IFAQ: Elves and Pugs

In the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, elves can live to be up to 750 years old. In the past I’ve written many articles about the elves of Valenar and Aerenal and how their long lifespans have affected their culture. But what about the elves of the Five Nations, who are part of a culture driven by short-lived humans? This month, my Patreon supporters posed a number of interesting questions on this topic.

An adult elf of the Five Nations is not only older than the current monarch of their nation, they’re older than the NATION, given that Galifar only dissolved a century ago. How does their long lifespan affect their national loyalty?

First of all, we’ve always said that most demihumans of the Five Nations tend to put their national identity before their species. A third-generation Brelish halfling might support the Glidewing in the Race of Eight Winds as a nod to their Talentan heritage, but they consider themselves Brelish, not Talentan. So that’s the first point to consider: elves born in the Five Nations generally embrace that culture. Which comes to the second point: until the Last War, the Five Nations were united as Galifar. But there were still Five Nations, each of which was culturally distinct and maintained traditions that predated Galifar; Galifar united them under a single ruler and code of laws, but it didn’t erase that cultural identity. The point of this is that not only does your 300-year-old Brelish elf think of themselves as Brelish, they’ve thought of themselves as Brelish far longer than a 30-year-old human; they’ve had far longer to invest in the traditions of Breland and to have a very strong sense of what it means to be Brelish. Which ties to the second point. Because their long lifespan means they’ll outlive the humans around them—whether we’re talking about their monarch or their neighbor—the elves of the Five Nations tend to invest in institutions and customs more than in individual humans. An elf invests in the concept of Breland more deeply than in any one ruler. Likewise, they invest in families more than individuals, seeing the living members of the family as the latest incarnation of that beloved family. For an off the cuff example, consider the relationship between humans and dogs. My household is a pug household. We had a pug we loved, and when he passed away we got a new pug—who is very much his own person, but also very much a pug. And when he passes away, I expect we’ll get another pug. We love our pugs, and in the moment, we love our current pug most of all. But we also know that barring tragedy we will outlive him. So we love him in the moment, we give him the best life that we can, and when he passes we’ll honor him by bringing a new pug into our lives. What we’re NOT going to do is suddenly decide to get a St. Bernard; we’ve become pug people, and we don’t WANT a different dog.

This basic principle applies both to national identity and to an elf’s personal relationships with shorter lived races. Breland in this instances is “Pugs” while King Boranel is “The Current Pug.” The elf who has chosen to live in Breland for three centuries loves Breland more than any other nation. Most likely, they also love Boranel; they may fondly remember Wroaan or other rulers, but Boranel is alive and with them now; they will always honor Wroaan’s memory, but they support the current king. Unless, of course, they don’t like Boranel, in which case they may grumble and think “There’s always a bad one in the litter, but in another ten yeas we’ll get a new one that will be better.” That elf doesn’t want to go live in Thrane any more than I want to get a St. Bernard; they’ve become comfortable with Breland and it’s become part of their identity. With this in mind, I would also say that Brelish elves in particular likely strongly oppose the Swords of Liberty and the anti-monarchy movement, because the four hundred year old elf is far more invested in the institution of the Brelish monarchy than the human who’s only lived with it for twenty years. They’ve invested in the idea of Breland for centuries, and part of that idea of Breland is that it’s a monarchy.

As I said, I’d extend this to an elf’s personal relationships with humans. In playing an elf character, I’d consider whether I know the ancestors of one or more of the other player characters. I might ask one of the other players (it’s a collaborative story and I want to work with them, not impose my story on them ) if they’re OK with the idea that my character has had a long relationship with their family. Throughout the campaign, I might discuss my experiences and adventures with their ancestors. It might even be that the reason I’m part of the adventuring party is to look after that character—because their grandfather would never forgive me if anything happened to them. If you’re familiar with Deep Space Nine, there’s a touch of this in the way Dax refers to their previous hosts. As an elf, play up the fact that you may have known Queen Wroaan or met Kaius I. When you’re at a store in Sharn, mention how it use to be a restaurant a century ago and had the best fried spider legs in the city—they just don’t make them like that any more.

It’s suggested that some elf immigrants to Khorvaire came with a plan to marry into human families and essentially outlive their way to power, inheriting family fortunes from their short-lived spouses. Canon lore suggests that this was abandoned out of an initial revulsion for the Khoravar, but how has it played out in the present day?

The canon answer is clear: elves haven’t taken over all the noble families of Galifar, and in fact, very few elf nobles are mentioned. The question, then, is WHY. The answer is that people of Galifar are well aware of the disparate lifespans of their neighbors and that the laws of the land take it into account. Any position with a lifetime appointment will have clauses that allow for the holder to be removed, so you can’t just appoint a warforged to a lifetime position and then have no way to remove them ever. Meanwhile, nobles will always has pre-nuptial agreements to address this; I think the standard one is simply that a spouse doesn’t inherit the title. It passes to the eldest child or, failing that, to a sibling.

