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


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Yaarel

He Mage
I am thinking about the "milestone birthdays" from the OP. Rounding off the curve of magnitude:

10, 13 (teen), 16, 20 (mature), 25, 32, 40, 50 (elder), 63, 79,
100 ("adult"), 130, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 630, 790,
1000 ("ancient"), 1300, 1600, 2000, ...

When the elves are young they mature at a humanesque rate. But afterward retain physical youth. Each new birthday becomes more common place, but there are still milestones in the big picture.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
These are elves! They had time to walk up a mountain both ways.
 

RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
I’ll admit that despite how easy it is to be annoyed with the Forgotten Realms take of different aspects of D&D due to just how much spotlight it tends to get, I actually really like it’s take on the elves and use this lore for the elves of my world, especially the High and Wood Elves.

Elves were once primal spirits of Avandor that were tricked by Araushnee, Corellon’s wife who would become Lolth, into shedding their mutable spirit forms so they could better influence the world. This act greatly offended Corellon who then banished the primal elves from his realm as punishment. They originally went to the Feywild before many traveled to the Material Plane and became the elves we know today, with those staying behind in the Feywild becoming the Eladrin.

The age of the elf isn’t determined by years precisely, but by the type of Trance they have, or Reverie as the elves themselves refer to it. For the first 30 years or so their Reverie is filled with memories of their original lives as primal spirits, as elves reincarnate because they are still banned from their heaven and there are a finite number of elven souls that exist. The first time an elf has their first personal memory of their current life is the sign that the elf has reach adolescence. Then for the next 70 or so years the personal memories of the elf begin to replace the memories of Arvandor until only the personal memories remain. Once that happens, typically around the 100 year mark, the elf is a full adult.

Many of the quirks of an elf can be explained by this Reverie. Their melancholy is due to the loss of those memories from a heaven they were banished from, sort of their version for the loss of innocence. Their meticulous desire to focus on details and habit of spending way to long taking in events and surrounds is so they can more clearly recall these things in the Reveire. Why many younger adult elves seek adventure and excitement, hey are trying to replace the good memories they lost with new ones.

Honestly their is a lot of things I like about the FR elves but this alone gave me so much inspiration for my world.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
I think you're ascribing a lot of human motivation to the long lived races. They don't think like humans.

Elves are very freedom of expression and do what you want on a whim, so long as you aren't hurting anyone(CG). So while they would have traditions and be set in their ways, their ways wouldn't all be as rigid and conservative as you are describing. There might be a few rigid and unbending traditions, like don't mingle with humans, and get the heck off of my forest!, but most would be more progressive.

Dwarves on the other hand would be more conservative and traditional, but with most things being related to a culture that lives underground and mines/crafts for the joy of it.

If you want to see examples of untraditional "elven" races that are set in their conservative/chaotic ways, look at the Melniboneans and Vadhagh races written by Michael Moorcock.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
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.
The problem is you’ve used the US as your setting, and thus western mercantilist conservatism is taken as your base line.

Take concepts of ownership - why would someone who is 1000 years old care that they use to own a shirt or a spear or a boat? They’ll see hundreds of them in a lifetime, things will break and be replaced so why not let others share the resources? Why hoard wealth when in the long run its all ephemera?

there is nothing new under the sun so why not just sit and contemplate the beauty of the trees? The only things older than Elves and dragons are the trees, the mountains, and the rivers. Do we see mountains going to work each day or do rivers fight over imaginary borders on a map? Why should elves care about politics rather than philosophy and art?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
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!

I think that unlikely. While elves, personally, live for centuries, socioeconomic systems are not stable over those spans. There will have been rises and falls, booms and busts, a couple times a decade over those years, with large economic displacements several times per century. While they live longer, they have the same limits on their skills and abilities as everyone else - their ability to predict and manage change is, ultimately, no better than anyone else's!

Thus, that long life is unlikely to be one of steady riches and ownership. It is likely made of stories of rags to riches and back to rags several times over. With their longer lives, I'd think elves are more apt to come to understand that control is a temporary state, or an illusion.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Biology doesn't determine one's personality, experiences do. This particular kind of people have a LOT OF TIME to experience lots of things, and in the context of a 300 year old person compared to a modern 20 year old person those experiences are weighted to the past. Their identity is going to be shaped by that exceptionally heavy weight of their personal history.

But the same could be said of a 60 year old person and a 20 year old person. It's just a more extreme version of that phenomenon.

S'truth. But since an entire human life span would last 2 weeks and your longest conversation with them would last maybe 8 seconds with most of your other interactions in that 2 week period being 2 seconds or less...

