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The Poison Elves of Drew Hayes' comic book series differ in several significant ways from their D&D counterparts:

  • they are immune to poison (although they can still develop an addiction and suffer the side effects of withdrawal)
  • they are mostly immune to disease (although this resistance is lessened in the middle-aged and elderly elves)
  • they have big, pointy ears (presumably only a cosmetic difference)
  • many Poison Elves (Luse in particular) have not had the sylvan upbringing that is typically assumed of the High Elves, Wood Elves, and other varieties of D&D elf. Rather, they spend their entire lives in human cities, avoiding the outdoors as much as possible.

I think that they would make a great player character (or NPC) race, but I'm having a few problems translating these qualities into D&D 3.5 mechanics. The biggest problem is what Level Adjustment would be appropriate, and whether or not to water down "immunity" to a large saving throw bonus (thereby reducing the ECL of Poison Elf characters).

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my acknowledgements go to John McKnight & Kwi Kim, who introduced elf (poison) as a player character race for 2nd edition D&D, back in the summer of 1995. red-dragon-inn.net/gaming/library/books/tombofthedamned.pdf –  Azeari Dec 9 '10 at 12:26
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5 Answers

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As my copy of savage species is absent, I'll be using the variant race rules from Unearthed Arcana and some inspiration from Races of Destiny.

The first task is to find an urbanized elf. While they don't exist, the various guidelines from the terrain/environmental races is useful, and basically says "exchange abilities for equal value."

The Elf is:

+2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution.

Medium: As Medium creatures, elves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Elf base land speed is 30 feet.

Immunity to magic sleep effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects.

Low-Light Vision: An elf can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. She retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.

Weapon Proficiency: Elves receive the Martial Weapon Proficiency feats for the longsword, rapier, longbow (including composite longbow), and shortbow (including composite shortbow) as bonus feats.

+2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. An elf who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it.

Automatic Languages: Common and Elven. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

Favored Class: Wizard. A multiclass elf’s wizard class does not count when determining whether she takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing.

A con penalty doesn't seem appropriate for a "poison resistant" race. So we'll swap out con for -2 strength.

Base speed is fine.

We'll trade immunity to magic sleep effects and +2 racial against enhancment for:

"Immunity to nonmagical poison and poison effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against magic poison, and all kinds of disease."

Drop the weapon proficiency line, due to the scope of the posion versus sleep. (Force the player to take a class/burn a feat for that like everyone else)

And I think it's quite fair as a race. Useful for those who want to use poison, but not horribly broken unless designed that way, and certainly no more broken than most other elves.

Poison Elf:

+2 Dexterity, -2 Strength.

Medium: As Medium creatures, elves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Elf base land speed is 30 feet.

Immunity to nonmagical poison and poison effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against magic poison, and all kinds of disease.

Low-Light Vision: An elf can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. She retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.

+2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. A poison elf who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it.

Automatic Languages: Common and Elven. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan.

Favored Class: Any. When determining whether a multiclass posion elf takes an experience point penalty, his or her highest-level class does not count. The huge diversity of experience in cities have broadened the Poison Elves traditions relative to their more focused forest cousins.

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-2 con is not necessarily equivalent to -2 str - the strength attribute tends to be much more useful in most campaigns. If it was me, I might do a +1 con/-2 str. combination. I'd also adjust the Automatic languages, depending on the campaign setting, removing Elven and replacing the bonus languages, and possibly allow Rogue classes instead of the Wizard class. –  blueberryfields Dec 12 '10 at 1:01
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@blueberryfields What? No. Unless you are a melee martial character, Strength is almost useless. While Constitution is the second-most-important ability score for... very nearly every single class in the game. The -2 Con on most Elves is a large part of the reason they simply don't get used much in an optimal setting. –  KRyan Feb 10 '13 at 17:42
    