Looking at an example of this in play, Kaius III of Karrnath is married to Etrigani, an Aereni elf. As long as Kaius is alive, Etrigani carries the title of queen. When Kaius dies, however, the crown of Karrnath would pass to their eldest child, not to Etrigani. If they have no children (and currently they don’t), it would pass sideways along the line to Kaius’s sister Haydith. A spouse could likely serve as a regent while waiting for a child to come of age, but they can’t claim the title as their own… thus preventing an elf from marrying into a family of human nobles and holding the title for the next five centuries.

There are a few elf nobles in the Five Nations, and it’s certainly the case that if you’re an Aundairian elf with the noble background, you may be waiting a LONG TIME before the title falls to you.

This raises another question. If my elf character is two hundred years old and knew the wizard’s grandfather, how come I’m only a first level character?

The long-lived races are always a problem in this regard, and I’ve talked about this before in this article. First of all, I’ll call out the fact that in REAL LIFE, skill doesn’t progress in a continuously upward line as we grow older. I learned Latin in college, I haven’t used that skill in two decades, and at this point I can recognize some words but I couldn’t write a sentence in Latin. In another 20 years I may have forgotten it entirely, and that’s nothing like an elf living for centuries. Generally speaking, we reach plateaus with skills and have to work to maintain them. I also fenced in college. Guess what? I’m older now and while I still know some tricks, I’m not a better fencer than I was. Admittedly I multiclassed and took levels of writer instead of fighter, but the point remains: age alone doesn’t equate to skill. A second point is simple: How good is your grandfather at making TikTok videos? Now, replace “TikTok videos” with “Modern Techniques of Arcane Spellcasting.” You could absolutely say that your 1st level elf wizard was a cutting edge wizard 300 years ago, but he’s been out of the game for a while—writing novels, perhaps—and now his spellcasting techniques are incredibly out of date and he can’t figure out these fancy somatic components the kids are doing these days. “That thing! With the fingers!”

While that’s a FUNNY option, I would personally be more likely to use my elf character being 1st level to add a hook to their backstory: WHY are they 250 years old and only first level? My immediate inclination is just what I said above but without the comical agism. My elf character trained as a wizard 200 years ago, and then spent the last 200 years as a novelist or a poet—some career that essentially has no concrete bearing on the skills I use while adventuring—and I need to get back in practice. I remember the basics, and it’s all going to come back to me quickly once we get going, but come on people, I haven’t even cast a cantrip since before you were born.

A more dramatic option would be to justify my temporary low level as a form of injury. Perhaps I served in the Last War—possibly even serving with the parents or grandparents of one of the other characters—and suffered “spellshock” from an arcane attack. Or perhaps I was caught in the Mourning and was found in a coma—I’ve recovered, but my whole body feels numb and I haven’t fully recovered my spellcasting ability. OR, perhaps I was on an epic adventure (again, could be with an ancestor of one of the PCs) and was cursed by an archfey. Breaking that curse could be an ongoing story hook, or it could be something that is broken BECAUSE I’m adventuring with the descendant—allowing me to regain my skills. All three of these options would allow me to say that I WAS a fairly high level character a century ago but I’ve temporarily lost those skills. While other characters may feel like they’ve dramatically improved by the time they reach 9th level, I feel like I’ve only just gotten my sea legs back.

The main point here is that you shouldn’t look at the old dwarf or elf and say “It makes no sense that I’m 120 and still have the same skills as a 20 year old human.” First of all, remember that in Eberron ANY player character is remarkable. Second, don’t just say “it makes no sense”—figure out a way that it COULD make sense. An injury, a curse, a century away from adventuring. The fact that you’re only 1st level NOW doesn’t prevent you from having BEEN higher level at some point in the past.

Do the longer lived races like the elves and dwarves view the Blood of Vol differently (insofar as their lives are not as short, cruel and hopeless as the oppressed humans who latched onto it a couple millennia ago)?

This raises an important point: the fact that you CAN live to be seven hundred years old doesn’t mean that you WILL. Elves are just as susceptible to disease and to cold as humans are. They may not sleep, but they certainly need to eat. So if you’re an elf farmer in Karrnath surprised by a sudden frost, you can still be worried that you’re hungry, that your children are freezing and one has a fever, and that if the frost kills your crops there’s no knowing how you’ll get the money you need to survive. Even if you do somehow live through it, the fact that you get to look forward to hundreds of years of watching your friends die may not feel like a blessing. Those people who founded the Blood of Vol, who felt that life was short, cruel, and helpless, weren’t dying of old age. So no, I don’t think it has a notable effect. And also, the Blood of Vol has never been widespread in the Five Nations. The Brelish elf may not see the appeal to the Blood of Vol, but most Brelish HUMANS don’t see the appeal either.

