I was reading through the 1983 boxed set books the other day, and I noted how many encounter tables listed sylvan elves, and how few listed high elves. High elves only seemed to be common in places like Highfolk and the Principality of Ulek, despite the 1E PHB saying that they're the most common kind of elf.
Are sylvan elves more common and widespread than high elves, then, despite Greyhawk correlating so much with 1E's handbook and sources?
It's also worth keeping in mind that those encounter tables don't indicate numbers just how likely you are to encounter such creatures in relation to other creatures dwelling in those areas. They also mostly apply to 'open terrain' within those regions and I think that the intent is that when you encounter 'Elves, High' for example you refer to the entry for elves in the Monster Manual. If you check out elves in the 1e MM, you assume that you have encountered 20-200 elves with a 10% chance you have encountered them in their 'lair'. If encountered in their lair you add an equal amount of females tot he number and an extra 5% of wee elven bairns. If you happen to meet wood/sylvan elves they will attempt to avoid contact 75% of the time. So there's two main reasons why high elves may still be more common than wood elves in the Flanaess;
i) It's possible that although sylvan elves are found in more numerous locations than high elves their numbers are still smaller. The high elves are concentrated in much larger numbers but in fewer places perhaps.
ii) Sylvan elves are most prevalent in forests & woodlands as opposed to the high elves that are most likely to be encountered within actual settled kingdoms like Geoff Ulek Duchy & Veluna. Even if you happened to be trapsing through a forest, the sylvan elves are 75% likely to avoid you. So although found in more places human contact with them is still less than that of high elves. Even is sylvan elves are indeed more populous, high elves could still be more common, not in numbers but simply in the fact you're more likely to meet one.
At a glance, your chance of encountering a high or sylvan elf is as follows;
Northern Isle - Spindrifts (10%)
Duchy of Ulek (8%)
Hestmark Highlands (8%)
Western Vesve (5%)
There are a few areas that simply list encounters with 'demihumans', so in some these places there's a good chance this could include high elves such as the Celadon Forest, Dim Forest, Hornwood, Oytwood, Gnarley, Welkwood, County & Princ. of Ulek, Lendore Isle, Sunndi, Perrenland, Sterich, Greyhawk, Verbobonc, Dyvers and Nyrond.
There are some really interesting nuggets from this. In Keoland you're 7% more likely to see a sylvan elf than a high elf implying that the maybe the sylvan elves from all of Keolands surrounding forest are much less reclusive than regular sylvan elves. Also its interesting that Medegia has a decent population of sylvan elves outside of the bordering forest.
This has been interesting to look into! Thanks for the topic!
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