Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool and...

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Xaossa

Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool and...

Postby Xaossa » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:55 pm

and....
WHY ARE THEY ALL THE GODDAMN SAME!?

I know we have a thread on elves already, but I felt like this question required some....fresh debate. Mostly thanks to the Rocketeer's epic recounting of FF12's story including a glorious evisceration of the Viera, who are basically, Bunny-elves.

They aren't happy with us crashing their eternal hippie pillow-fight, though, and trying to talk to any of them will get you a variation on “Fuck off and die, human scum.”

So ideas can't get in, and people can't get out? Yep! Viera society is a cult.

As soon as she notices the party, she points straight at Ashe and tells her to keep away, screaming, “Power-needy hume!” and hauling ass down the passage with both hands. I've gotta say, the viera really haven't presented themselves very well, what with the surly cult and the racial slurs


Its a great read, but the reason the reason they were connected to elves is because we've seen these themes play out before with the in-tune-with-nature fantasy race. ....and play out and play out and play out. And never really get resolved. I mean it, the elves and humans always seem to be stuck having the exact same arguments they always have and never does a story end with any progress or change from the elvish society's isolation and dogma or the human society's destructive policies. I don't ask for much, just if you have to bring it up in your story then GO SOMEWHERE WITH IT. Don't just treat like you have to add a scene where the elf beats the reader over the head with a poorly-disguised allegory to deforestation or nuclear war or global warming in your world that doesn't even have fossil fuel or whatever, just to check it off your list and get it out of the way.

Feel free to expand this to any fantasy race you feel has turned into a bad cliche, especially because it got too far away from something about its roots that made it special that's missing in the "standard fantasy setting" that we all seem to play in and read novels about.

Now, lets observe what the elves are ALWAYS like, and talk about ways in which they could be better:

Elves

-They live in the forest in harmony with nature
-They are surprisingly prissy and seem awfully house-broken in spite the above fact.
-They are the cool, mysterious, agility-over-strength Robin Hood race and are renown archers, so much that in the second game, where more races than Orcs and Humans were allowed, the Warcraft series simply replaced the basic archer unit with an Elven archer. .....It was the only elf unit in that game.
-They are seen as magical beings, usually arcane magic, even though druidic magic would make a better choice because. (This is likely because the original elf was a fighting-man/magic user, of course it is also worth noting that the druid class didn't exist yet.)
-Sometimes their "in harmony with nature" shtick is taken to ludicrous extremes. From being environmentalists to animal rights activists to living lives of "rural simplicity" in a commune to holding a myriad of other modern liberal political values to being pascifists to being full-on ecoterrorists (even though half of those things didn't even exist in folkloric preindustrial ages fantasy is usually set it!).
-They are immortal, or at least very long-lived, which implies that any average individual is a font of wisdom and life experience.
-They have a sense of smug superiority, possibly for the above two reasons. Seeing humans as uncultured or living too short a life to matter or because they find humans harming the wilderness as barbaric.
-In spite of their long lives, they don't seem to accomplish much. 1st level elves are pretty much like any other PC, with the exact same number of skill points.
-In addition to being arrogant, mysterious creatures that you already "want because you can't have", they are also very, very pretty, and naturally graceful, and superb artists.
-Speaking of which, are their slightly shorter than humans, or slightly taller? They are close enough that when people wonder about a race deserving to be medium sized, they don't look at the elf. No, They look at the dwarf.
-There are a TON of subraces, mostly thanks to splatbooks from 3rd edition. They are all kind of bland and more of the same, with maybe a little quirk that mostly looks like ALL OF THE ABOVE POINTS, AND MAYBE, *MAYBE*, MINUS ONE. Wild Elves are not house-broken, Wood Elves aren't known for arcane magic use, Gray Elves actually aren't that pretty, so they double down on the arrogance, etc. Some of them are just a different stat bonus and bring nothing to the table. Seriously though, STAR ELVES?
-All of the above actually better describes the human-sized Tolkenesque elves, not the ....other kind. In folklore, elves are another group of "little people" such as dwarves, leprechauns, and fairies, and their size can range from Hobbit size down to fitting in the palm of a human hand. They also make shoes for lazy cobblers and toys for good little boys and girls on Christmas.*

So, given all of the above, elves seem to carry lots and lots of baggage nowadays thanks to these cliches. Its become a trope over at TvTropes.org: "Our Elves are the Same." I actually kind of had a different conception of elves when I was first getting into D&D-esque fantasy.

