There are six known subraces of elf - High, Aquatic, Drow, Gray, Sylvan Wood, and Wild - and though there are both subtle and gross differences, they all share most of the same racial traits. Unless told otherwise, first write down the GENERAL racial characteristics for the High Elven subrace. Each subrace may still have further distinctions, however, so be sure to consult each subrace's individual section as well. It is possible you may first be asked to write down an adjustment, like -2 to CON for example, only to be told later to add +1 to CON as well. You must do both, for a net change of -1 CON. However, go ahead and adjust scores above 18 or below 3 if this happens. Only when all adjustments are done should a score above 18 be made 18, or a score below 3 be made 3.

General Elven Background Notes For Most Elven Races

The elves are an ancient race and their existence stretches further back in time than even they can remember. Whenever their creation may have been, for whatever reason, it is generally assumed Corellon Larethian created them.

Religion: Corellon Larethian is the protector and preserver of life. 'He' is also sometimes known as LifeGiver, but it is also the case some elves think of Corellon as female rather than male, as both male and female, or as neither gender. A pragmatic race, elves hardly ever have strong gender lines in their societies, and either men and women can be found in most social roles, thus the actual gender of their god is not really important to them.

It is said the elven race sprang from drops of His blood that were shed in battle, though dispute as to which foe He was fighting still remains. Some say it was against Gruumsh, the god of the evil orcs, while others say it was against Lolth, a demonic, spider-like goddess. There are also those few who believe the drops of blood were not shed in battle after all, but deliberately, as He created the elven race from His blood in order to combat the evil in the world spawned by orcs, their eternal enemies, or other dark ones such as Lolth and Her ilk. And there are even a few who say orc and elf somehow share common ancestry, but exactly how that can be is lost to antiquity. Whatever the case may be, most elves pay at least some homage to Corellon Larethian in some form, and many worship the being of light, life, and goodness as their primary faith.

Corellon Larethian is the god of music, poetry, dance, magical study, arts and crafts, and even combat. He is most often depicted as a male warrior with long bow or long sword dressed in azure gossamer robes over his elven mithral chainmail. Many believe His epic battles took place on lunar soil and those craters are the remnants of these epic battles. Thus, their holy days are closely tied to the moon, a three-quarter silver crescent being this deity's holy symbol. Elven places of worship are always natural formations, like grottoes, natural amphitheaters, or groves, and their ceremonies mostly occur during a full moon, new moon, or specific phase of the moon (depending on which holy day it is and who you ask).

Finally, there is some speculation that the elves Corellon first created were immortal and perfect. As such, they would live forever, unless killed, or until Corellon called their spirits home to him across the waters before reincarnation. But over the millennia the elven bloodlines have become mixed with other races. Historically when, where, and why is not remembered, but each time such a major union takes place, it is believed the longevity of the elven races decreases. Ancient records suggest not so long ago when the oldest of elves typically lived past 2 millennia, even if no living elf personally recalls this fact, but now few will make it as far as 7 or 8 centuries. Many purest amongst the elves wish to quell further degradation of their bloodlines and frown upon mixed marriages, but most admit such unions are inevitable and over time the elves will meld into the human race, hopefully the end product enjoying the best both races have to offer.

Humans might think the elves regret losing this fantastic longevity in such unions, but elves often rejoice in such unions since each time it happens, their love produces children with greater frequency. Elven birth rates, you see, are quite low, and when an elven child is born it is quite an occasion for celebration. (Modern elven birth rates are about 6 times lower than human birth rates, but elves live about 6 times longer, so populations remain balanced). In the meantime, as the total blending of elf and human will not happen for many thousands of years and hundreds of elven generations to come, the elves hope that they, the humans, and most other races will try to live in harmony and with nature as best they can. But in case they don't, the elves are always ready on their never-ending vigil against evil, which they believe was the purpose of their very creation in the first place.

To that end, most elven cultures devote their long lives to practicing many martial arts. In particular, swordplay and skill with bow and arrow is a must, and such practice is a never-ending part of their incredibly long lives.

