Find Out How to Create and Role Play a D&D Wood Elf Character
Elves in D&D 5e are known for being haughty… and High Elves in particular. Wood Elves are NOT.
5e Wood elves have the exact opposite reputation of their lofty, fine-dressed kindred; they are down to earth in every sense of the word. So if you are interested in role playing a down to earth pointy-eared in your Dungeons and Dragons campaign … then read on!
Are 5e Wood Elves Good?
The D&D 5e wood elf expands on what is already good about the elf racial features with a focus on NATURE. Their “Mask of the Wild” ability lets them attempt to hide even when only lightly obscured… but ONLY when they are out in the wilds (can’t use it in a shadow-filled city alleyway). They gain a +1 increase to Wisdom, which works with the nature-based Ranger and Druid character classes. Their final ability, “Fleet of Foot” gives them a faster walking speed (35 ft), which works well with every character class.
What Do 5e Wood Elves Look Like?
5e Drow look fairly similar to one another… and there are many different types of D&D high elves. Wood elves sit somewhat in the middle. There is some variation, but not much.
While earlier editions did include the ‘grugach’ and ‘Kagonesti’ wild elves as wood elves, that is not the case in 5e. Wood elves have culture, pass down advanced wisdom and knowledge, wear clothing, and have their own society. They may be more stout and physically fit than other elves, but they would never be called “feral savages” by Governor John Ratcliffe.
Wood elves look like they are from the woods; if you were to go out to the woods and see woods-y colors… that is what wood elves would look like! Their eyes are green and brown, their hair is brown or black, and their skin is light brown or tan. They wear simple, hand-crafted leather armor that blends them in with the flora of their native habitats.
But they do still have Sylvan ancestry, so there is a magical aura to their natural tones. Forgotten Realms denizens report Wood Elves as having a greenish tint to their hair as well as a copper tint to their skin color. Its as though their skin glitters, providing further reason for avoiding jewelry.
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Role Playing a D&D Wood Elf
If your adventuring party comes across an elf, there is a good chance it will be a wood elf: they are the most numerous elves in the Forgotten Realms. With larger populations comes more variation, allowing players to personalize their wood elf and still remain in the lore. That said, there are some elements that all wood elf tribes share.
Apolitical and Magically Ambivalent
This is probably the biggest thing that sets wood elves apart from the vast majority of D&D races: they are apathetic about government and nations. They are an old race and live long lives… it wasn’t that many generations ago that Faerun was torn apart by the elven Crown Wars… or the disaster of Netherel… or the descent of the drow… and on and on the list goes. In their eyes, to sacrifice and build for any “eternal civilization”, even an elven one, is folly.
This aspect of wood elf culture bleeds into all the others (which we will get to in a sec), but for starters it manifests in an aversion to HUBRIS and CONFLICT. They will easily see examples of “pride before the fall” and get nervous if they see it in their fellow party. While being capable and brave, they will usually look for a non-violent answer, being under no illusion that any battle will prevent further battles.
Forest Dwellers and Nature
No surprise here: since wood elves are convinced in the absurdity of nations, they do not have one for themselves! While still being “civilized” peoples, they live in small, scattered communities in the forest rather than in distinct towns and cities. And these communities are often in the rocks and trees, built in cooperation with nature rather than conquering it. They have few clerics but MANY druids.
And how do these settlements stay protected without walls and towers? With stealth and vigilance. Their nature as excellent hunters means you should already make them proficient in Perception, and then role play that to the extreme. Their communities do not survive if they are not aware of threats… and wood elves do not just “turn that off”. Everywhere and at all times your character should have one eye open, making sure they are never surprised, yet remaining calm and relaxed.
A Practical People
Finally, due to their disinterest in society and interest in nature, wood elves are tangible and practical. They distrust the arcane arts and farming, seeing both as violating the natural order of the world. They favor finding ways to live in harmony with one another and creation instead of seeking domination and dominion.
For your roleplaying, your wood elf probably has lots of tools and skills for the job. If something breaks, you fix it. If you need something, you go hunt and find it. They will often look for a practical solution. You should be calm and patient in most situations… after all you need those skills on the hunt!
What Are the Best Wood Elf Character Classes?
Druid: The quintessential wood elf character class. Their Dex gives them better AC and Druids are Wisdom based casters. Most importantly, their “Mask of the Wild” ability allows them to Hide/Surprise Attack much easier when not in an urban environment.
Ranger: If your Wood Elf chooses to be an ambassador of the forest, rather than its guardian… then you should go with the ranger! Everything that makes a Wood Elf work for Druids works for Rangers. But on top of that, just as Rangers are huntsmen built for the bow, so are Wood Elves! In fact, bow crafting is one of the few things that set Wood Elves apart from all the races in Faerun (alone with Arcane Archery). And lastly, while wood elves avoid raising cattle or having pets… they DO form bonds with wild animals… just like the Rangers ‘Animal Companion’ feature.
Barbarian: Mechanically, Wood Elves are NOT a good fit for the Barbarian. Their longbow proficiency doesn’t mix with the Barbarians Rage, they have Dex and Wis rather than Str or Con… etc. HOWEVER… thematically they are a PERFECT fit, especially if you want to be a highly cultured Barbarian with insightful criticisms of the “fantasy modern” world they inhabit.
Why Should You Play A 5e Wood Elf?
D&D 5e wood elves are one of the best races for any nature-based character. They have the ability improvements, lore, physical features, and mechanics you need if you want to lead the party through the wilderness or hunt a great beast.
Eager to Play a Wood Elf?
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Based out of Spokane, Riley is a freelance copywriter that combines his love of reading, writing, and people into something useful! He is thankful to be applying his passion for imaginative role-playing to help DnD related businesses communicate their value in the best way possible. He's kinda like a bard giving inspiration, except without the annoying pop covers!