That’s all for now! I am VERY busy with writing deadlines and family matters and I likely won’t have times to answer questions on this topic. Thanks as always to my Patreon supporters for asking interesting questions and for making this website possible!

40 thoughts on “IFAQ: Elves and Pugs

  1. Thank you, Keith. With 5e giving way to familiars as spirits, it is much easier to do inherited familiars passed down through elven lines…

  2. Do the longer lived races like the elves and dwarves view the Blood of Vol differently (insofar as their lives are not as short, cruel and hopeless as the oppressed humans who latched onto it a couple millennia ago)? The Bloodsails obviously view their faith/allegiance differently but are other elves in Lhazaar and Karrnath not part of the communities? Are the dwarves of Narathun and the ones noted as early members of the faith as fervently tied to the idea of the divinity within as the the suggested Brelish elf is to the idea of Breland?

    Also love the hook/bond of being in an adventuring party to look after the grandchild of a friend, that’s awesome.

    • Do the longer lived races like the elves and dwarves view the Blood of Vol differently (insofar as their lives are not as short, cruel and hopeless as the oppressed humans who latched onto it a couple millennia ago)?
      Who says the life of a Karrnathi elf isn’t short, cruel, and hopeless? The fact that you CAN live to be seven hundred years old doesn’t mean that you WILL. Elves are just as susceptible to disease and to cold as humans are. They may not sleep, but they certainly need to eat. So if you’re an elf farmer in Karrnath surprised by a sudden frost, you can still be worried that you’re hungry, that your children are freezing and one has a fever, and that if the frost kills your crops there’s no knowing how you’ll get the money you need to survive. Even if you do somehow live through it, the fact that you get to look forward to hundreds of years of watching your friends and family starve and die may not feel like a blessing. Those people who founded the Blood of Vol, who felt that life was short, cruel, and helpless, weren’t dying of old age. So no, I don’t think it has a notable effect. The Blood of Vol finds purchase in places where life IS cruel, and if life is cruel, a long POTENTIAL lifespan doesn’t eliminate all of the problems. And also, the Blood of Vol has never been widespread in the Five Nations. The Brelish elf may not see the appeal to the Blood of Vol, but most Brelish HUMANS don’t see the appeal either.

      Are the dwarves of Narathun and the ones noted as early members of the faith as fervently tied to the idea of the divinity within as the the suggested Brelish elf is to the idea of Breland?
      They might be. Or they might be devoted to their communities and feel the pain and injustice of EVERY death in the community. It works either way; the question is if your focus is on trying to find the Divinity Within or if you focus on mundane actions that will improve the lives of your neighbors. Either way you are fighting death.

  3. You said,
    “You could absolutely say that your 1st level elf wizard was a cutting edge wizard 300 years ago, but he’s been out of the game for a while—writing novels, perhaps—and now his spellcasting techniques are incredibly out of date and he can’t figure out these fancy somatic components the kids are doing these days. “That thing! With the fingers!””

    Does this automatically mean there will be wizard conventions with old spellcasters as Guests of Honor, doing panels? Uhm, asking for a friend.

    • Does this automatically mean there will be wizard conventions with old spellcasters as Guests of Honor, doing panels? Uhm, asking for a friend.
      ABSOLUTELY. I remember I was on a podcast where we designed an overview of a FantasyCon adventure — Now I want to run that!

      • *laugh* I’ve Guested/GoHed at over 300 cons, so I can totally see that.

        A terrific reward for characters that are popular in an area would be figures & toys based upon them. In ancient Rome, there were action figures as kids toys, based upon popular gladiators.

        This would lead to Collecting, which would lead to cons, and cons would have Guests, and the Guests would autograph their action figures, and eventually there’d be a whole Con Circuit…

        We have *got* to write some material together. LOL

        I have an entire Food Truck-based series of adventures in mind. A Food Truck is a _fantastic_ hook for adventures. A base of operations, a source of income, a way to unify the party members, travel to Food Truck gatherings & cooking competitions, blending in with cities, a setting for strangers to converge, and so on.

  4. How do humans, halflings, etc. in a community in the Five Nations view Galifaran elves in turn? Are they weirded out by these families of centuries-old elves? Do these shorter-lived mortals respect these elves as pillars of the community?

    Are the elves in Upper Northedge in Sharn culturally closer to Galifaran elves, or to Aereni elves?

