|Epic Meepo RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32|
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Humans spend one-third of their lives sleeping.
So do elves. Elves just happen to do all of their sleeping up front so they don't need to worry about it later in life. Sometime before adulthood, they vanish into a faerie realm that exists beyond sleep. Only after experiencing an entire lifetime of dreams do they reappear in the mortal world, now fully grown and immune to sleep effects.
Gnomes don't dream all their dreams at once, but are so full of wanderlust, they find themselves lost in dreams for years at a time. And gnome children sometimes forget to grow older instead of younger, so they're constantly reverting to their younger, less-experienced selves. It takes gnomes a while to learn other mechanisms of coping with hardships and boredom.
Dwarves, meanwhile, are too practical for dream-related shenanigans. They start so late in life because they undergo a natural process of petrification during adolescence. They remain in statue form for decades, during which time family members and well-wishers constantly attempt to perfect them with stonemason's tools. Botched dwarves become duergar.