- The blessings of each, the acceptance of none.
All discussions of half-elf origins are indelicate. The reason is simple: All half-elves are fusions between the Fey origins of the Elves and the very mundane origins of the Humans. Elves tend to view Half-Elves as a bit embarrassing, tangible proof that somewhere, somehow, an Elf succumbed to a bad case of 'jungle fever.' Humans would be more accepting, except that typically of Humans, they resent the fact that Half-Elves live longer than they do, which naturally drives humans into fits because the half-elf is getting one over on them.
In simple fact, most half-elves are NOT the offspring of a bad case of 'jungle fever', or even less unsavory things. Half-Elves are a stable race in their own right, the Fey and the Mundane settling into an uneasy but permanent alliance. In many ways, half-Elves get the strengths of both their parent races, but they are emphatically their own race as well. Since Elves tend to treat them like embarrassing pets, like that dog that just won't stop humping legs, and humans have to work hard not to let their envy coalesce into spontaneous lynch-mobs, half-elves often form their own enclaves within larger cultures and socialize and marry among themselves.
In appearance, half-elves are a comfortable blend of their two origin races. They have elfin beauty in full measure, their forms and faces every bit as attractive as any Elf, but their coloration is strictly the solid, muted spectrum of Humanity, with rich earth-tone and summer notes being their full palette. That said, Half-elves tend toward the more 'spectacular' extremes of human coloration, with red and blonde hair quite common, dark skin paired with vivid gold hair, and even those half-elves with simple dark hair being noted with vivid pale skin or brilliant blue or green eyes. While Half-Elves will never have the pastel skin or hair of their Elfin ancestors, neither will they ever be mistaken for humdrum humanity.
Half Elves have little culture to call their own, and it is perhaps their greatest weakness. Over time, it is probable that half-elves will develop something uniquely their own, but it is certainly not the case now. In practical terms, most half-elves live in modest enclaves embedded within human cultures. There are a lot more humans than elves, and while humans are green-eyed with jealously every time a beautiful half-elf woman admits she's over a hundred years old and still looks twenty, that's still better than being treated like a pet or a game piece by the Elves. That said, half-elves have a huge advantage over Elves, in that there is no peculiar racial limit to the number of half-elves that can be born at any given time. It is strictly NOT spoken of, but Elves who wish children in good times, and who can persuade no other Elf to 'make a spot', can resort to half-elves. This is an uncomfortable topic at best, to everyone involved.
Half-elves tend to be just as driven as Humans are, with the advantage that they live a long, long time. When you can reliably count on three hundred years for your investments to mature, you take a long view of things. Sadly, from a half-elf's perspective, human cultures and nations are mutable, changing things. It is hard for a half-elf to declare fealty to a king when they know that in fifty years or less he'll be gone, and they'll just have to declare fealty to the next guy, assuming the humans don't burn down and abandon the whole city on an apparent mad whim.
From a half-elf's point of view, elven society is appealing primarily for its stability. It's nice knowing that your bank isn't going to dissolve in a hundred years or so the way human businesses do, and it's nice knowing you can make some friends and expect them to be around for the birth of your first child next century. That said, making friends with an Elf is tough business. For a half-elf to get an elf to treat him as a sentient being is a true challenge, as many elves tend to view half-elves as tainted lesser things fit only for entertainment.
Growing Up Half-Elf
Half-elves fit in poorly with both Humans and Elves. A half-elf child matures more slowly than a human child does, at least mentally. Humans are basically fully grown in fifteen years and mentally mature by twenty. Half-elves are physically grown at fifteen, but don't mentally mature until twenty-five or thirty. This means that all through their childhood, half-elf children being raised with human children are just a bit...slow. Half-elves in schools always have to be held back several years at a minimum, and it is not uncommon to see a thirteen-year old half-elf child in a class with human eight year-olds. Human children being as cruel as adult humans (if not more so) makes this a tough time for a half-elf, and they often reach adulthood with a powerful sense of 'slowness' and inadequacy from all those years of humans racing past them.
On the other hand, if they are raised with Elves (rarer but not unheard of), half-elves gain a reputation for being boring and prosaic. Elves reach physical maturity at the same rate as half-elves, so they fit in better, but half-elves reach adulthood mentally by age thirty, which is when Elves enter their decades-long 'Wildling' stage. Because the half-elves feel no similar urge to chase adolescent adventure, they quickly gain a reputation for being dull, prosaic creatures with no sense of adventure that can't take a joke. Mentally mature Elves might have some sympathy for the half-elf, but what vigorous thirty-year-old half-elf wants to hang out with hundred and thirty year old adult elves? Those guys stay at home and arrange flowers, for cryin' out loud....
