Let's Sharee Our Elves


Elves are a staple of fantasy RPGs, more often than not inspired by Tolkien and filtered through decades of interpretations in TTRPGs, video games and more. But us gamers are a creative lot, and I am CEERTAIN many folks have come up with interesting and potentially unique takes on Elves over the years. So let's share them!

If I am not using Tolkienesque elves (and I do love Tolkien elves) I tend toward the Fair Folk, wild fey, dangerous and inscrutable elves of folklore. These can be hard to use as PCs, though, so one solution I have is that elf PCs are specifically changelings. that is, they are the elf babes left in the baskets by elves who traded their children for a human child. They grow up knowing nothing of their kind beyond what local folklore says -- and almost none of it is kind. They are a reviled lot and considered frightening and potentially dangerous. They almost inevitably end up wanderers and adventurers because they are not welcome in human settlements.

Half elves, by the way, are those human babes raised in elfland that have crossed back over to the mortal world. They are infused with the magic of that place, but their childhoods were not joyous. The elves that took them generally treated them as pets at best, and often much worse. Most "half elves" in the world escaped from elfland rather than being sent, but sometimes elves do use their stolen children as emissaries when they are forced to deal with mortals.

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Honestly, my elves aren’t all that interesting. I call them elven for historical reasons (an early iteration of the setting used multi-syllable names to distinguish certain races from others, and elven was an offshoot of human). Otherwise, they have pointy ears, are somewhat magically-inclined, and live a long time. The elven were created when a yuma* woman (Isilia) and a nymph (Ryada) fell in love and conceived the first elven. The child of an elven and a yuma are also elven (because that’s how the magic works).

Isilia established the first elven nation, called Adal-Sinths. Adal-Sinths was always lead by a queen (originally Isilia) and her daughters. Any girl could be nominated for adoption. Succession was handled via an electoral college where the daughters would vote for the new queen. While Adal-Sinths was located in a frontier away from Adal-Graf† to the east, the two eventually came into (frequent) conflict as they expanded their territories.

Eventually, everything went wrong. A magical experiment in the capital resulted in a portal opening up from which outsiders (fiends and celestials) poured forth. The Sinths fought back, but it was not enough. Their homeland was eventually turned into a fetid swamp with most settlements being reduced to ruins. Warin-Graf eventually intervened (and there were many elven among its ranks), but it’s not likely that Adal-Sinths will be independent again.

The actual conflict between Warin-Graf, the remaining Sinthish forces, and the outsiders lasted several hundred years; but it is winding down now. However, not everywhere has been pacified. The capital is still very dangerous and has not been breached (looting it is the goal of the PCs in my campaign). Also, Dyrstelice (to the south) has taken an interest in the now-pacified territory, so the conflict might gain another participant and turn hot again.

* It was “human” originally, but I changed it to “yuma” to avoid confusing relating to existing human traits and ancestry feats in Pathfinder 2e.
† As it was known at the time. A hundred years or so after Adal-Sinths was established, there was a revolution in Adal-Graf that replaced the king with a magocratic republic. The republic calsl itself Warin-Graf.





A suffusion of yellow
Thin, frail, ephemeral beings of cold wafting mist, they hunger for the warmth and substance of living things. They exude charm though and can inspire others (add cha bonus to skill checks) but in return the elf drains the constitution of their thralls until the victim is so weakened that they are transformed into mist as the elf gains a solid form
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Heretic of The Seventh Circle
My dnd “elves” vary widely. In my Space Fantasy! games alone, you’ve got standard Tolkien, D&D non-lolthite Drow, tree people who turn into something like treants and dryads as they age, inspired partly by Hellboy 2, and magi-technologically advanced people whose language is music, and is intentionally complex, and rivals Gnomish for dominance as the technical language of the known galaxy.

In my own game, Quest for Chevar, the Alfar and Svartalfar are descendants of ancient spirits of nature that took mortal shape in order to experience the world as mortals, and spent so long that way and indulged so deeply in that experience that it irrevocably changed them.

Also sometimes a mortal spirit joins with the land spirits and eventually becomes something more than a ghost, and one path they can take is to eventually become alfar or svartalfar.

