THE ELVES ARE A RACE that wishes to forget it’s dark past. Elves are known for arts and music, however, there is a darker side, one which plunged all of the worlds into chaos and war! And not just any war, but a world war which almost destroyed all that the gods had created.

Great technical marvels, sciences best left undisturbed, and blood shed greater then any war before or since. The world was a much different place back then, monsters the likes of which haunt the nightmares of man, creatures of such power that life was almost impossible. Great warriors arose from the ashes created by the old ones, the titans which ruled the earth through fear, brute strength, and secret magicks; it was these great warriors who, though they were few, defied the titans of old and drove them from this world forever.

Peace would not last long, for such things never do. While the unified elves were strong, jealously and greed infiltrated even this wise society. The swords once used to drive out the abominations now turned upon their own flesh. Brother slew brother; mothers lay slain at their daughters feet. The earth itself cried in anguish, all because of a Goddess named Lolth who promised great powers to those who swore allegiance to her. She, Lolth, warned of a new threat, one which one day, if not taken care of while it was still young, would rival the powers of the Ancient Ones, it’s name was man. A very elven creature, though short lived and brutish, it was unpredictable and intelligent. Lolth and her belief in destroying this young race split the elves into two factions, those which saw that this was an evil act engaged in mortal combat with the dark ones, this war was called The Elven War. No one knows for how long it raged, some say 3 generations while others say it was much longer, the scars left in the earth keep their secrets, but we do know that the elves pushed the dark ones underground, and the elven gods punished those who lost by forbidding them to ever set foot into the sunlight again.

This war, the Elven War, ended quickly. The enemy routed, the vengeance of the gods placed upon the Drow, the elves simply dropped their weapons and abandoned their old cities to the jaws of time where they sit to this day, exactly as they were millions of years ago; many forgotten even by the elves who built them.


The elf is not a human with pointy ears and killer bonuses, they are known for their grace and their bravery. They view humans as equals but pity them for their short lives and do not like how they treat each other, or other races. They realize that humans are all individual but racial tensions can still get inflamed, especially in areas where the humans destroy the primal forests where the elves dwell, in their quest for logging.

Dwarf and Elf relations are never all that good. They both strive to enforce the spirits of goodness, but they have incompatible methods of achieving this goal which has led to short wars, as well as a few very long ones which can grow cold for centuries but fester quickly.

Elf and Halfling relations are good, however the elf tends to coddle them and treat them like children, something that the halflings hate but put up with simply because complaining would do no good.

The orc and the Elf are always engaged in battle, they cannot tolerate the other existing and both sides have sworn genocide for the other, however, the elf suffers the same problem which is common for all long-lived races, breading is slow and the birth rate is not very good, while the orc breeds quickly, too fast for the elves to ever fully realize their goal.


The elf was first mentioned in the Norse Mythology, which bled into the Celtic myths and beliefs where it grew very popular. It was only natural that these wondrous creatures found their way into fairy tales throughout the ages and are still quite popular today, the most famous elf character of course being Link, the hero of Nintendo’s “Legend of Zelda” videogame series, and one of the most popular videogame characters of all time.

The elf of AD&D strives to keep it’s fantasy roots in tact. The elf is a highly spiritual creature, who is tied to the land in which they were born in such a way that humans assume that it must be magical, and it is! But when one has a life-span that is measured in centuries instead of decades, one has all the time in the world to develop a keen understanding of the world and the creatures who inhabit it. When one cares for the world, the earth cares for them as well.

Often these creatures have been confused by men, to be gods themselves! How many people worship the heroics and deeds of elves is unknown.


It is the elf who developed much of this science, and in many cases destroyed and keep hidden dark magics from those whom seek to use them for personal gain. The most magical of the elves is the Drow, the dark elf who has developed a keen understanding of the blackest magic which rivals the mightiest human mages, and use it daily in their undying thirst for vengeance.

Dark elves aside, the magic of the elf has been muted willingly by the race as a whole. They chose not to delve as deep as they once had, though none will admit that this is the case, the evidence is too plain to fully deny.

While the elf holds off to some extent when it comes to wizardry, their skills with bows and swords are unmatched. They have developed the hardest to master and most disciplined art of Bladesinging, not to mention crafting the most noble knights of all time, the mighty Windriders whom protect the impenetrable kingdoms of the Grey Elves.