Modern High Elves reach majority in about 130 years and live around 550 years, but some as old as 750 years have been known (though some gray elves might still reach 1000).

High elves are slim, lithe, and hardly ever plump, perhaps 5 feet or so and just over 100 pounds no matter their gender, and look human-like. Their ears are tipped in points, however, and their skin is usually more pale but with clear complexions. Their eyes are often sky blue or emerald green (or with flecks of either color in the other), and their hair is usually dark (black or brown, but also sometimes red or blond, though this is rarer and more common amongst halfelves). Elves do not have facial hair like humans, and bald elves (unless they shaved their heads) are almost non existent. They usually only partake of fruits, vegetables, fungi, and various plant products, but do sometimes enjoy meat and fish (if it's fresh) and animal products such as milk, cheese, eggs, and the like. They mostly only drink water or wine. In fact, elves are well known for their wine, but the truth is they do not have greater skill at making wine than other races. They just have greater patience and can lay down a good store of bottles for several centuries without worrying too much about it. Thus, elven wine is almost always properly aged, and connoisseurs appreciate these subtleties and hail such elven wines as the best in the world. Such bottles can command prices 10 to 100 times beyond normal costs (and that's saying a lot as some human wines, maybe a scant 50 to 100 years old, are already quite expensive).

Elves love things in life that last and are enduring, like themselves. Stories - particularly epic yarns and sagas - music, poetry, lasting art, dance, gems and jewelry, and especially magic are highly prized, while short term gains are often thought of as foolish - and those who have them are thought equally foolish or immature and short sighted. Elves live with nature and never abuse it or over harvest it because of greed. Many settlements are nomadic and they always leave the land better than they found it. Some elves, however, live a more settled life, but their cities and villages are usually smaller and well integrated as part of the natural landscape rather than an affront to its innate beauty. Some of the more impressive cities are vast collections of perhaps hundreds of tree houses that are hard to see from the ground (except in winter), but well connected with rope bridges and walk ways across the branches, all of which are well hidden in the forest canopy. Even large boardwalks and platforms are supported in such trees, and soil upon them make terrace-like farming in the trees possible. Elves eat little and therefore need little, so such things are possible for them while humans, trying as much, probably couldn't swing it.

Elves are excellent craftsmen, and they excel in the arts working in wood, rope, and the more valuable metals like silver, gold, and mithral. Their weapons, tools, and clothing are often colorful and decorated and are quite elegant as well as practical. But they readily trade with dwarves since those stout artisans excel in stone, crystal, and baser metals such as iron, steel, and also mithral (though they use such metal to make weapons while elves would rather use it to make magic jewelry, or sometimes the fabled elven chainmail or magical metal tips for the best arrows).

Finally, adult elves do not really sleep, or at least need to sleep, though they may. Most often, however, they engage in a trancelike meditation - called the Reverie - for 4 hours, which gives them similar benefits that humans would get only with 8 hours of sleep. Unless particularly busy, however, many elves also take a meditative break, or sort of siesta at some point rather than work a straight 20 hours. Thus, they frequently break up the day with two 2-hour Reveries, and work for 10 hours after each one.

Though adult elves may sleep, after their first century of life, they usually don't - unless severely wounded or sick. It takes about one hundred years for the elf to master the mental discipline of the Reverie. Individuals of others races may attain this mental discipline for 3 skill points, though monks may attain it for a single additional skill point.

The Reverie, or Revery, is a trancelike state most adult elves put themselves in once or twice a day. Instead of sleeping, the body, mind, soul and/or spirit rejuvenates themselves while in this contemplative state of mind. Such meditations usually last from 2 to 8 hours - though most last 3 to 4 hours. As such, if an adult elf does this twice a day - about once every 10 hours of wakefulness - they can remain mentally sharp. If done only once/day and for about 4 hours' time, the elf is only fully mentally alert for about 16 hours, and the last 4 hours, though productive, would be less than optimal.

