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hymer
2013-12-17, 04:10 PM
I intend to introduce a people of elves who are not nearly as long lived as their distant kin. This of course begs the question why they are different? Which begs the question why are elves longer lived?
Tolkien's elves were like that, because they were made like that by their creator. I followed that path with most elves, but in this campaign I have no established origin story for elves (or anyone else for that matter).
So, dear playgrounders, toss me your thoughts, ideas, experiences and comments, I beg. Why, from an in-universe perspective, are elves so long lived? And why does this not apply to these other elves?
It might be worth noting that the elves with shorter lives are less noble than the established long-lived ones. Whether this has any bearing on the issue I don't know yet.

A Tad Insane
2013-12-17, 04:14 PM
For any elf not literally made to be long lived, it's because it's their shtick, just like dwarfs are short, have beards and like anything to do with stone and metal. In other words, there isn't really an in-universe reason other than 'because why not?"

Sporeegg
2013-12-17, 04:23 PM
In Warcraft, the Elves were immortal. While the High Elves became mortal (and addicted to magic) after getting their sun well destroyed, the Night Elves became mortal after they sacrified the World Tree to fend off a demonic invasion. Also the Night Elves are (vice versa to Tolkien) evolved trolls (rather than orcs) granted with immortality. High Elves evolved from the Night Elves after an exodus to a different land in response to the new surroundings. The immortality came from the dragon aspects (demi gods) who blessed the tree. The departed High Elves "merely" lived for thousands of years while the Night Elves were immortal for some period of time in the past.

Basically for your setting you could base everything off of a really magical place (perhaps connected to the creator(s) of your physical plane). Cut some elves off of its power (like the punishment Irenicus from Baldurs Gate 2 suffered, only on a larger basis) and cast them out.

Segev
2013-12-17, 04:29 PM
You might want to approach this from a different angle: what makes these not-so-long-lived elves different from, say, humans? Elves are often "pretty, graceful humans who live a long time and aren't quite so physically robust."

In one campaign I ran, it never came up, but I'd decided that Gray Elves would reach adulthood and then stop aging entirely, living forever young. Drow, on the other hand, would also never die of old age, but would age throughout their immortal lives. Both races got this from a horrible crime they committed: they robbed the Sea Elves of the magic inherent to all elves, rendering them a diminished, more mortal race. The Gray Elves poured that power into their immortality; the Drow used it to magnify their own racial magic (hence why Drow have magical powers inherently that other elves need to study for).

In another, I played elves more straight, but used the explanation that sleep is when you internalize your experiences into long-term memory and real learning to explain why elves didn't have as much experience after 20 years as humans do. Elves don't sleep. Their trance-state, every night, performs the same function for them, but it's a learned talent. When you can't long-term learn without first learning it, it takes DECADES to first convince the little elven rascals that sitting still for hours on end isn't boooooring and then to get them to actually learn the lessons enough to even START meditating. They are adept at it by the time they're fully grown, which coincides with when they "start adventuring." It's why they gain as much experience as other, shorter-lived races from that point out.

But to really settle on what is different about your shorter-lived elves, you should determine what makes them not just pointy-eared humans. Why are they not just "half elves?" What is it about them that makes you want to have both them and "traditional" elves in your campaign setting? Is it as simple as High Elves live longer and Sylvan Elves don't?

Admiral Squish
2013-12-17, 04:35 PM
Well, it could simply be that they're like turtles and their cells don't really age the way most mammals do. They reach maturity and they just stop. They're essentially immortal until slain in combat/by disease/by accident. Or it could be that they're sustained by a spiritual bond to a forest, or even to a specific tree, kinda like less-limited dryads. They live as long as the tress does, then they start aging as normal for a human. It could be that the really do age underneath it all and they just look good on the outside with regular application of magic and periodic trips to have their immortality refreshed.

Honestly, though, one should try to point out just how old an elf is in a tangible way. Even a young elf just reaching adulthood is more than old enough to have sat on a human's great grandfather's knee. Old elves may have been around before a town was founded, may even have had a part to play in it. some have been around nearly a thousand years, which, from current time, was long enough ago to have been a citizen of the roman empire, with four hundred years to spare. A lot can happen in a thousand years.

Sebastrd
2013-12-17, 04:41 PM
Just spit-balling...

Elves traditionally represent old magic, generally as it fights against and is inevitably pushed aside by technology. They're a sort of embodiment of childhood innocence lost in the march toward adulthood.

Since their strength and vitality tends to wane as industrialization takes over, it would make sense that their longevity would be tied to the strength of magic in a given setting. A new, shorter-lived subrace of elves may have tied itself to technology rather than magic. As the balance shifts and magic fades while technology increases, these new elves would become longer-lived while their older bretheren die off.

