Runemaster - Developer diary 26 - Race: Darkelfs

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SolSara

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Monday is usually not my favorite day of the week, but it gets a lot better when I remember that it is time to post a new dev diary for Runemaster! This week we'll have a whole post about the Darkelfs, inhabitants of Svartalfheim.

Inspiration
In Norse mythology there is a bit of confusion and disagreement regarding the Darkelfs. There are Dökkálfar, Svartalfs and Dwarfs, which some scholars interpret as being different names for the same race. While the Dökkálfar and Svartalfs are seldom mentioned, Dwarfs are referenced a lot more frequently. Both Dökkálfar and Svartalfs loosely translate to "Darkelfs", which is why we decided to use that name for the main race of Svartalfheim, which itself translates to "home of the Darkelfs".

When we started making concept art for the various races, we tested different approaches for each of them. While designing the Troll, we made many different versions and one of them turned out to be perfect for the Darkelfs, and so we continued iterating on that until we were more than satisfied with them. Here's the first concept art for the Darkelfs and a NPC portrait:
trolls_01_male_face.jpg darkelf_npc_male_05.jpg

We imagine the Darkelfs as bald and sombre shaped by the world they live in, as Svartalfheim is depicted as being under ground. The Darkelfs also borrow some features from bats, especially their ears. These are long and go straight up, unlike other elfs whose ears tend to tilt to the back.

The Mythology: The Creation of Darkelfs
The last race to be born from the then still alive Ymir was the Darkelfs. They were pale and bald, and Odin thought they were not viable as a race. He buried them alive in the dark earth. But they did not die. Instead they followed the call of Hel and dug their way down until they arrived at Svartalfheim and made this land their realm.

The Appearances of Darkelfs
The Darkelfs have long, slender bodies and have no hair on their heads. They have long noses and ears, similar to Trolls. No other race that can compare with the Darkelfs when it comes to navigating the darkness; their vision has adapted to their bleak environment. Most Darkelfs are about as tall as a regular Human, but they look weaker due to their scrawniness.

We have tried to differentiate each race by different types of armor, clothes and weaponry. The Darkelfs wear loosely fitted cloth as everyday clothing, and prefer scaled or leather armor in battle. Their weapons of choice are swords, polearms and staves, which keep their enemies at range. The Darkelfs feels this is a great advantage for them. Some would call them cowards, but it would be more accurate to call them clever and strategic. Few other races are able to use weapons crafted by Darkelfs.

The life, work and traditions of Darkelfs
Their compact castles are carved from the rock and look as if they have been swallowed by the mountain, with only doors, windows, balconies and bridges visible among the rubble of stone. Each of the Darkelf castles contains several hundred Darkelfs, and as its population grows, so does the castle. The lower in rank a Darkelf is, the lower the floor where she or he lives and the higher the floor, the better the living quarters.

The only way for a Darkelf to rise in rank is by showing s/he is capable and ingenious enough to deserve promotion. There are many different ways to rise in rank: by age, by fortitude, by trickery or by earning the respect of others in any possible way. Darkelfs are very competitive and work hard to rise in the ranks. It's a very merit-based system. Everyone starts at the bottom and try to work their way up.

The castle cellar is used for storage of weapons, equipment, foodstuff and slaves. A jail can also be found here, but it is not often as Darkelfs prefer to avoid taking prisoners. A deep well can be found here as well, often close to a nearby staircase that leads to the kitchen. The first floor is used for kitchens, guest rooms, dining room and meeting chambers. Stables and larger storage areas can be found at this level too, sometimes as separate buildings. The second, third, fourth and sometimes fifth floors are used as bedrooms or private chambers for the various members of the clan. The leader lives at the top, with their partner and children, at least until their teenage years. Then a young Darkelf has to prove her/himself and climb through the ranks.

The Darkelfs live in large clans, where most are related to each other in some way. Their ruler is the smartest, most cunning and insidious of them all. Together with a small council composed of the highest ranked Darkelfs, the ruler makes sure the Darkelfs are united and working together.

