Half Elves in D&D Next.

So what do you want from the half elf race in D&D Next.

Crunch:
A less hairy human with elven elf senses and a bonus language?
A dulled elf without the racial restrictions or frailty?
A half breed polymath who develops toughness and a diplomacy personality?

Fluff:
Allowed in both human and elf worlds but not accepted fully?
Accepted and trusted and acts as a bridge between the human and elf civilizations?
Full on half breed discrimination where the half elf gets the Rudolph the red nosed reindeer treatment at best and usually ends up a loner if he doesn't have the diplomacy skills to make everyone like him?

Default raised by humans?
Default raised by elves?
Default raised by both?

Half elves have a special place in D&D. I highly doubt they would not appear at release for the backlash would be immense. But they have always been weird game wise. Outside of certain builds, half elves have been terrible choices for PCs and are mostly played by the actors and writer type of players. Then their are the various flavor aspects they have attached to them.

So what would you want to see of half elves?

Mechanically I'd prefer a no ability adjustment race who can speak Elven, can detect and sense things as well as elves, and still has a diplomatic flavor with advantage when attempting to alter someone's attitude. Maybe a multi classing bonus.

Flavor wise, I want them to spend at least some time with elves. Either they are raised by them or the elves actively convince them to learn about their culture. But they are never accepted as full elves or humans in most campaign worlds.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

What would I want to see of half-elves?

Their removal from the game.

Just kidding.

Mostly.

I don't want to keep other people from playing them in their games, but they will continue to be banned from my games and Half-orcs will continue to be just plain old orcs. I just dislike the weird "Humans can breed with anything," concept.
Does this mean we will see Dwelves, Dworks, Helflings, Dwarflings, or Orlves?  Yeah our jr. high D&D game got a little out of hand with half-breed races.
Half-races as diplomat makes no sense. Conservatism plays against them.
Their good appearance and being outcasts (even if not rejected) predestine them to become adventurers. Some classic outcast friendly classes are bard (like any artist in feudal system), druid, ranger and rogue.

I would keep things simple :
• +1 to all ability scores 
• Keen senses
• elf sub-racial trait (cantrip or Wood Elf Grace from the playtest)
• Advantage to disguise as a human or an elf.
• Read/write common and elf 
I agree with monsieur moustache.  I never liked the half-elf's reconception into a diplomat.  A half-elf should be an outcast. 

I think half-elves should be hardier (hybrids tend to be hardy) than elves or humans, more self-reliant, and more distant.  Being an outsider can also give you a sense of perspective that insiders don't have.

So I would see a boost to Constitution, as well as a bonus to insight and bluff checks.  Rules-wise they can count as elves or humans for any mechanics that have that as a prerequisite.  Add a few more racial benefits in that vein, and you have something I prefer as a half-elf.
I see strong personality (maybe diplomatic is a poor choice of word) as a stronger aspect than quiet loner.

This is because I think most half elves who become adventurers having a more smart mouthed bullied kid aka Peter Parker or half breed with something to prove and the magnetic personalities to match rather than the silent brooding outcast who embraces their lonerism. Nonadventurer half elves are the low social skills type.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

- +2 to one stat
- Low-Light Vision
-  Lucky (same as the halfling trait)
- Common and Elven for languages.

 
I'd like to see half elves get dug out of the traditional accepted-by-none, diplomats to both worlds hole. What I'd like to see is them become a natural part of the world, existing in their own communities on the borders between human and elven lands, or reclaiming lost elven lands as their own. A mix of traditional human/elf pairing offspring with a much larger population of half elf/half elf offspring. Tough and self reliant, with a longer veiw than humans but still shorter than elves, looking to carve a place for themselves in the world. I'm just tired of them being portrayed as woe-is-me, no one accepts me, semi-loners with issues. Humans and elves are apparently more fertile with each other than with their own species, so having them as these tortured half breeds smacks more than a bit of old school fears of miscegenation and racism.

Stats wise:
+1 to three attributes
Low light vision
Weapon proficiency with long sword/bow no matter class
Skilled: plus one skill every four levels
Languages: common/elven
I think that half-elves should have their own language. Raised by either the elven, human, parent or both, but being ostracised it makes sense that they would have developed their own language. Not a full language, but something like Theives Cant, Cockney English, or Nadsat.

Stats:

+1 to either dex or int
+1 to two other attributes
Speaks half-elf cant and common or elven
chooses 1 of the following, low light vision,  elf weapon training, keen senses, free spirit or trance
chooses 1 of the following cantrip or  wood elf grace


 
Answering this fully would require me to comment on racial design as a whole, which I think is currently lacking in D&DN.  While I don't always agree with Crimson_Concerto's design specifics (or his sometimes brusque or arrogant tone), I think, speaking in generalities, he's right-on with regards to race ideas.