Segev
2013-12-17, 05:01 PM
As an additional thought, consider the length of time an elf has been alive thusly: imagine if George Washington and his wife had been elves; they would still be alive and only about middle-aged today. William Bradford, if he were an elf, would merely be elderly by now. Imagine how our culture would be different if even 10% of our major historical figures had been elves, and were thus still around today.

TheCountAlucard
2013-12-17, 05:28 PM
Also, it's not begging the question. :annoyed:

BWR
2013-12-17, 06:17 PM
The most important thing to ask is 'why are there elves in my setting?'
What purpose do they have? Tolkien's elves were basically the ideal human. Better, stronger, wiser, hardier, more beautiful, more knowledgable. Like any people in Classic tales, when they failed they failed spectacularly.
So Tolkien's elves are immortal and awesome because that is what people wish to be.

As for in universe explanations, try coming up with something a little different than 'first born children, ancient when humans first came along'.
In Dark Sun all humanoid races are evolved halflings. Perhaps there are simply two different strains of elves.

Dwarves in Mystara are short and hardy and magic-resistant because an Immortal saw the proto-dwarves and determined they would wither away in the face of the magical radiation from an explosing starship, so he transformed them and hid them underground, giving rise to their insularity, their innate resistance to spells and magic and lack of facility with the arcane, and their high constitution and resistance to poisons. The original dwarves still have small, dwindling communities around.
Perhaps these short-lived elves have had a similar origins.

Halflings in both Mystara and Birthright are both immigrants from another dimension (and considering the similarities between their special abilities, perhaps they have a common origin).
Perhaps the short-lived elves had a magical calamity happen that stripped them of some of their life.

Mark Hall
2013-12-17, 06:23 PM
In the Shannara books (or, at least, the early ones), elves lived about as long as normal humans, because they were faerie creatures who had too heavily interbred with men... enough that they were still somewhat distinct, but still very human.

For why your elves don't live long? Well, you kind of need to decide why normal elves live so long, and what makes these different.

paddyfool
2013-12-17, 06:29 PM
An idea I once had on this front:

The "Elven Lands" are a demiplane, out of phase with the rest of the world in time. For every day that passes there, 5 pass in the outside world. Growing up there means that you'll stay young for five times as long... which is the secret to the elves' longevity in the outside world. And to elven power; there are a few very, very old and very powerful elves around. God wizards and the like.

But the kicker is, you have to grow up in the elven lands to be properly instilled with longevity by them. So elves are rarely seen in the outside world until they're 20... or 100, depending on how you're counting.

Where the rest of the world and the elven lands meet stands an elven city, in phase with the rest of the world. Very, very few non-elves have ever passed beyond it into the elven lands proper. Those from the rest of the world who are viewed as friendly may enter the trading quarter of the city. But it's rare indeed that they'll ever see an elven child.

The elven demiplane is actually a fragment of what was once their world. The Drow live on another fragment; unlike the elves, they take back slaves. However, these slaves age and die rapidly, by how time runs in Drow lands, unless brought over as children; as do all who enter the elven lands. Drow thus are far more likely to take children as slaves than adults. Taken at the right age, these children will age "fast" as time is measured in the Drow lands, yet slow down in aging as adults even while not fully psychologically developed. A very few have escaped, to find a world where centuries have passed while they were away for decades.

The rest of the former world of the elves was destroyed in a long-ago mage war. The main elven population and the Drow are the remnants of the two main factions.

Wood/wild elves are the refugees of this conflict, and their aging is only slightly slower than human.

If they have to have dealings with those from the outside world, the very old elves with centuries of experience and arcane knowledge which form the basis for their power will sometimes disguise themselves as "elven gods". Over the centuries, this has led to a conjecture, which in turn has led to a mythology among some of the other races that the elves themselves have the potential to attain divinity.

The main body of elves trade, in the city which straddles the worlds, with fine fabrics and other consumables, many of them luxury items, which seem to stay fresh and new far longer than those made in the prime material plane. Elven weapons and metalwork are also held in some esteem, since they seem to keep their edge and form longer, with less maintenance. In return, the elves are only interested in items made from the more permanent things from the prime material plane, such as gold, stone, ceramics etc. Almost anything else will decay far too fast after being taken between worlds.

The light's dimmer in the elven lands. Hence the eyesight thing. Maybe the war even damaged their sun, or maybe their world floats at a greater distance from their sun, but in a nebula which provides a permanent glow...

The drow lands have broken off from the main elven world. Their surface is an inhospitable place, without breathable atmosphere, and they therefore live in the interior, with the only gravity being that they create by their sorceries. (Effectively making these Drow moon-Nazis).

Relations between the main elves and the wood elves are friendly enough... but the latter cannot cross back, unless as babies, for fear of aging; they're now time-synched with the prime material plane.

A diet consisting largely of foodstuffs from elven lands has the side effect of very slightly delaying the aging process for those who consume it. Only by a factor of, say, 1.5 or so; but even this is regarded as a precious boon by the wealthy and privileged.

