Sunday, December 16, 2007


Alright, this is another race post. Today, I'm going to be discussing elves, and putting forward my own take on the race. The reason my dwarves changed was, to be honest, because I wanted to turn both elves and dwarves on their heads.

My elves are styled after what I felt was the stereotypical dwarf (not physically, don't worry Legolas lovers, elves are still skinny and pointy-eared). So what was the typical dwarf? A little gruff, isolationist, and basically alcoholic.

Gruff doesn't really sound like the style of the elves, so we'll change that word to "curt". Polite, but to the point. Isolationist, I'm all over that one. Alcoholic? Well, change the beer to mead, and I'm all for it.

Still doesn't give me too much, though, so lets look at a quick D&D (and Tolkien...ian) interpretation of elves, and compare it to some other depictions, and see what we can glean from that.

The D&D and Tolkien elves are long-lived, mystical, serious, and deeper than a 10,000 foot well. The wikipedia article on the subject of Tolkien's elves actually compares them to humans who had not fallen from Eden. That's a tall order, and doesn't really fit our curt, isolationist alcoholics.

Norse mythology paints elves as being relatively similar to humans as well, and is equally glowing in its praise. Elves are semi-divine creatures, with great magical abilities. I don't have a problem with elves being somewhat magical, but I kind of want to leave the deep lore to the gnomes myself, so I'm going to have to look for another angle. (I'm not really doing the norse mythology justice, but this is a gaming blog, so I'm sort of skimming and skipping here)

English elves, on the other hand, resemble much more the nymphs of Greek mythology, sneaky little tricksters who might meddle in the affairs of humans. (well, mine won't meddle in the affairs of humans, being isolationist, but we'll figure something out) They're also shown to be related to fey, which is the aspect I sort of want to base this on.

So, I have the curt, isolationist alcoholics, and I have fey/nature influence, and I have sneaky little tricksters. The first bit will be, well, slightly overhyped. Elves are curt: to outsiders. When they're on their own, they love to party! They are, more often than not, relatively good-natured, as I alluded to in the earlier post about magic. They'll help you out, without telling you, and then help themselves to your booze, and have a party in the woods to celebrate their good deed.

While they are relatively good-natured, they are also very shrewd, and it is extremely difficult to put one over on an elf. The parties are also somewhat of a facade, it must be admitted. They really honestly do enjoy themselves, but there is a deep political game going on in elvish communities. It very rarely comes to battle, but every action is calculated and carefully accounted for.

I'm going to do a little more stealing, this time from C.J. Cherryh's series Foreigner. I am quite fascinated with her first alien species, the atevi, and their system of associations and alliances. I also like their fierce numerology (which is also possibly part of norse mythology, going back to my "making the elves like dwarves" effort), so I'm going to nick both.

You don't ever deal with a single elf. All elves are associated with each other in various, complicated ways, almost all of which have nothing to do with geography (which would confuse humans to no end). Furthermore, numbers are treated very seriously by elves, bad numbers (most evens, like 6 and 10) are avoided and good numbers (odds, especially 3 and 9) are sought.

I think there's something to be done with these political machinations, possibly an entire campaign here, so I'll get on writing up some specifics...later. I'll also do another Fantasy Race Portfolio when I get around to it (possibly tomorrow), and come back and treat elvish religion.

Note: I wrote this early in the morning, so if I have used the word "Elven", I intend it to be "elvish". I'll have to proof this later.

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