There is an excellent post over at the Strange Magic blog that makes a point that elves in recent fantasy RPG games have lost a lot of their exotic alien-ness.
In Tolkien the Elves were not human, and you see this reflected more in the early years of RPGs with Tolkien inspired elves in them. But in the 30+ years since they’ve been increasingly humanized (much like Vampires). Now they are just people with pointy ears (and Vampires are people who sparkle) and they’re written and played more or less like any other human character.
Which strikes to core one of the major themes of Lost Heroes setting, or at least something that has been brewing in the back of my mind as I’ve been designing. The weirdness, that inhuman nature is part and parcel of mythology. The Gods may appear human but they also appear alien.
The otherworldly inhuman nature of Elves and other magical creatures is something you see throughout folklore.
I’ve tried to replicate that in the rules by saying that players can only play human and nearly-human characters. You can play a human that can turn into a dragon, but not a dragon that can turn into a human. You can play a half-Dreamling (but not a real Dreamling) or a human who has been changed to join the Elves of Asgard (but you can’t play a pure/original Elf). I create a sub system for Magic Users that is intended to make magic strange and exotic. I also wrote a long chapter called “the world of horrors and wonders”; how our human and mundane world appears to creatures and beings not from here (I hope to revise and extend this chapter in the future). Indeed the world of lost heroes is about entering the supernatural world, with it’s spontaneous festivals and fairy realms, of the supernatural community and the demands of the gods that dwell only in the land of dreams.
This hasn’t been an explicit condition of my design though. It still possible to use the character creation process to create really weird characters that do not fit any ideal of human so really it’s something that the GM will have to watch for.
Thinking on this theme for the last few days has made me evaluate how I envision the final product per say. It doesn’t change my course of action for now, but I keep thinking that the core book should be filled with the strange and weird flotsam of mythology and alien-ness, perhaps containing a cross-section of a god from each of the established pantheons and then a number of examples from the two generic ones and a number of strange realms with alien rules (mostly to highlight the strange hyper-reality of the land of the dreams).
My food for thought for the next little while.