Desert Elf Species in Zheng-Kitar | World Anvil

Desert Elf

The sandblasted elves of the sandy dunes

Base Racial Traits

Ability Score Modifiers: (+2 Intelligence, +2 Constitution): Desert Elves are hardy creatures, and due to their harsh desert upbringings they are both intelligent to survive the cunning desert predators and durable to endure the harsh desert winds.   Size: Desert Elves are Medium creatures and thus receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.   Type: Desert Elves are Humanoids with the elf subtype.   Speed: Desert Elves have a base speed of 30 feet.   Vision: Desert Elves gain low-light vision, allowing them to see twice as far as others in conditions of dim light.   Languages: Desert Elves begin play speaking The Regional Language that reflects their origins(See Languages of Zheng-Kitar), and either Old Elven or Baltairi. Desert Elves with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: (Common, Necril, Undercommon, Terran, Ezdhul, Celestial, Aklo, Infernal, and Abyssal).   Elven Immunities: Desert Elves are immune to magic sleep effects and gain a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells and effects.   Sandy Drifters: Desert Elves gain a racial +2 on Perception and Acrobatics checks, and treat one as a class skill.   Desert Elven Magic: Desert Elves receive a +2 racial bonus on caster level checks made to overcome spell resistance and cannot arrive off-target for Plane Shift and similar spells that move you across planar boundaries. In addition, elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Spellcraft skill checks made to identify the properties of magic items.   Nimble Striders: Desert Elves live their entire lives darting across the uneasy and shifting desert sands, and as such have become highly adept at navigating over uneven spaces. Desert Elves cannot be hindered by non-magical difficult terrain. Desert Elves are unaffected and take no penalties due to High Winds, Blizzards, or Sandstorms.   Die with weapon in hand: Desert Elves automatically treat every weapon they wield as having the 'called' weapon special ability, allowing them to teleport their weapon back to their hand as a swift action that does not provoke AoO, even if it is possessed by another creature. This has unlimited range so long as the weapon is on the same plane as them, but effects that block teleportation prevent the return of this weapon. Only one weapon can be attuned this way at a time, and to attune it a Desert Elf must focus on it for one minute.   Weapon Familiarity: Desert Elves are proficient with longbows (including composite longbows), scimitars, falchions, and shortbows (including composite shortbows), and treat any weapon with the word “elven” in its name as a martial weapon.   Navarran Skinwalkers: Desert Elves gain a climb speed equal to their base land speed by moving on all fours, and can transform into another small to large sized humanoid, monstrous humanoid, or animal creature by either touching its corpse and focusing for 1 full minute or by locking eyes with it as a gaze attack with a range of 30ft, forcing the target to succeed on a will save (DC 10 + 1/2HD + INTMOD) or have its form stolen, granting you the ability to change into that creature, as a polymorph effect. The target, if it fails the save, has its memory altered as per modify memory to remember it succeeding the save. You may only have one form 'stored' at a time. If you keep one form for an excessively long time(2 Weeks+) and the target still lives, they may begin developing minor memory loss(GM Discretion) as their memories begin to meld with yours. This is an extraordinary ability.   Animalistic Mind: Desert Elves can empathetically communicate with animals, and can use diplomacy to improve their attitudes. A Desert Elf can also use this ability to influence a magical beast with an Intelligence score of less than 3, but they take a –4 penalty on the check.