What this means for adventurers/plots
- A first level elf would have only recently attained the right to travel to the city or beyond, and could have left the city for practically any reason; the world outside would likely be rather strange to him or her, being as it's a different plane and all.
- A mid-level or high-level elf might have done their other adventuring a long time before, then gone home to raise a family, and return to a world which had changed by, say, 150 years while they lived for 30.
- Or they might have lived in the outside world for centuries, and seen nations rise and fall.
- Diplomatic negotiations with the elves can take a long time to resolve, if it's something for which those who live within the elven lands, rather than the city, would need to be consulted
- Adventurers wishing to visit the elven or the drow lands would be well advised to keep their visits brief, and not to visit while pregnant. If they stay for years, they'll grow old uncomfortably fast.

Elkreeal
2013-12-17, 06:36 PM
Not sure if this was mentioned, but these short-lived elves could just be sons of half-elves and elves, maybe with the passing of time their bloodline's purity faded in a society where half-elf/elf breeding was normal, eventually there wouldn't be enough "long-living-genes" in the gene-pool for the lives of the elves to be that much greater than a human life.

Honest Tiefling
2013-12-17, 06:44 PM
Elves do have a -2 penalty to constitution in many systems, or are otherwise frail. Perhaps a magical disease or curse ravaged the bodies of certain groups, and the magic caused permanent damage to the bloodlines.

Coidzor
2013-12-17, 06:48 PM
I go with magically assisted pseudo-evolution. Probably because I played Arcanum at an impressionable age.

Elves are the descendants of humans that moved into areas with an ambient magical radiation. They've developed a partially-magic based biology, enabling their bodies to not age as rapidly after they hit puberty. Drow are the result of evolving to draw off of Phaerezz and other energies of the Underdark instead of the energies from the sun and whathaveyou on the surface after they'd already adapted to having a magical-based physiology. Prolonged exposure to dead magic areas and anti-magic fields can result in aging similar to a dwarf or even in extreme cases a human depending upon the nature of the exposure. An elf getting shang-haied on, say, Earth, a dead magic world, would not be very happy or nearly as long lived.

Dwarves are the descendants of those humans who had a natural resonance with the geomancy of earth and stone, and as a result their cultural traditions/superstitions/religions incorporate a lot of feng shui-like principles in arranging their mines.

Halflings and Gnomes each claim that the one is a mutant version of the other, though they both have an affinity for the magical fields around animals.

Humans are just more in tune with adapting themselves to their surroundings or they're just the descendants of those proto-humans that didn't react to magical energies and experienced mundane evolution.

Orcs I never can quite decide, between curses, deliberate magical alteration by sapients, or an innate connection to primal bloodlust.

Goblinoids are either an example of convergent evolution to a humanoid shape or split off much, much earlier than other hominids.

Slipperychicken
2013-12-18, 01:44 AM
I also like to think that the D&D races branched off from common ancestors. They might have come from some celestial elf-like creature (which may have resembled Aasimar) which had a huge affinity for magic, but was highly fragile. This common anscestor's populations then diverged into many races based the extent to which they were exposed to other influences, such as monsters and evil gods.


So on one side, you have races which stayed close to their celestial origins due to isolation (usually in enchanted forests and mountain-homes) and kind gods, tend to be Good-aligned, have longer lifespans, and are more suitable as spellcasters. There are very few of them because they do not reproduce quickly. These are Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes. Drow might also fall into this category, even though they were co-opted into evilness by Lolth.

Then you have middle-races, which might have been a mix between "good" races and "evil" ones, and had only a little genetic exposure to beastmen and monsters. These are human-related, diverse, have roughly human-length lifespans, don't tend as strongly toward a particular alignment, are suitable for many classes, and more numerous. These are Humans and the "Half" races (halfling, half-elf, half-orc, etc).

Finally, you have the races which came about because they were much more exposed to monstrous and daemonic influences on their heritage, as well as curses from evil gods and experimentation by mad wizards. They tend to be evil-aligned, have bonuses to strength and constitution because of their extensive mixing with monsters and fiends, and have very short lifespans but reproduce rapidly. There are countless such "beastman" races, but the notable ones are Orcs, Goblins, Bugbears, and Kobolds.

Yora
2013-12-18, 02:59 AM
For my setting, I dialed the age of elves down to 300. In some very rare cases there have been individual elves who have been claimed to have reached an age of 400, but 250 to 325 is much more common.
I think this makes things seemingly more plausible than 700 or even 1000 years.

