Splatter-Elf Week Day 1: Introduction to Splatter-Elf

What is “Splatter-Elf?”

A term coined by Philip Overby, Splatter-Elf is a sub-genre of Grimdark fantasy (which itself has a great definition at KnowYourMeme), taken to weird and unusual extremes. Philip's treatise on the subgenre can be found here, but here's my short interpretation:

Splatter-Elf is high fantasy with all the shiny edges filed off. There is no beauty, no hope, no good, and lots and lots of blood. Like A LOT of blood. It's basically the main element. If blood could be the protagonist, the antagonist and the denouement of a story, that might be enough blood to satisfy the requirements of Splatter-Elf.

Of course, plenty of fantasy is bloody. Splatter-Elf requires a little bit more. The grim grittiness shoots well past the bleak moodiness Grimdark until it hits a sort of ridiculous level of camp. Is it supposed to be tongue-in-cheek? Sort of. In my opinion, the epitome of Splatter-Elf would be a story where the creator was aiming for dark and gritty, missed by a fucking mile, and ended up being hilarious in his attempt to be serious.

Army of Darkness is a fair example and precursor of Splatter-Elf. It's not perfect, but it's close. Bruce Campbell is a little too goofy to be a true Splatter-Elf hero (remember, true Splatter-Elf tries to be serious, and its heroes certainly don't aim to be heroic). If say, Elric of Melbibon√© was the protagonist of Army of Darkness, then we'd really be in business. 

What is “Splatter-Elf: The Roleplaying Game?”

It started out as a joke. Philip challenged people to come up with examples of his new genre, and I thought I would whip up a few fake character classes for a blog post. As I made them I had to tweak a few rules, which gave me the idea to insert some other rules I had always wanted to put in a game, which required me to change and define other rules. Suddenly I was creating a brand new game without really intending to.

(Aside: Somewhere along here when researching Grimdark RPGs I discovered that Lamentations of the Flame Princess is waaaay more fucked up then I realized, but it's an awesome game and was a big inspiration for some of the stuff in Splatter-Elf: The RPG.)

So the Splatter-Elf RPG ended up being a quasi-OSR game with some nu-skool elements thrown in built on a modified d20 base system (my game uses d12 instead of d20). It is set in the dark fantasy world that Philip has started to create, a world where dragons are mindless, feral engines of mass destructions, wizards are blood thirsty cultists and elves are heartless murdering sociopaths.

I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone with a single brain dump of material, so I plan on revealing the game, rules and setting bit by bit over the next few days.  Bear with me and be sure to keep checking back for more gooey, gory goodness.  To get you started, today’s subject is the game’s first playable character class, the namesake of the game and the genre, THE SPLATTER-ELF!

Just a note: Though the game rules are mine, borrowed and modified from many other games, the name "Splatter-Elf" and many of the place names and other material you'll read over the next few days were created or inspired by Philip and are being used without his input. If he has a problem with it then I will of course modify a few things down the road. But for now, this is meant entirely as a sincere ode to his ideas and I hope it will receive his blessing.

Character Class: Splatter-Elf

Art by Arsinoes
In most worlds elves are the defenders of the forest and the keepers of knowledge, magic and culture.  In Groteskia, they are called taur-en-nuru, the "death in the woods," and they ain't got time for protecting shit.

The taur-en-nuru, called "splatter-elves" by the other races of Groteskia, have seen the direction the wind is blowing and have decided not to fight against it, but to ride along its gusts and squalls like a razor-sharp leaf slicing through history.  If the younger races won't respect the ancient forests and the ways of the Old Ones, so be it.  Let the mewling babes of the New World see what the Old Ones can do, and let them be weaned on their own blood to satiate their lack of faith and foresight.

The "civilized" races of Groteskia fear the splatter-elves, as they stalk silently through the trees of the land like violent ghosts, striking quickly, mercilessly and without provocation. Their motivations and goals are their own, not to be shared with those the deem unworthy (which is pretty much everyone). Splatter-elves usually travel alone or in small packs of their own kind, but occasionally they can be found in groups with mixed races serving mercenary ends if the price is right and as long as their comrades are not completely worthless (a tall order by splatter-elf standards).

Splatter-elves are about the same height as humans, but are leaner and made of wiry muscle. Their long pointed ears are very sensitive, both to sound and physical contact. For many elves their ears actually act as erogenous zones. With this in mind it is somewhat odd that many elves choose to wear numerous piercings in their ears.  Splatter-elves can live incredibly long lives but rarely do so, usually succumbing to wounds and injuries sustained in combat long before reaching the end of their “natural” lifespan, whatever that may be.  They claim to need less sleep than “mortals,” resting only for a few hours a night in a supposed trance-like, meditative state, though their pallor and dark-ringed eyes lead many to question exactly how much sleep they really need.

Player-character splatter-elves are similar to Fighter/Thief/Magic-users, able to wield a wide variety of skills they have mastered over their long lives. 

Attribute Modifiers: Dexterity +1, Wisdom +1
Movement Rate: 30' (6 squares)
Weapons Allowed: Any, but they prefer one handed weapons and bows, as they need a free hand to cast their spells. 
Armor Allowed:  Any, but rarely wear anything heavier than leather as bulkier gear interferes with their stealthy abilities and spellcasting.  They don’t usually use shields for the same reason. They say they prefer not to use protective gear because they do not fear the weapons of mortal foes, though this stems entirely from their own arrogance as they can bleed and die as easily as any other creature.
Skills Allowed at First Level:  Skullduggery (DEX), Tinker (DEX), Occult (INT), History (INT), Acuity (WIS), Bushwhacker (WIS), Carnality (CHA), Guile (CHA)
Skill Bonuses: Acuity +1
Magical Abilities: Splatter-elves use Sanguine Sorcery, which will be described later this week.
Backstab: Splatter-elves are really, really good at stabbing people in the back. If a splatter-elf surprises an opponent or creeps up behind him unseen (usually through careful use of his Skullduggery skill), the elf attacks against the victim’s Fortitude (instead of AC), bypasses any damage resistance from the target's armour, and inflicts extra damage equal to the splatter-elf's level.

The Splatter Elf

Tomorrow: Character Creation and the Bloodlust Berserker!

Official Splatter-Elf logo by Philip Overby.


  1. This is freaking awesome! It's cool to see something I came up with on a lark spawn an RPG. I'd love to throw out some ideas for classes or races if you don't mind at some point. That would be rad! (I feel like this is a throw-back to campy 80s schlock but grimmer and darker. So dark, you can't see shit!) :D

    1. As I said in the PM, I would to collaborate so throw away with those ideas!

      Also "So dark you can't see shit!" should be the game's tag line.


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