The mystery and wonder that is the elf

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This article is an Observation
The contents herein are entirely player made and in no way represent official Birthright history or occurences which are accurate. The characters and events listed are of an independent nature and applied for roleplaying, fictional, speculative, or opinions from a limited playerbase only.

DM tips: elven culture and physicality

This is a review of elven culture and physicality in the Birthright campaign setting and some extrapolations of canon hints. Elves are an ancient race that is physically and culturally very distinct from other races and will add a great deal of color to a game if played as such - they are not just humans with pointy ears and a few special abilities, but a very distinct race with different needs and motivations which influence how they and their realms interact with others and these differences can be used to create conflict with human realms, provide role-playing opportunities,
Here are some thoughts on how elves differ to humans, and the impacts this may have on them and the way they interact with others:


Cerilian elves are immortal, age does not weary them, no elf finds their limbs slowing with the passage of time, their hair fade to gray, or any of the other myriad woes that beset other races. Although immortality and eternal youth are not necessarily the same, canon states that elves suffer no aging penalties and the books do not mention elderly elves, Rhuobhe?s compatriots from Deismaar are not doddering around with sticks, Allan Leigh is still as vital as in his youth, etc. As such elven immortality appears to be eternal youth.
This has some interesting implications:
  • elves can become extraordinarily skilled craftsmen, warriors or wizards as even casual interest can mean decades to focus on a skill, much of the finest art and craftwork of Cerilia is likely to have been made by an elf as a result (which may cause friction with human master craftsmen who are likely hopelessly out-skilled and quite possibly bitter or protective as a result). To avoid a situation in which every elf is an incomparable master of multiple crafts, it is presumably the case that as time passes the elf moves to other things and forgets old skills ? and few elves retain such single-mindedness as to retain their interest in an area once they have truly mastered it meaning that relatively few masters exist for any given craft at any given time.
  • As elves can however attain mastery in any area given time, they have less need to work together to achieve greatness ? elves may be ivory-tower intellectuals to a degree and have less interest in co-operation than other races since they can attain they goals on their own without aid from their fellows.

  • Immortals do not see death as part of the natural order ? they live without natural conclusion. Death may therefore be very hard for an elf to accept or understand - and seen as inherently unnatural.
  • Elves may be very reluctant to risk their life since they have so much to lose compared to other races.
  • Without healing magic (they have no priests), older elves are likely to accumulate scars and other wounds as life goes by ? so these might either be seen as signs of age. Alternatively elves might naturally heal such things over time ? how long does a lost limb take to regenerate however?
  • Necromancy becomes far more unnatural to an elf than to those races who expect death to occur. A human may struggle to find a way of living on after death as a lich, etc but an elf simply never expects to die. The abhorrence of corporeal undead as mockeries of the beings former life is likely to either be exaggerated amongst elves, or may be considered fascinating as a way to restore the natural order by 'unkilling' the person - however as undead are innately opposed to nature (based on negative energy not positive) the canon view is that elves shun necromancy.

  • Inheritance. If a person?s parents expect to live forever, then the person is unlikely to live their lives expecting to inherit wealth, etc from their parents. Similarly the person?s family grows in power by the person growth of the individual family members ? not by merging with other families to concentrate wealth, etc. As a result I see inheritance as far more ad hoc amongst the elves than in human societies; material goods may be given to whomever most needs them or can best use them, abandoned, claimed by anyone who wants them, etc ? but see family and inheritance below.

  • With no ?elderly? there are few non-productive or vulnerable members of society, elves could easily sustain a nomadic or peripatetic lifestyle as a result
  • in times of need almost every member of society can act as a warrior ? although this could lead to crippling losses in the event of a bloody war (whether won or lost - any victory by a race with a low birthrate is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory)

  • Low crime. If crimes are remembered for all time and the population is relatively static, then the likelihood of crimes being solved increases and so crimes become rarer ? elves are likely to have ?crimes of passion? but otherwise I?d expect few crimes ? at least against other elves.
  • Grudges. Keeping a grudge over centuries is not conducive to a harmonious population ? I?d suggest that elves have innumerable ways to atone for wrong doing, non-violent ways of ?getting even? and the like to permit their people to get over anger with each other.
  • Attacks against pride not body ? I?d expect that elves win position through gaining the respect of others, I see competition between elves not as physical (as so often is the case in other races) but rather would expect ?prank-wars? among younger or weaker elves and struggles of guile and wit amongst more potent elves. This will however depend on elven healing. If elves heal all injuries then this is a lesser issue, if elves can be maimed then they will avoid physical confrontation where possible.

