I was thinking about this, from the LotFP Weird Fantasy:
Once the epitome of enlightenment and responsibility, elfin civilization has fallen before the expansive nature of Man. Where once the Elf nations ruled the forests, the plains and the mountains, their now-small numbers live in secret enclaves, possessing great power but utterly impotent in matters of projecting it.
There’s going to be some elves that don’t accept this at all. After all, being impotent in matters of projecting power is not the same as giving up without a fight. What can we do with that to make elves more interesting?
The essential qualities that fantasy elves have almost universally: Beauty, Magic and Agelessness. Add impotence to that and you’ve got some interesting options. Let’s assume you don’t have a western continent for them to sail to.
Elfin survivalists would recognize the need to repopulate in the face of ever-growing numbers of humans. That faction might capture and study human’s reproductive cycles. They might perform experiments on their own kind. They might go out on a pilgrimage to find a human fertility goddess to take them in. They might try to breed with humans to create half-elves that can breed true with one another. Or make a pact with a demon or devil (no spider-queens, please).
Perhaps they aren’t even full elves themselves. Perhaps they were always half-elves and their original stock died out/is in hibernation on their crashed space ship awaiting rescue/are their mortal enemies. Maybe their original stock are neanderthalish elves.
What if they can reproduce, but their cycles are much slower or they just aren’t in the mood often enough? They’ll need aphrodisiacs, potency vitamins, maybe some Barry White albums. They might need a chamber where time is sped up. Maybe they are bored with their own beautiful perfection and need imperfections such as scars or broken noses to catch each other’s eye.
What if they don’t understand some aspect of their reproduction that they never noticed before (since it happens so infrequently)? What if outside temperature during gestation determined gender? What if the entire race was blessed with a birth control spell or worshipped an idol that was radioactive? What if elfin magic swords gave off sperm-killing cell-phone radiation?
And what if they did manage to get preggers again? What would happen to an elf nation that had a one million percent jump in annual birth rate? They probably have no idea how to educate or care for their young. They might have long ago forgotten how to pass along any sort of knowledge whatsoever and need to apprentice their children to human mages.
What if they are stuck at a fixed number of elf spirits that reincarnate into baby elves? Where could they find more spirits? What if other spirits started incarnating in the baby elves? What if elf spirits are reincarnating into dwarves, halflings or meercats? Maybe they need to go out and kill dwarves, halflings and meercats to free up those spirits during the semi-annual fertility festival.
What if all this was happening at once in different parts of your campaign world?
I might just find elves interesting again.
More later this week.