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I'm working on a short story. In in this story there are elves. I'm hoping to realistically write how they would fight both one another and other races.

NOTE: The elves didn't naturally evolve, they were created involuntarily.

Physical Characteristics

  • Elves stand roughly 4 feet tall, give or take a few inches per individual.

  • Elves have 5 inch pointed ears capable of movement. They can move their ears back against their skull and can move them up or down 80 degrees. This allows them to (ideally) hear much better, and they assist in communication. Elven ears are also the widest part of their body. Elves have remarkably strong hearing, and can hear from 20 Hz to 50,000 Hz

  • Elves have thin frames prioritized for moving quickly, and long nails to help grip trees.

  • Elves reproduce a little faster than humans, taking 7 months instead of 9 for a pregnancy.

Environment

  • While the elves live in a variety of places, in the story they'll be found in a specific forest. The trees here are 150-200 feet tall, very thick, and packed so densely that in uncleared areas the gap can be as little as half a foot. Temperatures range from 20 Celsius in the summer to 0 in the winter.

  • The elves usually have access to stone age weapons, but this is due to their nomadic nature. They settle down sometimes for a few days if they feel the area is safe, during which they forge metal weapons and equipment, as well as jewelry for trading among themselves and others.

Other races in this world

  • Humans patrol the edges of the forest on several day trips, mostly to ensure that nobody is building up supplies or an army. They have 15th-16th century technologies. I imagine they'd avoid firearms or cavalry due to the environment though.

  • 'Orcs' (name is planned to be changed soon) are large, purple, and in constant mental agony (like a burning headache) leading to anger outbursts. They can forge basic tools and weapons and live in small scale wooden camps in clearings. I plan to ask a similar question about them as well- I'll include the link when I do.

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    $\begingroup$ historically in the real world nomads were among the best smiths and jewel makers in the world, far ahead in technology and talent to the rest of us, to make your elves more realistic, add this small detail. If they are nomads, they have access to metals all over the globe plus the ones they can steal and ravage. $\endgroup$
    – Drien RPG
    Jan 23 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @RPGlife Never figured that nomads would be above the rest of us, honestly. How would they make things without making forges and such to reshape metal? Would they just make do with what they find? $\endgroup$
    – Atriol
    Jan 23 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ "Environments and enemies" your title sais.. Who is the enemy ? Are humans fighting elves ? orcs ? Are there any incentives for a conflict ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jan 23 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Hi, Atriol. Please remember that the help center states, "To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where … your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers." $\endgroup$ Jan 23 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ I consume a lot of survival content on youtube, men living in forests, I don't exactly know how nomads in the real world smelted their metals on the go, but from the youtube videos I can see that making a forge doesn't take longer than day or two $\endgroup$
    – Drien RPG
    Jan 23 at 22:24

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The elves do not fight.

The elves only kill things they intend to eat, and their diet does not include humans, orcs or other elves. Humans and orcs are larger and fiercer than the elves are, and rightly viewed as dangerous. If one of these groups threatens the elves, the elves vanish into the forest.

If chased they might lure those chasing them into areas likely to give the pursuers trouble. The entire three dimensional expanse of the forest is home to the elves and aggressors are more likely to get lost or fall afoul of other forest hazards than they are to find the elves.


As regards survival, the elves maintain the entirety of the forest to encourage the growth of trees and plants that the elves use and that are used by the birds and insects that elves eat.

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    $\begingroup$ humans will eventually cut the whole forest down, forcing a confrontation $\endgroup$
    – Ewan
    Jan 24 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Ewan the trees are, according to the question, "very thick." Depending on how much very is, it would be near impossible to cut them down. $\endgroup$ Jan 24 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/11/20/… $\endgroup$
    – Ewan
    Jan 25 at 19:12
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Scythians/Amazons/Mongols are the perfect example on how to survive when you aren't smarter, nor mightier than your oppenents.

All you need is a horse or any other counter part of your world, and bows/any other counterpart.

They are nomads, which means they will need a ride anyway, the nomads that go by foot don't survive and go extinct like it happened in the real world, the ones that live on horseback(or your worlds alternative) thrived and are remembered in history as menaces to society and bringers of horror or unifiers of kingdoms.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not entirely sure if a mount is possible in such a dense area? Outside of the forest for sure, but within it? $\endgroup$
    – Atriol
    Jan 23 at 22:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Atriol If moose, elk and deer can live in a forest, an animal small enough to be a mount to a 4 ft tall humanoid (like a pony) can manage. In fact, shepherding herds is a good way for nomads to subsist, even in rough terrain. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jan 23 at 22:51
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Q: "How might Elves in this setting survive?"

Q: "The orcs hunt elves (and humans) for both food and religious sacrifice, and the humans (that the elves are in contact with, not all of them) are xenophobic isolationists terrified of the idea of a nonhuman group getting strong enough to be a threat."

Orcs won't survive

So in fact the elves and humans have a common enemy, at first ! Angry orcs roaming around.. suppose the elves would set traps for them, and when they capture one, it is lift up into the tree and left hanging there. Actually the orcs are more dangerous to humans, because humans are less familiar with them. The humans regard orcs as "forest monsters" that suddenly appear and when they encounter one, they panic. Orcs love that.

But bottom line will be: this arrangement, with two species obviously superiour and smarter than orcs, will eliminate the orcs. They will move on, to uninhabited forest, or get extinct.

Humans and elves

Now for humans and elves, more equal opponents, there would be animosity, hostility at first, but not always. There are a few scenario's: the humans take precautions, building fences around the forest. The elves be isolated and safely contained. The forest is regarded as property and humans try to put roads through the forest. In that case, they will meet resistance from the elves, because they have to damage trees in the process. Humans could try to burn down the forest, but the elves will be prepared for the fire, when it occurs. They have always protected the forest against fire.. After a while, humans will realize these elves can't be hunted down, and they will stay in their forest. They decide to leave them in piece and avoid the forest altogether.

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Efficiency of metabolism

Let's look at our history for an example. Neanderthals were stronger, larger and as smart than homo sapiens (at least looking into brain mass), and also had tool/weapon making, social culture, etc. However, humans are more calorie-efficient due to being smaller and also more effective digestion of certain foods. So in harsh conditions of near starvation we could outcompete neanderthals and the rest is history.

In a similar manner, 5th-16th century technology still means that population size is limited by available food; so as long as your elves are efficient and fast breeders and - very important - don't compete for food sources with humans, they have a strong niche to survive in.

Considerations of slash-and-burn agriculture to result in fertile farmland could be fatal, however; see modern day struggle of Amazon rainforest tribes, and 15h-16th century Europe did a lot of deforestation, so it would be valuable to consider how/why the elven forests would be permanently unusable for agriculture to dissuade humans from converting them to farmland.

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