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The biology of Dark Elves

Discussion in 'Arcanum Discussion' started by Muro, Jun 5, 2011.

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  1. Muro

    Muro Well-Known Member

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    Renford A. Terwilliger describes them in "T'sen-Ang: Horror Among the Dark Elves" as beings with ivory skin and black eyes, which, truth be said, sounds quite exotic, alienesque even. Less than two thousand years = a few elven generations is hardly enough to naturally develop such distinct features, but I used to rationalise that perhaps they altered their biology for whatever reason magickally, be it a side effect of some dark rituals or an intended action performed simply to look scarier.

    But then there's Z'an Al'urin, who's portrait looks completely normal, indistinguishable from a normal elf. Turns out that ghastly appearance Terwillinger witnessed was either body paint, phantasm/morphing magick or just something your eyes are likely to see when you are lost and terrified while surrounded by hostiles in the middle of an evil-looking forest at night.

    That being said, the differences between elves and dark elves seem to be purely ideological rather than biological, so why are they treated as a different race, having their own racial name, icon and such?
     
  2. Jojobobo

    Jojobobo Well-Known Member

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    Maybe there are more dark elves then what we see in the game, who do look horrible and all that razzmatazz. It could just be a recessive gene thing, but it would make the majority of the dark elves carriers for the messed up appearance whereas regular elves may not carry this gene; I know that sounds like a hand waving sort of argument but it would explain for the need for separate races. Or maybe they develop this appearance the older they get,
    Kerghan has been using them for a long time so as they approach death funny things could start to happen to them. Also K'an Hua does his hissing, a sign that he's developing traits like a forked tongue perhaps?

    Ultimately though I just think it's one of the arbitrary things included by the developers when initially postulating the races, they probably intended to make the dark elves more distinct initially and then as time went on they decided their differences to normal elves would be ideological yet the race had already been applied and so stuck.
     
  3. ytzk

    ytzk Well-Known Member

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    I like to think that dark elves just invented sunglasses and tight black leather, because they're cool and the 18th century explorer was just overawed by their fashion sense.
     
  4. Zanza

    Zanza Well-Known Member

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    I wanted to reply to this as soon as you posted this Muro but I have been rather indisposed as of late. I think for technical reasons they look the same as the Elves simply because the developers just wanted to get the game out by then instead of making new sprites.

    If we were to assume they are biologically the same, then my theory as to why they are treated differently is due to them not making any secret about their differences towards the Qintarrans. Assuming there are more Elvish towns in the forests that we are unaware of, wouldn't they be considered different clans just like the Dwarves? Each clan would have their own banner, motto and name in that case.
     
  5. Drog Alt

    Drog Alt Member

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    I don't quite remember, but isn't K'an Hua a former Elven Council member, or at least as ancient as that? After all, he can recognize Nasrudin by face (it's possible to arrange for them to meet). And he was behind the whole Panarii conspiracy right from the beginning.

    I think we can divide Arcanum's elves into 3 major groups: "normal", dark and ancient (pre-schism).
     
  6. Zanza

    Zanza Well-Known Member

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    Mind throwing in a spoiler as to how they can meet? I'd be very much interested to try it out for the dialogue.
     
  7. ytzk

    ytzk Well-Known Member

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    First do the dark quest then, after leaving Kan Hua, go meet Nasrudin. The easiest way to trigger the good quest is to pickpocket the linguist in the temple of Caladon, thereby opening up the route to Thanatos.

    After fetching the Device, go the Ring and they'll both be there, and have a show-down for your entertainment.
     
  8. Muro

    Muro Well-Known Member

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    It would be an awful coincidence if only those who agreed with Arronax's pre-banishment outlook of all elves happened to be carriers.

    I'd be more inclined to believe that whatever dark magick is being practised in T'sen-Ang (which happens to be strong enough to prevent teleporting to or from it, after all), it changes it inhabitants. Why doesn't it affect Z'an Al'urin, though? Because she is too young for the effects to be visible? How does the Living One know she is a dark elf rather than an elf before he even starts speaking with her, then?

    I don't think new sprites would be necessary. The already existing ones would be OK for both normal and dark ones (fitting the "ivory skin, black eyes" description just fine, with elves already having pale sprites as it is).

    The only thing that doesn't fit Terwilliger's description is Z'an Al'urin's portrait. In fact, she is arguably the least pale elven follower in the game:

    • [​IMG]__[​IMG]__[​IMG]
      .*** SPOT THE DARK ELF, WIN AN IPOD! ***
    If they would want the description of their distinctiveness to be considered true and have her fit it, the portrait should look more like this:

    [​IMG]

    Though while dwarves from different clans have different clan identity and symbols, they share the same race icon (two crossed hammers) and race name (by which I mean that when you see an unknown dwarf, he is marked as, say, "Dwarf Villager" rather than "Wheelclaner Dwarf Villager" or "Blackmountaineer Dwarf Villager". That is not so with elves, we have "Elf Villagers" and "Dark Elf Villagers").

    All we know is that he claimed to be a son of a member of the Elven Council, as noted in Saint Mannox's journal.

    Agreed, though that would be a division by ideology, not race.