  • Boredom. How do immortals occupy the centuries? Particularly immortals who don't need to sleep or spend most of their time growing crops, etc? Elder elves could either be world-weary cynics who have seen and done every possible thing a thousand times and become jaded as a result, or eternally hopeful folk who enjoy each experience as if new every time, this can depend on memory (do elves forget the passed years, remember only key events, or remember everything?) alternatively elves may be liable to switch between the two perspectives depending on events.

My campaign: Elves are eternally young, most ?normal? elves have a dozen or so skill ranks in one or two skills that have interested them for the past few decades, elves regenerate any wounds over time if in the eldest forests where the mebhaighl flows freely, but react very badly to the loss of a fellow ? Rhuobhe still grieves for the dead during the wars with the humans 15-20 centuries after they died ? he simply has no way of moving on from the grief at their deaths and no matter how many humans he kills his sense of loss and grief will never heal.


Given that the elven realms are low and not bursting at the seams with elves (as is the case in the Sovereign stone setting) the elves must have quite a low birth-rate (or a very high fatality rate - given the lack of age or disease to winnow ranks that would have a major social impact). A low birthrate can occur in several ways:
  • Elven women rarely enter periods when they can become pregnant
  • Elves have naturally low fertility
  • Elves have low interest in sex
  • Elves do not physically procreate and have a different origin

[top]Rarely fertile

If fertile periods are rare, or fleeting, pregnancy becomes uncommon reducing the birthrate. If the females fertile periods occur without warning, female elves will be closely attended most of the time by males who wish to maximize their chances to reproduce by ensuring they are around at the fertile times. If the periods occur with warning then at other times females may be socially required to choose a partner during fertile periods (every elven child is precious) but very casual regarding sex at other times as it is purely a source of pleasure rather than being procreative, this behavior will impact sexual mores and likely make elves considered ?predatory? by races containing potential mates who are likely to have far more restrictive practices as the norm for sexual behavior.
Half-elves by procreation will however become rare ? and almost always the result of elven choice, since if it is rare for the elf to be fertile, to be vulnerable to an outsider who might rape them at the same time would be rarer still.

[top]Low fertility

If elves have low natural fertility this could be either both genders ? making procreated half elves a rarity, or sourced from one gender only. If the males have low fertility then most half elves have an elven mother and elven women who wish a child are likely to prefer non-elven mates ? which could have a knock on impact in how elven males and non-elven males perceive each other. If the low fertility affects elven females only then the situation will be reversed but likely to a greater degree ? as an elven father can simply leave the potential human mother behind literally holding the baby without suffering any cultural censure (since elven males would not normally expect a child to result from sex elven culture would be unlikely to stress that males stayed with a partner after sex in case pregnancy resulted).


If elves simply have little interest in sex, for example if it is unpleasant for one or both genders, then they may disdain all physical contact, have very divergent genders which rarely mix, they may consider humanoid races obsessed by sex, etc.

[top]Non physical procreation

Elves may not physically procreate in the usual sense, for example elves may spring from ancient trees, form from the earth and other elements as spirits take form etc. They may do so only if shaped and formed by ?parents? rather than spontaneously, may be created fully grown thus avoiding any actual childhood, etc. Canon indicates that half-elves at least are conceived in human fashion, and an unusual ?birth? system would have implications for bloodline inheritance. An alternative means for generating half elves could be that they are humans who have taken on elven characteristics after eating ?fairy foods?, or after living amongst the elves and embracing their culture, etc.

[top]Consequences of low birth-rate

A low birth-rate has several possible consequences:
  • surrogacy becomes necessary. If children are rare the race cannot risk losing them if the mother dies, elven women might also spontaneously lactate if they are continuously proximate to a child, or elven warriors might kidnap a lactating mother from another race to act as surrogate if a mother is killed.
  • children may be shunned as weak / strange beings since they are so unusual.
  • children may be beloved and protected jealously by the entire community as they are so precious.
  • elves may steal attractive children of other races to raise as their own.
  • the elves may not have developed strong male to female ties of parenthood due to the relative rarity of childhood ? children may be raised solely by women, or by the woman and a chosen male (possibly the father, possibly not), or communally rather than automatically by the genetic parents.
  • rare pregnancy means that females spend a relatively low proportion of their time rearing young and minimal proportion pregnant ? females are therefore likely to be seen as less vulnerable than in human communities, therefore less in need of protection and as a result more equal to males.
  • elves may cherish the value of other elven lives far above those of other races due to rarity.

