Elf subraces

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There are lots of kinds of elves. Like everything else D&D, it started with Tolkien.

Tolkien[edit]

J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings books (and related stories, like The Hobbit and The Silmarillion) included the following elf taxonomy:

  • Quendi, aka "Elves"
    • Eldar: those who left Cuivienen
      • Vanyar
      • Noldor
      • Teleri
        • Falmari (Teleri who made it to the Undying Lands)
        • Nandor (Teleri who got lost during the journey to the Undying Lands)
          • Silvan Elves
          • Laiquendi
        • Sindar (Teleri who made to the west coast of Middle-Earth but stayed behind when their king disappeared. Later rulers of the Silvan Elves)
    • Avari, who stayed at Cuivienen
    • The Half-elven, which are neither a race nor common, but the name is used for only one family (most well known of them is Elrond).

Some terms that appear in later works originate with Tolkien, but are not used to describe distinct races so much as specific groups. "Dark Elf" is used as a pejorative for Avari, Silvan elves are sometimes called "Wood-elves", and the Sindar are also called the "Grey Elves". "High Elves" is used to describe those who had seen the Two Trees of Valinor.

Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

World of Greyhawk[edit]

  • Avariel (winged elf)
  • Drow (see Monster Manual)
  • Gray elf (see MM)
  • Grugach (wild elves from MM)
  • High elf (see MM)
  • Snow elf (tall, reclusive elves from the arctic; from Dragon Magazine 155)
  • Valley elf (human-sized gray elf offshoot)
  • Wood elf (see MM)

Forgotten Realms[edit]

=Tel'Quessir (The People)

  • Aquatic elf ( Alu'Tel'Quessir,two cultures: Great Sea and Sea of Fallen Stars)
  • Avariel (aka winged elves, Aril'Tel'Quessir, see 'Races of Faerun')
  • Drow (aka dark elves, same as in Monster Manual)
  • Fey'ri ( aka elven Tiefings; from races of Faerun)
  • Lythari (elven werewolves)
  • Marels (evil aquatic elves found in the Moonsea; from 'The Moonsea', AD&D2E)
  • Moon elf (aka silver elf, Tue'Tel'Quessir, the 'high elves' of Toril)
  • Poscadar elf (Native American-style elves from Anchorome, the continent north of Maztica; from 'The City of Gold')
  • Celadrin (aka Surin'Tel'Quessir, elven Aasamar; from dragon mag)
  • Star elf (aka mithral elf, Ruar'Tel'Quessir, mysterious elves from a demiplane in the Ethereal, from 'Unapproachable East')
  • Sun elf (aka gold elf, Ar'Tel'Quessir, the 'gray elves' of Toril)
  • Wild elf (aka green elf, Sy'Tel'Quessir)
  • Wood elf (aka copper elf, Or'Tel'Quessir, descended from a mix of moon, sun, and wild elves)
  • Zakharan elf (from the Al-Qadim campaign setting; fully integrated into 'enlightened' Zakharan society)

Dragonlance[edit]

  • Armachnesti (Silvanesti offshoot found on Taladas, the northern continent)
  • Cha'asii (primitive jungle-dwelling elves from Taladas)
  • Dargonesti (aka Quoowahb among themselves; aquatic elves who can turn into dolphins)
  • Dimernesti (aquatic elves who can turn into sea otters)
  • Drow (the demoness Jialuthi from Krynn once posed as Lolth to convince many drow from different worlds to come to Krynn; she was killed and the drow were driven back to their own worlds. From 'Wild Elves')
  • Elf of the Host (I only know the name. Apparently from some novel? 'Riverwind the Plainsman'? tell me if I'm wrong)
  • Hulderfolk (reclusive 'wild elves' from Taladas)
  • Kagonesti (the 'wild elves' of the southern continent, Ansalon)
  • Lucanesti (I know virtually nothing about these elves except that they were introduced in 'Dark Queen of Krynn', a computer game?)
  • Mahkwahb (evil aquatic elves who turn into sharks)
  • Qualinesti (the 'high elves' of Ansalon)
  • Silvanesti (the 'gray elves' of Ansalon)
  • Tamirnesti (aka Hosk'i Imou Merkitsa; savage elves from Taladas)

Mystara[edit]

