Introduction

The Half-Elf is among the most powerful races in the core rules. It’s a top-tier race option for several classes, and even for classes where the Half-Elf isn’t a perfect fit it’s at least workable. Two flexible ability increases and two free skill proficiencies are useful on essentially any character, plus you get Darkvision and a +2 Charisma increase. If those traits don’t quite work for you, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide includes variants which allow you to exchange part of your racial traits for other options.

If you’re using the default rules, the Half-Elf’s biggest competition is from the Variant Human, which has similar ability increases and with the versatility of a feat the Variant Human can often provide the same build versatility that makes the Half-Elf so appealing. In cases where you need a lot of one thing (a lot of cantrips, a lot of skills, etc.) the Variant Human is better. In cases where you need a bit of everything, the Half-Elf is often better.

With the custom origin rules, the Half-Elf suddenly becomes the savior of MAD builds everywhere. Three ability score increases makes classes link the Monk and the Paladin much easier to build, and the two skills remain a wonderful addition to any characrer.

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Half-Elf Classes (Customizable Origins)

This section assumes that you’re using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the next section.

Artificer

Artificers don’t need three ability scores. The extra skills are nice, but there are few meaningful Intelligence-based skills so you’ll end up with skills that use ability scores you’re not good with.

Barbarian

If you want to build around Unarmored Defense, having three ability score increases is a huge benefit. You’ll need to increase either Dexterity or Constitution to match half plate, but start with 16 Con/16 Dex makes that much easier to achieve. Two additional skills really help to diversify your capabilities outside of combat, and Fey Ancestry can help protect you from charm effects which can frequently take barbarians out of a fight.

Bard

Two additional skills never hurt, but you might trade Versatility depending on your choice of college. If you want to build for melee combat, strongly consider High Half-Elf to get Booming Blade, as its damage will consistently exceed damage output from Extra Attack. Building a martial bard is still hard, of course, but three ability score increases certainly helps. If you

Cleric

Building clerics around three ability scores is a rarity, but if you want to swing a weapon while still being good with spells, the Half-Elf’s three ability score increases are great. Consider Trickery Domain, which will benefit from both high Dexterity and two additional skills, allowing you to more easily stand in for a rogue.

Druid

While the Druid certainly benefits from having higher Dexterity to pad their AC, three ability score increases isn’t any better than what you can get from two, so the Half-Elf’s signature benefit is largely wasted. Circle of Spores may benefit since it relies on using weapons in melee, but again, the minor improvement to your ability scores isn’t really impactful in this case.

Fighter

With the exception of the Eldritch Knight, fighters don’t need three good ability scores, and even then, 14 Intelligence is plenty. Two additional skills definitely help since fighters are typically starved for options outside of combat, but given the choice I would go for Variant Human first if I just wanted more skills.

Monk

Monks needs three good ability scores like fish need water, and between the Half-Elf’s ability score increases and their additional skills, you’re in good shape if you start with 16 Dex/Con/Wis. The two additional skills close the gap between the Monk and Rogue so you can more easily serve as your party’s Scout.

Paladin

The Paladin needs three good ability scores, so the Half-Elf is a great fit. You can easily play your party’s Face, and two additional skills mean that you can get all of the necessaru Face skills and still have room for things like Athletics.

Ranger

Three ability score increases makes it much easier to build a ranger, especially if you want to be Strength-based. Two skills closes the skill gap between the Ranger and the Rogue, making it easier to match the Rogue’s capabilities as a Scout.

Rogue

A Half-Elf rogue with can start with a total of 8 skill proficiencies, but if 6 is enough you can trade for High Half-Elf to get Booming Blade, which is a good boost to melee rogues’ damage output if you’re not planning to use two-weapon fighting.

The Rogue is, in my opinion, the single best use case for Elven Accuracy. If you’re consistently relying on Advantage to deliver Sneak attack the extra die improved your chance of rolling a natural 20 (and therefore a critical hit) from 9.75% to 14.26%. And if you’ve ever gotten to roll a critical hit with Sneak Attack you understand how exciting it is to roll all of those dice.

Sorcerer

+1 Dexterity, +1 Constitution, +2 Charisma. With the free skills you can easily play your Party’s Face, or you might get crazy and use the free skills and your background to get skills to let you replace a rogue. The Half-Elf variants don’t offer much of interest, unfortunately. High Elf can get you another cantrip, but Sorcerers get more cantrips than any other class, and the Sorcerer and Wizard spell lists overlap considerably, so there isn’t a ton to be gained there unless you really, really like cantrips.

Warlock

The custom origin rules don’t change anything for half-elf warlocks. The combination was already perfect, and you can’t improve upon +1 Dex/+1 Con/+1 Cha. Two skills help to expand beyond Face skills, but you might also trade Versatility to be a Drow Half-Elf to get some extra spellcasting, especially Darkness.

Strongly consider the Elven Accuracy feat. Warlocks have several options to give themselves Advantage on attacks, and combining Elven Accuracy with Eldritch Blast is an easy way to get a significant boost to your damage output.

Wizard

Wizards don’t need three ability scores. The extra skills are nice, but there are few meaningful Intelligence-based skills so you’ll end up with skills that use ability scores you’re not good with.

Half-Elf Classes (Default Rules)

This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything or the updated version of the race published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.

Artificer

Your ability increases work fine, and more skills are always helpful, but the Variant Human is a better option. The High Elf variant can get you an extra wizard cantrip, but Variant Human with Magic Initiate gets two. High Elf and Wood Elf get you access to some martial weapons, but Battlesmith will make that redundant and other subclasses will do better with cantrips.

Barbarian

If you want to use Charisma-based skills like Intimidate, a Half-Elf Barbarian is an interesting choice. You can get some interesting options from the Half-Elf variants, but typically the vanilla Half-Elf is your best option.

A Half-Elf Barbarian seems like an interesting use-case for Elven Accuracy, but Reckless Attack requires you attack with Strength and Elven Accuracy doesn’t work with Strength-based attacks.

Bard

An obvious and fantastic choice, nearly every Half-Elf bard will put their flexible ability increases into Dexterity and Constitution, and with the fixed +2 Charisma increase you’re ready for any bard subclass that catches your fancy. Two extra skills will help broaden your skillset, but since you get Jack of All Trades as a bard you may prefer to take a variant. For example: High Elf can get you a wizard cantrip, including powerful offensive options like Booming Blade or Firebolt which aren’t on the Bard’s spell list.

Cleric

Charisma isn’t especially useful for the Cleric, but Persuasion is on their class skill list, and with two additional skills you can easily pick up Deception, Insight, Intimidation, and Persuasion, and have all of the Face skills. Half-Elf Variants offer access to some other useful options like Elf Weapon Training so that you can use a bow or a cantrip from the Wizard spell list if you like to fight in melee and want to use Booming Blade or something else that the Cleric normally can’t get. But in either of those cases you could accomplish the same goal with a Variant Human, and the Variant Human will typically be more effective.

Druid

The ability scores work fine, but Charisma is largely wasted on the Druid. You can still pick up some Face skills, but none of them except Insight are on the Druid’s class skill list so you’re totally dependent on your free racial skills. You might consider the Wood Elf variant to get Mask of the Wild, but at that point a Wood Elf is more effective. You might consider the High Elf variant with Circle of Spores, but a Variant Human with Magic Initiate will be more effective. Half-Elf is by no means a poor choice for Druid, but nearly any way that you build your character another race will be slightly better for your build.

Mark of Detection offers some interesting options. In addition to a Wisdom increase, the dragonmark expands your spell list to include numerous divination options which are otherwise unavailable to druids. Druids are very good at some types of spellcasting, but compared to the Cleric their divination options are limited, so expanding those capabilities can be a significant addition to your capabilities.

Fighter

Charisma is wasted on most fighters, but the Purple Dragon Knight has some Charisma-based abilities, and you could easily serve as your party’s Face. If you plan to dump Charisma, you have enough skills that with the right background and an emphasis on Dexterity you can easily fill in for a rogue. Half-elves get access to the Prodigy feat, which lets you get some extra proficiencies and Expertise in one skill, which is very appealing for a fighter who likes to rely on Grapple and Shove. You might also consider the Drow variant to get some magical options since fighters have so few options to approach problems that require magic.

A Champion Fighter can make excellent use of the Elven Accuracy feat; if you can get Advantage on an attack (easy if you Shove your target prone), you have a 27.10% chance to score a critical on a 19-20 and a 38.59% chance to score a critical hit on a 18-20, making critical hits not only common but nearly a mathermatical certainty. If you’re extremely ambitious you might combine Elven Accuracy, 3 levels of Champion Fighter, and a big pile of Barbarian levels for Brutal Critical.

