Post by Pedantry INC on Jan 30, 2015 11:31:05 GMT -5
I have the complete book of elves.. I wonder if I should splurge that here, or make a new thread. Or append the information to the racial threads. Maybe Elves: Expanded Lore would be the best way to handle it. There's a lot of neat stuff there.
Wandered off to wonderland. Wandered on and back again.
While these aren't direct quotes from cannon books, they help to understand the elven mindset and perception. I found it on the interwebs. It's copywrited to a nick (afroakuma).
I'm Busy, Come Back Next... Year
Elves are willowy, sylvan humanoids; fine-boned, with defined angular characteristics to their bone structure that strengthen their fragile physiology and compensate for the lightness of their skeletal systems. Symmetrical to seemingly the last detail, elves are often looked upon by humans as being extremely beautiful by human standards, with their high cheekbones, rich almond-shaped eyes and preternaturally graceful movements.
Just how different is the elf physique from that of a human? To put it in context, a healthy 5 ft. tall human male weighing the minimum for his height (124 lbs) is a mere three pounds lighter than an elf male of the same height and maximum healthy weight (127 lbs). The average human male stands 5 ft 9 inches tall and weighs 175 lbs; the average elf male stands 5 ft 2 inches tall and weighs 109.5 lbs. If that were translated into the Body Mass Index, the difference would be a swing of 8 points.
Gracefully Meandering For a people who often come up only to the chins of their noisy younger neighbors, elves certainly have a knack for looking down their noses at humanity. Humans, in turn, seem to vacillate between admiration of the elves' beauty and grace and irritation at the long-lived race's arrogance and condescension. What underlies these perceptions, from the elf's standpoint?
When it comes to grace, elves are certainly more dextrous than many humanoids in a similar height range. The elf body is lean, fluid and sensitive; often moreso than many other races, an elf keenly feels physical sensations on the skin, with roughly twice the sensitivity of the human body in areas not normally associated with a higher-than-normal concentration of nerve endings in other humanoids. Though they naturally possess a refined quality of movement and agility, elves' famed grace derives from a more culturally-ingrained source: elves move slowly. In mechanical terms, elves when unhurried move at half normal speed and take 20 on Move Silently checks. Within five minutes of having started walking - about 75 ft, the length of a few rooms' walk - an elf is comfortably gliding along at a decibel level below the average human's ability to hear. There IS No Time Like The Present The most crucial element to understanding an elf's mindset, though, is to understand long-time and short-time. The elf brain does not perceive time and receive information in the same fashion that most other humanoids do; elves live much of their adult life in a pseudo-trance known as long-time, in which they can idle away days or weeks at a time without devoting significant mental focus to anything. As creatures with a lifespan measured in centuries, elves have a lot of time available to waste on getting things right, and long-time is the biological mechanism that allows them to do it.
An elf is in long-time whenever there is nothing stressful that requires true focus. Elves in long-time can eat, drink, read, play music, craft woodwork or even hunt game or fight goblins if they are sufficiently at ease with the task at hand. A sort of mental auto-pilot, long-time supplements the elven need to trance by allowing elves to keep their minds at ease while developing muscle memory and picking up on subtle nuances and details that stand out as relevant. Elves in long-time can devote themselves to a given pursuit for anywhere from a week to several years without even having to notice what they are doing. Long-time is a fluid, waking dream; peaceful, functional and allowing the acquisition of experience over a long period of time. Elves can do many things while in long-time, but unless stressed, they will not be devoting the necessary focus to noticing much of what they're about.
This leads into why elves seem constantly dismissive of and annoyed by other races: non-elves cause stress. They talk fast, they smell, they're noisy and distracting and need to be addressed immediately. Being around such a source of stress rather abruptly jolts an elf's mental awareness into short-time - the perception of time as most other humanoids experience it. In long-time, unnecessary sensations are filtered out to preserve the gentle focus of the eternal moment. In short-time, it all comes flooding back - and there's probably a reason that the elf will need to pay attention in the short term. Short-time is analogous in many ways to the headache that humans often get - often elves in fact translate it as such when speaking to outsiders, who of course have a rigid concept of the perception of time.
