Scribblenauts Unlimited

The Universe According To Scribblenauts

Who is the strongest being of all time, real or imagined? It’s everything vs. everything in the ultimate Scribblenauts Unlimited battle royale.

By Ryan Smith • October 9, 2013

To cope with a relatively meaningless existence lived in a world of chaos, human beings desire order. It’s the unspoken source of our love for say, the NBA Playoffs, the Miss America pageant, or the Oscars. They each provide a socially approved framework from which we derive a consensus on who or what is No. 1. But what’s been missing for thousands of years of human history has been a way to calculate the answer to perhaps the most important and comprehensive question of them all: Who Is The Strongest Being Of All Time, Real Or Imagined?

Many of the world’s religions, of course, try to assert their god(s) as the ultimate boss of everything. (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” says the Christian God of the Bible. That’s God 1, All Other Gods 0, if you’re keeping score at home.) But these claims always arise in books written by the deities’ own followers, which is pretty convenient. Clashes of titans are also the storyline of every other issue in superhero comics, but those fights usually result in unsatisfying draws. That’s why we need an unbiased adjudicator—the USA Today Division I Coaches Poll for the entire universe.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Enter Scribblenauts Unlimited. It’s advertised as a game in which players can type tens of thousands of nouns and modifying adjectives and watch as their words are brought to life: Type “hippopotamus,” and you get one. The game claims to conjure anything into virtual existence as if by some kind of word genie (incidentally, an Aladdin-like wish-fulfiller appears when you enter that word), and you use this power to solve a series of puzzle-based challenges.

But the game’s true genius isn’t revealed until you ignore the star-obsessed hero, Maxwell, and his pathological need to aid the hapless characters he meets. Instead, for insights into the pecking order of the universe, you must whimsically conjure up an unlimited supply of men, monsters, and mythological beings ranging from (A)nubis to (Z)ombie and watch as they battle each other of their own accord, deathmatch-style.

And so, like Dante diligently cataloging the different levels of hell, I assigned myself the task of observing and documenting the cosmology of Scribblenauts. Here, then, are the results of my investigation—the Unofficial Seven Circles Of Power:

Circle 1: Forest Folk

Scribblenauts Unlimited

In the fantastical fiction of genteel British men of the last century, notably J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, primitive creatures of the woodland are strong and brave, but simple—untainted by the ills of modern civilization. It was a way of depicting peoples like Native Americans in the mold of the “noble savage” while also sticking to palatable white faces. Scribblenauts sees through the crypto-racist business. Elves, satyrs, centaurs, and other mythological people can be defeated by ordinary unarmed athletes, martial artists, boxers and, ironically, Indian chiefs. Even a disgruntled mathematician takes out a quarter of a female satyr’s health bar. Granted, brownies are hard to kill, but that’s because their butterfly-like wings let them take sudden flight from danger.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Notable deathmatch: elf vs. dwarf. For fantasy nerds, the question of who would win between these two fabled races is older and more heated than “Did Han shoot first?”. The elves have the definitive upper hand in Scribblenauts, even though they’re represented by fey, unisex creatures wearing green tank tops and a flower nestled in their hair while the dwarves are burly dudes fitted with heavy armor and impressive facial hair. That’s true even when both are equipped with their token weapon of choice—a bow and an axe. Sorry, short guys. Winner: elf.

Circle 2: Human Beings

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Stripped of all of the tools and technology of destruction we’ve created over the centuries—from swords to nukes—regular old humanity is relatively weak on the physical front. All we’ve got in our arsenal are these fragile fleshy instruments in the form of fists and feet to inflict blunt force trauma. Some people are undoubtedly more capable than others in the art of fisticuffs, and in the world of Scribblenauts, a lover is easily bested by a fighter, and a boxer trained specifically in the art of inflicting pain tops a physically nimble gymnast. Still, even a Mike Tyson lookalike with bulging biceps cowers in whimpering fear when he’s faced with anyone from the next circle of beings.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Notable deathmatch: Republican vs. Democrat. What better way to stop the paralyzing war of words between our nation’s two political parties than an old-fashioned gridlock-free throwdown? Well, when I typed in “Republican,” a bespectacled, pantsuited Sarah Palin lookalike appeared out of thin air. Entering the word Democrat summons a Barack Obama clone in a suit and tie. (In an interesting bit of accidental political commentary, all of the Republicans are white, and the Democrats are black.) When these two first encounter each other, conversation bubbles containing a pictograph of the White House appear above their heads to indicate they’re perhaps debating the role of government. That’s unrealistically civil, so I used Scribblenauts Unlimited’s much-touted adjective power to make them “angry” or “disgruntled” politicians. When you do this, the Republican murders the Democrat faster than you can say “filibuster.” Perhaps they imbued the Palin clone with the power of a real mama grizzly? Winner: GOP.

