My son has recently started playing D&D 5e and he asked me to play. I played back in the early to mid 80's with the 1st edition.

I am really excited to play again but wanted to find out about character creation in regards to the history and lore of the races. Is there a place to find this info? I found the Wood Elf article on the Forgotten Realms wikia, but am after more in-depth information to help flesh out out a half-elf ranger that has a wood elf father and human mother.

Just looking for sources so my character has a good history and background.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you interested in general lore of the races, or lore on a specific race(s) (ie. Wood elf and human lore). \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    May 30, 2018 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since I am interested in a half-elf with wood elf and human parents I would like more on both those races. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2018 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Users here, I'm sure, would be happy to trace for you the entirety of the lore of wood elf-human relations as they've been presented in 5e material, but it may be more important to ask your son what campaign setting he's using so that your character's background fits with it. Once you know that—whether the setting's homebrew or the Realms or Greyhawk or something further afield—I'm certain the site can help even more. Thank you for participating and welcome back to the hobby! \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2018 at 22:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is related to this other question, but I don't think it's a dupe. \$\endgroup\$ May 31, 2018 at 15:20

3 Answers 3


The best resource for D&D elves, in my opinion, isn't any book at all, but rather afroakuma’s So You Want to Play an Elf. He is probably the foremost expert on D&D lore on the internet (at least, of those who don’t work for Wizards of the Coast), and his work incorporates decades’ worth of lore from the first, second, and third editions of D&D.

To be sure, his article on elves incorporates his own ideas not mentioned—at least explicitly, in these terms—in any D&D book. But they are extensions of the existing lore, and pains have been taken to make sure it is all official-compatible.

And, as mentioned, it doesn’t include material from fourth or fifth edition. Again, things are more-or-less compatible, and earlier editions had far more material than either of those do at this point, but some care might be necessary on some details if, say, playing with a 5e purist.

But the details are, honestly, the least important part, to me. And if your son has just started playing, there is a good chance he’s not a purist. So I think this article can be immensely inspiring for you.

In particular, the concept of short time and long time is the best idea I have ever seen for explaining elf mentality, and how their longevity affects them. It asks an elf to be more than just a snooty, tree-hugging human, but instead actually different. So that is the part I want to most highlight, though all of it is great.

The most crucial element to understanding an elf's mindset, though, is to understand long-time and short-time. The elf brain does not perceive time and receive information in the same fashion that most other humanoids do; elves live much of their adult life in a pseudo-trance known as long-time, in which they can idle away days or weeks at a time without devoting significant mental focus to anything. As creatures with a lifespan measured in centuries, elves have a lot of time available to waste on getting things right, and long-time is the biological mechanism that allows them to do it.

An elf is in long-time whenever there is nothing stressful that requires true focus. Elves in long-time can eat, drink, read, play music, craft woodwork or even hunt game or fight goblins if they are sufficiently at ease with the task at hand. A sort of mental auto-pilot, long-time supplements the elven need to trance by allowing elves to keep their minds at ease while developing muscle memory and picking up on subtle nuances and details that stand out as relevant. Elves in long-time can devote themselves to a given pursuit for anywhere from a week to several years without even having to notice what they are doing. Long-time is a fluid, waking dream; peaceful, functional and allowing the acquisition of experience over a long period of time. Elves can do many things while in long-time, but unless stressed, they will not be devoting the necessary focus to noticing much of what they're about.

This long-time is a deeper explanation for elves’ “harmony with nature” and how they can spend so long doing things that other races do more quickly, efficiently, and brutishly—elves naturally perfect their actions, not to maximize their effectiveness, but for grace and harmony.

It’s also why elves can seem so annoyed by other races—long-time tends to be impossible around those who cannot experience it.

The other crucial thing about elves that afro emphasizes—and this is more directly from D&D lore—is the fall of Araushnee/Lolth. That Lolth is a fallen elf goddess is well-known, but what is often forgotten is that she was the elf goddess of passion and destiny.

Now that she has reclaimed her divinity, Lolth still controls a twisted version of her old portfolio but rarely exercises it. The loss of Araushnee's portfolio has been a direct contributor to the stagnation and slow decline of the elven people, and one that Corellon cannot rectify. The only hope for the elves lies in finding those whose essence was not scoured - the few who were taken by Gruumsh when he stole away the Misty Isle.

This too goes a long way to explaining elves, their almost passive contentment, and their ceaseless hatred for Lolth and her drow.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The "long time" concept is interesting, but... is it found in or directly supported by any official materials? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jun 1, 2018 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nope. That's all me. It's also not directly contradicted. \$\endgroup\$
    – afroakuma
    Jun 1, 2018 at 3:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm I would comment that, though the idea is afro’s own, it or something like it is kind of hinted at by the elves’ described nature, personality, and culture, not to mention the trance ability. To me, at least, when I read it, all the things about elves that I’d read that never really made much sense suddenly “clicked,” because now there was this explanation for them. So I would say it goes a step beyond “not directly contradicted.” I would say it’s a kind of synthesis of things that have been stated in official materials, an explanation for things we do know. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 1, 2018 at 3:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Long-time also neatly explains how a 100-year-old elf can still be level 1. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2018 at 7:59

Your best bet is the published books. If you don't already have it, the Players Handbook has the basic history/lore for the races.

If you've got a bit more cash-to-splash, you can pick up the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide or Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. These are both "expansion" books that further detail the races.

I would recommend starting with the PHB, maybe moving onto the Tome of Foes if you really want to get into the history and the origins of races. The Tome of Foes has fantastic lore for the Elves and Dwarves especially.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, I am sure my son may be asking for more book. Currently we have the DMG, PHB and MM and the starter set. \$\endgroup\$ May 30, 2018 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Those are the core books, and having them is a fantastic start. If you're specifically after information about Half-Elves or Wood-Elves, I'd recommend looking into Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes. It covers the origin of Elves, their way of life, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kadin
    May 30, 2018 at 22:15

Here are some earlier resources that still have lore value.

Cormyr (1996)

This Forgotten Realms novel gives an excellent sense of the background and psychology of elves, including their patience, longevity, capacity for violence, interactions with humans, and how they treat half-elves. You should be able to find this book cheaply used on Amazon.

The Complete Book of Elves (1992)

An AD&D 2nd edition book on elves. None of the game rules apply to 5th edition, but the first half of this book is full of D&D lore and ideas about elves.


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