    • How do humans, halflings, etc. in a community in the Five Nations view Galifaran elves in turn? Are they weirded out by these families of centuries-old elves? Do these shorter-lived mortals respect these elves as pillars of the community?

      More the latter, I’d say. Humans aren’t going to be “weirded out” by elves, because elves are simply part of live. In Breland, 8% of the population are elves; it’s not like they’re exotic and unknown. And based on the idea that elves cultivate relationships with families as much as with individuals, it means most families are used to having elf friends who have known their family for generations, and it’s probably fun for the children when the “Old Friend of the Family” visits and tells them stories about the deeds of the great-great-grandparents.

      Are the elves in Upper Northedge in Sharn culturally closer to Galifaran elves, or to Aereni elves?
      Page 79 of Sharn: City of Towers answers this: “While naturalized elves can be found throughout Sharn, Shae Lias is a bastion for the values and traditions of the elves of Aerenal.” So: Shae Lias is specifically a bastion of Aereni culture; elsewhere in Sharn elves are more likely to identify as Brelish.

  5. For a simple real-world example, look to the United Kingdom. If you ask an individual from the UK where they’re from, they’ll likely say that they’re Scottish or British, not “Oh, I’m UKish.”

    This makes no sense. Great Britain is the union of England, Scotland and Wales, so a “British” person is someone from one of those three nations. What you should have said was, “…they’ll lively say that they’re Scottish or English, not ‘Oh, I’m British.'” That being said, someone from the UK calling themselves British isn’t uncommon, especially Welsh people whose country isn’t particularly well known worldwide.

    Thus, using the same logic, it actually wouldn’t be uncommon for someone to call themselves Galifarian. …Galifaric? Galifarese? Galifin?

    • I’d say it makes sense.

      It’s because Britain is a part of the UK (which also includes Northern Ireland), and Scotland is also a part of the UK (and also a part of Britain). So when saying “I’m British” or “I’m Scottish”, you’re identifying yourself as being from one of the UK’s constituent countries (England, Wales or Scotland with the former, Scotland with the latter) rather than from the nation state of the UK.

      The speaker doesn’t say “I’m UKish” because Northern Ireland, although part of the same nation, doesn’t necessarily factor into the identity of a British (ie. English, Scottish, or Welsh) person due to geographical and historical differences. Similar to how a Brelander wouldn’t say “I’m Galifaran” because Aundair, although part of the same nation, doesn’t necessarily factor into their identity.

      It’s not a seamless metaphor, since Galifar had Breland + multiple constituent countries while the UK has Britain (a collection of constituent countries with its own unique identity) + just one other constituent country (Ireland). I’d probably be confused by the nomenclature myself if I didn’t have the advantage of living here.

    • It’s probably a little different because for most of the last 1000 years, the bulk of the population of Khorvaire was Galifarian. There weren’t that many other places to go. It would be like introducing yourself as a member of the UN. 🙂

    • Great Britain is the union of England, Scotland and Wales, so a “British” person is someone from one of those three nations. What you should have said was, “…they’ll lively say that they’re Scottish or English, not ‘Oh, I’m British.’”

      My apologies, this is me as an American not understanding the difference between “British” and “English.” I’ll edit accordingly. The point here was never to actually try to accurately discuss UK customs but to give an indicator of how things worked in Galifar, which is not our world.

      Thus, using the same logic, it actually wouldn’t be uncommon for someone to call themselves Galifarian. …Galifaric? Galifarese? Galifin?

      Here I strongly disagree. Again, my example may have been flawed, but the reason there’s no perfect comparison in our world is because EBERRON ISN’T OUR WORLD. The critical point is that if THE ENTIRE WORLD IS GALIFAR, why would I ever need to call myself “Galifaran”? Who am I using that term WITH? During the age of Galifar, Galifar essentially claimed all of Khorvaire. Both Riedra and Aereanl are isolationist cultures; Zilargo and the Mror Holds were part of Galifar, Valenar and the Eldeen Reaches didn’t exist, etc. So virtually everyone you interact with is “Galifaran” which means the word has no useful meaning. Duh, of COURSE you’re Galifaran, we’re ALL Galifaran. Whereas the independent cultural identifier—Brelish, Cyran, Karrnathi—means something, and if I tell you I’m Brelish, I’m providing you with useful information.

      • I’ve gone ahead and removed the metaphor: I shouldn’t have used a real-world example I don’t fully understand. I will say that if I used the US as an example, if I’m talking to someone from another country and they ask where I’m from I’ll say “The United States.” If someone in the US asks me where I’m from, I’d say “Portland, Oregon” and if I think they are interested I’ll add “I grew up in Upstate New York.”