Circle 3: Minor Gods And Monsters

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Goblins and gremlins were probably scary stuff to wide-eyed children listening to old wives’ tales while huddled around the fireplace—at least, that’s how I perceive Ye Olden Days. These impish monsters are lightweights, however, in the grand scheme of Scribblenauts. So are orcs and ogres, villains ripped from the pages of a Dungeons and Dragons monster compendium. Sasquatch might be treated as a fearsome creature with a chip on his shoulder in the Jack Links commercials, but in Scribblenauts, Bigfoot is all bark and no bite—running in fear at the slightest provocation. Likewise, without a secret curse at his disposal, the mummy is just a lonesome ancient wrapped from head to toe in decaying bandages—not much to worry about.

Thor lacks both his hammer Mjornir and his long flowing blonde locks as depicted by Marvel Comics. In Scribblenauts, the bearded Norse god looks more like a long-lost member of the band Iron And Wine. It’s probably why he flees from most battles—better to run and live another day to write an indie rock ballad. Some of the female mythological creatures, on the other hand, should probably get their own tier. They’re not particularly strong, but they’re wise enough to go after the patriarchy instead of slitting each other’s throats. I conjured up a succubus, a harpy, a siren, and a sphinx; they all ignored each other and tried to gang up on Maxwell instead.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Notable deathmatch: ghost vs. goblin. In theory, it’s an alliterative match made in ’80s video game heaven, but the ghost and goblin in Scribblenauts appear about as fearsome as two kids dressed in homemade Halloween costumes. The translucent ghost suggests a distant cousin to the sheet-wearing ghouls in Pac-Man, and its green-skinned opponent is a slightly more menacing version of a Keebler elf. I half-expected the ghost to have a mobility problem in a fight because of the clumsiness of wearing a white sheet, but it still dispatched the goblin in a head-to-head matchup with more than half of its four hearts left. Winner: ghost.

Circle 4: Monsters Of The Midway

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Give the ancient Greeks credit—they knew that no opposing army could resist the allure of a rather large wooden gift horse. Plus, they thought up some wildly creative creatures for their epic poems and stories, even if some feel like the result of Homer playing Mad Libs with random human and animal body parts. Scribblenauts didn’t do the Cyclops any favors—re-imagining Ulysses’ giant foe as a tiny blue-skinned fella with a fauxhawk, easily bested by other beings in this category.

The mighty Minotaur, double the size of the Cyclops and probably relieved that there’s no oppressive maze to hem him in, charges through most opponents like a bull in a shop that hadn’t yet been invented in 200 B.C. Even stronger is the Cerberus, the hellhound of Hades, who appears in the game as a three-headed canine that resembles a pit bull. Speaking of heads, I can’t make heads or tails out of the Colossus, which according to my rough estimation is part statuesque Colossus Of Rhodes, part Colossus of X-Men, and part floor lamp.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Notable deathmatch: shark vs. lion. Of all the real-life animals in the game, only the lion and the shark qualify as mid-tier powers. The King Of The Jungle tops the Beast Of The Deep, but it’s an unfair fight because you can’t host the battle underwater. Typing in the words “ocean,” “lake,” or “pond” only summons common animal species from those bodies of water, and “aquarium” brings a tiny fish tank or a Sea World ripoff to life. And Scribblenauts does not recognize the phrase “Giant Undersea Battle Arena.” But alas, do not weep for the Great White—it still gets a whole special week on the Discovery Channel while the lion is saddled with a maudlin Broadway musical. Winner: push.

