I’ve always found it strange that half-elves and half-orcs are races as opposed to templates. The half-elf race is a very powerful blend of elf and human, and because of that they get benefits from both of their “parent” races that can, in some cases, make them superior to either one (check out the Oracle if you don’t believe me!)
Ability Scores: Like humans, half-elves may choose one of their ability scores and add +2 to it.
Size: Half-elves are the same size as humans.
Speed: Half-elves have the standard 30ft base movement speed.
Elven Immunities: Thanks to their elven heritage, half-elves are immune to magic sleep effects, and gain a +2 on saves against enchantments.
Adaptability: This is one of the less useful of the half-elf’s racial abilities unless you’re planning a build that is based on a skill check, like an Intimidate-based Fighter, or a combat stealing Rogue (Sleight of Hand). This is also very useful if you’re planning to take Eldritch Heritage.
Keen Senses: +2 to the best skill in the game, gotta love it!
Low-Light Vision: This can come in handy in shadowy areas, though in my experience most DMs only really pay attention to darkvision. Still, it’s a useful ability when it’s needed.
Elf Blood: Half-elves are humanoids with both the [human] and [elf] descriptors, which means they are treated as both of those races. This can come in very handy, as half-elves therefore qualify for any feats, class archetypes, or spells that are specific to either humans or elves. NOTE: This is NOT the case for Pathfinder Society games, where the developers have stated that half-elves may NOT take human-only or elf-only feats, class archetypes, etc. Very sad.
Multitalented: This ability makes half-elves some of the best multiclassers in the game by far. I’ll talk more about alternate favored class bonuses in a bit, but I’ll make sure to point out which ones can be used to maximum effect for a multiclassed half-elf.
Alternate Racial Traits:
Ancestral Arms [Adaptability]: There are some seriously awesome exotic weapons, and so a free proficiency in one is a great choice. If your character is going to be combat-focused, you’ll probably want this one.
Arcane Training [Multitalented]: This ability is ALMOST useless, since an arcane caster’s caster level DC to cast from a scroll is only the scroll’s caster level + 1, which means that almost invariably he’ll have no problem casting from a higher-level scroll. The bonus is even more useless for Spell Trigger items, like wands, because as long as the spell is on your class list, it doesn’t matter what level the spell is, you can activate it with no check required. In other words, if you’re sure you’re going to play a single-classed arcane caster, you may as well pick this one up, but it’s just not that useful.
Drow Blooded [Low-light vision]: If you want your character to have darkvision, this is a fine way to get it, but light blindness is a painful trade-off for it. I’d suggest sticking with the low-light vision.
Drow Magic [Adaptability, Multitalented]: Gaining several spell-like abilities can be useful, especially if you grabbed Drow Blooded along with them.
Dual Minded [Adaptability]: A +2 to Will saves can really come in handy. If you don’t need either Skill Focus of Exotic Weapon Proficiency, grab this one.
Integrated [Adaptability]: +1 on Bluff, Disguise, or Knowledge (local)? Really? Take Ancestral Arms instead, please!
Sociable [Adaptability]: This one’s even worse than the one above it. IGNORE IT!
Wary [Keen senses]: Perception is always better than Sense Motive and Bluff. Always. Don’t take this.
Water Child [Adaptability, Multitalented]: This one is only worth your time if you were planning to use your racial Skill Focus feat on the Swim skill, AND you’re going to be a single-classed character who is around the water constantly, like a pirate or something. Not a fan of this one.
UnArcaneElection's Thoughts on Alternate Racial Talents:
UnArcaneElection's Thoughts on Alternate Racial Talents:
- Behind the Veil (1 RP): Characters with this trait gain a +2 bonus on Bluff and Sleight of Hand checks while benefiting from concealment or cover. Half-elves can take this trait in place of low-light vision. Source PPC:BoS Bonuses to Bluff and Sleight of Hand checks only while benefiting from concealment or cover? Already see a problem developing here. But then this replaces Low-Light Vision that you probably want to have with a an alternative racial trait introduced in Blood of Shadows? Something's definitely not right here. I was going to say we could save this by taking the Drow-Blooded (for Darkvision) alternate racial trait also introduced in Blood of Shadows (see below) . . . but then it turns out that this ALSO replaces Low Light Vision. No save for this stinker, unless you somehow manage to get Darkvision from a class feature.