While in a Reverie, the elf may contemplate happy memories, problems, or future plans, and remain semi-alert to their surroundings. They remain, however, motionless during this restful time, unless roused by necessity, and any Reverie less than 2 hours in length isn't particularly restful or restorative. Some humans, dwarves, and individuals of other races may attain this talent - particularly monks - though usually only after years of discipline.

(Add these if your PC's race is ELVEN, no matter what subrace of elf they may be)

(Also consult each racial subsection for further possible adjustments)

+2 DEX
-2 CON

Medium Size
Base Speed 30 feet.

Immunity to Sleep spells and similar magical effects
+2 racial saving throw bonus against Enchantment spells or effects.

Low-Light Vision: Elves see twice as far as a human does in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. They retain the ability to distinguish colors even then, and in better illumination, often have superior color vision to most humans, being able to distinguish more shades of colors than most. Elves get a -1 bonus to the DC of spotting forgeries and artistic frauds because of this heightened color sense, spotting subtle differences in shades of ink or paint many humans cannot detect even under the best illumination. (Only Drow do NOT have Low-Light Vision, and instead have Dark Vision).

+2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot Check rolls. Any elf that passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if they were actively searching for the door.

(Add these if your PC grew up in a HIGH ELVEN culture)

Proficient with either longsword or rapier.
Proficient with short bow, longbow, composite longbow, and composite short bow. Elven culture is steeped in the traditions of swordplay and archery, so all elves are familiar with these weapons no matter their class.

Languages: Elven and Common. They may also choose from: Archaic, draconic, Gnollish, Gnomish, Goblin, Orcish, and Sylvan.

Favored Class: +500 XP to the class of Wizard at 1st level IF this is their first class.


Also commonly known as Sea Elves, this subrace of elves lives under the sea (usually salt water oceans near shore on the continental shelf and in waters only 20 to 50 feet deep, though some fresh water varieties have been known who live in inland lakes or even vast underdark fresh water seas).

Sea elves cavort with marine life such as dolphins and whales and they will often protect one another as they have common enemies, such as sharks or Sahuagin (sea devils).

Sea elves normally have greenish skin sometimes with shimmering traces of silver, and their hair ranges from deep blue to kelp green. Fingers and toes are webbed, and they frequently carry tridents and spears and employ nets quite effectively.

(Add these if your PC's race is AQUATIC ELVEN)

-1 INT
+1 CON

SWIM 40 feet
Gills: Sea elves can survive out of water for one hour per point of CON (after that, consult suffocation rules on page 88 in the DMG).

Sea elves reach majority in 100 years and usually live to about 575 or so. Some as old as 775 years have been known.

(Add these if your PC grew up in an AQUATIC ELVEN culture)



Languages: In addition to knowing Elven, they may also learn any intelligent aquatic species' language.

Favored Class: +500 XP to the class of FIGHTER at 1st level IF this is their first class.


Also known as Dark Elves or Black Elves, Drow are a depraved and normally evil subterranean race of elves. They have jet-black skin, pale hair, and vivid red eyes. Actually, their hair is clear, like that of a polar bear's, but the trapped molecules of air between these clear filaments reflect the entire spectrum, and thus their hair most often appears white, just like a polar bear's.

(Add these if your PC's race is DROW ELVEN)

+1 INT
-1 CHA (Males) or +2 CHA (Females).

Spell Resistance 11 + class level

+2 to Will Saves vs. spells and spell-like effects.

Dark Vision: Drow see up to 120 feet in the dark, in varying shades of black and white. (Remember, Drow do NOT also have low-light vision)

Light Blindness: Abrupt exposure to bright light (sun light or day light spells, for example) blinds drow for 1 round. In addition, they suffer a -1 circumstance penalty to all attack rolls, saves, and checks while in such bright light.

(Add these if your PC grew up in a DROW ELVEN culture)

Spell-Like Abilities: 1/day - Dancing Lights, Darkness, and Faerie Fire. These abilities are as the spells cast by a sorcerer of the drow's character level.

They may have poisoned arrows which, if they hit, the victim must make a fortitude save (DC 17) or fall unconscious. After one minute, they make another save, but if they fail this time, they remain unconscious for 2d4 hours.

