Reverie on Race (5A)

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First, this is musings on fantasy races and has nothing to do with human races.

Race as Human Ages

Several fantasy races can be seen as reflections of the different ages of humans.

Gnomes as Children

Gnomes are much like humans around the precocious age of 14. Half children, a 14 year old can be strikingly intelligent and powerfully devoted to something, but they lack maturity and foresight. This is the age where a child can devote themselves hard to something, such as the piano, dance, math, or tinkering, almost to the exclusion of all else. Gnomes, remaining at this age much much longer than human children, can go from interest to interest over time, but devoting strict attention to each interest.

Unlike human children, gnomes assume responsibilities for their actions and can plan ahead—but they prefer not to. A gnome settlement would much prefer to be able to hide with illusion than to keep track of the political development of their neighbors. Gnomes can be close friends with generation after generation of humans when they are children but be mere acquaintances with the human as an adult, re-finding their old friend in the next generation of the human family. Some gnomes are reclusive and move away as an area becomes settled, others take change in stride. If the area where such a gnome lives changes over time, going from a wild forest to settled pasture to village to city over many human generations, the gnome may take this in stride, not really caring, hindering, or even perceiving the change unless it is obviously and immediately bad, such as deforestation or war.

Gnomes are not actual children, which means adult things may catch their fancy, but check with the gaming table if you want to play this out—it can certainly be icky to some.

Elves as Adolescents

Elves are like adolescents. Energetic and emotional, elves experience life with the intensity and riches of youth. They cope with long life by never becoming what humans consider fully adult. While they are as intelligent as humans, and able to understand that there is a future to plan for, their focus is on today more than the past or future. They also have some of the absolute resolve teens can have, if an elf has convinced themselves of something, it is hard to change their minds. An elf in love is a creature of passion and devotion, an elf in mourning a creature of gothic bleakness, and elves devote themselves to tasks in the same absolute manner. Unlike gnomes whose focus is usually very narrow, elves can do more than one thing at a time and can be either flighty or steady in their career and skills.

Just like human adolescents, elves can conservative in certain ways. They don't like sudden changes in environment, neither in the land or with people. Elven customs change slowly if at all and elven fashions are timeless. Elves that have spent much time with humans of a certain generation may keep mannerisms and fashions of that time long after humans forget this was ever so.

Elves, and high elves in particular, have no problem living among humans for a generation at a time. They enter human society, find friends, and live along these friends for a human lifespan. When their human friends die or become too grumpy for comfort, the elf usually retires back into elven society, possibly bringing some human ideas back with them. When meeting humans again, the elf sticks with the tradition of their last period among humans, making them seem strangely old-fashioned for creatures of such youthful spirits. A few elves can overcome this, make new human friends, and live another generation among humans, but this is not common.

Some humans become annoyed with elves over time, seeing so much youth potential in the elf, but becoming disillusioned when that potential never settles into what humans consider true adulthood.

Dwarves as Old

Dwarves have many of the characteristics humans associate with old age. Having found a career and life interest, dwarves do not seek new things, even if they are still open to new experiences. They are kindly advisors and teachers, and they appreciate that not everyone shares their interests and that different fields of experience have their own relevance. Sometimes grumpy and possessive of the things they are fond of, dwarves do not easily change their mind and want to see each task through. Unlike old humans, who generally regard young humans with patronizing fondness, dwarves can be annoyed by the inconsistencies of youthfulness. They grasp that a neighboring human settlement changes over the course of generations, but they find the flightiness of elves harder to grasp—this is the same individual elf they dealt with a hundred years ago, fifty years ago, and today, how can they be so different each time?

Dwarves living among humans tend to act and be treated as old aunts and uncles. Seen as settled and steady, they are usually welcome in human society and may even become the godparent or foster parent of a human. But humans easily look down on dwarves, seeing them as old-timers with old-timer views that are a part of the past, not the future. Dwarven ideas and policies might be seen as old-fashioned and conservative. This annoys dwarfs, and this can lead to a break and cause the dwarf to move back among its own kin.