Saturday, August 6, 2022

Elves, the City People

Elves are the city-dwellers, the colonial conquerors from beyond the ocean sea.  They came a century ago in their great ships and established outposts of empire here in the North.  Now the empire is gone, but a few colonies remain, citadels of power and wealth.


Elves (cazandi cah-ZAHN-dee in their own tongue) are primates from a hot and dry continent.  They are taller and thinner than humans, with long spindly limbs and digits.  Outsiders cannot recognize any distinctions of gender among them.  Their skin tends toward dark, earthy shades of gray and brown, but their eye colors are brilliant gem tones.


Playing as a cazand one must be careful.  Elves are weaker and more easily injured than most people, and are unskilled at running and throwing.  But what they lack in physical prowess they make up for in wealth and connections.  An elven character starts with more money, access to more technology, and membership in the organizations of colonial society.

If you're looking for some roleplaying tips, here's how I like to make a character feel more cazandi:

  • Always be polite, especially when being cruel.
  • When in doubt, do it by the book and the ancestors wrote a book for everything. 

An elven adventuring party likely has a name, an emblem, elected officers, and written bylaws, with specific provisions for what happens if a member dies and the proper ritual for inducting a new member into the group.


    Elves are a eusocial species: only a few of them, the Mothers and Fathers, actually reproduce.  Each city is like a vast extended family, all descended from the city's lineage of Mothers.

    Within the city, each cazand is part of several different overlapping societies: a guild or company where they make their living, a fraternal order where they share a morning meal, a temple maintenance society where they work together for the upkeep of one of the city's shrines, an alumni association for the cohort of schoolmates they were raised with, and so on.

    They subsist mostly on bread and vegetable products, but they do also eat fish and a few types of meat.  Elves are the only people capable of digesting milk as adults, so they keep livestock for dairy products.

    Technologically, they're at the level of muskets, telescopes, and joint stock corporations.  Most elves can read and write.

    Their cities are usually on the coast or on rivers, as they use ships for most of their commerce.  They have some draft animals to pull wagons (oxen, donkeys, and even a few surviving elephants) but they do not generally ride animals.  In the cities you might run across an elf with a tally bird, a sort of domesticated parrot that can count and do basic arithmetic.

    In extreme conditions of drought or heat, elves can go into hibernation, seeming nearly dead until conditions improve and they wake again.

    Other People

    The typical elven view of the other species of people is deeply racist and condescending:

    • Giants are like some kind of intelligent livestock.  Strong and useful, and even possible to educate if you're patient.  Occasionally giants have been known to revolt, for some reason.
    • Humans are fearsome enemies, preventing the colonies from making full use of the countryside.  They're treacherous and primitive, but sometimes you have to make concessions to keep the peace.
    • Goblins are vermin at best, deadly threats to travelers at worst.  The forests cannot be trusted, full of goblin ambushers ready to attack with teeth and claws.

    Those kinds of views are common in the cities where cazandi only deal with other cazandi.  But out on the frontier where the Four Peoples meet, you learn to get along or you find yourself getting in trouble.


    Elves in this setting take the role of the European colonial powers in the New World.  As such, I've styled them after a mix of some of Old World aesthetics: Mughal architecture and textiles, Mediterranean galleons and xebecs, English hats and coats, etc.

    Their language is meant to sound vaguely Romance without being from anywhere specific, like it's wearing the coat of Catalan or Old French, but underneath it's something entirely different.


    1. I love how every couple months you just drop a successive series of banger posts all in one go.

    2. Oooh, sweet to see an update of their old entry