Can the different sub-races of a particular race interbreed, like a drow with a wood elf, or a hill dwarf with a mountain dwarf? If so, would the child be a half-subrace from each parent? Is this possible in D&D?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, Sophia P! Welcome to the site. If you haven't already, check out our tour, you'll get some knowledge about how the site works, and a badge to boot. As for your question, I'm afraid I voted to close it but don't worry, that'll just put the question on hold as we straighten some details about it to make more answerable. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 6:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Specifically, what sort of problem are you having, which makes you ask whether a subrace can cross-breed? Are you trying to come up with a character and dont really feel like one subrace fits the concept you had in mind? Or something else entirely? \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 6:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you looking for a hard and fast rule, for lore from any edition, or only a recommendation based on what's available in D&D 5th Edition? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 15:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ What setting is this in? While it's possible there's a single universal answer somewhere, this is one of those things that certain settings will do differently, so knowing your setting will be a big help. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 0:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ I amended the language in this to not draw parallels to real world talk of “race mixing”, because that is super-treacherous ground unless handled well, is an unnecessary parallel, and it seemed to be raising people's hackles. It's an otherwise legit question, and accidentally touching the live wire of real-world race relations/politics is totally avoidable. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 3:22

2 Answers 2


I don't know if there's more modern material to reference, but this specific question is addressed in 3rd edition Forgotten Realms setting books (and FR material is heavily referenced in the core 5e handbooks). According to Races of Faerun's introduction, under the Race, Subrace, and Ethnic Group heading:

In game terms, a subrace is, for all intents and purposes, a race of its own, but all the subraces of a particular race share many of the same qualities and are related. When parents of different subraces have a child, the child almost always "takes after" one parent or the other.

Basically, yes, subraces can interbreed, but the offspring have the traits of one of their parents rather than being a hybrid. The distinction between subraces is deeper than the distinction between ethnic groups, who have varying appearances but identical mechanical racial traits; subraces "breed true" rather than mixing in most circumstances. I'd be inclined to say a mixed subrace individual would appear to be one particular subrace, but could conceivably have a feature or two that hints at their more diverse heritage, say eye or hair colour. Mechnically, however, you just choose the subrace of one of the parents.

Note that my source is from 2 editions ago and is technically a setting-specific source, but there's nothing equivalent available for 5e yet and as far as I can tell the specific question of what happens when subraces interbreed is not raised in other material. There's no particular reason to think this should be different in the newer edition or different settings, especially as it's simply the easiest way to adjudicate the scenario. Of course, your GM is free to decide that things work differently in their world.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it's worth noting that the handbook you mention isn't a 5e product. (And also that there exists no analogous 5e product, so this may be the best you'll get from WotC.) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 3:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's also worth mentioning that there's a particular example you can use with respect to this in the Monster Manual with respect to Orcs or Succubi/Incubi. In general, I use the Monster Manual for information on what kind of templates you're looking at with respect to subrace's. For instance: An orc breeding with anything other than an Ogre or another Orc will produce an orc or half-orc. MM pg. 245 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 3:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli that relates to interbreeding between races/species. The question is about breeding between subraces within a race. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 6:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is worth noting that Forgotten Realms is not the default setting for 5e: see Is Forgotten Realms the default setting in 5e? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 4:23

The various races can usually interbreed, so the subraces should be far more fertile.

Traditionally, such a half-n-half is treated as one or the other of the parents' subraces.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This could really do with some backup/citations. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 10:53

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