Long-time and short-time drive elven activity; they also shape elf cultures in interesting ways. Long-time also results in an elf trait that annoys many other races: their seeming inability to hold to a schedule. Commission a work from an elf craftsman, and you'll see it... whenever. You may be able to pin him down to a particular year or even a specific month, but he'll feel you've badgered him into it and be decidedly irritable.
So how do they function, if society simply meanders along at an erratic, dreamlike pace? Quite simply, long-time drives elves to activity and pushes them to maintain homeostasis so that nothing perturbs them. Long-time is characterized, after all, by a dreamlike but quite vivid focus on a particular activity; whether an elf is directly aware of a given activity or is simply thinking of other things while the flesh continues rote work, the singular characteristic of long-time activities is that they are monomaniacal and often persist for weeks, months or even years at a time. Elves cultivating orchards may do so for a solid two years without ever succumbing to mind-numbing tedium, because their minds are dreamily floating elsewhere while their bodies content with day-to-day labors.
The Adventurous Few Some activities, though, clearly demand extensive short-time. Traveling or living among other races, for instance, involves constant stressors from a hectic lifestyle alien to that of elves. Combat with unfamiliar foes or foes that pose a reasonable threat is also by definition stressful. Adventuring, a cocktail of the above with a myriad of other agitating stimuli, seems an activity entirely inimical to elven well-being.
Some like it! Some very small portion of the elven population, mostly youths, enjoys the rush of constant new and demanding stimulus, even if the specific stimulus meets with their disapproval. To some, it is rather analogous to a human's adrenaline rush. Others have done a simple cost-benefit analysis of the potential gains of venturing beyond the secluded lands of the elves and determined that a constant headache is a small price to pay. These are the elves most often met in foreign lands, those who demonstrate the same consistent traits: a fascination with magic, a sour and condescending attitude towards all things and an icily supercilious countenance. These elves act as if you are somehow irking them with your very existence because, to be frank, you somewhat are. Sense and Sensibility The elven superiority complex takes a back seat when they are suitably relaxed and focused on a task they enjoy, but elves have a general tendency to perceive others in terms of elf standards (what a coincidence). Elves don't see themselves as "less healthy" than other races; they see themselves as the baseline of wellness and perceive others by that benchmark. Similarly, elves don't perceive themselves to be more graceful than some universal baseline - you're just clumsy.
This particular viewpoint extends to other elf traits - sleep is alien to them, as they can trance at any time and in long-time frequently have a wildly floating trance "schedule" wholly at odds with the standard diurnal activity cycle. Elves thus associate night not with rest, but with freedom from distraction, contemplation and productivity. Elves consider their enhanced vision, visual acuity and keen hearing perfectly normal, and find the "dull" senses of other races frustrating and pitiable.
Player of: Ariean Hunithitryn'Rae: some fancy names/titles and Handy Girl.
I don't agree on the reason of elven food being "tasteless". Usual explenation is that elven sensitivity is extended to food, which means that they enjoy subtle seasoning and differences (which to others translates to "bland"), and have difficulty for salt and spice.
Do You Like It? It's Called "Single Drop of Paint That Took Ten Years To Place Just Right"
Say whatever else you will about elves, but in terms of culture, they've got the market cornered several times over. Elf culture has weathered millennia of transformative pressures, several splinterings of the race across geographic, environmental and experiential lines, and even civil war and sectarian strife.
Far from being the placid and serene higher beings who carry themselves as though they are above it all, elves are individualistic, anarchic and extremely reactive to their environment over time. The phenomenon of long-time results in automatic adjustments on a grand scale as needed to keep elves in a given area in balance with their domains. More importantly, the chaotic makeup of the Seldarine and serious fractures in the wake of a long-ago internal crisis led many of the first generation deities to champion and shape particular subgroups of elves according to their own dogma.
