Swamp Elves Species in Nyrheim | World Anvil

Swamp Elves

"Take from the land, but return twofold; once in the moment, again when you've grown old." - Swamp Elf proverb.

Basic Information


Swamp Elves are likely the sturdiest of the Alfen, averaging slightly shorter and more muscular than any of their evolutionary cousins.

Biological Traits

Some scholars believe that Swamp Elves first appeared as a result of the union between ancient tribes of Wood Elves and Sea Elves, though their webbed digits and darker skin may simply be evolutionary developments brought on by their environment.   Swamp Elves stand out from the rest of the Alfen in large part due to their olive grey skin, an evolutionary adaptation to better blend in with their home environment.

Growth Rate & Stages

Though on average physically sturdier than other Alfen, Swamp Elves mature at the same average rate.

Ecology and Habitats

The Alfens' innate physiological pliability has ensured that the Swamp Elves have adapted quite readily to the wetlands they call home. Swamp Elves who've left their homeland often find themselves seeking out similar conditions, be it other wetland biomes or a life on the vast seas.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Swamp Elves have a rather simple diet of rice, fish, and game meat (typically Razor-hoofed Gembeck), however the vast array of herbs that grow naturally in The Marsh means that their food is rarely bland.

Additional Information

Social Structure

Swamp Elf society is inclusive and merit-based, believing that all beings have a purpose. Respect is earned, and disdain is hard to come by. The only truly despised quality in The Marsh is laziness, however the lazy rarely last long in the first place.

Facial characteristics

Swamp Elves share a similar facial structure with most other Alfen, although their angular features are a bit more rounded.

Average Intelligence

As a society made up primarily of laborers, the people of The Marsh receive a basic formal education, but they have excellent common sense and survival instincts.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

The dim and murky climate of Cliffwallow Marshlands creates poor average visibility, and as such the Swamp Elves have developed a keen sense of hearing that helps them navigate the terrain and avoid natural predators.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Swamp Elves trend towards naming conventions in accordance with nature. River, Willow, and Skye are common names.

Major Organizations

The Swamp Elves live under the domain of the Cliffwallow Protectorate, though they are primarily left to govern themselves. Each of the elven communities is governed by a chieftain, and the chieftains hold a summit once a season to discuss the best interests of the region as a whole. The Swamp Elves refer to this governing body as the Tribal Council.

Gender Ideals

As a society hardened by the environment they call home, the Swamp Elves have little use for traditional gender norms that can be present in other cultures.

Courtship Ideals

Swamp Elven courtship puts the labor in "labor of love." A true sign of caring for another is working to make their life easier, so typical forms of courting often revolve around helping a potential lover with the tasks of their day to day life, or larger projects. By acting in this way, one is proving that their feelings extend beyond that of lust, and into the realm of mutual fulfillment.

Average Technological Level

Life in The Marsh is largely based around hunter/gatherer techniques, supplemented with small scale agricultural operations. Though the Swamp Elves of this land have missed out on some technological advances of the world beyond The Fork, the local druidic conclave can make up for the deficit with their natural magic.   A specific area of technological advancement that the Swamp Elves hold claim to is the efficiency of their rice farms; a combination of creative magic use and agricultural inventiveness has led to the Swamp Elves being regarded as the best rice farmers in the land.

Major Language Groups and Dialects

In addition to their dialect of the Elvish language, many Swamp Elves also grow up learning the Druidic tongue.

Common Etiquette Rules

The Swamp Elves are a relatively casual people; there is little time for prim and proper etiquette in between the long hours of labor.   The only social standard strictly adhered to is a respect for nature and all of its denizens, including fellow elves.   Conversations between Swamp Elves typically begin with the phrase "Envira's blessing upon you," and end with "Envira guide your growth."
Genetic Ancestor(s)
800 years
Conservation Status
Small in numbers, but thriving.
Average Height
5'2" - 5'10"
Average Weight
Average Physique
Squat, muscular, and lean.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
Olive grey.

