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  • Okay, so, some details could be wrong, but more I'm more interested in trying to suggest a point I'm trying to make...

    Table top RPGs are a fairly recent invention, or at least theory crafting them on a grand/community scale. LOTR and other mythologies were written for allegory and entertainment, not functional world play

    So I wonder if Elves are a kind of APEX allegory. We make them as a Utopia, an end all be all of a perfect society, and we as humans would like to reach a Utopian like society, i.e. flying cars, unlimited energy, food for all, perfect weather...

    But as humans advance, we start to see/feel it can't be done, so while we do get better, the dream of what we can really achieve, the bar for that Utopian Society, those goal posts gets moved closer to something more realistic and a bit less dirt free and shiny until the reality and the vision meet in the middle, or to say, and then what we got and the best we can really be become one
    Last edited by Willowfang; 09-28-2019, 12:52 PM.

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    • The modern fantasy idea of elves cannot be divorced from Tolkien. And Tolkien’s elves were very directly based on the alfar of Norse mythology, within the context of the core theme of history as cyclical and ever-declining. The way Tolkien saw it, the history of the world was one of a constant self-repetition, but with things getting a bit worse with each cycle. Within this context, elves represent the last vestiges of a previous, better iteration of the cycle. That’s why elves are always humans-but-better, and why they’re almost always in societal decline. Fantasy authors and RPG designers either copy Tolkien, or copy other writers who were copying Tolkien, without necessarily understanding his themes, so we’re left with elves that are in decline because of their longevity, rather than the ongoing degradation of the world as a whole.


      Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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      • It probably helps that there's so much 'The world was so much better back when I was young, or during some era when I didn't exist but I wax nostalgic about' people to pick from in the real world. As a professor at Oxford Tolkien likely met tons of people like that, and you can't step on social media without seeing it there either.

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        • Originally posted by nofather View Post
          And wow thanks for the link seriously.
          Folding Ideas is a very, very solid channel!


          Freelancer (He/His Pronouns): CofD - Dark Eras 2, Kith and Kin, Mummy 2e, Oak Ash and Thorn, Contagion RMCs; Scion - Mysteries of the World

          CofD booklists: Beast I Changeling | Demon | Deviant (TBA) | Geist l Hunter l Mage | Mummy | Promethean | Vampire | Werewolf (WIP)

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          • Yeah, I'm not too fond of portraying elves as "awesome but dying out". Part of it is the general issue of D&D (and most of fantasy, let's be real) treating magic as the best thing ever or the only important thing. And since elves have more magic, obviously they're the best.

            I do admit for having a fondness for fallen empires, crumbled glory, lost magic/technology, dimming worlds and all that jazz. Cliched though it may be. There's no reason to let humans and elves have a monopoly on that, though.

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            • Originally posted by Morty View Post
              Yeah, I'm not too fond of portraying elves as "awesome but dying out". Part of it is the general issue of D&D (and most of fantasy, let's be real) treating magic as the best thing ever or the only important thing. And since elves have more magic, obviously they're the best.

              I do admit for having a fondness for fallen empires, crumbled glory, lost magic/technology, dimming worlds and all that jazz. Cliched though it may be. There's no reason to let humans and elves have a monopoly on that, though.
              The reason the whole "culture in decline" angle works so well with elves is because they live so much longer than anyone else. Given the same number of generations, an elven civilization will cover a far larger swath of history. It stretches back far further, with only races like the dwarves coming close.

              To the elves, that their society has seen better days is not an abstract fact. There would be members of their society that remember, personally, the highs and lows of the past centuries. They FEEL their decline more readily. Moreover, it's just thematically resonant for the one nation that is currently in decline be the explicitly elder civilization. The one that has seen "lesser" nations rise and fall over the centuries, and now can see clearly that all the hallmarks of decline are present in their own society. From the outside looking in, they are the ancient civilization that has been around as long as any non-elf can remember, and now they are dying (in a societal sense).

              It's a profoundly sad and unsettling idea, that a geopolitical constant could just...fade away. That truly, an era of history is ending. Who knows when - if ever - its like will be seen again?


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              • I like Dragon Age’s compromise, where the impossible longevity of elves is itself a part of their society’s great past that has been lost. Where modern elves live lives comparable to humans, but tell of a time when their ageless forebears built cities of crystal that stretched to the heavens, and magic was as easy for them as breathing. Did such a time ever truly exist? Who can say. None are alive today who remember (except My Canon Boyfriend). One might say that it doesn’t really matter if it’s the literal truth, it is true enough to the elven people, and that’s why the stories continue to be passed on.
                Last edited by Charlaquin; 10-02-2019, 01:39 PM.


                Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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                • Whats the point of them having pointy ears then? Any number of human cultures have such stories


                  A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"

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                  • Originally posted by Master Aquatosic View Post
                    Whats the point of them having pointy ears then? Any number of human cultures have such stories
                    I see your point, because longevity and pointy ears are the only two differences between humans and elves. 🙄


                    Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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                    • Originally posted by Master Aquatosic View Post
                      Whats the point of them having pointy ears then? Any number of human cultures have such stories
                      This question can ultimately apply to any typical fantasy race. The answer is... because we want it this way. We want to tell stories about a world with elves, dwarves, goblins and trolls. Except sometimes we want to tell stories about only humans. But "we want to tell this kind of story" is ultimately all the reason we need.

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                      • Originally posted by Charlaquin View Post
                        None are alive today who remember (except My Canon Boyfriend). One might say that it doesn’t really matter if it’s the literal truth, it is true enough to the elven people, and that’s why the stories continue to be passed on.
                        Except for Solas, Flemmeth, and possibly all those elves at Mythal's temple who somehow managed to retain their immortality...

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                        • Originally posted by Nyrufa View Post

                          Except for Solas, Flemmeth, and possibly all those elves at Mythal's temple who somehow managed to retain their immortality...
                          I was trying not to spoil the ending of Inquisition for anyone who might not have played it, but yeah. Except them. Moreover, that’s a cool reveal that couldn’t have happened if modern elves were ageless.
                          Last edited by Charlaquin; 10-02-2019, 05:30 PM.


                          Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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                          • Sorry about that. I could have phrased that better and I had no good excuse to be so rude even if I was kinda freaking out over college. And yes, because we have that kind of story works too. I do personally prefer that if non-human races exist, they are in some way alienated from human experience with strange senses or abilities, but that's personal and not my prescription for writing good fantasy, especially since I don't write anything and just criticize. I know I'm a nitpicker.


                            A god is just a monster you kneel to. - ArcaneArts, Quoting "Fall of Gods"

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                            • Originally posted by Master Aquatosic View Post
                              Sorry about that. I could have phrased that better and I had no good excuse to be so rude even if I was kinda freaking out over college.
                              No worries, my response could have been less snarky as well. I’m sorry college is giving you grief.

                              Originally posted by Master Aquatosic View Post
                              And yes, because we have that kind of story works too. I do personally prefer that if non-human races exist, they are in some way alienated from human experience with strange senses or abilities, but that's personal and not my prescription for writing good fantasy,
                              I both agree and disagree. I do prefer that non-human peoples in sci-fi and fantasy be notably distinct from humans. But I also believe that all stories are ultimately human stories, and so even fantasy peoples designed specifically to be distinct from humans are still reflections of humanity. This is especially true of the standard fantasy “races” such as elves and dwarves, because they are so heavily influenced by Tolkien, who very much wrote them as races of humanity. Besides that, most writers are human as far as I know, and one can only write from experience, so it’s arguably not possible to write fictional peoples that are completely alien.

                              And to be fair to you, part of the reason I responded chidingly is that your comment is very reminiscent of an argument I see a lot on the internet and take pretty strong exception to. That being, the idea that adding cultural and/or moral nuance to non-human peoples in fantasy (and in D&D in particular) removes what makes them distinct from humans. And that argument bothers me to no end, because if the only thing that separates your non-human peoples from your humans is that they’re less nuanced, that’s a problem with how you wrote them. Now, I know that’s not the argument you were making, and I apologize for letting my frustration get misdirected at you. That was unbecoming of me.

                              Originally posted by Master Aquatosic View Post
                              especially since I don't write anything and just criticize. I know I'm a nitpicker.
                              Don’t beat yourself up. Critique is part and parcel to forum discussion.


                              Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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                              • On the subject of the lifespans of different fantasy peoples, I’m generally not a huge fan of everyone living way longer than humans. I have no problem with other peoples having different life expectancies - longer, shorter, maybe even one ageless people. But when you look at the PHB races, you’ve got dwarves living 350 years, elves living 750, halflings living 150, gnomes living 350 on the low end and 500 on the high end, and half-elves living 180. I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s a little excessive?


                                Going by Willow now, or Wil for short. She/Her/Hers.

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