Not -much- of a sapience...

5e holds to the "Hit 20 and physically be an adult" thing, but previous editions, and various settings, don't. Remember how Tanis grew so much faster than his elven playmates and yet so much slower than his human ones and couldn't have long-term friendships because of it?

That said... you're right. In a modern US setting 20 year old elves would probably act pretty much exactly like all the other 20 year olds around them, since it'd be a generational thing. They'd just also have overbearing parents who are -way- older than everyone else's parents.

Imagine your Mom and Dad met in France after your Dad stormed the beach at Normandy and liberated your Mom's village. And they were both just "Barely 100" at the time.

shudders

To some degree... but the fact that I recall all the terrible things that happened around me, and to me, in that time doesn't mean I don't look back fondly. That I don't think Saturday morning Cartoons should look like the lineup I enjoyed back then. Y'know?

Media in the 80s and 90s is a touchstone identity point for me, always will be. And even when it was bad or just not as good as I remember, I'll still think back on it fondly, even for all the trouble it caused.

I guess it would work better as an analogy if it was something ephemerally or tangibly "Lost". Something that isn't around anymore, like Ice Cream Shoppes and Sock hops or whatever. Something that existed only in a fairly narrow window of time surrounded by injustice that I still yearned to return to and rejected all things modern for....

I love the Orville, by the way.

... crap have we broken that cycle of society by advancing technology far enough that we can't ever really "Lose" our cultural touchstones since they're always waiting for us somewhere on the internet? That's... that's a deeply disturbing thought...
Yes. Fully.

Look at art. Movements don’t go away all at once, new ones don’t become dominant in a decade only to meet the same fate 10-40 years later, all of it just builds up and collects. Forever.

What music defined the 2010’s? What decade of fashion is retro chic right now? What is the current “movement”?

But I’ve cream shops are still around, thank goodness. Nothing goes away, it just fades in relevance and prominence.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
... is that 4e lore, @RoughCoronet0? 'Cause... I do not remember any of that...

Reverie was a form of meditation with mental exercises that elves could choose to do instead of sleeping, and it helped with their memory... but what you've written, there, sounds way more involved than anything I read about it.
I think you're ascribing a lot of human motivation to the long lived races. They don't think like humans.

Elves are very freedom of expression and do what you want on a whim, so long as you aren't hurting anyone(CG). So while they would have traditions and be set in their ways, their ways wouldn't all be as rigid and conservative as you are describing. There might be a few rigid and unbending traditions, like don't mingle with humans, and get the heck off of my forest!, but most would be more progressive.

Dwarves on the other hand would be more conservative and traditional, but with most things being related to a culture that lives underground and mines/crafts for the joy of it.

If you want to see examples of untraditional "elven" races that are set in their conservative/chaotic ways, look at the Melniboneans and Vadhagh races written by Michael Moorcock.
Yeah... uh... I get what the writers -say- Elves are like... but when you compare them to the worlds they're in and the media that is shown about them, they much more often ascribe to the kinds of mindsets I've written about above.

Even in FR they're written as CG or NG their whole societal structure is LG AF, with strong central governments (Monarchies, mostly, but occasionally Religious or Druidic rulership) and almost always a class system which puts specific elves above other elves in a hierarchy of citizenship.

Mostly because it's all based in high fantasy feudalism, but still.

Actually Chaotic (Free spirited, independent) elves? Would probably not have a society in short order... instead, they'd be rugged individualists off on their own living in the wild lands, farming, hunting, fishing, building their homes. Coming together only to mate and raise a child before going off on their own, again. Unattached to people, places, or identities beyond their own weird enjoyments out in the woods. They might swing by a friend's place, now and then, or entertain the occasional visitor... but mostly they'd just be alone.

Oh, sure, they might come to town now and then to take in the local Art Scene and see what's changed in theatre and music every couple decades...
The problem is you’ve used the US as your setting, and thus western mercantilist conservatism is taken as your base line.

Take concepts of ownership - why would someone who is 1000 years old care that they use to own a shirt or a spear or a boat? They’ll see hundreds of them in a lifetime, things will break and be replaced so why not let others share the resources? Why hoard wealth when in the long run its all ephemera?

there is nothing new under the sun so why not just sit and contemplate the beauty of the trees? The only things older than Elves and dragons are the trees, the mountains, and thd rivers. Do we see mountains going to work each day or do rivers fight over imaginary Lines on a map? Why should elves care about politics rather than philosophy and art?
Which is why there's a big bolded section in the middle to separate the example from the actual point.