My campaign: Elven women go through periods of being highly fertile but are otherwise unlikely to become pregnant, elven males are affected to a far lesser degree, going through highly fertile periods if proximate to an elven women entering or in a fertile period, but always able to father a child.
Elves therefore consider sex as primarily a means of sharing pleasure, showing love, etc and not as primarily a procreative act. Elven men and women have a reputation of being wanton amongst humans as a result of their relatively casual approach towards sex.
Elven communities watch over children dotingly, even children who believe they are exploring alone are watched and followed by careful adults in case the child needs help. Elves are fascinated by children and may kidnap attractive human children and raise them as their own from time to time. Half elves are generally the result of an elven male and a besotted human woman ? and if raised amongst humans they were likely abandoned by the father, quite possibly before birth. Such half-elves can later become fully human or elven by choosing one way of life over the other. Half elves can also have been born fully human and later embraced the fey life in one way or another. Concepts from the Time in Dragon accessory are possible - raids on neighboring races following a death in child birth to vent grief and rage or acquire a replacement child, switching of weak elven babes with healthy human babes leading to changelings, etc.

[top]Physical differences

Elves are slender, graceful and beautiful. This likely has the following impacts:
  • Elves in turn value such traits in others and in skills ? an elf finds a horse more attractive than a cow due to the latter?s lumbering gait and thickset build, a deer however is more attractive still.
  • Elves may be pursued as sexual targets by those who appreciate fineness ? particularly as they will not lose their looks as the years go by. This is likely to be viewed negatively by some elves, and result in slatternly behavior amongst others (traditionally a female:male split).

Elves are immune to disease, only a magical contagion can affect elves. This is likely to manifest one of two attitudes when an elf meets someone ill:
  • either the elf ignores the illness as utterly inconsequential (so Anuire could have legends of Aevellas the healer who tended the dying in the great plague of 792 HC for example) or
  • the elf reacts with abhorrence at the corruption of the self and shuns the ill person ? regardless of the severity of the actual disease.
  • the elf assumes that the ill person will soon die.

It also has an impact on the survival of children, need for cleanliness, need to prepare and store food, and so on.
Elves do not (based on a number of sources discussing elven impact on mebhaighl) clear ground to grow crops, this indicates either:
  • a low population that can subsist on berries, roots, etc
  • an ability to digest grasses, leaves, etc
  • prolonged torpidity with relatively low activity
  • subsistence on mebhaighl

While many elven provinces are lightly populated, others have populations of 5 or 6 ? quite substantial. Similarly most elven pictures indicate the sharp teeth of a carnivore rather than the flat grinding teeth of a herbivore. Elves are often described as active ? and per canon need no sleep instead continuing activity albeit of a non-physical sort making torpidity an unlikely explanation.
This indicates that elves subsist at least partly on mebhaighl itself. This suggests the following:
  • elves in magic poor areas must find alternate sustenance ? and may suffer in other ways.
  • elves can be affected by corruptions to the mebhaighl of the area ? supported by the description of Tuar Annwyn elves as gaunt and wasted.
  • elves are limited in population based on the level of mebhaighl in the area.
  • elves are either parasitic ? draining the life of the forests without giving anything back or,
  • elves are symbiotic with the forests ? protecting it from harm, or helping it grow in return for sustenance.

My campaign: Elves are forest spirits taken on mortal form, and are still partly nourished by mebhaighl as a result. They otherwise eat berries, roots, certain leaves etc and the products of the odd hunt although edible plants are common in elven lands as the plants are encouraged to grow by the elves even though they don't farm in the human fashion. Elves ignore or are unaware of illness ? when they encounter it most are confused and repelled. Elven realms have a maximum population level equal to half the province source rating (round down) - this needs some changes to listed realms.

[top]Attitude and Culture

The Elven heart is unfathomable to non-elves, they?re moved to wild delight, dark melancholy or burning rage with only the slightest cause.
Elves appreciate subtlety over brute force, dislike coercion (although trickery and misdirection are considered highly) and tend to disdain those who rely on threats of violence as a result.
Elves can be whimsical by human standards, similarly although they are notoriously fickle, they can easily focus on one task or person for decades with an absorption far beyond that of a human.
Add in the elven lifespan (see immortality) to the above canon quotes and elves are likely to have substantial works of philosophy (possibly connecting with or underpinning Khinasi philosophy), value positive art highly (i.e. beautiful works, those that are witty and cunning but not those depicting ugliness, violence, made with little skill, etc), enjoy plays and theaters, songs and poetry (since all of these have little physical equipment needs, can be enjoyed repeatedly, can be amusing or serious as the situation merits, etc). They are also unlikely to pick up on the more subtle emotions (since they are unused to them) of others and expect outbursts from companions. As such companions who keep their emotions to themselves may be considered to not feel at all.