This history of transformation, division and subconscious adaptation has led to a level of diversity in elvenkind that is only exceeded by that found in humans. Further, the particular nature of elven adaptations goes far beyond all but the most extremophile humans' distinctiveness. Nevertheless, though religious practices, environments, physical capabilities and lifestyles vary wildly among elvenkind, the fundamental currents underlying elf culture remain strong and characterize the race as a whole.
Altruists, Anarchists and Psychopaths Elves are not a wholly chaotic people, but they have a decided bent for individualism. This is a natural result of the erratic lifestyles that long-time facilitates. Elves work together best when their interests coincide and they can each continue in long-time without a misstep. When forced into short-time by another elf, reactions trend toward the socially immiscible. Elves are intelligent enough to understand the necessity of short-time in certain situations - a serious orc attack, a dragon in the woods, parenting, a fire - but that does not make it any less unpleasant and stressful for them.
If you ever want to feel superior to an elf, go see an expectant father while his mate is in labor. "High-strung" doesn't even begin to describe the state he will be in - bloodless, twitchy, hypervigilant and oscillating during trance like a caffeinated kindergartener. Elves with children spend many years planning for what is known as "the Eon" - the longest and richest period of long-time an elf ever experiences. Why elves with children? Simple: they've been waiting a century for a chance at some decent long-time. Elves hear members of other races talk about missing their grown children and often have to stifle the thought "...with an arrow?"
If taking care of children is the ultimate in jarring life experiences to an elf, how much worse would it be to take care of a town? A city? A nation? Leadership is a burden even when those led are for the most part just cruising around on autopilot; when everyone's short-time has a ripple effect that comes after you, the weight of office is even more severe. In short, to an elf, power sucks.
So where do they find their leaders? Two groups often step forward to take the helm, and the first one is particularly distressing: sociopaths. To be fair, that's not a very useful term anymore, so let's refine it to: psychopaths. The classical profile of the elven psychopath includes an inability to fully experience long-time, lack of emotional depth, obsessive control over limited environments, a disconnect from nature, tension in relaxing situations, fixation on immediate goals and a total deliberateness of action. In short, these elves are mentally and spiritually broken and totally qualified to take on the duties of a leader from a simple functionality standpoint. That's not to say they're evil - though they certainly might be. No, these elves are painfully lawful: they have a need to settle into some form of social power and a rules system that lets them thrive under self-created stress in what should be a relaxing environment.
The second group consists of those that embody the native goodness present within elvenkind: those masters of a particular discipline or set of skills who give themselves to their people as leaders knowing full well the misery it will entail, as a method of enriching the whole of the populace. This altruism is less common than the alternative, though the former group often perceives itself this way.
In either event, those who lead can look forward to the grating experience that leaders have come to call middle-time, a hybrid state of time perception rather unique to those whose everyday duties involve a greater amount of unpredictable stimuli than others, but whose essential activity cycle can form a pattern. Middle-time is less of a constant headache than short-time and makes for a more consistent and efficient leader, but has its own consequences: it is tremendously fatiguing and wears on the mind and body such that leaders seem to age twice as fast. This effect is generally mitigated in psychopaths, which often provides a good clue as to which members of elected office could use replacing.
Alien Art and Mellow Mood Music Elves are famed among other races for their astounding talents with art and music; the distinctive streak of perfectionism, combined with the excessive amounts of time that elves can dedicate to a single composition, result in an elevation of standards that seems out of reach by the reckoning of shorter-lived peoples. In nearly any form of craftsmanship, elven craftsmen and craftswomen simply have more time and more sheer anal fixatedness than any comparable artisans of other races.
That's not to say that elven art is, strictly speaking, any good.
To envision the elven perception of art, put your right hand up in the air, near your left shoulder. Slowly move it, horizontally, until it's extended as far right as you can go. That steady, curving and potentially wobbling motion was utterly pointless but I got you to do it because you felt it was going somewhere. That's elven art: motion and happenstance without inherent purpose that might draw forth feeling. (It could be argued to be all art, frankly).
