D&D General Alien Character Mindsets: Elves should be pretty conservative about almost everything.

Steampunkette

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So this is a thing that I thought up while working on a homebrew setting called Aetherstorm.

Elves are the oldest race in practically every setting. They're generally the first to be created or one of the two or three "Elder Races" of a given world alongside Giants and Dragons or Dwarves and the setting's other favored race.

So they owned land before everyone else did. And rivers. And lakes. And forests. And RESOURCES.

And you know what? Every elf grows to be 300+ years old in practically every setting and often reach 500-800, which is the most salient point, here... If Elves existed in the United States, right now, there would be Elves in their prime who are OLDER THAN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Can you imagine the mindset of someone who grew up in the Colonies where slaves and women were property, only landholding white men were even -considered- to be people, and barbaric torments were seen as routine... Looking around as the US evolves from a revolutionary war to modern day?

Sure, they'd probably be more open about gender and sexuality than a lot of people on account of probably having done literally everything at least once, but they'd also hold to LONG traditions and strong ideals of fiscal conservatism because it would be -them- who owned everything! Add in the fact that humans -barely- reach "Adulthood" for an elf before they croak and they probably wouldn't see us as "Real" people. Social safety nets for humans? Pffft. They can come work in one of -my- factories, instead! What's this about unionizing?!

Lifetime appointment on the supreme court? Elrond could've been hand-chosen by Washington and -still- be around, today. And you -know- they'd be the predominant members of the House and Senate having made legislation well over their fifty three terms in office...

Dwarves? Same thing, just a little less extreme. But even a middle aged dwarf would still remember the Civil War. Gnomes are right there with 'em.

Halflings, Half-Elves, and Humans would be Gen X and Millennials. Trapped in a system they had no ability to create waiting for those who hold power to lose it through age or infirmity in the hopes of making some kind of positive change.

Orcs? Goblins? They own nothing. They exist in a society that hates them for their youth and rebelliousness, their lack of caution, and their short life spans. Gen Z all the way. Nihilistic and often socialist they're eager for the elder races to step aside and let positive change finally happen but have no illusions that they'll live long enough to see it.

(ALL OF THE ABOVE WAS USING THE CURRENT UNITED STATES AS A SETTING, BUT THE GREATER LESSON IS STILL APPLICABLE TO OTHER SETTINGS)

When you're making a character, look at your lifespan. Look at the setting's history. Ask yourself how much of it your character has seen and what impact that makes on what is happening -now-.

People often complain that Elves in movies and books never -do- anything, they just sit back and watch the other peoples of the world go on big quests to stop evil... And... yeah. It's kind of weird. But this is also the sixth world-ending crisis they've seen in their lives and there's always a Ringbearer or Chosen One or rag tag band of scrappy do gooders who will save the day before the elf hits their next milestone birthday (Because once you've got 200+ years under your belt you stop celebrating any more often than once a decade) and be dead before the milestone after that 'cause humans are tiny fragile short-lived things. Bright as fire and just as quick to get snuffed.

If humans in your setting talk like modern day folk, your elves should be the ones Theeing and Thouing and Whereforing. Mixing 200 year old slang with "Hip Lingo" from the 1960s 'cause it all blends together and none of it makes sense, anymore, anyhow, and it's not like they really picked up "What the kids are saying these days" back then, either.

In short: Elves and Dwarves should probably be pretty cringe. Like a grandpa trying to sound cool talking about all the TikTaks and Youtubes while asking you for free IT service on their PC filled with adware.
 

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payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I actually enjoy a good laugh every time someone asks if a 30 year old Elf wears diapers and sucks their thumb.
 


J.Quondam

CR 1/8
The long-lived races are the ones with a vested interest in the future. No way they're going to sit by and let the upstarts mess things up for a few decades of short-sighted selfishness.

I think the real "alienness" in such an outlook could come from what exactly those long-lived races envision for the future. To be truly alien, those goals should be completely perpendicular to anything that we consider particularly progressive or conservative.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
So they owned land before everyone else did.