  • Aquarendi (aquatic elves, probably from 'The Sea Peoples')
  • Blacklore elf (magic-users whose culture I believe died out in ancient Blackmoor; placed in the Hollow World by the Immortals to preserve their culture)
  • Blackmoor elf (from Dave Arneson's Blackmoor setting; extinct, forerunners of the Blacklore elves)
  • Ee'ar (same as the avariel of other worlds)
  • Eldar (mentioned in a novel?)
  • Eusdrian elf (from the Viking kingdom of Eusdria on the Savage Coast)
  • Forest elf (the most common subrace; essentially the equivalent of high elves)
  • Gentle folk (primitive elves found in the Hollow World)
  • Grunland elf (probably extinct; from the old elven homeland, destroyed in Blackmoor's fall)
  • Icevale elf (primitive elves found in the Hollow World)
  • Savage Coast elf (native to the western lands of the Savage Coast, fully integrated into human society)
  • Proto-elf (ancestor of the modern elves. Connection to yuan-ti?)
  • Robrenn elf (from the Celtic kingdom of Robrenn on the Savage Coast)
  • Schattenalfen (evil shadow elf offshoot, found closer to the Hollow World than the outer surface)
  • Shadow elf (pale-skinned subterranean elves with a strong aversion to sunlight; recently conquered the forest elf kingdom of Alfheim; not really evil but very xenophobic)
  • Southern elf (of Glantri; migrated to the Known World from Davania)
  • Sylvan Realm elf (not sure if the Sylvan Realm still exists...)
  • Water elf (pale-skinned, seafaring elves with a mercantile streak; primary inhabitants of the Minthorad Guilds)

Birthright[edit]

  • Sidhelien (badass immortal Tolkienesque elves)

Dark Sun[edit]

  • Athasian elf (7-foot-tall desert nomads)

Spelljammer[edit]

  • Avarien (no connection to avariel; native only to the Astromundi Cluster)
  • Faeriespace elf (elves from Faeriespace, a strange star system that resembles a huge tree, where all its inhabitants live in harmony; from 'Crystal Spheres')
  • Kule drow (with kuo-toa and illithids, one of only three sentient species on Oerth's inner moon)
  • Mratzal drow (evil drow from Faeriespace, but not as aggressive as other drow because no gods are worshiped in Faeriespace, hence no Lolth (which begs the question of how they got there); from 'Crystal Spheres')
  • Perianth elf (elves from the Pyre system, in 'Shadow of the Spider Moon')
  • Spider Moon drow (from 'Shadow of the Spider Moon')
  • Wildspace elf (any elf who's taken to life in space; usually members or affiliates of the Imperial Elven Navy)

Planescape[edit]

  • Alabaster elf (apparently extinct; from the "Dead Gods" adventure module)
  • Elf einheriar (from Asgard, on Ysgard's first layer)
  • Planar elf (any elf who was born on the Outer Planes)
  • Svartalfar (good drow native to Ysgard's lowest layer)

Ravenloft[edit]

  • Darkon elf (the 'native' elves of Ravenloft; same as high elves elsewhere)
  • Shadow elf (in early 2E described as Lolth-worshipping drow; now apparently Fey type creatures called 'Sidhe' in late 2E and 3E. No connection to Mystara's shadow elves)
  • o Alf (small, winged elves)
  • Brag (wild-eyed craftsfolk)
  • Fir (tinkers and engineers)
  • Muryan (aka Dancing Men; violent and aggressive warriors)
  • Portune (sobre and silent healers)
  • Powrie (aka Redcaps; evil and sinister assassins)
  • Shee (elves of Maeve's Seelie Court)
  • Sith (dark elves fascinated with death)
  • Teg (feral and wild)
  • Sithicus elf (descended from the qualinesti of Krynn drawn into Ravenloft when Lord Soth Laren was imprisoned)

Manual of the Planes (3e)[edit]

  • Sidhe fey from the Realm of Faerie
    • Seelie (celestial)
    • Unseelie (fiendish)

D&D 4th Ed[edit]

  • Eladrin, which are decadent aliens from the Feywild (aka weaksauce positive material plane)
  • Elves, eladrin that migrated to the Prime Material a long time ago and adapted to living in normal forests

Warhammer[edit]

Warhammer Fantasy[edit]

In Warhammer Fantasy Battle, elves all live to 2500 years, their units are always less armored and faster than the human equivalents, and they have the most Mary-Sue wizards of anybody else in Warhammer.

