So! Sorry for not updating as often these days. In truth, I’m simply working on one too many projects at once, and the result is that I keep dropping a few of the proverbial balls I’m juggling. Anyway, I thought I’d share a bit of one of my minor projects. I’m not really sure what I’m making this FOR, I just keep adding a few lines to the idea every now and again. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing more with it. Perhaps turning it into some sort of campaign setting, or a satire. Eh, for now it’s of uncertain completeness, but you might enjoy what I have so far.
The Elven Guide to Humans
Humans are, perhaps, the most dangerous of the species you will encounter outside our forest home. Not in the sense of being universally aggressive or barbaric, like the goblins, orcs and bugbears, but rather they are dangerous in their penchant for extremes. After long centuries of interactions, elven sages have come to the startling conclusion that it is impossible to describe any human ‘baseline average’ on account of this characteristic tendency. As a result, you never know what you are getting into with any two different humans. Some will be immeasurably kind to all, others will make the swift death at the end of an orc’s spear seem the most mundane of cruelties.
It is for this reason that young elves are cautioned against casual association with humans. Without decades of observation, you will find it difficult to predict how any given human might behave. Even so, in a world where the humans are constantly expanding their holdings, the elders understand you might find the need to interact with their kind. If that should happen, this guide should help you survive the encounter.
Humans have, perhaps unsurprisingly given their previously mentioned tendency for extremes, the single largest number of factions of any race. Whereas there are only three true factions of elves, under the King of the West, Queen of the North, and Regent of the Forest, there are some hundreds of human factions. Not even the tribes of orcs and goblins are so divided. Worse still, for any trying to understand them for the first time, are the wildly divergent methods of government, levels of development, and societal norms between any two human settlements, kingdoms, or freeholds. Whereas in our society subtle differences between clothing choice are considered radical differences between the three elven nations, with humans two settlements separated by a bare few miles may possess completely different governments, religions, or social values. Worse yet, they are often violent towards each other on account of these differences, and it is all to easy for a young or inexperienced elf to get caught in the crossfire.
In order to limit the danger of exposure to this aspect of humanity might bring, you are urged to take the following steps.
- Wear only obviously elven clothing, to the point that you might consider it to be a foolish parody of your normal dress. Save in locations where elves are entirely unwelcome (See Appendix 3-C) most humans will assume you are simply ignorant of local custom or standards of propriety. In the case of more prudish settlements, you may be pressured to wear local clothing that covers more skin (Assuming you are Western or Forest elf). Doing so is fine, and will endear you to the locals. Remember, however, to change back to your elven clothing the moment you leave sight of the city, just in case the next town has a radically different set of standards.
- Do not express opinions on the local government. Not on either it’s type, or it’s behavior. Doing so will get wildly varied and impossible to predict reactions from any given human group. Seriously. Don’t do it. You’ll regret it.
- Under no circumstances should you attempt to side with a local opinion on social issues. Accepting quests to destroy necromancers and other obvious evil is fine, taking missions to support a particular political faction is generally unwise.
- Try to avoid expressing religious views, even once you know which faith the locals follow.
- It is inadvisable to sleep with any of the local population. No matter their willingness or attractiveness, and regardless of their age or marital status. There are too many possible negative reactions. If you find yourself engaged in such activities of an evening, it is advised that you leave town quickly in the morning.
- Do not drink human alcohol. While it is less potent than ours, it tastes horrible. They also dislike it when they are out drunk by someone half their body weight.
- Regardless of how young the adult humans are in comparison to you, you should not mention your greater wisdom and experience. To us, these things are obvious and nothing to be ashamed of. Sadly, the humans seem to take offense.
If you follow these general guidelines, you have at least a fifty percent chance of not being run out of town. We are working on improving these odds, but the unpredictable and varied nature of humanity has driven three of our sages to raving fits while attempting to make this section. Obviously, this has slowed progress.
