That a race that lives as long as elves is generally not in touch with the concept of their own mortality is a pretty fair assumption, and one I’m using this morning. The idea that knowledge can be lost, that the best elfin wizard, swordmaster, historian or weaver won’t always be around just doesn’t occur to them, especially the “older” races like gray elves, if you use them.
To an elf, there is always time to travel thousands of miles to train for decades under a master craftsman. Everyone will eventually train with someone well qualified and everyone will hear every story, so books, portable knowledge, can easily be counted out by the DM wishing to do so.
Now all it takes is some cataclysm or war to make the situation desperate, as many of the eldest elves might die or otherwise leave without passing on what they know to enough of their kindred to ensure survival of that knowledge.
This offers some interesting answers to questions about the elves.
If they have lived so long, why aren’t there level 100 elf wizards? Well, Billy, they don’t know how to do their old-fashioned elf magic anymore, since the last of their wizards died. So they had to learn human-magic from human magic users.
Why don’t they know how to use these strange artifacts we have found in their abandoned cities? Well, they’d never even heard of the cities until we told them about it, because they don’t have maps or stories about the wonders of their ancient cities.
Why didn’t they write more books, Mr. Wizard? They did, Billy, but they were all transcripts of human legends, histories and myths, which are more exciting and colorful than theirs. You see, Billy, deep down, elves are bored. They want excitement. That’s why some of them go adventuring.
And so on…
Assuming elves do manage to repopulate, they would have a very difficult time educating their children quickly enough for them to be useful in maintaining an ecological niche for elves. There would be great pressure on the students, and much of their history and lore would go unread by students who need to concentrate on mastering the sword, the bow and the spell.
Imagine the youthful rebellion…
The plight of the elves provides many adventure hooks just using the crises in population and information.
- Elves who are apprenticing themselves to human mages are found dead in the forest. Is it prideful, racist elves or xenophobic humans? False choice, it’s BOTH!
- The first known elfin settlement must be re-taken from a legion of lizardmen so the elves can contact their gods through a special device/hold in the ground/statue.
- Inexplicably, all the babies born in town have pointed ears. Is an elf sneaking in at night and changing form to fool the village’s women? Or are these infants being magically implanted in the town’s maidens to be carried to term faster than they would in an elfin womb? (That might explain the virgin birth last week…)
- There are verses long lost to men that would, if recovered, establish the “divine heritage” of the local human king. An ancient bibliography points to an elfin archive of human epic poems. You are sent to bargain with the elves for a copy.
- A quest to uncover the elven spell of healing wounds, which was an arcane spell, not a divine spell.
- Manticore spikes are said to be aphrodisiacs to elves. But you need the find both the ingredients, find the recipe and validate it.
- The “naturalist” Oliverius has a theory that elves are actually half-human. Accompany him on his expedition for proof. See how long you can keep him alive.
Just a few. Roll yer own or finish these if you like.