There is a running joke in a campaign I play in that a female Half-elf member of the party is in menopause (She is 37 years old).

However, looking at the rules, I cannot find any concrete reference to the aging of Half-elves after reaching maturity, in comparison to Humans. The Player's Handbook simply states that Half-elves "Mature at the same rate as Humans do and reach adulthood around the age of 20. They live much longer [than Humans], often exceeding 180 years."

This leads me to believe that half-elves would enter menopause only slightly later than Humans, with the Player's Handbook stating that Humans reach adulthood in their late teens (Earlier than it states Half-elves reaching adulthood), and Half-elf menopause would likely last roughly twice as long as it would in Humans.

This question has lead to a disagreement between the players, and the DM has refused to comment. Any help would be appreciated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you be interested in possible answers from earlier editions of D&D? \$\endgroup\$
    – ZwiQ
    Commented May 23 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ “There is a running joke that a female member of the party is in menopause.” What’s the joke? Why is that funny? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 23 at 15:56
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ When a female PC starts to have their reproductive and sexual health governed by a ruleset, it's clear that the game has acquired the characteristics associated with misogyny, and you have enabled elements of sexual discrimination which reinforce gender based power imbalance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Penanghill
    Commented May 26 at 0:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I find it interesting that you think 37 is slightly later than when humans would normally enter menopause. I'm curious where you got that data point from. \$\endgroup\$ Commented 2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical That's a good point. Wikipedia says "It typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, although the exact timing can vary." \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented 2 days ago

4 Answers 4


Are you sure it's a joke?

Is everyone having fun? I think it's worth asking yourself that. I'm sure I'm reading between the lines, but there's something that feels slightly unfun in the scenario you describe.

I'm probably betraying my own prejudice; I prefer pretty cordial and respectful gaming groups. But that is really, as I said, a personal prejudice -- some tables have pretty rough and rude inter-personal interactions, and everyone is fine with it. (I'll note I play in a group that is diverse in age and background, and that some of us have never met IRL and others know each other IRL pretty well. I think that is at least partly the reason we keep things pretty cordial. In any case, we're pretty respectful of each other.)

Still, I think it's worth asking yourself if everyone (including the DM) is in on the joke.

What is the DM really saying?

You told us the DM refuses to comment. I'm not quite sure what that means. One way to interpret that is the DM is saying, I'm not sure what game you guys are playing, but it isn't D&D. Let me know when you want to play D&D again.

The rules don't say

As other answers have pointed out, the rules don't say when half elves enter menopause.

How does fantasy biology work, anyway?

The rules certainly don't say. D&D left physics behind at the first cantrip. Biology too. You can make real-world parallels if you want, but just about every rule regarding biological functions from healing to necromancy to death reversal to monsters to everything else is directly contradictory to real-world biology.

Where did elves (and half-elves) come from?

Certainly, a major source of elves in D&D is Tolkien's elves. The Wikipedia article "Elves in Middle-Earth" gives you a pretty good summary of the Tolkien elves. I'll note Tolkien's elves (according to the article) are functionally immortal and don't have anything like menopause.

Where to go from here

Consider abandoning the joke

As I said, this joke feels just a little mean to me. I could be absolutely and completely wrong, but that's what I read between the lines.

I also have no idea of the make-up of your gaming group. Let's suppose you're a group of fairly young males. Yuck it up, I guess.

Let's suppose you're a group of fairly young males and females, more males than females, maybe only one female. Some life advice. In that case, I can almost guarantee you, it's not funny. Really. No matter what the women say. If you want confirmation, go find a woman who you respect who has nothing to do with your gaming group, and ask, sincerely and respectfully, if the joke is funny. Or just perform that thought experiment in your head.

But really, what's the answer?

Here's my answer as a DM

"Seriously? Are you 13? Not much of a joke to start with, and repetition hasn't helped. But I'll get back to you."

I would then discuss it with any players playing female half-elven characters. I would tell them this is my inclination as a DM: first of all, who cares, and I'd rather drop the subject; however, by observation half-elves are capable of bearing children throughout life. Patterns vary widely but sometimes half-elves have multiple sets of children throughout life, usually one or two children at a time. Beyond that, no one really knows a lot about half-elf reproductive patterns except the half-elves, and they're not telling. If the player wanted something different, either as a player or as a character, I'd give their opinion great sway.

Then I would go back to the asking player. Sorry there's no answer. Your character thinks that half-elves can have children at any time but beyond that, it's a mystery.