Swamp Elf (subrace)

Languages Elvish, Druidic


-1 to Dexterity

+1 to Constitution

+1 to Strength


20 ft. swimming speed

Can hold breathe for 5 minutes

Mask of the Wild

Cover image: Elf Sniper by Sobaku Chiuchiu


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28 Aug, 2018 06:56

Swamp Elves! What an excellent idea, those elves seem to breed everywhere these days... Anyway, I really like the theme they have here. Swamps are a pain to deal with, and living in them I could only imagine, so they are very practical and forward driven, which seems to fit excellently with that theme. They must have lived in the swamps for quite a long time if they have evolved features specific to surviving there. Also, the little part about courtship is golden. Working to better the others work? That is freaking fantastic, and... beautiful? I noticed your subrace box up there too, from a GM perspective, why do they get a -1 dexterity? I can understand the bonus to Strength and Constitution from the article, but I don't recall reading anything that reflects on them being slower or less nimble then their cousins. Just curious :)   Great read!

28 Aug, 2018 07:10

Glad you enjoy their down to earth nature :) The dex penalty comes more from a mechanical balance perspective. Base elves in DnD 5e get a +2 Dex before choosing a subrace. I wanted swamp elves to have a Con and Str boost, but I didn't want them to have a +4 total to their ability scores. For flavor justification it'd just be that between their increased bulk and experience moving in unstable terrain has slowed them down just a bit. At the end of the day they will still have an overall +1 to Dex.

28 Aug, 2018 11:18

It says in the article that the swamp elves are mainly labourers, how does that work? In that case who makes up the warriors in this subspecies? Or the diplomats or religious leaders and thinkers?   The -1 to Dex looks a little odd. I'd suggest maybe a minus to intelligence instead, considering they only receive the bare minimum education they need to get by and mostly use their life knowledge (aka wisdom)   I do like their courtship ideals, it's a nice mix between poeticism and practicality which seems to fit well with who they are as a people.

28 Aug, 2018 18:42

Given that they live primarily in geographical isolation, they've yet to have a need for any form of standing military. Most of the population is trained in the use of basic simple weapons and a decent number have access to druidic cantrips, which is enough to deal with the natural threats of the land. The community leaders would be the most powerful druids, and they would also be the fiercest combatants in the event of a major conflict. That being said, this area has never had a major conflict of that kind, and as such it'd be interesting to see if they could handle it.   I'll direct you to my reply to the comment above yours for an explanation of the Dex penalty, which still nets out to a +1 Dex bonus.   As for their intelligence, I understand your point, but in looking at what factors Int covers in DnD 5e, it doesn't necessarily line up mechanically. While the average swamp elf might not be able to handle complex mathematics or scholarly writing, I don't see why their upbringing would put them at a disadvantage in areas like Nature, Investigation, History (at least locally), etc.. I do however like the idea of a Wis bonus. Maybe I could give them a +1 Wis and then a choice between Con/Str.   Glad you enjoy the courtship piece, that seems to be something a lot of people resonate with. Honestly it reminds me of my grandparents. Thanks for your comments!

28 Aug, 2018 15:29

A very neat idea for an elven subrace, and the piece about their courtship ideals really stood out. The proverb at the top does a great job for setting the scene.   What does their home region look like, and how do they build their communities in the marshlands? It'd be interesting to read more about how their rice farms too since it's what they're most famous for.

28 Aug, 2018 18:46

Glad you enjoyed the proverb! I actually came up with that on the spot and feel pretty proud of it :)   For starters you can take a look at my Cliffwallow Marshlands article to get a better idea of their environment. After the contest word is over and I don't have to worry about word count I plan on updating these with even more detail. As far as community infrastructure goes, a good example would be the bayou living in the southeastern United States; lots of stilts, floating buildings, and boat travel.   As for the rice farming, I plan to write up a whole article on that eventually so stay tuned! Thanks for your comments!

28 Aug, 2018 18:56

Cool, I'll throw you a follow and look forward to reading about it. :) I'll definitely give the marshlands article a read too.

28 Aug, 2018 23:44

I don't understand, the swamp elves are the only type of elves?

31 Aug, 2018 18:53

No, they are a subspecies of elves native to a specific, geographically isolated region on the continent of Alfurstad.

31 Aug, 2018 20:22

Beter that the kitchen sink elfs

31 Aug, 2018 23:36

I enjoy playing around with traditional tropes and adding more variety.