log in or register to remove this ad

 

The elf ear-itation.

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I dont know, the low birth rate thing makes a good deal of sense to me. I think many of shidaku's proposals also make good explanations. Population size is definitely going to be a factor in a society's ability to compete with other groups. Wtih elves, the issue they face is, living as long as they do, they may be more cautious than short lived races about risk.

I think the "cautious" thing is where I tend to fall. I also think its rather a good explanation for the "low birth rate" thing as well. Even in humans, the birth rate lowers in societies with higher standards of living and longer lifespans for women. Elves, looking down the barrel of hundreds of years, have more cause to worry about things like sustainability, relationships, and quality of life, then tack on a few more hundred years for your kids....seems like that caution would easily extend to making baby elves. (It also explains why, in the standard-issue Tolkienish model, Elves burst onto the early world, and then come to a screaching halt....they learned.)
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I think conflict between generations would be a big feature of eleven society that would impact how they handle war, trade, etc. with folks living that long, imagine how our culture would be if you not only had veterans of WWII still around but guys who fought in the civil war, the revolution, the thirty years war, the wars of Scottish independence, etc. you have people walking around from the 12th century, think of the resistance they'd have to cultural change.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
If you want strange alien races make them, but don't call them Elves. When it comes to art there is a certain need to provide a baseline appearance and drill that in. This doesn't mean that all Elves have exactly the same ears, it just means that almost all Elves have ears that look this specific way. If you showed all kinds of different ears in art you would have a hard time trying to convey what the average Elf looked like.

I'm not looking for strange or alien, only some differentiation. No more really than exists between RL humans for different ancestries. I certainly don't want inhuman elves, just a little variety. I mean you can generally look at a lineup of humans and tell the ancestry of them, facial features, ear shape, eye shape, all different, even if they're all still 99.99999% the same biologically.

I tend to think of elves as incredibly xenophobic, which is why elf communities are almost universally made up of ONE type of elf, and they all have nearly identical feature(usually pale skin, blonde/brown hair, and are slender). But between elf communities there can, and IMO should be distinction based not just on cultural differences, but on physical differences.

I think conflict between generations would be a big feature of eleven society that would impact how they handle war, trade, etc. with folks living that long, imagine how our culture would be if you not only had veterans of WWII still around but guys who fought in the civil war, the revolution, the thirty years war, the wars of Scottish independence, etc. you have people walking around from the 12th century, think of the resistance they'd have to cultural change.

That's my general answer to the question. And when these tensions erupt, they're huge. It's why elves seem peaceful, sure they don't go to war on a regular basis, at least not regular like humans. But when they do, man, it's a war to remember....until they write the peace treaty that denies it ever happened and they erase it from their history.
 

The Little Raven

First Post
Many years ago I read a short story that had a cool explanation for why elves don't rule everything. According to that story, elves take a long time to learn from their experiences, because they're too caught up in them emotionally. Only after the emotions associated with an event subsume, do the elves manage to cope with what happened and learn from it.

When I was 12, I asked my DM about it and he pointed out that low birth rates (few elves are depicted as having more than 2 children and you need to have more than 2 children per couple for population to grow) would make elven society very risk adverse, since losing people can drive the birth rate down to an unsustainable level. Add in them trying to conquer the world, and you have a recipe for the elves going extinct. If they're smart (as depicted), they would avoid that fate, hence why in "modern" times they tend to be far more passive.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Should all elf races have the same ears? And I guess by extenstion, should we do more to physically differentiate them as well?(shorter, taller, stronger, more dexterous, etc...)

A "yes" or "no" answer is fine, but I'd certainly like to know why you think they should or shouldn't be, and specifically what types of ears are your favored flavor on an elf?

I'm okay with the core races being basically small changes from humans - they're ultimately derived from folklore, not speculative science fiction. If you go too far in making races *really* different, you end up with problems beign able to actually interact meaningfully - see the concept of the Hierarchy of Foreignness. Most of us aren't actually good at emulating a really-oh, truly-o alien mindset, anyway. You can save the really weird stuff for expansions, for me anyway.

My issue with a standard shape for elf ears, and most problematically with small ones, is that it creates the same problem that Star Trek has.

Two words: Ensign Naraht (aka "Ensign Horta") - one of the few Starfleet personnel who can be dropped from orbit without a spacesuit!
 

Ryujin

Legend
I'm not looking for strange or alien, only some differentiation. No more really than exists between RL humans for different ancestries. I certainly don't want inhuman elves, just a little variety. I mean you can generally look at a lineup of humans and tell the ancestry of them, facial features, ear shape, eye shape, all different, even if they're all still 99.99999% the same biologically.

I tend to think of elves as incredibly xenophobic, which is why elf communities are almost universally made up of ONE type of elf, and they all have nearly identical feature(usually pale skin, blonde/brown hair, and are slender). But between elf communities there can, and IMO should be distinction based not just on cultural differences, but on physical differences.

Well there weren't a whole lot of Pigmies or Mongols in 3rd century Wales, either. They would undoubtedly stand out in such a village. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Welsh were xenophobic, at that time, though it's possible.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Well there weren't a whole lot of Pigmies or Mongols in 3rd century Wales, either. They would undoubtedly stand out in such a village. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Welsh were xenophobic, at that time, though it's possible.

Classically, most cultures were pretty exclusive and suspicious of outsiders, especially those with physical or religious differences. Also, the Welsh didn't live in a world of magic...even if they believed in it, that didn't mean a secret network of portals existed between the Fey realms and the human ones allowing for the development of vast and mighty Elven kingdoms.
 