        The point is that that early identifier — “I’m from the US” — is meaningless when I’m talking to another US citizen in the US because WE’RE ALL FROM THE US. It’s an important concept for conveying to someone from an entirely different culture: if the Brelish citizen was talking to a Riedran or an Aereni who knew little about the cultures of Galifar they’d just say “I’m a citizen of Galifar,” sure, because the RIEDRAN doesn’t know what it means to be Brelish. But when talking to someone else from Galifar, just saying “I’m Galifaran” is an empty statement—whereas saying “I’m Karrnathi” tells you something significant about how I view the world. US states don’t HAVE the history and length of culture that other nations have, which is why we often highlight our immigrant roots (IE, I’m Irish-American). But it’s still the case that I have those three basic components: I AM an American citizen; I LIVE in Oregon; but I was BORN in upstate New York, and the fact is that I have engrained cultural behaviors due to being raised as a New Yorker that do make me distinct from native Oregonians.

        Hopefully that makes sense. Again, it was a mistake to use a real world example since it was never going to be entirely reflective of the situation in Eberron and because I didn’t fully understand what I was talking about, and I’ve pulled it from the article.

        • Just to continue to beat a dead horse with the US comparison: In the grand scheme of things, I’m a US citizen. I LIVE in the state of Oregon. But if a resident of Oregon is at my house and says “Where are you from” I wouldn’t say “The US” because they know that. I wouldn’t say “Oregon” because clearly they already know I LIVE in Oregon, but I didn’t grow up here and I don’t have the cultural experience of someone who did; so I’d say “I’m from upstate New York.” And I’d include the “upstate” because if I just say “New York” people will think New York City, and we’re culturally very different from people from NYC.

          For the elf from Galifar, the only time they’d be likely to say they’re from Galifar is if they are talking to someone outside Khorvaire who doesn’t know enough about Galifar for their specific nationality to be meaningful. The next question is whether they state where they currently reside (me and Oregon) or the place they identify as having shaped their identity (me and upstate New York). Because under Galifar, as in the US, it wouldn’t be uncommon for someone from Karrnath to move to Aundair to do research at the Arcane Congress; but like me and Oregon, they’d likely consider themselves a Karrn living in Aundair, not that they become an Aundairian the moment they buy a house there. And in Khorvaire, the cultural and historical significance of being from Karrnath vs Aundair is considerably more significant than the difference between being from New York (upstate or otherwise) and Oregon.

          • This brings up an interesting point. How did the elves in general feel about the last war and galifar breaking up? I imagine they would see this all as a temporary tragedy. To go with your pug analogy, it was like their dog started fighting with the neighbors dogs and they are hoping they can all just stop fighting and get along before anyone gets really hurt. And I imagine it was real difficult for the “upstate NY” elves living in Oregon when the war started especially when it came to taking a side.

          • How did the elves in general feel about the last war and galifar breaking up? I imagine they would see this all as a temporary tragedy.

            Certainly they take a longer view, yes. As I said, elves often invest in institutions. For the Aereni—whose civilization is over twenty thousand years old—the Five Nations are essentially annoying teenagers fighting over who gets to hold the remote. The fighting is annoying and immature behavior, it’s nice that they’ve quieted down in a moment, and we’ll check back in a century and see if they’ve worked it out. For Brelish and Phiarlan elves? It’s hard to say. Even for an elf, a century isn’t an insignificant amount of time, especially if you’re right in the minute of it. If you’re a two hundred year old elf, you have vivid memories of united Galifar, but you’ve still spent half your life at war. Let’s look back at our dog analogy. Imagine you’re forty years old. Imagine that your family has always had pugs and you love pugs, but when you were a teenager you use to go to the park and your pug played with the pit bulls and the golden retrieves and the poodles. Now image that twenty years ago ALL OF THOSE DOGS ATTACKED YOUR PUG, and for the last TWENTY YEARS you’ve been fighting rabid pit bulls and poodles, and also they burned down your pug’s doghouse FOUR TIMES. Are you really going to be ready to just say “Oh, but twenty years ago they weren’t so bad, it’s all water under the bridge”? Are you going to invite the pit bull over for a play date with your pug?

            Essentially, for a typical 200-300 year old elf, you’re still talking 30-50% of their life being defined by war. You’ve actually seen MORE of the war than the humans have. So some may look forward to getting back to how things used to be with Galifar, but I think others may have actually harbor deeper grudges, because they remember the entire war and all that their nation has suffered.

  6. “My elf character trained as a wizard 200 years ago, and then spent the last 200 years as a novelist or a poet—some career that essentially has no concrete bearing on the skills I use while adventuring—and I need to get back in practice. I remember the basics, and it’s all going to come back to me quickly once we get going, but come on people, I haven’t even cast a cantrip since before you were born.”