My answer as a player

I happen to play a female half-elf in the game I am currently in. My last character was old, but this one is young -- eighteen. Her parents are a bit over a hundred. Beyond that, I've never thought about it, and can't think of any reason it matters.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 to your possibility of the DM dismissing the question rather than "refusing to make a call." This could very well be the DM going "This is so incredibly off-topic and irrelevant to the actual game that I'm not going to expend the brain power to make a call here, and don't want to be party to keeping this conversation going. Can we please get back on topic?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 12:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The OP has 3 questions, they show a certain mentality in the group. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented May 22 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri oh... oh my. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 23 at 14:57

There is no RAW answer

Menopause is simply not mentioned in the rules, so there is no RAW answer. If we put aside our out-of-game knowledge of humans in our universe, there is no reason to believe that anyone in a D&D setting experiences menopause. If we assume that D&D-humans are the same as real life humans we still don't know if half-elves experience menopause since we have no reason to believe that elves experience menopause. If your table needs a ruling on this, this is up to the DM.

However, if there are disagreements between the players, the one who should really make the call is the player of this half-elf. If they don't want their character going through menopause they shouldn't. And likewise, if they want to play a half-elf going through menopause - let them!


Menopause is not mentioned in rules as written

Your DM has refused to comment, but it is the DM's job to make a call in such cases, including to declare that this is not something they want to focus the game on, especially if they and the other players are uncomfortable or not interested in this.

The rules about Half-Elves maturing say

Age. Half-elves mature at the same rate humans do and reach adulthood around the age of 20. They live much longer than humans, however, often exceeding 180 years.

According to the WHO, for humans

Most women experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55

If we pick 50 years as the average, for humans that normally live to under 100 years, this would mean a little before half the overall lifespan.

You have not commented on the source of contention between the players. I can see it based on a contradiction in the statements that Half-Elves "mature at the same rate", which would mean a bit under 50 years, and the nearly twice as long life span, which would suggest a bit before 90 years of age if it happens at the same time of the overall lifespan.

I personally think it is less likely that Half-Elves mature like humans until they are in their 90s, feeble and eldery, and then continue to live another 90 years in that state, and that the intention of the statement about maturing is just that they get to become adults at about 20 years of age, and then continue to age more slowly over their remaining lifespan. This would suggest that it would likely be more around 90 years of age.

But currently there is not even a statement that Half-Elves experience menopause at all (thanks to @ThomasMarkov for pointing that out), so you need to ask your DM to make a call here on what they want to do.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ There’s no indication at all that elves ever experience menopause. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also true. I assume you mean half-elves, though. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 22 at 5:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ RAW, I'm not sure anybody in D&D undergoes menopause. \$\endgroup\$
    – Exal
    Commented May 22 at 6:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov there's no indication humans would, either. If anything, Drizzt series mentioned at what age Drow matriarch usually stops having children, so there's lore mentioned age for a kind of Elves, but not for humans. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented May 22 at 11:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov it's in the origin trilogy. Probablu in the first book afair. About Baenre matriarch being pregnant at an usually old age thanks to the Lolth favour. I only have it in Polish, but can try to find that part if it helps. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented May 22 at 12:14

What is menopause?

Menopause in real-world humans is a biological process in which a female's reproductive system 'shuts down' in an orchestrated way, so that she is no longer capable of bearing children. This is a real puzzle for evolutionary biologists, because the premise of the theory of natural selection is that as organisms evolve they get better at reproducing, so why ever would permanently turning off reproduction be favored? And in fact this intuition seems justified because by some estimates, of 5000 described species of mammals only six are known to have menopause as a life history strategy. Among living primates, only humans are known to have menopause. Currently the most accepted idea for why this might happen is called the "grandmother hypothesis" and it posits that at a certain point in our average woman ancestor's life, she could increase her inclusive reproductive fitness more by caring for her grandchildren than she could by continuing to have her own children. It is interesting that this tradeoff affects biological females so strongly compared to males - while male individual reproductive fitness also peaks and then declines with age, it has a long, gradually decreasing tail rather than a pronounced cliff.

What does this have to do with D&D?

Not much. The game includes some biological processes but completely ignores others. The 'food and water minigame' is prominent - how much food your PC needs, how often, how much that food weighs, what is the kind and quality of food they can receive for different prices, what spells can create or purify food, what happens when they don't get enough food, and so forth all have a place in the rules. On the other hand, there are no rules at all for waste elimination - how many times a day does your PC need to defecate, what does that do to travel time if it takes 5 minutes to take off your heavy armor and another 10 minutes to put it back on, how much does this waste weigh, is it a potential source of disease, and what happens if you don't defecate, are all just as biologically valid questions, but they are ones the game chooses not to address.

With respect to menopause, this would be a phenomena associated with aging, and other than rough statements about typical lifespan and age of maturity, the 5e game has no rules about the effects of aging on character traits - although previous editions did. So even if menopause was actually a thing for female half-elf PCs, we wouldn't have rules for it.