  • Asur. Known as "High Elves" because they think they are better than you. Live on an island continent that is an unsunken Atlantis for all intents and purposes. Or more exactly Melniboné, without the incestuous orgies and the mass-murdering fun.
  • Asrai. The "Wood Elves," are the ones that are slumming it in the Loren Forest.
  • Druchii. The "Dark Elves" that live in Naggaroth on the other continent, ready to fuck your colonist shit up. Basically, Melnibonéans, WITH the incestuous orgies and the mass-murdering fun.

Warhammer 40K[edit]

The Eldar are the setting's space elves, an alien species that has an uncanny superficial resemblance to humans, though it becomes apparent that they are pretty fucking weird after one has been strapped to a autopsy table. Technically, different kinds of Eldar are not sub-races, but more of a cultures - it's perfectly possible (albeit not easy) for a commorite to renounce his bad soul-eating BDSM habits and join The Path, or the Harlequin troupe, even regaining his psychic powers in the process, and even easier for a craftworlder or exodite to become indistinguishable from natural-born dark eldar.

  • Craftworld Eldar: Vanilla High-Elf-analouges. GW's originality at its finest. They were the ones who left a the increasingly debased Eldar society that created a Chaos God of rape and hedonism due to galactic scale orgies. Will sacrifice millions of humans to save a single Eldar. Don't worry, it's not like anyone else wouldn't do this, and the Imperium doesn't give a shit about it's citizens anyway (they probably kill as many humans each day as all of the other races combined), though it does kinda make the whole Eldar's "moral superiority" stance pretty shaky at best. They live on giant world ships, and trying desperately not to die out.
  • Dark Eldar: The survivors of the faction of the old Eldar empire that didn't think getting the hell outta Dodge was a great idea. You know the story how that went. Unlike the Craftworlders, they decided to continue right on from where they were interupted. They must torture each other, rape each other, torture and rape captured slaves of other species in order to avoid the aforementioned Chaos God stealing their souls (and they love it). Absolute fuckfaces. They live in a world city cleverly hidden in a tunnel in the Webway.
  • Exodite Eldar: Space Wood Elves. Lost tribes of Eldar who abandoned the Eldar core worlds before they got raped. Living primitively on otherwise uninhabited worlds, though "primitively" here meaning they ride lizards while wielding laser lances, instead of riding jet bikes while wielding laser lances. Opinion is that they WILL fuck your shit up if you happen to start a colony on THEIR world, though they seem to be GW's favorite punching bag right beside the Craftworld Eldar.
  • Harlequins: Crazy-ass mystic space bards who are the living history of their race, perform ritual plays and live in the webway. Killer clowns who make even the Dark Eldar shit their pants. Engaged too far into RPing and obeying to the Great GM Cegorach (a.k.a. The Laughing God) to do too much other than troll Slaanesh and the rest of Chaos on a daily basis. That, and they are by far the smallest Eldar faction, but one of the most influential. Due to their association to Cegorach, they are believed to be made of Keikaku and Dori. Pretty cool actually, since they do free shows for other species, including any Humiez who don't try to shoot them on sight. This is actually much better than it already sounds, since their plays are crazy ass, psychedelic Cirque du Soleil shit; and the average Imperial citizen's two choices to pass the time are Gregorian chant and dying horribly, so they're pretty starved for good entertainment.
  • Eldar Corsairs: Space Elf Ninja Pirates. Live in naval ships and Eldar space stations away from the Craftworlds. Some Eldar rangers survive long enough to manage to gain some followers and ships, some of these become powerful enough to threaten a subsector. A notable example of the last one is Prince Yriel of Iyanden. They are essentially Craftworld Eldar only with jetpacks, moar dakka, better military training and no moral barriers left. They are probably the least mentioned Eldar faction, to the point that most players probably don't realize these guys are supposed to be an independent and serious Eldar faction.
  • Crone Worlders: Eldar living on Crone Worlds (ancient Eldar Homeworlds in the Eye of Terror that are now Daemon Worlds and only sources of Spiritstones) that somehow survived The Fall, yet went completely batshit bonkers due to spending 10K years in there. Add to this that time there moves completely differently when compared to real-space, then their existence is constant hell where they crave to just die and let the hermaphroditic freak devour their souls, not to mention that they also mutate. Closest thing you can get to Chaos Eldar.
  • Ynnari: A mix of all Eldar races under the leadership of Ynnead. They're meant to represent as close a representation to the original pre-fall Eldar as possible, as those who walked all paths, light or dark, are encouraged to join.

