Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kids, why playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple rules, went through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born and role playing a gnome. Today we are going to talk about playing characters caught between two worlds, Half-Elves.
Half-Elfs are what they sound like. They are half human and half elf. While they carry some of the traits of elves, they also carry some of the traits of humans. In Dungeons & Dragons they don’t quite fit in with human society and they don’t quite fit in with elves either. Oddly, half-elves who grow up in human communities tend to have elvish names while half-elves growing up in elvish society tend to take human names. This isn’t set in stone or anything, and a kid could play a half-elf with either a human or elvish name, depending on what they want.
One of the interesting things about this playable race is that they tend to take on only the better parts of both humans and elves. They are graceful and in tune with nature, like elves, while still being curious and inventive like humans.
A lot of fantasy stories have been written about creatures like half-elves, where there tends to be an internal struggle in the character, trying to understand just how they fit into the world. As far as kids go, there are a couple of ways to look at this. For some kids this will be too much to take in and be able to role play well. Kids don’t have to be great role players to have fun though, so if they want to be a half-elf, my advice is to let them be a half-elf. On the other hand, this type of situation is very relatable to a lot of children. There are kids who have split families and need to understand what their role is on one side and what it is on the other. Divorced parents see this all the time. Rules are different in different households and a different side of a kid’s personality may come out depending on where they are at. The same goes for kids who might be biracial or mixed race who just want to understand both sides of their own heritage. This can hold true for all kinds of situations for kids. They know that they act one way at school and another at home. For some kids role playing something like a half-elf where you get to be on the good side of both halves of yourself can be extremely rewarding. The kid who shows up to obey mom’s rules in one house and knows his other mom is a little more relaxed on the rules at her house still sees himself as a good person in both places. He knows he might have to be diplomatic in certain situations and usually has a pretty good idea what the consequences of acting one way or another will be, no matter which house he finds himself in at the time.
Half-elves are all about being diplomatic. They can walk between multiple viewpoints because that is how they are made. In the game rules it says that half-elves are great diplomats, with the exception of between humans and elves. The reason, so the rules state, is that elves and humans always assume the half-elf favors the other side. I’ll be honest here, this has always kind of bothered me. I don’t see why either humans or elves couldn’t trust a half-elf to be diplomatic. If anything, they should be able to understand both points of view better than either race alone. Whether or not they are good at being diplomatic should really be based on what the character does, rather than who they are. That’s just my opinion though.
The rules say that this playable race is fairly uncommon but they’re not so uncommon that they would be a complete novelty to anyone really. To humans they look elvish while elves think they look human. They usually have the pointy ears of elves but are also able to grow facial hair, unlike elves.
They tend to be around five to six feet tall and weigh between 100 and 180 pounds. In other words, they tend to be average weight and height for a thin human or a somewhat stocky elf.
The rules also mention that half-elves can tend to be wanderers rather than diplomats. They try to find other half-elves to associate with but if that is too difficult they might live off the land as hunter gatherers. Or even blend into a city as a human and maybe even become a thief or swindler. That last one is not my favorite for kids to play unless they are playing the rogue class, which we’ll get into when we go over classes.
Playing a diplomat or a wanderer can be challenging for some kids but if it sparks their imagination, let them have at it. For some kids it’s a great entry point into the game and you’d be surprised at just how creative kids can be at trying to stop a fight before it happens in the game. I will say that if a kid is going to play the wanderer type, you might want them to have in mind that through the course of the game, that wanderer will come to have and depend on friends. The game is collaborative so if you have a half-elf who just wants to be alone in the woods all the time, that can make it difficult for anything to happen to that character. Having that character going from fiercely independent to accepting of a group of friends is really satisfying though and can be seen in tons of popular media.
Some people, and this is mostly adults, just want to play half-elves for some of the game mechanic benefits you get for that. I have no problem with people doing that if that’s what they want. But I will say that I don’t think that’s the best reason for a kid to play this playable race though. If they are intrigued by the idea of being a half-elf and really think it’s interesting, by all means they should play one. But if they love the idea of being a gnome or halfling or whatever but say they want to be a half-elf simply because they get some interesting bonuses down the line, I would discourage that. They can always make a new character later if they end up unhappy but I have just found that it’s better to go with what sparks the imagination than what might add up to a better dice roll.
And with that bit of advice, let’s get into the traits.
There are a few things you get for playing a Half-Elf.
