choice is culturally
based, and dual classing represents switching careers later in life, as so
many modern people do. My evidence for cultural basis is the different
combinations allowed or disallowed to different species. Humans think of
fighter and mage as very different (indeed contradictory) professions, so
humans are apprenticed to one or the other but not both. Elves think of
fighter/mage as a *single* set of supplementary skills, and train those of
their people who want that single skill set in that single skill set.
It's like engineering only or theoretical math only versus applied math,
which does both together. I would allow humans to multiclass if I thought
the combination was appropriate: for example, I would allow a human
growing up at the Temple of Rilni in Mairada to multiclass as a
cleric/mage. I would allow a human raised by bandits to multiclass as a
Dual classing, on the other hand, is something that logically can
be done by anyone with the time and inclination to undergo an additional
apprenticeship (to extend my earlier simile, like coming back to school
after a Ph.D. to get an undergrad degree in a different discipline), so it
should clearly, in my opinion, be available to Cerilian elves.
For another thing in this category that I dislike, there is the
rule about evenly dividing experience between multiclasses. This is an
even worse failure of the logic test: if a fighter/mage goes into a
library and spends five years there researching spells, he will emerge a
much better mage, but surely no better -- and probably worse -- a fighter.
> >elven but the best human wizards are of a higher level.
> >Why do you say the best human wizards are higher level ? There are no
> >stupid level limits on elven wizards in Birthright!
I concur! Sure, humans go faster, but elves go farther. I
believe there is a Russian proverb to that effect, even. =) (well, minus
the elves vs humans bit)
> Why do I say that? Simple the highest level elven mage that I have seen
> in any book is the elven regent of Lluabraight and she is an 18th level
In the Tuarhievel sourcebook, Siebharrin is 20th.
> wizardress and the highest level human wizard mentioned is 19th level
> wizard and if am am not totaly wrong there are about 5 elven wizards of
> level 10+ while there are about 10 human wizards of level 10+ and that
In published materials, which contain particularly noteworthy
people. I would say that this argument has a serious sample selection
problem, and probably contains a far higher percentage of high-level human
wizards than of high-level elven ones -- powerful human mages strike me as
much less likely to avoid notoriety than powerful elven ones.
Particularly as powerful elven wizards can easily just sit in their towers
doing research for millennia, and the first any humans know about it is
when they get disintegrated for tresspassing, and never live long enough
to discover that the landlord is a 35th level wizard who's been around
since before humans first used fire.
> have an even greater advantage over the elves since most of the
> described elven wizards are of levels 10+ while for humans levels below
> 10 is more common then over 10.
I have two objections to this analysis. One is the "described"
sample bias problem I mentioned above. The other is this: if you assume
the sample is fair, and that there should not be more wizards of 10th
level than 9th, and so on (but even this I object to -- read on), then
that means the reason there are so few low level elven wizards mentioned
is that there are so many in actuality that there simply is not enough
space to try. I also think that in a certain level range -- between the
point at which most non-serious students of magic have given up (5th?
10th?) and the point at which magic in its "modern" form has been around
long enough for it to be studied (30th?), *since elves do not die* the
distribution should be flat in XP, or *increasing* with level in a fair
part of the range!
Like I said before, immortality does all sorts of screwy things to
demographics. For example, even though the elves are now in the small
minority, if there is no major human-elven war, *the elves will eventually
outpopulate the humans* because they grow faster than geometrically:
humans are like constant to the x, and elves are a Fibonacci sequence
(which grows for large x as x to the x) -- indeed, I first heard the
concept of a Fibonacci sequence phrased as "population growth of immortal
> >I just object to TSR creating multiple intelligent races and saying no
> >matter what happens, the humans will always come out on top!
> >It is bloody ridiculous that the humans win all the time.
Oh, do I so agree! I want a "no humans allowed" campaign world.
Then maybe it would be more balanced.
