|Male and female high elves, as depicted in the 3.5 Player's Handbook (2003). Art by Sam Wood.|
Elves are renowned for their grace and mastery of magic and weapons such as the sword and the bow. Becoming physically mature by the age of 25 and emotionally mature at around 125 (Races of the Wild, 2005), they are also famously long-lived, capable of living more than half a millennium and remaining physically youthful. They rarely die due to the wear of age. Possessed of innate beauty and easy gracefulness, they are viewed as both wondrous and haughty by other races; however, their natural detachment is seen by some as introversion or xenophobia.
There are several different subraces of elves, including aquatic elves, dark elves (drow), grey elves, high elves, snow elves, valley elves, wild elves (grugach), wood elves, and winged elves (avariel). The offspring of humans and elves are known as "half-elves" among humans, and as "half-humans" among elves.
Elves are most often associated with temperate forests, though this applies chiefly to high elves and wood elves. Aquatic elves are only found in temperate aquatic regions, and gray elves often prefer temperate mountains. Snow elves, drow, and grugach are found almost exclusively in cold mountains, the Underdark, and deep forests, respectively. Valley elves are rarely seen outside the Valley of the Mage.
In the Flanaess, large numbers of elves can be found in Celene, Highvale, the Lendore Isles, Sunndi, the Duchy of Ulek, the Valley of the Mage, the Vesve Forest, and the Vault of the Drow. Verbobonc was originally an elven settlement, though they have mostly left that region to the humans and gnomes. The City of Summer Stars is a lost and ruined elven community of fable and legend in the depths of the Adri Forest, now under a dreadful curse.
Typical physical characteristics
Slightly shorter than the average human, elves are also noticeably more slender and graceful (this is reflected in a bonus to dexterity and a constitution penalty), averaging between 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet and 95 to 135 pounds. Males are slightly more muscular on average, there is little difference in height between the sexes, and facial hair is unheard of. Their features in general may be described as more angular and defined; including long, pointed ears and wide, almond-shaped eyes. Most elves have fair skin and dark hair, though this is no more true of all elves than it is of humans. They have a reputation for careful grooming, more so than perhaps any other race. This frequently extends to their clothing, which is luxurious and well-kept, though not to the point of impracticality.
Elves do not sleep as most other creatures do, instead falling into a four-hour restful trance. Consequently, elves are unaffected by sleep-inducing spells and effects, and are able to remain active far longer than other races.
Elves also do not age as other creatures; their physical appearances remain constant from achieving physical maturity to death. Elves do grow physically weaker and mentally stronger as they grow older, and accumulate a "glow" from the strength of their souls as they age (Races of the Wild, 2005).
Most elves are usually chaotic good, though grugach tend to be neutral, Valley elves chaotic neutral, and drow neutral evil.
Most elves, other than drow and Valley elves, follow the Seldarine, the elven pantheon, consisting of the following deities:
- Aerdrie Faenya, goddess of Air, Weather, Birds, and Avariel.
- Alathrien Druanna, the Rune Mistress.
- Alobal Lorfiril, god of Hedonism, Mirth, Magic, and Revelry.
- Araleth Letheranil, god of Light.
- Corellon Larethian, god of Elves, Magic, Music, Arts, Crafts, Poetry, and Warfare.
- Darahl Firecloak, god of Earth and Flame
- Deep Sashelas, god of Water, Knowledge, Beauty, Magic, and Aquatic Elves.
- Elebrin Liothiel, god of Nature, Gardens, Orchards, and the Harvest.
- Erevan Ilesere, god of Mischief, Change, and Rogues.
- Fenmarel Mestarine, god of Exiles, Scapegoats, and Grugach.
- Gadhelyn, hero-god of Independence, Outlawry, Feasting, and Hunting.
- Hanali Celanil, goddess of Romantic Love and Beauty.
- Kirith Sotheril, goddess of Divinations and Enchantments.
- Labelas Enoreth, god of Time and Longevity.
- Melira Taralen, goddess of Bards and Minstrels.
- Mythrien Sarath, god of Protection and Mythals.
- Naralis Analor, god of Healing, Easing of Pain, and Death.
- Rellavar Danuvien, god of Frost Sprites and Protection from Cold.
- Rillifane Rallathil, god of Nature, Woodlands, and Wood Elves.
- Sarula Iliene, goddess of Lakes, Streams, Nixies, and Water Magic.
- Sehanine Moonbow, goddess of the Moon, Mysticism, Dreams, Far Journeys, Death, and Transcendence.
- Solonor Thelandira, god of Hunting, Archery, and Survival.
- Tarsellis Meunniduin, god of Winter, Mountains, and Snow Elves.
- Tethrin Veraldé, god of Bladesingers.
- Vandria Gilmadrith, goddess of War, Guardianship, Justice, Grief, Vigilance, and Decision.
- Ye'Cind, god of Music and Magical Songs.
While Corellon Larethian leads the Seldarine, most subraces also have a patron deity whom they hold in nearly equal regard. Deep Shahelas (and his wife, the dolphin goddess Trishina) for the aquatic elves, Fenmarel Mestarine for the grugach, Rillifane Rallathil for the wood elves, Tarsellis Meunniduin for the snow elves, and Aerdrie Faenya for the avariel.
The only deity known to be honored by the Valley elves is Ehlonna, who is also frequently worshipped by other elven peoples. Dark elves most often worship Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, or one of her brood.
Elves are of various sorts, including a marine race, all of which are detailed here.
- Aquatic elves, or sea elves: Aquatic elves live beneath the waves and can breathe water as easily as their cousins on land breathe air. They have silverish-greenish skin and hair of green or blue-green. They are mortal enemies of sharks and sahuagin. They are friends to dolphins and surface elves, and neutral to all others, save for fishermen, who they dislike. Their chief god is Deep Sashelas.