Circle 5: The Undead

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The zombie isn’t traditionally recognized as an especially powerful monster all by himself. Slow, stupid, and lacking any powers beyond a lethal bite, individual zombies are dispatched with relative ease in popular fiction—it’s only when they gang up that they get you. This game’s strain of the walking dead, however, has the overpowering ability to turn anything into a zombie instantly by contact. Add this to the fact that Scribblenauts fights favor melee attacks, and you have one of the more fearsome forces in the game. Meanwhile, the vampire (here in both male and female varieties) can’t transform into a bat or suck blood, but it does have a lethal left hook. That helps the vampire triumph over the Norse creation-myth god Ymir, represented here as blue-skinned giant who emits a constant flow of ice chunks from his head. In fact, the vampire is nigh-unbeatable: Not even an archangel or Satan can stop Count Dracula.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Notable deathmatch: vampire vs. slime monster. It’s easy to see why the slime monster is underrated. It’s a slow, autonomous mound of snot that creeps up on you. Whereas other classic matinee monsters like the werewolf and the vampire have suddenly become prime leading-man material in teen dramas, it’s hard to imagine the ’50s movie The Blob remade today with a mopey, teenage girl (played by Selena Gomez) who falls for a hunky amorphous slime monster (voiced by Zac Efron). But consider that a plasma-state being would be extremely difficult to defeat in a fight, especially without a freeze ray handy. Scribblenauts wisely acknowledges this. as its slime creature narrowly edges out Hollywood’s “it” monster in hand-to-jelly combat. Winner: slime monster.

Circle 6: Giant Beasts

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Sometimes size really does matter. I constructed a murderer’s row of beefed-up creatures for this category, most of whom coincidentally live in the ocean and have serpentine-like physical features: Hydra, Leviathan, kraken, dragon. (It’s too bad that Godzilla is trademarked—otherwise, he’s a shoo-in.) With its octopus-like head, malformed wings, and humanoid arms and legs, H.P. Lovecraft’s hideous creation Cthulhu lies somewhere between the Kraken, a dragon, and a really tall dude—but the human part must be its downfall because it can’t hang in a fight with the other aforementioned monsters.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Notable deathmatch: kraken vs. Leviathan. They say never to bring a knife to a gun fight, the idea being that sometimes it’s good to bear arms if everyone else is bearing them, too. That’s also true in the battle between these two behemoths—someone should have told the sea serpent Leviathan not to bring zero arms to a fight with a creature that has eight of them. Winner: kraken.

Circle 7: Stone Cold

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Friedrich Nietzsche is known for saying “God is dead,” but most people leave out the rest of the quote, which is “if He doesn’t bring a hand mirror to a fight against Medusa.” The most powerful beings in the Scribblenauts universe are Medusa and the basilisk. They’re both mythological monsters who can turn others into stone just by looking at them—and that includes God and Death. We’re used to living in a modern world that institutes checks and balance systems to keep any single entity from gaining too much dominance, but in the upper reaches of the Scribblenauts cosmos, there is no paper, rock, and scissors—only rock. God save us all. Or, in His absence, someone who has a mirror on hand.

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67 Responses to “The Universe According To Scribblenauts

  1. Citric says:

    God looks kind of like Kenny Rogers.

    • George_Liquor says:

      I’d be bummed if He didn’t.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I wonder what It would look like if It was a She.
        Somehow I imagine Retta from Parks and Recreation… odd.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Well, that would explain a lot about the universe.
          Incidentally, it looks like the Gameological Linkinator goes a little nuts when this particular topic is broached:

          Michelle Duggar Reveals Dark Secret: ‘God Is Convicting Me About My Anger Problem’ (Radar Online)

          20 Stars Who Left Scientology (Hollyscoop)

          ABRAHAM and ISRAEL; HEIRS OF THE NOAHIC PROMISE  (blogtalkradio)

          You Control Your Feelings – Whispers From Your Soul (Drayton Boylston)

        • Sarapen says:

          God looks like a mute Alanis Morisette.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Welcome to the party, Citric. We’ve been waiting for you.