> >So I do occasionaly try to point out the occasional logical fallacy,
> >like the elves losing the pre-deismaar wars without direct divine
It's nice to hear that even those who dislike my pro-elven
propaganda agree with my logic, Pieter. =)
05-14-1998, 03:34 PM #2Pieter A de JongGuest
SV: elves on a pedestal? (was R
At 02:17 AM 5/14/98 +0200, Frederik Lundberg wrote:
>>You realize that Hammer Storm is the battle spell version of spiritual
>>hammer. They haven't come out with a battle spell version of many common
>>wizard spells (eg. fireball, lightning bolt, Aghanazer's Scorcher, Melf's
>>Acid Arrow, etc.) because they would be game enders. ie. I have a 5th level
>>wizard, as a battle spell I research Rain of Fireballs, it compeletely
>>destroys X units, where X is equal to the casters level (or worse!).
>Yes I know that Hammer Storm is the battle spell version of Spiritual
hammer but for your information Fireball is already a battle spell just as
Flamestrike, Call lightning, lightning bolt, cloudkill and all the other
spell that are mentioned on the warcards so a Rain of Fireballs will be as
likely to exsist as a any other battle spell of an already exsisting battle
No, fireball is not a battle spell. Those war cards were published in the
birthright boxed set before the book of magecraft introduced battle spells.
The effects given on those cards are for the use of conventional spells on
>>> These spells that are gained at very low levels are then complemented
>>with higher level spells like Cure Unit makes the priest spells equal to
>>wizards on the battle field.
>>> The real advantage with priests is that they can memorize more spells
>>then a wizard of an equal level and if the priest have a high wisdom this
>>Try specialist wizards on for size. And as well, wizard spells are
>>generally more potent for their level. Eg compare flamestrike and fireball,
>>flamestrike is 2 levels higher, and does a 8D6 to a smaller area. A
>>fireball cast at that level of ability is 9-10 D6 and affects a much larger
>Just because both start with the word fire doesn't mean that they are the
same knid of spell. I mean compare Call Lightning to Lightning bolt then
they are both of the same level BUT where the wizard can cast a 5d6
lightning bolt a priest of the same level can cast 5 7d8 lightnings that
have an 10' radius of impact. This is assuming that the priest doesn't have
17 or more in wisdom because if he have he can cast even more spells. And to
make matters even worse for the wizard he needs at least 20.000 xp to be 5th
level when a cleric only needs 13.000 so a cleric also advances faster in
level then a wizard do.
first of all, Call Lightning only works in appropriate weather conditions,
ie. when there is some sort of a storm out. In other words, unless your GM
is really friendly with the weather, its not going to work at *least* half
the time. Second off, the extra 4 lightning bolts after the 1st one are
separated by 10 minute gaps, usually to long to be useful in a spell battle.
Also, call lightning doesn't work in common situations (indoors, dungeons,
cavern complexes, the lair of that tribe of orogs you were invading)
Second, take a look at that advancement chart. From levels 7 to 14,
wizrds advance faster than clerics, wierd isn't it.
>>>Now to discuss this topic why the elves haven't used their wizards to
>>"crush" the armies of the humans we come to the fact that there are more
>>human priests of a spellcasting level then there are elven wizards (someone
>>said that they calculated the number of wizards of level 8+ in the capital
>>province of Tuarhivel to 80, the number is closer to 5 and then I'm being
>>generous. To balance this I can say that using the numbers available in BoP
>>the WIT can field a minimum of 53 priests of a spell casting level,
>>excluding Nichlaer himself).
>>I was the guy who did that caculation, using numbers straight from the
>>monster manual. Yes, I realize some people figure that the numbers from the
>>manual are too high. But, that calculation was solely for the capital city
>>of the province (population 16000), not the whole province. As elves
>>educate all their people, (no peasant tilling the fields in a society of
>>immortals), there are likely a lot more elven spellcasters than humans ones,
>>minimum intelligence required for a wizard = 9, minimum elven intelligence =
>>8, as opposed to a human attribute minimum of 3!. Finally note that elves
>>are immortal, ie. sooner or later they get around to trying everything!
