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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
1) You asked for D&D Elves.
Yes. D&D, not specific D&D setting elves. Again, I will direct you to the 2e and 3e elf books. You should read them. They will help you understand the default D&D elves.
2) D&D Elves don't exist outside of settings.
Yes they do. They exist in the default rules, which DMs can use as is for personal settings, or alter them like Dragonlance and Dark Sun do.
3) Trying to 'Gotchya' me with Dark Sun is just tacky.
There's no gotcha involved. I was simply pointing out that settings change the default assumptions. Dragonlance and Dark Sun are two of those. You can't point to either of them and say, "Look at how D&D elves are!" You can only point to them and say, "Look at how Dragonlance specific elves are!" or "Look at how Dark Sun specific elves are!"

I'm really curious what you think the "Gotchya" with Dark Sun was.
30 million copies of the Dragons Trilogy sold. That puts the Trilogy slightly behind R.A. Salvatore's entire body of work. Which puts it, and LotR as the two big "Elf" identities in our culture.
Okay. That isn't really relevant to the default of elves in D&D. The books are not even D&D. They are books. The Dragonlance setting is the D&D, and that setting is dwarfed by FR and probably even Eberron as far as sales go.
I'm sincerely sick of this argument, Max. You demand, I provide, you deflect and demand more. This is not a discussion on reasonable terms. This is goalposts shuffling down the field further and further.
I don't believe I have actually demanded anything from you. I've simply pointed out that elves in D&D are not the conservative race you are suggesting in the OP.
 

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Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Your personal platonic ideal of "Elf" can be found there, surely.

But that platonic ideal never seems to survive contact with -any- setting that the people who created it later produced. Not Greyhawk, not FR, not Dragonlance, not Dark Sun. And it didn't come from their inspirational works, either. Maybe it exists in homebrew settings but I'm betting it's outweighed by the cultural zeitgeist in most of them that have come and gone, whether intentionally or by rote repetition.

In any case, we're getting nowhere and I'm sick of it, so let's drop it.
 

Hussar

Legend
Ok, I have not read this thread, and I really want to but, I don't have time right now. I will be coming back though to this. I think this is an endlessly fascinating topic. It's one of the things that I find endlessly interesting. People talk about how Dragonborn or whatnot are too "alien" but, in my mind, elves should be nothing short of virtually incomprehensible simply because of their lifespan. So much of a culture is based around lifespan the perspectives that come with it.

But, as I said, I have a lot of ideas here and no time, so, I'll be back when I can give this a much more proper read through.
 

ThrorII

Adventurer
On the topic of whether a 700 (5e) or 1200 (1e) lifespan culture would be conservative or progressive, I think it is important to note that humans, being short lived, tend to look on 'improving' on what our ancestors did or changing the culture from our ancestors. There might be a different perspective when your 'ancestor' has been working his craft or making policy for 800 years, and is still alive......

If you become an adult at 100, and are expected to live for seven or ten CENTURIES, it is very possible that individual years are inconsequential and decades or generations are more in line with time keeping (Tolkien's elves tracked 144 year cycles). An elven generation is 100-200 years.

So in our human terms, 1 generation back (25 years, or 1997) could be the equivalent of 200 years for the elves (or 1822 for us....). They would seem unchanging to us.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Phew. Ok. Finally plowed through most of that. Skipped some of the longer entries, unfortunately, but, I think I've got the gist of the conversation now. Doesn't help that I'm not seeing a poster or two, so, some of the answers were a bit lacking in context until I realized who they were arguing with and realized that I'm better off for it. :D

So, in full disclosure, I spent a lot of my gaming experience not liking elves very much. Not so much for the way elves were presented in the game. That was generally fine, if a bit derivative mostly, but, what generally annoyed me was that elves in my experience were basically just played as humans that could see in the dark. To the point where you couldn't actually tell that this character was an elf unless you looked over and read the character sheet.

