River elves as a culture encompasses more than just river elves as a racial subtype, but as non-amphibious elves making a home in this culture are rare, it is acceptable to speak of the culture as if it is made up of only the one racial group. The way of life of the river elf is essentially nomadic. They live to ride the flowing rivers on great rafts that carry their homes with them wherever they go. They use massive beasts to pull the rafts upstream, and then ride leisurely downstream again at the change of seasons.

Each great raft is a family home, as well as being the place of business for those who live on it. The smith’s raft will be where the smithy is as well as where the smith lives with their family. Those who do not have a family to share their raft will either band together and share a raft or stay with the flotilla on a personal pirogue. Every raft has an oarsman, who, though they do not paddle, is in charge of directing the beast that pulls the raft upstream and then manning the rudder when headed downstream. This is a very important task, and is not granted to anyone who would be distracted at the helm.

Over winter, the river elves retire to their winter quarters in marshy terrain that can be made safe by being inaccessible to anyone without a watercraft. This is the only place where they build semi permanent structures, and the only place they actually defend as territory claimed as their own.

The river elves’ system of government could best be described as an involuntary autocracy. It is not socially acceptable to openly admit to wanting to be in charge. They have a long history of write-in elections for positions of power, which they call Assignments. People are given the duties that others want them to have, and are not able to turn down the nomination to a role. There’s no schedule for when an election will happen. If a majority of people decide to have one, then the flotilla is polled and whoever is declared the winner now has to serve in the leadership position their fellows demand. In practice this works out to be something like a meritocracy with spontaneous Assignments of duties.

Their system of government extends to how the river elves structure their military. Should someone throw open a tent and demand action, whoever the majority of the soldiers look to is automatically the officer. Their Warmaster is Assigned by the troops they lead, but they do not often reassign this role once granted unless there is a very significant morale failure that suggests that their leader has made several bad choices.

High Concept

Merchant Flotilla of Frogs

The river elves organize themselves into trading armadas of houseboats, barges, and rafts that ply the rivers and wetlands of the continent to seek out exciting goods and deliver them to exciting elves. The river elves are amphibious, and are as comfortable in the water as other elves are on land, but do tend to dehydrate more quickly than others.

Trouble Concept

Do we have to say goodbye to the past?

With all that they were and all routes to return seemingly severed, the river elves have some trouble letting go. The pain of it leads them to tend toward bitterness, and makes relationships with humans very difficult. They have to strive against this resentment when dealing with anyone they perceive as having lost less and abandoned less of their core identity in the rebellion.

Before the War

Roads of Water, Barricades of Land

When the Lycan Empire reached the coastal marshes where the river elves made their homes, they were not immediately resented. The Empire initially provided greater reach for their trade network that allowed the river elves access to goods and ideas from across the continental divide where their river networks could not access. This initial welcome did not last. The Empire’s desire for accurate accounting and maps drove them to restrict travel and demand that the river elves build a city. This caused a small faction to vanish into the swamp and become rebels, but the core of the river elf community attempted to work with their new overlords.

The community at large were still river tradesmen, nomadic by nature, and lived on great barges that were pulled by truly massive hippopotamuses. These behemoths were so rarely seen above the surface of the water that most outsiders assumed that the rafts were moved by magic. The river elves at this time kept to marshy terrain and deeper rivers because their hippos limited the depth that the rafts could travel. Their trade network reached from Highelf in the north to the foothills of the Hobgoblin Satrapies in the south, and they butted heads with sea elves along its western shore.

Upgrade: Trade Network Administrators
River Elves have significant experience maintaining a vast network of river tradesmen. They fundamentally understand the ebb and flow of wealth. This provides a permanent upgrade to the Trade skill.

Joining the War

We built this fort, and we sank it too.

A driving force for the decision to bring the river elves to leave their marsh and go to war were the strict travel restrictions enforced by the Lycan Empire. The local governor demanded that a city be built in the marsh, so that access and movement could be controlled, and the marsh’s natural bounty could be accurately accounted on the tax registers. This local governor had the support of an elite few were-crocodiles that held the river elves under a tight leash.

The first attempt to build a fort in the swamp sank into the swamp of its own accord. The second fort the forced laborers constructed sank into the swamp with a little gentle assistance. The locals knocked over the third fort, burnt it down, and then let it sink into the swamp. They were certain that this would end the governor’s desire to build a fort in the unstable marsh, but the were-crocodiles cracked their whips and set the laborers back to work, constructing another fort on the unstable marshy terrain.