World of Darkness[edit]

The World of Darkness had a whole line of games dedicated to just elves called Changeling, so elf races became like character classes. That wouldn't be so bad, but then came all the splatbooks with a special new kinds of elf, oh noes.

Old World of Darkness[edit]

OWoD's Changeling line was subtitled "The Dreaming".

  • Boggans are dreams of hearth and home.
  • Eshu are dreams of wanderlust and adventure.
  • Nockers are dreams of the neverending quest for industrial creation and perfection.
  • Pooka are dreams of animal curiosity and trickery.
  • Redcaps are dreams of hunger.
  • Satyrs are dreams of passion.
  • Sidhe are dreams of beauty and nobility; many houses (read subtypes) of nobility, such as nobility in warfare, or dictatorial rule, exist.
  • Sluagh are dreams of secrets and things that go bump in the night.
  • Trolls are dreams of honor and duty.
  • Clurichaun are Leprechauns.
  • Piskies are pixie tricksters.
  • Selkies are water nymphs.
  • Gillhe Dhu are Celtic dryads.
  • Nunnehi ae injun elves.
  • Menehue are Hawaiian elves
  • Adhene are extradimensional elves too good for hiding like Changelings do.
  • Hsien are AZN elves.

New World of Darkness, "The Lost"[edit]

In NWoD's Changeling: The Lost, the player characters aren't elves themselves, nor elves-hiding-as-humans like the previous game, but humans who were kidnapped by elves, twisted to adapt, and then escaped back to the real world; their goal is not to sneer on mundanes or escape reality, but to rejoin it while seeking to prevent the True Fae from coming back into the universe (although it should be noted that it's theorized that the above is part of the True Fae reproduction process.). There are six classes of elf they could be adapted to, each with around twelve sub-species, for a total of seventy-one different kinds of elf that the escaped humans could resemble, each with their own unique appearance and abilities. In addition, there is a merit allowing a person to take a second subspecies (which did not even have to be of the main species you chose), thus upping the character setups by a combinatorial expansion. Jesus fucking Christ. Note that there wasn't a personality associated with each kind of species as well, so not all Fairest were necessarily snobbish elitists, etc.

BLAM![edit]

  • Clone tribals. Not explicitly elves, but rather a futuristic equivalent. Mostly clone-soldiers left without a purpose or an infrastructure, living in small clans around the specific clone reactor each "family" is born from. Primitive and xenophobic, some may not even be able to speak. They have access to advanced military equipment and weaponry, but their culture being a highly ritualized and superstitious parody of martial discipline, they don't really understand what they know of the City's secrets and technology, but are perfectly adapted to this environment. So, in short, yeah, they're elves from the future. Stick-up-the-ass, can use pseudo-magical stuff, and semi-wild, and are dicks. Also, they look freakishly thin and pale, even by Tsutomu Nihei's standards.

Star Trek[edit]

Star Trek had:

  • Vulcans, the original space elves. Big on controlling their emotions and logic. Unlike most elves, they're BFFs with humans with most "humans suck elves are better" rants just snark between them and a human friend.
  • Romulans, who split off from the Vulcans thousands of years before the "present day". Back then, Vulcans were warlike pricks and regularly had nuclear civil wars, until a guy name Surak told everyone to calm the fuck down and embrace logic. Everyone did so except for one group which told Surak to fuck off with a nuke. These "who march beneath the Raptor's wings" went out, ripped off Roman Culture and became the Romulan Star Empire. And we're not joking about that last part -- they claim that they invented every piece of technology in the past thousand years. Best known for using cloaked ships and cloak and dagger tactics.

