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I see that humans can interbreed with either orcs or elves in addition to humans, and the offspring is either a half-elf or half-orc. I realized though, that this offspring is very much like a mule, a combination of two species: a horse and donkey. But the mule is sterile. Does this mean that half-elves cannot interbreed with other half-elves, and likewise for half-orcs? Or can they?

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    \$\begingroup\$ From memory, the answer to this question is setting-specific, so I imagine most answers should specify which settings they're describing. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    May 25, 2023 at 23:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ related: Can a Half-Orc have only one Orc grandparent? \$\endgroup\$
    – Thank-Glob
    May 26, 2023 at 10:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ For the record, while mules are sterile, not every hybrid is, in real life. There are even cases where A and B can interbreed and produce viable offspring, and B and C can interbreed and produce viable offspring, but A and C cannot. Wikipedia’s Species article covers it pretty well as far as I can tell (see about the definition and the “species problem”). \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    May 26, 2023 at 13:26

1 Answer 1

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Half-elves and half-orcs are not sterile.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything, p62:

Nonhuman Parents. If your character is a half-elf, a half-orc, or a tiefling, you can use one of the tables below to determine the race of each of your parents. [...]

The tables presented below include "one parent was an elf and the other was a human," "one parent was an elf and the other was a half-elf," "one parent was a human and the other was a half-elf," and "both parents were half-elves" (among others). While this may vary by setting, the default laid out in XGtE indicates that half-elves can breed with elves, humans, and other half-elves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Which of course implies that humans, elves, orcs, and demons are all technically the same species. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    May 26, 2023 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage: Species has no technical definition, but you're right that they would be the same species colloquially. "A simple textbook definition, following Mayr's concept, works well for most multi-celled organisms, but breaks down in several situations:...When hybridisation permits substantial gene flow between species.[79]" \$\endgroup\$ May 26, 2023 at 17:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ no mention of aasimar?! SPECICISTS! \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    May 27, 2023 at 14:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, since this doesn't specify setting...in Eberron there's an entire culture made up of half-elves. They call themselves Khorovar, and the vast bulk of them are half-elves with half-elven parents. There are so many of them that 2 of the Dragonmarked Houses are Half-elven (Lyrandar and Medani) \$\endgroup\$ May 28, 2023 at 14:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ As the counter-example, in the Dark Sun setting, muls (half-dwarves, half-human) are explicitly sterile, both with themselves and with either parent race. \$\endgroup\$ May 28, 2023 at 16:35

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