    • MathleticDepartment says:


    • SamPlays says:

      Someone had to fill the void because even Kenny Rogers doesn’t look like Kenny Rogers any more.

    • Pun-Expected Dave says:

      I always thought Kenny Rogers looked more like Santa than God.

  2. rvb1023 says:

    If I ever owned this game, this is about all I would do.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      You’d be surprised how quickly even this gets old. Lovely game, no long-term appeal.

      • Cloks says:

        I think it’s one of those games where it has incredibly long lasting appeal but only to a very small niche. I can only play each new game for a few hours before getting incredibly bored, but my sister is perfectly content with it being the only DS game that she owns and has somehow played it for an untold number of hours.

      • indy2003 says:

        Yeah, I was in love with it for the first couple of hours, liked it well enough for the next couple of hours and then suddenly just didn’t feel like playing it ever again. I can see how some might feel differently and manage to get a long-lasting experience out of it (especially if they’re a younger player), but it mostly seems like an idea which seems a lot more fun when you aren’t actually playing the game.

      • rvb1023 says:

         Agreed entirely. The original Scribblenauts is still one of the most boring things I have ever played. I think after I solved 3 levels in a row by summoning Cthulhu I asked myself what’s the point.

        • caspiancomic says:

           I had a basically identical experience. I was really hyped for Scribblenauts when it first came out, but after playing it for an hour or so I learned that basically every level could be solved with a jetpack and a length of rope, and that any “creativity” would be for its own sake, not for the purpose of solving an otherwise insurmountable problem. It’s really the same problem I have with sandboxes: when told I can do whatever I want, suddenly I don’t want to do anything. There’s no logical reason to choose one course of action over another once you’ve already found the most efficient solution- choosing a more complicated option just because you could think it up is basically just showing off.

          See, I have a couple of theories about creativity in games (that I might try to spin off into an article down the line.) One is that creativity is best promoted, at least in games, not by telling the player that anything is possible, but by telling them that nothing is possible. By presenting a challenge as highly difficult or impossible, it forces the player to come up with all sorts of potential solutions, then test them for viability. Think about the optional boss fights in FFVII- one is on a strict countdown and punishes you for every piece of Materia you have equipped, the other can permanently eject your party members from the fight and prevent the remainders from running away. There’s a reason these guys are optional superbosses- these are challenges you’ve never had to overcome before. But they also force you to get creative in order to succeed. Whoever discovered that entering the Ruby Weapon fight with your comrades already dead must have been some kind of mad strategic genius.

          Another idea? Fostering creativity is about limiting a player’s toolset, not expanding it. In Portal you have one tool, sometimes two, but you’re expected to solve multiple puzzles of increasing complexity and difficulty. How creative would you have had to get if it was considered a perfectly viable solution for Chell could summon a jetpack out of thin air and fly directly to the exit?

        • rvb1023 says:

           @caspiancomic:disqus Yeah, pretty much. While there are some games I admire for their openness at the design level (EVE is the only one I can think of off the top of my head) your comment for creativity being the result of limited tool sets hit the nail on the head.

          The comparison to FFVII is pretty apt as well, the only reason I really play JRPG’s anymore (Besides the occasional gem) is because turn-based combat allows for wildly different variations about how combat works. Imagine if Xenoblade had played like Valkyria Chronicles and vice versa? The games would be entirely different. With games as open as Scribblenauts the game loses almost all sense of identity except as that one game where I summoned Batman to awkwardly walk into a dragon for a few minutes.

        • Dijonase says:

          The point is to think up interesting and ridiculous solutions to the problems the game sets up for you. Sure, you could just type in “jetpack” and knock through 90% of the tasks, but where’s the fun in that?

          I’ve played Scrubblenauts: Unlimited (or whatever it’s called, it’s something like that) and while it’s definitely short and can be beaten pretty easily with a few simple items, you really need to color outside the lines (so to speak) to really get the full experience. And if that’s not for you, that’s cool, too.

        • Pun-Expected Dave says:

          @caspiancomic:disqus : I heartily agree. The best way to foster creativity is to set limitations and boundaries. Some people are instinctively capable of creating genius in a vacuum, but most need something to focus on in order to get the juices flowing.

