D&D (2024) Worldbuilding Differences between 5e and 5.5?

RhaezDaevan

Explorer
I always thought elves were the same height as humans. But then I read The Death Gate Cycle and the elves in that world were actually taller than humans.
Elves have a wide range of heights across all fantasy media. There is no one true answer for how tall an elf is.

I find the idea of Tolkien style tall elves and short Santa elves existing in the same world to be a funny thought. Could build a game around a conflict between the two.
 

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Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
Elves have a wide range of heights across all fantasy media. There is no one true answer for how tall an elf is.

I find the idea of Tolkien style tall elves and short Santa elves existing in the same world to be a funny thought. Could build a game around a conflict between the two.
The "true" answer is, Elves are imitating Humans thus are Human height.

The English "small elves" are actually fairies. In his descriptions of English folkbelief during the Renaissance, Shakespeare describes the fairy as a childlike spirit. They looked like human children and were the small size of human children. Notably, similar to the way that many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because they are spirits, these fairy children were also able to shrink but to about the size of a fingernail, not as small as an angel could shrink. Later during the Romantic Period, artists imagined the fairies as small adults, and as spirits of nature used iconography with insect wings analogous to angelic wings. Because elves were understood to be a kind of fairy, in the sense of a magical creature, elves were often referred to as fairy folk, or fairies. In some places, the term fairy and elf were interchangeable. Hence, some small or tiny fairies were called "elves".

But the original concept of the "elf" as appearing as an adult human of full human size continues to persist, such as in places in Scotland.

Elves look like humans. Odd features such as wolf ears relate to their shapeshifting magic, or the an artistic iconography relating them to nature.

In sum. Elves are essentially human in appearance, albeit often an idealized version of a human.


In D&D terms, the "santa elves" most closely approximate Gnome, also a kind of fairie, a small sprite. In the UA, player species are normally Humanoid, but I hope to see the Gnome as a "Fey Humanoid".
 
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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
I suspect, a notable impact on worldbuilding is the end of the assumption of Evil Humanoids, such as Orcs.

Orc cultures will become more nuanced, with normal people with both heroes and villains among them.
I suspect this is correct.

I also imagine it might be more of a group or nation level variation rather than individual focus. For example, I can see for the Greyhawk setting a new Orcish deity emerging that is of good alignment, and a civil war breaking out in the Bone March as the orcs who follow the new good aligned deity battle with those who remain supporting Gruumsh.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
I suspect this is correct.

I also imagine it might be more of a group or nation level variation rather than individual focus. For example, I can see for the Greyhawk setting a new Orcish deity emerging that is of good alignment, and a civil war breaking out in the Bone March as the orcs who follow the new good aligned deity battle with those who remain supporting Gruumsh.
Yeah. Personifications of the positive aspects of Orc cultures seem inevitable.

Probably, there were will be diverse Orc nations − different ethnicities, urban, rural, nomadic, etcetera.

It will be interesting how the representation of the Orc species will evolve.
 

RhaezDaevan

Explorer
The "true" answer is, Elves are imitating Humans thus are Human height.

The English "small elves" are actually fairies. In his descriptions of English folkbelief during the Renaissance, Shakespeare describes the fairy as a childlike spirit. They looked like human children and were the small size of human children. Notably, similar to the way that many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because they are spirits, these fairy children were also able to shrink but to about the size of a fingernail, not as small as an angel could shrink. Later during the Romantic Period, artists imagined the fairies as small adults, and as spirits of nature used iconography with insect wings analogous to angelic wings. Because elves were understood to be a kind of fairy, in the sense of a magical creature, elves were often referred to as fairy folk, or fairies. In some places, the term fairy and elf were interchangeable. Hence, some small or tiny fairies were called "elves".

But the original concept of the "elf" as appearing as an adult human of full human size continues to persist, such as in places in Scotland.

Elves look like humans. Odd features such as wolf ears relate to their shapeshifting magic, or the an artistic iconography relating them to nature.

In sum. Elves are essentially human in appearance, albeit often an idealized version of a human.


In D&D terms, the "santa elves" most closely approximate Gnome, also a kind of fairie, a small sprite. In the UA, player species are normally Humanoid, but I hope to see the Gnome as a "Fey Humanoid".
You speak as if you have authority which you do not have. All that is just your own beliefs (or parroting the beliefs of someone else who made it up).

Norse myths never describe what the elves (alfs?) actually look like, so they could have originally been any height.

The wolf ears is a wild idea for elves, not sure where you got that.
 

Vikingkingq

Adventurer
Elves have a wide range of heights across all fantasy media. There is no one true answer for how tall an elf is.

I find the idea of Tolkien style tall elves and short Santa elves existing in the same world to be a funny thought. Could build a game around a conflict between the two.
As someone who was raised on Elfquest elves, I don't have anything against short elves per se. (Although Longbows being an Elven cultural weapon is a bit odd to me if we're going with short elves.)

However, I would argue that the Peter Jackson versions of Tolkien elves are probably more prominent in the public imagination than shorter elves these days - which I think creates some dissonance when the PHB makes short elves default.

What I find odd, though, is that WotC hasn't used the frankly ridiculous number of Elf sub-species to square this circle: seems to me that there's no reason why you couldn't have the High Elves or Eladrin as your Tolkienesque tall elves, while other subspecies could be your short elves, rather than having all Elves at the same base height.
 

Vikingkingq

Adventurer
The English "small elves" are actually fairies. In his descriptions of English folkbelief during the Renaissance, Shakespeare describes the fairy as a childlike spirit. They looked like human children and were the small size of human children.
Yes and no. It is certainly true that some of Shakespeare's fairie characters from Midsummer Night's Dream are small, but Oberon and Titania aren't.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
Yes and no. It is certainly true that some of Shakespeare's fairie characters from Midsummer Night's Dream are small, but Oberon and Titania aren't.
Most telling is the Merry Wives by Shakespeare. There human children costumed themselves as luminous fairies, and an onlooker almost died of fright when seeing them.

This scene clearly demonstrates that English fairies are luminous spirits that resemble normal human children.

In Midsummer, the fairies are also normal children. For example, Queen Titania has a human child as a fellow playmate. However, this play has several scenes where the fairies suddenly shrink to minute sizes.
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
With the archetype of the English Fairies in mind, I prefer the D&D Fairy has the ability to become any size at will, whether Medium (young adult), Small (child), Tiny (infant), or "minute" (angelic fineness).
 

Yaarel

🇮🇱He-Mage
You speak as if you have authority which you do not have. All that is just your own beliefs (or parroting the beliefs of someone else who made it up).

Norse myths never describe what the elves (alfs?) actually look like, so they could have originally been any height.

The wolf ears is a wild idea for elves, not sure where you got that.
English folkbelief − who invented fairies − has authority about what a fairy is.

Norse folkbelief (and other ethnicities sharing a related language) invented the elves, and have authority about an elf is.

There are visual descriptions of Norse alfar, such as a witness who saw them riding horses. Certain Norse traditions identify Vǫlundr as an alfr, whence a clear concept of what an alfr looks like, as well as their shamanic, magical singing, and technological skills. Meanwhile, they have luminous fair complexion and associate with sunlight.

There is also a Norse tradition from Denmark, where an elf woman who is normally extremely beautiful and eternally youthful, was cursed by an other elf to appear as if aged and decrepit. She is a normal human size, and after returning to her youthful human adult appearance, had a half-elf child with a human. Because of her elven ancestry, this daughter was innately skilled at every kind of magic.

Scholars note that the term "alfr" refers to a male elf. Meanwhile an "elf woman" (alfkona) is the typical term for a female elf. Probably, most references to "valkyrja", "dis", and the non-three "norn" refer to the female elves. Via the valkyrja, there is further info about what the alfar look like.

Norse alfar personify magic and there are many references to them shapechanging, such as into a swan and other animals − which is something that human shamanics are known for as well.
 
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