The following is a video transcript
Todd Kenreck: The elves of Eberron are defined by their long lives, but more than anything, what makes them unique is their inability to let the past die.
Keith Baker: The elves of Eberron are very much tied to their long life spans and basically to their ancestors. They do different forms of ancestor worship, because they don't want to let go, so you have a very martial elven society that's all about sort of reenacting the deeds of ancient heroes, and then you have the Aereni, who literally preserve their ancestors as what are called deathless, these sort of positive energy undead, and their nation is ruled by this council of elves that are tens of thousands of years old. And again, all of it fits with what elves are. It's just a different way of looking at them than the sort of traditional model.
Todd Kenreck: Are there other races that you've taken a spin on with Eberron?
Keith Baker: So, the elves are from an island called Aerenal, and it's a sort of small continent off of Khorvaire, and for the most part, the elves are very ... They're isolationists and they're very much bound by tradition. The idea is that they really like ... They've got things right, they're happy with where they're at, and they're all about just perfecting and getting things exactly the way they've been done, you know? Sort of what we're saying is like the elven wizard. There's always been that sort of mystery of why is an elven wizard 120 years old starting out, when a human wizard is 30? Is the elf just really stupid? You know?
What we're saying is actually ... How that's explained in Eberron is that the elf actually spends a lot longer working on the same things, not because he has to. He could have learned it in 20 years, if he learned what you learned, but he's going to spend five years just perfecting the pronunciation of his incantations, to be just like this ... you know, the first guy who ever made that spell, whereas the human's just like, "Oh, I don't know. I'm just winging it."
So again, this is part of the idea of saying that elven culture is overall more advanced than human culture, but it moves very slowly, whereas over the course of the last 3,000 years, humanity is moving much faster and is catching up. So, most of the time, the Aerenal elves just aren't interested in what's going on in Khorvaire. They are ruled by the Undying Court, this collection of, again, their ancient ancestors, and that's actually a divine power source for them. Like, their clerics are actually drawing power from their ancestors, and again, it sort of comes to they're not really interested in the outside world. They have everything they need right there.
So, Aereni elves who leave, you're very much sort of, in a sense, almost outsiders. You know, why did you come to this primitive little backwater, when you're, again, from a culture much more advanced than them? The Valenar elves are the ones I've mentioned, that they try to reenact the deeds of their [Horark 00:03:21] ancestors. They believe the spirits of their ancestors live on through them, so it's saying that if my ancestor was Genghis Khan, it's my job to be as much like him as I can. So, they have come to the continent during the war, and basically as mercenaries. They were hired in large numbers as mercenaries, and at a certain point said, "Eh, we're just going to keep this land that we're sitting on, because it was ours 10,000 years ago, and we're taking it back now."
So, they've seized a kingdom, and that, again, is one of these points of tension, is people aren't sure how to deal with them, you know? There's not a lot of them, but they're sort of, pound to pound, the best ... you know, the most dangerous warriors on Khorvaire, and it's this big question of is someone going to try and drive them out or do we just accept this? But as a Valenar elf, you are driven, again, to reenact the deeds of your ancestor, to be as much like them. If your ancestor was a great hero, you need to go out there and find great deeds to do. If they were a legendary rogue, again, you need to be pull off some kind of amazing crimes or something, because you want to be as much like them as possible.
So, it's very much this idea that the elves are driven by their history, and by both the ancestors who still guide them in the case of the Aereni, and by the ancestors that you're seeking to emulate as one of the Valenar.