Oddity222
2013-12-18, 05:23 AM
Well, in the Drowtales (http://drowtales.com/) universe the Elves are immortal as long as they are in large groups. Large numbers of them creates a 'mana pool' that sustains them, and stops their aging. The bad side of it is that the older the elf, he requires a larger mana pool to sustain himself, or or else they start aging. If they are alone, or in very small groups, they start to age, but 2 times slower than humans.

hymer
2013-12-18, 05:57 AM
@ A Tad Insane: ’because why not?’ isn’t much of an in-universe reason. Since I need the reason in order to explain the difference, there needs to be an actual in-universe reason. But I take your point that not everything can be (or needs to be) explained. Thanks for replying.

@ Sporeegg: The Sin’dorei are probably the case that sparked the idea of newcomer elves with less nobility and trouble with their immortality.
1: The Sin’dorei were already addicted to magic. It was the Sunwell that used to fuel them and their addiction, and with it destroyed, they suddenly began to get withdrawal problems.
2: I usually react when people present the theory of Orcs from Elves as fact. It isn’t. We (and that included Tolkien, by his own words) do not know where Orcs came from. He made several theories (one of them the Orcs from Elves one), but none satisfied him.
It’s a good idea. It makes immortality something that can be taken away, and I intend the newcomers to have some thoughts about copying the immortality of other elves – and eventually about stealing immortality outright. I’m going to want to tweak it sufficiently that it doesn’t smack too obviously of Azeroth, though. Thank you!

@ Segev: The answer to your final questions can be easily answered from an out-of-universe perspective, but not so easily from within. Which is what I’m working on, currently with the help you people. Thanks!

@ Admiral Squish: The simple biological explanation still needs some questions answered. How did that happen? Every other humanoid is mortal, how did the elves come to be so radically different? It points to very different origins. Thanks for your thoughts.

@ Sebastrd: If only technology was a theme in this campaign world, it’d be a great explanation. But there are things along those lines that may fit. Thank you much!

@ TheCountAlucard: Beg pardon? Are you objecting to the theorizing, or the phrase, or what?

@ BWR: Answering the origins of elves is very likely to explain their immortality, no doubt. Thanks for replying.

@ Mark Hall: Yeees… That’s… what I was saying too. Thanks for replying!

@ paddyfool: Interesting idea, thanks for writing it out.

@ Elkreal: It’s a sound idea, unfortunately not applicable to this campaign world. There are no half-breeds. Thanks, though.

@ Honest Tiefling: That would make those elves far more woobieish. Thanks for the suggestion!

@ Coidzor: It makes quite a bit of sense, though it deals poorly with nomadic peoples. Something to think about… Thanks!

@ Slipperychicken: I like that, but it doesn’t really fit with the campaign world as it is. Thanks, though!

@ Yora: Thanks for replying.

@ Oddity222: I'd never heard of that, thanks!

Komatik
2013-12-18, 06:38 AM
EDIT: Apologies if I'm reiterating something already said in the thread, I just clicked quote on interesting posts and answered as I read.


In Warcraft, the Elves were immortal. While the High Elves became mortal (and addicted to magic) after getting their sun well destroyed, the Night Elves became mortal after they sacrified the World Tree to fend off a demonic invasion. Also the Night Elves are (vice versa to Tolkien) evolved trolls (rather than orcs) granted with immortality. High Elves evolved from the Night Elves after an exodus to a different land in response to the new surroundings. The immortality came from the dragon aspects (demi gods) who blessed the tree. The departed High Elves "merely" lived for thousands of years while the Night Elves were immortal for some period of time in the past.

Basically for your setting you could base everything off of a really magical place (perhaps connected to the creator(s) of your physical plane). Cut some elves off of its power (like the punishment Irenicus from Baldurs Gate 2 suffered, only on a larger basis) and cast them out.

Small nitpick: IIRC High Elves were not immortal, the Sunwell simply provided them magical mojo similar to how the Well of Eternity used to do (And without Runestones attracted a horde of daemons to burn the planet, but that's irrelevant). The magic addiction was also there due to the Sunwell, just also constantly sated by it so the addiction wasn't a problem in practice.


You might want to approach this from a different angle: what makes these not-so-long-lived elves different from, say, humans? Elves are often "pretty, graceful humans who live a long time and aren't quite so physically robust."

In one campaign I ran, it never came up, but I'd decided that Gray Elves would reach adulthood and then stop aging entirely, living forever young. Drow, on the other hand, would also never die of old age, but would age throughout their immortal lives. Both races got this from a horrible crime they committed: they robbed the Sea Elves of the magic inherent to all elves, rendering them a diminished, more mortal race. The Gray Elves poured that power into their immortality; the Drow used it to magnify their own racial magic (hence why Drow have magical powers inherently that other elves need to study for).

In another, I played elves more straight, but used the explanation that sleep is when you internalize your experiences into long-term memory and real learning to explain why elves didn't have as much experience after 20 years as humans do. Elves don't sleep. Their trance-state, every night, performs the same function for them, but it's a learned talent. When you can't long-term learn without first learning it, it takes DECADES to first convince the little elven rascals that sitting still for hours on end isn't boooooring and then to get them to actually learn the lessons enough to even START meditating. They are adept at it by the time they're fully grown, which coincides with when they "start adventuring." It's why they gain as much experience as other, shorter-lived races from that point out.

