Last Updated: February 10, 2023
A staple of fantasy fiction, Pathfinder’s elves share much of the things you love about elves from Tolkien and other modern fantasy. But at the same time, Golarion’s elves are long-lived, and their traits and feats reflect the difference in perspective that an extremely long-lived ancestry might feel in relation to ancestries which might barely live a century.
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
Elf Ancestry Traits
- : The least hit points of any ancestry, plus an Ability Flaw in Constitution.
- : Medium. Medium and small size have few functional differences in Pathfinder 2e.
- : More speed than any of the other published ancestries.
- : A Constitution flaw is hard on top of the Elf’s poor hit points, and Dexterity+Intelligence doesn’t cater to a lot of classes. Alchemist, Magus, and Wizard are obvious choices, but if you want to play anything else I recommend using the Alternate Ability Score rules.
- : Ancestry language plus Common is standard.
- : Low-light vision. The Cavern Elf Heritage can add Darkvision.
- LO:CG: Incredibly powerful and versatile.
- CRB: Damage resistances to common damage types are always great.
- CRB: Low-light vision and Darkvision means that you can see comfortably in anything except magical darkness. However, because 90% of versatile heritages grant Darkvision if your base ancestry has Low-Light vision, this is objectively inferior if those uncommon options are available.
- LO:CG: Damage resistances to common damage types are always great, and fire is among the most common non-physical damage types.
- CRB: If you plan to use Detect Magic extensively, you’ll want proficiency in Arcana. If you’re trained in Arcana, you can take the Arcane Sense feat. Arcane Sense doesn’t heighten the spell, but that’s probably fine.
- CRB: Detecting hidden and invisible creatures is hard.
- CRB: Too situational.
- APG: For a Face character this can be a great asset. In many situations you can predict a language which you can rely upon for the day without the need to resort to magic.
- CRB: With the exception of Lore, you’ll rarely benefit from changing a trained skill on a daily basis.
- LO:CG: A very decent cantrip option, but remember that innate spells are Charisma-based by default, so this is only reliably useful for Charisma-based Primal casters.
- APG: Too situational.
- CRB: Arcana and Nature are great knowledge skills.
- LO:CG: It’s great that this covers multiple conditions, but the conditions affected are rare so this is only situationally useful.
- CRB: This makes the Elven Curve Blade a simple weapon, making it an option for several classes which only get access to simple weapons, such as the Rogue. However, the elven curve blade is a weird weapon that I’m not entirely certain how to put to good use.
- CRB: Emotion effects include fear effects, which are common enough that this might feel useful, especially since you get a critical success on a success.
- APG: Too situtional, and the effect isn’t nearly good enough to justify a feat.
- CRB: More speed is good, but most characters won’t benefit from it consistently.
- CRB: Cantrips are great, but since this doesn’t specify an ability score it’s Charisma-based. This is most beneficial for Charisma-based arcane casters, but if you stick to utility cantrips and defensive cantrips like Shield, your lack of Charisma and proficiency don’t matter.
- LO:CG: Absolutely worthless. An extremely situational 1st-level spell, and you can only target elves and half-elves.
- CRB: Only situationally useful. Reducing the duration of mental effects by one round may be helpful, especially if your character has poor Will saves, but it’s difficult to predict.
- LO:CG: Cantrips are great, but since this doesn’t specify an ability score it’s Charisma-based. This is most beneficial for Charisma-based primal casters, but if you stick to utility cantrips and defensive cantrips, your lack of Charisma and proficiency don’t matter.
- LO:CG: Very situational. Survival is a rarely-used skill, and limiting this to forests and jungles means that it’s only useful for games which take place almost exclusively in forests.
- CRB: Using the Search activity during Exploration to look for traps, secret doors, etc. is common, and you typically have plenty of time to spend Seeking.
- APG: Situational, but effects which control you (such as Dominate) can be incredibly lethal, so if you expect to face enemies who employ such options, this is worth considering.
- LO:CG: Very dramatic, but borderline suicidal.
- LO:CG: Nearly identical to Incredible Initiative, but with the added benefit of winning ties against opponents. It won’t stack with Incredible Initiative, but this could be great if you need your General Feats for other things.
- CRB: Many critical specialization effects are excellent, so this is a great feat for weapon-using classes that don’t already get them.
- LO:CG: Excellent, but only works in forests. If this worked in any natural environment, it would be .
- APG: Picking up random weapons that you’re not proficient with is not something that you do in Pathfinder. Proficiency Bonuses are simply too important to use weapons several steps behind your maximum weapon proficiency just becuase you found a cool pointy stick lying on the ground. Upgrading to Trained at level 11 doesn’t help, either, because by then you’re so far behind the AC progression that the +2 barely helps.
- LO:CG: Two more innate primal cantrips. If you’re build for Wildborn Magic to work well, this is fantastic.
- LO:CG: If you just want Augury, buy a wand. You’re here for the Call Upon the Brightness Reaction so that you can add a +1 or +2 to a saving throw. But it only works once per day if you manage to do the setup and time the 30-minute window before the bonus expires. This it too limited to justify.
- CRB: Step is a situational option by nature, and 5 feet is typically enough to Step out of reach if you need to do so. The most likely use case for this feat is to Step around a creature to get into position to flank. That’s a great trick, but you could also use one Action to Step out of the creature’s reach (in order to avoid Reactions), then spend another Action to Stride to get wherever you need to be. 10 feet frequently won’t get you into Flanking position anyway, so this feat saves you one Action sometimes when you need to get into position to Flank. You can also use it to get out of reach of creatures with long reach, but that’s another situational use case.
- CRB: A combination of a skill increase and the ability to retrain a skill every day. The wording of the feat is complex, so make sure you read this thoroughly and discuss its effects with your GM before you take it. Over a few days, this could allow you to change many or all of your skill proficiencies, allowing you to massively change your capabilities to meet your party’s ongoing needs.
- APG: A great way to gain access to magical options from other traditions if you’re already a spellcaster, or to gain a useful magical option if you’re not.
- LO:CG: One situationally useful spell once per day, and the prerequisite feat is weak.
- APG: Admittedly slow, but a climb speed is still helpful, and can often serve as the next best thing to flight both for getting out of reach in combat and for bypassing obstacles outside of combat.
- APG: If you’re a martial character who relies on Strikes (a fighter, etc.) and you have an ally who has a bad habit of being knocked unconscious in combat (there are builds that are good at falling unconscious and not dying, plus pets like animal companions tend to be frail compared to player characters), you may be able to use this with reasonable frequency. Still, that’s not an ideal option because it means that one of your allies may be out of the fight.
- CRB: Classes limited to simple weapons can really benefit from access to bows, and this allows bows to keep pace with your other weapon proficiencies.
- CRB: Great for abusing Lore, but I don’t know what else you could reliably use this for.
- LO:CG: You probably picked a heritage because it was fit your build well. This feat is thematically very cool, but it’s very difficult to make it useful. Note that the effects happen automatically; you don’t get to choose.
- APG: Teleportation will likely be common by this level, but the effects of this feat are simply too small to justify such a high-level feat.