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View Full Version : Elves vs. Dwarves (Craftspeoplesship Edition)



Mr. Mask
2014-02-10, 01:10 PM
Someone raised an interesting point when discussing Lord of the Rings. Who are better crafters of weapons, armour, etc., the elves or the dwarves? This will obviously vary by setting, but we can discuss major settings (DnD, Tolkien) as well as our own takes of them.


There are numerous possibilities. They might each be better with different kinds of crafts. Dwarves might have better metallurgy but elves might be better at crafting the metal. Or they might be equally good at their crafts but take different approaches.


What do you think?

Sith_Happens
2014-02-10, 01:48 PM
In Middle-Earth, Elves seem to be famed for their swords and only their swords. Dwarves are famed for everything else.

In D&D 3.5, Dwarvencraft is a grade of weapon and armor quality above and beyond Masterwork while Elvencraft just denotes a bow you can club people with. Ergo, Dwarves win at everything craft-related.

Red Fel
2014-02-10, 01:56 PM
As an aside, in Norse mythology, the Svartalfar (dark elves) are basically dwarves; underground-dwelling craftsmen, more-than-slightly evil, who make things for the gods, like golden hair and magic chains to bind monsters and things like that.

But yeah. I would see elves with woodcraft and magic items, dwarves with stonecraft and metalsmithing.

Also, in Tolkien, were the goblin war weapons (like Orcrist and Glamdring) made by dwarven smiths or elven magic? I forget.

Mabn
2014-02-10, 02:00 PM
in Tolkien, I seem to remember elves crafted the sun.

Edit: nope, just the morning star

Rhynn
2014-02-10, 02:02 PM
In Middle-Earth, Elves seem to be famed for their swords and only their swords. Dwarves are famed for everything else.

Swords and rings. And, uh, everything else, really - anything Elves make is magic, basically. Their cloaks blend into your surroundings, their boats are light but nearly unsinkable, their food is amazingly tasteful and one wafer-cake lasts you all day, their bow-strings won't break, their scabbards will protect swords drawn from them from breaking in defeat, and so on.

I can't really think of very many Dwarven items that are on the same level as Elven items like Anglachel, etc. Narsil was Dwarven-made, but other than that, the mithril mail, for instance, doesn't seem like something elves couldn't have made too.

Edit:

in Tolkien, I seem to remember elves crafted the sun.

Nope, that was the Vala AulŽ, the Smith and creator of Dwarves. He made a vessel where the fruit of one of the Two Trees (the golden one) was placed, and the Maia Arien was set to guide it through the Sky.

FŽanor did create the Silmarils, though: jewels that held the light of the Trees within them.

Jay R
2014-02-10, 02:09 PM
I have a hazy notion that the best dwarves are the best at working with materials, and the best elves are the best at infusing enchantment into items.

But I think it's crucial to realize that the best dwarves are better than most elves, and the best elves are better than most dwarves.

Dienekes
2014-02-10, 02:10 PM
Someone raised an interesting point when discussing Lord of the Rings. Who are better crafters of weapons, armour, etc., the elves or the dwarves? This will obviously vary by setting, but we can discuss major settings (DnD, Tolkien) as well as our own takes of them.


There are numerous possibilities. They might each be better with different kinds of crafts. Dwarves might have better metallurgy but elves might be better at crafting the metal. Or they might be equally good at their crafts but take different approaches.


What do you think?

In general, for Tolkien, both were renown for making amazing works the likes of which where beyond anything else. Dwarven crafts were beautiful and well made, while elven were vaguely magical.

Feanor, the greatest of the elves had, what is probably considered the three greatest items ever created in the Silmarils. However, outside of him, dwarven stuff tends to be more practically useful, they also were the only people able to work with mithril making the strongest armors in the setting.

As for swords, both seem pretty powerful. It was a dwarven blade that (Narsil) that took down Sauron (though it was later reforged by elves). Elven blades glow around orcs though.

Joe the Rat
2014-02-10, 02:23 PM
Swords and rings. And, uh, everything else, really - anything Elves make is magic, basically. Their cloaks blend into your surroundings, their boats are light but nearly unsinkable, their food is amazingly tasteful and one wafer-cake lasts you all day, their bow-strings won't break, their scabbards will protect swords drawn from them from breaking in defeat, and so on.