Basic Information


Desert Elves, like most humanoids, have two arms and two legs attached to a central torso, with a head located atop the torso. Contrary to their forest-dwelling kin, Desert Elves have more muscle mass and thicker bone structure, their bodies built more hardily to endure the harsh desert environment. Their bones and musculature are built of sturdier stuff, and are altogether designed to allow for longer and more intensive physical activity as well as allowing them to endure greater damage before their bodies give out on them, in stark contrast to the more flighty and dainty bodies of the Forest Elves.   Additionally, Desert Elven bodies are unique in that they are designed biologically to retain moisture and handle bodily heat at much more efficient rates than other races, as their bodies have a much higher tolerance for heat before they begin to sweat to reduce the bodily temperature. Instead, Sand Elven skin is uniquely designed biologically to deflect a majority of incoming heat at the surface level, reflecting the majority of rays of the sun and other sources of heat off of the skin and away from the body while simultaneously keeping a similar majority of heat from exiting through the skin. In this way, their bodily moisture is kept inside of them and their internal temperature is kept relatively stable within all but the most extreme of locales. When the environment becomes so unbearably extremely hot that their advanced biological makeup cannot sustain their stable internal temperature and moisture, their bodies begin to vent the excess heat through extremely efficient biological "vents", causing them to begin to sweat and give off a large amount of radiant heat.   Additionally, through a process not entirely understood, the Desert Elves are capable of transforming into animals and other humanoids by a process that the Desert Elves themselves know only as 'Skinwalking' - a process that allows them to steal the forms of another animal or humanoid to become them, adopting their physical form to run around as their target...the connection slowly stealing their target's memories and, in time, potentially making the original target a blank, mindless being.

Biological Traits

Desert Elven hair can vary in color, but generally tends to land on the lighter side of the spectrum such as White, Grey, Silver, and so on. Likewise, their skin and facial features can vary between individuals, and while their skin is naturally inclined towards darker tones, the level of darkness can vary as well from a dark, dark eastern tan to almost black while their facial features are generally smooth and eastern in appearance, with long and elegant features cut with gritty, chiseled traces that set them apart from their Forest Elven kin.

Genetics and Reproduction

Desert Elves, like most all Elves, are incredibly asexual beings and while they are capable of feeling pleasure and the emotions that are normally associated with reproduction and sex in other races like humans, they almost never have sex and reproduce for the mere act of doing so. They have almost no sex drive and care little about such things, and generally only reproduce when they feel the need to continue their species, not for any simple act of pleasure or emotion.   Adding onto their low sex drives, Desert Elves, like most all elves, simply do not conceive in the same way as other races do - for a Desert Elf to come down with child, they have to make a conscious decision to do so and ingest a special natural and herbal remedial concoction designed to stimulate their bodies to allow for reliable conception. So when the times demand it or when they feel the need, Elves gather together with their chosen mates and decide to have children, but otherwise they are mostly incapable of having children otherwise...however, this also explains the origins of Half-Elves, as many Elves often fancy relationships with humans but rarely stop to consider the consequences of an unplanned spontaneous pregnancy without the influence of their herbal concoctions...without them, a full elf cannot be born and a half-elf is the result.   When Elven Females come down with children, they carry the children inside of them for between a year to a year and a half, after which the child is born shortly thereafter.

Growth Rate & Stages

Desert Elves, unlike the Forest Elves, quickly grow to maturation once born and on average, reach adulthood by the age of 25, after which their biological processes slow down to normal Elven levels. Once they hit adulthood around age 25, Desert Elves generally reach middle age around age 625, become old around age 850, and reach venerable around the ancient age of 1,000, at which point they die some decades afterwards.

Ecology and Habitats

Desert Elves, true to their name, are creature adapted and born for life in the all but the harshest of hot and desert conditions...though due to a combination of racial seclusion and a desire to protect their settlements, many of their permanent cities or structures are built just beneath the surface of the sands. When they venture out into the world at large, Desert Elves are generally creature that live in tune and in unity with the natural world as their Elven Heritage influences them to do so, and often were creatures that shunned and disliked those races and cultures who expanded and advanced their civilizations at the expense of the natural world.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Desert Elves are omnivores, and are often avid hunters and gatherers that range the lands around their homeland in search of prey they will often use for food. When they go out to hunt, they often do so in carefully curated and specialized teams that are perfectly selected to achieve the task at hand.   However, no Desert Elf hunts wantonly or kills what he will not eat - a small prayer is given after each kill to thank the spirit of the slain for their bounty.