By far the best results come when several half-elves are raised together. In human society, they form their own little bubble of community in school, their human peers racing past on their journey to the grave. In elf society, they form a band of tweens who can roll their eyes together at the immature behavior of the elven wildlings that are their age-peers. Of course, these enclaves of unity simply reinforce the fact that half-elves belong truly to neither of their parent cultures.
Half-elves tend to be positive additions to both Human and Elven economies. In Human economies, half-elf businesses tend to be bastions of stability that the rest of human economic endeavor can use as a stable foundation from which to wildly grow and evolve at a dizzying pace. In Elven economies, the fact that young half-elves mature quickly and do not go on a century-long wastrel binge is a boon, especially in cases when the Elves have suffered some setback and their birth-rate is higher than normal. Half-elves are a strongly beneficial influence in all cultures fortunate enough to have them.
Of course, such benefits only make the already-jealous Humans even worse, and no Elf would ever admit she could gain anything from a tainted half-breed, so even these benefits come with difficulties.
Half-Elves tend to follow the general customs of the culture they are currently living within. Oddly enough, in both Elven and Human society, half-elves tend to come off as antiquated. In human societies, half-elves might like to wear clothing that is brand new but made in styles that fell out of fashion decades ago. Similarly, in Elven culture, half-elves tend to be sober and serious, especially compared to the Elven Wildlings. As a result, half-elves have a strong reputation as traditionalists, sober, clean-living conservative sorts who like the way things were and once they have settled on a method that works, they darn well stick to it.
Surprisingly enough, this tendency of half-elves to stick with what works once they find it endears them, culturally and racially, to Dwarves. Dwarves reflexively dislike half-elves due to their fey heritage, but it is amazingly common to find half-elves and Dwarves forming fast friendships and getting along extremely well once the initial frictions and prejudices are overcome. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the Dwarven enclave and the half-elves enclave to be adjacent in a human city, and the two groups make excellent neighbors.
Lifespan and Burial
Half-Elves, unlike elves, have a definite life-span. They can expect to enjoy a childhood, adulthood, middle age and dotage, just like humans do, but they can expect to live a long, long time. Half-elves tend to die of old age somewhere close to five hundred years of age, but this is after they have suffered through a period of dotage and senescence lasting over a hundred years. For half-elves at the end of their lives, that extended life-span is no blessing, as suffering from arthritis for over a century is no joke. Indeed, many half-elves take the 'elven way' rather than letting nature take its course, because for a half-elf, mother nature is a cruel, cruel Mistress.
For burial customs, most half-elves want a substantial place to lay their bones, since their children and grandchildren are likely to be visiting for centuries.
Relations with Others
Half-elves have strained relations with both humans and elves, as the gulf between those two species is a large one. Surprisingly, once they get to know each other, half-elves and dwarves get along famously. Half-elves tend to be less brooding and dour than the dwarves, but they are easily serious enough to 'get' the Dwarven world-view, and they appreciate it. Plus, Dwarf beer is goooooood. Dwarves and half-elves do not co-habitate well, however. Half-elves are very much a race of the open world and do not like the dark, cramped warrens of Dwarven Holds.
With most other races, half-elves are treated as a breed of peculiar humans, to the chagrin of both half-elves and humans.
Starting Height and Weight
Gender Base Height Height Modifier Weight Weight Modifier Male 5 ft. 0 in. +2d6 in. (5 ft. 2 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.) 100 lbs. +(2d8x5 lbs.) (110 - 180 lbs.) Female 5 ft. 0 in. +2d4 in. (5 ft. 2 in. - 5 ft. 8 in.) 80 lbs. +(2d8x5 lbs.) (90 - 160 lbs.)
Adulthood Intuitive Self-Taught Trained 20 years +1d6 years (21 - 26 years) +2d6 years (22 - 32 years) +3d6 years (23 - 38 years)
Half-Elves have no class or alignment restrictions.
Standard Racial Traits
All Half-Elves have the following Standard Racial Advantages:
- Attributes: Half-Elves choose to from one of the following ability score bonus sets when creating their character. No ability score may ever be modified above a 20 or below a 7.