The Darkelf priests serve as the spiritual leaders and the teachers of the Darkelfs. They worship Hel as their goddess and see death as just a passage into another realm. No darkelf, even if he or she is slain in combat is granted a seat in Valhalla.

Darkelfs makes a fermented tea called kombucha; dried mushrooms are cooked in water together with either honey or sugar.

The Darkelfs keep slaves, which can be Humans, Lightelfs or sometimes even Dwarfs, although the stubborn Dwarfs are very likely escape after destroying a wall or they may just ignore orders. In rare cases, other Darkelfs can be taken prisoners after a raid on another castle and be forced to do the same manual labour as the other slaves. If a member of a clan fails to keep a promise, cannot pay for something or is in debt in any way to another Darkelf in the clan, s/he can work it off by becoming the personal servant to the Darkelf they owe. The amount of time the Darkelf has to serve might be agreed on when they brokered the deal or determined by the Lord/Lady after the deal has been broken. If a Darkelf tries to flee from this responsibility, does not perform her/his chores correctly, is lazy or disobeys orders then the time to be served will be increased. The indentured Darkelf is not regarded as a slave, and will keep her/his current rank and can still order the slaves around as before.

In battle, Darkelfs are known to ambush their foes and are not afraid of using poison or magic to gain advantage over their enemy. Darkelfs do not care how they win. Anything goes, and they find other races' sense of honor in battle to be puzzling.

Darkelf Heroes
You can choose to play as either a Darkelf female Skald or a Darkelf male Runemaster. We have talked about the Berserker and Runemaster in earlier dev diaries, if you wish to refresh your memory you can find them here:
Skald: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?772808-Runemaster-Development-Diary-11-The-Skald
Runemaster: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum...unemaster-Development-Diary-13-The-Runemaster

Darkelf Units
We decided that the Darkelf ranged units and the Skald should use a crossbow for their ranged attack. It was a decision taken based on adding more variety to the game and it looks cool, too.

Three unique units can be found in Svartalfheim and among the Darkelfs: the Wolf Witch, the Warg Rider and the Giant Beetle. We are still working on some of these names; I am most fond of “Varulfur” for the Wolf Witch and we are still looking for a name for the Giant Beetle. The Wolf Witch is a kind of werewolf - half woman, half wolf - whose mother changed into a werewolf during her pregnancy by using a Troll belt. The Warg Rider is a Darkelf mounted on a wolf, which the Darkelf has cared for since the wolf was a pup. The Giant Beetle is exactly that: an enormous beetle the Darkelfs have tamed to use in battle.

Screenshots and concept art

runemaster_dd26_battlefield.jpg
A battlefield with a couple of regular Darkelf Units, Warg Riders, Varulfur, Giant Beetle and the Darkelf Skald.

darkelf_hero_runemaster_dd13.jpg
Concept art of the Darkelf Runemaster.

The Darkelfs are a fascinating race, right? This was all we've got for this Monday, and you'll have to report back here the Monday after the next for more information about Runemaster. See you then!
 

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So where/how do the darkelfs get the slaves from other races? The traditional baby stealing habits of all elves?

So what sort of attacks are darkelfs most vulnerable to? Fire, magic, decapitation?

Yep, they steal them, but the Darkelfs would rather steal someone who doesn't need a lot of care before it can become a productive member of their society.
 

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So, it isn't the same sort of institutionalized slavery that existed in real life in the United States and Caribbean? Do slaves have any rights at all under the Darkelf system, and are they slaves for life? In these questions I of course refer only to the non-elf slaves.

Also, I haven't see the answer anywhere, but are elfs longer lived than the other races like they are in other games?

Kind of, yes. Not that many, no, and yes. The Darkelfs live about as long as the Dwarfs do, so about a hundred years.

Tea drinking dark elves :)

I had just read about kombucha when we started creating the various races, and thought that it would fit them perfectly, as many kinds of mushrooms grow in caves.

They look quite awesome, I know who I'll play as first (threat of Abnwtwtud's elfocidal tendencies notwithstanding...).

But what are their basic units? It's the first time you forgot to describe them.
There are archers, spearmen and swordsmen on the screen - how do the last two differ? (I suppose it's the standard 'ranged, melee, assault'?)