And this is generally something that I don't see in other player races. Sure, someone's playing yet another grumpy Scottish dwarf, but, at least it's something. Most players I've seen who play short races like halflings or gnomes or whatnot, lean into the size thing and it becomes a point of the character in play. I never heard a player turn to another player and ask, "Since when is your character a gnome?" But, I certainly have heard that many times about elf characters. And it flies straight up my left nostril. To the point where for years, I just blanket banned elves. Got so sick of the whole thing, that I just said, nope.

I've mellowed since then and I don't say too much when someone plunks an elf PC down at the table. Doesn't actually happen to often to me anymore, so, I don't get too bent up over it. Still, the only elves I've ever seen played since I started playing 5e played cypher characters with zero personality and absolutely no reference to the fact that they are elves (or frankly anything else for that matter - these were players who barely bothered giving their characters a name. So, I'm going to chalk that up to some mismatched game expectations, rather than an issue with elves themselves.

But, one thing I have noticed with the 5e elves, is two really strong elements to make your elf stand out. 1. the notion of reincarnation. You don't sleep, you just remember your past lives. Which, honestly? Is very cool. This is something an elf player should lean into ALL the time. Deep dive into the lore of the setting and just let 'er rip. You REMEMBER when that dragon was a youngling just making it's name in the world. Ask your DM for exposition tidbits that you can bring to the table.

And, as a DM, make full use of that elf player. Pass notes to that player every chance you can to let that player info dump all sorts of setting stuff. Heck, nearly every "former life" story could end with the elf's death. :D "Yeah, I remember Old Flame. Burned me and my family to a crisp some five hundred years ago. Did me a favor he did. Never did like that wife."

2. The other thing is the gender thing. I'll be honest. I'm a 50 year old white dude. I'm not sure how well I could pull off a gender fluid character. But, honestly? That's the challenge right there. Trying to step outside (and for me, if I'm being honest, WAY outside) my comfort zone and bring something to the table that actually tells a story. I absolutely want to play a Moon Wizard (from that Dragonlance UA) elf (the one that changes with the different seasons - whose name I forget). Holy crap. You could actually play about 16 different variations all in the same character. What a challenge. I absolutely want to see a player give that a go. Or, try it myself one day.
 

But, one thing I have noticed with the 5e elves, is two really strong elements to make your elf stand out. 1. the notion of reincarnation. You don't sleep, you just remember your past lives. Which, honestly? Is very cool. This is something an elf player should lean into ALL the time. Deep dive into the lore of the setting and just let 'er rip. You REMEMBER when that dragon was a youngling just making it's name in the world. Ask your DM for exposition tidbits that you can bring to the table. one day.

Reincarnation is cool, but I feel it is kind of misplaced in already insanely long lived species. "Oh, I remember that because I'm so old I was there" and "Oh, I remember that because I was there in past live" are very similar and I think it is weird to give them both to the same species.
 

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
Phew. Ok. Finally plowed through most of that. Skipped some of the longer entries, unfortunately, but, I think I've got the gist of the conversation now. Doesn't help that I'm not seeing a poster or two, so, some of the answers were a bit lacking in context until I realized who they were arguing with and realized that I'm better off for it. :D

So, in full disclosure, I spent a lot of my gaming experience not liking elves very much. Not so much for the way elves were presented in the game. That was generally fine, if a bit derivative mostly, but, what generally annoyed me was that elves in my experience were basically just played as humans that could see in the dark. To the point where you couldn't actually tell that this character was an elf unless you looked over and read the character sheet.

And this is generally something that I don't see in other player races. Sure, someone's playing yet another grumpy Scottish dwarf, but, at least it's something. Most players I've seen who play short races like halflings or gnomes or whatnot, lean into the size thing and it becomes a point of the character in play. I never heard a player turn to another player and ask, "Since when is your character a gnome?" But, I certainly have heard that many times about elf characters. And it flies straight up my left nostril. To the point where for years, I just blanket banned elves. Got so sick of the whole thing, that I just said, nope.

I've mellowed since then and I don't say too much when someone plunks an elf PC down at the table. Doesn't actually happen to often to me anymore, so, I don't get too bent up over it. Still, the only elves I've ever seen played since I started playing 5e played cypher characters with zero personality and absolutely no reference to the fact that they are elves (or frankly anything else for that matter - these were players who barely bothered giving their characters a name. So, I'm going to chalk that up to some mismatched game expectations, rather than an issue with elves themselves.

