• Runemaster - Developer diary 26 - Race: Darkelfs

    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.

    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:

    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:
    Berserker: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/...-The-Berserker
    Runemaster: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/...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

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

    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!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Runemaster - Developer diary 26 - Race: Darkelfs started by SolSara View original post