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Elf

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Elf
Merisiel, iconic elven rogue.
(Creature)

Type
CR
By class level
Environment
Any land
Alignment
Adjective
Elven
Source: Player Core, pg(s). 46–49
SFW compass rose 150.png

This article might have further canon details available on StarfinderWiki.

Despite the fact that elves1 are among the most common of Golarion's humanoid ancestries, their culture's influence on the world was stronger thousands of years ago prior to many of them escaping to Sovyrian to avoid Earthfall. Those who returned have been unable to reclaim their ancestral home on Golarion from demonic invasion during their absence;23 those who remained through the Age of Darkness and the world's renaissance consider themselves their kind's true descendants of Golarion.4

The elves on modern Golarion are largely concentrated in the wholly elven nation of Kyonin, the island of Mordant Spire in the Steaming Sea, the Mwangi Expanse, and the wilds of Varisia,5 as well as smaller nations and groups of elves that include Jinin in Tian Xia,67 the Ilverani elves of the Crown of the World,84 the Vourinoi elves of Osirion,4 and the Ayindilar elves of the underground Darklands.9

Appearance

Elves are on average taller3 and more slender10 than humans, with relatively fragile, elongated features and a natural grace. They have colored pupils that fill most or all of their wide, rounded eyes in a manner unlike the other ancestries of Golarion.3

Their colouration varies largely based on their environment; for instance, the skin of an elf who has long dwelled in deserts might be golden-hued. The same is often true about their hair, eyes, and other physical features.3 Eye color is generally bright green or dark blue, sometimes ranging to nearly black, but it is their irises that differentiate them from others. These are far larger than those of other humanoids, often making it seem like they have little or no white in their eyes. This trait can make elves seem alien and unreadable to humans and dwarves.35 Elven ears are generally between six to nine inches in length and point backwards, angling upwards slightly to end usually parallel to the crown of the head.5

Elves tend to reach physical adulthood by their 20th year but are considered mature by their kin as they reach 100. The average elf's lifespan is approximately 600 years.3

Personality

Elves tend to be patient and insightful, with a strong intellectual curiosity and sense of wonder. They tend to value freedom,10 privacy, individualism, and flexibility, allowing themselves many pursuits before finding a well-suited passion. They are slow to make friends and rarely share their true family name, preferring to have at least one nickname ready to provide when meeting strangers.3

Elves might also form strong rivalries, the targets of which they refer to as ilduliel, though such a relationship can still eventually soften even into friendship.3

Most other ancestries believe that elves are content to live out their lives in quiet contemplation in the same place they were born. Even though this is true for some, there are many others who naturally develop wanderlust and wish to experience the world and all of its differences.11

Adventurers

Many elves adventure out of their love of freedom10 and travel to find beauty and discover new things. Elves often become rangers or rogues, taking advantage of their dexterity, or alchemists or wizards, exploring their intellectual curiosity.12

History

Early history

The history of the elves is an ancient one. Elven historians debate whether their race originated on Golarion or on Sovyrian, a continent in southern Castrovel, but archaeological evidence points to El, the oldest city on Sovyrian, to be far older than any evidence of elves on Golarion; they likely emigrated from Castrovel to Golarion in the late Age of Serpents and had no contact with the declining serpentfolk empire that had once ruled a large part of Golarion.1314

Their civilization on Golarion reached its peak during the Age of Legend, long before humans founded their first settled communities.1516 Little evidence remains of this prehistoric elven presence, although it is clear that they were among the first civilizations to rise on Golarion17 and clashed with alghollthus.10

Early expansionist human cultures soon came into conflict with the elves in their reach to grasp ever more of the world, including Azlant.10 The elves turned their attention away from Golarion and focused on exploring the other nearby planets, traveling across vast distances through a series of interplanetary portals known as aiudara, or elf gates.15

When their diviners and astronomers discovered that Earthfall would soon destroy Golarion, many departed through these gates to their homeland of Sovyrian, where they remained in isolation for thousands of years.15 Some remained on the surface of Golarion, including the Ilverani, Mualijae, and Vourinoi elves.18197 Others descended into the Darklands to escape; the Ayindilar elves remain there to this day,9 and the elves of modern-day Jinin followed veins of dawnsilver through the Darklands to emerge in Tian Xia.7

An elven town in Kyonin.

The elves' return

In 2632 AR elves began their return from Sovyrian, sensing a threat to the Sovyrian Stone that powered the portal connecting the Castrovelian nation to Golarion.10 The elves fought against and reclaimed much of their ancient holdings in Kyonin from Treerazer, a nascent demon lord who sought to corrupt the Sovyrian Stone into becoming a portal to the Outer Rifts.2010

The elves' return also caused tumult with human warlords who did not recognize their claims of ownership on these lands.15

Society and culture

Language

Elves speak Elven, but have learned that being fluent in Common tongues such as Taldane, Tien, and Mwangi is quite useful.5 Elven is believed to be among the oldest, if not the oldest, of the languages mortals speak on Golarion. Scholars conjecture that it was formed when elven speakers of the Fey language tried to introduce grammatical rules and vocabulary from both Empyrean and Draconic.21 The elven alphabet contains 33 letters (24 consonants and nine vowels).22 It is a complex language, but sounds poetic in tone and cadence.23

An elven druid.

