I’m continuing onward with my analyses of the classic fantasy gaming races and this week we’re taking a look at Half-Elves. Now, if you’ve been keeping track of the stories (and you should be), you might anticipate this to be another railing against anything that has to do with Elves or Elvenkind. Fear not, readers! While I plan to be critical in my typical fashion, this week’s article isn’t necessarily anti-Half-Elf, but it’s probably going to come pretty damn close.
The Best of Both Worlds? – Now, anyone who has ever owned dogs knows that in terms of genetics, cross-breeding creates mutts, and more often than not, the stronger genes prevail from both parents, creating a hardier offspring. In terms of Elves and Humans knocking boots, this whole “genetics” and “science” stuff doesn’t seem to matter and the exact opposite is true. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case the character traits. Take Pathfinder for example. Sure, Half-Elves may edge Humans, what with their single attribute bonus, some watered down low-light vision, and some magic resistance akin to full elves. Additionally, they might edge Elves in terms of having two favored classes rather than one while also dodging that sneaky -2 Constitution modifier.
The reality, however, is that none of that’s going to mean much when that human snags Improved Initiative for a free feat and skewers you before you can draw your sword or when those full-blood Elves pin-cushion you with arrows thanks to their automatic Dexterity bonus AND free longbow proficiency, despite their character class!
Everybody Loves You? – Sure, on the surface, Half-Elves are the character race that gets along with everyone. They’re human enough to overcome xenophobia, elven enough to not be shunned, whimsical enough to bond with Gnomes and Halflings, and not nearly as repugnant as their full-blooded cousins, making them somewhat tolerable to Dwarves. However, the seedy underbelly that is fantasy racial tensions rears it’s ugly head when the inevitable question of “Where you from, ese?” gets lobbed in their direction. You see, who raised you is REALLY important.
If a Half-Elf is raised by Elves, they are Half-Elves. However, if they are raised by humans, then technically they can be considered Half-Humans. While the former can create an unexpected (and unwanted) distancing among the larger human populace, what with being different and “mystical” and all, the Elves take it to a whole new level. Being the “high-minded” (see also: elitist, racist, and arrogant) folk they are, Half-Elves really just serve as a reminder of what the mixing of blood with inferior Humans results in. Elves, being nigh immortal while Half-Elves only live a couple hundred years, makes these cultural bastards beneath any true consideration and quickly forgotten, because, you know… that human life-span really messes things up.
Oh, and let’s not forget, when Humans and Elves get all uppity with each other and start cracking each others skulls, who automatically comes under suspicion as a spy for and by each race? DING! DING! DING! You guessed it, the Half-Elves! Better get cozy between that rock and a hard place!
Sh*t or Get Off the Pot Already – Seriously. Let’s get real, here. There really isn’t a good reason to be a Half-Elf. For the most part, they don’t have a true home. Dwarves have their strongholds, Elves have their forests, and Humans have their cities. Even Gnomes have their guild halls, and well, who really doesn’t like (or could use the services) of a Halfling? Half-Elves are essentially the homeless, wandering vagrants of the fantasy world, asking to get paid to brush your horse or shine your cart spokes for a couple silver even though they’ve already started without your consent.
Half-Elves don’t quite fit into Human civilization and they aren’t particularly wanted by the Elves. It’s like being a parent with one kid who’s a doctor, one kid who’s a teacher, and one kid that pursued performance art with an emphasis in Mime and then dropped out after two years. They lack the universality and flexibility of Humans while at the same time fall short of the inherent racial bonuses of pure-blood Elves. That really only leaves one reason to play one, and that’s so you can create some lame-ass back-story that only serves as a technical justification for the character race to be selected.
Seriously people, friends don’t let friends play Half-Elves…ever… Even being an Elf is a kinder fate than this…