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The half-elf has unique racial traits, but one of those racial traits is elven blood, which says

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

Half-elves aren't available as ranger's favored enemy and aren't given a unique entry in the Monster Manual, sharing the entry with elves, leaving the half-elf subtype suspiciously unmentioned.

In technical Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 terms, are half-elves themselves a race? Are half-elves a kind of elf? Further, do half-elves possess the elf subtype, the human subtype, both, or neither?


Context

I was organizing a list of feats based on their availability, attempting to do so using the taxonomy of (from largest to smallest) of race, kind, type, and subtype, but got stumped by the half-elf, who can, apparently, meet the prerequisites of elf feats (as per the racial trait elven blood) yet can't, for example, meet the prerequisite of star elf feats (of which, I think, there are but two). Disabusing me of my notions about D&D 3.5 taxonomy is a valid answer to this question.

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It's a separate race.

  • There is a PrC that can be entered only by Half-Elf, not by Elf, not by Human (for instance Outcast Champion, Races of the Wild, p.126), and see entry requirement: Race
  • It has an elven blood which allows for qualifying for feats and PrCs available to general Elf, not an elf subrace, such as star elf. It, however, also qualifies for being a favored enemy for a ranger whose favored enemy is an elf.
  • As mentioned, SRD says half-elves are not an elf subrace
  • Unearthed Arcana call these Half-Races (p.18), whereas very unofficially Dragon magazine call them Half-Blood (for instance in Dragon#328, see Half-Blood Outcast flaw)

Hence, half-elves do not possess the elf subtype, nor the human subtype.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So this is anecdotal and intuitive rather than stated outright? I ask because some example characters are listed as half-elves with the type humanoid (elf). (Sample characters, however, are notoriously ill-conceived, and my sample size of, like, 3 is pretty small.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 19 '15 at 11:51
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Elven Blood: For all effects related to race, a half-elf is considered an elf. Half-elves, for example, are just as vulnerable to special effects that affect elves as their elf ancestors are, and they can use magic items that are only usable by elves.

Based on this trait, it's pretty clear that for all intents and purposes half-elves are elves. They are effected by class features that only effect elves (such as the Ranger's Favored Enemy: elves) and qualify for elf-only feats. As you yourself note in your question, they cannot however qualify for feats that require a specific elf sub-race (such as star elf).

They do not have the elf sub-type (if they did, they wouldn't need the Elven Blood trait), nor do they have the human sub-type. They are their own unique humanoid race/sub-type. A half-elf's race is half-elf and their type is humanoid (half-elf). They just so happen to qualify for options that would normally only be available to creatures with the elf sub-type thanks to the Elven Blood trait.

As jan.supol mentions, while the half-elf can qualify for elf-only character options, an elf cannot in turn qualify for options that require being a half-elf.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So a half-elf's race is half-elf and a half-elf's type is humanoid with no subtype? But is a half-elf's kind likewise elf? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 18 '15 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Bear in mind, when the "Elven Blood" trait was written, there were no effects that only affected humans. Unless I'm misremembering. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jun 19 '15 at 0:15
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Half-elves are a 'subspecies' of elf in all respects except for actually being elves. This is demonstrated by the Monster Manual which lists Half-Elf under Elves, and is a consequence of their 'Elven-blood' feature.

Further evidence is in Races of Destiny, page 150 under the Variant: Half-Humans and Humanlike Races sidebar. It states clearly that half-elves and half-orcs are treated as elves and orcs. The sidebar continues on to suggest that half-elves should be properly classified as Humanoid (Human, Elf) rather than just Humanoid (Elf), but this is an optional variant.

In reference to your context, the Races of Destiny variant might help. Half-elf specific prerequisites could then be read as having a prerequisite of Human and Elf, whereas elf-only feats that exclude half-elf have the prerequisite of: Elf and not Human.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's interesting and useful, but I can't help thinking that there must be something more definitive than a shout-out to this confusion in a splatbook's variant rule. Thank you, though, and +1. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 20 '15 at 7:50
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Half-elf are a result of a union between a human and a elf. In-game they are not a distinct race in of themselves.

From the d20 SRD

Half-elves are not truly an elf subrace, but they are often mistaken for elves. Half-elves usually inherit a good blend of their parents’ physical characteristics.

As far as the game mechanics goes they are a race with caveats for example

Elven Blood: For all effects related to race, a half-elf is considered an elf. Half-elves, for example, are just as vulnerable to special effects that affect elves as their elf ancestors are, and they can use magic items that are only usable by elves.

But in the end they are listed as a full race not as a sub category like wood elves, high elves, etc.

The reason for the caveats

Their origin is in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. In the back story there are three marriages between men and elves; Beren and Luthien, Tuor and Idril, and Aragon and Arwen. The first two occurred in the First Age of Middle Age, the third at the End of the Third Age.

Among the characters of the Lord of the Rings Lord Elrond of Rivendell is a half elf. Elrond opted to favor his elven half. His brother Elros opted to favor his human half and went on to found the ling of kings that led to Aragon. The two line reunited in the marriage of Aragon and Arwen.

Half-elf are a result of this story and Tolkien's influence on Dungeon and Dragons.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think he's asking more for the purpose of defining the race as a type. Are they Humanoid[Elf], or Humanoid[Human], or both? \$\endgroup\$ – Sandwich Jun 18 '15 at 19:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ -1: this does not answer the question asked. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 18 '15 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or are you saying they're Humanoid [Half-elf]? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 18 '15 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sandwich I'm asking for that and more! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 18 '15 at 20:55

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