But to really settle on what is different about your shorter-lived elves, you should determine what makes them not just pointy-eared humans. Why are they not just "half elves?" What is it about them that makes you want to have both them and "traditional" elves in your campaign setting? Is it as simple as High Elves live longer and Sylvan Elves don't?

That trance thing is amazing. So stealing it.

One interesting thing re:Sylvan Elves vs. High Elves is from 4th edition. Notice how the Eladrin who live in the Feywild live longer and some really old dudes come to embody things like the seasons themselves? And how that's completely absent from the Wood Elves of the setting? They're still long-lived folk, but noticeably less so, and less inherently magical. Living in the normal world seems to be slowly diluting the magic that suffuses that people. It could work.

And yeah, half-elves should be a pretty easy option for less long-lived elves if you just want less long-lived elves.

------------

One idea that might be doable too could be Lemuria from Golden Sun.

Plot ahead: In Golden Sun spellcasters are basically elemental-focused sorcerers - magical talent is largely innate and everyone knows earth, fire, water or air magic. Lemuria is pretty much old Atlantis - a hallowed city of water mages in the middle of the sea. It hasn't sunk, though, and has a fountain of youth. Drinking from it dramatically extends a person's lifespan. In Lemuria, the long lifespan and them being cut off from the rest of the world has given rise to stagnation and a life of endless boredom.

How this could be useful to the elves is having a high elf population with a powerful fountain, but the shorter-lived population having access to something that only makes a diluted version of the life-giving draught. Say, there's ten McGuffin Gemstones embedded in some sort of shrine in that fountain. Or, well, used to because one got stolen, and with them the High Elves' immortality. Now they just live Really Damn Long. The less long-lived folk have the remaining one at the bottom of their fountain and so they too live long, just not nearly as long as the high elves do. This may or may not cause tension between the two elven peoples, and may or may not cause things like pointy ears. Elves could just be drugged-up humans :P


For my setting, I dialed the age of elves down to 300. In some very rare cases there have been individual elves who have been claimed to have reached an age of 400, but 250 to 325 is much more common.
I think this makes things seemingly more plausible than 700 or even 1000 years.

Agreed. Even if the perspective is still really oddly long, it's still much easier for us as humans to imagine than something that has lived a millenium.

Segev
2013-12-18, 08:39 AM
@ Segev: The answer to your final questions can be easily answered from an out-of-universe perspective, but not so easily from within. Which is what I’m working on, currently with the help you people. Thanks!
I figured you had an OOC reason. I asked because I tend to find that knowing why, OOC, I want something can help me come up with the IC excuse for it. Knowing the narrative role it's to play, knowing the reason I need it to be so, I can construct an in-universe explanation tailor made to ensure that it serves that role.

If you're willing to share your OOC purpose behind it, it might helps us construct the IC reason.


That trance thing is amazing. So stealing it.
Use it in good health!

hymer
2013-12-18, 08:50 AM
@ Segev: Sure. I'll go quickly past the ones about one player always playing elves, and I want him to be able to, and elves are something you can throw in and players immediately get the idea.
One of the themes of the campaign is the "sic transit gloria mundi", everything passes away, civilization that we take for granted is fleeting, contrasted with how people with foresight, fortitude and high ideals can change the world for the better. The long-lived elves have a very particular role in seeing things in the long view, which only human historians tend to. They also have a role showing that even such heights as immortal elvendom is capable of crumbles under time.
There is also the nature vs. artifice thing going on, where sylvan elves (and to a lesser degree druids, often the same) are the ones articulating nature's side, a sort of mirror to the other theme, but where the side you're naturally rooting for is not so clear.

Segev
2013-12-18, 09:52 AM
So the short-lived elves are there to a) let a player play one without having to enter the "long-lived historical perspective" space you want the long-lived elves to occupy, and b) to be a race of druids?

I'm not trying to be flippant, here, just trying to summarize to see if I understood correctly. I get b) from the "you generally know what elves are" and the comment about sylvan elves and druids being the same thing, kind-of.

For a), I will assume your player's preference for playing elves isn't rooted in a liking for that "long-lived historical perspective" but instead in the other aspects of what you "pretty much know" when somebody mentions "elf."

One possibility is that elves engage in serial reincarnation. All elves. The long-lived ones are a cultural oligarchy that maintain this long-term perspective on purpose. They are the oldest of the elves. If something happens to one of them and they die, the oldest elf not already in this oligarchy is promoted to it.

Perhaps elves age like the drow I outlined in my earlier post: they don't naturally die of old age, but they age eternally. The elves not privileged to be in the oligarchy of history-keepers, upon reaching a certain age (or upon becoming so infirm they're a burden on society), are interred in a magical sarcophagus, where they peacefully slumber for a generation and then pass on to be reincarnated.

