|Male and female high elves, as depicted in the 3.5 Player's Handbook (2003). Art by Sam Wood.|
Elves are renowned for their grace and mastery of magic and weapons such as the sword and the bow. Becoming physically mature by the age of 25 and emotionally mature at around 125 (Races of the Wild, 2005), they are also famously long-lived, capable of living more than half a millennium and remaining physically youthful. They rarely die due to the wear of age. Possessed of innate beauty and easy gracefulness, they are viewed as both wondrous and haughty by other races; however, their natural detachment is seen by some as introversion or xenophobia.
There are several different subraces of elves, including aquatic elves, dark elves (drow), grey elves, high elves, snow elves, valley elves, wild elves (grugach), wood elves, and winged elves (avariel). The offspring of humans and elves are known as "half-elves" among humans, and as "half-humans" among elves.
Elves are most often associated with temperate forests, though this applies chiefly to high elves and wood elves. Aquatic elves are only found in temperate aquatic regions, and gray elves often prefer temperate mountains. Snow elves, drow, and grugach are found almost exclusively in cold mountains, the Underdark, and deep forests, respectively. Valley elves are rarely seen outside the Valley of the Mage.
In the Flanaess, large numbers of elves can be found in Celene, Highvale, the Lendore Isles, Sunndi, the Duchy of Ulek, the Valley of the Mage, the Vesve Forest, and the Vault of the Drow. Verbobonc was originally an elven settlement, though they have mostly left that region to the humans and gnomes. The City of Summer Stars is a lost and ruined elven community of fable and legend in the depths of the Adri Forest, now under a dreadful curse.
Typical physical characteristics
Slightly shorter than the average human, elves are also noticeably more slender and graceful (this is reflected in a bonus to dexterity and a constitution penalty), averaging between 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 feet and 95 to 135 pounds. Males are slightly more muscular on average, there is little difference in height between the sexes, and facial hair is unheard of. Their features in general may be described as more angular and defined; including long, pointed ears and wide, almond-shaped eyes. Most elves have fair skin and dark hair, though this is no more true of all elves than it is of humans. They have a reputation for careful grooming, more so than perhaps any other race. This frequently extends to their clothing, which is luxurious and well-kept, though not to the point of impracticality.
Elves do not sleep as most other creatures do, instead falling into a four-hour restful trance. Consequently, elves are unaffected by sleep-inducing spells and effects, and are able to remain active far longer than other races.
Elves also do not age as other creatures; their physical appearances remain constant from achieving physical maturity to death. Elves do grow physically weaker and mentally stronger as they grow older, and accumulate a "glow" from the strength of their souls as they age (Races of the Wild, 2005).
Most elves are usually chaotic good, though grugach tend to be neutral, Valley elves chaotic neutral, and drow neutral evil.
Most elves, other than drow and Valley elves, follow the Seldarine, the elven pantheon, consisting of the following deities:
- Aerdrie Faenya, goddess of Air, Weather, Birds, and Avariel.
- Alathrien Druanna, the Rune Mistress.
- Alobal Lorfiril, god of Hedonism, Mirth, Magic, and Revelry.
- Araleth Letheranil, god of Light.
- Corellon Larethian, god of Elves, Magic, Music, Arts, Crafts, Poetry, and Warfare.
- Darahl Firecloak, god of Earth and Flame
- Deep Sashelas, god of Water, Knowledge, Beauty, Magic, and Aquatic Elves.
- Elebrin Liothiel, god of Nature, Gardens, Orchards, and the Harvest.
- Erevan Ilesere, god of Mischief, Change, and Rogues.
- Fenmarel Mestarine, god of Exiles, Scapegoats, and Grugach.
- Gadhelyn, hero-god of Independence, Outlawry, Feasting, and Hunting.
- Hanali Celanil, goddess of Romantic Love and Beauty.
- Kirith Sotheril, goddess of Divinations and Enchantments.
- Labelas Enoreth, god of Time and Longevity.
- Melira Taralen, goddess of Bards and Minstrels.
- Mythrien Sarath, god of Protection and Mythals.
- Naralis Analor, god of Healing, Easing of Pain, and Death.
- Rellavar Danuvien, god of Frost Sprites and Protection from Cold.