    You don’t even have to be an elf to do that. One of the funniest characters in my game was a 70-year-old noblewoman from Aundair, grandmother and widow who having achieved all she wanted, decided to adventure and mechanically was a 1st level rogue.

  7. Why is your 300 year old elf a first level? I got the impression that elves were perfectionists. A human would learn a song over a couple of months and if there were small variations each time she sang it, it would be good enough. An elf would spend decades learning the song so it was CD quality, identical every time it was rendered. Maybe elves routinely spend decades on something the pug races would consider insignificant, like mastering shadow marches gumbo, or having perfect calligraphy, or sculpting bonsai trees, or painting rococo filigree around the house. Now that the elf has spent 90 years mastered that Aerenal opera, it’s time to go do something unstructured for a decade or so, to cleanse the palate, so to speak.

    • Why is your 300 year old elf a first level? I got the impression that elves were perfectionists.

      That’s definitely what we’ve said about the Aereni and the Tairnadal, as covered in this article: http://keith-baker.com/aereni-learning/ But part of the point is that Aereni culture is designed with that in mind; that’s how EVERYONE approaches life. Essentially, there’s nothing strange with the idea that college takes a hundred years and drills down to this level of perfection because EVERYONE DOES IT. That’s just how life works. That becomes more difficult for an elf who’s integrated into the Five Nations, where the cultural infrastructure doesn’t support it. In Breland, college only takes four years, and there’s no professor who teaches a ten-year intensive on a single opera. That doesn’t change the general idea that elves are likely to pursue perfection, it’s just going to look slightly different than in Aerenal because the society doesn’t support it. An elf may WANT to spend a century mastering gumbo recipes, but they also need to have a job during that century that will pay the bills.

      So what you describe is exactly how Aereni culture works; and the general concept can easily apply to any elf; it’s still likely to be how a Brelish elf approaches their hobbies. The reason this article doesn’t present it as the general reasoning is because it’s focused on the Five Nations.

      • Would the Phiarlan/Thruanni elves be akin to the aereni with being perfectionists inside the houses of shadow? Or more akin to the five nation elves?

  8. I’m imagining elven parents living in human lands telling their kids that they didn’t do well enough in school and will be repeating the grade with a “It’ll be alright. We elves live long enough to make a habit of this. I have no doubt that another year will be enough to bump that B up to an A+.”
    Cs may get degrees, but the fey needs an A.

  9. Are Galifaran elves inherently more likely to be innovative than Aereni elves, if Galifaran elves have less of a perfectionist, past-prizing culture? What has stopped Galifaran elves from becoming some of the greatest arcanoscientific researchers across the history of Galifar?

    • This is a topic I’ve already addressed in previous articles, such as this one: http://keith-baker.com/eberron-flashback-aereni-and-tairnadal/ — look for the discussion of “fluid intelligence.” It’s not that Aereni perfectionism is a purely cultural phenomenon, it’s also a side effect of their inhuman brain chemistry. Just as it becomes more difficult for humans to embrace entirely new concepts as they grow older, the same is true for Elves — but their intelligence crystallizes far earlier in their lifespan then humans. This is my point in saying that Brelish elves want to keep the monarchy; because it’s HARD FOR THEM TO EMBRACE CHANGE. Brelish elves may not be AS obsessed with perfection as Aereni elves, but by the time they’re 200, it’s harder for them to embrace entirely new ideas and concepts than it is for a 20-year-old human. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE and we do see innovative elves, like Mordain. But it’s also not the norm. At Arcanix, most elf teachers will be the ones who have been teaching the same classes for 300 years — and who are AMAZING at those topics, mind you – not the innovative hotshots who are challenging Siberyan Theory.

      So the culture of the Five Nations doesn’t support the DEEP perfectionism of Aerenal — the “I’m spending a century learning one spell perfectionism — but Brelish elves are still more likely to focus on a particular path and dig deep than to have a wide and revolutionary approach.

  10. Why are elves across Eberron skilled specifically with longswords, rapier (or shortsword depending on edition) and bows?

    • In my Eberron, they don’t. The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron had a variant rule that allows Aereni to drop weapon training, which is echoed in the Aereni subrace I added in Exploring Eberron. If you just stick with canon mechanics, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything has optional rules allowing characters to swap out racial weapon proficiencies for tools. In my opinion, Maza Thadian of Sharn should be proficient with cook’s utensils and brewer’s supplies, not longbows and rapiers.

