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3.5 - the half dragon template which grants the cool shindigs, applied to an elf. Do I get the racial benefits of being the base elf race, or the half-elf race?

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You get the 'elf' things, not the 'half-elf' things

Being 'Half-Dragon' only changes the things the template says it changes and derived attributes, nothing more or less. Furthermore 'half-elves' are fluff-wise half-elf-half-human; any other half-elf-half-something races would need to be developed separately.

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TL;DR

On paper, you start off with Elf, then you apply everything that Half-Dragon says to apply.

So you are an elf, that is half-dragon. Roleplaying-wise you would indeed be "half-elf/half-dragon." But unless you start off as Half-Elf as a base creature, you don't get to enjoy what half-elves get.


Here is what you do:

A half-dragon uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here:

So, you start off with:

  • +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution.
  • Medium size.
  • An elf’s base land speed is 30 feet.
  • Immunity to sleep spells and effects, and a +2 racial saving throw bonus against enchantment spells or effects. (Not reflected in the saving throw modifiers given here.)
  • Low-light vision.
  • Weapon Proficiency: Elves are automatically proficient with the longsword, rapier, longbow, composite longbow, shortbow, and composite shortbow.
  • +2 racial bonus on Listen, Search, and Spot checks. An elf who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a Search check to notice it as if she were actively looking for it.
  • Automatic Languages: Common, Elven. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Gnoll, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Sylvan.
  • Favored Class: Wizard.

Then you adjust as follows:

  1. Size and Type:

    • The creature’s type changes to dragon.
    • Size is unchanged.
    • Do not recalculate base attack bonus or saves.
  2. Hit Dice

    • No change for an Elf; standard elves don't have racial hit dice.
  3. Speed

    • No change for an Elf; standard elves aren't large.
  4. Armor Class

    • Natural armor improves by +4.
  5. Attack

    • You gain two claw attacks and a bite as natural weapons.
  6. Special Attacks

    • A half-dragon retains all the special attacks of the base creature and gains a breath weapon based on the dragon variety (see table), usable once per day.
    • A half-dragon’s breath weapon deals 6d8 points of damage.
    • A successful Reflex save (DC 10 + ½ half-dragon’s racial HD + half-dragon’s Con modifier) reduces damage by half.
    • Note: A standard elf, having no racial hit dice, would have a weak Reflex save for its breath weapon (DC 10 + half-dragon’s Con modifier).
  7. Special Qualities

    • A half-dragon has all the special qualities of the base creature, plus darkvision out to 60 feet and low-light vision.
    • A half-dragon has immunity to sleep and paralysis effects, and an additional immunity based on its dragon variety.
  8. Abilities

    • Str +8, Con +2, Int +2, Cha +2.
  9. Skills

    • Essentially, this is no change, since a standard elf has no racial hit dice.
    • But, this would allow Hide, Listen, Search, and Spot to count as racial skills - those are listed under Skills in the Elf entry.
  10. Environment

    • Same as either the base creature or the dragon variety.
  11. Challenge Rating

    • Same as the base creature + 2 (minimum 3).
  12. Alignment

    • Same as the dragon variety.
  13. Level Adjustment

    • Same as base creature +3.
    • Note: This is a killer as far as character class progression. Your party will be passing you by as far as power very quickly. You will level up very slowly, even if your DM allows level adjustment buy-off.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ You really won't actually be progressing slower, you'll simply have an effective -3 levels compared to everybody else and that extra hoohah to (hopefully) make up the difference. As a rule, level-adjusting templates provide low-end punch and long-term penalties. (A better design motif would grant a few traits that scale or unlock on class levels and/or specific feats. That way it's less like multiclassing into a weak class and more like a quirky race.) \$\endgroup\$ – The Nate Jan 3 '16 at 18:38
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Your type becomes:

  • Dragon (augmented Humanoid [elf])

From the SRD:

If a template changes the base creature’s type, the creature also acquires the augmented subtype unless the template description indicates otherwise. The augmented subtype is always paired with the creature’s original type. Unless a template indicates otherwise, the new creature has the traits of the new type but the features of the original type.

A half-elf (as shown in the PHB) is the crossbreed between elf and human.

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