But would it be a thing? Menopause, as I described above, is thought to be an evolutionary reproductive strategy in a very small number of species of a particular evolutionary history. It is not clear that the 'human' race in the game has had that evolutionary history, or that evolution as we understand it (the change in gene frequencies in a population over time) even exists in the game (or that genes even exist). The fact that humans and elves, two species that appear to have completely different in-game origins, are not only capable of reproducing with one another, but that those offspring are capable of reproduction themselves, means that it is very unlikely that in-game reproductive biology has anything to do with real-world biology. As such, there is no particular reason to think that menopause even exists in-game. There certainly aren't rules for it. So if it does exist in your game, it is only because your DM has decided that it does, and they are responsible for telling you the rules.

The fact that your DM has "refused to comment" means that both you and your fellow players have no reason to believe that menopause is a thing that happens to anyone in your world, let alone to a particular PC.

A disagreement between the players

I don't think I understand what is the nature of this disagreement between players. Here are some possibilities, though.

It could be that the other players are simply arguing that "half-elves are menopausal by 37, so the character should be, too," and you are arguing that "no, that is too young, she would have to be older and thus she cannot be menopausal." That's an easy disagreement to resolve - as described above, menopause is not even a thing in your world unless the DM says it is, and they haven't, so any given PC is not menopausal, and likely no one is.

However, it could be that the players in your game feel like they can define each other's characters, and what their character traits are. You could accept that premise, but disagree with them about this particular trait assessment.

If you all are doing that in seriousness, then resist the urge to justify your opinion on the character's traits by an appeal to what you think is a reasonable age for half-elf menopause. There is a larger principle here; this is one person's character. As described in PHB Chapter 1, most of a PC's traits are their player's choice: the race, sex, gender, eye-color, personality, background, and so forth of a character are the player's choice, and not chosen or debated by the other members of the party or even by the DM. This includes whether or not the PC can have children.

Or, perhaps the other players are saying this as a way of making fun of or joking about the character, or teasing the PC's player. Different tables have different playstyles, and such teasing is acceptable at some and not others. Your table has to set its own social norms and to decide whether this kind of behavior is acceptable or inappropriate. If these comments make any of you uncomfortable (especially the player of the half-elf PC, who is on the receiving end), you shouldn't attempt to resolve whether or not the PC is menopausal; the issue is that some players are engaging in behavior that others don't enjoy. You all need to talk about that.

Is this a double standard?

Although your question does not ask about this, I think it is worth considering. In another question, you ask whether a Paladin's Lay on Hands ability can cure parasites. I found it interesting that in that situation, your fellow PC is trying to help or enable your PC, while in this question, multiple fellow players seem like they are trying to frustrate or shut down one other player. Why the difference?

It could be that in the other question, your (male) PC is engaging in promiscuous sexual activity, and the fellow PC is supporting him in that endeavor. While in this question, a number of your fellow players are saying that a (female) PC is not correctly expressing her reproductive ability, and that it needs to be shut down because she is past a certain age.

We have a long cultural history of being generally supportive of male sexuality, of males having more freedom to express their individual sexuality, and of males being expected to have more sex. At the same time our history encourages more societal control over female sexuality, females have less individual choice about their sexuality, and females are often expected to have less sex. These beliefs, conscious or unconscious, may be part of why you and your fellow players feel like you can debate about or even dictate whether or not a female PC in your game is permitted to have children, while simply accepting that a male PC is successful at being promiscuous because he wants to be. Your reflecting on the internalized nature of this cultural double standard, and you asking your fellow players to reflect on it, could be part of resolving this disagreement, depending on its nature.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great answer, but I think you misread the question slightly (or maybe I do). I believe the female half-elf character in question is not the OPs, but another player's. Not clear to me exactly what the joke is; but I think your last paragraph may be near the mark, only the female half-elf character (and player) is the target, and I suspect it has less to do with the actual ability to bear children than stereotypes of human behavior. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented 2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ I tried to clean up some of your mistakes about who was the target of the joke \$\endgroup\$ Commented 2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or, perhaps they are saying this as a way of making fun of or joking about the character That is the gist of the first sentence of the question. They are making a joke at a character's expense. \$\endgroup\$ Commented 2 days ago
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jack Yes, I misread "I play" as modifying the character, not the campaign. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Thank you for both realizing my mistake and your efforts to correct it. I made a few more changes based on you and Jack bringing this to my attention. With respect to who the joke is on, I don't think it is clear. The line between PC and player is always blurry, and in my experience, when PC's make jokes about other PC's in-game, it is often a way for players to tease other players in the social meta-game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented 2 days ago

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