The Elder Scrolls[edit]

  • Aldmer: The original elf race. They have evolved into various sub-groups when the series takes place and thus, no longer exist. Not much is explained about them beyond the fact that they lived in Aldmeris and were a mighty set of dicks in their own right. Maybe descendents of the gods, maybe not.
  • Deep Elves/Dwemer: Elves who lived underground and built machinery, informally known as "dwarves" after the name the giants gave them (though anybody is a dwarf next to a giant). Their most potent form of dickery was tricking the Snow Elves into eating a fungus that took away their sight so they could use them as slave labor. They tried to do SCIENCE! on the Heart of Lorkhan and discovered that doing SCIENCE! on the heart of a god made their entire race disappear from Tamriel. Whether they were obliterated, ascended to a higher plane of existence, or became the skin of Numidium, consensus is that the world's better off without them. Only one survived the Disappearance, a bloke named Yagrum Bagarn, who appears in Morrowind, and a cancerous disease made him look incredibly obese, so he uses a spider walker to get around.
  • Snow Elves/Falmer: Albino elves that fought against the Nords (pretty much vikings) and lost. They sought asylum from the Dwemer, who enslaved them, force-fed them toxic fungi that caused them to go blind, and used SCIENCE! to devolve them into barely sentient horrors. They currently lurk in the tunnels beneath Skyrim and have developed crude tools and weapons derived from centipede-like beasts called Chaurus. Lately, they've started going out on raids to capture surface dwellers for... unknown reasons. By the time of Skyrim, only two uncorrupted Snow Elves still exist in Skyrim and the Dragonborn kills one of them, though the other claims that pockets of untainted Snow Elves may still exist on Tamriel.
  • High Elves/Altmer: Complete arseholes who think they're the purest of all the elven races. Good at magic. As of the Fourth Era, they are part of the Aldmeri Dominion and ruled by the Thalmor, who seek to destroy the world so all elves would ascend to godhood, and all other species would be retconned out of existence (as "never existed"). Their homeland is the Summerset Isles.
  • Wood Elves/Bosmer: A stereotypical wood elf: stealthy, good with bows, yadda yadda yadda. The two most original aspects of them are that they all have solid black eyes and horns and that their men are short while their women are among the tallest humanoids in the series. Their religion makes them obligate carnivores, and (in fluff only) they can turn into nightmare swarms of constantly-mutating monstrosities that will wreck shit hard before devouring themselves/each other. Their homeland is Valenwood.
  • Orcs/Orsimer: Your typical orc: big, strong, and tough. They're also very good artisans and smiths. Came into existence when the aedric god Trinimac was devoured by the daedric god Boethiah and then shat out as the daedric god Malacath. Their homeland is the Orsinium.
  • Dark Elves/Dunmer: A splinter group that decided to worship the daedra instead of the aedra. They were originally called the Chimer, but after the Battle of Red Mountain and the Disappearance of the Dwemer, their heroic general Indoril Nerevar died in suspicious circumstances and three of his councilors took the Tools of Kagrenac, with which they did SCIENCE! to the Heart of Lorkhan, siphoning some of its power and becoming the Tribunal. Azura, the Chimer patron daedra, cursed the entire race for this blasphemy with ashen skin and red eyes. A bit of a middle ground between stealth, magic, and melee combat. The player character of Morrowind is supposedly a reincarnation of Nerevar. Their homeland was Morrowind, but after Baar Dau resumed falling, it obliterated a good chunk of Vvardenfell; coupled with the subsequent eruption of Red Mountain burying the rest of the island in ash and lava and the Argonians invading from the south, Morrowind is largely a memory in the Fourth Era. When given the opportunity to grow between xenophobia or being pretty chill, they tend to either be complete jerks or actually pretty cool falks to hang with.
  • Wild Elves/Ayleid: An extinct race who used to worship the daedric gods and enslaved humans. Said humans, with the help of good Ayleid and the aedra, rebelled against their masters and wiped them out. Used to live in Cyrodiil.
  • Khajiit?: Maybe, maybe not. Some sources in the games say they were once Bosmer who became Khajiit by aligning themselves with the cycles of the moons. Others say that they were originally a completely distinct race. Their homeland is Elsweyr.