In all seriousness, that aerial motion is in many ways the fundamental building block of all elven art. It is a gentle pulling forth of something intangible in a direction at once predictable and personally appreciable. Elven architecture goes up because walls go up and roofs go up and trees go up and you'll still appreciate seeing it (especially when it is shaped living wood, the material involved in many of the most spectacular examples of the craft).
Elves have certain trends in choice of medium. Sculpture is almost unheard-of, though glasswork is known. Ceramics and pottery are very rare arts, though with their long, slender fingers, elves produce marvelous pottery. Living materials are preferred where possible, though elves also work with the noble metals (silver, gold and mithril) in small quantities. Elves enjoy writing poetry, which is typically so inscrutably short and full of implied meanings that it can be used to make a student of Elvish feel that they have learned nothing of the language and have wasted their time. Literature, theater and dance are also embraced by most elf cultures. The two art forms exalted above all others by elves, though, are painting and music.
Elves make paints from many substances, taking tremendous pains to calibrate a significant range of shades and hues. Often more time is spent tailoring the perfect color than is spent on the entire painting. Elves do not have art movements; the culture tends to absorb each new work within one of the "exalted natures" considered the totality of painting styles. These exalted natures include iconicism (finding divine or natural shapes within abstracts and highlighting them), expansionism (focusing in on the minute details within everyday objects), cosmicism (the artistic merit of a single dot, line or stroke of paint carefully placed), intensivism (painting on unusual materials with an eye for highlighting the material's own qualities) and elaboratism ("pulling" shapes from thick oil paints to create expansive and textured scenes which incorporate, rather than eliminate, stray brush motion and other marks of incompleteness).
Music is a field in which elves find great fascination. The key elven instruments are the lyre, the harp and the flute. Elves shun all percussion and brass instruments and employ only a very limited selection of woodwinds. The elvish flute is known for its subdued and graceful notes and is impossible to articulate a marcato on. The elvish lyre can be played by lyrists by stroking the strings, rather than plucking them, reducing the percussive sound of a plucked string. The harp is the harshest of elven instruments and a less than masterful touch can prove irksome. However, the satiny, gliding sound produced by an elf harpist is highly valued in elven music. Elf compositions are quite different from those of many other races; they value repetition, eschew preciseness and have a vastly reduced musical range in terms of chord selection. Elves don't have a repeat symbol; they have a "don't repeat" symbol for bars selected to add surprise and startlement to a piece, which is used quite selectively and very rarely. An elven piece can easily last for an hour or more without tremendous change from where it began. It is in the performance itself that elven music reveals its artistry and that of the performer. Mastery of this flowing, interpretive and repetitive style is near impossible for other races, who find it boring and difficult to sustain when performing but are often entranced by the dreamy, timelost quality of the music when in audience. Elves do have horns, but they never employ them in music; they are used strictly to sound alarms.
Haughty Cuisine Elves eat to live. In the depths of long-time, an elf can often forget to eat for a day or two without noticing, though they always find themselves with ready drinking water. Most elves keep small gardens from which they can idly pick something to chew on. Many also flow into the public marketplaces or orchards to acquire a subsistence meal and continue onward without ever really experiencing "taste" as we know it. The fact is, elves don't eat meat, fruit or vegetables for flavor. They're after nutrients and calories sufficient to keep them from health complications, and that's about it.
Contrary to some perceptions, elves are not vegetarians. Those who are entranced with the hunt go after game of all kinds, though raising livestock for slaughter is not in the elven character. Most meat elves consume is wild bird or fish. Elves aren't exposed to beef, pork or domestic land fowl unless they go afield to other cultures; elven markets rarely sell meat as freshness is preferred and salt agitates the elven palate.
