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In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, elves are a humanoid race that are one of the primary races available for play as player characters. Elves are renowned for their grace and mastery of magic and weapons such as the sword and bow. Becoming physically mature by the age of 25 and emotionally mature at around 125 (Races of the Wild; Williams, Skip), they are also famously long-lived, capable of living more than half a millennium and remaining physically youthful. They rarely die due to the wear of age. Possessed of innate beauty and easy gracefulness, they are viewed as both wondrous and haughty by other races; however, their natural detachment is seen by some as introversion or xenophobia.
There are numerous different subraces of elves, including aquatic elves, dark elves (Drow), grey elves, high elves, moon elves, rockseer elves, snow elves, sun elves, valley elves, wild elves (grugach), wood elves, and winged elves (avariel). The offspring of humans and elves are known as "half-elves" among humans, and as "half-humans" among elves.
The Grugach, Valley Elf, and Cooshee (an elven dog) first appeared in Dragon issue #67 (November 1982). "Featured Creatures" was an ongoing series of articles where Gary Gygax released information on official creatures before their release in the upcoming "Monster Manual II" (1983).
Slightly shorter than the average human, elves are also noticeably more slender and graceful (this is reflected in a bonus to Dexterity, and a Constitution penalty), averaging between 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet and 95 to 135 pounds. Males are slightly more muscular on average, there is little difference in height between the sexes, and neither sex grows facial hair. Their features in general may be described as more angular and defined; including long, pointed ears and wide, almond-shaped eyes. Most elves have fair skin and dark hair, though this is no more true of all elves than it is of humans. They have a reputation for careful grooming, more so than perhaps any other race. This frequently extends to their clothing, which is luxurious and well-kept, though not to the point of impracticality.
Elves do not sleep as most other creatures do, instead falling into a four-hour restful trance. Consequently, elves are unaffected by sleep-inducing spells and effects, and are able to remain active far longer than other races.
Elves also do not age as other creatures; their physical appearances remain constant from achieving physical maturity to death. Elves do grow physically weaker and mentally stronger as they grow older, and accumulate a "glow" from the strength of their souls as they age (Races of the Wild; Williams, Skip).
In several campaign settings, elves have their own pantheon. Also known as the Seldarine, it usually consists of the leader Corellon Larethian, as well as Aerdrie Faenya, Deep Sashelas, Erevan Ilesere, Fenmarel Mestarine, Hanali Celanil, Labelas Enoreth, Rillifane Rallathil, Sehanine Moonbow, and Solonor Thelandira. Other elven gods may be present in different campaign settings.
Elves in GreyhawkEdit
As Greyhawk is assumed to be the default campaign setting, elves are not noticeably different from the basic descriptions found in most published material.
Elves in the Forgotten RealmsEdit
The various elven subraces are more prominent in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, and Faerûn boasts several major subraces. They differ physically from typical Dungeons & Dragons elves in that they are as tall as humans (5′9″ on average). Here they call themselves Tel-Quessir, which means "The People" in the elven language.
The history of the elven race is marked by great empires and a gradual decline and retreat from the mainland Faerûn. The elves first came to Abeir-Toril from the plane of Faerie about twenty-five millennia ago. The first wave of elves to arrive were the green elves, lythari, and avariel. The second wave included the dark elves, who arrived in the jungles of southern Faerûn, and the sun and moon elves, who arrived in the north. Not long after, the aquatic elves arrived in the Great Sea. After the second wave of elven immigrants arrived, the Time of Dragons ended and the period known as the First Flowering of the Fair Folk began. The elves settled into five major civilizations along the west and south of Faerûn during this period. Along the Sword Coast, the sun elves established Aryvandaar and Shantel Othreier, and the green elves established Illefarn, Miyeritar, and Keltormir. To the south, in present-day Vilhon Reach, the green elves also created the nations of Thearnytaar, Eiellûr, and Syòpiir. In the forests that once covered the Shaar, the moon elves established Orishaar, and the dark elves established Ilythiir. All of these realms were gradually destroyed as a result of the Crown Wars, which made way for other elven realms.
Their once expansive realms have shrunk back in territory and prestige due to the influence and expansion of the younger races, particularly humans. They remain influential; however, much of the shape of Faerûn is influenced by conflict between the various subraces of the elves.
The elven subraces of Faerûn include the following:
- Aquatic Elves or Sea Elves (Alu'Tel'Quessir)
- Aquatic elves are also known as sea elves. They live beneath the waves of Faerûn and can breathe water as easily as their cousins on land breathe air. They can also breathe air but for a very short period of time.
- Avariel or Winged Elves (Aril'Tel'Quessir)
- Found in the Aerie of the Snow Eagles. They are almost extinct from wars with dragons in ancient times.
- Drow or Dark Elves (Ssri'Tel'Quessir)
- Once known only as dark elves, one of their greatest kingdoms was Illythiir. They were transformed into drow and banished to the Underdark when their matron goddess Lolth broke from the primary elven pantheon. Of all the elves they are the only ones that are inherently evil and hate their cousins with an undying passion. They are smaller than their cousins, both shorter and thinner. In addition, their skin resembles polished obsidian, and their hair is snow-white or silver. Their eyes are almost inevitably red, gleaming with the hatred for their surface dwelling cousins.
- Lythari (Ly'Tel'Quessir)
- The lythari are a subrace of elves who can transform into wolves. Unlike most werewolves, they can transform at will and keep their minds while in wolf form. Because the lythari have changed so far from their elven roots, most Faerûnian scholars now consider them a separate race from elves.
