“Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will answer both no and yes.”
If you’ve taken a gander at my Cosmology and Creation post about Aeramis’ history you already know a few things about the history of the elves in my setting.
All elves hail from the Feywild, created by De’em in the Second Age. There were two tribes of these elves at the time of their creation; the sylvani and the eladrin. The sylvani were more primal and wise, and lovers of plants and animals. So attuned were they with the natural world that they could blend into the dappling light of a forest or fade behind a veil of rain. They were quick and fleet of foot, and great hunters. The eladrin, by contrast, were quiet, intelligent, and great wielders of the cosmic arcane. Even the least magically inclined eladrin could travel instantaneously a short distance, or manipulate the Weave for small and wondrous effects. Despite these differences, elves from both cultures carried the same traits; lithe and beautiful forms, contemplative minds, and a society focused around personal freedom.
These two tribes of elves worked together for each other’s benefit, strengthening each other and living peacefully in the Feywild. But around T2A 2,308 there was a shift in the fate of the elves; a young sylvani male approached the elders of his tribe and told stories of a vision he had of a great land with lush forests and vast oceans, a world that existed on another plane. The sylvani were intrigued and questioned the eladrin, who acknowledged that some of their number had received such visions as well. A joint effort was taken to reach this new world, and after a century of study the elves managed to plane shift for the first time, bringing them to the Prime Material Plane.
Many of the elves traveled here and colonized, though some remained within the Feywild. The eladrin and sylvani faced some strife on this new plane; dragons attempting to re-secure their domination of the world after the demon god Tharizdun’s attack in the previous age, and other beings of varying intellect who had lived there for centuries, fought with them. It was in this time of strife that Tharizdun acted against De’em’s creations again, corrupted a part of the Feywild. This region of the plane, hidden away from the sun, became dark and twisted. It became a place of decay and death. The elves that remained in that part of the plane became corrupted by the dark energies of the Abyss as well, causing them to shun light and turn toward the darkness. These became the drow, dark skinned elves with hatred and evil in their hearts, and the region in which they lived became known as the Shadowfell. Desiring rule and conquest, the drow attacked. These Fey Wars began in T2A 4,215 and lasted for approximately 45 years as the drow attempted to take control of both the Echoed Planes and the Prime Material, called Aeramis. Their failure after the war followed them into the Underdark, the deep heart of Aeramis which Tharizdun had also corrupted during his attack on the Fey Wild. To this day the drow civilization lives deep underground, living in their own society away from the surface world. The Shadowfell, now empty of its former inhabitants, slowly gained new horrors.
Even with the defeat of the drow, the elves still found themselves in conflict. Many years later a single eladrin gained the support of his people and rose to power, and called himself the Black King. The eladrin embraced their newly discovered power of necromancy to eliminate the sylvani. The Black War lasted for nearly 400 years until its end, when the entirety of the dark eladrin population was killed in a ritual initiated by the Black King himself. The few survivors were eladrin who defected from the Black King’s evil, joining with the sylvani.
As the third age closed the elves found themselves no longer the dominant force on Aeramis. The wars and infighting had reduced their population greatly. Some few elves remained within the Fey Wild but had separated their society from that of the “colonial elves” that had left for the Prime Material Plane.
Much of the information available in the Player’s Handbook is an accurate representation for the elves of Aeramis, though I have additional details to share!
The musculature of elves is slightly more dense than that of humans, allowing the average elf to remain slightly less “buff” while retaining the same level of strength as a comparably average human. This gives them a certain grace and elegance; even the way an elf holds themselves is noticeably different from a human. Elven ears flair up into a point, extending slightly back, as expected. Curiously, the length of an individual elf’s ears is comparable to the length from their wrist to fingertip. Wood elves have slightly shorter ears than high or dark elves, though it would likely take an elf to notice such a thing. Their skin comes in a range of tones, much like humans though generally lighter (save for the drow), as does their hair and eyes, though there are slight differences between subraces. Though elves do not need to sleep, needing only a few hours of meditation to recuperate after a day’s work, they are still capable of the act should they choose.
One important distinction from the PHB is how elves age. From birth, elves grow quickly and reach their mature form in roughly the same span of time that a human would. As they reach their 20th year, however, their aging slows down rapidly. A human would have a difficult time determining if an elf were 100 or 500, and it is around their sixth century that aging begins to take some sort of toll again. Even here, many elves pass from old age with few wrinkles or skin spots. Most make it to their 8th or 9th century, and elves living to 1000 years are rare though not at all unheard of; this is when age actually starts to show. Davgretor the Magnificent, a high-elf and the famous Wizard of the Western Peak, is a bit over 1000 years old himself, and he looks it.
