D&D General Let us share our Elves and Orcs

Starfox

Adventurer
Do your tieflings have normal elf lifespan too?
They do, but considering their teen risk-taking tendencies, the prejudices against them, and the fact that the events that created most of them (The Greyhawk Wars) are only 70 years in the past, no-one in the setting realizes this.
 

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aco175

Legend
Most of my generic lore on elves and orcs comes from the old (2e) Demihumans and Demigods books from FR. The origins are mostly stories told to children and not fact, or not all fact. The gods created the races and gave them a place in the world. The elves were given beauty and the forests. The orcs were last coming to the party and were pushed to the swamps and dank caves as their home. Allows for good stories like how Corellon cut Gruumsh's eye and now they hate each other.

I'm not sure the actual origin matters that much. I feel it matters more for the PCs perceptions and how each race interacts in the today world over something such long ago. I guess it could matter more is there was some sort of plague that affected one race and spilled over to some of the others.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Most of my generic lore on elves and orcs comes from the old (2e) Demihumans and Demigods books from FR. The origins are mostly stories told to children and not fact, or not all fact. The gods created the races and gave them a place in the world. The elves were given beauty and the forests. The orcs were last coming to the party and were pushed to the swamps and dank caves as their home. Allows for good stories like how Corellon cut Gruumsh's eye and now they hate each other.

I'm not sure the actual origin matters that much. I feel it matters more for the PCs perceptions and how each race interacts in the today world over something such long ago. I guess it could matter more is there was some sort of plague that affected one race and spilled over to some of the others.

I think it matters because it is usually far more true than not. An origin where gods fight each other is likely a real story of an actual conflict. And that can inform a lot of later-stage threats and game play.
 

RhaezDaevan

Explorer
As mentioned before, my setting's goblins are more elf-like than usual, so I guess it fits to mention them.

Goblins

The elves and goblins were at one time a single people in the Dream Lands, and their civil war there caused them both to be expelled to the waking world, never to return. Both sides blamed the other for their exile, so they naturally dislike each other.

Where elves abandoned their shapeshifting ways, taking on new forms they still have in present day, the goblins tried very hard to keep their original shapeless forms. To that end, they bound themselves to shadow, water/mist, and smoke/flame. Each had an unfortunate side effect to the decision.

Those bound to water could travel from place to place by rain and vapor, but a strong wind pushed the clouds they were in to fall over a swamp. The trees were dense in that swamp, so they were unable to leave (no sun to evaporate). Not familiar with the area, they were unable to exit in time, and became bound to the swamp forever more. These swamp goblins still have some ability to shape themselves and their surroundings, but not being able to leave the swamp drove them a bit insane over the many many years stuck there. They have since learned to scry the outside world, and jealous of the humans and elves, they've created monsters of various form to send out and wreak havoc. In appearance, they look a bit like hairless wild elves, but with a slick slimy texture to their skin.

Those goblins that bound themselves to smoke and flame created great cities of lanterns and cook fires, inviting humans and other peoples to visit and warm themselves. Things were going well, until their queen heard from a visiting human that he had known of wood that could keep a fire burning forever. Wanting such magical wood for her people, she sent scouts to find and retrieve it. It was tracked back to the elves, their hated enemy. The elves would never give their foe such a prized resource, so the goblin queen felt it required to steal some instead. She had her goblins infiltrate and steal several pieces of the wood, but when they added it to the fires, they all snuffed out. Unbeknownst them, the enchanted wood was a gift from the gnomes. It came with both a blessing and a curse. Those gifted the wood can get the ever-burning effect the goblins coveted, but anyone stealing it would get the opposite effect: the fire would snuff out forever. Their fires gone, their power waned. Their visitors stopped coming and their cities crumbled away. Years later, they found a new home and new life in an active volcano. What they looked like previously is unknown in present time, but they now look similar to iron elves, but have hard craggy skin like molten rock and wisps of smoke in place of hair. These fire goblins are still in contact with some humans, especially those not fond of elves.

