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Old 11-10-2020, 06:46 PM   #1
SolemnGolem's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Fallen Column?
Default Elves as "closer to nature and lower-tech" - give them a revulsion to metal?

TL;DR - If elves as a race have magical bonuses relating to Mother Nature, then how to explain their lower tech level? (As well as the fact that they presumably haven't just curbstomped all the lesser races already?)

I like the idea of a race that's more in tune with nature, and perhaps has a few freebie magical powers as a result. Many of the common tropes of elves have them, frankly, as overpowered - the D&D elf has night vision, a greatly extended lifespan, and a host of magical immunities. (So much so that a common question is "Okay, now we're building the game world and have to create a reason why they haven't conquered everything already.")

For my storytelling, I'm thinking of casting the elves as a similar role to Native Americans prior to the arrival of European invaders. The main tropes will be:
  • living more in balance with nature (so a lower population for sustainability),
  • a greater degree of innate powers due to their closeness to nature, and
  • a technology level that lacks several advances of the human civilizations.

I was trying to come up with reasons why such a culture would avoid metalworking and other such advances. My explanation is to say they have some innate revulsion to metals and perhaps other such non organic materials.

If they thrive and draw aesthetic (and/or magical) energies from the thrum and weft of organic life, then stone would be unresponsive to the elven nature cycle, and something intentionally worked like metal could be outright repulsive or give headaches or other physical manifestation of discomfort.

An elf might hesitantly put a stone tip on his arrow, but donning a metal helmet and breastplate would be more trouble than it's worth, if the helmet gives him a headache and the breastplate gives him a sense of asphyxiation. If metal outright shuts down the natural magic affinities of an elf, it would also give an in-game justification for a player to want to avoid metal.

Such a culture would still be able to do impressive things with wood structures and natural animal hides (though would likely still need stone implements to shape them). Construction would take longer than if you had metal tools, and the resultant structures would last for a briefer time than stoneworked or metalworked buildings. To a naturalist cultural viewpoint, perhaps that's a plus - "everything returns to the earth eventually" and all that.

But most monuments would be temporary, and massive population centers probably wouldn't be feasible.

This would also give decent support for the "stubborn forest guerrilla" trope of elves - if they get magical affinities just for being in nature, then any invading force could find them quite difficult to dislodge on their home territory. But their innate racial weaknesses against several key human technologies also means they will remain in the Stone Age, thus preventing a "why don't the elves just conquer everything?" speculative dilemma.
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elf, elves, low-tech, worldbuilding

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