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Old 08-15-2019, 04:42 PM   #11
RyanW
 
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Default Re: Elven maturation and population growth

Elves in my setting reach "adulthood" shortly after one hundred, but to them adulthood means giving up childish things like pair bonding and procreation.
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Old 08-15-2019, 05:51 PM   #12
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Default Re: Elven maturation and population growth

After posting this thread I've started to think more about the impact of even a small number of very old elves on a setting. If elves are ageless, even a small number of lucky elves who manage to survive thousands of years without dying of violence or accident means "living memory" in your setting is thousands of years. Unless some cataclysm wiped out most of the elves born before a certain date. Hmmm. How do people like to handle this?
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:58 PM   #13
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Default Re: Elven maturation and population growth

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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
After posting this thread I've started to think more about the impact of even a small number of very old elves on a setting. If elves are ageless, even a small number of lucky elves who manage to survive thousands of years without dying of violence or accident means "living memory" in your setting is thousands of years.
The same issue arises with gods, if you have gods of things that have been around for a long time.

In my long-running hombrew world dates were counted from the "Eldest of Days", a subsequent estimate of the date of a moment when everybody woke up with a language but no other memories. The setting of campaigns I ran ranged from 4600 After the Eldest of Days to about 5005 AED.

There were quite a few gods still around from the Eldest of Days, and a few claimed to remember what had gone before. But their stories didn't match up, and all the philosohers figured that they were liars.

There were no elves in that setting (nor dwarves, hobbits, orcs), but there was a group called the léshy, who were exactly like Tolkien's elves except for not being like Tolkien's elves, if you get what I mean. By chance one had survived from the Eldest of Days: Alkinous the Deathless. The PC party in the first campaign tracked him down with great difficulty to ask what had happened to the Sword with No Name at some particular historical juncture. They found him nude on a beach on a remote island, fishing for his dinner with a hand-line, and his answer to their question was "I don't know; I wasn't there. If you want to live a long life you avoid historical junctures."

Alkinous turned out to be strongly oriented towards the future, and to disparage interest in the past. The PCs didn't quiz him about the Eldest of Days because they figured that the reason he made himself so hard to find was to escape prying tourists. He gave them a good dinner of fish, though, and charged very reasonably.

(Players never discovered this, but Alkinous combined moderately outstanding attributes with the highest possible skill level in every skill in the book including all the magical invocation skills, and complete knowledge of all the fields of knowledge including all the magical Fundamentals. He didn't have the Talent, but he was a Namer and a Spellsinger, besides being a Favourite of Selené, and he could perform un-Talented ritual magic. He put regular effort into performing divinations, and always tried to be where things weren't going to happen.)

It is a pain in the neck to have to devise the deep history of a whole world. I like to cut it off a reasonable way back, make it difficult and unrewarding to investigate the cut, and then never give players any reason to need to know about anything that happened more than a few hundred years ago.
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Old 08-15-2019, 08:26 PM   #14
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Default Re: Elven maturation and population growth

Hm. What sort of enhancement/limitation on unaging is it that:
  • You can choose to age forward, backwards, or not at all.
  • If you are aging forward, you learn normally.
  • If you are aging in reverse, you have Cannot Learn, and in addition you reduce your experience by 2% per year lost.
  • If you are not aging, you pick one of the penalties from aging in reverse.
Thus, you'll eventually accumulate about 50 years of xp, but never reach absurd point levels.
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Old 08-15-2019, 09:29 PM   #15
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In Tolkien and every edition of D&D I know of, elves don't reach adulthood until age 100 or so. This has always struck me as extremely weird. It suggests elven education for "children" could be the equivalent of dozens of PhDs, and there's a general question of how you even roleplay someone who is 100 years old but just starting their career. On the other hand, maybe this helps explain why the elven population doesn't grow any faster, and perhaps slower, than the human population. It seems like reaching maturity as fast as humans plus no aging after that is potentially a recipe for fairly fast population growth (especially factoring magical healing and such). Thoughts? There's also the general question of what keeps the elven population under control regardless, since centuries of childbearing years for women presents its own problems regardless of whether they start having children at 20 or 120.
Well, Tolkien's Elves reach physical maturity in their early 20s, and grow up at about the same pace as Men. As David noted, they also have a finite reproductive period, though I don't know if Elven women have a physical limit like menopause, it seems that both sexes lose interest after a while. JRRT does say that there's no time limit on reproduction before it happens, that is, if an Elf for some reason was prevented from reproducing, he or she would retain the ability throughout the Ages until free to use it.

