Saturday, June 29, 2013

Are Tikbalang Elves?

I was recently surprised (in a good way) to learn that Trese komiks had its own entry in TVtropes. The cases of the occult investigator Alexandra Trese is a window to Philippine folklore that is accessible to the general public and I highly recommend reading it if you can find a copy. But anyway, I was looking through some of the tropes that the komiks series embody, and was intrigued at one of them. Particularly, they listed the tikbalang under the trope "our elves are different."

Let's take a quick look at this comparison, shall we?

Art by James Macaspac

Tikbalang: Guardians of Kalikasan started with the following paragraph:

Like many fey creatures, the mysterious tikbalangs are forest guardians that one will only see if they allow you to. But unlike their gnomish or elven cousins, they have little reason to hide their presence from those that offend them. Though they [are known] to employ deceptive magic to ward off the many gates to Kalikasan, they are just as likely to kick a trespasser out of their demesne.
It was easy to see that I wanted the tikbalangs to be seen alongside other fey creatures from the start. Like the gnomes and the elves, they are a long-lived race, had a natural penchant for magic, and are naturally at home to Faerie. At the same time, I wanted to distance them from the passivity of other fey creatures: Traditionally, these guys wooed or kidnapped girls, or else were known to engage in wrestling matches with men that would last through the night. They couldn't just be the type of creatures that watched things unfold, which is one of the main reasons why I think it warranted its own race.

But then I also remember porting over the tikbalangs to my 4E Dark Sun games: There, I decided to turn tikbalangs into an elven tribe that was mutated by that creepy tower East of Nibenay (the name escapes me at the moment.) Since that setting had no horses, the description of elongated faces and hairy bodies were so anathema to the concept of an elf that my players thought they were demons at first. Still, the runner aspect of the Athasian elves fit the tikbalangs well, so when they finally realized what kind of creatures they were everything clicked into place naturally.

The basic gist of my rambling is that elves and tikbalangs are indeed naturally comparable. So in a sense, they can be elves, but they are elves of an entirely different nature. Our elves are different.

Nosfecatu Publishing will likely still consider tikbalangs its own race once the third party details of the Next edition of Dungeons and Dragons come out. But until then, they can be easily integrated into playtests as a sort of elven subrace.

Just about all of the elven racial traits fit the tikbalangs. The preferred weapons of the tikbalang Makabo (of Skyworld) surely fall within elven sensibilities, and its not that farfetched to think that tikbalangs trance just like elves. The only thing that wouldn't work is free spirit - traditionally, tikbalangs are adept at charms but are easily charmed themselves. My suggestion is to remove the racial trait altogether, but if you want to be creative you can also give them advantage on such spells when casting it while giving them disadvantage against these same type of spells. If that doesn't sound too sensible, a third idea is to remove free spirit but give them a static (+1) bonus to spell save DCs when they employ such enchantments.

As a subrace, tikbalangs would have the ability to endure better other elves, and this would reflect on its ability scores. They are also swift like wood elves, but they will not be as stealthy as they are. Instead, they would have some ability to traverse natural terrain that are otherwise difficult for other races.

What About the Goldstrand?

This is all just a very basic idea of how to incorporate the tikbalangs as PCs, and for the most part the innate weakness of the goldstrand may not be suitable for all game tables. It would make more sense in a monstrous version of the tikbalang.

With that being said, a very rough idea is to treat the goldenstrand as a magic item, if given, that allows the wielder to forego a ring slot for some measure of protection. Perhaps it is a resistance to mundane weapons, or maybe even an ability to transfer free spirit to an ally. Such a tikbalang could have free spirit like all elves by default, but loses it if the goldstrand is plucked and would even have disadvantage on charisma saves against anyone holding it.