And is that an old design? She seems to have hair and she doesn't wield a crossbow (assuming she's a darkelf at all).
http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=114741&d=1410170566


Also... who's the horned person on the screen? :O

That's an old portrait that we no longer use. Adrenaline just started working on portraits again, maybe she knows more about why we changed it. The horned person? Do you mean the one on the right side of the screenshot? That is our Troll Runemaster.

How do they raise their wolves? Can wolves really live underground all their lives?

These ones can, they are descendant from wolves who took refuge in Svartalfheim after Fenrir was bound by the gods with the chain Gleipnir. The Darkelfs raise the wolves as we have raised dogs, but these have never lost their wolf spirit or been bred in order to create different breeds.
 

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It also just occurred to me about one of my earlier questions about Dark Elf weaknesses. Do races, or any creatures for that matter, have any weaknesses in general to various types of actions or magic in game?

That's probably a whole other dev diary, so you'll have to wait until that one ;)

Think my 1st character will be a dark elf skald. I prefer to think of them as pragmatic rather than dishonourable.

Definitely going to play as a Dark Elf Runemaster on my first time. Keep up the awesome work on this game devs.

Nice to hear that! :)
 

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Yes, I've meant her. So now I have to ask - do the other playable characters appear as NPCs (and/or opponents) in game? This screen depicts a fight between a Darkelf Skald and a Troll Runemaster. Is this only for internal testing, or if I play as a Darkelf Runemaster, will I meet eg. the bald human Berserker, the horned Troll Runemaster, or that beardy Dwarf lady Berserker?

Yes, you will meet them and perhaps fight them, depending on who you play as and your actions.

So she gives all her hair to the female dwarf? :p

:D No, the Darkelfs cannot grow hair because of reasons...

the darkelfs seam the most interesting to me. I can relate with their "no honer, just strategy" the slaves thing troubles me but this is the old times so yeah.

they will be my first race for sure. still not sure if I should support Loki or Thor...

I hope playing the game can convince you to join either side but Loki is the coolest, no matter what others think ;)

I was wondering about Dwarves versus Darkelves. I have definitely read about the question of whether they are the same creatures or not. I used it as a main story elemnt when running a Norse setting Are Magica game that I ran years ago.

The beetle is an interesting choice. Is there a Norse mythology reason for it, or is it just because it's underground and looks cool?

Underground and looks cool :)

Why "darkelfs"? I like the whole concept (history, classes, etc), but I can't get why you won't use "dark elves", or even Svartalfs. "Darkelfs" just sounds awful to me.

Dunno, it just stuck. I wanted Svartalfs first but was overruled.

ooh I really like these ones

they have a very clear motive for joining in with the ragnarokians

also living in a desolate enviroment means lower population numbers, which probably explains their affinity with caution

:)

YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

it's the damn death defying dark elves! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! awesome! i already made mine (well not really): http://th06.deviantart.net/fs70/PRE/i/2013/309/6/6/tes__dunmer_by_lilerilala2-d6t5r7a.png

Great, I believe it will be quite simple adding your portrait to the game if you wish to use it. She looks awesome :)
 

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Wait, wait, wait...

So, just to be clear, the other heroes are in the game, and you may run across them and have conflict with them?

So, my darkelf runemaster might run into the troll skald one day, and we discuss the ongoing problems in the world, and then we might decide to duke it out because I find out that the troll skald is serving Thor while I'm serving Loki?

So, I'm not the only 'hero' working to resolve the current crisis? Very interesting. Might encourage replays simply to see what your last character would be doing in the world without your guidance.

"Huh, it turns out the darkelf runemaster is a total jerk;. Not how I played it, but I guess that means it's time to rock..."

Yes.
 

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In Paradox's grand-strategy games you can easily switch countries. Can we switch the heroes we are playing? E.g. Secret Master's darkelf runemast meets this troll skald. Then Secret Master discovers that he would actually prefer to play this troll skald, because he messed up his darkelf. Could he then load the game as this troll skald?

No, that will not be possible.
 
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