Determining Human Alignment:
This is, perhaps, the single most critical but challenging issue when dealing with human kind. It is also not as straight forward as it seems. The tendency toward extremes mentioned in this guide’s introduction, often results in even humans who express ‘good’ intents being of indeterminate alignment. A priest of one of their kindest gods may fall into such an extreme religious zealotry that he promotes violence against all that do not follow in the same way he does. Likewise, soldiers of the most tolerant kings and queens may be so overcome with extreme loyalty that they exhibit violence against any who do not bow to their monarch. It is thus that determining the alignment of any human must be done in two parts.
- First, carefully ask a few leading questions. If a road-tax collector gets angry upon asking to whom the taxes go, he might be a bandit in disguise, no matter how well dressed or spoken.
- Second, observe the human’s eyes. The humans themselves claim that “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” We’re not sure, yet, how this works. We have, however, discovered that there is a measure of truth to the statement. While it takes some experience, reading a human’s eyes is one of the few certain means of determining how they feel.
Surviving Human Plans:
As a general rule, it is considered inadvisable to allow a human to plan for your group. The reason for this being that, simply put, their plans are often insane. However, it is also known and recognized that these insane plans have a distressingly high success rate. Therefore, in a sufficiently dire situation, it may be acceptable to allow a human to plan your course of action. In order to increase your chances of both survival and sanity retention, however, you should observe the following rules.
- Make sure that none of the humans engaged in planning are inebriated.
- Under no circumstances should you allow them to plan your exit strategy. Take care of at least this portion of the plan personally.
- If impossible things must happen for a plan to work, make sure to limit the total number of such things to less than three.
- Gag any human member of your party prone to claiming, “Death before dishonor” or similar. Their addition to the plans may be actively suicidal, as opposed to merely appearing to be suicidal.
- If at any point you have ignored point 1, restrain any planner that asks you to “Hold my beer, I’ve got this.”
- Under no circumstances should you allow them to convince you to crossdress. No matter how good their argument sounds, this will somehow haunt you for the rest of your life. Even long after the human that suggested it has died.
If you follow these general guidelines, you may successfully live to regret allowing them to plan. If you do, please forward a report of the plan to our sages so that we may analyze the new information in an attempt to improve this guide.
Infectious Human Thought:
While seemingly harmless, young elves should be aware that too much time spent around humans may leave them unable to function properly in elven society. It is disturbingly easy to get caught up by humanity’s drive to explore new places and make new things. This is not an inherently bad thing, indeed many of our greater recent accomplishments (in the last millennium or so) have been brought about by exposure to the shorter-lived races and their ideals. It can, however, be distressing to the elf or elves infected. Thus, you should be aware of this before you choose to spend much time around the species.
Humanity’s Survival Nature:
It has been said, and proved distressingly accurate, that “the more likely something is to kill a human, the more likely it is they will survive.” This is particularly true of both their heroes and villains, and you should never count either to be dead unless you have seen the body. Even then, if the body was not burned, you should plan on the possibility that they may merely be faking or in a coma, and may pop back up when you least expect it.
This absurd tendency to survive the impossible should also be remembered when a seemingly hopeless situation occurs. The most common example are groups of human villagers or farmers who prove unnaturally resilient to invasion. Not only are they surprisingly likely to repel unexpected orcs or goblin raids, but they are also remarkably unlikely to flee in the face of impossible odds. While they might attempt to send away their children and elderly, humans of fighting age will often band together and refuse to move even in the face of undead or other supernatural monsters. Most distressingly to analysts, they have at least a thirty percent chance of winning on their own, and if an adventurer is nearby odds increase to nearly seventy percent in their favor.
It is also noted that this fact makes human villages an excellent place to take shelter in the case of unexpected danger. If you cannot return to an elven settlement, seek out a rural village and offer your services. We have noticed that this slightly increases the odds of their survival, and nearly triples those of the elf in question.