[top]Law and governance

So how do a freedom loving folk that refuse to bend knee even to a god govern themselves? How do immortals follow a leader for centuries without accumulated errors dragging down the leader? How do a people that scorn the divine get described in canon as having a feudal structure ? which is typically based on divine right?
A few possibilities arise:
  • Elven rulers rarely bother their subjects with laws ? they may have the power to do so but as they rarely use the power it does not bother their subjects
  • Elves do not hold grudges, as long as a ruler doesn?t make too many mistakes any past errors are quickly forgotten.
  • Elven rulers are bound by tradition and can only actually act in very limited areas, with the result that their laws are mostly just interpretations of the generally accepted culture.
  • Elves choose the leader they feel most able, and then follow that leader absolutely until some action proves that a new leader is necessary. They avoid considering their leader's orders as much as possible preferring to think of more entertaining things.

Elves as a race feel that the freedom of the individual is paramount ? elven ?nations? exist solely to protect the people and otherwise benefit the citizens. This manifests in nations with few laws ? the culture is strong and dictates certain norms of behavior, but there are rarely laws to enforce the culture ? if a member transgresses these laws the most common punishment is that the other elves simply shun them until the erring elf atones for their actions.
For humans the elven attitude to government ? that it is an onerous duty to be performed, and that the values of society should not be placed about the freedom of the individual, are utterly alien - and completely opposed to the human feudal system. The elven lack of interest in bureaucracy often results in a handful of elves having absolute power over various areas of government without the slightest legal check on their power aside possibly from an appeal to the king/queen. Amongst humans this would result in chaos as each of the courtiers sought to grow their power, however the elven distaste for governance and disinterest in political power suggests that few elves would abuse these powers, indeed many may never actually use the powers they are granted except in response to requests from their people. This does of course also mean that a courtier who does want to abuse their power has considerable scope to do so.

[top]Social strata

Some realms ? Lluarbraight and Tuarhievel in particular, talk of noble families and the like. This is difficult to square however with a race who possess little or no organized commerce and industry that might require a peasant class from which a noble class might derive wealth beyond the other classes. Similarly some realms pass from parent to child rigidly, while others pass through the lands choice. When the impact of immortality and mobility of population are accounted for it is highly unlikely that elven society can have any ?oppressed? class, and by extension any ?favored class? must in fact continually earn its place/prove its superiority.
Possible interpretations:
  • elves have no social strata, titles such as prince, lord etc are human misinterpretations which apply to a role not the person in it.
  • elves have a strata based on achievement rather than birth. Some families are prone to producing great wizards, warriors, etc and so have strong influence on an ongoing basis, as such certain positions may be held traditionally by members of these families however theoretically anyone of great destiny could (presuming a vacancy or proof of superiority) ascend to any position in society.
  • any elf who attains a reasonable degree of skill and the respect of their fellows is termed a ?noble?; families with a number of such nobles are highly respected as ?noble families? and are expected to produce future leaders of the elves. Their children are likely to gain respect simply from their association with the family.
  • elves have extra-ordinarily rigid social structures ? a single noble can rule for millennia without hope of advancement for others, this in turn however must mean that the social structure has very little impact on the rest of society in order to prevent rebellion or mass emigration by those barred from the paths of power. So the elves may have a prince, but the prince only issues commands every few decades when some external event demands attention making the exclusion of other elves tolerable. this would however suggest that the rare opportunities for advancement might be the cause for much tumult as various claimants struggle for power, or require DM?s to strongly emphasize the elven distaste for the burden and responsibility of rulership to explain their acceptance of the lack of progression.

My campaign: I use the interpretation that any elf of skill and ability is deemed a noble, and take the last leadership option albeit on the basis that elves require relatively little guidance. Law holdings then represent willingness to obey commands rather than any mechanism for enforcing the regents will.

