Half-elf is a race in Dungeons & Dragons. Half-elves are the offspring of humans and elves.
Appearance and personality
Half-elves inherit a blend of of physical traits from their human and elven ancestors, and they are typically good-looking. Elves consider half-elves to resemble humans and sometimes call them "half-humans", while humans consider them to resemble elves.
Male half-elves are distinguished from their elven ancestors by the ability to grow facial hair. Half-elves can inherit facial features and hair, eye and skin color of either parent, though it is common for them to inherit their eyes from the elven parent.
Half-elves tend to inherit the best personality traits of both sides of their ancestry, drawing on the ambition, curiosity and versatility for which humans are famed, and the grace, beauty and love of art common to the elves. A half-elf typically takes a human or elven name depending on the society in which they were raised, and some will have both.
Half-elves have a tendency to be chaotic in alignment.
Abilities and traits
Half-elves are reputedly charismatic. They possess the superior night vision of their elven parentage, and are likewise resistant to the charm and sleep effects often used by fey.
Society and culture
Half-elves are uncommon in most worlds, where humans and elves tend to live apart. An exception is the world of Eberron, where on the continent of Khorvaire they have been considered a distinct race for centuries. Half-elves prefer the company of half-elves, but typically integrate into human societies and have no distinct kingdoms of their own.
Many half-elves take up life as a wanderer, feeling that they do not truly fit into either human or elven culture, and often outliving human companions. They are prone to wanderlust.
For a full list, see Category:Half-elves.
- Devis, half-elven iconic bard appearing in the Player's Handbook (3.0) (2000)
- Tanis Half-Elven, of the Dragonlance novels
AD&D 1st edition
The half-elf first appeared in the AD&D Players Handbook (1e) (1978), p.17 and Monster Manual (1e) (1977), p.39. They are described as handsome descendents of humans and elves, and have a life span of 250 years.
AD&D 2nd edition
Their lineage is more precisely described as someone with at least one human ancestor but with more elven ancestors than human; those with more human ancestors are human. They have a lifespan of 160 years.
D&D 3rd edition
Half-elves are detailed in the Player's Handbook (3.0) (2000) and Player's Handbook (3.5) (2003), p.18. They have a lifespan sometimes exceeding 180 years.
D&D 4th edition
The half-elf is one of 8 player character races appearing in the Player's Handbook (4e) (2008), p.42-43. They gain bonuses to Constitution and Charisma and are described as outgoing, enthusiastic, and suited to leadership. Their lifespans are similar to humans, though they remain vigorous into old age.
D&D 5th edition
The half-elf appears in the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), p.38-39. They are charismatic and social, and make good ambassadors. have a lifespan sometimes exceeding 180 years.
The rare offspring of human and elves appears in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, where they are known as the Peredhil. In Q&A threads on the ENWorld forum, Gygax said that he included the race at the behest of Tolkien fans.
Tolkien's elves ultimately draw inspiration from the elves of Norse mythology and subsequent Anglo-Saxon mythology.
Reception and influence
In 2018, TSR employee Tim Kask stated that Gary Gygax was not a fan of half-races:
- "'What do you think Gary would do in this situation? Would he allow non-standard races in his games?' To my knowledge, never. Ever. I don't believe he even allowed half-elves in his campaign. We produced half-elves and allowed 'em because people were doing it anyway, and we decided we'd better put some checks and balances on this half-breed stuff."
However, according to the Gygax Q&A threads on ENWorld, there were at least "a few half-elves" in his Greyhawk campaign. Gygax justified their inclusion:
- "Who needs a rationale for a race in a fantasy game? Half-elves, half-orcs, what's the difference? Both add choices to the game, and that is why they were included ;-)"
The inclusion of half-elves in Dungeons & Dragons has inspired their inclusion in numerous fantasy novels, video games and other works.