All the World's a Stage
No one can tell you exactly how to roleplay anything, so take below as a helping hand and a guide - not a rulebook.
Something fun about night elves is that they are more-or-less self-sovereign, independent; they do not see the Horde as totally evil (most like Tauren, except when attacked), and had a long debate about joining the alliance; they've basically joined out of necessity, and though are very good to their allies, they more or less govern themselves and go about their own business unless when it is necessary to join forces with other allies or often even the horde (this is especially true of druids and those affiliated with them, and some sentinels- many others as well, generics, and so on, so forth)...the horde in places where they must defend against the Burning Legion or other things that threaten the whole world and the fate of all, for example; they are indeed a part of the alliance. This has made them popular, perhaps. They speak Darnassian and also know common, and many know many other languages, though this is not an option in the game.
The purpose of this guide
This night elf roleplaying guide's purpose is to improve your roleplaying experience, whatever your server. There are some things that you can take apply in your other characters. The purpose of this guide is not to be exhaustive, but to be complete with the basics. It does not include every single possibility and derivative of night elves, but only the ones relevant here and now. We hope you find it helpful.
What to do
For starters, your character should not be boring. It should not be so generic that you sound just like the next guy. Develop your character's personality and its personality will shine.
Try to stay away from the obvious cliches. There is nothing new in that area. It does not mean that your character cannot be nice, or that it cannot be happy (or like flowers...probably every night elf does, as they adore nature). The youngest ones are likely to be happy as well as the oldest ones as the younger ones have hope in a new dawn for their people and the world in general and haven't experienced as much suffering (and are perhaps comfortable enough with immortality-some of them, anyway), and the oldest ones have seen the events of the very world unfold and have learned meditation, inner peace, and to be happy with the blessings they have and the good in the world. But what it means is that your character should be believable. They can be feral, sure, but talking in cat doesn't make sense, nor being totally savage. The can be "hippie", sure, but they will defend and even fight when they feel it's necessary.
On the other hand you should not try to be so unique that it get too out of touch with lore. A good example is being a paladin as a night elf or a dragon. Although they are not strictly against the lore, they are stretches and as such need a lot of work to be believable.
What not to avoid
Don't avoid the slightly "weird" characters just because people are giving you weird looks. As the great Essence of RP hosts said, you can RP anything as long as it's convincing.
Remember that the purpose of RP is to create an experience for you and those around you. The more convincing and engaging the experience is, the better.
Background and characteristics
Night elves as we know them these days originate from Kalimdor and in fact the first to originate from Azeroth- born at the waking of the world. In the post-Sundering Azeroth following the Well of Eternity's destruction "Kalimdor" refers to the western continent.
Night elf first names are usually two to four syllables long. Generally speaking, feminine and masculine names are not generally very different although certain consonants and suffixes are more generally associated with one.
Night elf names typically do not have the letters Z, J or X. Those are also absent from the known samples of the modern Darnassian language. In general, names with those letters were only used by pre-Sundering elves. For instance, the names Xavius and Azshara, both pre-Sundering names from the lore, feature some unusual letters. Names of this sort do not appear in post-Sundering names whatsoever, probably due to a slight linguistic change in the kaldorei tongue.
Though night elf names do appear to have certain feminine and masculine suffixes, the differences between masculine and feminine names are minute if at all existent.
As far as being born pre-Sundering is concerned, your only choice of origin is Kalimdor. The old continent was the only one, and naturally, most of it was a vibrant forest. Of course, back then, many elves were born in one of the awe-inspiring city-states, such as Zin'Azshari, Eldarath, Loreth'aran, Bashal'aran or Ameth'aran to name a few. This is also a chance for you to make up a lesser-known city and roll with it, maybe to break your character from historical limitations a little bit. Take all things in consideration, now.
When you decide your character was born after the Sundering, your choice is limited to northern Kalimdor, at best descending to the Barrens before they became a semi-desert they are now. The forests are a likely choice, such as those of Ashenvale.
A common mistake would be to choose Teldrassil. Keep in mind that Teldrassil (and thus Darnassus) is only roughly 45 years old, and your character could not have come from there originally. Night elves reach maturity/adulthood at 320 years of age.
First off, night elves refer to themselves and one another as "kaldorei", which means children (dorei) of the stars (kal means star or stars).
As one would expect from their race's name, night elves are nocturnal, generally sleeping during the daytime and waking at dusk or later. Just like with humans, there will be some night elves who break from this generalization--perhaps "morning dove" could mean the same thing as "night owl" does in the real world. An average night elf would be more likely to favor quieter, darker places, such as the shaded forests of Ashenvale or the tranquil glades within Teldrassil, and probably would not enjoy midday in Tanaris, so be sure to consider where your character happens to be located and when he or she is active. All night elves meditate to heal their minds and even bodies, to culminate mental, spiritual, and emotional serenity, peace, grace, happiness, wisdom, strength...and this of course can translate to physical and makes for a very self-reflective and stable people as a whole.
