- See also: Sylvan elf
Wood elves, also known as copper elves, or Or-tel-quessir were the most populous of the elven races. Wood elves saw themselves as guardians of the Tel-quessir forest homes that were largely abandoned after the Crown Wars and before the Retreat, but unlike most elves they did not view themselves as a people apart from the rest of Faerûn.
Wood elves were easily identifiable by their coppery skin and green, brown, or hazel eyes. Wood elven hair was usually black or brown, although hues such as blond or copper red were also found. Wood elves tended to dress in simple clothes, similar to those of the moon elves but with fewer bold colors and a greater number of earth tones that blended into their natural surroundings. Accustomed to a harsh, naturalistic lifestyle, wood elves loved to wear leather armor, even when they were not under immediate threat. Wood elves were roughly identical to other elves in height and build, with males larger than females.
As a people, wood elves were largely seen as calm and level-headed. Arousing strong emotions in wood elves was not something that was easily done, although many did have a strong aversion for large cities, having lost the passion for urbanization after the fall of Earlann. To wood elves, the trappings of civilization, including the mightiest of fortresses or tallest walls, were transient and impermanent things that would eventually be overcome by the long processes of nature. To many, this attitude seemed condescending, weakening the bonds between wood elves and other races. Additionally, wood elves could sometimes seem off-putting compared to other Tel-quessir, with a gruff manner that made them less charismatic, despite their avowed compassion and humility.
Wood elven romantic and sexual relationships were often polyamorous in nature, members of the race freely engaging or ceasing relations with new partners. Feelings of jealousy and possessiveness were as a result viewed by the race as reasons for teasing or mockery. As a result of these perspectives on love, high elves often believed that any relationships engaged with wood elves would be destined to fail from the start.
Wood elves considered themselves the heirs of the ancient elven empires established prior to the Crown Wars, but they shared few of the cultural characteristics that marked such early realms as Aryvandaar and Ilythiir. Although a proud people, wood elves felt that compassion was a greater virtue than strength and wood elven realms were less concerned with expansion than they were with maintaining amiable relations with their neighbors. Wood elves were not nomadic, however, as was common amongst the wild elves and instead they were organized into scattered, carefully concealed villages united under a gerontocratic hierarchy composed of village councils consisting of the most distinguished families' eldest members. These councils were often advised by local druids, whose influence played no small part in wood elven politics and who frequently served as the webbing that bound any number of villages together as one realm.
Compared with other Tel-quessir, wood elves had a notable disinterest in the arcane arts. To a wood elf, the wizard's spells were little different from the mason's castle walls or the tiller's plow—a means of controlling the natural world, which was contrary to the common ethic of living in harmony with nature rather than trying to dominate it that so many wood elves espoused. As such, wood elven adventurers were more likely to take on careers that did not require the use of arcane magic. In particular, many were drawn to the path of the fighter, the ranger, or the rogue, relying on their natural-born skill to overcome obstacles. Compared with other Tel-quessir very few wood elves went on to become spellsingers or bladesingers. The one major exception to the wood elven taboo on arcane magic was the arcane archers, who counted among their number several wood elves. Other wood elves from more remote areas were drawn to the ways of the barbarian while many religious wood elves became druids with clerics often seen in much the same light as wizards. Those wood elves who did become clerics might eventually become hierophants. Many wood elven adventurers also became Harpers.
Art and Leisure
Wood elves commonly felt that they were in harmony with their natural surroundings and an examination of their art helped to justify this belief. While wood elves did not wander like wild animals as the wild elves did, wood elves did their best to have a minimal impact on their natural surroundings, a fact reflected in their architecture. Frequently, wood elven homes were made of natural fieldstone or carefully furnished wood, but on occasion wood elves were known to do without even these creature comforts, living in the limbs of mighty trees or sheltered caves, rejecting furniture or any possessions they couldn't carry with them. So close did wood elven villages resemble their surroundings that humans were occasionally known to wander through one without even noticing. Increased contact with other races since the end of the Retreat caused some of these cultural practices to come into question but for the large part the wood elves of the 14th century DR lived much the same as their ancestors did.