- Blended View (2 RP): Prerequisite(s): low-light vision. Half-drow whose non-drow parent had low-light vision might be blessed with a legacy of versatile senses. Characters with this trait keep their low-light vision but also gain darkvision to a distance of 60 feet. Half-elves can take this trait in place of multitalented. Source PPC:BoS Losing Multitalented may or may not hurt depending upon your build (and what else you might have traded it out for), but often this is a pretty good trade if you can work being the descendent of an Elf and a Drow. (or the descendent of two such descendents) into your character background.
- Child of the Sea (from Coastal Regions): [BOG] Half-elves from a coastal region with this racial trait gain a +4 racial bonus on Swim checks as well as on Profession (sailor) and Wisdom checks to pilot a sea vessel. They also have an innate sense of direction and can never get lost at sea. This racial trait replaces the low-light vision and keen senses racial traits. In the right type of campaign, losing Low-Light Vision or Keen Senses in exchange for this would be okay, but losing both hurts . . . still, in the right campaign, this might save your life. But see Sea Legs below as a less costly alternative.
- Cold-Honed (from Arctic Region): [BOG] Half-elves from arctic regions with this racial trait can move through natural snow and ice at their normal speed and gain a +4 racial bonus on Fortitude saves to avoid nonlethal damage from cold environments. This racial trait replaces the elven immunities racial trait. Losing Elven Immunities hurts, but in some campaigns, freezing to death or getting stuck in the snow might hurt more.
- Dimdweller (2 RP): Whenever characters with this trait benefit from concealment or full concealment due to darkness or dim light, they gain a +2 racial bonus on Intimidate, Perception, and Stealth checks. Half-elves can take this trait in place of adaptability. Source PPC:BoS Adaptability often isn't too hard a choice for trading out, so even though the bonuses given here are situational, this isn't a bad trade.
- Drow-Trained: Characters with this trait are proficient with the hand crossbow, rapier, and shortsword. This racial trait replaces the adaptability racial trait. Source PCS:DR If you need proficiency with these weapons and don't get them from your class, this is for you. An awful lot of classes give you most of these weapons, though, and the least common one, the hand crossbow, isn't all that good in most cases.
- Dusksight (2 RP): When making ranged attacks, characters with this trait can reroll the miss chance granted by cover to any target in dim light, and take the better of the two rolls. The miss chance for total concealment applies normally. Half-elves can take this trait in place of keen senses. Source PPC:BoS Another alternate racial trait from Blood of Shadows that shoots itself in the foot by trading out something that it needs to synergize with, and for a highly situational reroll. Pass.
- Elf-Scorned: Many half-elves, especially half-drow, are rejected by their elven parents and feel nothing but hatred and fear toward their inhuman ancestors. They gain a +1 racial bonus on attack rolls and a +2 dodge bonus to AC against elves. This racial trait replaces elven immunities and multitalented. Source PCS:ISR Replacing Elven Immunities (as well as Multitalented) for this? Really situational, and not all that great.
- Eye for Opportunity: Constantly facing the rough edges of two societies, some half-elves develop a knack for finding overlooked opportunities. They gain a +1 racial bonus on attacks of opportunity. This racial trait replaces adaptability and keen senses. Source PCS:ISR This is highly situational, and not all that great even in the right situation, and you're giving up Keen Senses (as well as Adaptability) for it. Pass.
- Fey Magic (2 RP): The character has a mystic connection to one terrain type, selected from the ranger's favored terrain list. The character selects three 0-level druid spells and one 1st-level druid spell. If the character has a Charisma score of 11 or higher, when in the selected terrain, she gains these spells as spell-like abilities that can be cast once per day. The caster level for these effects is equal to the user's character level. The DC for the spell-like abilities is equal to 10 + the spell's level + the user's Charisma modifier. These spells are treated as being from a feysource for the purposes of the druid's resist nature's lure class feature and similar abilities. This trait replaces keen senses. Source: HotW Note that Fey Magic has different ratings for different races, due to replacing different things. In the case of Half-Elf, it replaces something important, namely Keen Senses.