Each of the oligarchy has a large number of sarcophagi tied to him, and those slumbering within feed him life energy that keeps him young. It also feeds him, during his nightly trances, the life experiences and memories of those within, further enhancing his ability to serve as lore-keeper.

Thinking further, maybe he also shares his own collected experience in a feedback with those in the sarcophagi, and, should something happen to him, it's not the oldest "living" elf that takes his place, but the oldest elf still within one of his sarcophagi, who is magically healed and who wakes up, rejuvenated by the life force of all the other sarcophagi tied to his. He remembers his life up to being interred, and has subconscious access to the memories shared by his predecessor.

The non-long-lived elves are interred at a traditional age, or maybe they aren't but are expected to care for themselves and, if they get to the point they must be cared for and can't convince their loved ones to do it, they're interred. Maybe they are even considered very, very selfish if they don't willingly be interred.

It's somewhat horrific on one perspective, but at the same time, it's a glorified nursing home from another. The eventual death is probably considered unfortunate, except they reincarnate. Likely, the cultural expectations make it seem good to the elves who live in it. All elves have been through it multiple times, after all.

hymer
2013-12-18, 10:26 AM
Thanks for the help, Segev, I really appreciate your taking the time. I obviously wasn’t clear, however. Let me try again:

There are (so far) two kinds of elves in the campaign world known to players. The one kind is the (no longer so) high elves, whose local culture has collapsed, and who are there for providing insight into the long term ups and downs of civilization and culture. These guys are supposed to be good people, friends of humans and dwarves, but no longer able to do much to help anyone in a big way.

The other kind is the sylvan elves. Druids in the area are usually sylvan elves, or taught by them, or in some way has a connection to them. They have a role of reminding people of the cyclic nature of nearly everything, and the slow change of a world that barely notices such things as civilization. They are supposed to be good people, but much more prone to isolationism. They are still squarely in the ‘good’ camp, if only because they are a major check on evil humanoids in the area.

The third kind of elves (the ones either not immortal or with greatly reduced lifespans compared to the two former elf kinds) are there to introduce an elven culture that can easily turn to evil. I wanted them for a culture of elves that could be clear antagonists for the good-aligned PCs, and to let the elf-haters take out their wrath on them instead of the guy playing an elf. Well, that last part may not work, but it’d be nice if it did.

The third kind of elf is going to start appearing in the campaign area within a few sessions. Their nature (not clearly good-aligned, not long-lived) will not be obvious from the first, but they are probably going to grow envious of the elves with the long lives. Their narrative will probably evolve along lines of this, and the idea of stealing immortality may crop up. They will certainly be investigating the nature of other elves’ long lives, something the PCs may be involved in, which means I need an explanation.

The reasons one of my players has for playing an elf is that he likes their goodness, affinity with nature, dignity, etc. So I don’t want to put any unseemly blemish on the two cultures he’s likely to be drawing his PC from (and hence, I’m putting a third group out there who can fill that role).
So while a very interesting idea, the oligarchy’s not very good for my particular needs – through no fault of yours, of course. Serial reincarnation is perhaps too obvious. It’s something you would expect someone to think about, being so special. The investigation of elven lives will work best if it starts pretty much from scratch, when the elves without long lives show that something is going on here.

Segev
2013-12-18, 11:26 AM
So this third group of elves, this third kind, were they once like the other two kinds, and lost their immortality, or are they "from somewhere else" and just now arriving, and discovering (to their surprise) that other elves have really long lives?

Do you want them to be merely "more full of potential" alignment-wise, or do you want them to be "actually mostly evil?"

What, again, sets them apart from humans? Just being more graceful but less hardy and having pointy-ears, but otherwise being short-lived and as prone to good and evil as humans are? Or is there something "deeper" or more "alien" to them to make them not-human on a similar level to the other two kinds of elves?

It sounds like you have High Elves to represent long-term rise and decline of civilization, Sylvan Elves to represent the cyclic nature of things on all levels, and humans to demonstrate the churn of progress through many small steps.

What do these "new" elves represent?

hymer
2013-12-18, 03:02 PM
Good and thought-provoking questions there, Segev, thanks again!


So this third group of elves, this third kind, were they once like the other two kinds, and lost their immortality, or are they "from somewhere else" and just now arriving, and discovering (to their surprise) that other elves have really long lives?
That I don't know. I'm thinking that there is a connection, and they don't merely resemble each other superficially. If they once had immortality, they've forgotten, and if the other elves once did not have it, they have forgotten that too. Which points to elves being naturally immortal, and this group having lost it and forgotten that they did. Much more plausible than immortal elves forgetting, when they're only a few generations from their origins.