@Brian If you care for my opinion, I'd say this is quite a bit better than the standard Elf, just because -2 Str is massively less painful than -2 Str in almost every case (and in any case where you care about Str, you care about Con enough to not take a penalty to it anyway). Also, immunity to sleep is... arguably better than immunity to mundane poison. Poison tends to have low DCs, debuff rather than incapacitate, and often is delayed (though, of course, the best poisons are the ones that are the exceptions to this). Meanwhile, falling asleep in combat basically equals death. –  KRyan Feb 10 '13 at 17:46
    
@Brian On the other hand, it's still not better than Human, which to me is the standard by which races ought to be judged. I could see maybe using it over Human for a Dexterity-focused character, but there are better options for that, too, and even then... many Dexterity-focused paths are very feat-heavy, which makes Human extremely valuable. –  KRyan Feb 10 '13 at 18:06
    
Mate, just edit my answer if you have tweaks to the build. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Feb 10 '13 at 23:00
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I don't think that I would give it any level adjustments. I don't think any are necessary. I would substitute immunity to poison for the immunity to sleep effects (one immunity for another). I would also substitute the disease immunity/resistance for the low-light vision (a natural result of a non-sylvan upbringing). I would probably also change the +2 Dex/-2 Con for +2 STR or CON/-2 CHA, or some other similar alteration that accounts for a city upbringing vs a sylvan upbringing. One other thing I would consider is replacing the +2 on Listen/Search/Spot for three other skills that are more city appropriate, perhaps including some mix of profession, knowledge, sense motive, intimidate, diplomacy, or craft.

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IIRC, +STR is considered more expensive in D&D 3.x than other stats. Usually races with a bonus to STR have two or more penalties to compensate. –  AceCalhoon Dec 11 '10 at 16:20
    
According to the Ability Score Equivalencies table on page 173 of the DMG, +2 STR can be balanced by either: "Dexterity OR Constitution OR Intelligence and Charisma OR Intelligence and Wisdom OR Wisdom and Charisma" At the moment I'm leaning towards +2 DEX, -2 WIS, -2 CHA as the stat modifiers. The other option would be to balance +2 DEX with -2 STR, but I don't think that matches the concept as well. –  Azeari Dec 11 '10 at 23:47
    
Yea, I understand why they require STR to be offset by two, but I've never liked that and would not deem it necessary if it were a new race for a campaign I was running. I think all 6 ability scores have pretty equal importance as a whole, and would not require penalties in 2 to offset any 1, if it were me. –  BBlake Dec 12 '10 at 14:03
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I think in general, stick as close as possible to the stock elf - both because it's easier to balance but also because Drew Hayes based his main poison elf character off a D&D character of his in the first place! From looking up wiki entries it seems like the poison/disease thing is the only meaningful "power" mentioned that they have.

So I'd use a stock elf, but:

  1. Change favored class to rogue (the 2e version did this and it's a good idea)
  2. Replace the sleep/enchantment sentence with "Immunity to poison, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against disease."

I think due to the mom's long slow death to infection "low CON" is still merited. You could bump the disease bonus up to +4 if you wanted to, but not all the way to immunity.

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Is there anything wrong with this for a poison elf race? There is no Level Adjustment.

Poison Elf

+2 Dex, +2 INT, -4 WIS, -2 CHA

Poison Elves are the urbanized, hookah-smoking assassins of Elvenkind. Prone to substance abuse and impulsive actions (hence low wisdom), they are nevertheless very capable survivors. Poison Elves are quick and have good intelligence. Which makes them good rogues, or assassins. However, due to their low Wisdom scores they are not suited for divine classes such as clerics or paladins. They also have some anti-social tendencies (low charisma), hence the reason they rebelled against their own race, and decided to live in the city. A Poison Elf favoured class is Rogue.

I have decided to remove most of the elf qualities, since those are more suited for woodland environments.

40 ft base movement (Poison elves are quick).

Immunity to all non-magical poisons (though they can still get addicted to them).

+2 against diseases.

Addicted to at least one substance.