      COULD we come up with a supernatural explanation that makes the bizarre idea that an elf kept in isolation who’s never even seen a bow is proficient with the longbow? Sure. Simple answer: they train with the memory-spirits of elven weapon-masters while trancing—basically, an expansion of the idea of the Uul Dhakaan. But part of the point of the Uul Dhakaan is that it imposed a monoculture on the Dar—that it is what caused and allowed the Dhakaani to maintain their traditions for ten thousand years, even when isolated. I don’t WANT that for the elves of Eberron. I’m fine with the idea that the Aereni priest, the Phiarlan poet, and the Brelish shoemaker don’t all have the same weapon training… which is why I removed it in the subrace I added, and why I recommend using the optional rules from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything to do what feels appropriate for your character.

      As a side note, in writing about the Mror in Exploring Eberron, I specifically suggest that players use the War Below to justify their racial tool and weapon proficiencies — that even if you’re not a soldier, you might have been part of a volunteer militia, that you might have learned to use mason’s tools to repair barricades or smith’s tools to maintain weapons. But I also recommend the Tasha’s optional rules there. In my opinion there’s no reason that every single dwarf in Khorvaire — whether Mror, Brelish, or Lhazaar — should know how to use a battleaxe. Yes, we COULD create an explanation for such “genetic knowledge”, but I’m just as happy that the rules have moved away from it.

      • As a side topic, if you LIKE your elf weapon training but don’t want the extreme measure of we-all-get-weapon-training-from-ancient-masters-in-trance, the simpler answer is the approach I took with the Mror in Exploring Eberron, which is not to say that EVERY elf somehow genetically knows how to use a bow, but that almost every PLAYER CHARACTER elf has learned to use these weapons at some point in their long life—that as an elf in the Five Nations, odds are good that at SOME POINT in the last century you either fought in the Last War or did something else that required you to learn how to fight. Essentially, rather than having an explanation as to why ALL ELVES can use the longbow, you can simply explain why YOUR elf can use the longbow, and I may come up with an entirely different answer for mine.

        • These always felt like weird mechanical inclusions on races. I’m glad there are supported alternatives now.

  11. Question on the topic upon the inheritance. In five nations and forge of war. While you didn’t write them, they have Jaron die 972yk, Haydith being 15 in 998yk would mean she was born 982yk. Fully possible the queen remarried, but would that make her children Gaius and Haydith royal still?

    And thank you Keith for the lovely article. On my philaran mark of shadow elf. I went with her starting with Demise of Memory and writing, before going into Demise of motion for acrobatics and acting with Demise of Shadow. Plenty of time to learn the demises and master the trade of acting, and skills carry over. (and espionage but don’t tell anyone)

    • Question on the topic upon the inheritance. In five nations and forge of war. While you didn’t write them, they have Jaron die 972yk, Haydith being 15 in 998yk would mean she was born 982yk. Fully possible the queen remarried, but would that make her children Gaius and Haydith royal still?

      No, this is an example where I didn’t work on the book and where I don’t think the authors fully thought through the ramifications of their decisions, rather than that they had a careful, well thought out story that involves Haydith being a non-Wynarn heir. In my opinion, if Jaron was the Wynarn blood heir and he died, his queen could persist as queen regent IF they had was a Wynarn-blooded child waiting to come of age. But the queen would NOT be considered a full Wynarn monarch—she would be Queen Regent, not Queen—and any children she had with a subsequent, non-Wynarn heir would not be part of Jaron’s line of succession.

      Since Gaius and Haydith ARE presented as carrying the Wynarn name, and since Haydith is stated as being Kaius III’s sister, not his HALF-sister, in my Eberron she is the child of Jaron; whether that means shifting the date of Jaron’s death or the making Haydith older is up to the DM.

  12. This is slightly off-topic, but related to the discsusion of elvish vs. human learning styles. How does elementary and secondary education work in the Five Nations? We know about the universities and arcane studies, but how about the basics for kids? Are there national standards, or are tings handled at the municipal level? Do any of the faiths operate religious schools? I’m guessing that the Silver Flame does, at least in Thrane. Are there elite schools for children of the nobility or the Aurum? Do the Dragonmarked Houses school their own children? Or is home schooling a general rule? Getting beck to the elves of the Five Nations, do elvish parents tend to speak Elvish at home so the kinds will be fluent in the language and assume that the children will learn Common in the public schools? Does the average Five Nations child receive a basic education to the same age we’d expect in the modern US, or do they tend to go into apprenticeships or into tthe family business at what we’d consider high school age? Do the various snetient races differ in how long they think chilldren should be in school? I guess this is too big a topic for a simple answer, but I wanted to set down the questions while they were fresh in my mind.

    • A detailed answer could be the topic for a full article in its own right, but this is addressed on page 132 of the original 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting:

      Throughout the Five Nations (or at least what’s left of them), formal schooling is considered a right and a necessary part of every child’s training. Rural manors maintain schools for the sons and daughters of the peasants and laborers. Private tutors provide an education for the children of royal and economic nobility. In towns and cities, schools cater to all who wish to attend. In no case is education mandatory; however, most people understand the advantages offered to them by the remnants of the Galifar education system. Higher education and study is available at a number of colleges and universities, as well as among the religious institutions.

