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


My view on the long lives of elves is that they never mature. They look like and act like human teenagers. Attractive, impulsive, will try anything. So quite the opposite of your idea.

Have fun with whatever you decide to use.

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Steeliest of the dragons
The last thing an old elf would be is "conservative" in any sense. Any elf (who is not mentally ill) recognizes that the ONLY constant to existence is Change. An attempt to "hold onto" how things have ever-been or viewing "the past" as some good ole days that MUST not be released is as perverse, disturbed, and unnatural a notion as believing one must stop the turning of the seasons or the rising of the moon.

"Jaded." Sure, more than likely. "Out of touch." Possibly, but not necessarily -having all the time in the world to "keep up" with whatever is "new" or [momentarily] "popular" and/or to familiarize oneself with things that have come and went while they were otherwise occupied.

But definitely NOT "conservative."


Considering the number of settings where Elves are the remnants of a prior golden age, literally "in my day X was better" I can certainly see the angle the OP is after.

It's not ageism, or anything political.

If I lived potentially forever outside of accident, illness, or murder (the absolute horror....) you better believe caution, conservative outlooks, stability, would be the primary goal.

Slow down humans. Enjoy your 20th Winter, you may not get many more.

Oh me? This is my 800th...my Grandfather though? He could tell you of the time before your kind existed.

Think Time Abyss. The weight of loss, over 100s of years. Being conservative would be logical.


Steeliest of the dragons
If one wants an "alien" mindset to elves and how their long lives influence their views, as opposed to the very HUMAN view of "grass is always greener/I remember when..." the VERY different and very strange, different, confusing/befuddling to the human observers/they interact with, is the ACCEPTANCE and internalized INEVITABILITY of change. The cycles of the cosmos, the seasons, the ages, the histories of myriad peoples, on down and through to the catepillar and the seed.

It has always been, will always be, and is -currently-happening. ANd we -the Elves- know this. This "new thing," be it a "great rising evil" or "sudden change of political power" or "unknown magic" is...NOT an emergency. It's NOT "strange" or "different" or "new." It is the same as has happened, in some comparable way, a thousand thousand times before. We do not need to be "excited" about it. We do not need to act urgently.

We MAY not, actually, recognize a need to do anything to alter this change at all -unless it does become a matter of pure survival or the destruction of our world/magic/people/love/something we elves care about.

It likely seems, to the child species, that this makes us "aloof" or "superior," "clinging to a past" [e.g. "conservative" as the OP intended, I believe] or "uncaring"...which is the farthest from the truth. Simply that we do not rush in with /your/ immaturity and [unfortunate] mortality to believe we can resist the tides of the cosmic ocean that is Change. Those who are driven to act may make what differences they can to promote the best outcome for the most Good.

But we as a species are, no elf, so vain as to think we can control Change.


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Eh, I think Doctor Who, especially 10 and 11, are basically how I’d view elves if I wanted to be picky about making them alien.

The good ones, time makes kinder, and weirder, and they inhabit a strange simultaneous natures of being “old” and very “young” in mindset and habits. The bad ones become like the Master, they stare into infinity and either want to end it all or just take on centuries spanning grudges they cannot let go of, etc.


...well. I'm a bit late to the thread, but I read it all the way through so hell if I'm not gonna post. Apologies to those of you whom I quote, that haven't posted in the thread since two weeks ago.

@Steampunkette opens with a post which is maybe needlessly inflammatory but that, to me, foregrounds the time-horizon strangeness of most fantasy properties. The numbers are always too big, and elves are one of the worst offenders. To quote some of @Steampunkette 's relevant followup posts:
[...] 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...
but yet:
[...] Look at Forgotten Realms.

It has been at the same High Fantasy Quasi-Medieval Borderline Renaissance technological level for about 3,000 years. [...]

The passage of time for us means world-reshaping change and, particularly, a Whig history sense of progress, where, for a Nile farmer in the middle kingdom, the pyramids are already ancient, the river floods like clockwork every year, and nothing about the essential world order will ever really change.

Which of these worlds do elves live in. If it's faux America, the passage of centuries matters a lot more than in the Forgotten Realms, where apocalypses happen every day, but the world order always lingers in the borderline renaissance. It almost makes sense to be stodgy and (small c) conservative in a world like the forgotten realms. So, about that:
[...] it's not about "Conserving" society. It's about preserving their personal lifestyle the way they like it in a world that is changing around them.

[...] Elves in most media preserve, rather than try to change. It's, like, their driving goal in most narratives to be the stodgiest sticks in the mud they can manage while the protagonists beg for help and it falls on largely deaf pointed ears forcing the protagonists to go out and do it themselves. [...]
It's true that elves are frequently presented as stodgy, but I think that's more a reflection that elven societies are typically presented as "in decline" rather than as a product of a racial worldview. They want to conserve because all their awesome stuff is behind them. Their best crafters and heroes are dead, cities have fallen, birth rates are down or have stopped, etc.

If you rewind the tape a little bit though, those societies had great crafters building wondrous things, heroes attempting mighty deeds, cities of magic and industry etc all run by those same, now more "conservative" elves.

Obviously, Tolkien got here first, and had his fun making all the big and awesome stuff in the world decline as a function of time. But to my thinking, the conservatism of elves--outside of jrr's legendarium--might be more like wildlife conservation than fiscal conservatism. They've identified the things they value, and they intend to keep those things. Some things they like are natural wonders, some things are artifacts they've made, some are traditions, some are people. This is maybe going out on a limb, but perhaps elves fetishize longevity in a traditionally Chinese way, where filial piety is a big deal, families care massively in maintaining the health and safety of their 500+ year old grandparents, and societies care massively in maintaining their 1000+ year old monarchs. (which is also a pretty apropos reading of the silmarillion, lets be honest)

on a different note:
[...] The good times hold firm and so do personal traumas.

But imagine how different we'd be as people if we could still feel the tail end of the Cold War, Bosnia, the OKC bombing, Desert Storm, the LA Riots, Hurricane Andrew, etc etc with the same clarity with which we remember our favorite shows and the general vibe? [...]
That's a good observation, and I think the trauma bit of longevity didn't get quite enough coverage in upthread. So, for example, lots of people who lived through the depression were permanently weird about money because of it. Maybe the 800 year old elves who lived through the time of FIRE AND MADNESS, still aren't quite right, and carry their neuroses from that time into the present. My boy Thranduil, the archetypal elf king, is still whining about the mean people who took his necklace and flipping out about dragons... for example.

Finally: This. Is. Just. Awesome.
Elves do not exist. Magic warps the minds of humans and edits their memories to include elves out of a strange need to “teach” humans.

Dwarfs know this and it makes them grumpy.

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