But in short, I suppose I want Half-Elves to be a little less elvish than elves, and a little less human than humans; meaning, they should mark a half-way point between the two races.  As such, any attribute bonus should probably focus on Intelligence and Dexterity.  If the average elf is imparting his bloodlines with an aptitude for smarts and grace, then that should carry through.  At the same time, the vaunted human versatility should come through, via some degree of choice normally beyond elven reach.

Going on current design trends (which I'll say again are lackluster): A +1 bonus to Intelligence or Dexterity, and a +1 bonus to one other stat (no doubling-up).  Normal vision, extended life span, resistance (but not immunity) to charm and sleep effects, and a 6 hour long rest.  Maybe a boost to spot and search checks.  Maybe.

I do not favor having any fluff (Half-Elves are natural loners!  Half-Elves are the link between worlds!  Half-Elves have their own Half-Elf society!  Etc, etc.) being enforced or encouraged by the mechanics.  Such distinctions fall under the purview of the DM and the group, as they should with every race.
Essentials zigged, when I wanted to continue zagging. Roll dice, not cars.
I agree with monsieur moustache.  I never liked the half-elf's reconception into a diplomat.  A half-elf should be an outcast. 



I actually liked that...finally playing the good side of being a heritage of two cultures...you are diplomatic because of your emphaty for diferent cultures because your heritage is not grounded on a single culture, and less likely to have a xenophobic prejudice.

The stereotype angsty kid of "both heritage hates me" is way too overused is not even funny anymore.
I agree with monsieur moustache.  I never liked the half-elf's reconception into a diplomat.  A half-elf should be an outcast. 



I actually liked that...finally playing the good side of being a heritage of two cultures...you are diplomatic because of your emphaty for diferent cultures because your heritage is not grounded on a single culture, and less likely to have a xenophobic prejudice.

The stereotype angsty kid of "both heritage hates me" is way too overused is not even funny anymore.



I agree. I never like the "everyone hates me" thing. It adds a base "badness" to races.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

The stereotype angsty kid of "both heritage hates me" is way too overused is not even funny anymore.


And I find the "My mother is elf, my father human, so I can conduct diplomacy amongst elves betwer than elves and I can conduct diplomacy among humans better than humans and I can conduct diplomacy amongst dwarves better than dwarves" to be completely nonsensical.

I don't want to force half-elves to be outcasts.  But I also don't want them to be forced to be beloved half-breeds.

They are outsiders.  That doesn't necessarily mean a negative.  It just means they have a perspective that insiders lack.  Whether that outsider status makes them outcasts or outstanding is entirely up to the DM and his campaign setting.
Give them one free "skill" which also comes with skill mastery (gets to reroll the skill dice).  This way if you want your Helf to be extra swanky at being a diplomat...he is!  Or if you want to reflect that his time among the whispering elves who liked to talk about him forced him not only to listen as well as they do, but maybe a little better...he does!  Or maybe still you just want to focus on rope use cause you have convinced your dm that really, it applies to weaving so you can loom over your enemies...well, sure!

The other question to answer is are they a sub race of elf, or human, or do they stand on their own, with any elf variant being a sub race to the helf?

Since it looks like humans are keeping +1 in 5 stats with one +2, maybe Helfs just get the five + 1's, and that skill thing.  Possibly low-light vision and elven speech too.
The conservative factions are often the most organized, and will reject something with "half" in its curriculum, even if they totally accept the other culture.

So there are two choices :
- Doing like Tolkien and totally ignore normal behavior and accepting like a universal truth that everyone is by default in awe when facing elves.
- Accepting normal behavior, including the fact that elves are considered supernatural by humans. And then, there's no possibility to have half-elves universally accepted, even if the rejection is minor, like open-minded people just finding elf features totally ugly (elves being anorexic people with pointy orc ears, for example).

And the situation is even worse with half-monstrous races.

The problem with half-elves until now is that they are the exact opposite of "everybody hates me". They are based on the "everybody loves me" thing, even if we can see that it's not the case with many players, or from a logical point of view.

There's no culture using special cases as diplomats.
Actors, bards, or other artists, are never considered as "useful" citizens by most people and are viewed as living on rich people caprices. When they give their opinions, most people don't really care, mock them, or just doubt their expertise in the domain concerned. They are still special cases today.
Being an actor was a dangerous medieval life, they even have been outlawed by the church during a period, replaced by marionettes.
Single mothers were treated worse than beasts.
Religion can be a huge problem within the same race, so imagine what it can be when you marry with an alien.
Assuming that an half-elf just has a problem regarding longevity of the two parent races is a case of politically correct overdose.