I can't really think of very many Dwarven items that are on the same level as Elven items like Anglachel, etc. Narsil was Dwarven-made, but other than that, the mithril mail, for instance, doesn't seem like something elves couldn't have made too.For metal and gemwork, the Dwarves were pretty much the peak. A small shirt of fine mithril rings? Light as silk, stronger than steel? Set with a belt of pearl and crystal? Worth more than the Shire? It was made by Dwarven craftsmen for an elven lord for one of his princelings. If they could do better, they wouldn't have someone else make it. That's not to say elves couldn't make mithril chain (and they were quite capable of reforging Narsil), but I suspect Dwarfcraft will be better.

Elves have more of an innate magic to them, and enchantment - not the exquisite cutting of the crystal, but making one such that it can capture the light of a magic tree and become THE MOON... and the boat it rides on... is a titch more to the supernatural. Dwarfcraft is a bit more, er, down to earth.

@Jay R: That is a good point.

Rhynn
2014-02-10, 02:27 PM
I have a hazy notion that the best dwarves are the best at working with materials, and the best elves are the best at infusing enchantment into items.

But I think it's crucial to realize that the best dwarves are better than most elves, and the best elves are better than most dwarves.

This sounds about right to me, too. Dwarves get the most out of the materials; Elves put some external power into the items.


In general, for Tolkien, both were renown for making amazing works the likes of which where beyond anything else. Dwarven crafts were beautiful and well made, while elven were vaguely magical.

I vaguely recall that some Dwarven objects were as good as magical, too... the reference to magical toys may just have been a comparison, I guess, and they were actually mechanical, but I can't say for sure.

Rhynn
2014-02-10, 02:35 PM
For metal and gemwork, the Dwarves were pretty much the peak. A small shirt of fine mithril rings? Light as silk, stronger than steel? Set with a belt of pearl and crystal? Worth more than the Shire? It was made by Dwarven craftsmen for an elven lord for one of his princelings. If they could do better, they wouldn't have someone else make it. That's not to say elves couldn't make mithril chain (and they were quite capable of reforging Narsil), but I suspect Dwarfcraft will be better.

The thing is, these were Third Age Silvan Elves (well, Greenwood royalty were Sindar). There's huge differences between "Elf" and "Elf" in Middle-Earth. I think that Noldor smiths of Gondolin, for instance, could have done as well or better, without a doubt. But there is a quote from The Silmarillion (see here (http://books.google.fi/books?id=4OfWWfRDAXcC&pg=PT102&lpg=PT102&dq=%22these+at+first+the+Naugrim+smithied+for+him% 22&source=bl&ots=AeZsvtdAm4&sig=fNTYwHX4MvTh3h0lAt1kc6d85lE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Oyn5UpTMH8HNygPWlYFg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=%22these%20at%20first%20the%20Naugrim%20smithied %20for%20him%22&f=false), if that works) that suggest that the First Age smiths of Nogrod and Belegost were the greatest in the history of Middle-Earth at crafting steel and at making mail armor.

Given the themes of loss and diminishing, I doubt that Third Age Dwarven smiths, even at Erebor or in Moria, were the equal of First Age Noldor smiths (some of whom might easily be around in the Third Age; there are many First Age Elves in LotR, like Elrond, Glorfindel, Cirdan, Galadriel, and Celeborn).

hamlet
2014-02-10, 02:46 PM
Just an added point concerning Tolkein, the Men of Westerness and some of their descendants were no slouches either, though they were more into warcraft in a way. Or at least monuments. The Numenorians were able to pull off some things that amaze even elves who were around to personally know Feanor.



As for generally, I tend to agree that dwarves will get the absolute best out of the materials at hand, but an elf will take those materials and infuse them with magic, spirit, essence, what have you to create something more wondrous and greater.

Just imagine what the two could do working together. Campaign idea, the elves and dwarves get tired of humans being essentially lords of the multiverse by virtue of outbreeding almost every other race in existance and so get together and fuse their innate crafting abilities together to create things that surpass even the mightiest human crafter, and then turn against their human once allies.

FabulousFizban
2014-02-10, 08:32 PM
Campaign idea, the elves and dwarves get tired of humans being essentially lords of the multiverse by virtue of outbreeding almost every other race in existance and so get together and fuse their innate crafting abilities together to create things that surpass even the mightiest human crafter, and then turn against their human once allies.

D:

campaign result: End of mankind

Teapot Salty
2014-02-10, 10:57 PM
In Middle-Earth, Elves seem to be famed for their swords and only their swords. Dwarves are famed for everything else.

In D&D 3.5, Dwarvencraft is a grade of weapon and armor quality above and beyond Masterwork while Elvencraft just denotes a bow you can club people with. Ergo, Dwarves win at everything craft-related.
How much damage do those bows do?