Ability Score Increase
As I said above, half-elves can be very diplomatic. For that reason you get to add 2 to your charisma score. Half-elves are also partly human, which means they get some fierce independence. For that reason you get to choose two other ability scores and increase those by 1. Which scores a kid might want to boost here will depend on a lot of factors, one of the major ones being what class they play. I don’t have a general recommendation of what to increase here because it really does matter if you are going to be a wizard, or a fighter or a cleric or.. well you get the point. If your kid already knows what class she is going to play, I would recommend she boost the most important ability for that class. For example if you are playing a half-elf wizard, your spell casting is going to rely on intelligence and that’s what you should increase. If you don’t know the class yet, don’t worry about what to boost at this point.
Half-elves grow at the pace that humans do, so they are more or less adults by age 20. The real difference is that they live much longer than most humans and can easily become older than 180 in their lifetime.
Honestly, the entry here in the basic rules is contradictory. They talk about how half-elves can make great diplomats yet they say this – “Half-elves share the chaotic bent of their elven heritage. They value both personal freedom and creative expression, demonstrating neither love of leaders nor desire for followers. They chafe at rules, resent others’ demands, and sometimes prove unreliable, or at least unpredictable.” I don’t see how chafing at rules and resenting demands (unless they are unjust) and being unreliable or unpredictable gets you anywhere in diplomatic circles. It’s contradictions like this one that make a lot of Dungeon Masters not want to use alignment at all. Everyone is nuanced in the real world and you might make the right choice in one situation but not in another. So while the rules say that Half-elves trend toward chaotic, make sure that makes sense with the character your kid is playing if you use alignment at all.
As I said above half-elves basically are between the size of humans and elves. For game play purposes your size is medium.
Half-elves are somewhat fleet of foot but by no means the fastest creature in the game. They get a walking speed of 30 feet.
This is the same as what elves and a lot of other playable races get but it’s still really handy. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
This is also something elves get. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep. There are quite a few times that monsters or other enemies might try to charm the characters so having defense against that is pretty good. Defending against magic that puts you to sleep is also helpful, especially if the rest of the party succumbs to one of those spells.
You gain proficiency in two skills of your choice. It’s okay if you don’t quite know what this means yet but there are several skills that a player character can have. Most of them are pretty self explanatory, such as stealth or acrobatics. Your kid just gets to choose two of those skills they get to be especially good at. This comes from the human side of the half-elf characters.
Half-elves are pretty smart so they get to speak common, elvish and one extra language. If you have a half-elf in your party and you know for example that the campaign is all about giants, you might have the half-elf know how to speak giant. It makes for much smoother communication.
There are not any subraces for half-elves in the basic rules. I think this is because you get a hefty amount of bonuses and flexibility in the game mechanics with being a half-elf. For this reason I am not going over any subraces for this entry.
Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Half-Elves
As a player, I find this one to be tricky to pull off. Lucky for me, I mostly choose to be the Dungeon Master anyway. But kids can really get into this type of character. It will, as always, depend on the kid. If they love the idea of being caught between two worlds, learning to make friends after being an independent loner, or are really into the idea of smoothing over a situation before it gets out of hand, half-elves are for them. They get to be graceful and in tune with nature when they want to be but can also have the impulsiveness and energetic spirit of being human whenever they want. It’s a nuanced type of character and can mean you and your kid really need to nail down what the character is all about before getting all the way into it.
My biggest recommendation on this one is to ask why the kid wants to play a half-elf. If they just think half-elves are cool, that is an awesome reason to be a half-elf. If they say that they are looking forward to the mechanical bonus you get down the line, that may not be the best of reasons to take on this playable race. I like to let kids play whatever playable race they want but I usually want to know their motivation on it because that helps me to be a better Dungeon Master for them. I will say, I do find the mechanical bonus issue to appear more in older kids, usually because they are more familiar with the rules and are quicker with the bit of math that goes along with it. And if they are really insistent that they want to play a half-elf because of those bonuses and no other playable race will do, that’s okay too. You just have to realize the role playing moments might be a bit tougher to come by in that case.
Half-elves can be super interesting and they’re actually one of my favorite type of character to watch adults play. If you watch Critical Role, you know about Vax and Vex and how nuanced they can get. For kids, it can be a challenge, but depending on their situation it may be the absolute best fit.
I hope you enjoyed this post and got something useful out of it. Next time I am going to be back to talk about my favorite playable race to be when I am a player, the Half-Orc. They’re almost the complete opposite of Half-elves which can make for some fun stuff. They do have their issues too so I hope you’ll be back to read what I have to say on it.
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