          And it’s not just in games either. For example, in a creative writing class I took once, one of our first assignments was to write a short scene in which one character has a red box and a second character is trying to talk the first into giving the red box to them within a certain time limit. When it came time to share stories, everyone had a very unique take. Some were comedic, some were tragic, some were suspenseful, but no one in the class had writer’s block.

      • Merve says:

        Honestly, I don’t see that as a bad thing. It’s like most games in that case. It was fun for the 7 or 8 hours it took to beat, but I haven’t felt any compulsion to go back to it (aside from today, because of this article).

        It’s definitely a game where you have to make your own fun. Part of the joy is in making up needlessly convoluted solutions to puzzles. Example: instead of creating a ladder to reach a kite stuck in a tree, why not make the kite magnetic, and then make a giant magnetic giraffe to retrieve it for you?

      • DrZaloski says:

        Scribblenauts has always been that game that I love to death and never buy because I know I’ll get bored with it in just a few days. I’d love to support the idea and what they’re doing, but the repetitiveness keeps me away.

      • needlehacksaw says:

         It does make for a surprisingly robust drinking game, though, especially on the iPad. Make sure everybody is already wasted a good bit, then fire it up, preferably on the very first level, where all you have to do is reach the Starite on top of the tree.

        Now, everybody has to take turns and try to come up with the most absurd solution to the level they can think of, only rule: it has to work.
        (For example, I once won a round by posing a female badger on one side of the tree, and a lovestruck, burning, male badger on the other one. Worked like a charm.) Then, all of you decide whose solution was the least imaginative one, and that person has to drink.

        It’s actually one of the rare drinking games where getting more drunk does not necessarily make you play worse, come to think of it. (Except for possible spelling troubles.)

        Heck, I like it enough that I have played it on my own at times.

    • CrabNaga says:

      When I played Scribblenauts Remixed, I spent an embarrassingly large amount of time trying to come up with the most fearsome and ridiculous creatures. Inciting an epic battle between an “invincible fast metallic atomic angry flying flaming insane colossal dragon” and regular old God was fun to watch.

      • WorldCivilizations says:

        I’ve got Scribblenauts Remix on the iPhone. It’s the only one I’ve played, so I don’t know how the others are, but it’s definitely the most disappointing iOS game I’ve purchased. The make-anything mechanic is, like, really really cool, but it’s used in the service of puzzles that seems aimed at about a 8-year-old audience. “Can you make five blue things?” Ugh. 

        But I did like repeatedly playing a few levels – like the one level where you protect the people from the zombies, trying to dispatch the zombies creatively; the level is a good example of how you can find lots of different solutions, which is fun, but really there are so many solutions that the puzzle is trivial (just put a “deadly speedbump” in front of the zombies and they’ll happily march onto it and… die).

        • CrabNaga says:

          I agree that the actual levels themselves are kind of dumb; the lasting appeal is in the challenges you give yourself. In that way, Scribblenauts is like the world’s best action figure set.

  3. Merve says:

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read in a while. Nice article, Ryan!

    In my playthrough of the game, I found that the best way to wreak havoc was to make liberal use of the adjectives “rabid” and “magnetic.” You end up with a mass of animals stuck together, all trying to bite each other to death. And yes, you can make inanimate objects rabid. Rabid tacos are terrifying.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      Giving life to inanimate objects is definitely a highlight of the game. “Feisty” is a great adjective from what I remember because it makes objects sort of perturbed but not outright aggressive.

    • Citric says:

      So you essentially created a Squirrel King?

    • CrabNaga says:

      I thought that if you gave an inanimate object a trait generally reserved for something that breathes, it would just get a speech bubble that personifies that trait and would start hopping around. This was in Remixed, though, not Unlimited.

      • Merve says:

        I just fired up Unlimited to test this out. Rabid tacos will indeed chase you around and try to kill you. Then I got sidetracked and started pitting various rabid foods against each other. A rabid taco is no match for a rabid hamburger, but a rabid hamburger can be defeated by a rabid onion, which can in turn be defeated by rabid hoagie. I forgot to test if the transitive property holds, though.

  4. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    If Death is killed, does that mean nothing else dies?  Can Death even die?