- Rillifane Rallathil, god of Nature, Woodlands, and Wood Elves.
- Sarula Iliene, goddess of Lakes, Streams, Nixies, and Water Magic.
- Sehanine Moonbow, goddess of the Moon, Mysticism, Dreams, Far Journeys, Death, and Transcendence.
- Solonor Thelandira, god of Hunting, Archery, and Survival.
- Tarsellis Meunniduin, god of Winter, Mountains, and Snow Elves.
- Tethrin Veraldé, god of Bladesingers.
- Vandria Gilmadrith, goddess of War, Guardianship, Justice, Grief, Vigilance, and Decision.
- Ye'Cind, god of Music and Magical Songs.
While Corellon Larethian leads the Seldarine, most subraces also have a patron deity whom they hold in nearly equal regard. Deep Shahelas (and his wife, the dolphin goddess Trishina) for the aquatic elves, Fenmarel Mestarine for the grugach, Rillifane Rallathil for the wood elves, Tarsellis Meunniduin for the snow elves, and Aerdrie Faenya for the avariel.
The only deity known to be honored by the Valley elves is Ehlonna, who is also frequently worshipped by other elven peoples. Dark elves most often worship Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders, or one of her brood.
Elves are of various sorts, including a marine race, all of which are detailed here.
- Aquatic elves, or sea elves: Aquatic elves live beneath the waves and can breathe water as easily as their cousins on land breathe air. They have silverish-greenish skin and hair of green or blue-green. They are mortal enemies of sharks and sahuagin. They are friends to dolphins and surface elves, and neutral to all others, save for fishermen, who they dislike. Their chief god is Deep Sashelas.
- Avariel, or sky elves. Also known as the "winged folk," these winged elves are very rare, but are believed to dwell in the Lortmil Mountains (LGG.143).
- Drow, or dark elves: The "black elves" are only legend to most in the Flanaess. They are as dark as gray elves are bright and and as evil as the latter are good. Once surface elves themselves, they were transformed into drow and banished to the Underdark when they fell to the worship of demons and gods of elemental evil. Of all the elves they are the only ones that are inherently malevolent, and they hate their cousins with an undying passion. They are smaller than their cousins, both shorter and thinner. In addition, their skin resembles polished obsidian, and their hair is snow-white or silver.
- Gray elves: These elves are the most noble of elves, yet also the most arrogant. They are of higher intellectual capabilities than other elves, but, despite the fact they are taller than high elves, they are physically weaker. They live in isolated mountain strongholds, and rarely allow access to outsiders. They have silver hair and amber eyes, or gold hair and violet eyes, and wear clothes of white, silver, yellow and gold, and usually wear regally colored cloaks. Those with gold hair are generally called faeries. They worship the standard elven pantheon.
- Grugach: The most reclusive of all the elves, the wild elves pride themselves on their isolation and skill at keeping hidden. Their skin tends to be brown and they have similar colored hair which lightens with age.
- High elves: High elves are the elves most commonly encountered by other races, and the most open and friendly of their kind. They travel to other lands more than other elves. They're generally dark-haired and green-eyed, with very pale complexions the color of new cream. They simply do not tan, no matter how much time they spend under Oerth's sun. High elves prefer to wear light pastels, blues and greens and violets, and often dwell in homes built into living wood, high in the trees.
- Snow elves: Pale but hardy elves that live in the Crystalmist Mountains. They worship Tarsellis Meunniduin, the patron god of Snow Elves and Lord of Mountains. They are reclusive and usually led by tribal priests known as "Peakwardens."
- Valley elves: Closely related to gray elves, Valley elves are the tallest of their kind, as tall as humans. They dwell only within the Valley of the Mage, though agents are occasionally sent outwards on missions for the master of the Vale. Because of their height, they can often pass as and infiltrate the societies of humans. Other elves despise Valley elves, believing they've sold out their dignity and independence for the fleeting protection of a human wizard - even worse that his lieutenant is a drow. They call the Valley elves by a disparaging name in their own language that connotates to "automaton" or "slave."