Dresden Files[edit]

  • Sidhe (pronounced "she"): Not elves per se, but they fill the function pretty perfectly. They're a species of Fairy; not the kind to help you get to the ball and back before midnight, but the kind who would abduct children and replace them with a changeling type of fairy. (Though don't call them a fairy, they would consider that a slur.) Sidhe fill out the "Fey Folk" trope and draw pretty heavily from Celtic folklore. They're the lords of the land of, well Faery, and they're inhumanly beautiful, inhumanly good at magic, and just plain inhuman. Ironically, they're the most human-looking fairy species, being able to pass as human if they get out of the ren faire attire. They have a few things in common with the other fairy species: a deathly allergy to iron; being bound to any deals they make (strictly just the letter of it, while being able to walk all over the spirit of it); the inability to tell an outright falsehood (which isn't the same as being deceptive or manipulative); and must give a straight answer to any question asked of them three times; and are divided between the cold, cruel Winter Court, and the passionate, impulsive Summer Court. They also feud twice a year during an equinox, and have a deeper relationship with humanity because of spoiler reasons.
  • Hilariously, the Summer Court has actual elves, who are described as midgets who are good at archery.

A Song of Ice and Fire[edit]

In what starts out as a dark and gritty low-fantasy setting steadily climbing the fantasy scale, there would of course be elves. Where they're different is that G.R.R. Martin took the Tolkien format, and said fuck that. He instead went with elements from mythical traditions from the real world, where elves were fey spirits that kidnapped children in the middle of the night and did other weird shit. Generally the shit made up to explain away the mysterious crap that primitive humans couldn't explain and didn't directly attribute to gods. Also they're not quite elves in the traditional sense, and are closer to distinct species, that makes Martin a dude. They are:

  • The Children of the Forest: Analogous to Wood Elves. They are all Druids, both as a religion and the species default character class. They look like human kids, so long as you don't get close enough to get a good look at them. They fought Bronze Age humans until they were forced to make peace just to get along, even after having smashed a huge land bridge apart. (Humanity Fuck Yeah!) They've been known to adopt roughly one in a million humans to teach him their mysterious ways. By the time the books have taken place, they have been dying out for so long that they are thought to have been just a myth by most humans, and are down to one isolated enclave facing a slow extinction.
  • The Others: Vaguely analogous to Dark Elves for being pretty and having a throbbing hatredboner for humanity, though the heavy fey flavor makes them closer to ice spirits. Others are really fey creatures (not gay, but fey, again like "real life" elves), mysterious and inscrutable, and entirely alien to most humans. They originate from the world's ice cap and are gunning zombieing for the south, they haven't been seen for some thousands of years, so most folks don't know shit about them. They have crazy ice swords that shatter steel on contact, and have crazy ice armor that has stealth properties. They raise up dead members of other species to do most of their fighting for them. They might have a greater goal other than killing humanity, but maybe not. They appear to be able to be negotiated with, but maybe not. And more insights might be given to them, but maybe not (they are really fucking mysterious).
    • It should be noted that the TV series renamed them to "White Walkers" since using "Others" in day-to-day speech is kinda confusing when you don't live in a place where zombies come out of the North Pole. They were also dumbed down to metazombies with necromancy and ice powers. Fucking HBO. They are also lead by Ice-Darth Maul. I'll give you a moment to digest how awesome that is.
  • Valyrians: Not elves, but the most outright magical human ethnic group, very much like High Elves in that they're all cultured and they think they're better than you without really trying to justify it. Had an extremely decadent culture, thought they were greater than even their own gods, overused magic, practiced incest, tamed dragons, and generally thought they were the best thing ever. They're known for having purple eyes and silver hair. Founded a massive empire built on slavery and dragons that was then destroyed in a cataclysmic event known as the Doom (which may or may not have been the side effect of their over reliance on magic) , which turned their ancestral homeland into a cursed hellhole (they probably deserved it though). Despite this, they had the sense to make a bunch of colonies beforehand, which then devolved into squabbling city states that grew rich off of trade. Even after their civilization was destroyed, they still preoccupy themselves with being haughty pricks, despite being inept at land warfare, having lost all their dragons and most of their magic, and being forced to pay tribute to the setting's version of mongols so their cities don't get burned to the ground and their men, women, and children don't get brutally slaughtered or get hauled off into the same slavery that they currently benefit from.

Kings of War[edit]

Just like in most settings, elves pretty much ruined everything in Kings of War. Different from many tabletop settings however, the aesthetic design is much closer to fae than Dungeons and Dragons. There's also quite a few different subraces: