I’m back! Major pitch submitted, 19-day workweek survived, and a Labor Day weekend with board-gamer friends miraculously achieved. Let’s monster it up, shall we?
The mythical svartálfar have been just waiting to be worked into your game. Given that their name means “black elves,” they were probably Garry Gygax’s inspiration for the drow, but in and of themselves they’ve never played a big role in D&D or Pathfinder that I can remember. (I think GAZ7 The Northern Reaches might have name-dropped them, and dock-alfar/dockalfen got a mention in the 2e Vikings Campaign Sourcebook and Ian Malcolmson’s excellent “Dark Ages” article in Dragon #257, but that’s about it that I can recall.)
Pathfinder’s svartalfars take what little source material there is and riff on it nicely. Bestiary 4’s svartalfars are ebon-skinned fey exiled from the fey realms to live on the Plane of Shadow. Their main trade is assassination, for which they demand payment in secrets (and if that sentence doesn't scream adventure potential, I don’t know what does). Since they are superbly talented swordsmen who can imbue their weapons with bane and other abilities, they’re clearly good at their jobs. And if one cabal member can’t pull it off, the rest will jump in to finish the kill and preserve the group’s honor. In fact, it’s this loyalty and efficiency that makes them kind of the anti-fey—they are lawful evil, emotionless, and always keep to their contracts. But in the end, what they know is still far more deadly in the long run than how well they kill.
Svartalfars collect secrets…and since the Plane of Shadow’s kytons are some of the best torturers in the multiverse, svartalfars take pains to collect the screams that fall from their victims’ lips (sometimes openly, sometimes clandestinely). When adventures rescue their friend from a kyton’s operating theater, their mad escape attempt takes them down below the complex…and smack into a svartalfar listening post. Only a very good secret will keep the fey from butchering them on the spot for putting their position at risk.
A svartalfar accepted an assassination target beyond the reach of his abilities, and now half his cabal has been left dead or maimed trying to preserve his honor. If it spills beyond the cabal, the entire clan could suffer, and that the clan chief cannot allow. The calculating fey hires adventurers to find a loophole that will nullify the original contract. Their research will likely put them in the path of the remaining cabal members still on the hunt, and since the clan chief cannot reveal his involvement, the adventurers are on their own when it comes to defending themselves.
No one wants to be in debt to a servant of Death, so when a viduus calls in the favor some adventurers owe him, they leap at the chance. Besides, the viduus said the mission was something called “interlibrary loan”—how hard could returning a simple book be? Of course, only after the party agrees does the pychopomp mention that the book belongs in one of the deepest svartalfar libraries on the Plane of Shadow…and that they books wasn’t ever properly borrowed; it was stolen.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 256
Hi, guys! Miss me?
In case you’re wondering, this weekend I played Kingdom Builder (my feelings for which fall about halfway between Quinns and Paul’s thoughts on the subject), Dixit (great art) and some Star Trek co-op that used dice pools to resolve mechanics. I don’t remember what it was called, but since I was utterly useless for the entire game and then saved everyone with a last-minute deus (or rather dice) ex machina, it definitely felt just like an episode of ST:TNG to me. So that’s…good?