Ryujin

Legend
Classically, most cultures were pretty exclusive and suspicious of outsiders, especially those with physical or religious differences. Also, the Welsh didn't live in a world of magic...even if they believed in it, that didn't mean a secret network of portals existed between the Fey realms and the human ones allowing for the development of vast and mighty Elven kingdoms.

Granted, though my point is that the one is not evidence of the other.

Even in a magical world the vast majority of 'ordinary' representatives of any culture do not typically have access to the higher powered magics that allow easy travel, let alone easy planar travel. This means that racial and cultural divisions tend to be almost absolute in such a place, in theory. Players characters, of course, are the exception.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Granted, though my point is that the one is not evidence of the other.

Even in a magical world the vast majority of 'ordinary' representatives of any culture do not typically have access to the higher powered magics that allow easy travel, let alone easy planar travel. This means that racial and cultural divisions tend to be almost absolute in such a place, in theory. Players characters, of course, are the exception.

Certainly, even in a fantasy world I agree that we're still reproducing a psuedo-medieval world where distinct cultures have significant distance between them and travel usually takes a fairly long time for the majority of people.

Perhaps we could add a darker side to the hippy-tree-loving of elves, and they are so perfect and adept not because of generations of training, but through harsh eugenics programs that weed out "imperfect" children, the weak, sickly and stupid. It's really everything you expect from a culture so wrapped up in perfection. Every elf culture might go about it in different ways, perhaps high elves have lengthy compatibility studies and ways of examining the "genetics" of a child before birth. Maybe wood elves take a more savage approach, stranding children in the wild and seeing if they have the wits to survive. Perhaps Drow have children often(their society is often shown to be the largest elf society), but practice a variety of disturbing experiments upon them to artifically enhance their strength, beauty, or magical prowess.

Through through these various practices, the elf race is kept powerful...but few in number.

....probably not something that's going to get written in canon, but certainly a more interesting take if you want to present elves as "not all that glitters is gold" trope.

But my point about the Fey portals is more along the lines of: What if the Elven kingdoms we see in the "human world" are like the ghettos of the Feywild? The more powerful, wealthy or elite elves live in the Feywild, and faced with the choice of getting dumped in the unforgiving wilderness of the Feywild or moving to the "human planes", the elves choose to go to the human lands. So even the great kings of elves the humans know are little more than the trash of Feywild, but since few Fey are that poor or desperate(since to many, getting eaten in the Feywild is a better way to go than sharing a homeland with humans), elf numbers in the human world remain low.
 

Jackinthegreen

First Post
I'm totally fine with the different elf races having different ears and other characteristics. They're different sub-races after all, so they inherently have differences if they're being categorized like that.

And I admit, I balk a bit about those who say it "breaks their immersion" because it makes helmets and crap more difficult to imagine working. I've run into a few of those on WoW for example and how they always complain about the equipment models looking funny on elves and I just say "Do you really expect them to devote time and assets to making them perfect for every single race? There's such a thing as 'good enough' when it comes to such a large undertaking as WoW is." And there's such a thing as not being able to please people because some people just can't be pleased. *shrug*
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Just for the sake of...well, sharing...here's my typical representation of elves...not as many colored as I expected but...

High elves: silran_pencil copy.jpgsilver4.jpgerilyn_web1.jpg

Here's...my world's "Wood Elves, High Elves, Aquatic Elves": elf_cultures_2_by_steeldragons-d30gb4z.jpg

...and just cuz I have it, another aquatic elf, though I think the differences between them and land-lubber elves are not an issue for anyone.
linaque3.jpg

And...fer fun...some classic elf images from over the years...none of which have ears sticking at a 90 degree angle off their heads:
0e_elf2.jpg0e_elfMelf.jpg1_2e_gilthanas.jpg1e_Elf.jpggiants_1e2.jpg61rh19N6UQL._SL500_AA300_.jpg0_varis.jpg
 

Attachments

  • 0e_elf.jpg
    0e_elf.jpg
    13.4 KB · Views: 75

S

Sunseeker

Guest
I'm totally fine with the different elf races having different ears and other characteristics. They're different sub-races after all, so they inherently have differences if they're being categorized like that.

And I admit, I balk a bit about those who say it "breaks their immersion" because it makes helmets and crap more difficult to imagine working. I've run into a few of those on WoW for example and how they always complain about the equipment models looking funny on elves and I just say "Do you really expect them to devote time and assets to making them perfect for every single race? There's such a thing as 'good enough' when it comes to such a large undertaking as WoW is." And there's such a thing as not being able to please people because some people just can't be pleased. *shrug*

I do have to give props to the games that take the effort to do just that though. Different races have different styles and it's nice to see that reflected. I don't think it's necessary, but it's nice.

Just for the sake of...well, sharing...here's my typical representation of elves...not as many colored as I expected but...

High elves:*image*

Here's...my world's "Wood Elves, High Elves, Aquatic Elves": *img*

...and just cuz I have it, another aquatic elf, though I think the differences between them and land-lubber elves are not an issue for anyone.
*img*

And...fer fun...some classic elf images from over the years...none of which have ears sticking at a 90 degree angle off their heads:
*lots of images*

Yep, there've been a lot of depictions of elves over the years, and they've certainly evolved a lot from their classical western roots of being more akin to gnomes than elite, beautiful, magic humans. I think that sort of evolution and diversity is worth representing to some degree within D&D. Perhaps not all in core, that's a lot of diversity to represent. But if elves are going to get multiple varieties, they ought to put some effort into justifying them.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top