I noticed an intriguing thing the other day, while continuing my design of Gloamhold. Elves are dying at a much younger age than ever before! The horror! What’s going on
I don’t mean there is some kind of conspiracy against elves (or is there?) It just seems that since 1st Edition, their maximum age has dropped precipitously. Consider these maximum ages, in 1st Edition AD&D as listed in the 1st Edition AD&D DMG (surely the greatest gaming book of all time):
Elves could be staggeringly old. I distinctly remember thinking it was so cool there were elves alive in the present day Flanaess that probably witnessed the Twin Cataclysms and the chaos and upheaval of the ensuing Great Migrations.
Now, here are the maximum ages as listed in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook:
See what I mean?
Further analysis reveals the maximum age of an elf through the editions:
- 1st Edition: 2,000 years old
- 2nd Edition: 750 years old (but note at this age, the elf does not die but rather has a mysterious compulsion to depart the world of men)
- 3rd Edition: 750 years old
- Pathfinder: 750 years old
- 5th Edition: “Well over” 700 years
Bizarrely, gnomes and half-elves suffer a similar reduction in life expectancy while dwarves, half-orcs and halfings do not.
I wonder why this is? I can’t see how it relates to game balance.
I can see an argument in relation to world design, but given the “cinematic” game play style of Pathfinder (and later editions of D&D), I can’t image this was viewed as a huge problem.
That said, it’s very hard to build a deep, meaningful and yet mysterious world history if elves are so long-lived some still alive remember when humanity founded its first city or kingdom. To use an example from the real world, Ur—an ancient Sumerian settlement—was founded around 3,800 BC. That’s only 6,000 years ago give or take—within the lifetime of three (or four) generations of grey elves.
I guess the other argument could be one of character design. In a world with skills, skill points (or ranks), feats and suchlike it’s quite hard to justify why an elf wizard of 160 years has the same number of skill points (and thus knowledge) at 1st-level as a 26-year-old human wizard. And—of course—if they do get extra skills and suchlike, why would anyone play a human or other short-lived race?
What Do You Think?
While a race’s maximum age probably won’t impact the average adventurer, I’d love to know the “official” reason behind the change. At the end of the day, there must have been a reason to reduce the maximum ages—I doubt it was done on a whim.
In any event, what have I missed? Let me know, in the comments below!