The Alfar are tied to things like the trees and other plants, the sun, summer and spring and the rains and storms of those seasons, etc. They are generally emotional, enthusiastic, and very communal and social. They tend to cooperate more than they compete, or at least their competition is generally in group endeavors rather than individualistic contests, and they tend to fail to understand the jealousy or possessiveness of most humans and many other peoples. They can extend their awareness to the land around them and to eachother with a limited empathy.

The Svartalfar are tied to the moon and stars, the cool winds that come after the sun sets, and the creatures of the night. They are more quiet but also more physically imposing than their cousins, can see in the dark like a cat, and have a reputation for being colder, but are fiercely loyal within thier family, and mark family by loyalty and obligation as much as by blood. They are competitive and daring, and hold great value on achievement as an individual and as part of a group. Their sports are usually either individual or a team based with a greater ability for personal achievement.

The two tend to grate on eachother, at least if you put archetypal members of each ancestry in a room together, but when they work together they are capable of feats that inspire legends across the Nine Worlds.

They do have some things in common, like being able to speak directly to spirits without the use of ritual magic, and an affinity for Animism (the magic of communion with the spiritual) due to their origins, and long lives that are lived in cycles of centuries, in which thier old lives fade from memory and they regain their youth, becoming both a new person and a new life-stage of the same person, never fully losing their old selves even as they change and evolve over centuries.

Some members of both ancestries instead hold off this cycle, becoming Elders, with strong memories stretching back sometimes thousands of years, but also becoming less and less mortal over time, more like the spirits their ancient ancestors were.

Some folk theorize that Frey and Freyja were among the first Alfar and Svartalfar, and that they eventually gained so much wisdom and power that they broke through both the Elder state and the Cycle, becoming gods instead. Others say the two simply found kindred spirits in the two folk myriads ago, and became their patrons.

Nomenclature: I have been trying to construct soemthing I like more than Liosalfar and Svartalfar, or simply calling the summer-plant-socialism elves “alfar”.

Giving them both a unique name would allow me to call them both alfar, without making it seem like one is default and the other is a variant.

Anyway, in my Islands World setting, there aren’t any “high elves”, but there are Eladrin, Boradrin (wood elves and sea elves, which aren’t seen as meaningfully different), and Döradrin (Drow). Just like sex, an eldarin can change from one of these to another over time, and the child of one can be any of them. At their most “human”, they are the upper class of several nation states modeled strongly on certain European cultures at specific times, with a twist or blending of a secondary time, ie Capet is Rococo France with elements of Medieval Frankish kingdoms as seen through the lense of romantic fiction, and Albarona is Reconquista Spain with elements of both Andelusia and pagan Celt-Iberia, and a complex origin as a culture that came from distant shores in the far off past.

As this is a world without any humans (and if I ever allow humans it will be Dragonmarked humans with new lore), these folks and Khernadin (half-elves, where “half” means a mix of ancestries ranging from orcs to hobs to Goliaths and more, and this ancestry is socially and culturally the same race as tieflings, half-orcs, elf-orcs, and some others) are the closest to a “basic” people that the setting has. Hin (halflings) and the Fir Bolg (Firbolgs and Goliaths) are close to basic, as well, but the setting basically asks, “If there are a half-dozen “near-human” peoples that are easy to empathize with but with a little extra spice, do we need humans?


Staff member
As I wrote a little bit ago:
The “variant elves are in every ecosystem “ was annoying to me on a variety of levels. Ignoring the aquatics, no scratch homebrew of mine ever included more than 3 variants (of any sentient species).

The post-apocalyptic one I designed years ago had 3 elven variants: the magically luminous Asteraiinen, the Svartolaiinen who were darkness personified, and the Vertolaiinen, who had used magic to merge themselves with the world’s flora.

Another take: ”Elves” who were actually crashlanded “Grey” aliens whose use of holography, stasis fields and multidimensional technologies gave rise to the classic elves of Underhill.

aramis erak

in my fantasy hero setting, Mountain Elves fly rather than walk... Doors are in their ceilings...

but really, they're still merely long lived mortals with Max Pre & Com 25...

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