- Wood Elves: Wood elves are a reclusive subrace. They place more emphasis on strength than learning. Wood elves are considered by other elven subraces (particularly the austere gray elves) to be boisterous and hedonistic. They have a zest for life and pleasure. They are more neutral than most elves, except the valley elves and grugach. Their complexions are fair, their hair is yellow to coppery red, and their eyes are light brown, light green, or hazel. They wear russets, reds, browns, and tans. Their cloaks are usually green or reddish brown.
- Half-elves: Not really a subrace per se, half-elves are the offspring of humans and elves. Blending the features of human and elf, half-elves look like elves to humans and like humans to elves (hence their elven description as "half-human"). They do well with elves, humans, gnomes, dwarves, and halflings. In the case of conflicts between elves and humans, however, each side often suspects a half-elf mediator of favoring the other.
Elves inhabited the Flanaess for many centuries before the Great Migrations introduced hordes of humans, orcs, and goblins who pushed them from the grasslands and prairies deep into the ancient forests that were their first home and most secure retreat.
Elves mark the time using the Olven Calendar.
Elves mingle freely in human lands, always welcome yet never at home there. They are well known for their poetry, dance, song, lore, and magical arts. Elves favor things of natural and simple beauty. When danger threatens their woodland homes, however, elves reveal a more martial side, demonstrating skill with sword, bow, and battle strategy.
Personality: Elves are more often amused than excited, and more likely to be curious than greedy. With such a long life span, they tend to keep a broad perspective on events, remaining aloof and unfazed by petty happenstance. When pursuing a goal, however, whether an adventurous mission or learning a new skill or art, they can be focused and relentless. They are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. They reply to petty insults with disdain and to serious insults with vengeance.
Physical Description: Elves are short and slim, standing about 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 feet tall and typically weighing 95 to 135 pounds, with elf men the same height as and only marginally heavier than elf women. They are graceful but frail. They tend to be pale-skinned and dark-haired, with deep green eyes. Elves have no facial or body hair. They prefer simple, comfortable clothes, especially in pastel blues and greens, and they enjoy simple yet elegant jewelry. Elves possess unearthly grace and fine features. Many humans and members of other races find them hauntingly beautiful. An elf reaches adulthood at about 110 years of age and can live to be more than 700 years old.
Elves do not sleep, as members of the other common races do. Instead, an elf meditates in a deep trance for 4 hours a day. An elf resting in this fashion gains the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep. While meditating, an elf dreams, though these dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive through years of practice. The Common word for an elf’s meditation is “trance,” as in “four hours of trance.”
Relations: Elves consider humans rather unrefined, halflings a bit staid, gnomes somewhat trivial, and dwarves not at all fun. They look on half-elves with some degree of pity, and they regard half-orcs with unrelenting suspicion. While haughty, elves are not particular the way halflings and dwarves can be, and they are generally pleasant and gracious even to those who fall short of elven standards (a category that encompasses just about everybody who’s not an elf).
Alignment: Since elves love freedom, variety, and self-expression. They lean strongly toward the gentler aspects of chaos. Generally, they value and protect others’ freedom as well as their own, and they are more often good than not.
Elven Lands: Most elves live in woodland clans numbering less than two hundred souls. Their well-hidden villages blend into the trees, doing little harm to the forest. They hunt game, gather food, and grow vegetables, and their skill and magic allowing them to support themselves amply without the need for clearing and plowing land. Their contact with outsiders is usually limited, though some few elves make a good living trading finely worked elven clothes and crafts for the metals that elves have no interest in mining.
Elves encountered in human lands are commonly wandering minstrels, favored artists, or sages. Human nobles compete for the services of elf instructors, who teach swordplay to their children.
Religion: Above all others, elves worship Corellon Larethian, the Protector and Preserver of life. Elven myth holds that it was from his blood, shed in battles with Gruumsh, the god of the orcs, that the elves first arose. Corellon is a patron of magical study, arts, dance, and poetry, as well as a powerful warrior god.
Language: Elves speak a fluid language of subtle intonations and intricate grammar. While Elven literature is rich and varied, it is the language’s songs and poems that are most famous. Many bards learn Elven so they can add Elven ballads to their repertoires. Others simply memorize Elven songs by sound. The Elven script, as flowing as the spoken word, also serves as the script for Sylvan, the language of dryads and pixies, for Aquan, the language of water-based creatures, and for Undercommon, the language of the drow and other subterranean creatures.