- Moon Elves or Silver Elves (Teu'Tel'Quessir)
- The moon elves are the most common of all the elves in Faerûn and are also known as silver elves. They typically have fair skin and hair that runs in hues from silver-white to black or blue. While human style hair colors are rare, eye color can be remarkably similar, with colors ranging from blue to green. The majority of the half-elves in Faerûn come from parings between humans and moon elves.
- Snow Elves
- Pale but hardy elves that live in the Spine of the World and the High Ice portion of Anauroch. They worship Tarsellis Meunniduin, the Patron God of Snow Elves and Lord of Mountains. They are reclusive and usually led by tribal priests known as "Peakwardens".
- Star Elves or Mithral Elves
- This subrace left the forests of Yuirwood for an extraplanar realm known as Sildëyuir. They have recently considered returning due to increasing threats by the alien nilshai.
- Sun Elves or Gold Elves (Ar'Tel'Quessir)
- Sun elves are primarily found upon the island of Evermeet and because of this, they are less common across the rest of Faerûn. With bronze colored skin; gold, black, or green eyes; and gold, blond, black, or (rarely) red hair, they are also called gold elves. Sun elves are less physically fit, but more intellectually advanced, than their counterparts. Sun elves are the primary practitioners of elven High Magic, and are among the greatest magic-users of Toril, both arcane and divine.
- Wild Elves or Green Elves (Sy'Tel'Quessir)
- The most reclusive of all the elves, the wild elves pride themselves on their isolation and skill at keeping hidden. Their skin tends to be brown and they have similar colored hair which lightens with age.
- Wood Elves, Copper Elves, or Sylvan Elves (Or'Tel'Quessir)
- Wood elves are a reclusive subrace, preferring to live in such areas as the High Forest. They place more emphasis on strength than learning. Wood elves are considered by other elven subraces (particularly the austere sun elves) to be boisterous and hedonistic. They have a zest for life and pleasure. According to Races of Faerûn (which was published in March 2003 and only mentions aquatic elves, avariel, drow, lythari, moon elves, sun elves, wood elves, and wild elves), wood elves are the only elven subrace that is native to Toril. They slowly formed for centuries from some of the other elven subraces after the last Crown War. They see their realms as the natural successors to past nations such as Eaerlann and Cormanthyr.
Elves in EberronEdit
Once the slaves of the giants of Xen'drik, the elves of Eberron immigrated over time to the continents of Aerenal and Khorvaire, establishing nations and distinct cultures on both. Most notable are the elves of Aerenal, whose culture revolves around the veneration of the Undying Court.
Other elven subracesEdit
- Ghost Elves
- Nearly wiped out by the drow, this ancient subrace was tricked by a pit fiend into servitude in the Nine Hells of Baator. They eventually escaped to the Ethereal Plane, gaining magical powers linked to this plane.
- Painted Elves
- This subrace resides in painted deserts and petrified forests, preferring a druidic lifestyle.
- Gray Elves (a.k.a. Valley Elves)
- These elves are the most noble of elves, yet also the most arrogant. They are of higher intellectual capabilities than other elves, but, despite the fact they are taller than high elves, they are physically weaker. They live in isolated mountain strongholds, and rarely allow access to outsiders. They have silver hair and amber eyes, or gold hair and violet eyes, and wear clothes of white, silver, yellow and gold, and usually wear regally colored cloaks.
Half-elves, as their name implies, are the offspring of humans and elves. Unlike Elrond and his twin brother Elros in J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium, half-elves do not have to "choose" between the human and elven worlds but are a subrace unto themselves, blending the features of human and elf. Half-elves look like elves to humans and like humans to elves (hence their elven description as "half-human"). They do well with elves, humans, gnomes, dwarves, and halflings, a social ease reflected in racial bonuses to the Diplomacy and Gather Information skills. In the case of conflicts between elves and humans, however, each side suspects a half-elf mediator of favoring the other.
- Baker, Keith. Eberron: Campaign Setting. Wizards of the Coast, 2004. ISBN 0-7869-3274-0
- Boyd, Eric L.; Matt Forbeck; and James Jacobs. Races of Faerûn. Wizards of the Coast, 2003.
- Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989).
- Cordell, Bruce, Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes, and JD Wiker. Sandstorm (Wizards of the Coast, 2005).
- McComb, Colin D. The Complete Book of Elves (TSR, 1992).
- Night Below campaign setting boxed set.
- Perry, Chris. "The Seldarine Revisited", Dragon Magazine #236, pages 13-17.
- Reynolds, Sean K, et al. Races of Faerûn. Wizards of the Coast, 2003. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1
- Turley, Kieran. Ghost Elves: Elves of the Ethereal, Dragon #313 (Paizo Publishing), 2003.
- Tweet, Jonathan, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams. Player's Handbook Core Rulebook I v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast, 2003).
- Williams, Skip. Races of the Wild. Wizards of the Coast, 2005. ISBN 0-7869-3438-7
- http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=50839 (particularly post #15)
- The Avariel Elf A web site dedicated to accurate costume replication of Avariel Elves. Hosted by the creator of the avariel elf costume which won the 2005 GenCon costume contest.
- Cormanthyr: Empire of the Elves, download of an Adobe Reader document in a ZIP folder (6.04 MB) — Written by Steven E. Schend and Kevin Melka and published in 1998 by TSR, this AD&D Second Edition source book for the Forgotten Realms contains information on the physiology and mindset of elves; the history of the elves; Cormanthyr, Myth Drannor, Semberholme, the Tangled Vale, the Elven Court, and Windsong Tower; elven magic, including notable elves of the Art such as the Srinshee, mythals, and magical items; and more.
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