The dunes and steppes of Athas are home to thousands of tribes of nomadic elves. While each tribe is very different culturally, the elves within them remain a race of long–limbed sprinters given to theft, raiding, and warfare. An Athasian elf stands between 6½ and 7½ feet tall. They are slender, lean, and generally in terrific physical condition. Their features are deeply etched into their weather–toughened faces, and their skin made rugged by the windblown sands and baking sun of the wilderness. Elves dress to survive in the desert environment. Even when at an oases or in the cities, elves tend to prefer their native garb, designed to wrap the wearer against the brutality of the elements.
Elves are all brethren within their own tribe, but regard all outsiders as potential enemies. There is no racial unity among the elves – an elf from outside the tribe is just as much a foe as a human, halfling, or thri–kreen. Acceptance of an outsider by an individual elf can be achieved, but trust will only develop over time. Acceptance of an outsider by an entire tribe is also possible, but rare. It is usually only awarded after some great sacrifice has been made on behalf of the tribe – many outsiders have been accepted posthumously into elven desert tribes.
Even when in the company of others, an elf will keep to himself, often camping near but not directly with his companions. When encountering outsiders, an elf will often fabricate tests of trust and friendship. For instance, an elf might leave a valuable object in the open to see if his new companions attempt to steal it. After a series of such tests, the elf will gradually learn to trust or distrust the outsiders. The severity of these tests may take an alarmingly dangerous turn, even revolving around life– threatening situations, before an elf accepts an outsider as an equal.
Individually, tribal elves are swift, sure, and self–reliant. An elf is conditioned to run quickly over sandy and rocky terrain, sometimes for days at a time – an elf warrior can cross better than 50 miles per day. An elven war party on the move is a deadly force of endurance and manoeuvrability. Elves use no beasts of burden for personal transportation, though they do sometimes engage kanks and similar creatures for baggage or raw materials transport. It is dishonourable among elves to ride on an animal unless wounded and near death – even pregnant women and old elves are expected to keep up with the tribe or be left behind.
While most elven tribes make their living through herding, some have turned to commerce and others to raiding. Elven traders are rightly considered the most capable on Athas. Not only can they barter and deal with a variety of races, they can move and protect their goods across the vast wilderness. Elven culture, while savage, is also very rich and diverse. An elf can be from a wild, tribal background or from a city state upbringing – there are many elves that have settled in the cities as bazaar vendors, and still many more that have been dragged there in chains.
See the game statistics for playing an elf.