- Fey Thoughts (1 RP): Select two of the following skills: Acrobatics, Bluff, Climb, Diplomacy, Disguise, Escape Artist, Fly, Knowledge (nature), Perception, Perform, Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Swim, or Use Magic Device. The selected skills are always class skills for the character. This trait replaces multitalented. Source: HotW If you've been paying attention to Fey Magic and Fey Thoughts alternate racial traits of different races, you'll notice that they don't always replace the same thing, and so the tradeoffs may differ. Nevertheless, if you aren't multiclassing significantly, or in some cases even if you are (think of classes with no good Favored Class Bonus, and you can get away without the Hit Points and Skill Points), getting two skills in class in exchange for Multitalented could be just what you need.
- Jungle Affinity (from a Jungle): [BOG] Half-elves from a jungle with this racial trait gain a +4 racial bonus on Stealthchecks while within jungle terrain, and can move through natural difficult terrain at their normal speed while within jungle. This racial trait replaces the multi-talented racial trait. In most cases, if you don't need Multitalented, you can replace it with something better, such as Fey Thoughts (see above). If that wasn't available, this would be a decent trade in the right highly specific situation.
- Kindred-Raised: While most think of people with one human and one elven parent when they think of half-elves, some half-elves are raised by two half-elven parents. Such half-elves feel less like outsiders, making them more confident, but less adaptable without the exposure to a human parent. They gain a +2 bonus to Charisma and one other ability score of their choice. This racial trait replaces the half-elf's usual racial ability score modifiers, as well as adaptability, elven immunities, keen senses, and multitalented. Source PCS:ISR This wouldn't be bad if only the cost weren't so horrifically steep -- you get to support a MAD build if one of the high ability scores you need is Charisma, but you are trading out FOUR racial traits for it, of which Elven Immunities and Keen Senses are important in their own right, and Multitalented has an excellent tradeout option (Fey Thoughts), and Adaptability has a good tradeout option too (Ancestral Arms). If you are making something super-MAD like a Spirit Guide Oracle with the Lore Spirit or a Reach Cleric who also wants to Channel offensively, you might have to use this anyway, so it isn't 100% red-rated.
- Mordant Envoy (from Mountainous Terrain): [BOG] Half-elves from mountainous regions add +1 to the caster levelof any transmutation spells they cast. Spireborn with a Charisma score of 11 or higher also gain the following spell-like abilities: 1/day—comprehend languages, detect secret doors, erase, read magic. The caster level for these effects is equal to the user's character level. This racial trait replaces the adaptability racial trait. If you cast a lot of Transmutation spells and need the listed spell-like abilities, this is for you, and it only replaces Adaptability, making it not too shabby even if only one of these conditions is true.
- Poison Minion (4 RP): Drow sometimes augment their slaves and frontline warriors by making them toxic, causing their bodies to internally produce mawbane poison (see below). The resulting poisonous creature makes a potent weapon in the effort to discourage neighboring monsters. Any creature that hits such a character with a bite attack is immediately exposed to its poison. The save DC for this poison is equal to 10 + 1/2 the character's Hit Dice + the character's Constitution modifier. Mawbane Poison—ingested; save Fortitude as above; frequency 1/round for 4 rounds; effect 1d2 Constitution damage; cure 1 save. Half-elves can take this trait in place of elven immunities and keen senses. Source PPC:BoS Repeat after me: I am not a minion. I am not a minion I am not a minion . . .
- Reflexive Improvisation: Half-elves raised among elves often stumble unprepared into each new stage of life because their elven relatives are unaccustomed to the speed of their maturation. They gain a +2 racial bonus on untrained skill checks. This racial trait replaces adaptability and multitalented. Source PCS:ISR Replacing just Adaptability or Multitalented for this would be not too bad, but replacing both hurts. Still, if you have a really low-skill-rank class and can't pump Intelligence, it might come in handy, but I'd rather pass.
- Sea Legs: Many half-elves find their way onto the water early in their youth, whether they live with trader families, work as smugglers, or plunder alongside pirates. These half-elves receive a +2 racial bonus on Swim checks, as well as a +4 racial bonus on Acrobatics checks to move on narrow or slippery surfaces, and on Climb checks on docks and ships. This racial trait replaces adaptability. Source PCS:ISR This is not bad, and could even be useful in some fairly common non-marine environments, and although it is somewhat less comprehensive than Child of the Sea(see above), it only replaces Adaptability.