I hadn't had time to read Lord of the Rings, and the Hobbit had barely any mention of elves. There were the elves who were helpful and the ones who looked Thorin and crew into the dungeon for reasons. I just completely missed out any signs of elves being halty or immortal. Warcraft 2 portrayed the Elves as aloof and mysterious (but also respectful, if perhaps having to use brainy and exotic words about it. Elven Archer: "Your Eminence?") guys who lived in the forest. Every cartoon and its mother being about talking animals who lived in tree houses, the concept that there would be a thousand parodies equating Elves to Hippies, or even just vegetarians (a Longbow is a hunting weapon, you know!), just never occured to my young mind. They lived in the forest because that what they did. Dwarves lived in the mountains. Orcs lived in the swamps and wastelands. Trolls also lived in the forest, and probably hunted elf children or something, which is why they were enemies and used similar forest-guerilla tactics, only with throwing axes, so the Trolls ultimately became the Orcish Horde's "archer unit." All of these environments were big and mythic and could hide an entire world unto them, which is why, even in the fantasy setting, humans were distant from all of these races, which made them all inheriently exotic even to the local country they lived in.

Whoa....I forgot about that part. I might need to work that into a setting.

Anyway, elves just didn't have all this baggage yet. They lived in the forest, out of sight and uncountable, fighting an enemy that could regenerate their wounds, so they just had to hit with even more deadly accuracy. You can calculate how deep you are into their territory roughly by the number of arrows sticking out of your body. But it also read like a cute little tree village set in a children's storybook. Their children knowing the geography way better than you do because they just evaded a troll at that magic lake you're looking for yesterday. (Of course, this is a very bad practice to raise a child to 100 years old before finally declaring them an adult, but I was young and fanciful and hadn't read that little tidbit from the 3rd edition D&D PHB yet.) Their adults are already patrolling that forest and ready to lead enemies into a large, our-arrows-will-blot-out-the-sun ambush (Mass archers at a choke point was always my tactic of choice in WC2). Defensive warfare is kind of their thing.

What I'm getting at is that in place of being interesting because they were "perfect", my idea that elves were cool was because they represented youth and speed and wander. Not youth as in "Oh sure, she looks sixteen, but take our word for it, she's hundreds of years old", but more in the Guy Sensei "The Springtime of YOOOUUUUTTTTHHHH!!!" kind of way. Every human child lives in the city or the country and only plays pretend to be a knight saving a princess, (and often starving when their parents abandon them in the woods like Hansel and Gretel, ). Every elf child is already living in the forest, practicing with a bow, exploring and memorizing and becoming aware of every inch of the forest, because one day they WILL be an Elven Ranger. That lifestyle might have been similar to an aboriginal, but wandering far from the village to learn about the world is actively encouraged.

Every Elven childhood pans out like a play-through of Earthbound.

Although....I think that my other major source material at the time, Zelda series' Hyrule, populated by Fairies, goofy looking man-pig monsters, and eternally young Kokiri children made all of that worse, though.


Interesting Subraces that actually bring something to the table.

Drow= Excellent Bad guys, and great excuse for filling out the lower levels of a megadungeon. They also have the benefit of being one of the few evil humanoids with not just an absense of a penalty, but a BONUS to intelligence and charisma so now TEAM MONSTER has a competent Arcane spellcaster, and actually....now that I think about it, these underdark dwellers make better sense to be the Fighter-Magic User Elves, which I'm pretty sure all of the males of noble houses already are. The surface elves can be druids.

Sea/Aquatic Elves= Aquatic PC race that doesn't suck on land! Why didn't 5e remember these guys? The passage on Sahaugin mentions them and the Merendi mutants that are supposed to infiltrate Aquatic Elf communities, but their stats aren't listed in any of the three books... Anyway, Sea elves are also a breath of fresh air because they actually SHOULDN'T be using bows and arrows. Archery just doesn't work underwater, and the Aquatic Elves are more a fan of stabbing things that are trapped under a net.