This was the final straw. The river elves gathered their war hippopotamuses, made a daring journey across the mountainous continental divide, and brought their grievances directly to the Lycan Imperial Lord’s doorstep. It was not the rebels hiding in the swamp that made the decision, but the laborers who did not think it wise to continue building untenable forts on unstable ground who opted to pick up and leave with no warning and no notice. The entire flotilla took the journey, knowing that their home marsh would be undefended from the were-crocodiles with the war hippopotamuses on the march.

Upgrade: Engineering Practice
River elves gain permanent upgrade to Infrastructure due to having set up and torn down so many buildings despite not really building many for themselves.

During the War

Unexpected violence from unexpected places

The war was already nearing its peak when the flotilla crossed the mountains and marched overland toward Skaplyndi. The initial plan was to bring their complaints to the Lord and ask for a new governor. This plan was immediately abandoned when they encountered Lycan forces who already considered the river elves to be in open rebellion and took no prisoners, accepted no parley.

Luck would have the flotilla encounter the more organized resistance, and they put themselves to work on this side of the divide. Initially, not even the Rebel knew what to make of the flotilla’s arrival, but uses were found. The noncombatants served roles in logistics and supply, using their raft building skills to create a new fleet of barges to transport materiel with expert efficiency. Those who put themselves forward for the rebel cause as soldiers became guerillas, engaging in hit and run tactics and vanishing into wetland terrain.

Near the end, a push from the Lycan forces into the swamps the river elves were using as a base ended in disaster for the Lycan military. A whole legion vanished into the wetlands, never to be seen again. This, however, caught the attention of the Rebel’s high command, even more than the logistical support the river elves had been supplying deftly since their arrival.

The war hippopotamuses were drafted, and all were pulled together to sack Skaplyndi herself. The Rebel thought it a brilliant idea to use the war hippopotamuses in a grand surprise assault directly at the center of the line. They baited the Lord’s own dire wolf heavy shock cavalry into a charge, and sent the behemoth war hippopotamuses en masse as a countercharge, emerging to great surprise from the bank of a carefully selected river. The charge was successful, in that the enemy cavalry was broken. But at the same time, so too were the river elves.

After the grand battle, there were no behemoths left. The Lycan Empire suffered a great defeat, but the river elves paid dearly for it. And the price they paid has left them stranded. They do not have the ability to make the crossing back to their home marsh without their behemoth hippopotamuses.

Upgrade: Guerilla Specialists
Their wartime experience in laying deadly ambushes has given the River Elves a permanent upgrade to the Special Operations skill.

The Post-War Dream

Sure as the current, we will keep moving on.

While not all of the river elves have given up on the idea of making the crossing again and returning to the home marsh, most have settled on the idea of rebuilding what they can where they are now. They know that there are some hippopotamuses that escaped into the swamp in the chaos, and while none are the behemoth war hippopotamuses, they could grow to that size if they could be found and given enough time. For now, they are training giant turtles to fill the role of the hippopotamus in pulling the rafts upstream as they travel.

Travel will always be of great importance to the river elves of the flotilla, and they take great pride in seeing as much of the world as their rivers can reach. They are adventurous sorts of elves, and always hope to be able to reach other people and see other places in their long lifetimes. They take great pride in being able to connect other peoples to each other through their river networks. They look forward to the opportunity to create a new empire of river commerce on this side of the continent.

They also harbor a strong desire to connect with other elves. Their goal is not to gather wealth for wealth’s sake. They wish to be the glue between elven societies, to bring the unique riches of each to the markets of the others. The aim of the river elves’ trade goals is to be certain that all elves are able to share in the uniquely elven riches they create.

Upgrade: Siblings of Strife
Having been through so very much together, River Elves have a deep sense of responsibility to their fellow elves. Their goal to connect their fellows and keep the bonds forged in wartime as strong as ever leads them to have an upgrade to their Loyalty.


  1. Blood in the Elven body.
    To found a continent-spanning trade network, connecting their fellow elves to exotic resources far and wide.
  2. Growth like duckweed.
    To infest every moving body of fresh water on the continent with elves on rafts with wares to sell.
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