Diplomatic affairs are nobles affairs, not outcasts affairs.

Half-races can be really interesting characters, but they can only be diplomats in My Little Pony world (+Tolkien world for half-elves).
I see half-elf as more of an information gatherer than a pure diplomat. They have the human adaptation with the elf long life and that lets them see more and have the drive to experience all they see. It goes into the dabbler flavor of 3e and 4e.

So maybe the half elf could get bonus skill, spell, or proficiency?

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I also think that the Half-elves profile makes them ressourceful, but more by the fact that they are isolated by nature than by the supposed human adaptation.
I think that the human adaptation is more a quality of the race than an individual quality. A human tend to specialize to earn his place in the societies, and then is not very adaptable on average. But humans as a race is opportunist and can adapt in a single generation, greatly altering the impacted societies .

Long life presupposed that once you have assured the necessary skills to survive, you have no urge to master other domains of competences. So it would be a balancing factor with the fact that half-elves grow against more adversity than their parents races.

The half-races are hard to design, even more with two races so alien to each others.
The conceptions of humans in a fantasy world are already alien to us.

Half-elves can handle their differences so differently that the only point I'm convinced is that they should be far more "flexible" than any of their incarnations in D&D. As individuals, instead as a race like humans.
Simple solution

Crunch:
Pick one of your "half" races.  Use those tables and lists.

Fluff:
One of your parents was the other race.
The stereotype angsty kid of "both heritage hates me" is way too overused is not even funny anymore.


And I find the "My mother is elf, my father human, so I can conduct diplomacy amongst elves betwer than elves and I can conduct diplomacy among humans better than humans and I can conduct diplomacy amongst dwarves better than dwarves" to be completely nonsensical.



You didn't understood what i said...it's called emphaty why they are good diplomats, because they are not stuck or raised on a single culture, they are less likely to have prejudices, hence they are less likely to have xenophobic tendencies
I enjoyed how 4ed created two outsider races (Half-Orcs and Half-Elves) and took them in different directions. The Half-Orcs were generally mistrusted, and the Half-Elves were generally trusted. These design specs informed (and were informed) by this flavour: Half-Orcs favoured physicall stats and classes, whereas Half-Elves favoured social stats and classes. 

I don't think you can just present a race as being an outsider and expect D&D players to assume being an outsider is good. When most D&D players think of what it's like being an outsider, it's always a bad thing. When you're an outsider, you're excluded. Even when you do get perks for operating outside the normal bounds of society, one always focuses on what's lost.

So I do like that Half-Elves were given this role and expectation of being well-received by most peoples. a player can RP a character anyway they want (a charismatic Dwarf, an intelligent Half-Orc), but the DM and group are going to have their own perceptions. If the world is not encouraging a half-race to be an outsider in a good way, the infrastructure will not be there for a PC who wants to play that role. While a player can ask a DM if they can change their world to help out, it is useful to have a default ambassador-race out there with tropes that a player can use, instead of fight against.      

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

they are less likely to have xenophobic tendencies


I don't see that as translating to a diplomacy boost.  Being xenophilic is a motivation, but not a skill.  

It makes no sense that a dwarf with the same Charisma is a half-elf is less diplomatic among his own people than a half-elf.  I don't care how open he is to other cultures.

I also take issue that half-breeds are inherently "not stuck or raised on a single culture".  There is no reason the half-elf has to be raised in both cultures.  His elven father may have abandoned his mother (a common trope in myth).  His mother may have died in childborth so he is raised by only one side of his family.  

Since there is no "half-elf" culture, we cannot make any assumption as to whether the half-elf is raised as a human, and elf, or in an egalitarian fashion.

Nor is there any reason a half-elf is more empathetic.  Being raised as an outsider does not make a person any more empathetic than anybody else.  In fact, if you had a negative upbringing, you may be less empathetic, having erected emotional defenses to prevent yourself from getting hurt.

There are just so many assumptions in your vision of empathetic half-elves that is every bit as railroading as the vision of outcast half-elves you wish to discard.  I don't think either makes a good basis for the half-elf.

Since there is no "half-elf" culture, we cannot make any assumption as to whether the half-elf is raised as a human, and elf, or in an egalitarian fashion.



...You are talking like if you don't know history or other countries culture's origins...i don't want to believe you are being ignorant about those kind of things

Since there is no "half-elf" culture, we cannot make any assumption as to whether the half-elf is raised as a human, and elf, or in an egalitarian fashion.