But since you chose philosophy and art:

Why should elves care about art? Art, by it's very nature, is more ephemeral and fleeting than a spear or a shirt. A spear kept well can last multiple human lifetimes, but within a generation we see art change a dozen times into a dozen new permutations with one of the latest being DEEP FRIED MEMES.

You hung out with Eugene Delacroix and posed for this masterpiece:
Euge%CC%80ne-Delacroix.jpg


And new artists are mass-producing THIS weirdness.

deep-fry-meme-idlememe-4.jpg


In just a handful of generations art can go from something beautiful and representative to something abstract but full of meaning to something freaking awful on the eyes made up entirely of pop culture references and in-jokes within sub-communities.

Not that that should be significantly different from Eugene's art, which is an image of something that happened in the wider world that you don't actually care about.

Because art is a reflection upon or a rejection of a given society, sentiment, or period of time.

Why would an elf who cares nothing about society care about art?

Similarly: Once you have seen a tree a hundred times what beauty is left to be found in that one tree? Or one mountain? Or one anything. Though we could toss it over to the Elf Lord and the Mayfly.


(Love this comic)
I think that unlikely. While elves, personally, live for centuries, socioeconomic systems are not stable over those spans. There will have been rises and falls, booms and busts, a couple times a decade over those years, with large economic displacements several times per century. While they live longer, they have the same limits on their skills and abilities as everyone else - their ability to predict and manage change is, ultimately, no better than anyone else's!

Thus, that long life is unlikely to be one of steady riches and ownership. It is likely made of stories of rags to riches and back to rags several times over. With their longer lives, I'd think elves are more apt to come to understand that control is a temporary state, or an illusion.
That is an interesting way of looking at it... but.

When the US economy collapsed on Black Tuesday, 1929... it wasn't -as- huge as people think of it in retrospect. Oh, it was HUGE. It destabilized the economy for years. But you know who the wealthiest man in the US was from 1920 to 1929? Henry Ford.

You know who the wealthiest man was from 1940 to 1950? Henry Ford.

Another guy, Andrew Mellon, briefly eclipsed Ford's Fortunes in the 1930s by playing off the Great Depression and making himself millions, but Henry Ford didn't go broke or anything. Even as the price of steel (required for car parts) shot through the roof while production was low, he kept it.

Lotsa people who weren't heavily invested in the market but instead owned factories, land, and other forms of real estate still owned it after it was all over. It was the little folks who got mortgages or had their farm financed by the bank who really got the rough end of the economic broom.

People who owned mines? Might've had a couple lean years, but the mine itself, and the resources in it, are what is valued.

Now if it were a -tin- mine at the Bronze Age/Iron Age crossover... well. That'd be pretty different!
Yes. Fully.

Look at art. Movements don’t go away all at once, new ones don’t become dominant in a decade only to meet the same fate 10-40 years later, all of it just builds up and collects. Forever.

What music defined the 2010’s? What decade of fashion is retro chic right now? What is the current “movement”?

But I’ve cream shops are still around, thank goodness. Nothing goes away, it just fades in relevance and prominence.
You're right. I bet I could find someone writing Disco today. Or Motown music. Or Classical.

But in the next few years I won't be able to buy a car with windows that roll down using a crank because there won't be any left. That design is gone, and all the parts to repair it are rusted or discarded. Not unless I can make it myself or hire a machinist to do it as a custom order.

In another couple generations I won't be able to have a Uranium Glass Lamp or Chandelier because time and damage go hand in hand, glass being what it is, and no one making uranium glass anymore.

Remember these bad boys?

origin.jpg


I sure don't. But I found one in the basement of an old house I helped clean out. How about this:

HopRodsMyTwoOfThemSm.jpg
?

While some stuff stays or falls out or comes back into fashion, there will always be things lost (Usually for GOOD REASONS) that you'll never get back.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Modern elves are nerfed from previous editions as well.

A Karen elf isn't going to be a contemporary of Washington she can wax lyrically about Elizabeth the First.

Depending on edition and subrace grandad elf isn't gonna tell war stories of WW1 or 2 but could tell you about the crisis if the third century and can recall the last days of Rome.

They would be tempered by their culture. They probably didn't own slaves in the USA they either met the same fate as native Americans or held onto redoubts in the Appalachians, New England or went into seclusion up in northern California or Washington state/Oregon.

Assuming it's a typical D&D elf culture. Renegades might exist.

If you flip the script though I've had Elves similar to Melinbonians or the East India Company.
 
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