Languages: Drow speak Underdark and Common, but they also may know Elven and other subterranean languages.

Favored Class: +500 XP to the class of WIZARD at 1st level IF this is their first class and they are male. +500 XP to the class of CLERIC at 1st level IF this is their first class and they are female. Such clerics worship Lolth, usually, and have the domains: Chaos, Destruction, Evil, and Trickery.


Gray Elves are also known as Mountain elves, and sometimes even cloud elves or sky elves as you could easily find them living with cloud giants or storm giants. Most other elves consider gray elves to be aloof and arrogant, quite reclusive, and dislike their strong isolationist tendencies. Mountain citadels are where they are most often found, if found at all, for their locations are secret and well hidden. There, they mediate and contemplate life, the universe, and the planes of existence, especially in regards to magic. They are far less passionate than high elves and take a more neutral stance on most subjects, quite similar in philosophy to the druids of the lands below, though on a more cosmic scale. Gray elves are said to be the best astronomers around, though they do not engage in the art of astrology. Yet, they do partake in a similar study concerning the confluence of signs regarding the planes and their harmonious resonance, and a sort of numerology, claiming many numbers have cosmic significance, such as the most holy of numbers, 42. They refuse to explain further. It is said the more advanced of their ilk have an unnatural access to the ethereal and astral planes of existence, though this may be simple rumor.

Gray elves appear to be noble, regal, and taller than other elves, with silver or pale golden hair and eyes of amber or violet. They prefer white clothing, yellow, or gold, with cloaks of deep purple or blue.

Gray elves reach majority in 150 years, live around 700 years, and might get as old as 1000.

(Add these if your PC's race is GRAY ELVEN)

-2 STR
+2 INT

(Add these if your PC grew up in a GRAY ELVEN culture)

-1 CHA

Languages: Elven and Common. They may also learn: Archaic, Giantish, draconic, Celestial, or others the DM allows.

Favored Class: +500 XP to the class DIVINER (specialist school of magic) at 1st level IF this is their first class. Furthermore, +5% for all xp gained toward THIS class only. If they ever multiclass or violate the prohibitions for this school of magic, they lose this 5% bonus.


Also called wood elves, this subrace of elves live in the deepest of forests, usually far away from human lands.

Their hair is coppery red or golden yellow, and they appear to be more muscular than most other elven subraces. Wood elves prefer clothing in shades of green and earth tones to better hide in their natural surroundings.

Wood elves reach majority at 140, live around 550 to 600 years, though some have reached as much as 750 to 775 years old.

(Add these if your PC's race is SYLVAN ELVEN)

+2 STR
-1 INT
-1 CHA (Basic distrust of almost anyone).

(Add these if your PC grew up in a SYLVAN ELVEN culture)

Profession: Hunter, OR Bowyer/Fletcher (Pick one for free).

Favored Class: +500 XP to the class of RANGER at 1st level IF this is their first class.


A barbaric offshoot of high elves - perhaps a cross between high elves and wood elves, or maybe even partially of draconic lineage - these elves are wild, untamed, and known as the Grugach, a tribal collection of darker, brown skinned elves that live mostly in desert, arctic-like, or deep tropical conditions.

Wild elves reach majority in 100 years, typically live to be around 400, but some as old as 500 have been known.

(Add these if your PC's race is WILD ELVEN)

-1 INT
+1 CHA (A natural, silver tongued charm of sorts)

Favored Class: +5% for all xp gained toward the class of SORCERER only, even if they multiclass. This is racial, not cultural, and must be taken as their first class (or it will be assumed they do not have any draconic blood).

(Add these if your PC grew up in a WILD ELVEN culture)

Languages: Common, Elven, draconic. They may also learn : Archaic, Sylvan, or other languages the DM allows.

Favored Class: +500 XP to the class of BARBARIAN at 1st level IF this is their first class. If they are a barbarian, they may not have the draconic language.

© February of 2002
James L.R. Beach
Waterville, MN 56096