The most varied in look and culture were those that bound themselves to shadow. These goblins are tall, though not as tall and stretched in appearance as the high elves. Bound to shadow, they exude an aura that most people find unnerving. Shadows travel far and wide, so these shadow goblins did the same.

Some lived in caves, gaining purple skin and silver hair. These cave goblins, weaved magic into pools of still water deep underground. Though the intent was the pools to be used to transmute substances and objects for tools and resources, the pools eventually were used for more nefarious purposes. Cultists and dark mages have gained access to the shadow pools and performed rituals most foul, often involving blood sacrifices. All manner of monstrosities have crawled out of caves created by these rituals, the most well known of which are the trolls. The cave goblins themselves just mostly want to be left alone, but some of them have done dealings with dark gods, which is how cultists and others found out about the pools in the first place.

Other goblins chose living in dark woods, the ones humans and wild elves didn't want. Large spiders lived in these woods, which these goblins befriended. Over time their skin took on the same silvery-white as the spider's web, and their hair like dark green leaves. Some goblins used magic to fuse their blood with their beloved spiders to create a new creature that act as sentries to their homes, protecting from intruders. Mostly misunderstood, they have at times been drawn into war with those that disturb their home. They do have dealings with humans at times, as these goblins craft the most potent poisons known world-wide.

In addition to all these, some experimentation by the most evil of goblin kind into trying to create an army to conquer the known world, created other forms of goblin. The goblins I listed above all see these as "lesser" beings, mutants of all manner of size and shape. Small, mischievous goblins. Bulky, beast-like goblins. Even some with multiple sets of arms or legs. These outcasts are either taken in by tyrants and dark wizards as grunts and goons, or they form bands together on their own, raiding villages for what scraps they can get. Places where their blood is spilled and seep into the ground, more of their kind crawl out. A product of the foul experiments that created them.
 

The answer I like better doesn't really work with DnD: no one is born an elf or orc. They become them by tapping into certain kinds of magic. Elf-hood (and the agelessness that comes with) is a result of deep mastery of the arcane.

Orcs are more primal - you tap into the spirit of the boar to the point that you become a were-boar who's most comfortable in hybrid form. (I nearly always use pig-orcs, otherwise they overlap with goblinoids too much)
 

Edgar Ironpelt

Adventurer
In settings where I use D&D, I'll either use the standard generic 3.5e elves, orcs, etc. or I'll model them on the elves, orcs, etc. of the D&D Cyclopedia/Mystara Gazetteers.

For my old, now-non-D&D Etan campaign, the "humankin" races are cosmopolitan to the point where even the barbarian clans are multi-racial, with clan members considering each other kinfolk even if they belong to different races. (The individual barbarian bands are usually monoracial, however.)

In more settled lands, most villages are mostly-human with a few households of non-humans, and a few villages are mostly a single non-human race with a few households of humans or of different non-humans. Towns and cities are fully cosmopolitan.

The cosmopolitanism is due to the "Curse of Djerassi," named after the wizard who identified the curse. (The curse was inflicted by various now-dead gods with unknown names.) The curse is one of infertility, having children requires fertility charms, and making those charms requires having friends of different races.

Elves are beauty lovers and neat freaks. They don't show any physical effects from aging, but instead succumb to the "elf madness" after 60 years of age. This results in them running off and disappearing - where to is a GM Secret.

Half-elves are like elves but less extreme. They may either age and die as humans do, or suffer the elf madness as elves do. Half-elves are not infertile but are less fertile, and there's a quirk where human couples with an elven sibling-in-law and elven couples with a human sibling-in law are more likely to produce twins.

Orcs are not evil per se, but do tend to be crude and boorish "frat boy" types. They have a resistance to poison, to bad food, and to getting drunk. Their appearance is usually more "Neanderthal gangster" than "pig-faced midget" but the later do exist. Orcs are all male, and breed with females of other races for continuity. (And sometimes with females of other mammalian species - which is where the occasional pig-faced orc comes from...)