Names: When an elf declares herself an adult, usually some time after her hundredth birthday, she also selects a name. Those who knew her as a youngster may or may not continue to call her by her “child name,” and she may or may not care. An elf’s adult name is a unique creation, though it may reflect the names of those she admires or the names of others in her family. In addition, she bears her family name. Family names are combinations of regular Elven words; and some elves traveling among humans translate their names into Common while others use the Elven version.
Male Names: Aramil, Aust, Enialis, Heian, Himo, Ivellios, Laucian, Quarion, Soverliss, Thamior, Tharivol.
Female Names: Anastrianna, Antinua, Drusilia, Felosial, Ielenia, Lia, Mialee, Qillathe, Silaqui, Vadania, Valanthe, Xanaphia.
Family Names (Common Translations): Amastacia (Starflower), Amakiir (Gemflower), Galanodel (Moonwhisper), Holimion (Diamonddew), Liadon (Silverfrond), Meliamne (Oakenheel), Naïlo (Nightbreeze), Siannodel (Moonbrook), Ilphukiir (Gemblossom), Xiloscient (Goldpetal).
Adventurers: Elves take up adventuring out of wanderlust. Life among humans moves at a pace that elves dislike: regimented from day to day but changing from decade to decade. Elves among humans, therefore, find careers that allow them to wander freely and set their own pace. Elves also enjoy demonstrating their prowess with the sword and bow or gaining greater magical powers, and adventuring allows them to do so. Good elves may also be rebels or crusaders.
ELF RACIAL TRAITS
- +2 Dexterity, –2 Constitution: Elves are graceful but frail. An elf’s grace makes her naturally better at stealth and archery.
- Medium: As Medium creatures, elves have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Elf base land speed is 30 feet.
- Immunity to magic sleep effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects.
- Low-light Vision: An elf can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. She retains the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
- Weapon Proficiency: Elves receive the Martial Weapon Proficiency feats for the longsword, rapier, longbow (including composite longbow), and shortbow (including composite shortbow) as bonus feats. Elves esteem the arts of swordplay and archery, so all elves are familiar with these weapons.
- +2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. An elf who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it. An elf’s senses are so keen that she practically has a sixth sense about hidden portals.
- Automatic Languages: Common and Elven. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, and Sylvan. Elves commonly know the languages of their enemies and of their friends, as well as Draconic, the language commonly found in ancient tomes of secret knowledge.
- Favored Class: Wizard. A multiclass elf’s wizard class does not count when determining whether she takes an experience point penalty for multiclassing (see XP for Multiclass Characters, page 60 of the Player's Handbook v3.5). Wizardry comes naturally to elves—indeed, they sometimes claim to have invented it, and fighter/wizards are especially common among them.
The grugach and Valley elf first appeared in Dragon #67 (November 1982) in the series "Featured Creatures," an ongoing series of articles where Gary Gygax released information on official creatures before their release in the upcoming Monster Manual II (1983).
- Conforti, Steven, ed. Living Greyhawk Official Listing of Deities for Use in the Campaign, version 2.0. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005. Available online:
- Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1989.
- Gygax, Gary. The World of Greyhawk. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1980.
- -----. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1983.
- -----. Unearthed Arcana. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1985.
- Holian, Gary, Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, and Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
- McComb, Colin. The Complete Book of Elves. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1992.
- -----. On Hallowed Ground. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- Moore, Roger E., and Georgia Moore. "The Gods of the Elves." Dragon #60. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1982.
- -----. The Adventure Begins. Renton, WA: TSR, 1998.
- Perry, Chris. "The Seldarine Revisited." Dragon #236. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1996.
- -----." Dragon #251. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1998.
- Reimer, David S. "In the Frost and the Snow." Dragon #155. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1990. Available online:
- Sargent, Carl. From the Ashes. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1992.
- -----. Monster Mythology. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1992.
- -----. Night Below: An Underdark Campaign. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1995.
- Tweet, Jonathan, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams. Player's Handbook Core Rulebook I v.3.5. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2003.
- Voskuil, Denise Lyn. "The Elfin Gods." Dragon #155. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1990.
- Williams, Skip. Races of the Wild. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005.
- Williams, Skip, Jonathan Tweet, and Monte Cook. Monster Manual. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.