[top]Family and marriage


Family in human terms covers the following areas:
  • Procreation
  • Child raising
  • Care for elderly
  • Inheritance
  • Shared history
  • Shared interests / philosophy
  • Mutual support
  • Ties of love


Humans ? in particular nobles ? take great care in selecting mates in order to strengthen the family, the individual participants rarely have any choice in the matter. Elves know that their children will live for a very long time, so are far more likely to choose a mate based on the personal attributes of the mate rather than any possessions or positions temporarily held by the mate since such things change over time.
Immortality indicates that elves may theoretically mate with not just sons/daughters, but grandchildren, and far more remote descendants. Whereas a human can physically mate with at most members of two three generations in most cases, elves are not so limited (assuming eternal youth in addition to immortality). As such elves likely have some prohibitions on breeding with those closely related beyond simply brothers/sisters and parent/child as for humans. The exact rules likely depend on the mechanics of birth (see birth-rate above) however it is likely that elves keep careful track of at least 4-5 generations to identify potential mates who are too closely related, that in turn however indicates awareness of the proximity of family and therefore interest in supporting the family.
If by contrast elves do not suffer from genetic defects caused by in-breeding ? or having such a low birth-rate have never noticed such issues ? then such prohibitions on breeding with family members might be entirely absent, with an elf seeing no issue with mating with a parent or sibling. Indeed it might even be considered a normal rite of passage for siblings or for parent/child relationships to form ? with elves then learning mating skills from their family as they would any other skills necessary to function in society. This would likely be another source of friction with humans who have very strong restrictions on incest.

[top]Child raising

The difficulties of raising children mean that most human cultures stress marriage to ensure that both parents remain together to raise the children. For elves, who have a low birth-rate and are immortal, child-rearing is unlikely to be a central part of family life with a consequential impact on marriage (see below).

[top]Care for the elderly

Elves are immortal. If they are eternally young then they have no elderly and so care for them will not be part of their culture and they may consider that any elderly should care for themselves or otherwise avoid burdening those around them.
If elves are not eternally youthful and spend millennia slowly losing their faculties, then care of the elderly likely becomes central to elven culture because so much of their population is unable to care for itself. BR canon indicates the former option, meaning that elves have no need to care for the elderly, can design buildings with young adults in mind only (so bigger steps, few guard rails in tree homes, etc).


This is the key driver behind many human cultural rules surrounding families, marriage, etc and also has a major impact on the treatment of males and females, first, second, third children etc. It is likely that this is very different for elves due to elven immortality - the legal concept may not even formally exist. Inheritance is discussed in more detail below. Lack of formal inheritance also impacts the concepts of family patriarch/matriarch, and makes dissension between generations more likely (since the elder generation cannot threaten to disown the child).

[top]Shared history

In the familial sense shared history typically means that the shared upbringing of siblings gives them similar world views, moral understanding, multiple events in common and therefore forms tight bonds (for good or ill). Elven families however are unlikely to have multiple juvenile children at any given time, and unless elven personalities are fixed for millennia in the few years of childhood then the shared history of elven siblings is likely to be weak, and two elves who were children at the same time may have closer ties than two siblings born centuries apart.

[top]Shared interests / philosophy

Families of warriors, scholars, wizards etc are a very elven theme in literature, similarly families of Gheallie Sidhe, etc. As such it is likely that if elven families are close, then they are defined mostly by their interests, with those family members opposed or uninterested in the family interest separating to start their own family, or join a family closer to their ideals.

[top]Mutual support

Amongst humans families support members to obtain employment, positions of influence, create strong unions, tend to injured members, etc. These are much weaker issues amongst elves who are uninterested in industry, have no need to seek strong unions to strengthen the family, etc. However if families are defined by shared interests then the family can act to support the interest/viewpoint throughout the realm more effectively than a single individual.

[top]Ties of love

Elves are described as a deeply passionate people, and so likely have very strong ties of love (or hate) amongst family members. Family members may well stay in contact purely through love, or even familiarity. Alternatively as elves do not have shared childhood experiences (since births are few it would be rare for two members of a family to be juvenile at the same time) they may have very weak ties to other family members beyond the member(s) who raised them.


Humans invented the system of marriage to ensure that children were raised by two parents (one of each gender) and so that alliances could be formed between families, etc. Typically humans expected marriage to occur from adulthood (often with betrothal as young as 9 and marriage at 12-15) and last for 3-4 decades (as human males generally died quite young by modern standards). To ensure marriages were stable sex was typically strongly discouraged before, or outside of, a marriage by social (and possibly legal) measures ? at the least it was carried on discretely, or in specific forms only (so a man might have a mistress for example).
Elves by contrast have little need for formal systems of caring for children since they have so few and adolescence is so short a period compared to the elven lifespan. Further any marriages might last not mere decades as with a human, but centuries, even millennia. This likely has the following possibilities:
  • elves form only temporary unions ? although these may last centuries or more they are not permanent by nature and can be ended by the will of either party.
  • elves mate for life, forming very tightly knit units
  • elves are ?married? if they have a child for the period of that child?s youth with no actual formal ceremony before during or after.
  • elves expect to have a succession of marriages, or periods of decades of 'married' life when they could be separated from their spouse.


