Bukana Illustrated: Spirit Elves

This is the second part of a series within a series. We’re going to look at how we adapted somewhat obscure creatures from Philippine myth into a player bloodline (‘subrace’). Last time, we looked at Daphne Gragera’s spread of spirit masks. Today, we’ll explore the elves themselves.

The Spirit Elves (Tamahaling/Mahomanay) are the children of twin nature deities, Inay, the hunter and Amay, the cultivator. When a spirit elf from either tribe reaches adulthood, that elf undertakes a spirit walk where their minds enter the Ethereal Plane. There, they are met by their patron who assumes a visage distinct for each individual. Each of these is generally grouped into aspects of each god. For instance, the Nurturer, the Venger, and the Stalker are all aspects of Inay known to the Tamahaling. Once the young elf returns from their journey, they fashion a mask for themselves depicting their guiding aspect. That mask is then imbued with divine energy and bound to the elf. These are “Spirit Masks” and each holds power when worn by its owner. It is one of the benefits of the Spirit Elf bloodline. The Tamahaling and Mahomanay are generally reclusive folk, and these masks are not understood by outsiders. This has led to many superstitions and misunderstandings that claim that what they see as the “masculine” masks of the Mahomanay indicates that they are all men and that the “feminine” look of the Tamahaling masks shows them to be women. The reality is, that like many elven cultures of Bukana, the Spirit Elves are largely gender-fluid and pansexual, but even that is far from universal and individuals have the freedom to find their own truth.

Daphne began by making some sketches of what she always considered Philippine elves to look like:

Using these as a starting point of reference, we went about making these forest wee folk into a more fantasy adventuring player option. Daphne made them a bit more human-like, while maintaining the creepy/cute.

Since elves are generally medium-sized, we went back one more time, scaling them up and modifying them further.

Now, all we had left to do is get these forest friends colored and masked up. You may remember these masks from the initial sketches from last time.

You did it again, Daphne!.

Stay tuned for next time so you can see the fight scene we put these two elves into. In the meantime, check out Daphne’s impressive work at Artstation.

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