- Shadowhunter: Characters with this trait deal 50% weapon damage to incorporeal creatures when using non-magical weapons (including natural and unarmed attacks), as if using magic weapons. They also gain a +2 bonus on saving throws to remove negative levels, and recover physical ability damage from attacks by undead creatures at a rate of 2 points per ability score per day (rather than the normal 1 point per ability score per day). Half-Elves can take this trait in place of Elven Iimmunities. Source PPC:BoS Unlike the situation with the other Core Races, you aren't replacing a bonus feat or Weapon Familiarity, so this is a bit harder trade, but still, you get to be not helpless against Incorporeal creatures if they catch you without a magic weapon, a +2 bonus when removing negative levels, and faster recovery of physical ability damage, so still a decent trade.
- Sure Step (2 RP): Adventurers can spend their whole careers in the alleys and sewers of large cities or the tunnels of the Underworld. Characters with this trait suffer no movement penalties when blinded or moving in darkness. Half-elves can take this trait in place of keen senses. Source PPC:BoS Trading out Keen Senses hurts, but being unable to move at more than a snail's pace because somebody cast Deeper Darkness could hurt more . . . be careful, though, that if not used carefully, this could wind up helping you fall into a pit faster.
- Sophisticate: Half-elves who strive to embody the culture in which they live develop a keen instinct for the ebb and flow of fashions, fads, and political trends. They gain a +2 racial bonus on Knowledge (history) and Knowledge (local) checks and can use those skills untrained even for checks with a DC of 10 or more. This racial trait replaces elven immunities. Source PCS:ISR Just become sophisticated by investing skill ranks -- you really don't want to replace Elven Immunities for this.
- Thinblood Resilience (from the Underdark): [BOG] Half-elves from the underdark with this racial trait are accustomed to torture at the hands of their drow forebears, and gain a +2 racial bonus on Fortitude saves against poison and disease, including magical diseases. Darkborn also gain the poison use ability and never risk accidentally poisoning themselves. This racial trait replaces the elven immunities racial trait. Unless your environment is really toxic and pestilence-ridden, wouldn't want to trade out Elven Immunities just to get these bonuses, but if you are going to be some kind of poisoner and don't get Poison Use/Poison Resistance from your class, this might be marginally worthwhile.
- Underworld Guide (2 RP): Those who brave the lightless tunnels below the world's surface learn to identify the dangerous phenomena that characterize the Underworld. Characters with this trait gain a +2 bonus on initiativechecks, and on saves against traps and hazards when underground (from a lifetime of dodging accursed pools, cave-ins, and green slime). Half-elves can take this trait in place of keen senses. Source PPC:BoS Another alternate racial trait from Blood of Shadows that shoots itself in the foot by trading out something that it needs to synergize with, although the things it helps with are dangerous enough that in certain environments it might be a worthwhile trade.
- Voice in the Darkness (2 RP): Prerequisite(s): Charisma 13+. Characters who practice coercion and intimidation in the Underworld or on the Shadow Plane learn to do so in dim light or no light at all. As long as they are in dim light or darker conditions, characters with this trait gain a +2 bonus on Intimidate and Stealth checks. Half-elves can take this trait in place of adaptability. Source PPC:BoS If you are going for a stealthy Intimidate build and plan to hang out in the shadows often, and you don't need Adaptability or one of its substitutes, this could be good. On the other hand, it is competing with less situational replacements for Adaptability.
- Water Child: Some half-elves are born of elves adapted to life on or near the water. These half-elves gain a +4 racial bonus on Swim checks, can always take 10 while swimming, and may choose Aquan as a bonus language. This racial trait replaces the adaptability and multitalented racial traits. As in the guide, but even more obsolete now that Sea Legs and even Child of the Sea are available.
- Weapon Familiarity: Half-elves raised among elves often feel pitied and mistrusted by their longer-lived kin, and yet they receive training in elf weapons. They gain the elf 's weapon familiarity trait. This racial trait replaces adaptability. Source PCS:ISR If you want Elven Weapons, this is a better replacement for Adaptability than Ancestral Arms, unless you need one of the Exotic ones and don't have Martial Weapon Proficiency from your class.