...You are talking like if you don't know history or other countries culture's origins...i don't want to believe you are being ignorant about those kind of things


What are you talking about? Are you saying that people raised in a multicultural household are in fact more diplomatic and empathetic than other people?!
That's why I prefer having a sort of mental genetics with my races. Humans are resourceful and ambitious in their genetic nature. Elves are long thinkers and perceptive.

So the combination of the two doesn't create a natural charismatic being, but instead a half-elf naturally looks at the big picture and then dives into more aspects of it.

The elves send the half elf diplomat because he is the only one from their culture who will take less than 20 years to get off their high horse. The humans send the half elf because they are the ones with the natural perception and attention span to discover the aspect of elven culture.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

The concept of 'racial culture' needs to die.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Eh. If Half-Elves aren't given any more significance to the world other than "you've got human in my elf!", than they shouldn't be given any more significance than a subrace. That applies to all half-breeds in general.

Answering this fully would require me to comment on racial design as a whole, which I think is currently lacking in D&DN.  While I don't always agree with Crimson_Concerto's design specifics (or his sometimes brusque or arrogant tone), I think, speaking in generalities, he's right-on with regards to race ideas.

But in short, I suppose I want Half-Elves to be a little less elvish than elves, and a little less human than humans; meaning, they should mark a half-way point between the two races.  As such, any attribute bonus should probably focus on Intelligence and Dexterity.  If the average elf is imparting his bloodlines with an aptitude for smarts and grace, then that should carry through.  At the same time, the vaunted human versatility should come through, via some degree of choice normally beyond elven reach.

Going on current design trends (which I'll say again are lackluster): A +1 bonus to Intelligence or Dexterity, and a +1 bonus to one other stat (no doubling-up).  Normal vision, extended life span, resistance (but not immunity) to charm and sleep effects, and a 6 hour long rest.  Maybe a boost to spot and search checks.  Maybe.

I do not favor having any fluff (Half-Elves are natural loners!  Half-Elves are the link between worlds!  Half-Elves have their own Half-Elf society!  Etc, etc.) being enforced or encouraged by the mechanics.  Such distinctions fall under the purview of the DM and the group, as they should with every race.



I can't add much beyond this, although, I do want a little bit of fluff in the sense that they should be a full fledged race ala Eberron.  Mind you I would prefer a system that allows you to make half race anything (half elf, half dwarf etc.) and just leaving out all the half-races beyond that.  Of course I don't see any way to do this simply.
One issue I have right now is that I hate the human racials.

It would be so simple to make half elf or half dwarf a sub race of the parent race but humans don't have an aspect to split in have. All you can do is use an elf base and let the halfelf gain ability adjustment.

Elf base and +1 to any 2 abilities.

But that is rather imbalanced.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!


What are you talking about? Are you saying that people raised in a multicultural household are in fact more diplomatic and empathetic than other people?!



They are more likely to...yes
Simple solution

Crunch:
Pick one of your "half" races.  Use those tables and lists.

Fluff:
One of your parents was the other race.

This has my vote.

If you want your other race to matter, make it happen, with class, feats, skills, backgrounds, and whatnot. I see no reason why there should be stats for a human/elf and a human/orc, but not for an elf/dwarf, a dwarf/halfing, or any other combination you can come up with and make plausible.
Eywa ngahu
Diplomacy requires to send someone who has a social rank high enough to pretend to speak in the name of his lord, powerful enough to be able to keep the word given during a negociation. There weren't phones, fax or mail.
Sending an half-XXX would be offensive regarding the lineage of the other party, and this diplomat couldn't pretend to be representative of his people, his lord or his country. The exception being that the half-elf is a child of his lord.

I think an "iconic" bonus for half-races would concern Sense Motive, or any skill that help them to sense "social dangers" .

I'm from the "I find elves appearance and attitude mostly repulsive" club (even more the blond ones with black eyebrows from movies), so I have a hard time picturing half-elves being my automatic friends, when I would trust a thousand times more quickly an ugly dwarf or an half-orc with a correct reputation.

Who would trust an half-elf or an elf during a long term negociation ? Any of them can wait for you to die in the hope of having a better deal with the next one.
With humans, any race know that a negociation often won't last beyond a decade.

