Wood Elves (Wood fey, tree huggers) are an established sub-variety of Elves that are present in several major fantasy universes and are known to have several common traits that make them almost an archetype in themselves from other elves in fantasy. They have a close deep bond with nature; make their homes within woods and forests and are very territorial about their lands, to the point of being hostile to those they perceive as outsiders (i.e. everyone else); their signature weapon is the bow; and they can often communicate with animals and plants, often to the point of bending them to their will.
Despite possessing many similar traits (authors copycatting each other quite often), many wood elf races possess their own unique traits and backstory.
Wood Elves, alongside their cousins the High Elves, have been the defining pair of elf cultures throughout the history of Dungeons & Dragons, with separate civilizations representing the two species in pretty much every single setting that TSR did, plus a few more besides. They are also known as Sylvan Elves, and the terms have often come to be used interchangeably.
Debuting in Greyhawk as the "Grugach" or "Valley Elves", Wild Elves are a particularly vicious and hostile breed of forest-dwelling tribal elf - wood elves with bad attitudes, essentially.
The Forgotten Realms naturally jumped on this idea, presenting its own race of forest-dwelling barbarian elves colloquially known as "wild elves", "forest elves" or "green elves".
The Complete Book of Elves stated that both of the above are just unusual cultural variants of what it called the "Sylvan Elf" subrace.
In the core setting for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition and its associated cosmology, the designers decided to double-down on the traditional High Elf/Wood Elf split and emphasize the difference both in lore and in mechanics in a way that, frankly, D&D had never gone so far before. As a result, the "Wood Elf" moniker disappeared as wood elves effectively became the only elves in D&D, with the "High Elf" concept being swallowed by the newly retooled Eladrin.
AD&D 2nd Edition
- Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 6/19, Dexterity 6/19, Constitution 7/17, Intelligence 8/18, Wisdom 3/18, Charisma 7/17
- Ability Score Adjustments: +1 Strength, +1 Dexterity, -1 Constitution, -1 Charisma
- Racial Class & Level Limits: Cleric 12, Fighter 12, Mage 15, Ranger 15, Thief 12
- Special Advantages:
- Infravision 60 feet
- 90% Resistance to Sleep- and Charm-related spells, can still make saves vs. such spells even if the immunity check fails.
- +1 bonus on To Hit rolls with bows and crossbows.
- +1 bonus on To Hit rolls with shortswords and longswords.
- In forests and natural terrain, an elf that wishes to move stealthily can only be detected if it attacks or by effects that would detect invisible creatures.
- Elfin stealth imposes a -4 penalty on their enemies' surprise rolls (-2 if a door must be opened), provided the elf is wearing nonmetal armor and either moving alone, at least 90 feet away from other beings, or only traveling with other elves or halflings in nonmetal armor.
- Wood elves can befriend Forest-dwelling animals as if they were a Ranger, shifting their reaction two categories towards Friendly.
- Special Disadvantages:
- Wood elves are extreme isolationists who hate to leave their forest homes unless they absolutely must, and regard all non-forest environments with hostility and disdain, especially cities and urban environments.
- Wood elves are pricks. DMs are advised to dock a Wood Elf player character's EXP if they act friendly towards anyone who they haven't known for at least 6+ years.
The 3rd edition Monster Manual presents separate PC statblocks for both Wood Elves and Wild Elves. Both share the following racial traits, but have unique Ability Score Adjustments and Favored Classes; the Wood Elf gets +2 Strength for -2 Intelligence and favors the Ranger class, whilst the Wild Elf has +2 Dexterity for -2 Intelligence, and favors the Sorcerer class, although the book hints that Barbarian would be just as accurate.
- Medium Size
- Base Land Speed: 30 feet
- Immunity to Sleep spells and effects.
- +2 racial bonus to saves vs. Enchantment spells or effects.
- Low-Light Vision
- Racial Weapon Proficiency: Longsword, Rapier, Longbow, Composite Longbow, Shortbow, Composite Shortbow
- +2 racial bonus to Listen, Search and Spot checks.
- An elf who passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to make a Search check to notice it as if they were actively looking for it.
In Warhammer Fantasy, the Wood Elves are an offshoot of the High Elves who were royally screwed over by the latter in a series of wars before the Highies legged it back to their island. Saying screw this they instead ventured deep into the magical forest of Athel Loren where the trees could talk and strange spirits were everywhere. Although the forest first resisted them, it has since grudgingly accepted the elves and made them it's own. Now the Wood Elves are the guardians of the forest and protect it with arrow, cunning....and the willingness to be as damn sneaky as they like.