Do you want them to be merely "more full of potential" alignment-wise, or do you want them to be "actually mostly evil?"
I was thinking they could go down two paths (depending on PC actions, perhaps): They could all sink towards evil, or there could be a split, with some going over the edge in jealousy and greed, while the rest have to watch their friends and family reveal something horrible about themselves.


What, again, sets them apart from humans? Just being more graceful but less hardy and having pointy-ears, but otherwise being short-lived and as prone to good and evil as humans are? Or is there something "deeper" or more "alien" to them to make them not-human on a similar level to the other two kinds of elves?
They are significantly different from humans, though they seem closer to humans with their shorter life spans and their more human alignments (and probably emotions). Much of the similarity can be ascribed simply to the shortened lifespans. But they are going to have an elven affinity for nature and magic, and a culture that resembles that of the other elves, at least at first.


It sounds like you have High Elves to represent long-term rise and decline of civilization, Sylvan Elves to represent the cyclic nature of things on all levels, and humans to demonstrate the churn of progress through many small steps.

What do these "new" elves represent?

Perhaps the best question, and the hardest to answer. In a sense, they occupy the role more traditionally given to mortal humans envious of elven traits. I want to split them apart from that, somehow, but I'll have to think more about how.

Coidzor
2013-12-18, 07:01 PM
hymer: I must admit that I hadn't really considered nomads at all, so it makes sense that it'd start to fall apart near them, as I only managed to get so far in my thinking before I hit a wall and didn't really know how to proceed, so it's a very rough sketch of an idea, especially since I don't believe I've actually written it out in any real detail. Should probably go ahead and do that. XD Probably would have to account for varieties of power sources and the like as well as nomads and other environmental qualities...



Oh, and it makes half-elves weirder or a non-option, but there's at least one setting where Elves are humanoids from plant origins. Runequest, maybe? And there you'd have the option for both Methuselah Trees and shorter lived plant varieties to provide a conceptual explanation for the strains of elves.


One possibility is that elves engage in serial reincarnation. All elves. The long-lived ones are a cultural oligarchy that maintain this long-term perspective on purpose. They are the oldest of the elves. If something happens to one of them and they die, the oldest elf not already in this oligarchy is promoted to it.

I love this idea so much. :3 I was playing with it for the setting I was working on, and your spin on it is rather interesting, I think, so thank you for sharing. :smallsmile:

Jakodee
2013-12-18, 09:19 PM
In Tolkien the humans were the exception. They were made by the greater god for an unknown purpose after the elves. Thier hat was dying and taming horses.
I may use a setting of arcane punk were the evolutionary tree of the races had been discovered. It went like this, Humanoid ape man ancestor split into chimps, trolls, and early humans. The early humans became elves, dwarves, and humans. Trolls (which are still around) became orcs and ogres, with goblins being a sort of proto-orc. Hobgoblins were the reasult of magical hybreed containing Orc, human, and goblin DNA designed as soldiers. I am debating halflings being a sort of pigmye that branched of of the human tree early and gnomes would be a relative of the halflings whose brains instinctively contain patterns used for basic magic.

Jakodee
2013-12-18, 09:22 PM
Or you could go dragon age and have all elves immortal unless they spend to much time with humans. The more they contact the shorter they live.

prufock
2013-12-18, 09:58 PM
I took cues from The Worthing Saga for the elves in my campaign world. While they don't need to sleep, they periodically go into stasis (tree sleep) inside of a tree. Higher-status elves get more time in suspended animation, therefore living longer. However their "up" time is no greater than a human's. Most, of course, opt to take this stasis when they can so that they see more of history and can make longer term plans. And they do think long term.

In my world, a tribe of shorter lived elves would be those who rejected the practice of tree sleep.

ScrapperTBP
2013-12-18, 11:42 PM
An idea I have played with is that elves are made of magic itself. This explains why they are naturally more suited to the arcane arts as well as why they are theoretically immortal - magic decays more slowly than organic matter. With this I added they can be harmed by a dispel or such abilities. On the plus side I made many different types giving them each innate abilities in the for of spells. For example, Earth Elves would get Stoneskin, Fire Elves would get Flameskin and so on all at the same level.

Yukitsu
2013-12-19, 12:47 AM
In the setting I created, elves and proper dwarves are immortal beings that are mostly created from planar energies rather than physical material. Unlike their progenitors, that being the fey lords and gods respectively, these creatures are "tainted" by their physical upbringing, which means that unlike their progenitors, they can be killed (gods in my setting can never be killed, not even by other gods.) The reason humans only live for approximately 60 years is they're not held together by outside planar energies, and as such, their inevitable deconstruction is from a flawed design like a mud bridge in the rain. In other words, in this setting, creatures are supposed to be immortal, it's just that a few random elements have kicked around that aren't, and have thrived because of their own advantages.