Human families, particularly noble ones, see inheritance as key to their survival. A human typically grows too old to work (40-50) and dies just as their heirs most needs to gain income themselves (20-30). Accordingly most children of human parents with assets expect to gain land, tools, etc from their parents via inheritance not necessarily through their own efforts and human culture will have strong laws designed to ensure that assets stay within families to ensure that the progression takes place.
Elves are immortal, immune to disease. They die only if slain in a battle or from accidents (rare given a healthy effectively young population). Accordingly this concept of familial progression is simply not the case for immortal elves. A craftsman has no reason to pass over their tools simply because an heir has reached maturity ? or indeed within a millennia of it ? the craftsman is still using them, therefore it is not merely the second, third child etc who must strike out on their own as with humans, but grandchildren, and much more distant descendants.
As such the expectation amongst elven communities with regards to weapons, tools, etc is surely that each generation creates or otherwise obtains its own rather than simply taking over the parents, or that these are provided by the community and not part of any inheritance. It is likely that elves have little legal concept of inheritance since it happens so rarely and is not expected to occur in the main part.
Inheritance covers the following areas:

[top]Personal possessions

Since elves are non-industrious, they likely have relatively few possessions by human standards. Any needed for their crafts or other interests certainly, but beyond that? This makes inheritance of possessions a relatively minor issue ? a strong contrast to humans where inheritance of tools and weapons is one of the primary means by which each successive generation gains its wealth. The following are possible interpretations to views on inheritance of possessions:
  • elves do not have any such concept; after death an elves possessions are taken by any interested in them, left to the next occupant of a role the elf filled, etc.
  • elves accept inheritance, but have only a weak version of it. An elf may state to whom any possessions go if dying, otherwise they go back to the elf?s family though not necessarily any specific member of the family.
  • elves pass possessions to those close to them whether the recipient is family or not
  • the possessions of an elf are passed by the community to those most able to use them. So a master craftsman?s tools might be passed to another elf skilled in the craft. a warriors armor and weapons would get given to a respected warrior, etc.

[top]Influence, titles and land

Far more so than for personal possessions it is likely that there is an understanding that rulership must transfer if the former ruler dies. While this is rare it affects a sufficient number of the population when it occurs that at the least the elves would have some agreed method of considering who should inherit following the passing of a ruler.
In the time a single elven ruler rules, their grandchildren may well have grandchildren with grandchildren ? to which descendant would the realm go? Could a race who may see a ruler last a dozen millennia afford to have a fool on the throne for even one reign? Human kingdoms typically have a sufficiently complex bureaucracy to survive a single poor regent, the elves must know that the ruler is capable (not necessarily right, but certainly strong and wise enough to take necessary decisions) to avoid the inevitable collapse of their realms if a fool inherited.
As such in the event that any concept of inheriting power is recognized ? and canon indicates that a number of realms see the throne passed from one generation to another ? the inheriting elf must be more than simply whoever happens to be firstborn, one of the following methods of inheritance is therefore likely:
  • elves choose their heir when they feel it important to do so, though the choice of heir may shift as interests change and heirs prove or disprove themselves.
  • elves gain influence based on personal ability and reputation, a child who followed their parent is likely to be better known, and gain some measure of their parents reputation, but otherwise be no more or less likely to win the respect of their people than any other elf.
  • rights and powers are passed to a descendant of the elf ? but not necessarily the first born, or split equally amongst descendants, instead they pass to whichever descendant is deemed most able by the family / community.
  • the bloodline heir inherits any holdings regardless of which child inherits the bloodline.

Land is a related point. Much of human inheritance amongst the nobility centers around land ownership - because land means agriculture/mineral rights and thus wealth. Elves are not generally seen as farmers or miners, so ownership of land may be a foreign concept to them - if land cannot be owned, or can only be owned communally, it clearly cannot be inherited.