(EDIT: I should note that the humankin races of Etan are dwarves, goblins, giants, and lizardmen in addition to the humans, elves, half-elves, and orcs listed above.)
 
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RhaezDaevan

Explorer
The answer I like better doesn't really work with DnD: no one is born an elf or orc. They become them by tapping into certain kinds of magic. Elf-hood (and the agelessness that comes with) is a result of deep mastery of the arcane.

Orcs are more primal - you tap into the spirit of the boar to the point that you become a were-boar who's most comfortable in hybrid form. (I nearly always use pig-orcs, otherwise they overlap with goblinoids too much)
Definitely unusual, but could still work. So someone looks like a human baby when born, could have an elf for a dad and an orc for a mom, and then as they grow up they become a dwarf? Is that how it works?

Orcs are getting less and less pig like in appearance each time the art changes with D&D editions (as well as D&D related games). Outside of the tusk-like underbite teeth, they look more like apes to me than how they did in the past. I wonder if, in the future, the orc looks very little like a pig at all, if there's room for a new pig-person to be introduced.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Orcs are getting less and less pig like in appearance each time the art changes with D&D editions (as well as D&D related games). Outside of the tusk-like underbite teeth, they look more like apes to me than how they did in the past. I wonder if, in the future, the orc looks very little like a pig at all, if there's room for a new pig-person to be introduced.
orcs have gotten to the point where they are just people with a little more muscle and a few extra skin tones. Its particularly bad with the number of sexy female orc art out there. Theres definitely a gap waiting for the more beastial races sans the demonic stink of Gnolls
 

Starfox

Adventurer
The answer I like better doesn't really work with DnD: no one is born an elf or orc. They become them by tapping into certain kinds of magic. Elf-hood (and the agelessness that comes with) is a result of deep mastery of the arcane.

Orcs are more primal - you tap into the spirit of the boar to the point that you become a were-boar who's most comfortable in hybrid form. (I nearly always use pig-orcs, otherwise they overlap with goblinoids too much)
This is how subcategories of elf and hob work in my game. If you are born and raised by wood elves, you are likely to be a wood elf yourself, but it is not a given. And some elves are born to human with no apparent parental link, just from ambient magic. Its more of magic contagion/adaption than mastery. Elves have a name for those elves that don't follow cultural norms, Forlorn.

Edit:

Hobs (collective race for all the little peoples: gnomes, halflings, goblins, leprechauns etc) usually adopt their parents' subtype, but can change dynamically depending on nature and society around them. In a "good" setting they tend towards good archetypes, in an "evil" setting they tend towards evil archetypes. Change is normally rare, can be the result of adventures, you can redeem goblins into gnomes by driving the evil out of their woodlands. Since their type of magic is illusionism, this doesn't require any change to their stats, just looks. They will believe they have always been whatever they are right now.

And yes, dragons also work this way. Baby dragons have a cultural inclination to grow up to be dragons, but anyone can do it by walking a rather arduous magical path and having a HUGE ego.

But I admit this works better with my homebrew rules than it works in DnD.
 
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Definitely unusual, but could still work. So someone looks like a human baby when born, could have an elf for a dad and an orc for a mom, and then as they grow up they become a dwarf? Is that how it works?
More or less - a elf or orc having a baby makes a baby human usually. If they follow their parent’s career they may end up similar.

Orcs are getting less and less pig like in appearance each time the art changes with D&D editions (as well as D&D related games). Outside of the tusk-like underbite teeth, they look more like apes to me than how they did in the past. I wonder if, in the future, the orc looks very little like a pig at all, if there's room for a new pig-person to be introduced.
I noticed, but they also seem to be overlapping with bugbear to the point of redundancy. Goblinoids as unseele I can work with but then there’s no room for orcs among the hobgoblins and bugbears and trolls - but the pig-folk are there, and IMO a more evocative concept.
 

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