Axinian
2013-12-19, 12:54 AM
In my setting, elves aren't actually long-lived. It just seems that way because the youthful portions of there lives, their prime as it were, takes up a longer portion of their lives. It's hard to tell the difference between a 20 year old elf and a 40 year old elf, but they still cap out at 60-80 years.

hymer
2013-12-19, 06:34 AM
@ Coidzor: I know the feeling. :smallsmile:

@ Jakodee: Exception to what? Each separately created people were an ‘exception’, which erodes the idea of exception. 'Each were unique' would probably be a better way to put it.
The dragon age thing sounds interesting, but rather punishes PC elves (taking away an aspect of theirs) and their players (forcing them to make PCs that are willing to give something like this up). Thanks!

@ prufock: Interesting, though not applicable to this situation. Thanks for replying.

@ ScrapperTBP: Interesting idea. Thanks!

@ Yukitsu: A bit of a reversal there. Thanks for replying.

@ Axinian: Thanks for replying.

Edit: For the record, I believe I've found my answer now. My thanks to you all!

Jakodee
2013-12-19, 06:41 PM
Actually there are no immortal elves left. The elves did not know the curse contact with mortals would bring on them. Most of them live as long as humans and inhabit the slums of human cities. The only ones that live longer than humans are the dalish elves. They live on the woods trying to recover their lost culture. Or you could go medieval history (or terry pratchet) and have elves be malicious creatures of the night, all though the pratchet elves were actually inter dimensional marauders.

Coidzor
2013-12-19, 06:56 PM
Edit: For the record, I believe I've found my answer now. My thanks to you all!

What angle do you think you're going to go with, then, if you don't mind revealing it in the open?


@ Coidzor: I know the feeling. :smallsmile:

Yeah, disorganized mind, disorganized thoughts. Good starts, jumbled finishes. Leads me to really want to have a plan of attack before I start a project in earnest though, at least.

Hmm, I wonder if anyone's put up a rough rubric of worldbuilding concerns.

hymer
2013-12-20, 05:10 AM
@ Jakodee: I'm afraid that wouldn't suit my purposes as stated elsewhere in the thread. Thanks though.

@ Coidzor: A Wizard Did It!
To be more precise, the mortal elves are descended from elf clones, made by someone who didn't fancy dying. S/he was going to take over an elf body, but realized this would likely result in death by elf wizards rather than immortality. So s/he gathered some samples of elf blood, hair and such surreptitiously, and created a bunch of elven bodies via something akin to the clone spell in a place far from any elves. As it turned out, this didn't work, as the immortality of elves isn't biological, but a spiritual thing. Their souls rejuvenate and rebuild their bodies slowly but constantly, meaning elves biologically are only as old as they feel.
So the magician fellow(ess) gave the project up and bargained with a god of death for the recipe for becoming a lich instead, in due course becoming the first of these. Which didn't end well - it hasn't ended yet at all, but I'm betting s/he wishes she hadn't made that bargain. The cloned elves, unaware of who or what they were, used the notes on elven customs from the wizard's studies to base a society on, and some thirty generations later they don't remember much of anything about their origins.

ReaderAt2046
2013-12-20, 10:04 AM
It might be worth noting that the elves with shorter lives are less noble than the established long-lived ones. Whether this has any bearing on the issue I don't know yet.

You could go the Eragon angle (i.e. The short-lived elves are the natural form of the elvish race, and the long-lived ones made themselves that way with magic).

hymer
2013-12-20, 10:09 AM
Thanks for the suggestion, but I've already decided on a scheme. :smallsmile:

Sebastrd
2013-12-20, 03:21 PM
Thanks for the suggestion, but I've already decided on a scheme. :smallsmile:

We're waiting...

Coidzor
2013-12-20, 07:18 PM
We're waiting...

Here you go? :smallconfused:


@ Coidzor: A Wizard Did It!
To be more precise, the mortal elves are descended from elf clones, made by someone who didn't fancy dying. S/he was going to take over an elf body, but realized this would likely result in death by elf wizards rather than immortality. So s/he gathered some samples of elf blood, hair and such surreptitiously, and created a bunch of elven bodies via something akin to the clone spell in a place far from any elves. As it turned out, this didn't work, as the immortality of elves isn't biological, but a spiritual thing. Their souls rejuvenate and rebuild their bodies slowly but constantly, meaning elves biologically are only as old as they feel.
So the magician fellow(ess) gave the project up and bargained with a god of death for the recipe for becoming a lich instead, in due course becoming the first of these. Which didn't end well - it hasn't ended yet at all, but I'm betting s/he wishes she hadn't made that bargain. The cloned elves, unaware of who or what they were, used the notes on elven customs from the wizard's studies to base a society on, and some thirty generations later they don't remember much of anything about their origins.

hymer
2013-12-20, 08:53 PM
@ Sebastrd: I wasn't trying to be cagey. :smallcool:

@ Coidzor: Thanks. :smallbiggrin: