Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Done with the Half-Elf

 The title says it all. Do we really need half-elves as a playable race in D&D? Actually, what I mean is, do we need a mechanically distinct half-elf race in D&D? This is something I had in my house rules several years ago -- just play an elf or a human and style it as such, but then revised to make half-elves their own thing again. This was part of the fallout of switching a campaign mid-stride from 5E back to Classic. Some players had Half Elf characters, so I figured I'd better write up a version of them to suit my BECMI style house rules. 

At the same time, I added Dragonborn (mostly because at the time my son was enamored of them, he's since moved on to Half Orcs, a race I'm good with keeping around actually) and Changelings which are sort of like 5E's Tieflings but less explicitly goth, and a bit more Grimm/Andersen. 

Since I seem to be gearing up to revise the TSR rules yet again, and collapse both the "regular" and "East" rules into one set, I'm considering the benefits of each typical D&D race. 

Half-Elves don't make the cut. Players can easily style their PC as one if they like. But mechanically, I'll just make them play either a Human with elfy role play, or an Elf with humany role play. That's much more in line with the Tolkienian original idea anyway, where the half-elven could choose to have the fate of the Eldar (elves) or the Edain (humans), and once chosen, that was it. 

As for the other races, I'll probably keep Changelings, especially since they fit well with the Spirit Born in TSR-East. I'll collapse them into one race. Dwarves, Gnomes, and Koropokkuru will also likely just be one race as well. Or more realistically, Gnomes will just be gone. There have been some gnomes in the game, and early on some illusionists, but not much interest in either recently.

Nate is having fun running a Dokkaebi (Korean version of the Japanese oni) Shaman in my West Marches game, but I'll likely drop that race, too. I put it in for the Korean influence to balance a bit of the Japanese and Chinese influence of the game, but I'm not happy with the mechanics I gave them. Or maybe I'll just make them a pallet swap of the Half-Orc? Right now they're a bit more magical. 

So the line-up will probably be something like this (TSR-East races in parentheses): 


Changeling (Spirit Born)

Dwarf (Koropokkuru)

Elf (Kumiho) 


Half-Orc (Dokkaebi)



Or who knows, maybe I'll follow through on my threat to go back to race-as-class, and like in BX and BECMI, demi-humans will basically be Fighters or else a unique multiclass combination. Probably not, but it's still a possibility. 

More likely, I'll keep race and class separate, but make "multiclass" classes like the BX/BECMI Elf instead of allowing AD&D style multiclassing. Multiclassing can be a headache anyway.


  1. Like the half-Orc the half-elf should be Template for a cross-species. Linguistic analysis of the Greyhawk setting implies Hepmonaland-originating Goblins are supposed to be half Orc-Dwarf.

  2. I think it was in the Alfheim Gazetteer that it was codified in BECMI that products of elf-human unions (Half-elves) follow the lineage of their mother. So you could be a half-elf with human traits (and F/MU/T/C classes) or elf traits (and the Elf class).

  3. I never read the Alfheim Gazetteer, but that's also what I independently came up with several years back, and am moving back to now.