Elves look for flavor in only two things: beverages and herbs. Elven wines are of famous quality, as they represent one of the few gustatory arts that elves care about. While fruits are not consumed for taste, their juice often is, and may be combined with honey as a sweetener. Elves don't season food with herbs; rather, they chew them whole. Elves can digest most plant matter including grasses and leaves without difficulty, and often use basil, chervil, lavender and mint where humans might use lettuce, cabbage or celery.
Do You Even Know What "Eldritch" MEANS? Elves have an ancient and innate tie to the study of wizardry. Much as with their other arts, though, elves are individualistic and spend their years exploring magic in their own fashion, without a thought for praxis. With such a long history of magic use and arcane study, it is often wondered why elves have not redefined their whole civilization - nay, the world - with sorcerous foundations. The answer is simple: they're not interested.
Elves spend a great deal of time disjoining themselves from an interconnected world. They don't have a word for "hermit" because it's a basic and standard lifestyle for many of them. The power of magic can enhance their lives on a small scale - unseen servant being particularly popular - but for the average elf, spells beyond cantrips are not within their means until middle age - and they've just got so many more relaxing things to do. Elves may be intelligent, but they simply don't see magic as anything more than yet another means to an end, or at best an art. They do not perceive it as a science, nor as something to be studied to seek mastery. It is a birthright which they come into in their middle years, and which is embraced for what it is and used functionally or artistically.
Elves are thus very magical people in their later years, but a people without the urge to push the boundaries of power or transform their environment in ways not already contemplated. Their idleness gives them no incentive to create for any reason that doesn't please them. They would rather go over the forms that already exist and refine their ability to work those spells than work toward new and unusual applications of magic. Elves generally do not craft magic items, preferring to work powerful enchantments into their environment.
Nevertheless, elves still possess the potential to be potent arcanists, and those who come upon magic at a younger age often see it as the highest of arts. The curiosity fired in these younger elves through the powers they harness never fades. The natural inclination of the young elven spirit to be moved to wonderment by the art of wizardry is in fact the genesis of the now-abused term "eldritch," which properly refers to the arcane practice of elves. Mind you, it's the fault of elven arcanists that the term took on the other connotation it now has, but still. You're misusing the word.
Elven specialists tend to prefer conjuration, enchantment and evocation, though the overall preference trends toward a generalist approach to magic with a long and studied history.
Mysterious Elven Wares Remember, to elves, "elven things" are just "things." When perusing an elf marketplace, other races need to adjust to this fact. The exotic and dangerous weapon in the corner isn't an "elven thinblade" - it's a thinblade, and the rapier you're examining is a "human thinblade," or a "pointing sword." That fine mithril armor isn't "elven chain," it's "chainmail" and what you're wearing is "steel chainmail" or "human chainmail" or "clinky horriblewear" (not actually said, but jingle around elves enough and you can practically feel them thinking it).
The elven marketplace contains many products unique to elves and their interests. The elegant weapons of the warrior traditions, fine chainmail worked from mithril, and tools for the practice of many arts are all routinely available in an elven market of fair size.
Elves use metal primarily for weapons and chainmail; the supply available to elf communities that do not have a significant amount of trade is limited to that mined and smelted by psychopaths (they can't all hold office). Other elven goods are made with treated leaves and wood, or other plant materials. Use of animal products is very limited, but glass is quite popular. Elves have a fascination with clothing, even while in long-time, and garments made of starlight cloth or silk are both found in most elven marketplaces, though the former is by far the most preferred.
Elven goods tend to be significantly more expensive than those found in human marketplaces, but the majority of elves have large amounts of time to spend crafting what they need, significantly reducing the costs individually experienced. Elf-crafted bows are quite superior to the kind humans normally employ, though elves can use those lesser bows if the need arises. Elven longswords, apart from the use of mithril in the most high-quality offerings, are not significantly different from those other races make. Lightblades, thinblades and courtblades round out the standard complement of weaponry available at an elf marketplace. Elves also sell specialty arrows.
Elven goods can be found in Dragon #279 and Races of the Wild.