Monk

The monk is a fine fit for the Half-Elf, but your Charisma is largely wasted and in every build you can think of a different race (typically a Wood Elf or a Variant Human) will be a better option. Still, you get everything that you need to be a successful monk, and if you don’t want the extra skills the variant Half-Elf traits offer some interesting options.

Paladin

A perfect fit for the Half-Elf, the Paladin needs three good ability scores and one happens to be Charisma. You can easily play your party’s Face, or if you prefer you could trade away your extra skills for variant Half-Elf traits.

Ranger

The Half-Elf makes a fine ranger, and the free skills help close the skill gap between the Ranger and the Rogue. However, aside from the skills the Wood Elf is typically a better option.

Rogue

Do you like skills? Do you want to have all of the skills? Normally you would play a bard, but a Half-Elf rogue with can start with a total of 8 skill proficiencies. You can take Prodigy or Skill Expert to get more proficiencies and Expertise in another skill, but usually what you get from the Rogue is sufficient.

The Rogue is, in my opinion, the single best use case for Elven Accuracy. If you’re consistently relying on Advantage to deliver Sneak attack the extra die improved your chance of rolling a natural 20 (and therefore a critical hit) from 9.75% to 14.26%. And if you’ve ever gotten to roll a critical hit with Sneak Attack you understand how exciting it is to roll all of those dice.

Sorcerer

Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma. With the free skills you can easily play your Party’s Face, or you might get crazy and use the free skills and your background to get skills to let you replace a rogue. The Half-Elf variants don’t offer much of interest, unfortunately. High Elf can get you another cantrip, but Sorcerers get more cantrips than any other class, and the Sorcerer and Wizard spell lists overlap considerably, so there isn’t a ton to be gained there unless you really, really like cantrips.

Mark of the Storm gets an honorable mention here: Half-elves already make great sorcerers, but if you really want to double down on Storm Sorcery, Mark of the Storm fits thematically and can add some additional options which complement the subclass.

Warlock

Much like the Bard, the Warlock is a perfect fit for the Half-Elf. Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma set you up for nearly any Warlock build. Extra skills can broaden your capabilities beyond magic, but definitely consider variant options if they seem appealing.

Strongly consider the Elven Accuracy feat. Warlocks have several options to give themselves Advantage on attacks, and combining Elven Accuracy with Eldritch Blast is an easy way to get a significant boost to your damage output.

Wizard

Sorcerer and Warlock are better options for the Half-Elf because the ability scores line up beetter, but the Half-Elf still has everything that they need to be a successful wizard.

Half-Elf Feats

Elven AccuracyXGtE

If you can get Advantage reliably, this is a fantastic feat. The +1 ability increase is nice, but the reroll mechanic is the real draw here. You need Advantage to trigger the reroll, but you can reroll one die each time you roll with Advantage (though you’re limited to attack/checks/saves with the four lister ability scores), so Advantage is essentially rolling three dice and choosing the highest.

ProdigyXGtE

The extra proficiencies are great, but the main reason why you want this feat is for Expertise. This is a go-to option for Barbarians, Fighters, and other martial characters who plan to use Grapple or Shove in combat, and if you can spare the Ability Score Increase to take a feat, it will save you the trouble of multiclassing into Rogue.

Hal-Elf Dragonmarks

Dragonmarks are detailed in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Half-Elves treat Dragonmarks like a variant, replacing the Half-Elf’s Ability Score Increases and Versatility traits.

Mark of Detection

Dropping the Half-Elf’s Charisma increase in favor of a bigger Wisdom increase predisposes the Mark of Detection Half-Elf to spellcasting classes like Cleric and Druid, but other classes like the Monk and the Ranger are good options. Classes which only tangentially benefit from Wisdom can still work, but unless you’re going to benefit from the expanded spell list I wouldn’t bother. That basically just leaves druids and rangers.

Even with the Custom Origin rules, the Druids and the Ranger are still the biggest beneficiaries because so many of the spells are already available to other spellcasters like the Cleric and the Wizard.

Mark of Storm

Thematically interesting, and a great thematic complement to the Storm Sorcery Sorcerer, but otherwise a very niche option. The spells are neat, but nearly all of them are situational and often difficult to rely upon. The proficiencies have the same issue. Even the ability score increases will limit Mark of the Storm’s appeal. Resistance to lightning is great, but that’s not enough to make this broadly appealing.

The custom origin rules help quite a bit. The Cleric is likely your best bet since they don’t get access to many of the best spells on this list. There is some overlap with the Tempest Domain, but the Mark of Storm’s best spells aren’t the ones that overlap.