But, one thing I have noticed with the 5e elves, is two really strong elements to make your elf stand out. 1. the notion of reincarnation. You don't sleep, you just remember your past lives. Which, honestly? Is very cool. This is something an elf player should lean into ALL the time. Deep dive into the lore of the setting and just let 'er rip. You REMEMBER when that dragon was a youngling just making it's name in the world. Ask your DM for exposition tidbits that you can bring to the table.

And, as a DM, make full use of that elf player. Pass notes to that player every chance you can to let that player info dump all sorts of setting stuff. Heck, nearly every "former life" story could end with the elf's death. :D "Yeah, I remember Old Flame. Burned me and my family to a crisp some five hundred years ago. Did me a favor he did. Never did like that wife."

2. The other thing is the gender thing. I'll be honest. I'm a 50 year old white dude. I'm not sure how well I could pull off a gender fluid character. But, honestly? That's the challenge right there. Trying to step outside (and for me, if I'm being honest, WAY outside) my comfort zone and bring something to the table that actually tells a story. I absolutely want to play a Moon Wizard (from that Dragonlance UA) elf (the one that changes with the different seasons - whose name I forget). Holy crap. You could actually play about 16 different variations all in the same character. What a challenge. I absolutely want to see a player give that a go. Or, try it myself one day.
some of it likely goes back to Tolkien in which elves are just non-fallen humans, then you get that most of fantasy is just elves being better but not for some reason it is kinda dumb.
elves are liked because they are a lot of what some people want to be.
Reincarnation is cool, but I feel it is kind of misplaced in already insanely long lived species. "Oh, I remember that because I'm so old I was there" and "Oh, I remember that because I was there in past live" are very similar and I think it is weird to give them both to the same species.
a fair point what would you replace it with?
 

but those properties are not needed, you need food or water or shelter maybe even entertainment but gold offers non of that it is merely a shiny easily shaped metal.
The issue is that humans aren't completely rational, and humans like shiny things, especially metal. Hence gold has had an inherent value that paper money, for example, does not (and a portability that land or "a really cool boulder" does not). If gold is relatively more abundant, that value goes down, but the main issue is, it's not a currency which requires some nation or state or empire to "back" it, it's not truly abstract. It's worth what you can get for it, which is usually something fairly significant. Humans have been valuing beauty and decoration for a very long time before civilization or the like, too, note.

Even food and shelter fluctuate in value relative to local conditions, note, too. In a harsh climate with little ability to "live off the land" both are starkly more valuable than in a gentle climate, for example. Variation in perceived value doesn't mean that something's value is entirely abstract.

As for "alien races", sure, they'll value different things, probably some equally irrationally, but that's a matter of world-building.
 

Mind of tempest

(he/him)advocate for 5e psionics
The issue is that humans aren't completely rational, and humans like shiny things, especially metal. Hence gold has had an inherent value that paper money, for example, does not (and a portability that land or "a really cool boulder" does not). If gold is relatively more abundant, that value goes down, but the main issue is, it's not a currency which requires some nation or state or empire to "back" it, it's not truly abstract. It's worth what you can get for it, which is usually something fairly significant. Humans have been valuing beauty and decoration for a very long time before civilization or the like, too, note.

Even food and shelter fluctuate in value relative to local conditions, note, too. In a harsh climate with little ability to "live off the land" both are starkly more valuable than in a gentle climate, for example. Variation in perceived value doesn't mean that something's value is entirely abstract.

As for "alien races", sure, they'll value different things, probably some equally irrationally, but that's a matter of world-building.
fair point, still do not get peoples real or fantastical love of shiny metals or rocks as all I see in say circuit material for gold or drill bits for diamonds or bullet-resistant glass for rubies and sapphires
 

Hussar

Legend
One thought though is just how influential elves would be when living among other races. Imagine the unbelievable power a virtually immortal courier could amass. Someone who works quietly, behind the scenes. Would be able to have an enormous impact if they chose to.
 

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