In keeping with their naturalistic inclination, wood elves were not particularly fine metalworkers and had no interest in developing any such skills. However, wood elves were among some of the world's finest carpenters and stoneworkers, masters in the crafting of bows and arrows as well as in leather tanning. Wood elves even developed a number of specialized arrows, including those that flew further than usual as well as some that were used as signal devices. So carefully guarded were wood elven crafting secrets that even experienced fletchers from other races had difficulty emulating wood elven designs. Wood elven leather armor also often doubled as camouflage, disguising a wood elven hunter from potential enemies. Compared with wild elven designs, wood elven crafting often looked surprisingly elegant, although they were often made of the same materials and used similar methods, reflecting some of the differences between the two elven subraces.
While wood elves felt it better to have a minimal impact on their surroundings, the race had no particular aversion to meat-eating and were passionate hunters. Many hours of a typical wood elf's life were spent on the hunt, which was both a practical activity and a pleasurable one. Most of the time that wood elves were not hunting they were enjoying themselves at ease within the highest branches of their forest homes. Wood elves did not, however, commonly keep pets, but instead formed bonds with local wildlife in a manner similar to those of a ranger. Wood elves were particularly fond of mountain lions, pumas, and leopards.
Magic and Religion
Wood elves were generally uncomfortable with most forms of magic, viewing wizards and other arcane spellcasters with no small amount of distrust. Clerics and other divine spellcasters fared little better in wood elven eyes, who saw their prayers as a useless call to distant and alien gods. However, wood elves were largely at ease with the ways of the primal magic used by druids, barbarians, and shamans, which they felt was the truest expression of supernatural power—or rather, a reflection of nature itself, used to protect the wilderness. However, wood elves were not completely adverse to arcane magic and wood elven bards, sorcerers, and wizards were far from unknown, although wood elves as a whole had no particular tradition of the Art.
Like other Tel-quessir, the wood elves largely worshiped the Seldarine, but unlike their kin, they did not do so exclusively. Many wood elves had a special place in their heart for the gods Silvanus and Mielikki, whose protection of the wilderness was something the wood elves themselves tried to espouse. Among the elven gods, the wood elves most commonly worshiped Solonor Thelandira and Rillifane Rallathil, who, like Silvanus and Mielikki, had particular connections to the untamed wilderness. Solonor, as the god of archery, was perhaps the most popular god amongst the wood elves, who would sometimes invoke him as their protector and patron deity just prior to a battle.
Relations with Other Races
Although a proud people themselves, wood elves often felt that their Tel-quessir kindred, such as the Ar-Tel-Quessir, too often put on an air of superiority and xenophobia that was ultimately detrimental. Wood elves looked to the examples of the ancient elven empires and, seeing failure after failure, felt that their aim should be compassion and humility, rather than political or military strength. Unlike many of their kin, wood elves felt that their fates were inextricably tied to those of Faerûn's other races and they made no effort to pull away or isolate themselves. Ironically, so reclusive were wood elven settlements that, despite their open nature, wood elves rarely actually saw people from outside their race.
Of all the humanoid races of Faerûn, the ones most familiar with the wood elves were the humans and dwarves native to the North, who often lived within the vicinity of the fey. Still, few humans or dwarves had ever actually met a wood elf and when they did it was often largely by chance. However, when meetings did occur, they were largely friendly and, like the moon elves, wood elves saw themselves as allies and teachers of humanity, rather than as rivals. Wood elves also had a long tradition of friendship with the shield dwarves of Ammarindar, dating back to the reign of Earlann, which carried on into the present.
Wood elves also felt a kinship with the sapient giant owls, with whom they formed a symbiotic relationship. In return for the elves acting as protectors for the owls, the birds of prey often acted as advance scouts for wood elven warriors.
Gnomes and halflings were less frequent guests among the wood elves, but they were generally seen favorably. Conversely, wood elves, like most Tel-quessir, had a strong contempt for orcs, as well as for gnolls, though their reasons were less about the ancient enmity between Corellon and Gruumsh and more out of the devastation that raiding parties often brought to the forests that wood elves held dear.