High elves in modern-day Aeramis were once the eladrin race of old. The few eladrin which survived the Black King’s ritual have, for reasons not fully understood, lost some of their connection to the arcane, though the race as a whole still leans towards careers in magic. The change in them is enough that they no longer consider themselves eladrin. That name is ancient and no longer applies. As such, there are no eladrin in Aeramis, or at the very least the race is not available for players.
The dark elves, though reclusive, would be nearly identical to their high elf cousins if not for their dark skin, which can be various shades of dark gray to black. Some rare drow had copper hair, either an indication of surface-elf heritage or perhaps that the individual was somehow fate-touched.
Elves of mixed heritage on Aeramis would mechanically be one race or the other, but physically traits of both parents are noticeable in their features. Over time this has resulted in many “wood elves” with pale skin, or “high elves” who are shorter with hazel eyes. Mixed heritage is most visible among drow, owing to the more obvious differences between drow and other elf subraces. Such mixed-race drow, however, are extremely rare.
The elves of Aeramis have a propensity for sexual depravity among the other races. In reality, elves are simply more sexually open and progressive than many other races. Most are bisexual in some capacity, with one extreme or the other being much more uncommon. Though they marry for life after many years of courtship, elves do not hold to the same bonds of matrimony as humans. Sex is a biological act, one which can be enjoyed with the spouse or with whoever else is interested. In effect, most elf marriages tend to be open relationships. Despite this, marriages are supremely important to elves. So much so that should an elf find themselves a widow or widower, the elf will likely never marry again. Peravar is the Elven word for such an individual, translated literally as “half-person”, owing to the loss of their other self. This is one reason that unions between elves and humans are uncommon; an elf knows that their mate will pass away within the century, while they will be forced to live on without them for many hundreds more years. That, and the normally long courtship of elves (easily measurable in the decades for some) means that “dating” a human would be difficult.
The culture of sexual freedom means that elves do not concern themselves with worries of modesty; though they wear clothing regularly as humans do, nudity is not seen as a taboo. Marriage ceremonies are actually conducted with all in attendance fully undressed, though clothing is worn for any later gathering of celebration. Newly weds are usually given seeds, one from each set of parents, which are magically bonded to create a new seedling. The seedling is then planted to grow into a bonding tree, and for this reason all elvish weddings are conducted in the spring. The seeds gifted usually come from the parents’ own bonding trees.
Much of this culture is based on the sylvani culture, as the eladrin culture was nearly fully lost with the closing of the Second Age and the betrayal of the Black King. High elves in the Seventh Age have been forced to accept the loss of their heritage.
By the Seventh Age, the elves no longer have the power and population they once did. The elves are in control of the Weald, a forest within Aerlon’s heart, separated from the greater Verdant by the Eldorani Crater and the Boar’s Spine Mountains. Their capital is a congregation of various trees, twisted together into a single massive tree known as Glornlára. In the Seventh Age, the ruler of the elves, for lack of a better term, is Lady Glânelleth Lúinwë, who has been in her position for approximately 500 years. One of her daughters, Alarelleth Lúinwë, is primed to replace her.
Though a majority of elves remain in the Weald, many others fall under the rulership of the Realm of Aerlon, living within human cities and townships appropriately. The relationship between elves and humans is polite and cordial, though either may regard the other as strange; Lady Lúinwë has gone out of her way to keep their alliance strong, understanding that the time of the elves has long passed.
The three deities most worshipped by the elves are Sehanine, Melora, and Corellon.
Sehanine, the Moonbow, is the chaotic good patron goddess of elves as a whole. She is the seasonal goddess of autumn, and the goddess of love, illusion, dreams, and the moon. In fact the moon, known as Aoede, and is believed by her worshippers to be something akin to an avatar of hers. Marriages are conducted by her priests in elven society. Her domain is trickery.
Melora is the neutrally-aligned goddess of wilderness, nature, and the sea, and favored by wood elves in particular. She holds dominion over both plants and animals, and many who worship her seek to uphold balance between nature and the free people. Her domains include nature and the tempest.
Corellon is the chaotic good god of magic and the arts, and the seasonal god of spring. Corellon’s power waned as the eladrin turned away from him, and then waned significantly with the destruction of most of their race. By the Seventh Age he has regained followers, but still holds less power than many of the rest of the pantheon. His domain is that of light.
In the Second Age, many eladrin individuals also worshiped the Raven Queen, with a particular cult forming around one of her exarchs, Amuun. The Raven Queen is the neutral aligned goddess of death, fate, and doom, and is the seasonal goddess of winter. The depiction of a white mask and black robes has persisted since the time of the eladrin, though modern tellings by the Seventh Age hold that she was once human.
I plan on writing more of these ecology guides for Aeramis, partially as a tool and encyclopedia for my players and partially for anyone else looking for inspiration in their own games.