  5. zerocrates says:

    How is that mirror supposed to defeat Medusa when it’s clearly rotated 90 degrees in the wrong direction? Unless we’re meant to believe that the sides of the frame also have unseen mirrors on them, a claim which seems to be, I think you’ll agree, highly dubious.

    I’m beginning to think Scribblenauts isn’t fully committed to realism.

  6. signsofrain says:

    I enjoy riding fearsome monsters. Saddle Cthulu, give him a dose of ether, and when he wakes up he’s docile as a kitten, ready to serve as a fearsome-faced tiny-winged taxi/battle minion.

  7. Juan_Carlo says:

    I feel like an idiot now.  I’ve always avoided Scribblenauts because I assumed it was one of those shitty, physics, drawing games where you draw stuff to solve puzzles.  I had no idea it generated content based on nouns + adjectives.  This just went to the top of my Steam wishlist.

  8. Girard says:

    Godzilla is out, but I wonder what you’d get if you typed in ‘kaiju’… Maybe Godzilla’s non-union equivalent would pop out of the ether?

  9. Swampgas_Man says:

    You left out Chthulhu — He was even in the Wii demonstration.  Any word on Nyarlathotep?

  10. James says:

     “the battle between these two behemoths”
    But did you try Behemoth? He’s in the same book as Leviathan.

  11. dreadguacamole says:

     Great article!

     I love these games, and so does my son. He doesn’t know how to write yet, so when I’m not around he creates things by typing in gibberish and then selecting a random entry from the suggestions the game puts up. I’ll often return to find the level he was on got… pretty weird.

  12. ka1iban says:

    Darkseid’s the most powerful, right? Or maybe the Anti-Monitor? …oh, *Unlimited*, not Unmasked

    • SamPlays says:

      Between Marvel and DC, it’s arguable that Galactus is the most powerful as both a corporeal entity (which is only perceived) and a non-corporeal energy that literally and figuratively consumes everything. The best anyone can do is prevent him from eating a planet for lunch. 

      • Sarapen says:

        I remember a Suvudu matchup which ended with Unicron beating Galactus. This is obviously complete bullshit, but apparently there are more Transformers fans than Marvel fans voting.

      • NickHanover says:

        Eh, Galactus got taken out relatively easily in Annihilation. I think technically either the Beyonder or Korvac is more powerful; the latter even stole power from Galactus in his titular saga. This is if we’re not counting any of the Elders of the Universe or, in the case of DC, the Spectre.

  13. Ryan Smith says:

    Thanks guys, this is just an excerpt from my upcoming 800-page book based on all my findings. I’m planning on creating a new religion where we worship Medusa and ban all mirrors as punishable by death by looking at Medusa. Can’t wait to go on Fox News to talk about it.

  14. JokersNuts says:

    I got the DC Universe version of this and for, like, the first hour of gameplay I just spawned characters I wanted to see battle each other.  

  15. Chum Joely says:

    So, since you can do gods and religious figures, can you type “Mohammed” in here and then automatically share a screenshot on Facebook, Twitter etc of his electronically graven image? I bet we could drum up a nice big religious controversy in no time flat!

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      If you summon Mohammed, you see him arrive wearing a bear costume, which you never see because he’s inside a moving van, which you also never see because the game is recalled and the entire scene replaced with an apology from the developers for even remotely considering creating something for which an allegedly peaceful religion’s followers would threaten them with murder.

      • Chum Joely says:

        For the record, I have lots of issues with all religions as a fundamental concept (why does the mystery of the universe have to arise from a supreme being with a human-like personality and political opinions?!) On the other hand, I also think that a majority of all religious people are just making reasonable attempts to figure out deeper life issues and the spiritual side of existence, and by historical chance, the most well-defined and accessible way of getting a little farther with that is through organized religions (sigh).

        That being said, the smallish category of people who do vehemently believe that visually depicting their prophet is a crime worthy of death… well, they must surely be among the dumbest of the dumb. Right up there with Fred Phelps at Westboro Baptist.

  16. Khor says:

    I’m reporting the Elf > Dwarf thing as a bug or glitch or some sick god damn joke.