Assuming the idea of "land ownership" is part of their culture.

While I can imagine them being "conservative" from the little "c" perspective of protecting land and resources, I can also imagine that to them time seems different and change is the most common aspect of sapient life they've noticed - so 300 years of change could seem like the difference between 1965 and 1975 - are things different? Sure. Different enough for some people to think 1975 as compared to 1965 has "gone too far?" Sure. But most would probably not see a decade (or a century) of change that big deal in the big picture.
 
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Steampunkette

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I'll be 40 this year, @Vaalingrade. That's not -that- old, but it's old enough that I look back at my teen years sitting in The Bookmark (Comic book shop) playing those first sessions of AD&D 2e with my first DM Toby and the rest of the gang and I have hefty nostalgia for it.

I think back to Gargoyles and how great a show it was. I titter to myself as I remember sneaking out of my bedroom at 2am to watch new episodes of Deep Space Nine after CBS tried to kill it to make Voyager "The" Star Trek, and I remember it fondly.

I still remember all the bad things that happened around that same time in my life. I remember being closeted. I remember being exposed to hurtful, hateful, ideas. I remember internalizing a lot of hatred about myself at that point.

But I still have those rose tinted glasses about AD&D 2e. About picking up the Psionics Handbook for the first time and reading it cover to cover.
That might make sense for older elves, but there would inevitably be younger (probably more progressive) elves as well. Young adults who hit the open road because they couldn't stand one more of dad's centuries-spanning stories about having to walk up-hill both ways.
This is also mostly true... But since elves reach "adulthood" at 100, that's still "Dust Bowl Youth" who watched WW1 and 2, Vietnam, the Iran Contra, Desert Storm...

But even a 60 year old "Teen Elf" would be vastly more progressive than their 300 year old parents.
Broadly speaking, it strikes me that human societies have become more progressive as life expectancy has increased -- indeed, they've tended to go hand-in-hand. Also, if a Dex bonus doesn't play in today's game, I'm not sure what place there is for this kind of bioessentialism.
WHOA. Whoa. Whooooooa.

This is not bioessentialism. This is all about life experience and the span of perspective. The human life span hasn't really increased since the Bronze Age. It's only the infant mortality rate that has significantly changed so that the average age of death goes up. But people have always lived to around their 70s or 80s, with outliers reaching 100s+, barring accident or sudden illness.

The point is an old Elf character has been around for a very long time and seen a whole lot of stuff and has a perspective shaped by that span of time.
The long-lived races are the ones with a vested interest in the future. No way they're going to sit by and let the upstarts mess things up for a few decades of short-sighted selfishness.

I think the real "alienness" in such an outlook could come from what exactly those long-lived races envision for the future. To be truly alien, those goals should be completely perpendicular to anything that we consider particularly progressive or conservative.
Maybe, yeah. Though more than likely they'd be trying to steer the ship straight on the direction it's going, since it's worked for the last 200 years, right?
Assuming the idea if "land ownership" is part of their culture.

While I can imagine them being "conservative" from the little "c" perspective of protecting land and resources, I can also imagine that to them time seems different and change is the most common aspect of sapient life they've noticed - so 300 years of change could seem like the difference between 1965 and 1975 - are things different? Sure. Different enough for some people to thing 1975 as compared to 1965 has "gone too far?" Sure. But most would probably not see a decade (or a century) of change that big deal in the big picture.
The example was the US as it has changed over the last 300 years which is significantly more drastic than 1965 to 1975. In many campaign settings that's long enough for kingdoms to rise and fall, major land wars to change the map, dragons to wipe out entire forests, and multiple deities to die and/or get resurrected...

It's more than the 60s and 70s.
 


Steampunkette

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My point was that to an elf 300 years of changes among other people might just seem like the difference between the 60s and 70s or 70s to 80s.
If Elven Perception of time were that compressed then no human would mean anything to them, at all, since we'd be born, grow up, and die within 2 weeks.

We wouldn't even be puppies. We'd be mosquitoes.
 

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