Meta Description:Half-Elves in D&D 5e walk a fine line between their heritages, often finding themselves lost. Here's how you can make your Half-Elf just as enthralling.
While Half-Orcs get accepted in Orcish villages with displays of bravery and strength, a Half-Elfmight not have the same welcome from both their Human and Elven sides. A Half-Elf in Dungeons & Dragonscan live with humans and see their loved ones pass away, or live with Elves and see themselves age slowly while their friends age much slower. Half-Elves combine the curiosity of Humans with the refined sense of Elves which, unfortunately, force them to be outcasts from either side. Most Half-Elves end up embarking on a life of adventure, making sense of their place in the world while exploring the world. Players interested in making a character hoping to “belong” can make quite the compelling story arc with a Half-Elf.
In this quick guide, we’ll explore the many things that make a Half-Elf, one of the most interesting characters players can create, alongside the many characteristics they can use to make this character a compelling addition to any D&D 5e adventuring party.
Basics: The Traits
Thanks to their heritage, Half-Elves get the “best” of both their Elven and Human ancestry. Their innate Charisma and skill in almost anything make them extremely versatile characters. They also share these traits:
Ability Score Increase:2 Other Ability Scores + 1, CHA + 2
Age:Half-Elves reach adulthood by 20, like Humans, but can live up to 180 years.
Size and Speed:Medium (5 to 6ft tall), 30ft walking speed.
Alignment:Thanks to their Elven heritage, Half-Elves also love their freedom. They tend to be extremely unpredictable, as they don’t like expectations, leadership, or being predicted. They usually end up being Neutral.
Racial Features:Half-Elves gain these benefits:
Darkvision, which lets Half-Elves see 60ft in dim light as though it’s bright and see in darkness as though it’s dim light. They can only see greys in darkness, and no colors.
Fey Ancestry,which renders charming spells useless to Half-Elves. They also can’t be put to sleep.
Skill Versatility,which helps Half-Elves gain proficiency with 2 skills of their choosing.
Language, which enables Half-Elves to read, write, and speak Elvish, Common, and another language they want.
Half-Elves: The Best Classes
Half-Elves can boast their innate Charisma, immediately making them the go-to for things such as performances, diplomacy, and anything that gets the conversation going. As such, Half-Elves often get type casted into roles that deal with adventure, be it of their own volition or not.
Technicalities-wise, their natural Charisma makes them natural Warlocks and Bards, both of which may even fit the flavor of any campaign. As a “hybrid” that treads the line between two cultures, it seems natural for Half-Elves to lean towards classes that encourage them to travel, be it for fame, honor, or even for power.
Here are some classes your Half-Elf can become that tries to combine their joint heritage:
Bard:Thanks to the Elf's long life and a Human's thirst for adventure, a Half-Elf can make a perfect Bard. They can transform their adventures into songs they can teach and pass around others, and they may stick long enough to learn new songs they can add to their repertoire. Their adventure may last long enough for them to live a happy and content life, wherever it may have brought them.
The Half-Elf’s natural CHA bonus makes them perfect Bards, with the other Ability Score bonuses capable of determining whether their Bard prefers to sing their songs up close or from a distance.
Bards learn three extra Skill Proficiencies thanks to their journey. However, the Elven heritage of the Half-Elf gives them two Skill Proficiencies of their choice, potentially making a Half-Elf Bard a jack of all trades.
A Half-Elf Bard’s College may very well be dependent on the crux of the Half-Elf’s personal journey. For instance, a Half-Elf bent on gaining the acceptance of any one of their heritages may act as spies under the College of Whispers. On the other hand, they may belong to the College of Creation, and decided to make a legacy to call their own.
Cleric:A Half-Elf may tap into their Elven heritage and use their Fey Ancestry to reach into the divine and tap into a Domain, making them a Cleric. Thanks to their longevity, a Half-Elf may spend years of devotion before finally "hearing" from their God, and they may spend the rest of their years inspiring others into following their path.
A calling from the divine may answer a Half-Elf’s desire to “belong.” While their Half-Elves have a natural CHA bonus, players may build their Half-Elf Cleric to allocate bonuses on their WIS to accommodate Spellcasting Ability.
Half-Elf Clerics may later on choose to be proficient with ranged or melee weapons, depending on whether they choose to go for DEX or STR as a tertiary Ability Score. It’s recommended for them to go for melee, as the Cleric has proficiency with Simple Weapons and can start with a mace.
Players may choose to fit their Domains with what their party needs, especially if they want a healer. However, a Half-Elf Cleric may choose their Divine Domain based on their calling. Thanks to the potential complexity of a Half-Elf’s story, their Domain may very well represent their desire to belong… or whatever goal they have for themselves and the world.
Paladin:It is very likely for Half-Elves to be ostracized in their society, and it is very likely for Half-Elves to have a tendency to protect those they care for to make sure they never feel the same pain - making them perfect Paladins. Half-Elven Paladins have a strong sense of justice, not out of things they've read or studied, but out of things they've experienced themselves.
Unlike the Clerics that see their “calling” to worship a deity, the Paladin answers the call of a God to fight on their behalf. Half-Elves tired of the injustices they and others have experienced can become a Paladin to challenge the world’s current conventions and fight for what’s right. This potential struggle seems perfect for the Half-Elf’s quest for belongingness.
The Paladin’s inclination for CHA fits the Half-Elf’s CHA Ability Score bonuses. Moreover, players can assign the extra Ability Score bonuses to STR and CON, both of which remain essential for melee-based Paladins.
