The elven people are different in many ways to the humans that share their world. These differences have led to many instances of aggression and distrust between the two races. But at the most basic level both races have much in common and as such have successfully built strong friendships throughout time.
Roleplaying an Elf
by Richard Di Ioia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Elves are creatures that live to enjoy all that the world has to offer. They are constantly searching to learn and experience different aspects of the environment in which they find themselves. As such they may seem distracted by humans that interact with them. It is not uncommon to be speaking to an elf about something of great import (to the human speaker at least) and then have the elf stand up to go look more closely at a butterfly of great beauty that attracted the elf's eye. An elf will do this by habit as their long lifespan allows them plenty of time to discuss and make decisions whereas the beauty of the butterfly is fleeting and will be gone before the elf may have a chance to watch it. Many a human delegation to an elven king have had their meetings called off at the last minute because a strange cloud design has been sighted in the sky and the refraction of the sun's rays created a hallow effect. Another critical concept within the elven mentality is the sanctity of beautiful life. This is a strange concept for humans to understand and to come to terms with. An elf is completely and utterly racist with respect to beauty. If a particular race is ugly - either in temperament or physically - they will have no regards for that race. This means that an elf would rather protect a flower than the life of a kobold. Elves also have a hierarchy of sorts for the beauty of the creatures around them. Each race of creature and plant, by cultural standards over the milleniums, has been judged for both temperament and physical beauty. They have then been ranked by the elves on which one to sacrifice for the benefit of the others. Obviously given the choice the elves would save all, but when a decision must be made it is made easily and without question. This is extremely frightening to humans who have seen the perceived callousness of elves with respect to allowing human children to die to save one elf.
Elven family life
Elves are not required to marry for their complete lives since this may span centuries and their constant search for new sensations would not allow them to remain faithful for that long. There is one exception to this life style. Elves have the highest regard for life and this manifests itself strongest when it comes to their own children. Elven women will give birth to as many children as possible to fully enjoy the process of bringing a new life into the world. Yet, they understand that giving birth to a child is not the end but the beginning of the joy that a child brings to the world. Therefore they will only raise one child at the time and both parents will remain living together throughout the whole childhood of the child. This allows them to dedicate their time to teaching the child the ways of the world as well as giving the parents the opportunity to share in the merriment and wonder of their progeny as they grow up.
The learning process
An elven child will stay with his parents until the age of 50 years old. At that time he is given the right of choosing his next teacher. The child then leaves the home of his parents and moves into the home of his next teacher. This new teacher is usually in the same village as the elf was raised but it is not unknown for elves to travel to other villages or towns to learn under a particularly well-known teacher. The child will remain with this new teacher until he reaches the age of 75 at which time he must once again choose a new teacher. Although not forbidden to remain with the same teacher for the second half of the learning process it is frowned upon by elven society. The elves strongly believe that varied knowledge is the greatest tool to help in understanding the world and better appreciating all that it has to offer. At the age of 100 years, the elf is no longer considered a child but fully mature. At this time he can take for himself any last name he desires. This name is usually that of his birth parents or one of his teachers. It is also not uncommon for elves to take the name of their home village as a last name or that of a favored location.
From a human perspective the elves seem to be divided into several clans. Yet, unlike human clans, an elf is not born to a clan but chooses the name of the clan for his own until he moves on. This would mean that an elf can change the name of his clan many times during his lifetime - which annoys human to no end as they like to categorize people into hierarchies. Each elven clan inhabits a particular geographic area and "oversees" that region. The natural resources of each region influences the type of elves that are attracted to join that particular clan. Some clans are renown for their warriors, others for their artisans, and some for their cross-racial mercantile savvy. It must be noted that elves do not change clans all that often and this mostly occurs in situation of conflict. An elf will usually choose to settle within a clan that "specializes" in his particular skills and will spend many centuries working and learning to perfect his profession.
Elven decision making
This is where human concepts are completely incompatible with that of the elves. Human power structures usually follow a top down approach - whether the ruler is elected or hereditary. The elves, on the other hand, constantly change decision-makers depending on the task at hand and the inclination of each particular elf. Usually the elf most suited for a particular task will make the decisions with respect to that task - unless he doesn't want to be bothered by making those decisions. This is a very difficult concept for human merchants to master. A frequently used technique by humans when dealing with nobles is that if a minor noble doesn't grant you what you want, all you need to do is bribe someone over his head to over-rule the decision. Unfortunately, among the elven communities once someone has been chosen to make a decision it is usually not easy to find someone to over-rule him. Take a simple example of a mercantile fair that a elven village decides to hold. The merchants each jostle for particularly well positioned locations around the market square. Now, the senior elf in this case does not wish to be bothered with the details of such a task so he "refuses" to request it. A junior elf expresses interest in taking care of this task so he is nominated to be in charge of the merchant locations. Now, if a merchant is not satisfied with the choice he cannot ask someone else to change his location as there is nobody "above" the junior elf. Another aspect of this mentality is that once the elves decide on the elf that will be making the decisions they will all follow his lead until the tasks is accomplished.
Over time the elves have established a quasi-hereditary nobility to oversee their nations. The task of these nobles is to make certain that the elven way of life remains safe and secure. They are also there to act as mediators between the other races nations and the elven nations. Although the humans call them the elven nobility they are not regarded as such by the elven people. The nobles are perceived as having duties and tasks that are meant to present a united front for the elven people versus the other races. A noble elf does not control any particular tract of land and may come from any background. Once they have accepted the role of being a noble they change the name of their clan to that of the "noble" family. So it is quite possible that the baker in an elven village one century could become the Baron of the Eastern lands of Celene the next century.
The elves as a people are not deeply religious but perceive their gods as being there to entertain the elven people. Their gods are teachers that teach the elves to view the beauty around them and to understand why it exists. Their gods are also creators of beauty and imbue their people with a spark of creativity that allows the elves to create great works. Whenever an elf is in need of inspiration he prays to his gods and they in turn give hints that allows the elf to create an innovative solution to his problems.
Elves at war
Elven war hosts are some of the most dangerous in the world. Their mastery of weapons and innovative thinking makes them unpredictable and deadly foes. They have also mastered many crafting techniques, especially with the bow, that allow them to make superior weapons to equip their troops with. Although ill suited to work together in large group their ability to think on their feet and to choose the best leader for the task make them especially well suited to guerilla warfare. Elves will rarely risk their own lives in combat for, according to their beliefs, one of their lives is worth much more than hundreds of their foes. Yet if the lives that the elf is protecting is higher in the racial hierarchy than the elf, he will gladly sacrifice his own life for that greater ideal.