[top]Buildings and cities

Elves do not disrupt Mebhaighl by their presence, they are described as living in perfect harmony in nature, embracing all that is of the natural world.
The Sielwode has a magnificent crystal palace raised by sorcery from the earth, Lluarbriaght has a series of graceful towers of stone, Innishiere has a gleaming keep of stone and glass, Tuarheviel?s throne room is simply a clearing surrounded by magnificent old oaks, Rhuannochs?s court-room is a glade beneath the stars, Coullabhie's capital has but a single building ? a shaped tree dwelling, Cwmb Behin has no cities but a series of temporary camps on the forest floor.
Although Elven realms are apparently contradictory on the presence of buildings, consider what buildings are used for: shelter, warmth, privacy, storage of goods, defense, shops, factories.
Elves do not need to sleep (the prime time when most races need shelter) and while not mentioned in BR, many other settings indicate that they are not bothered by the vagaries of weather ? hot, cold, rain etc. As such they have very little need for shelter or warmth.
Privacy is a possibility however their populations tend to be low anyway, and with fewer sexual hang-ups (either due to low interest, or a more casual approach - see birthrate) it is likely that privacy is not a major issue for most elves.
Storage of goods is necessary when people are wealthy and acquisitive, but neither trait fits canon comments on elves (see trade). Similarly elves are likely to have few shops, factories etc
That leaves buildings as primarily for defense and what few small scale industries are present. As such an elven city is likely to be quite small by human standards, with relatively few dwellings and those buildings mostly mage towers (to protect libraries, contain spells, etc) forts, and the other building with a specific purpose.
On building materials; elves are described as living in gleaming cities of stone and glass, in trees shaped to their will, and under hills (in the case of Rhuannoch only). This is a blend of elven sources and suggests a split between urban elves and the elves of the forests. Urban elves then live in the shining cities - which could be of living crystal (see spelljammer and the earthdawn settings), stone raised and shaped by magic, etc, but likely have only a relatively small number of buildings. The forest elves then either live in trees shaped to give them what little shelter they desire, in temporary dwellings on the forest floor. The comment on Rhuannoch on lantern lit halls under the hills is slightly jarring, but has mythical parallels to celtic faeries and the like.
In summary elves are likely have few buildings, those buildings that they do have are either magical in nature (the shining cities) or have minimal impact on their surroundings (shaped trees, within hills), add this to the lack of agriculture and the nil impact on mebhaighl is clearly explained ? and completely beyond the power of other races to imitate since they would need far more buildings and agriculture to survive than the elves and therefore need to clear land, etc.

[top]Relationships with other races


Goblins breed rapidly and therefore continually need to expand their territory and being aggressive and violent naturally tend towards war to get what they need. Goblins are happy to live in forests, or clear them for crops or mining making the relatively empty elven lands a prime target for them. As such relationships between goblins and elves are never likely to have been good and have little reason to improve.


Elves often strike members of the human tribes as aloof, superior, condescending, or simply cold.
These attitudes are common for many reasons:
One is that in elven experience most outsiders are brutal invaders, greedy merchants desperate to log the elven forests, or thieves seeking ancient magic.
Another, often unrealized by the recipient, is that elves are a deeply passionate people, apt to love or loathe someone within moments of meeting them, but while a elf or another dwarf will be known for centuries the younger races seem to die just decades after the elf meets them ? and continual bereavement hardens the elven heart as it does any other.
A third is simply that elves have very different body language than humans ? the subconscious marks that indicate emotion are different amongst the elves, and so unrecognized by humans leading humans to see the elves as cold and unfeeling.
The last common reason, is that the elves do dislike the visitor due to the visitor's race ? humans often stink of sweat, both humans and goblins are notoriously violent, neither seems to have much introspection or self awareness, none seem to be ?properly? in tune with their surroundings to the elves, etc.
When elves get to know individuals however they treat them based not on race but on the individual?s attitude ? several humans have lived amongst the elves for decades, even centuries, as fully accepted and welcome members of the community. Of course in many elven realms a human would be unlikely to have the chance to get to know the elves.
Elves cherish life of all kinds, only those beings that are persistently aggressive and dangerous will be slain by elves. Unfortunately many elves now assume that all goblinoids ? including humans for some elves ? are dangerous and persistently aggressive.