Depending on the Oath, a Half-Elf’s perspective on attaining justice for their own condition may very well be represented by the Paladin path they choose to take. For instance, Oath of Vengeance may reflect the Half-Elf’s mercilessness against people who have done them wrong, while Oath of Conquest may reflect an inner desire to “force” acceptance from others who refuse to acknowledge them.
Sorcerer:Half-Elves may be attracted into the raw power of nature to fuel their affinity for the arcane. Unlike their Elven kin who may choose to live as Wizards and hone their craft in study, Half-Elf Sorcerers may seek to refine their craft in practice - experimenting with Metamagic to create various effects no Wizard could ever think of due to their "rules" and "restrictions."
The Half-Elf has a natural CHA bonus that makes them perfect for Sorcerers, as they’re also reliant on CHA-based spells. Moreover, players can grant bonus Ability Scores to CON to supplement the Sorcerer’s Saving Throws, or even allocate them to their preferred method of attack.
Thanks to the Half-Elf’s Skill Versatility, a Half-Elf Sorcerer immediately gets access to four Skill Proficiencies that may help them get insights on NPCs or get them out of sticky situations. CHA (Deception), CHA (Intimidation) and CHA (Persuasion) seem to be effective tools here. If a Sorcerer has the guts to meddle with the raw power of magic, it makes sense for them to be confident in their handling of people.
Traveling Half-Elves may begin as Psionic Soul Sorcerers, who gained their powers by tapping into the innate magical energies of the mind. Likewise, their environment of origin may make them perfect for Wild Magic, Storm, or Shadow Sorcery. Thanks to the travelling nature of Half-Elves, almost any Sorcerer archetype may fit them - it all depends if their secondary method of attack relies on melee or ranged strategies.
Warlock:Half-Elves, bearing both the longevity of Elves and the innate curiosity of Humans, may tap into powers of the unknown and become a Warlock serving a mysterious entity. Their thirst for adventure and innate desire for something they can't point out may be fuel for their Pact, something that can make for an interesting storyline - if those who encounter them live to tell it, anyway.
The Half-Elf’s CHA bonus can make them great Warlocks, especially considering a huge part of their flavor involves finding “belongingness” - something their Patron may say they can “provide.”
While Warlocks only have proficiency with Simple Weapons and no Tools, the Half-Elf can compensate with Skill Versatility. As such, while Warlocks can only choose between INT and WIS-based Skill Proficiencies, the Half-Elf’s natural versatility helps them benefit from much-needed STR or DEX-based Skills.
Thanks to the versatility of the Warlock class, they may choose to complement their spells with melee-based or range-based utility attacks from their Pacts. As such, players may also customize their Half-Elves to have additional Ability Score bonuses to DEX for ranged Warlocks and STR for melee Warlocks.
Always Half: Character Backgrounds
Half-Elves always get in conflict with their heritage, as both their Human and Elven ancestry seem awry with the idea of a “hybrid” in their midst. This journey towards acceptance and finding one’s place is a staple trope in many stories, and a lot of campaigns often don’t want to change this crux as it forms such a potentially compelling storyline for their Half-Elves.
Unfortunately, this storyline might seem a bit cliché. If you’re a player looking into a twist for your Half-Elf’s origins and method of interacting with the world, here are some interesting choices for backgrounds they can take:
Anthropologist(Tomb of Annihilation): Depending on the setting, Half-Elves may be a rare sight to find. And despite Half-Elves knowing their true parentage or not, their unique nature may lead them to a life of adventure and studying other humanoids in an effort to understand their own nature as living creatures.
Languages:Learn any two languages
Proficiencies:WIS (Insight), INT (Religion)
Gladiator (Player’s Handbook): Half-Elves may be treated as outcasts in their respective societies. Unfortunately, in harsher regions, Half-Elves may be forced to participate in gladiatorial fights for their survival. Or perhaps a Half-Elf has chosen the life of a Gladiator as a way to seek honor and fame. As to why they were taken off the arena is anyone’s guess.
Tools:Disguise Kit, Unusual Weapon x1
Proficiencies:DEX (Acrobatics), CHA (Performance)
Mercenary Veteran(Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Half-Elves always get called by adventure, and it makes sense for them to explore the world to find their own way. In this case, a Mercenary Veteran may be on the verge of retirement, or perhaps just enjoying their trip when they’re contracted for a mission they never expected.
Tools:Gaming Set x1, Vehicles (Land)
Proficiencies:STR (Athletics), CHA (Persuasion)
Secret Identity(Player’s Handbook): At the risk of being ostracized, Half-Elves may choose to cover up their identity. This Secret Identity may be in the form of an actual new person they try to “be,” or even a vigilante that tries to help others who are in need.
Tools:Disguise Kit, Forgery Kit
Proficiencies:CHA (Deception), DEX (Stealth)
Urban Bounty Hunter(Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): A Half-Elf may have spent too much time mingling with Humans and Elves to have a good sense of the environment they live in. While they may not belong in either societies, a Half-Elf bounty hunter is skilled enough to snuff out other people who don’t belong, either. And for the right price, an Urban Bounty Hunter may just leave no stone unturned.
Tools:Choose two: Gaming Set x1, Musical Instrument x1, Thieves’ Tools
Proficiencies:Choose two: CHA (Deception), WIS (Insight), CHA (Persuasion), DEX (Stealth)