Professions

Elves are renowned for their beautiful artwork and crafts, and excel as tailors, herbalists, spice traders, perfumers, artists, cartographers, and beauticians. Most elves who live in non-elven communities earn their living as artisans.5

Religion

Although elves will worship any deity that strikes their fancy, the large majority worship the goddesses Calistria, Desna, and Shelyn;3 some worship Nethys, or even more rarely the various empyreal lords.5 They tend to have a less formal relationship with the divine, seeing the gods as general inspiration and avoid being beholden to the particulars of dogma.2

However, religious elves can be just as passionate as any of the other major ancestries of the Inner Sea region. Pharasma is a popular goddess among Forlorn elves, most likely because of the number of deaths they witness during their long lifetime among the shorter-lived races.24 The Mordant Spire elves also revere Gozreh, the deity of the sea and sky.25

Elven deities

In addition to the worship of the major deities, elves also have a number of minor elven gods who are almost only worshiped by their own kind. These include include Alseta goddess of transitions and the magical elf gates, Findeladlara, the goddess of art and architecture, Ketephys, god of the hunt, and Yuelral the Wise, goddess of crafting and magic.24

Burial customs

Most elves prefer to be buried in natural surroundings, such as being mummified in a bog, or interred in a still forest beneath a small sapling. Because death among the elves is such a long-expected if inevitable event, others prefer to elevate their death by being laid to rest in a stone tomb where others can remember them for all eternity.26

The Brightness

Elves believe that their current life is but one in a series, and that upon death they are reincarnated as another creature. Their ultimate goal is to be reborn as a natural creature of the wild. In pursuit of this they believe that they must find or follow the Brightness, signs and portents which lead them to live a life leading them to their higher destiny.2

The Forlorn

While many elves travel and settle across Golarion, there are distinct differences between elves raised among their kind and those who grow to adulthood in non-elven communities.27 Life among shorter-lived peoples makes these elves aware of others' mortality in a way that is foreign to their more isolated kin, and the resulting melancholy outlook has given them their moniker: the Forlorn.28327

Their lack of laughter and joy finds outlets in darker pursuits, such as trickery, cynicism, anger, and even brutality. Forlorn are generally pitied and looked down upon by other elves, who believe them to be emotionally scarred. Because of their lack of connection with their own kind, Forlorn elves tend to form much stronger friendships. A large portion of adventuring elves are in this group.27

Elven diversity

An Ekujae elf.

Like humans, elves express different cultural groups across Golarion. Unlike humans, elven diversity springs not from common ethnic lineages but is often a result of their adaptation to the various habitats and communities across Golarion.54 Changes in elven physiology generally occur gradually over centuries, but even a single elf's appearance can change dramatically over the course of their lifetime when exposed to a new environment.5

Aiudeen

This is the most common elven ethnicity in the Inner Sea region. Aiudeen are the descendants of the elves who returned to Golarion from Sovyrian in the 27th century AR using the Sovyrian Stone. They are sometimes called "returners" and are considered by the elven ethnicities descended from those who remained on Golarion to be relative newcomers to modern elven culture.4

In much of the Inner Sea region, Aiudeen culture—including its arcana, fashion, and architecture—is synonymous with elven culture. This culture has also been in decline during the millennia since their return, however, as their insular nature and battles against corruption within their prior homelands have limited their openness to the outside world.4

Aquatic elves

These elves have adapted to life underwater, with gills and webbed fingers. They live in cities on the ocean floor.29

Ayindilar

The Ayindilar elves migrated to the Darklands to escape Earthfall and remained there.9

An Ilverani elf.

Ilverani

These snow-skinned elves live among the mountains of the Crown of the World.29 They are insular, refuse to share their true names with outsiders,4 and respect shows of force.30 Only the Findeladlara-worshiping Twilight Speakers among them hold much hospitality toward non-elves.4

Jininese elves

The descendants of a group of elves who split off from the Ayindilar31 during their descent into the Darklands. They traveled east through the cavern systems until they emerged in central Tian Xia, where they founded the nation of Jinin.327

Mordant Spire elves

The elves who live in and around Mordant Spire in the Steaming Sea also refer to themselves as the Spiresworn, and are a subgroup of Aiudeen elves.18 Arrogant and standoffish even towards other elves—speaking nothing but Azlanti and wearing wooden masks—they view themselves as the keepers of the secrets of lost Azlant and guardians against alghollthus, and wish to prevent another cataclysm like Earthfall.27

