Elven society upon Golarion follows a stately course of highs and lows—elves have doubtless lived on Golarion as long as humanity, and were contemporaries with ancient Azlant. They have at times clashed with humanity, but such conflicts are usually rare and have extraordinary causes and circumstances. The last major clash with humanity occurred over 10,000 years ago, but ancient evidence suggests that this was not the first such clash, nor is it likely to be the last. In any event, this conflict came to a sudden end with Earthfall and the elven flight from Golarion to a mysterious realm called “Sovyrian.” They would not return to Golarion for several thousand years.
Elves honor almost every god of Golarion, but the majority worship Calistria or Desna, with smaller numbers venerating Nethys or more obscure elven deities or Empyreal Lords. Elves see gods as their guides and inspirations in life, with swift and simple daily devotions being part of life but thought to be more than petty details. A common part of many elven religious practices is the belief in an ideal known as “the Brightness.” This concept teaches that there exists a vivid, recognizable, semidivine enlightenment that is different for each elf. Those who believe in the Brightness claim that failure to find it could condemn the soul to reincarnation as a lesser being.
Elves love to laugh, play pranks, and try things on a whim, and upon occasion recklessly disregard dangers or consequences. It is a mistake, however, to view elves as thoughtless or uncaring. Most elves make friends easily, value them highly, and both love and indulge in lust (tenderly, but apart from love) with other elves or even non-elves. Many elves are superb artists, cartographers, scribes, herbalists, spice- traders, seamstresses and tailors, perfumers, and cosmeticians. Elven artisans make their livelihoods with such skills when dwelling among other races.
Elves are perhaps the most diverse of the core races, with the exception of humanity, but this diversity is not the result of ethnic lineage. Elves tend to take on many of the features of the environments in which they dwell. This change is gradual, usually taking hundreds of years to fully manifest, but over only the course of a single human generation, an elf’s appearance and even abilities can change dramatically. The majority of elves hail from temperate woodlands, from whence the most well known of their kind hail. Most of the unusual elven ethnicities, such as the Ekujae elves of the Mwangi Expanse, the Mordant Spire elves, or the Snowcaster elves of the Crown of the World, have unusual appearances or customs but otherwise are fundamentally the same as their forest-dwelling kin. Only a few elven ethnicities, such as the water-breathing aquatic elves or the deep-dwelling drow of the Darklands, have developed entirely new physiologies or features.
Perhaps the most tragic elves are the Forlorn—those who lack families for whatever reason and grew to adulthood not among other elves, but among shorter-lived races like humans. By the time a Forlorn elf has become an adult, most of her childhood playmates have married, had children of their own, grown old, and died. Forlorn elves tend to be insular and morose—their lack of joy and delight manifests in darker ways, such as mischievous trickery, cynicism and angst, or even cruelty. The life of a Forlorn elf is one wrought of loneliness and sadness, but these elves, given the chance, form the strongest friendships of them all. They know what loss is, and given an opportunity to avoid it, cling with a tenacity that can be as inspiring as it is frightening.
Elves are beautiful and graceful creatures, typically quite slender of build and standing a few inches taller than the average human. Their ears are 6 to 9 inches long and pointed, arching upward gracefully along the side of the head to points just above the top of the skull. Their eyes are large and show no whites—an elf’s eye possesses a solid and vibrant hue, typically blue, violet, green, or even amber or red that, upon closer examination, presents deep whorls and pools of shifting color.