Eladrin: The Seasonal Elves
Ever since they first appeared for 5e in Unearthed Arcana, Eladrin have been a point of contention in the D&D community. Are they too much, leaning into the “Mary Sue” space of TTRPGs, or just another fantasy race that can be done well with a little thought and effort?
Personally, I think they’re great -- I even play one in a new campaign I’m in. What first drew me to the race was their ability to change seasons and the possibilities for that to work with storytelling and character growth. With that in mind, I’d love to look into interesting ways to use the Eladrin seasons in your campaign.
Eladrin are technically a type of elf, but a little more… wild. Feywild, to be more specific. These elves never left the feywild, and as a result, they have a little more going on than even the High Elves. All elves are slender with sharp features, but the Eladrin take both of those traits to the next level, as well as having a glint of Feywild magic in their eyes.
The Feywild is described as a plane where nature has taken over, wild and capricious and infused with magic those from the Material Plane find challenging to understand. The Eladrin are very similar to the Feywild in that regard; they are generally chaotic neutral, with a primal connection to the land around them that manifests in physical and magical representations of seasons.
Each Eladrin is aligned with a season, which is visibly apparent in their appearance. However, that season can change throughout the Eladrin’s life. Some may keep the same season their entire life, while others may change theirs as often as daily. Mechanically, when playing an Eladrin, you can change your season any time you take a long rest.
Aside from aesthetics (which we all know we take into account, possibly more than we should!), why would you want to change your character’s seasonal association?
As was made official with the recent introduction of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes into the D&D canon, each season comes with certain traits and moods. Spring is bright, happy, enthusiastic, and perhaps a bit hedonistic. Summer is bold, energetic, strong, and sometimes a little too aggressive. Autumn is peaceful, friendly, and giving but maybe a bit too trusting of others. Winter is far more reserved and pessimistic, but that pessimism sometimes means being far more prepared for the worst than other characters.
The season that your Eladrin is associated with will affect their mood, but that can also work in the opposite direction: the attitude and general outlook of your Eladrin can also determine what season they choose to be.
As an example, the Eladrin bard I play started in the summer season. He had green-tinged skin and was very outgoing and energetic. In our last session, the party encountered some friendly forest-dwelling folk who shared their bounty with us and provided a safe place to rest before a large battle. He was so touched by their friendliness and willingness to help that he had turned to Autumn when he woke the next morning.
It is important to note that the season you choose will also affect your abilities -- each season gives your Fey Step ability a special little add-on, allowing you to charm, frighten, or damage your foes or teleport your friends. While you can alter your season with an upcoming battle in mind, I prefer to keep the seasons strictly story-based and not change for tactical reasons.
The above example is just one of many ways that the story can affect what season your Eladrin is, but I like to take a step back and look at the broader implications of what those seasons can mean.
It’s hard to plan for character growth in something like D&D -- it’s collaborative storytelling, and you can never know where your Quest Master (what we call Dungeons Masters) is going to lead you. Despite that, many of us have long-term goals in mind when it comes to our characters. Maybe they start off as selfish, and we hope for them to be dedicated to their friends by the end of their story. Perhaps they have a past that makes them angry and aggressive, and we hope for them to find peace.
You can easily use the seasons your Eladrin is aligned with as a physical, visible symbol of where they are in their journey. Your bitter, angry Eladrin could start off as Summer, full of aggression and fury and stubbornness, but could slowly work through the other seasons as the character progresses and changes throughout the story. Theoretically, it could even be an unconscious change -- they just wake up one morning covered in the oranges and reds of Autumn and possibly have to explain some things to their party members.
No matter how you choose to make use of your Eladrin’s seasons, it is without a doubt a dynamic storytelling element that you and your Quest Master (QM) can have fun with.
Have you ever played an Eladrin? How did you decide which season to be, and when it was appropriate to change? Tell us about it below!