JRRT's Elven families tend to be small, and the children are spread widely apart, by Mannish standards. Even if the period of reproductive activity is relatively brief as Elves measure such things, a couple's children might well be centuries apart even so.

But at one point, IIRC, Tolkien observed that Feanor had the largest number of offspring recorded in the legendarium, at seven kids. That's only a modestly large family by modern Mannish standards, and would be quite average family size in most of Mannish history. By Elven standards 7 offspring is a gigantic family. Many Elvish couples have only one child. Thingol and Melian were together for multiple Ages and produced only the one. Tolkien went back and forth on Galadriel, but she appears to have had only 1 or at most 2, depending on the writing in question.

So Elven populations grow only very slowly. Granted, with immortality, eventually any growth rate will fill the world, but it's not clear that the Elves have been in the world long enough to crowd it. Men are ages younger, as a people, and we caught up and passed their population early.
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Old 08-16-2019, 01:30 AM   #16
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Default Re: Elven maturation and population growth

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Originally Posted by Johnny1A.2 View Post

So Elven populations grow only very slowly. Granted, with immortality, eventually any growth rate will fill the world, but it's not clear that the Elves have been in the world long enough to crowd it. Men are ages younger, as a people, and we caught up and passed their population early.
if the reproductive rate is <2 per couple, the population cannot grow, save by indiscretions...

You need 1 child per adult and no accidents to have a stable population. Basic math.

Spaced out over centuries is fine, but the average needs to be about 2.1 to 2.3 per couple to have a growth rate of note...

because, while they die not from age, they do die from violence, bad fortune, and occasionally melancholy.
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Old 08-16-2019, 02:11 AM   #17
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if the reproductive rate is <2 per couple, the population cannot grow, save by indiscretions...

You need 1 child per adult and no accidents to have a stable population.
Even if totally immortal, a ratio of less than one child per adult actually means the population will asymptotically approach a limit of (original population) / (1 - children/parent).
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Old 08-16-2019, 07:30 AM   #18
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Default Re: Elven maturation and population growth

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Originally Posted by Michael Thayne View Post
After posting this thread I've started to think more about the impact of even a small number of very old elves on a setting. If elves are ageless, even a small number of lucky elves who manage to survive thousands of years without dying of violence or accident means "living memory" in your setting is thousands of years. Unless some cataclysm wiped out most of the elves born before a certain date. Hmmm. How do people like to handle this?
That assumes they have impossibly perfect memories. Human memory gets less reliable over time. We instinctively make good things better, bad things worse, and our part in events more important. I wouldn't trust an honest elf's story of millennia ago anymore than a "fact" by Pliny the elder.
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Old 08-16-2019, 09:30 AM   #19
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Default Re: Elven maturation and population growth

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That assumes they have impossibly perfect memories. Human memory gets less reliable over time. We instinctively make good things better, bad things worse, and our part in events more important. I wouldn't trust an honest elf's story of millennia ago anymore than a "fact" by Pliny the elder.
But (Tolkien's) elves' memories don't work like human memories, and their bodies don't work like human bodies. They were designed to be immortal. Their spirits (which contain the memories) and their bodies are more enduring than human spirits and bodies.

Their memories don't have to be impossibly perfect, just suited to their immortal existence.
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Old 08-16-2019, 11:29 AM   #20
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But (Tolkien's) elves' memories don't work like human memories, and their bodies don't work like human bodies. They were designed to be immortal. Their spirits (which contain the memories) and their bodies are more enduring than human spirits and bodies.
Yes, exactly. Tolkien was quite clear that Middle-Earth was a pre-Christian world, where the best you could have was virtuous pagans, and the only immortality they could hope for was to be remembered. And the Elves guarantee that this is possible, at least for the men who lived before they left for the West; they are animate embodiments of memory. Indeed, looking at what Tolkien says about Elven literature, I've wondered whether Elves were even capable of "fiction" or "invention," or if all the great Elven tales were from memory.

There's a scene of Peter Jackson's where Elrond says of Aragorn (quoting one of Tolkien's appendices) that he recalled "the splendor of the kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world." And that's a powerful statement, because Elrond himself SAW "the splendor of the kings of Men," many thousands of years ago, and its memory lives on in him.

Of course, if you like, that's Tolkien's testimony to how he felt about his close friends who died in the Great War, which was his personal "breaking of the world." But the fact that you can explain it that way doesn't make the metaphysical conception any less potent.
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