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One of my players is a half-elf paladin about to become level 5 and she would really like to take the racial substitution level from Races of the Wild as if she were an elf paladin.

Is there any harm in allowing this?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I suppose that by "harm" you mean "power imbalance". Are you worried about (1) the character being weakened or (2) the character being overpowered as a result of you allowing this? To answer the latter, it would be necessary to know the composition of the party, and the role the characters wish to fill. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Jul 9 '17 at 11:23
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There's no intrinsic harm due to race/class mismatch, and your example is likely rules-legal anyway.

There's no compelling balance reason that the racial substitution levels are restricted to members of a certain race. They simply exist to provide some diversity and specialisation, so an elf for instance can be a paladin in a way that human being can't. If your player can justify to your satisfaction why they should be able to take a racial substitution level - say for instance a dwarf paladin who wanted to take an elf racial substitution level because they were actually raised by elves and was culturally elvish - you should feel free to allow that.

Of course, this is even less of an issue for the case you describe, as for half-elves you have the racial quality:

Elven Blood: For all effects related to race, a half-elf is considered an elf.

I can't find any 3.5 documentation that clarifies whether or not qualifying for class prerequisites/substitution levels is considered an "effect" in this sense, but that's certainly the way that Pathfinder eventually settled on it:

Half-Elf or Half-Orc: Can a character of either of these races select human racial archetypes (such as from Advanced Race Guide)?

Yes. Half-elves and half-orcs may select racial favored class options, archetypes, traits, and so on, as if they were a full member of both races (a half-elf can select elf and human rules elements, a half-orc can select human and orc rules elements).

Edit 9/26/13: This is a reversal of an earlier ruling. This resolves a discrepancy between this FAQ and two Advanced Player's Guide FAQs.

Of course that's not a 3.5 ruling but it at least shows you that other people who were considering this kind of question did decide that it should allow qualifying for classes in this way. (Pathfinder's wording of the racial feature is slightly different in that half-elves/orcs qualify as full-blooded members of both their parent races for most purposes.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for this detailed answer, I especially appreciate the "Elven Blood" reference and the reference to Pathfinder's take on this. \$\endgroup\$ – mtijn Jul 10 '17 at 5:10

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