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If an elf and a half-elf (let's assume the elf and the half-elf's elven parent are of the same subrace, to exclude that complication) were to have a child, would the child be an elf or a half-elf?

I can see this going either way; one argument might be that the child would be an elf because between the parents, there's 1/4 human and 3/4 elf, but on the other hand, "the child of a half-elf is always a half-elf" is the sort of thing I wouldn't be surprised to see somewhere.

However, I cannot find anything to support either conclusion in the PHB or XGtE or anything.

Is the offspring of an elf and a half-elf an elf or a half-elf? Does any official lore support one of these conclusions?

Different settings might have different answers to this question, so let's make this specific to the Forgotten Realms. Since this is relevant to a 5e game, ideally the answers should come from 5e, but I'll accept lore from previous editions, so long as it's Forgotten Realms.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is tagged Forgotten Realms; are you exclusively interested in answers for that world, or are answers for other worlds like Eberron okay as well? I know that there’s a canon answer to this for the Eberron setting, for instance. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Mar 4 at 4:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 Yeah, I made the decision to restrict this to Forgotten Realms because I can imagine different universes (such as Eberron, but I wasn't thinking of that one specifically) may well have different answers, so to not have equally correct but contradicting answers, that's why I picked a setting, and I picked FG because that's the one I'm most familiar with. So, sorry, no Eberron answers :( \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Mar 4 at 8:36
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XGtE suggests that you are free to make it up.

Ideas, not rules (XGtE, 61):

Even though these pages are full of tables [...] they don't make up a rules system - in fact, the opposite is true. You can use as much or as little of this material as you desire [...] For instance, you might not want these tables to help you decide who your parents [...] are, because that's among the information you've already come up with.

The Nonhuman Parents table (XGtE 62) shows that it is possible for a half-elf's parents to be both an elf and a half-elf:

If your character is a half-elf, [...] 6 One parent was an elf and the other was a half-elf.

So it confirms that that half-elves and elves may have half-elven children, but that you are free to decide either way. As 5e lore doesn't go into more detail you may borrow inspiration from other editions if you do desire to do so.

3.e says (Races of Faerûn 58):

Half-elves have at least one elven parent or grandparent, or two half-elven parents. To put it another way, the child of a half-elf and a human will be human, unless the half-elf parent was the child of a full-blooded elf. Unless a half-elven line marries into other elven or half-elven families, their elf characteristics fade in a generation or two. On occasion elven traits can reappear in otherwise human children born several generations later, but half-elves of such remote descent are very rare.

2e says (PHB 30):

1) Anyone with both elven and human ancestors is either a human or a half-elf (elves have only elven ancestors). 2) If there are more human ancestors than elven, the person is human; if there are equal numbers or more elves, the person is half-elven.

(AD&D 2e) Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting Box Set Revised p. 12 phrases this more concise and less ambigious:

Half-elves may mate and breed, but will always produce the off-spring of the other parent (a half-elf elf pairing will produce elven children, while a half-elf human pairing will result in human children). Second generation half-elves only result if two half-elves marry.

These older editions strictly denote that elves have only elven ancestors, that means at least one parent has to be a full-blooded elf to give birth to an elf when mating with an elf or a half-elf, but no such restriction is a confirmed part of the 5e lore.

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XGtE suggests the result is a Half-Elf

This book includes a table (p. 62) for determining parent races when your character is a half elf. It includes the possibility of:

One parent was an elf and the other was a half-elf.

Therefore we can infer that the offspring of an elf and a half-elf is a half-elf, or at least that that is a valid result.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would say that we can only infer that it's a valid result, not the only possible result... The result could also potentially be an elf, depending on how D&D genetics works. :P \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 3 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note: The other way around (human + half-elf parent) definitely can lead to children that count solely as human; it's specifically noted on the Human racial description that "A lot of humans have a dash of nonhuman blood, revealing hints of elf, orc, or other lineages." Given how rare half-elves are ("In most parts of the world, though, half-elves are uncommon enough that one might live for years without meeting another."), I'd assume the elf part dilutes out readily (otherwise half-elves would slowly replace human populations as they'd "win" every interspecies reproductive act). \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Mar 3 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I assume this works like racism: for some people the difference is blurry and unimportant, other people might be in a harsher "not one drop" camp. \$\endgroup\$ – Borgh Mar 4 at 11:17
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Probably an Elf

The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (the 5e Forgotten Realms sourcebook) does't specify but the 1e FR Campaign Set has this to say (on page 47 of the Cyclopedia).

Half-elves may mate and breed, but will always produce the offspring of the other parent (a Half-elf/elf pairing will produce elven children, while a Half elf/human pairing will result in human children). Second generation Half-elves only result if two Half-elves marry (as is the case in Aglarond).

As noted in another answer (hat-tip @Akixkisu), Xanathar's Guide to Everything allows all four combinations of parents, but that book is setting-agnostic, so you might rule that the setting-specific books take precedence (noting that the question is tagged Forgotten Realms.)

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