Poison Elves live in cities, and therefore lost the need for low-light vision. When they are young, they don't need to go out hunting, and therefore lost any weapon proficiencies. Once again, due to growing up in the decadence of a city, they lost the racial +2 for some of their skills. Basically couldn't think of any for a poison elf. Maybe some rogue type skills?

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disagree about low-light vision: modern cities may be well lit, but olden times they were very dark at night. A poison elf who doesn't venture out much would have more stealth/hiding skills instead of the weapon ones perhaps. –  gbjbaanb Dec 15 '10 at 11:06
    
I don't have a good argument to remove the low-light vision. And with further thought, and going through "The Mullehide Years" again. You are correct about the stealth/hiding skills. The Poison Elves are stealthy (as well as good fighters). The one thing I liked was they always got initiative. So yes add the low-light vision, and I would also add +2 racial bonuses to Hide, Move Silently and Tumble. Thank-you for your comments! –  jaye1234 Dec 16 '10 at 8:23
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I’m going to take a different tack from other posters, and try to balance against Human rather than Elf. Primarily because Elves are a fairly weak race that’s generally avoided in an optimal setting, largely because of the −2 Constitution but also because their racial features simply aren’t that potent. Humans, on the other hand, are basically always the second- or third-best race for anything, if they aren’t simply the best, because of the Bonus Feat.

A nice side effect of starting here is that Humans lack ability score adjustments altogether, which effectively means that Poison Elves have a bonus to Constitution (fitting) and a penalty to Dexterity (well, they spend less time in the woodlands, archery’s not their thing, etc.) when compared to their cousins. That seems appropriate.

Anyway, I’m going to give the Poison Elves a bonus feat, but it won’t be a flexible one, but rather a particular feat that is appropriate for a poisoner. I’m not super-familiar with the source material, and I gather that not all Poison Elves are poisoners, but the effects are also appropriate for a race that is comfortable with and immune to the effects of poison.

The feat in question is Master of Poisons from Drow of the Underdark. This feat allows one to poison a weapon as a Swift Action, and without risk of poisoning him-or-herself.

The loss of flexibility here is pretty significant (actually, it’s massive), which is how I justify the iconic Elf low-light vision and trance features, as well as resistances to poison. Since this is dumping a lot on top of a rather-good feat, however, the race also loses the bonus skill point that humans get. Which, of course, leaves the race not particularly close to Human in the final result, but nonetheless that was my starting point.

So:

Poison Elf

  • Humanoid (Elf) – Poison elves are Humanoids with the Elf subtype. They count as an Elf for all purposes related to race.

  • Medium – As medium creatures, poison elves do not gain any special benefits or penalties from their size.

  • Base land speed – 30 feet

  • Low-Light Vision – An elf can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. She retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.

  • Master of Poisons – Poison elves gain Master of Poisons (Drow of the Underdark) as a bonus feat, even if they do not meet the prerequisites.

  • Poison Immunity – Poison elves are immune to mundane poisons, and receive a +3 bonus on Saving Throws against magical or supernatural poisons.

  • Disease Resistance – Poison elves receive a +3 bonus on Saving Throws against disease.

  • Trance – Poison elves trance, rather than sleep, as other elves do, but do not gain immunity to effects that magically force them to sleep.

  • Automatic Languages – Common and Elven

  • Bonus Languages – Any besides secret languages such as Druidic. Poison elves spend most of their time in cosmopolitan cities, and have many opportunities to pick up any language.

  • Favored Class – Any. When determining whether a multiclass posion elf takes an experience point penalty, his or her highest-level class does not count. The huge diversity of experience in cities have broadened the Poison Elves traditions relative to their more focused forest cousins. (wording taken from @Brian’s answer)

This race is now better than Human if you wanted to take Master of Poisons anyway, but not as good if you weren’t, which seems about right to me. It is probably better than Elf in general, at least for what it’s geared towards, though it does lack the Dexterity bonus, immunity to magical sleep, and the auto-search feature which is very useful.

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