Slipperychicken
2014-02-11, 12:00 AM
D:

campaign result: End of mankind

Alternate Ending: Humans team up with Orcs, Ogres, Bugbears, Trolls, and Goblins to ransack the elven and dwarven kingdoms.


How much damage do those bows do?

They deal the same damage as normal. Elvencraft is a modification listed in Races of the Wild page 66. It lets a longbow function as a quarterstaff of its size, and a shortbow function as a club. A wielder can alternate between melee and ranged attacks freely and threatens squares as though wielding a melee weapon.

Mr. Mask
2014-02-11, 12:06 AM
Alternate ending: Dragons happen. Everybody dies.

oudeis
2014-02-11, 12:13 AM
Alternate Ending: Humans team up with Orcs, Ogres, Bugbears, Trolls, and Goblins to ransack the elven and dwarven kingdoms.Sorry bro, never gonna happen. Elder Races 1, Humans 0.

Jay R
2014-02-11, 11:14 AM
Just imagine what the two could do working together. Campaign idea, the elves and dwarves get tired of humans being essentially lords of the multiverse by virtue of outbreeding almost every other race in existance and so get together and fuse their innate crafting abilities together to create things that surpass even the mightiest human crafter, and then turn against their human once allies.

My conclusion is that the traditional rivalry between elves and dwarves is an evolutionary requirement if humans are to develop at all.

Shyftir
2014-02-11, 07:28 PM
Human out breed both races and are totally ruthless, bringing total war on their elder race enemies. End result Orcs win.

Mr. Mask
2014-02-11, 07:43 PM
Actually yeah, lets bring orcs into this discussion.

Tolkien mentioned his orcs were pretty skilled with all things weapon in nature, didn't he? There are legends of trolls making some pretty good stuff, too (not Tolkien's trolls as far as I'm aware).

How do you think their craft compares to humans', elves', and dwarves'?

Cikomyr
2014-02-11, 08:17 PM
Orc's craftsmanship was utilitarian, first and foremost. There is no beauty, there is no elegance. Their process is efficient, but they put no love nor appreciation in what they do.

Seeing as they need to outfit armies numbering in the thousands rather quickly, I have not problem believing they are very efficient industry people. It's little wonder they are put to work in manufactures in Arcanum : Steamwork & Magicka.


To go back at the original question: I'd say that Dwarves are probably the best pure material craftsmen, pushing back the boundaries of what normal things can achieve. They can stretch the limit of physics with their process.

Elves still leaves them behind; but only because they break the norms of physics. The best elf craftsmen are deeply spiritual practicing some thematic magic when they perform their art. They function under different kind of rules. However, they cannot mass-produce stuff, as every piece they fabricate is meant to be unique.

kieza
2014-02-11, 08:18 PM
Actually yeah, lets bring orcs into this discussion.

Tolkien mentioned his orcs were pretty skilled with all things weapon in nature, didn't he? There are legends of trolls making some pretty good stuff, too (not Tolkien's trolls as far as I'm aware).

How do you think their craft compares to humans', elves', and dwarves'?

Better for mass produced items, worse for high-quality items. They could churn out enough weaponry to supply an army in short order, but they couldn't make anything to equal Glamdring, Orcrist, or Sting.

EDIT: That is to say, they have the advantage of scale when making low-quality items, but don't have the skill necessary to make higher-quality ones.

Rhynn
2014-02-11, 08:25 PM
I've always figured orcs create things that are nasty, brutish, and effective. They can't match dwarves or elves in quality, but they can exceed them in quantity: neither dwarves nor elves can produce items of the same solid quality as quickly as orcs do, because the dwarves and elves practice more refined crafts. But anyone carrying orc gear is likely to be mistaken for one, or for an ally of them.

Naturally, orcs are also big on vile, cowardly poisons on their weapons that bring a lingering death.

... I far prefer the militaristic Tolkien orcs to the more modern barbarian orcs.

oudeis
2014-02-11, 08:38 PM
The words of The Master Himself *genuflects*:


Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get other people to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.

Cikomyr
2014-02-11, 08:41 PM
EDIT: That is to say, they have the advantage of scale when making low-quality items, but don't have the skill necessary to make higher-quality ones.

Agreed, however, I would advance the idea that Orcs have became experts at adapting the finest pieces of equipment they loot.

BootStrapTommy
2014-02-11, 08:47 PM
In my mind, Dwarves should be the kings of craft. But maybe just because I give Elves the domain of magic.