The elves claim to be the first being to be created by the gods, and for all we know this just might be the case. The elven year has more holidays then any human year, but uses the same cycles as our own. Elven gods are many, but they aren’t worshiped as other races worship them; elven myths are many but each seems to tell stories on several different levels, almost as if these are just stories to be learned from. It has been said that it is the elven magics of the festivals themselves which bring about the changing of the seasons, it is no small wonder that many civilizations actively worship these beings.


There are several species of elves, the Aquatic Elf build giant kingdoms of the sea, the Dark Elf or Drow resides in magical cities built deep underground where they worship their evil gods and wage unending wars with the other denizens of the underdark. The Grey Elves build massive kingdoms far from the eyes of men high up in the mountains, the Wood Elves, the nomads of the forests hide in ancient woods, while the most common elf to man, the High Elf, has chosen to live almost peacefully among us.

The typical elf, if one can be typical, views him or herself as a collector of sorts. They have developed a love for art, and for music and the finer things in life. Experience is what they are always out looking for.

They are the most educated of all of the races, spending almost the entire lifespan of a human to fully mature to what we would call teenage years. That time is spent reading great stories, learning to play music, as well as the art of sword play and developing remarkable skills with the bow. A rounded education is considered a must for any elf, and in fact is so important to the overall welfare to them that those who were raised by other races did not live the long happy lives which those who dedicated their first years to education enjoy.

It is rare for elves to make friendships among the shorter lived races, not because they lack the love and understanding to see the benefits, but because of this love and the closeness that they feel to friends is so intense for each elf, and when a friend dies, this can bring on a long and agonizing grieving period which they will typically not repeat again. Death as we mortals know it is unheard of in elven society. Not that elves don’t die, because they do, but it is still a rare thing, even among the High Elves who are prone to adventuring.


Most elves choose to leave the plain of man, spending the bulk of their lives in a foreign land they call Arvandor. Elves who are unfortunate enough to lose their lives in this world MUST be taken back to where they were born. They MUST be buried in the sacred ground of their people, else they may rise and wreck havoc among the living for eternity.

Elves keep many secrets, and one of the greatest elven secrets is the terror of the undead which they all share. The undead are the most hated enemy of the elves, even to the dark and mysterious ways of the drow, they are still held in the deepest of contempt. Un-death to the elf, is the greatest terror, they see death as a good thing, though they do not to rush to it, but to arise as an undead oneself is the ultimate nightmare, and one that the race as a whole takes very seriously. An elf who dies in combat must be retrieved and returned to their homeland for burial or its equivalent. The most nightmarish forms of undead which haunt our planet all share origins which are distinctly elven, and all elves will stop whatever they are doing, even if it is a blood oath, to hunt these creatures down and destroy them.


Elven society is different depending on your race. The Wood Elves of the forest are distinctly chaotic in nature, fighting individually but at the same time relying on ambushes and attacks of traps and stealth, while the Grey Elves have formed shock troops, and often take it upon themselves to police the world.

Elven law, regardless of alignment, is typically relaxed, but at the same time, distinctly structured, not to the extent of the dwarves who rely on structure for everything, but there is still a number of social orders within elven society that must be observed. Elves typically have leaderships based on ones ability to rule fairly and in a way that the society as a whole feels is Elven. The Grey elf being the most structured, believing themselves to be above all lifeforms and races. Aquatic elves are always ruled by Kings or Queens of the great ancesters of the highest class. Wood Elves follow a system of strength in the form of Chiefs which rotate through the years, and the Drow are ruled by women, where only the strong can survive. The High Elf usually complies to the systems which are popular with the humans, either because the humans have adopted this system themselves, or just to keep relationships with the neighbors more palatable.

Elves do make the best thieves, however an elf will rarely rob another elf. Laws governing property are more relaxed in Elven Society. An elf has no problems sharing what he has as long as it will be available for him when the time comes that he has a use for it. Elves do not observe money as the other races see it. Gold is beautiful to look at and make crafts with, but that is all!

