June 23, 2014
Iconic Characters: Elves
This week, I will be looking at the most common/popular player races in traditional fantasy role-playing games. Today, starting us off, we are going to look at the most popular, most iconic of all fantasy races: the elves.
Elves are a very human-like race; only they seem to lack many of our imperfections. Elves tend to be tall, graceful, and are always depicted as being incredibly beautiful. They have narrow faces, high cheekbones, more angled eyes, and their most notable feature, long pointed ears. Elves are either listed as being immortal/ageless or incredibly long-lived – averaging well over 500 years in D&D and Pathfinder. Elves often have something of an innate connection with either magic or the natural world, and sometimes both. They are very free-spirited, valuing individuality and personal freedoms over all else.
Is it so hard to see why they are so popular?
The most commonly played of all fantasy races, elves are adored because they represent something that everyone desires. Perfection. Elves are idealized in many fantasy settings as being the greatest of all the races. Do not believe me? Read Tolkien’s work. They are inherently good and have no obvious weaknesses, save occasionally being depicted as slightly less hale than humans due to being smaller bodied. Their grace and beauty are also strong drawing points, as these are both qualities well liked in our culture and elves are far greater in both than we are. Even their long lifespans are huge draws for them, as the fear of aging and death are less applicable to them. Playing an elf lets a player feel what it would be like to be both ancient and young at the same time. Elves are ageless in this regard, with no notable difference between an elf who is twenty or one that is 220.
Another appealing reason that players might take up playing an elf is the variants that many fantasy games offer. Often there is not simply one type of elf, but many. To list the most popular, there are high elves, which embody the mystical and the wise. Wood elves embody the more primal freedom of nature. And then there are the ever popular Dark Elves, or “drow,” which are the archetypal anti-hero elf characters. In addition to these, some fantasy games include things like sea elves, sky elves, gray elves, sun elves, moon elves, star elves, elder elves, and many, many more. It is often a joked about among gamers about just how many different types of elves there are.
Elves are incredibly fun and popular to play as because they are something both very similar and very different from human beings. They are enough like us to be familiar, but different enough to feel like something new and exciting, and the fact that all of these differences are things that humans would idealize is not exactly a deterrent either. Elves are a marvelous fantasy race that truly embodies the fantasy.
Next time we will be looking at the opposite of the elf, the short and feisty dwarves of the deep mountain realms.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
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