These two being the only Elves available= FLAVOR! GLORIOUS, GLORIOUS SETTING FLAVOR!**

*-In truth, all Demihuman PC races could be small sized if a setting wanted it, making only Humans and possibly Half-Elves as the only medium-sized creatures, making the Race of Man actually the most physically imposing, and humans' response to people asking why they are still around goes something a little like this: "I'm sorry, shorty, did you say something? BWAHAHAHAHA!"

**-Seriously though, imagine an island setting, where lots of human cities are sprawlled all over the islands, but then there are mountains. The mountains are large and rise high above the sea, and within them could be dug out more space than the surface of the island itself. Each one might contain a dwarf mountainhome...or a dungeon that leads to the underworld where the drow live. If sea elves are viking-like and raid ships, then elves as a whole might be a stigma as a menace to society!
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Nalyd

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Nalyd » Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:07 am

People trying to have fun don't like it when there are people who take things Very Seriously.

(I like elves)
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Laocoön & Sons

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Laocoön & Sons » Thu Mar 12, 2015 4:26 am

I like Elves too, especially unreformed Tolkien-ripoff Elves that sort of are like demigods. Because that's pretty much exactly what they were presented as, like these pinnacles of creation, with peerless ingenuity, craftsmanship(they made a spaceship one time to cross dimensional gulfs) incredible intellects and force of personality, like what humans wish they could be in their better days. But Tolkien-ripoff Elves nowadays fall flat because they lack the sort of Nordic fallibility that Elder race had, where rather than being like Jesus they were more like Baldr or Freya, greater than the human heroes but less than angels, mighty but not invincible, geniuses but not basically omniscient. And now the correction has tilted the opposite way, with the result that increasingly there's the question of why to bother with things that aren't just various kinds of humans since that's what they keep boiling down to. I'd rather deal with real medieval racism against Jews than 'knife-ears'.

A compromise between the old mercurial Fair Folk of Medieval legend and the more nature-loving modern variant seems the best way to go. That way they stand in beautifully for the strange, isolated tribes that humans themselves once were like, standing for a past that their closest kindred have now abandoned, still a part of the ecosystem in a way that other races are now determined to escape from.

I didn't have your experience of forming a head-canon of what the various standard fantasy races 'were', I got into Tolkien when I was like 10 or 11 and the Jackson movies first came out. But I did know myths, so like above I assumed the Elves were just like the Aesir or Vanir, just a higher class of being that was like a human the way a wolf is like a Scottish terrier.

Really the biggest problem with modern fantasy seems to be that the writers just can't write things that aren't just human people with different faces. And RPG settings have the problem of needing to boil everything down to its most basic elements. So Elves are the artsy humans, Dwarves the craftsy humans, hobbits the folksy humans and so on. Encouraging the role-play of different mindsets, cultures and belief would go a long way to helping avoid that.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Thu Mar 12, 2015 10:48 am

Oh yes,such incredible intellect they posses that they will use the superb tactic of jumping over their allies defensive shield wall.Truly genius,the lot of them.

Honestly though,I wouldnt mind the pointy eared bastards if they werent just so holier than though smug.Also if they had beards.And were half the size.And had scottish accents.

Xaossa wrote:Drow= Excellent Bad guys, and great excuse for filling out the lower levels of a megadungeon. They also have the benefit of being one of the few evil humanoids with not just an absense of a penalty, but a BONUS to intelligence and charisma so now TEAM MONSTER has a competent Arcane spellcaster, and actually....now that I think about it, these underdark dwellers make better sense to be the Fighter-Magic User Elves, which I'm pretty sure all of the males of noble houses already are. The surface elves can be druids.


Yeah,thats what they used to be,before they became a playable race.Now,every drow is drizzt,and the whole race became a rogue cell of a rogue cell.Though,at least they arent as bad as dark elves in homm5(so many dominatrixes *shivers*).
Xaossa

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Xaossa » Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:18 pm

Daemian Lucifer wrote:Oh yes,such incredible intellect they posses that they will use the superb tactic of jumping over their allies defensive shield wall.Truly genius,the lot of them.