The lowest class of elf are still provided for. The filthiest areas of Grey Elf kingdoms are still cleaner, and more beautifully kept then most human cities. Wealth is judged by knowledge and experience rather then by collecting coins. The high elves see the reasoning behind it, but only fleetingly. They understand that if you want food, then it takes a coin, but that is about the extent of it. All other races ignore them entirely. They value trade in the form of barter. Everybody has a job to do, and they do it for the betterment of each other. This is even true in Drow societies where one must kill their superior to get a better job.

Valuables to elves are always useful items, both magical and nonmagical. Their system is fair, but no elf should ever be wanting, and an elf without shelter, food, or water is absolutely intolerable. The only exception to the rules is in regards to the Drow, which will be killed on sight, and vice versa, the Elfwar will never end until either the Drow are extinguished or the rest of them.


Elves are still a warrior race, the Grey Elves fight with Dwarves for land, as do Wood Elves with humans. They are remarkably different from humans and other races as they strive to leave no footprints behind. The Wood Elves build somewhat perminent shelters during winters, but these tend to disappear the moment that they leave them. The Grey Elf build perminent structures, however they carve them with dwarven skill directly out of the mountains themselves. War with each other, is of course, not unheard of. Though the humans assume that they are the same species, the elves do not feel this way, and indeed, each are remarkably different when you view them separately!

Elven war is not the same as it was during the great Elfwar. No prisoners were allowed during those times, thus the reason why the elves have given up so much of their former power, so that things can’t get that bad ever again! When war does break out between elven clans or factions, it is as civilized as possible. It is still bloody, but prisoners are kept and traded regularly, and negotiations are nonstop until both parties can reach an understanding. Of course war with the other races is not so clean, as the elves have realized that many races view this tactic as weakness.

Most humans will never see the inside of a Grey Elf city, and the Wood elves will kill all humans and dwarves who come close to finding their camps as quickly and humanely as possible.


The elf is a very popular player character simply because of all of the bonuses that one gets from picking them as a race. The DM has to be strict about keeping the level limits to offset all of the bonuses, they are there for a reason. I remember when I first started, all of the elven players would bitch about the level limits, and even the best DM’s would cater to them, or at least pretend to, as typically we didn’t keep the same characters very long so it wasn’t a problem.

The biggest factor of the elven presents in your world should always be the great Elfwar which leaves the forgotten temples and hidden dungeons scattered all over the place which PC’s just love to explore. Now keep in mind that any forgotten city may still not be forgotten to the elves, and they have left the artifacts kept within them there for a reason, they won’t take kindly to people looting these hidden places.

Elven players also need to be hassled about how they run their characters. As stated above, these guys aren’t humans and should have a totally different philosophy in regards to everything. They don’t like human food, they think that our cities are filthy and disgusting, the concept of the POOR is utterly alien to them. They don’t horde money, they take care of other elves without question, they are suspicious of forming bonds with humans, and don’t like how they rape the earth to fit their own lifestyles, but they are bent on letting the humans make their own mistakes.

It is up to the DM to make a elf PC truly an elf PC. Hassle him/her with orcs and undead at inopportune times. They won’t leave their dead, nor will they loot elven enemies. Be mindful, for there has to be a price to pay for all of those bonuses!

ART credit: "Music Lover" by Robin Wood


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this article. I've lost track of the number of times I've heard the words 'But my elf is a maverick, atypical elf who was raised in human society' to justify playing a supposedly elven character who is completely un-elf-like.

I don't mind challenging stereotypes, but it gets tiresome when the 'challenge to the stereotype' becomes itself the new stereotype. People should play elves because they want to embrace the challenge of playing someone with a non-human viewpoint. Not because they want cool bonuses and have a thing for pointy ears.

Support CARE - the CAmpaign for Real Elves! And of course not forgetting CARD - the CAmpaign for Real Drow (I'm looking at all you Driz'zt clones out there)

RipperX said...

I think that this is a common pet peeve. What you have to do to counter this kind of stuff is figuring out what bonuses that the player wouldn't gain because he hasn't ever had the training normally allowed to his race.

The sword and bow bonus would be gone, the elf would be expected to care for himself at a much younger age, this would negate all of his bonuses with the exception of Infravision which would be more limited because he hasn't been taught how to control it.

They also wouldn't be able to multiclass as they wouldn't have anybody to teach them.

If they act like humans with pointy ears, then I think that they shall be humans with pointy ears.

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