Biological Cycle

Unlike other Elves, Desert Elves age relatively normally and show signs of age constantly as they grow older, their skin gradually wrinkling and their hair slowly turning white and sometimes falling out, their organs slowly failing and their bodies slowly falling apart as they grow older.

Additional Information

Facial characteristics

Desert Elven facial features lack much of the traditional Elven ephemeral beauty, and while they do retain a small portion of the trademark beauty inherent to their people it is overshadowed by harsh and brutal middle-eastern features, their faces containing both smooth elegance and cutting brutality.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Desert Elves are generally found exclusively within arid deserts and the underground cave systems that can be found within those places.

Average Intelligence

Desert Elves are naturally a cut above other races in terms of intelligence, thanks to burning curiosity and desire to explore and learn driving them to accumulate a truly splendid amount of knowledge within their homes.   Desert Elven minds are complex and advanced, and their innate curiosity is supported by a mind that is highly intelligent and advanced even when compared to other sentient races such as Humans, and moreso than any other race their minds are flexible and adaptable, which allows them to maintain their sanity for longer when exposed to the alien and the eldritch secrets that dwell within the corners of the world and beyond the Dark Tapestry. Their minds are capable of astounding leaps of logic and reason, and when presented with obscure facts or dangerous eldritch knowledge their minds expertly handle and categorize it.

Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Thanks to their Elven Heritage as well as their long-lives lived in their cavern-cities, Desert Elves can see twice as far as normal in conditions of low-light. Additionally, their eyes are intrinsically adapted to the harsh conditions of their desert home, and their eyes automatically adapt and allow for normal vision even in incredibly harsh weather conditions such as sandstorms or blizzards.

Civilization and Culture

Naming Traditions

Unlike their Woodland kin, the Desert Elven names are more normal in comparison, influenced heavily by Native American and Middle-Eastern lexicons that place them with names that are often incredibly odd and non-elven.   Male: Takoda, Yiska, Lapo, Chu'a, Karim, Tarek, Mushin, Emir   Female: Ahyoka, Sitsi, Yanaba, Kamali, Kaheela, Shayaan, Ayesha, Khadra

Beauty Ideals

Much like their ancestors and even their woodland kin they despise, Desert Elves find beauty in elegance, grace, and harmony...however, unlike any other Elven people, they are wholly unique in their belief that these ideals alone are fragile things, fit only for woodland recluses or ancient ancestors, and are unfit for the sensibilities of a warrior. Instead, Desert Elves believe in the beauty of elegance tempered by practicality, grace refined by lethal efficiency, and harmony maintained and kept through strength both within and without.   They are a warrior people, and though they enjoy beautiful things and elegant aesthetics, such things they construct or admire invariable serve some practical purpose: A blade might be fantastically well-crafted and inlaid with precious gems and metals, but only because it lends to the elegance of the dance of death done by the Elf who wields such a wonderful blade. In this way, their architecture and craftsmanship might outwardly resemble that done by their ancestors or kin, but upon closer inspection such things are practical and all have a specific use or purpose - nothing is for mere appearance.

Common Dress Code

Desert Elves prefer to dress themselves in lightly colored robes and cloths, and often had large and wide-brimmed hats or thick white hoods to shield themselves from the piercing desert sun. Armor was light and form-fitting, and they preferred pragmatic, simple forms of dress to showy, flashy, or elaborate pieces.

Common Customs, Traditions and Rituals

The most iconic and legendary Desert Elven tradition saw children of often no older than 11 or 13 abandoned by their parents out in the desert wilderness with nothing but a small cloth wrapping for clothing and a simple spear...given a simple command to "find their way home" through what was often days of brutal, blistering, and unforgiving terrain, this process proved lethal to many who were put through it...but, to those who survived and found their way home, they were forged into hardy survivalists who could endure in even the harshest climates, and were forged into material worthy of being broken upon the anvil of the Desert Elven military training.