    To make my overall point clear, I think there are two options:
    • I. Dark elves are a different race. Separated from elves (supernatural evolution in action) because of living in the highly magical T'sen-Ang (just like orcs are believed to have been divided from humans due to powerful magicks), with Z'an Al'urin's portrait being incorrect. In my opinion, a far-fetched rationalisation used to force drows into the world of Arcanum.

      II. Dark elves are a faction of elves united by their ideology, not biology. Z'an Al'urin's portrait is correct, Terwillinger's mind exaggerated what he saw, and giving them a unique race name and icon in the game is a misunderstanding. I'm in favour of this option at the moment.

    Another thing that came to my mind during this discussion. Races in fantasy tend to be called, well, races, rather than species. Humans, elves, ogres, gnomes, etc. - are they all Homo sapiens?
     
  9. Frigo

    Frigo New Member

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    The lore of Arcanum is pretty clear about the differences between elves and dark elves being a purely philosophical one. Terwillinger is hardly a reliable narrator.
     
  10. TimothyXL

    TimothyXL New Member

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    Because she's in the Dark Elf Village?

    I also support option II.
     
  11. TheDavisChanger

    TheDavisChanger Well-Known Member

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    At risk of mincing worlds, I offer the Shadowrun classification of the races:
    • Elf - homo sapiens nobilis
      Human - homo sapiens sapiens
      Ork - homo sapiens robustus
      Troll - homo sapiens ingentis
      Dwarf - homo sapiens pumillionis
    Does this suggest that elves are a sub-race of humans? Are elves a breed?
     
  12. Muro

    Muro Well-Known Member

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    More like a subspecies of Homo sapiens, where the very same could be said about humans. While in our world Homo sapiens pretty much equals humans, in the Shadowrun (and possibly Arcanum) setting Homo sapiens would mean "humans as well as other subspecies".

    There is a problem with classifying all humanoid mammals of Arcanum as subspecies of Homo sapiens, though. One of the signs of belonging to the same species is the ability to produce fertile offspring.

    Humans can produce fertile offspring with elves (indicated by the Elven Blood background), which could suggest that humans and elves belong to the same species.

    Humans can produce fertile offspring with ogres (indicated by the fact that
    it is said during the gnomish conspiracy quest that there is no need to capture human women to produce half-ogres anymore, since the half-ogres of both sexes the gnomes already have are enough to continue the breeding
    ), which could suggest that humans and ogres belong to the same species.

    The problem: if (a) humans and elves belong to the same species and (b) humans and ogres belong to the same species, then (c) elves and ogres belong to the same species, therefore they should be able to give fertile offspring. Ever seen a half-elf half-ogre hybrid?

    Bonus thing to ponder on: How are kites and humans related?
     
  13. TimothyXL

    TimothyXL New Member

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    Weren't the Ren-Ar twins Elgres? I suppose humans are more eager to experiment then the other races, though I wouldn't know why. Must have something to do with our natural curiosity.
     
  14. Muro

    Muro Well-Known Member

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    They were elf-orc hybrids. We don't know whether they were fertile or not, but the fact alone that bizarre experiments had to be conducted for them to come to be shows that there is a difficulty with naturally breeding elf-orc hybrids, fertile or not.

    Most natural half-orcs and half-ogres aren't the result of humans willingly experimenting with exotic sexual partners, though, but rapes performed by male orcs and ogres. Logically, this should happen as often to human women as to elven.
     
  15. TimothyXL

    TimothyXL New Member

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    I dunno, Elves have their tree cities, it's harder to reach their women when you've got to fight your way up a long stairway. And then there is the idea that while we were trying to make fire by praying to various gods, Elves appearantly already had swords and armor.

    Also: human women only mostly die when raped by an ogre, elves are a mite less sturdy.

    Edit: said half ogre, there, derp.
     
  16. Pacal II

    Pacal II New Member

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    Maybe it's like with cats? Their pupils dialate in the dark and because of that they seem black. In the sunlight they would seem normal.

    How did it happen so fast? That's supernatural evolution's work ;).
     
  17. friartuck

    friartuck New Member

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    The dark elves of T'Sen-Ang get less sunlight than their counterparts due to whatever factors make the city dark at all hours (canopy? smoke? magic?). This would encourage paler skin, and the vitamin D deficiency would lead to a sunken look to their eyes.

    Presumably dark elves who get out of town more often look healthier.
     
  18. DarkFool

    DarkFool Nemesis of the Ancients

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    I would say, far more likely, would be that someone at some point, all races shared a prehistoric ancestor. I.e: some kind of neanderthal. This neanderthal then evolved/adapted to a multitude of enviroments (Orcs in the plains grew strong to survive the climate, Elves in the trees got exposed to lots of magic, and humans, in the field, were the 'balance' of the two).

    I would differentiate, however, beteen orcs, humans, and elves versus gnomes, halflings and dwarves. I'd say the same situation, with just a half-sized neanderthal ancestor for those three.
     
  19. TheDavisChanger

    TheDavisChanger Well-Known Member

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    At some point the races have to separate. For example, fairies are far too small to be human.
     
  20. Zanza

    Zanza Well-Known Member

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    Gnomes and Halfings would of probably been pygmy people at first.
     
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