Mualijae

These jungle-dwelling elves live in the Mwangi Expanse. These elves remained on Golarion when the others fled to Sovyrian and share the dark skin and black hair of the Expanse's humans. The Mualijae long ago split into three distinct subgroups, the largest of which is the Ekujae.29 The other subgroups are the Alijae and the Kallijae.18

Vourinoi

Hospitable and nomadic elves native to the deserts of northern Garund, the Vourinoi worship Desna and have close ties to the Mualijae.19 They are sometimes known as desert elves29 or oasis elves. They settle near Osirion's fertile river valleys and establish settlements near oases.3319

Aiuvarins

The children of elves who reproduce with peoples of other ancestries are known as aiuvarins. Most, though not all, are born to the pairings of elves and humans or to two aiuvarins. Elves tend to underestimate the capabilities of their shorter-lived aiuvarin kin.34

References

Paizo published a Pathfinder Companion sourcebook on elves titled Elves of Golarion.

For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.

  1. The plural of elf is elves, not elfs.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 1: Characters” in Campaign Setting, 8–9. Paizo Inc., 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Logan Bonner, et al. Ancestries & Backgrounds” in Player Core, 46. Paizo Inc., 2023
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Paizo Inc., et al. Elves” in Character Guide, 23. Paizo Inc., 2019
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 25. Paizo Inc., 2011
  6. Saif Ansari, et al. Elves” in Heroes from the Fringe, 11. Paizo Inc., 2018
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Paizo Inc., et al. Elves” in Character Guide, 26. Paizo Inc., 2019
  8. Matthew Goodall, et al. Snowcaster Elves” in People of the North, 8. Paizo Inc., 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 James Jacobs. “Return to the Darklands” in Heavy is the Crown, 69. Paizo Inc., 2023
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 Paizo Inc., et al. Elves” in Character Guide, 22. Paizo Inc., 2019
  11. James Jacobs & Patrick Renie. Jade Regent Player's Guide, 3. Paizo Inc., 2011
  12. Logan Bonner, et al. “2: Ancestries & Backgrounds” in Core Rulebook, 41. Paizo Inc., 2019
  13. Jason Bulmahn, et al. “Mysteries of Golarion” in Occult Mysteries, 8–9. Paizo Inc.,
  14. James L. Sutter. “Chapter 1: The Solar System” in Distant Worlds, 12. Paizo Inc., 2012
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Jason Bulmahn & Erik Mona. Gazetteer, 5. Paizo Inc., 2008
  16. Lissa Guillet & Amber E. Scott. “A Land Divided” in Lands of Conflict, 4. Paizo Inc., 2017
  17. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 211. Paizo Inc., 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Paizo Inc., et al. Elves” in Character Guide, 24. Paizo Inc., 2019
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Paizo Inc., et al. Elves” in Character Guide, 25. Paizo Inc., 2019
  20. Tanya DePass, et al. “Overview” in World Guide, 7. Paizo Inc., 2019
  21. Erik Mona, et al. “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 221. Paizo Inc., 2008
  22. Mike McArtor. “Chapter 4: Secrets” in Guide to Darkmoon Vale, 49. Paizo Inc., 2008
  23. James Jacobs, et al. The Inner Sea World Guide, 251. Paizo Inc., 2011
  24. 24.0 24.1 Sean K Reynolds, et al. Inner Sea Gods, 138. Paizo Inc., 2014
  25. Hal Maclean & Jeff Quick. Elves of Golarion” in Elves of Golarion, 10. Paizo Inc., 2008
  26. James L. Sutter. Kyonin” in A Memory of Darkness, 51. Paizo Inc., 2009
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Hal Maclean & Jeff Quick. Elves of Golarion” in Elves of Golarion, 12. Paizo Inc., 2008
  28. Paizo Inc., et al. Elves” in Character Guide, 27. Paizo Inc., 2019
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Hal Maclean & Jeff Quick. Elves of Golarion” in Elves of Golarion, 13. Paizo Inc., 2008
  30. JD Wiker. “A Memory of Darkness” in A Memory of Darkness, 20. Paizo Inc., 2009
  31. Paizo retroactively removed drow from the Pathfinder campaign setting as part of the Pathfinder Second Edition Remaster Project. A canon replacement for drow in this context might not exist. See Meta:Drow.
  32. James Jacobs, et al. “Regions of the Dragon Empires” in Dragon Empires Gazetteer, 27. Paizo Inc., 2011
  33. Shaun Hocking, et al. “Other Races” in People of the SandsPeople of the Wastes, 14. Paizo Inc., 2014
  34. Logan Bonner, et al. Ancestries & Backgrounds” in Player Core, 82. Paizo Inc., 2023