Common Taboos

Nothing is more taboo to a Desert Elf than isolationism, or seeing oneself as a 'Lone Wolf'. Born out of the simple fact that loners, in Desert Elven Society, are dangerous beings that threaten the unified stability of the whole, the Desert Elves thus find this mindset to be incredibly they similarly reacted to stagnancy or refusal of progress.
Alternate Racial Trait List:   Desert Elf Alternate Racial Traits  
Racial Feat List:   Desert Elf Racial Feats  
Genetic Ancestor(s)
1000 Years
Conservation Status
Desert Elves are not low in population, but are an incredibly secretive people both due to the persecution they sometimes face, the tendency with which other races move in and steal their land and territory, and their own natural inclination towards tribal life and seclusion. Their numbers are populous, but hidden.
Average Height
5.2ft to 6.0ft (1.6m - 2.0m)
Average Weight
110lbs - 220lbs)(50 - 100kg)
Average Physique
Unlike the other Elves, Desert Elven bodies are generally well-built, muscular, and very adapted to intense physical activity. They retain some litheness and suppleness as is common to Elvenkind, but much of their body is hardened muscle and tempered by the crucible of combat and strife against both man and nature.   Desert Elven bodies are almost always cut and lithe - females and males alike hardly develop thick curves or well-rounded bodies, and are instead streamlined for nimbleness and action - both due to the harshness of their desert homes and the lifestyle which they lead.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
Desert Elven bodies are generally dark in coloration, ranging from a dark tan to completely black on rare occasions. They bear no markings or odd colors upon their body, except for those they inscribe upon themselves in times of war or battle.   Desert Elven hair can vary in color, but generally tends to land on the lighter side of the spectrum such as White, Grey, Silver, and so on.
Related Ethnicities
Related Myths
Related Materials

The Desert's Secretive Skinwalkers

The more reclusive and tribal counterparts to their Forest-Dwelling Kin, the Desert Elves are a mystical, tribal people who live by simple spiritualism, ancestral faith, and incredibly strict warrior discipline. They prefer to isolate themselves from other races and to live in seclusion due to a racial tendency towards distrust and paranoia, but more primarily due to the fact that historically, they are a race that has been exploited for the land that their tribes have previously held, being forced out of their ancestral lands by other more powerful or headstrong races and forced into other more distant areas.   Known far and wide as mystical and sometimes feared beings known for their racial ability to "Skinwalk" - the ability to take on the form of another creature - the Desert Elves are things spoken of in myth by many others, and while many Desert Elves tribes may not hide themselves as completely as others and might maintain open-ish relations with the rest of the world, the fact remains that many other Desert Elves prefer to operate in the shadows, only giving trust to others once they have earned it and proven themselves as beings not hostile to themselves or their tribe. They are not an innately hostile people - and this relative simplicity and peacefulness with which they live their lives is what has lead to others taking advantage of them so often.

Simple Spiritualism, Simple Faith

Though many might consider modern-day Desert Elves an anachronism compared to other more advanced cultures, Desert Elves remain a simple but hardy people with immense faith in their ancestors, the spirits of this world and the next, and the shamanistic faith they hold in the Spirit Kings. They yet live in simple tribes for the most part, with tents and wigwams forming mobile tent-cities that crawl across the world's deserts as mobile encampments, with rare but well-hidden permanent structures such as cities and fortresses that serve as their ancestral homelands or ancient tombs and more, usually hidden beneath the sand in sprawling desert caves or in well-hidden desert valleys.   It is not that they cannot live advanced lives - they simple see most advancements as unneccesary, as their spartan and highly warrior-like lifestyle that is so often tempered by shamanistic spiritualism gives them a grounded realism in life's simple pleasures - so they simply do not see the benefit, often enough, of embracing advanced technology or culture.


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