Dwarves have very different relations with elves than either humans and goblins. Although there are some brief comments on conflict (throwaway lines in PS of Tuarheviel and in the Tuar Annwyn description) canon on dwarves notes that they are on good terms with elves, indicating that if the races ever were enemies then this was a long time ago ? far enough for both races to forgive/forget past transgressions (and dwarves are certainly folk to hold grudges for a long time). Quite possibly there were early conflicts between them (both races met goblins first so is unlikely to have assumed that other races were friendly) but had these been serious it is highly unlikely either race would have ever forgiven the other.
Since elves greatest need is for worked metal (mining and refining power are not only very labor intensive, dirty, dangerous and unpleasant but also damaging to the environment indicating that elves should have little metalcraft unless the nature spirit aspect of their nature is stressed) and their most obvious tradable commodities are magic and woodwork. Dwarves have exactly the opposite position; given the fact that both races have absolutely no interest in the other's lands, dwarves and elves are natural trading partners. Both races are also enemies to goblinoids (albeit not necessarily humans) and it is likely therefore that at least historically they have been military allies.
An alternative interpretation would be complete dis-interest between the two peoples. Particularly if elves have their own miners and metal workers then members of the two isolationist races are unlikely to meet at all and mutual incomprehension at life-styles and cultures could easily lead to a preference of members of each race to ignore the other race.
My campaign. The comments on dwarves being forced back under the mountains by the elves in PSoT seems like a classic case of human interpretation of events. Dwarves like living under the mountains ? they don?t need to be forced back there! Similarly what reason ? at all ? do elves and dwarves have to fight? Elves are very defensive and dwarves are not naturally expansionistic. As both have common enemies and are classic trading partners I have them as old allies, their relationship only marred by the dwarven dis-interest in fighting humans. As I make dwarven spell-casters as rare as elven metal workers I have them trade with each other substantially ? almost all elven arms and armor are actually made by the dwarves (and then enchanted by the elves), similarly the elves enchant dwarven weapons and armor. Ghoigwnnwd therefore (the maker of Tighmaevril) would therefore be the name given to a pairing ? a dwarven master-smith and an elven grand sorcerer who together forged the weapons and enchanted them. To re-create tighmaevril therefore a regent would need to find two rare talented individuals in addition to the lost secrets?

[top]Trade and industry

Very few elven realms have any guilds, Tuarheviel's are mostly run by human outsiders, Innishiere?s guilds are described as contact with treants, rangers, etc and provide no income, Lluarbraight notes that organized trade is unheard of, the Sielwode and Tuar Annwyn simply state that no guilds are present while Rhuannoch notes that as elves care little for material trade, no true guild holdings exist. Only Coullabhie and Cwmb Bhein have organized guilds run by elves, the elves of Coullabhie mainly use the guilds as an excuse to leave the Coulladraight every decade or so, while Cwmb Bhein trades to gain influence and allies with nearby human realms not simply to obtain profit.
This can be explained by lack of interest in goods (see below), lack of interest in profit, or inability pf the elves to organize themselves (i.e. any industry being small scale only without organization of the various craftsmen).

[top]Immortality and physical property

Cloth rots, paintings fade, wooden crafts crack and warp, metal rusts or tarnishes - few material items survive the passage of time unscathed unless made of stone ? and elves likely prefer light fine goods not chunky earthenware. As a result it is unlikely that elves value material goods as much as other races since they know that the goods are inherently transient.
Similarly with little need to eat (see physical) or find shelter (see buildings), elves have little need to work to survive ? and without legions of craftsmen producing goods to sell in order to feed themselves goods will naturally be rare in elven lands.
Elves are however described as producing some goods ? invariably of exceptional quality. This is in my view best explained by the output of elven hobbies ? an elf may learn and master a craft, producing goods for pleasure or to while away time, these are then likely given to friends, or bartered for some other trinket that catches the elves eye, etc. Other goods would either be produced due to need (armor and weapons) or traded for.

[top]Elven trades

Immortality does however open a number of possible new trades, as does a prevalence of magic. Breeding animals can be taken to heights undreamt of by humans by a single intrigued elf ? how many generations does it take to breed a better dog, horse etc? Not so many to an immortal. Similarly elves may use magic to shape the forests around them, make magical items for non-combat purposes, use magic heavily in other ?industries? for example making ore ?sweat out? the pure metal rather than being refined in a furnace, etc.

[top]Temples and the gods

All BR canon suggests that elves scorn worship of the gods. The only elven realm with temple holdings is Rhuannoch ? and these are described as home to the Djiran refugees not for the elves themselves.
Instead of religion and priests, elves have philosophy and Taelinir ? indicating that elves consider each person responsible for their own actions and judge them by agreed mores of society, rather than the dictates of a god or priest.
The lack of worship of gods is likely to have a major impact on diplomacy ? temple regents will not want elven ?lies? inflicted on their flock, will want to try to convert the heathens, etc. It also leaves the elves open to accusations that they worship demons and the like since they clearly do not worship the gods.
It also forces elven rulers to rely on themselves / their family as they cannot have 'divine rights' to rule. This again leads back to the idea that elven rulers must prove themselves.
Given that the first god-worshiping races met were the gobins, elves may have a very cynical view of the gods, and consider worship to be something that should be 'grown out of' by the various races. although Dwarves are religious they are very quiet about their faith, so elves may have no great awareness of dwarven religion making their only knowledge of gods from goblins and humans - both of which are likely to have been bad, although Rhuannoch seems to accept Laerme's followers.

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