Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Elves

(What else?)

The term "elf" is used to describe those intelligent, humanoid beings who can claim descent from the inhabitants of Areon, the Eld. In the past, the Eld entered this world as conquerors. Their dominion was largely unchallenged for millennia, the first -- and perhaps only -- successful rebellion against their rule was led by the Hyperborean barbarians known as the Thulians. The Eldritch nobility retreated en masse back to the Red Planet in the face of the Thulian onslaught. Those Eld unable to return whence they came, in time, to be known as elves.

Though elves are, on average, shorter than Men, they display a wide diversity of sizes, which is in contrast to their Eldritch forebears, who are almost all small of stature. Physically, they are lithe and agile and tend to possess fair complexions and hair. Their faces are delicate and finely chiseled -- not unattractive by any means but nevertheless possessing an "alien" quality to them that many Men find disconcerting rather than alluring. Elven ears are slightly pointed.

The alien quality of elves is not limited to their appearance. Distant and haughty, they do not seem to possess emotions as Men do or, if they do, they are far less demonstrative about them. Because of their long lives -- immortal unless some mishap befalls them or they commit suicide out of boredom -- they are often slow to act, preferring to take weeks or even months to commit themselves to a course of action of any significance. Elves gently mock humans and even dwarves as "ephemerals," seeing them as impetuous and foolhardy children. Needless to say, this has not helped their reputation among Men, many of whom consider them little better than the Eld of old.

Like Men, Elves exist in two genders but they do not form pair bonds, let alone marry. Affection, love, and even lust appear to be unknown to them, despite tall tales and folk stories that tell of star-crossed romances between humans and elves. Consequently, there are no children among the elves, leading some to believe that they are a dying race unable to procreate. If this is so, one wonders how it is that their numbers have not dwindled to non-existence in the face of human prejudice in the years since the overthrow of the Eldritch Empire. It's popularly believed that elves kidnap human children and, through magic, make them their own, a belief that has done little to improve the lot of the race.

Elves are inherently magical. All members of the race possess the ability to cast spells, though their command of sorcery seems to be more limited than that of humans. This is true, even among the Eld, which likely explains why they have turned to demons to augment their power, a practice that, while uncommon, is not wholly unknown among the elves.

A minority of sages claim that many elven sites and structures are in fact older than those of Eldritch manufacture, arguing that it was not the elves who sprang from the Eld but the reverse. For their part, the elves have nothing to say on this matter, preferring to say as little as possible about their red-skinned relations. An even smaller minority of sages suggests that the elves may in fact be the descendants of the mysterious "Ancients" whose mighty works and artifacts predate even the Eldritch Empire, citing odd similarities between Ancient devices and those produced by the elves. Once again, the elves have little to say on the matter and few Men are willing to countenance the suggestion that the Ancients were anything but members of their own kind living in the distant past.

12 comments:

  1. How common or well-known are legends of the Eld and the Eldritch Empire in your setting? Well-known enough to be told in a tavern common room, or so obscure that only scholars of arcane lore would ever have heard of them?

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  2. The Eld were overthrown almost 1000 years ago as of campaign present, so most stories about them take the form of folk tales and legends of dubious veracity. Real information about them is known primarily to scholars and those interested in arcane lore.

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  3. I'm a bit confused on the size differences between elves and the Eld. This entry says "elves are, on average, shorter than men" but have a diversity of size in contrast to the Eld who were "almost all small of stature".

    Your 2008 entry on the Eld (which I stole and adapted for my own use admittedly...I was sick of drow) described them as: "Towering above their degenerate cousins at 6 feet tall (or more)"

    Are the Eld taller but slighter in build than the standard elf (with less variety)?

    I have no idea why this really matters but I like seeing descriptions of how people visualize monster/races/etc. in their settings.

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  4. When I wrote the Eld entry, I hadn't yet used them in play. Since then, I've revised my interpretations of them, making the Eld shorter than Men and elves closer to human height.

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  5. Thanks James! Any particular reason for the revision or just personal fancy?

    Or, was it something ridiculous like the time one of our DMs insisted we all play gnomes/dwarves because that's all he brought for minatures that day? He insisted on "realism"...sigh...

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  6. Any particular reason for the revision or just personal fancy?

    Mostly because the Eld were created in a vacuum before the campaign officially started, whereas the portrayal of elves was the result of actual play. That necessitated modifying my presentation of both races and their relationship to one another somewhat. One of the advantages of my "just in time" style of world creation is that I can easily do this without much difficulty.

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  7. I would be interested in hearing more about the details and process of how the PCs and NPCs developed the portrayal of the elves.

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  8. " -- immortal unless some mishap befalls them or they commit suicide out of boredom --"; I find this part to be immensely creepy, and really adds to the alien feel of the Dwimmermount elves.

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  9. @ Everett Jones: a creepier version of Tolkienian Elves who get tired of life.

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  10. James, just wanted to say how much I'm enjoying this series and the additional looks at the Dwimmermount campaign from different angles and aspects. Looking forward to the rest of the alphabet!

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  11. "a creepier version of Tolkienian Elves who get tired of life."
    Of course tolkienian elves who grew bored of Middle Earth had the possibility to sail to the Undying Lands. I doubt the Dwimmermount elves are anjoying the idea of a travel to Aeron...

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  12. I've been having a hard time of wrapping my head around elves as creatures (or at least potentially amoral manipulators) of Chaos. Now I get it. Thanks. :-)

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