Wood elves were the last of the elven subraces to appear on Faerûn, though not through the same method as the other subraces. The wood elves were actually native to Faerûn, the descendants of wild elves, moon elves, and sun elves who decided to retreat to their deepest woodland sanctuaries after the last of the Crown Wars. Unlike the majority of the dispossessed survivors of the Crown Wars, who abandoned their homelands and went on to found new kingdoms elsewhere, the ancestors of the wood elves stuck to their ancestral holdings and swore to never wage war on their kin again. While not following the same path as the wild elves, they formed tightly knit, networked communities, leaving behind high magic and becoming closer to nature. It was from the interbreeding between these peoples that the wood elves emerged.
In the eastern High Forest, the wood elves founded the realm of Earlann around −4700 DR. There, they befriended the dwarves of Delzoun and later taught the Netherese about magic, a decision they would later have reason to regret. Following the Netherese discovery of the Nether Scrolls, Netheril blossomed into a mighty empire that soon overshadowed the elves who had helped it find its feet. The elves of Earlann were worried about this sudden rise in power and attempted to subtly check the humans' pride and expansionism for centuries. Their efforts would be undone when Karsus attempted to gain godhood and failed, causing the death of Mystryl, the fall of Netheril, and the eventual fall of the first empire of Illefarn. Taking responsibility for Netheril's beleaguered people, the wood elves allowed many of the empire's refugees to settle in Ascalhorn.
For a time, peace reigned in Earlann but once again the folly of the nation's human allies brought disaster. In 882 DR, a mass summoning of devils by Ascalhorn's mages backfired, resulting in the conquest of the city by the fiends. A year later, after a long struggle against the devils of Ascalhorn that severely weakened the nation, Earlann fell to a horde of conquering orcs.
Earlann was the last of its kind and no new wood elven nations arose since its fall, though attempts had been made before the mid–14th century DR. Instead, wood elves largely kept to the lands they already inhabited, fortifying their position rather than expanding into new territories. The wood elves ignored the call of the Retreat, staying on the mainland to look after their small villages and protect their forests. When the Retreat ended, they emerged once more as a people devoted to protecting their native forests. Although some wood elves still dreamt of restoring Earlann, they felt that they had learned their lessons and so sought to avoid the empire-building of their kin or of humans, instead maintaining a strong, but largely non-aggressive, role in regional geopolitics.
Wood elves were the most common of the elves in Faerûn and could be found in many scattered groups across the continent. Many could be found in the Elven Court (Semberholme, Tangled Trees, and the old Elven Court itself), the Great Dale, Tethyr, the Western Heartlands, the Forest of Lethyr, the High Forest, and the Wealdath.
Behind the Scenes
In 1st and 2nd editions, wild elves and wood elves were considered to be one sub-race, the difference merely being one of naming, with "wild elf" being considered somewhat derogatory, much like calling a moon elf, "grey elf". At this time, the entire race was often referred to as sylvan elves, as well as copper elves and green elves. The elven name for themselves was Sy-Tel-Quessir and it was not entirely clear whether this continued to apply to both of the new sub-divisions, or only one and, if so, which one. Given the earlier materials' physical descriptions, it would seem that the originally described sub-race is what 3rd edition referred to as "wood elves".
In 4th edition, wood elves and wild elves were revised once again to become separate cultures of the single race known as "elves". Other elven subraces were categorized under other labels.
The Player's Handbook 5th edition appears to further consolidate wood elves and wild elves in its description of their xenophobia, "In Faerûn, wood elves (also called wild elves, green elves, or forest elves) are reclusive and distrusting of non-elves." However, it only lists three elven subraces—dark elves (drow), high elves, and wood elves—and future books may further divide the elven subraces.
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- Obsidian Entertainment (October 2006). Designed by Ferret Baudoin, J.E. Sawyer. Neverwinter Nights 2. Atari.
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Aquatic Elves: Aquatic elf • Marel
Dark Elves: Dark elf • Drow
Sylvan Elves: Wild elf • Wood elf
Miscellaneous: Avariel • Dusk elf • Lythari • Poscadar elf • Snow elf
Planetouched: Celadrin • Draegloth • Eladrin • Fey'ri • Shadar-kai
Humanblood: Crinti • Half-elf • Half-drow • Half-sea elf
Dragonblood: Drow-dragon (shadow) • Drow-dragon (deep) • Zekyl • Zar'ithra
Miscellaneous: Drider • Maraloi