- Avariel, or sky elves. Also known as the "winged folk," these winged elves are very rare, but are believed to dwell in the Lortmil Mountains (LGG.143).
- Drow, or dark elves: The "black elves" are only legend to most in the Flanaess. They are as dark as gray elves are bright and and as evil as the latter are good. Once surface elves themselves, they were transformed into drow and banished to the Underdark when they fell to the worship of demons and gods of elemental evil. Of all the elves they are the only ones that are inherently malevolent, and they hate their cousins with an undying passion. They are smaller than their cousins, both shorter and thinner. In addition, their skin resembles polished obsidian, and their hair is snow-white or silver.
- Gray elves: These elves are the most noble of elves, yet also the most arrogant. They are of higher intellectual capabilities than other elves, but, despite the fact they are taller than high elves, they are physically weaker. They live in isolated mountain strongholds, and rarely allow access to outsiders. They have silver hair and amber eyes, or gold hair and violet eyes, and wear clothes of white, silver, yellow and gold, and usually wear regally colored cloaks. Those with gold hair are generally called faeries. They worship the standard elven pantheon.
- Grugach: The most reclusive of all the elves, the wild elves pride themselves on their isolation and skill at keeping hidden. Their skin tends to be brown and they have similar colored hair which lightens with age.
- High elves: High elves are the elves most commonly encountered by other races, and the most open and friendly of their kind. They travel to other lands more than other elves. They're generally dark-haired and green-eyed, with very pale complexions the color of new cream. They simply do not tan, no matter how much time they spend under Oerth's sun. High elves prefer to wear light pastels, blues and greens and violets, and often dwell in homes built into living wood, high in the trees.
- Snow Elves: Pale but hardy elves that live in the Crystalmist Mountains. They worship Tarsellis Meunniduin, the patron god of Snow Elves and Lord of Mountains. They are reclusive and usually led by tribal priests known as "Peakwardens."
- Valley elves: Closely related to gray elves, Valley elves are the tallest of their kind, as tall as humans. They dwell only within the Valley of the Mage, though agents are occasionally sent outwards on missions for the master of the Vale. Because of their height, they can often pass as and infiltrate the societies of humans. Other elves despise Valley elves, believing they've sold out their dignity and independence for the fleeting protection of a human wizard - even worse that his lieutenant is a drow. They call the Valley elves by a disparaging name in their own language that connotates to "automaton" or "slave."
- Wood Elves: Wood elves are a reclusive subrace. They place more emphasis on strength than learning. Wood elves are considered by other elven subraces (particularly the austere gray elves) to be boisterous and hedonistic. They have a zest for life and pleasure. They are more neutral than most elves, except the valley elves and grugach. Their complexions are fair, their hair is yellow to coppery red, and their eyes are light brown, light green, or hazel. They wear russets, reds, browns, and tans. Their cloaks are usually green or reddish brown.
- Half-elves: Not really a subrace per se, half-elves are the offspring of humans and elves. Blending the features of human and elf, half-elves look like elves to humans and like humans to elves (hence their elven description as "half-human"). They do well with elves, humans, gnomes, dwarves, and halflings. In the case of conflicts between elves and humans, however, each side often suspects a half-elf mediator of favoring the other.
Elves inhabited the Flanaess for many centuries before the Great Migrations introduced hordes of humans, orcs, and goblins who pushed them from the grasslands and prairies deep into the ancient forests that were their first home and most secure retreat.
Elves mark the time using the Olven Calendar.
Elven craftmanship and technology
Elves are strongly associated with the following items (magic items are listed in italics). Drow items are listed in the drow article:
- Bearskin armor (RotW)
- Elven chainmail
- Elven darkleaf armor (A&EG3E)
- Elven leafweave armor (A&EG3E)
- Elven plate armor (PHBR8)
- Forestwarden shroud (RotW)
- Hawkfeather armor (RotW)
- Thistledown armor (RotW)
- Thistledown suit (RotW)
- Tigerskin armor (RotW)
- Wildwood armor (RotW)
- Woodwalk armor
Clothing and textiles
- Boots of elvenkind
- Cloak of elvenkind
- Honey leather (PHBR8, RotW)
- Sashling (PHBR8, RotW)
- Thistledown (PHBR8)
Food and drink
- Elven Aleeian wine (A&EG3E)
- Elven mead (A&EG3E)
- Elven moondrop (A&EG3E)
- Feywine (PHBR8)
- Elven harp (PHBR8, RotW)
Tools and miscellaneous gear
- Elven rope (A&EG3E)
- Elven tree tent (A&EG3E)
- Arrow, blunt (RotW)
- Arrow, dragonsbreath (RotW)
- Arrow, elven leaf (A&EG3E)
- Arrow, flare (PHBR8)
- Arrow, message (PHBR8)
- Arrow, serpentstongue (RotW)
- Arrow, swiftwing (RotW)
- Bow of songs (A&EG3E)
- Close fighting blade (RotW)
- Elven(craft) bow (PHBR8, RotW)
- Elven courtblade (RotW)
- Elven double bow (A&EG3E)
- Elven lightblade (RotW)
- Elven thinblade (RotW)
- Hideaway weapons (RotW)
- Larethian protector (A&EG3E)
- Swordbow (RotW)
Artifacts and relics
The grugach and Valley elf first appeared in Dragon #67 (November 1982) in the series "Featured Creatures," an ongoing series of articles where Gary Gygax released information on official creatures before their release in the upcoming Monster Manual II (1983).
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