>Well I used TSRs own demographic figures to calculated my numbers and then
I even made 1 in every 5 elves a wizard (same chance of being wizard as a
human adventurer from the Monstous Manual. If I had used the figures from
the elven part then 1 of every 40 elves would have been a wizard) and that
gave me 6 wizards in a population of 16.000. It is true that elves are
immortal and therefor live longer then humans but humans live "faster" which
makes humans accumulate xp at a faster rate then elves (I mean if you were
immortal why rush things it's not like you will run out of time and die).
And concerning your last comment if we follow the rules (I have heard that
you should do that sometimes) then elves aren't allowed to dual class only
humans are allowed that so all elves will not sooner or later become wizards.
Which set of TSR demographics are you using? At 1 wizard for every 5 elves
in an elven city of 16000 (all elves) 16000/5=3200 wizards? Seems like a
lot more than 6 elven spellcasters in that city to me! Yes, humans *might*
pile up experience points faster, but they also stop piling them up when
they die, on average at around 70 years old (and that's being generous).
After say 210 years, I think that the elf might just have caught up.
Yes, TSR has said elves cannot dual class, I am not trying to chop
rules here, I am trying to illustrate a fact of life. In our own society,
as people are living longer and longer, we see more and more people
retraining, going back to college and getting another degree, swithching
fields. I don't see why the same effect won't occur in a society of
immortals. After a while, you get bored with the same old, same old, and
you decide to change it.
>>> On top of this we must also remember that there are human wizards and
>>magicians also, certainly there are not as many human wizards as there are
>>elven but the best human wizards are of a higher level. Although magicians
>>can not cast fireballs and lightning bolts they can use spells like Magic
>>Missile, and a very large number of illusions that can be as deadly as any
>>Evocation/Invocation spell (take Phantasmal Killer for example, a more
>>lethal spell is hard to find).
>>Why do you say the best human wizards are higher level ? There are no stupid
>>level limits on elven wizards in Birthright! Magicians, as double
>>specialist have even higher attribute requirements than normal wizards.
>Why do I say that? Simple the highest level elven mage that I have seen in
any book is the elven regent of Lluabraight and she is an 18th level
wizardress and the highest level human wizard mentioned is 19th level wizard
and if am am not totaly wrong there are about 5 elven wizards of level 10+
while there are about 10 human wizards of level 10+ and that is not
including the College of Sorcery were they have, correct me if I am wrong,
10 wizards of levels between 9 and 19, and these numbers are only for human
wizards, I know of at least two magicians of level 10+ so this clearly gives
the magical advantage to humans. If we were to take lower level wizards and
magizians into acount then I am sure that the humans have an even greater
advantage over the elves since most of the described elven wizards are of
levels 10+ while for humans levels below 10 is more common then over 10.
Those books only list blooded wizards (except 1 apprentice in the book of
magecraft). Why? Non-blooded wizards don't have holdings! Also note, that
you have made my earlier point clearly, elven wiard levels are biased to
high level casters.
>>> Well that was all for now. As I said I got feed up with all this
>>pro-wizard and anti-priest talk.
>>If anybody wonders why I start writing about this it's not because I believe
>>in the so-called elven pedestal. I just object to TSR creating multiple
>>intelligent races and saying no matter what happens, the humans will always
>>come out on top! In every world they have created the elves are either
>>retreating or in decline (including spelljammer, where the imperial elven
>>navy gets its collective ass kicked by the scro). It is bloody ridiculous
>>that the humans win all the time. So I do occasionaly try to point out the
>>occasional logical fallacy, like the elves losing the pre-deismaar wars
>>without direct divine intervention.
>I agree with you here but then again who says that for example goblins that
are even more prolific then humans and also able to become wizards and
priests will not come out on top in the end.
True, perhaps the goblins should come out on top (even with their limited
levels of spellcasting ability). But we never ever see it happen. Even
more likely are the orogs. The average orog being the equivalent of a 4th
level fighter is pretty impressive.
Pieter A de Jong
Graduate Mechanical Engineering Student
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
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