Night Elven culture takes its association with Nature and the natural world very seriously. The two pillars that govern Night Elf society revolve around nature in one way or another: the elf members of the Cenarion Circle and the Sisterhood of Elune. Officially, the Sisterhood is the government of Darnassus, but the Cenarion Circle holds a great deal of influence. Druids are deeply respected by all Darnassian night elves, and even many Highborne treat them with courtesy, so it is natural that they would join their sister priestesses (and recently, brother priests) in positions of authority. There have been many druid females throughout the ages, though not as many as male, and traditionally all priests (priestess') were female, though that has changed recently as well. Warriors, sentinels, and such have been almost exclusively female; sentinels are still exclusively female, though male warriors have been seen always and are being seen more often and more closely affiliated with them. Gender roles are not mattering much anymore.
Night elves are also extremely long-lived, even without considering that they have been immortal for at least the past ten thousand years. They are considered 'adults' at 300 years of age, and many individuals with power or authority are old enough, or nearly so, to remember the Sundering. The length of life among many night elves means that they frequently take a wider perspective on matters than younger, shorter-lived races. A few days spent thinking over a single decision may seem excessive for a human from Stormwind, but many night elves would think it perhaps too little time to truly consider all outcomes. At the same time, some, such as Archdruid Fandral Staghelm, are much less patient and are often called "rash" by their colleagues, so don't feel that every night elf must have infinite patience. Night elves tend to be very well-read and knowledgeable. All night elf children learn to read and write, or the vast majority (of course you could roleplay yours as being an exception, but this would be extremely odd and rare).
Like every playable race on Azeroth, night elves are omnivorous. Many, however, have a distaste for meat, preferring to eat purely vegetarian foods; fish and eggs are also fairly commonly eaten. This is not to say that they do not hunt--although they do not share the Tauren reverence for the Great Hunt, night elves are generally known for being excellent hunters. Furthermore, their reverence for nature compels them to waste as little as possible of any creature killed for food or materials.
Reverence of Elune is universal among night elves, partially because she has revealed herself to them on more than one occasion in living memory. They may also hold belief in the raw forces of Nature, or the Dragon Aspects, though this would be more respect than worship. Cenarius, Ysera, Aviana, Goldrinn and the Ancients are very well-respected and sometimes revered; occasionally Malorne as well. Night elves are generally a very highly spiritual people, yet highly pragmatic, an often sophisticated paradox. Some view the Light as an aspect of Elune (and indeed all the gods, ancients, and most they highly respect or sometimes revere); some truly believe in the Light, for it is a force that has existed for a long time; though the vast majority do not really revere it, they will respect it. Though this is highly unlikely, bordering on non-existent, night elves may not even worship anything at all; they recognize the power in beings such as Elune, druid magics, and the Dragon Aspects, but might not see them as being worthy of religious belief per se. Do be aware, however, that any Night Elf that does not worship Elune may not be well-received among his or her peers: worship of Elune is by far the most common faith, to the point that the priesthood is their government, and refusing to worship Elune may be socially unacceptable. If you choose to play an 'agnostic,' 'atheist,' or any other non-traditional Night Elf, make sure to consider these points when writing and playing your character. These things become more accepted, too, over the years as culture develops, however. So again - it's not a rule, just a guide.
Like all sentient beings, each night elf will have a unique and individual personality. However, there are many trends that can be observed by looking at the night elves who appeared in Warcraft III, the official Warcraft novels, or while playing World of Warcraft. Common personality traits, both before and after the Sundering, include:
- Intelligence – Many night elves have proven themselves adept at strategy, planning, study, and research, even when they come from the 'lower classes.' Malfurion himself was a commoner and yet considered a scholar.
- Pride – The Kaldorei have a most ancient history, and it is natural that they feel proud about themselves and not ashamed of their race; however they do indeed feel remorse and repentance, and will be sorry for mistakes made. Many feel great sorrow and a strong sense of responsibility for their part in the events that led to the Sundering. Their pride- perhaps self-sufficiency is a better term here; has made the night elves reluctant to seek help from most other races, though they will seek it when such help is desperately needed (they're generally wise). At the same time, their pride is not always an evil thing, and they have many accomplishments and attributes that they should be proud to possess.
- Tenacity – Time and again, the night elves have suffered terrible things, sometimes brought upon themselves and other times forced upon them, but they have always risen back up and pressed on. Even in the face of tragedy, they have persevered.
