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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > Getting the Most out of D&D Elves with Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
D&D elves Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

Getting the Most out of D&D Elves with Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

The Nerdarchists continue their dive into Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, this time pouring over the lore of the ancient and wise Dungeons & Dragons elves. A lot of interesting information within the Tome of Foes in regards to those weedy long ears got me thinking. So while Nerdarchists Dave and Ted delve into the text on what Wizard’s of the Coast has put in place for elven lore, I want to explore what I believe it must mean to be one of the D&D elves and how it effects the world around them.

D&D elves Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

Elven cities, like the inhabitants themselves, are timeless and weird. This illustration from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes captures this quality wonderfully.

D&D elves are timeless and weird

D&D Games

An elf as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

One of my common complaints with non-human races is players have a huge tendency to play them as humans, just with weird ears. Often, races are nothing more than a mechanical bonus in many players’ “build.”

When talking about elves in particular, they have to be really weird. I mean, elves are so far removed they might as well be aliens to humans. Their minds and way of living would be difficult for humans to understand. They are creatures who live roughly ten times longer than humans and share memories from past lives they’ve lived. Just these two simple facts are enough to make elves a complete oddity to humans and really should share few similarities.

An elf might be in a near fugue state every now and then, the world around them blending into memories they never experienced first hand. Patient and aloof, elves would rarely ever be in a hurry for anything as time is always on their side.

Ambition among D&D elves

How has a race of never sleeping, charm immune, millennia living, multi-life-knowledge accruing beings with a natural affinity for magic not taken over the world?

On paper, elves seem impossibly powerful compared to the realm of men. Hell, there are weapons they might never have touched that they are experts in wielding due to their multiple lives. How can they possibly not rule over everything?

Ambition. The ultimate weakness of a creature that does not fear time and has so much of their lives in their collective past means it is bred into them a lack of drive. Humans’ short lived lives could allow them to accomplish more than three elf lifetimes. If time is not an ever lingering foe, and you can do anything and often, you will likely squander that time.

Elves are possibly the greatest procrastinators of all the races. But, as with all things, there are always exceptions. What happens when an elf does have motivation? Do they become an adventurer to see the world or do they have ambition for something darker? What happens when an elf desires to lead and army for dominion?

Facing an elven army would be a nightmare. Warriors trained over multiple lives spanning thousands of years, with no fear of death, magical aptitude and don’t require sleep. A terrible foe indeed.

What do you think? How do your elves live in your world? Has Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes helped bring the D&D elves to life more fully in your world? Let me know in the comments below.

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Jacob Kosman

Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn't separating planes.

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