I start to think like Qmark that half-elves should chose the racial abilities of the parent race that raises him, longevity included.
The crossbreeding can only be magic in nature, so there's not much to explain about why it happens. If the half-elf grows among elves, he gets contaminated by magic and sprouts superior longevity. If he grows among humans, he can fight anorexy and doesn't grow ugly ears (if he has blond hair, his eyebrows don't blacken... )
Maybe we can scrap the diplomacy part

I mean

Dwarves are supposed to be stubborn and tenacious but they don't get any +1 after the third round.
Halflings are curious and hard to notice but they don't get a +1 to investigation.
Elves are proud and slow to trust but don't get bonuses to memory checks.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Normally I'd be all over this kind of thing because races are one of my favorite things to tinker with, but frankly until the race write ups are drastically improved and the power disparities brought into a tighter line there's not much I can do mechanically. The power gap is too huge to get a solid baseline for homebrewing.

All I can say is that Hybridss need to be more than just a poorly done mix-and -match job. It's called hybrid vigor and sythesis. 
Maybe we can scrap the diplomacy part

I mean

Dwarves are supposed to be stubborn and tenacious but they don't get any +1 after the third round.
Halflings are curious and hard to notice but they don't get a +1 to investigation.
Elves are proud and slow to trust but don't get bonuses to memory checks.



That's because all of that is fluff and roleplay, and most notably, it is not binding or genetic.  There is nothing intrinsic to being a dwarf that makes the stubborn and tenacious, there is noting intrinsic to being a halfling that makes the curious and hard to notice, and there is nothing intrinsic about elves that makes them proud and slow to trust.  Those are personality traits that vary significantly from individual to individual (yes, every race is comprised of unique individuals, not just humans ...) and, as such, are not and should not be codified into a racial package.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Maybe we can scrap the diplomacy part

I mean

Dwarves are supposed to be stubborn and tenacious but they don't get any +1 after the third round.
Halflings are curious and hard to notice but they don't get a +1 to investigation.
Elves are proud and slow to trust but don't get bonuses to memory checks.



That's because all of that is fluff and roleplay, and most notably, it is not binding or genetic.  There is nothing intrinsic to being a dwarf that makes the stubborn and tenacious, there is noting intrinsic to being a halfling that makes the curious and hard to notice, and there is nothing intrinsic about elves that makes them proud and slow to trust.  Those are personality traits that vary significantly from individual to individual (yes, every race is comprised of unique individuals, not just humans ...) and, as such, are not and should not be codified into a racial package.



Sometimes I wish it was genetic. Like dwarves were all genetically stubborn and conformist and the only way they could get things done is to booze away all the inhibitions.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Sometimes I wish it was genetic. Like dwarves were all genetically stubborn and conformist and the only way they could get things done is to booze away all the inhibitions.



The only phrase I can think of to describe that idea is 'profoundly moronic'.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Sometimes I wish it was genetic. Like dwarves were all genetically stubborn and conformist and the only way they could get things done is to booze away all the inhibitions.



The only phrase I can think of to describe that idea is 'profoundly moronic'.



The way dwarves are all "clan this and clan that. tradition. tradition. tradition" in most settings, it's not too far off to think they have a sliht hive mind mentality.

Anyway, it is probably best not to stick personality into genetics.

But I don't know where stout halflings get their +1 CHA.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

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The way dwarves are all "clan this and clan that. tradition. tradition. tradition" in most settings, it's not too far off to think they have a sliht hive mind mentality.



That's called 'lazy and bad writing'.

Anyway, it is probably best not to stick personality into genetics.



It's definitely best not to.

Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Perhaps personality gentics could be a module?

With a default "lazy" setting where half elves are master diplomats and elves hate everyone.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Elves come off less as 'hating everyone', more 'scandalized that everyone doesn't love them  as much as they love themselves'. Subtle difference but important.
Maybe we can scrap the diplomacy part

I mean

Dwarves are supposed to be stubborn and tenacious but they don't get any +1 after the third round.
Halflings are curious and hard to notice but they don't get a +1 to investigation.
Elves are proud and slow to trust but don't get bonuses to memory checks.



That's because all of that is fluff and roleplay, and most notably, it is not binding or genetic.  There is nothing intrinsic to being a dwarf that makes the stubborn and tenacious, there is noting intrinsic to being a halfling that makes the curious and hard to notice, and there is nothing intrinsic about elves that makes them proud and slow to trust.  Those are personality traits that vary significantly from individual to individual (yes, every race is comprised of unique individuals, not just humans ...) and, as such, are not and should not be codified into a racial package.




But how do you know? 
I mean, for ex; the various books tell us that Green dragons are green.  And evil.
These two things don't impose any real mechanics upon the dragon in & of themselves.
And for the most part we gamers nod & agree.  Right up to the moment where we decide otherwise....
So why would you assume dwarven stubborness or something isn't just as integral?  Afterall, the authors mention it often enough.