Honestly though,I wouldnt mind the pointy eared bastards if they werent just so holier than though smug.Also if they had beards.And were half the size.And had scottish accents.


Lol, Peter Jackson.

Yeah,thats what they used to be,before they became a playable race.Now,every drow is drizzt,and the whole race became a rogue cell of a rogue cell.Though,at least they arent as bad as dark elves in homm5(so many dominatrixes *shivers*).



Well, I'm not certain that EVERY drow is Drizzt.

I mean, if you're upset at the PLAYERS for the lack of drow ANTAGONISTS, you're kind of blaming the wrong demographic. There is nothing stopping a DM from incorporating a dungeon built on top of an Underdark city or a Drow slave raid to the surface into his game.

But in general, the typical Drow would have EVEN LESS business adventuring with a bunch of filthy surfacers than other monster types. They're all locked down in a Theocracy dedicated to a merciless Demon Goddess which doesn't let people leave unless they are really freaking determined to. I.E. Drizzt. And PCs have GOTS TO HAVE THEIR STAT BONUSES, AFTER ALL! *rolls eyes*

Still this is why I say Elves have baggage.
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Trix2000
Location: California

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Trix2000 » Thu Mar 12, 2015 6:45 pm

I used to like them. Now I'm just ambivalent, since to me they just seem too... ideal? I'm not sure how to describe the feeling.

Might just come down to there isn't enough variety in them when they appear, and I've gotten bored of the concept.
Steve C

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Steve C » Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:33 am

The problem with drow is that there are far more players that want to play them than DMs that want to use that specific monster when there are so many others that make more sense.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:29 am

Steve C wrote:The problem with drow is that there are far more players that want to play them than DMs that want to use that specific monster when there are so many others that make more sense.


I find it weird how d&d became a thing where people care about things making sense.
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Lachlan the Mad
Location: I come from the land down under, where women blow and men chunder

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Lachlan the Mad » Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:48 am

Daemian Lucifer wrote:
Steve C wrote:The problem with drow is that there are far more players that want to play them than DMs that want to use that specific monster when there are so many others that make more sense.


I find it weird how d&d became a thing where people care about things making sense.

My party is 100% willing to accept puzzles which require you to reach into paintings, but had to be reminded that the ritual to become a lich was not, in fact, common knowledge. D&D is weird.
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Grudgeal

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Grudgeal » Fri Mar 13, 2015 3:53 pm

Because the buggers all have AGI 4 and prance about the field with their 2+ passes and dodge rolls and throw bull**** elf plays from halfway down their own end zone. Every. FREAKING. Ga-

...

Oh. So not THAT kind of tabletop game then.
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Fri Mar 13, 2015 5:42 pm

Grudgeal wrote:Oh. So not THAT kind of tabletop game then.


If you are talking about warhammer,I think it counts.Heck,I even count eldar from 40k as elves.And vulcans.Basically any race that is "Like humans,only smarter,stronger,more enlightened and more beautiful,preferably with pointy ears".
Adeon_Hawkwood

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Adeon_Hawkwood » Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:56 pm

Xaossa wrote:So, given all of the above, elves seem to carry lots and lots of baggage nowadays thanks to these cliches. Its become a trope over at TvTropes.org: "Our Elves are the Same." I actually kind of had a different conception of elves when I was first getting into D&D-esque fantasy.

Actually I think you're confusing two different Tropes. Our Elves Are Better and Our Dwarves Are All The Same.

Personally I've never felt that much animosity towards Elves, I just tend to prefer Dwarves since they feel more like me than Elves do.
Adeon_Hawkwood

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Adeon_Hawkwood » Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:58 pm

Grudgeal wrote:Because the buggers all have AGI 4 and prance about the field with their 2+ passes and dodge rolls and throw bull**** elf plays from halfway down their own end zone. Every. FREAKING. Ga-

On the plus side when you DO manage to get a good block in they make a very satisfying *crunch* (and then you set up a few linesmen to do a foul and put the boot in).
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Wide And Nerdy

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Wide And Nerdy » Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:20 pm

The whole thing about there being sub races of elves far precedes third edition and goes back at least as far as Tolkein himself. There are at least three or four groups that I can recall of them from Tolkein (though one of these groups withdrew with the Ainur immediately to their island the name of which escapes me at the moment). And even most of the elvish subraces in DnD were created before third edition.

For my part, I like Tolkein's take on it. The elves harmony with nature and grace seems to be a byproduct of their age. They do things that seem like magic to us because they've had millenia with adult bodies and minds to master things and to learn the patterns of nature (and yes, there's some actual magic too). I also really like the elves as the elder race that built the beautiful cities and powerful artifacts of ages past and maybe have one or two remaining cities somewhere in the clouds or something.

I think the disdain for elves comes from a few places.
1) DnD. With elves being a choosable race and players going for and playing the "I'm better than you" race and playing that way gets annoying.
2) Mary Suetopia. As you said elves seem to embody modern liberal ideals. They thus represent an opportunity for an author to preach, but it comes from the mouth of a race that is somehow magically having its cake and eating it too. They do everything better than us, and they're more peaceful and they're more in tune with nature and they're more prosperous (though this is the most likely to vary). It makes it look like we just fight and pollute for no reason (or whatever the author wants to preach about.)
3) I had a third point but I forgot.
Vulture

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Vulture » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:15 am

1st Edition AD&D certainly had different elvish races. There were high elves, grey elves (the best magic users, and lived up to 2,000 years vs ?1,500 for high elves), sylvan elves and drow (non-playable). I think aquatic elves were in the list then too (also not as PCs), but not 100% sure. I have a vague memory of their being another type, but can't think what it might be.
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krellen
Location: The City in New Mexico
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Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby krellen » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:07 pm

By second edition there were the Avariel, the winged elves. Not sure if they were introduced before second.
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Cuthalion

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Cuthalion » Sun Mar 22, 2015 4:49 pm

I still enjoy elves. I'm not as big on them as I once was, but I always liked the agility > strength, archery, immortal aspects. I often play archers, so when we started a The One Ring campaign on Friday (first time playing that system), I decided to make a spear elf, so I could go back to that Tolkien "I wish I were an Elf" fantasy I had with the books and movies without just playing the same character again.

Also, Star Trek (from what I've seen) seems to have that "everybody is humans with different faces" problem bad. I guess in DS9 (and maybe others?) they tried to actively explore what it meant to be Klingon or Ferengi, but it still tended to be about turning them into humans (especially the Ferengi).
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Daemian Lucifer

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Daemian Lucifer » Sun Mar 22, 2015 5:35 pm

Cuthalion wrote:I still enjoy elves. I'm not as big on them as I once was, but I always liked the agility > strength, archery, immortal aspects.


This kind of bugs me when I play crpgs,because I like playing mages and archers,but in may settings elves are best suited for such purpose,and unlike table top games,crpgs are very inflexible.
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Cuthalion

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Cuthalion » Thu Apr 30, 2015 1:03 am

I'm actually really enjoying my Elf-played-straight character. It's refreshing.

But yeah, I hate it when I have to pick race X if I want to have a character good at Y, or I feel like I'm Doing It Wrong.

In my own tabletop RPG (*drink*), I try to avoid at least some of this by making how smart/wise/charismatic your character is divorced from what race and class they are, so you don't have the weird, unfortunate implications of making some persons inherently better/worse at mental and social stuff because of their race. And few, if any, of the races get bonuses to particular weapons (unless you count the ones with horns and claws and stuff). But I guess maybe it doesn't help the pressure to play certain races for mages and such, since they still have racial stats that dictate magical ability. (They're just called "Magic" and "Aura" instead of "Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma".) So maybe this was just a shameless plug.
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Santa_Jaws

Re: Elves: why they are hated and why they were ever cool an

Postby Santa_Jaws » Wed Nov 25, 2015 1:16 pm

My second best 5th Edition character is a Wood Elf Barbarian named 'Crossing River'. Dude is just a badass. Greatsword, wolf-headed cloak, he's the guy who just runs in, wrecks EVERYTHING, and then celebrates with booze and a feast from whatever he's hunted earlier that day.

His best friend in the party? The Dwarven Wizard, who coincidentally is also the only guy who can really communicate with him.

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