- +2 to two different stats, -2 to one stat
- +2 to one stat, +1 to three different stats, -2 to one stat
- +4 to one stat, -2 to two different stats
- Size: Half-elves are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Type: Half-elves are Humanoid creatures with both the human and the elf subtypes.
- Base Speed: Half-elves have a base speed of 30 feet.
- Languages: Half-elves begin play speaking Common and Elven.
- Bonus Languages: Characters with a positive Intelligence modifier gain one bonus language per +1 of their modifier, selecting from the following list: Dwarven, Gnome, Halfling, Orc, Sylvan and Tengu. Once the character's intelligence is high enough to have acquired all six of these bonus languages, they no longer gain bonus languages for increasing their Intelligence. Characters can also learn new languages by placing ranks in the Linguistics skill.
- Low-Light Vision (Ex): Half-elves can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.
- Conservative Nature (Ex): Something about the Half-elf physiology makes them more resistant to certain spells and mental attacks. Half-elves gain a +2 racial bonus to Will saves.
Major Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Major Racial Traits:
- Dominant Bloodline (Ex): A half-elf with this racial trait has a particularly dominant bloodline from one of their parents. The half-elf may choose a major racial trait from either the Elf major racial traits list or the Human major racial trait list, with the exception of the Human racial trait Covetous.
- Mixed Messages (Ex): A half-elf with this major racial trait may choose one of his saves (Fortitude, Reflex or Will), and replace all checks made against that save with another of their saves instead. For example, a half-elf fighter might choose to make all his Reflex saves using his Fortitude save instead. The half-elf must declare the exact saves being used by this trait at level 1, and once selected, they may not be changed.
- Sinister Dexterity (Su): When fighting with two weapons, a half-elf with this racial trait reduces the penalty imposed on her primary weapon by 2. At 10th level, she can reduce the penalty imposed on her off-hand weapon by 2 as well. At level 25, the to-hit penalties imposed by using either the Power Attack or the Combat Expertise feats is reduced by 2. This reduction stacks with any feats or abilities which also reduce the listed to-hit penalties, but in no case may the penalty be improved beyond zero.
- Aptitude for Violence (Su): Half-elves with this racial trait gain a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls. This bonus improves to +2 at level 25.
- Street Tough (Ex): Sometimes Half-elves have to resort to using unexpected tactics against those who wish them harm. This racial trait allows the half-elf to select a single combat maneuver at 1st level, which she can now perform as a swift action. At level 20, the Half-elf may select a second combat maneuver, and this maneuver can be attempted as a swift action, as well. This racial trait does not prevent attacks of opportunity provoked by the combat maneuvers, nor can any single combat maneuver ever be used more than once in the same round. Once selected, the combat maneuvers cannot be changed, except through the character re-training rules.
Minor Racial Traits
Choose one of the following Minor Racial Traits:
- Unobtrusive (Ex): After years of social ostracism, some Half-elves have learned to make themselves unobtrusive. Half-elves with this racial trait can initiate a Stealth stance as though they have total concealment when in a crowd (i.e. at least 10 humanoids, no one of which is more than 30 feet from any other or the Half-Elf). Furthermore, they gain a +1 training bonus to their Stealth skill if they have 12 or more ranks in the skill, or +2 if they have 24 or more ranks in the skill.
- Wary (Ex): Half-elves sometimes have to learn the hard way to always be on their guard. Half-elves with this racial trait gain a +2 racial bonus to AC versus attacks of opportunity.
- Paid to Disappear (Ex): Half-elves with this racial trait increase their starting wealth by 900 gold pieces. Characters with this trait may not begin play with any single item worth more than 250 gp. In addition, his mysterious benefactor provides him with a comfortable lifestyle in the town or city of your choice. Once selected, the lifestyle's location cannot be moved. If the Half-Elf chooses to upgrade his lifestyle above comfortable, its cost is reduced by the amount of the comfortable lifestyle.
- Holdout (Ex): Half-elves with this racial trait can select a single one-handed weapon that they are proficient with and treat it as though it has the Concealable weapon quality. In addition, the Half-elf gains a +1 training bonus to the Sleight of Hand skill. This bonus improves to +2 at level 10, +3 at level 20, and +4 at level 30.
- Witty Repartee (Ex): Half-elves with this racial trait gain a +1 training bonus to the Bluff skill. This bonus improves to +2 at level 10, +3 at level 20, and +4 at level 30.