  13. What about elves from the house Phiarlan/Thuranni? Are they as nationalists as their non-marked cousins? For example, would a Brelish elf refuse a spy job that would help Thrane and hurt Breland? Or are they more focused on their own house business, not having a sentimental bond to the country they were born in?

    • The whole point of the houses is that they stand apart from nations. As an elf of House Phiarlan, you don’t have the CHOICE to refuse a job because it will hurt Breland and you like Breland; IT’S YOUR JOB, and either you shut up and do it, or you can get kicked out of the house. The moment it comes out that Sivis favors one nation over another is the moment the other nations won’t trust Sivis with their confidential communications. The neutrality of the houses is PARAMOUNT. Beyond that, the houses are FAMILIES—and they expect you to put your family before whatever nation you were born in.

      But again, a key part of this is about the culture that shaped you. If you’re an elf in House Phiarlan who happened to be born in Breland, you DIDN’T just run and play on the streets with other Brelish kids: you were raised PHIARLAN. You were taught from birth that you were part of a neutral house that stands apart from all nations. So a Phiarlan elf is devoted to PHIARLAN with the same intensity that a Brelish elf is devoted to Breland.

      With that said, there are always exceptions—such as Daine in the Dreaming Dark novels, who was born in House Deneith but left the house to fight for Cyre. But again, they are exceptions—and HE LEFT THE HOUSE. As a member of the Blademark, he couldn’t choose who he fought for; because he believed in Cyre’s cause, he left the house.

  14. How aware are the various elven cultures of Eberron about their Thelanian fey heritage (Shae Tirias Tolai, specifically), and how much do this Thelanian fey heritage and the feyspires actually matter to them? What are the general thoughts of elves on the eladrin of the feyspires?

    • The modern elves know nothing about their possible ties to Thelanis, and it’s possible they don’t have any; it was an idea added in fourth edition, and other fourth edition changes—such as the addition of Baator—were reversed in fifth edition. We made an intentional choice NOT to mention the Thelanis connection in Rising From The Last War; if you like it you can use it, but it isn’t something the elves themselves are aware of and they have no special knowledge of or interest in the feyspires.

      As for the feyspires, the whole idea of them is that they are hidden and known primarily as FAIRY TALES rather than fact. Pylas Pyrial and Shae Loralyndar are the two primary exceptions, but even they are largely only known to their local communities. So there are elves among the Greensingers who celebrate their bond with Shae Loralyndar, but the Undying Court has no interest in it.

      To some degree, think of this as the way that a vast number of people in our world have a blood connection to Genghis Khan or the Mongols. But most people don’t KNOW anything about it, and even if they identified it, they won’t suddenly want to visit Mongolia or develop a deep interest in Mongolian culture. It’s something that happened so far in the past as to be irrelevant; to most it’s a curious fact. If you proved to an Aereni that their distant ancestors came from Thelanis, they’d be more likely to say “Huh, that’s interesting” not “I MUST RECLAIM MY ANCESTRAL POSITION IN THE MOON COURT!”

      • Random fact — per the default Eberron timeline, the giants enslaved the elves sometime between -80,000 YK and -60,000 YK. Elves live about ten times as long as humans, so the equivalent is something that happened between 6,000 – 8,000 years ago for humanity. So it’s much like saying “How do modern humans feel about the Mesopotamians?” The fact that we might all have some kind of distant connection to Mesopotamia doesn’t mean that I feel some sort of particular interest in it, and if you told me there was a hidden city of Mesopotamians in Australia, I’d find it to be a fascinating factoid, but I wouldn’t immediately jump on a plane to go visit.

  15. I actually played an elf from Sharn during a campaign; grew up Godsgate in the decades before the war, enlisted in the Brelish Army a few years after the war started, and served through most of the next 80-odd years, but grew rusty after injuries and sitting in a garrison near Graywall. Didn’t get much chance to show it, but she was a committed republican who has nothing against Boranel, but now feels that all that suffering was caused by a family feud to see you would sit in the palace in Cyre and that modern talk about how Breeland would have reigned supreme in victory is stupid since, while the winner might have favoured their home territory for a time, before long it would have been status quo with a monarch in Cyre sending their younger children to serve as governors.

    • Forgot to mention, she also hated that the war was what lead to childhood neighbourhood being destroyed, and the war effort preventing the resources for re-building and instead having the government and officials using the tragedy as a propaganda piece to keep the populace fired up (which she fell for for a time, but has since cooled on).

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