- Wildness – Having been connected to nature through their great Goddess Elune, and her demigod son Cenarius, night elves treat nature with a deep reverence and respect. Although the Highborne often see nature and its creatures as tools rather than peers, they still admire the strength and knowledge that can be found in the natural world.
- Grace – Night elves infuse almost everything they do with aesthetic value. No one can deny that they work to make things both strong and beautiful, at least in their own eyes. Their bodies are also gracile and sculpted, and their long lives allow them many years to hone their physical appearance.
- Wisdom - They were born at the waking of the world on Azeroth, the first race to appear on Azeroth, and have been immortal and live very long lives. They learn and grow; many are very wise at this point, and serene. Or wise and full of energy. Wise and full of humor. Some think night elves are very serious, and they are when necessary, but one does not have such a history and long tradition and not develop an ability to laugh and jest, or to play and have a good time. There is the "hippie" stereotype of them; this is probably because they can be seen tranquilly tending to nature and peacefully interacting among one another as brothers and sisters, regarding one another as such; it is rare for one kaldorei to distrust another - unless of course they are a traitor, which is very rare.
Night elves, while wise, can be proud. They are often viewed by other races as haughty and supremacist, though in truth very few are so; most show great compassion, such as in the case of toward the worgen and gilnean humans; the night elves sought to aid them and saved countless lives, and have even offered their capital of Darnassus as a new home for all of them, a refuge for the refugees. They have showed great compassion toward most tauren particularly druids, Draenei (they were the first to welcome them after the crash on Azuremyst Isle), and if you look closely, you'll see that while they do take pride in themselves, they don't feel an air of superiority- they're likely to befriend any creature who is good and in need. Still, they wish to maintain their independence; independent at heart, they seek to preserve their culture, so outsiders are let in to a degree but not fully, generally speaking. This is understandable. It will take a lot, I mean a lot, to anger a Night Elf but once angered a Night Elf will hold on to the grudge for a long time. The fact they are not quick to anger doesn't mean they don't care; it just means they seek solutions and don't see anger as a solution in the vast majority of situations. Night elf society as we know it now is different from what it was before the third war. Traditionally, sentinels and priests were exclusively female, while druids were exclusively male. Following the third war this is no longer the case and there is very little in the way of gender bias.
When making your character, look where your abilities fit into the frames of the night elf society. Below are some of the "niches" a character might find itself in:
- Generics/regulars - Your abilities can vary from fishing to beast-slaying. Picking a regular night elf background is potentially the most free-form of all others, but at the same time requires skill in roleplay not to venture into the generic territory. Note: there are no commoners in night elven society, nor nobility. All are considered equal when born; many years ago this was different, but today all are considered equal except that some are respected more than others for things like great leadership (example, Tyrande, Malfurion)...and of course betrayers are looked down-upon. But there is no class or caste system, and your amount of money is not important in night elf society.
- Sentinels - You are well disciplined. You character also knows how to use a weapon with expertise. A sentinel may be war-hardened, or you may have already left the order to retire. Either way - you are well versed in the ways of war.
- Priesthood - As a chosen of Elune, your character uses her divine power with relative ease. You are also disciplined, calm and mostly well-mannered. You know many, possibly ancient, rituals and customs of the kaldorei race. As a result, everyone respects your position, as you are the only person who can commune with Elune to such degree. You are also no stranger to combat.
- Druids - You exhibited a special bond with nature, or decided to form one yourself. In the end, you work as a sage for your community in a similar way to the priestesses. The drawback is the fact you must spend a certain time in the Emerald Dream, not present in the waking world. You character is thus wise and knowledgeable, but also bestial and untamed.
- Outcasts - Your character is shunned by the society as an abomination, unfitting or otherwise you have alienated yourself. You may be pitied, feared, hunted or simply unknown depending on your reason for being rejected (or rejecting) society. Your character should be wary of the society and every single kaldorei. Often, such characters would be cold to others and cunning. Demon hunters, drifters, death knights and mages all fit into this niche in one way or another.
Personality is Personal, even in Night elf society. Being a druid does not mean you have to be a Malfurion copy who respects ALL life, being a priestess does not mean you have to be Tyrande - trying to save everyone. People differentiate from each other, and this is what makes a character interesting. Everyone being the same makes for a very boring environment, and unrealistic, too.
Shandris Feathermoon-like personality
The kaldorei family cell is not cohesive, compared to the community as a whole. The nuclear family is practically non-existent and is replaced by the wider community, neighborhood and friends. I see people making this mistake all the time. The family of a night elf are, yes, their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, children, and so on...but their even greater "true" family are the night elf people as a whole and the community, who they surround themselves with. Generally blood family remain close all their lives yet "adopt" themselves into other "families" or the "great family" as well. It is common that night elves refer to strangers as "brother" or "sister". The Darnassian word for sister is "falore."