Sunday, April 28, 2019

Our Elves Are Different

Tired of the same old elves? Here are some alternatives takes that can just be used to reskin the fluff in most editions, though 5e might require some slight ability tweaking.

Elves are too busy pursuing their own idiosyncratic interests to do things like raise kids or maintain a society, nations or settlements beyond loose associations. They plant their children in households of other species. When they reach a certain age, they are drawn to seek out their own kind who magically impart elven "history" and "culture" to them, then send them off to do their own thing.

Homo Superior
Elves are the next evolutionary step in humankind. At puberty, their elvish breakout occurs, manifesting in one of several basic ways, analogous to elvish "subraces." Sometimes persecuted by human societies, they tend to form outcast communities in out of the way places.

Elvish civilization is centered around a sealed enclaves where young elves live in hedonistic splendor. Old age is unknown either due to voluntary suicide or voluntary exile at a certain age. All elves encountered in the wider world are older outcasts.

Elvishness, or rather the idea of elvishness, is a magical virus of a sort. Those infected first began to act "elvish" then develop half-elvish traits followed by full elvish traits. This often causes a radical shift in personality.

Elves are visitors from another world. They come the campaign setting for scientific observation or perhaps recreation. Their interstellar societies strict rules do not allow them advanced technology, nor does it allow them to describe too much about their place of origin. Th existence of magic and their innate aptitude for it was a surprise.

Elves are the sensory organs/interface modules (or perhaps drones or robots) of vast nonhuman intelligences. They are craft to explore the world and have experiences their colonial minds cannot. Elves have autonomy and independent thought, but they always know themselves to be parts of a whole.


Anne said...

It always kind of intrigues me how people choose to portray "humans, but better," whether it's elves, homo superior, or what have you.

In the pulp scifi days, I feel like there was a consensus that any kind of "accelerated evolution" would turn the subject into a person with a scrawny body, giant oversized brain, and psychic powers, probably including illusion casting.

These days, it seems like the common idea for what "the best future version of humanity" looks like has us all spending our days in ascetic meditation, contemplating the void of nothingness, in a society that's super austere, where everything is really well-made, but there's very little STUFF around. Sometimes that's also combined with (what feels like to me) a misunderstanding about Shaolin Buddhism, where all that contemplation turns you into a badass martial artist, and the more enlightened you are, the better you can fight.

Those are both really depression visions of the future, from my perspective, and it worries me a little that they're what so many of our visionaries seem to envision when they imagine "humanity's perfect future state."

Trey said...

Stapleton's Oddjohn (which is the sort of ur-example of Homo superior) has some of the traits you mention with regard to pulp sci-fu, but not all I don't think.

I tend to first think of the X-Men and after that David Bowie ("Oh, You Pretty Things") with regard to Homo superior, neither of which are austere--and I certainly wasn't suggesting make elves (who tend to be portrayed as sensualists, often) as ascetics! Still, your point is taken regarding the "highly evolved" in the future. Like the pulp portrayal, I think it comes from a trade off. The pulp trades body for mind, the more modern trades cerebral for experiential/sensual.

This is my second post on elves as Homo Superior. You might find the first one interesting.

bombasticus said...

Awesome. To bring the circle around to the hapless but aspirational eloi I'd probably come up with something pithy about changing perceptions of class mobility giving every era the elves it deserves. I've seen a lot of arch effort to alienate them, which is interesting. #occupyrivendell

And then Anne's big telepathic heads are also a mirror of that. In quiet moments I contemplate Quentin Quire's ambivalence toward the Lang-era anti-mutant hate literature . . . is that our future? Do we reject it, embrace it, laugh it off? Maybe history by definition is what eloi evolve from and where elves by definition are stuck.

Someone was sharing the thing on Twitter, "Good fantasy is a love of the present expressed as a romanticization of the past, while good sci-fi is a love of the present expressed as a romanticization of the future." Not sure I buy it but elves and eloi can be anti-romantic when we turn away from one angle or the other. In a zero-sum vision of austerity the kid in makeup and platform shoes becomes a scapegoat.