Now, let me point out here that the half-elf, half-orc, and human class descriptions are going to be a little more sparse than those up above, since these three races can really excel at ANY class thanks to their floating ability score bonus. If the class isn’t listed, that just means that there’s nothing specific that makes it any better or worse of a choice than other classes. In other words, there’s really no wrong choice of classes if you have human blood!
Alchemist: A half-elf can be essentially any class very well, but there are some perks to picking specific ones, such as the Alchemist. Half-elves have their own Alchemist archetype, the Bramble Brewer, which is a pretty cool option for a bomber Alchemist. You also get access to one of the best spells in the game, paragon surge, which lets you gain ANY ONE FEAT that you qualify for!
Bard: Half-elf bards get access to the Leaf Singer feat, which is okay but not incredible. Otherwise, there’s nothing that specifically makes Bard a better or worse choice than any other class, so enjoy your half-elf Bard!
Cavalier [Samurai]: A half-elf Cavalier will work very well, and the favored class bonus is pretty excellent, adding base speed to your mount. Go for it!
Cleric: A half-elf Cleric can cast paragon surge too, so that’s one point for the Cleric!
Druid: A half-elf can choose the Treesinger archetype, which is a really cool option for elves and half-elves which I discussed up in the elves section. They also have access to the Feral Child archetype for humans, which isn’t quite as awesome as the Treesinger, but can really work if you’re trying ot make a “savage” type of Druid.
Fighter: A half-elf can make an excellent fighter, and one way of doing so is to take the Aldori Swordlord archetype, leading into the Aldori Swordlord prestige class. The Ancestral Arms racial option is a great way to make the most of the Aldori Dueling Sword without having to use up a feat slot to gain proficiency, and once you get far enough into the prestige class you can use Dexterity instead of Strength on damage rolls, which is a big boost.
Gunslinger: A half-elf Gunslinger gains access to the human-only Buccaneer archetype, the main feature of which is using Charisma to determine grit points instead of Wisdom. You also gain the ability to get extra grit points by drinking alcohol, AND you get to have an “exotic pet” familiar, which is meant to be like a pirate’s shoulder-parrot.
Inquisitor: The half-elf Inquisitor’s favored class option lets you change your teamwork feat more often during a day, and that ability can be seriously helpful, so I like it.
Magus: A half-elf can choose the Spell Dancer archetype, which is a really fun archetype I talked about up in the elves section. You can also gain extra arcane pool points with the favored class bonus, so that’s something to look forward to also.
Monk: A half-elf has access to the Wanderer archetype, which is a decent option that lets you gain some spell-like abilities and bardic performances in place of some of the standard monk powers. The lack of excellent racial archetypes won’t hinder a half-elf from being a great monk, though.
Ninja: A half-elf can make a very decent ninja, though the ninja's multiple attribute dependance hurts. Bonuses against sleep and enchantments help with the weak saves, and skill focus is more helpful for skill based rogues. Alternatively, adaptable helps further shore up weak will saves.
Oracle: Oracle is another class that gets access to paragon surge, and since Oracles can be so incredibly diverse already, being able to cast a spell to get any one feat you qualify for is amazing. The favored class option is also very nice, since Oracles, just like all spontaneous casters, are severely limited by their spells known. Finally, half-elves have access to the elven archetype Ancient Lorekeeper, which can let you get some of the most powerful spells in the game from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. All of this puts the Oracle at the very top of the list of classes for a half-elf to choose.
Paladin [Antipaladin]: A half-elf Paladin can cast paragon surge too, so that’s one point for the Paladin!
Ranger: The ranger can be a great option for your half-elf character, especially if you’re going to be in a more natural setting in your campaign, thanks to the Wild Shadow archetype. The abilities gained through this archetype will really let your Ranger shine when he’s in his favored terrain, especially since it lets you use woodland stride in any difficult terrain in his favored terrain, even in magically-created difficult terrain. Pretty cool!
Rogue: A half-elf can make a very decent rogue. Bonuses against sleep and enchantments help with the weak saves, and skill focus is more helpful for skill based rogues. Alternatively, adaptable helps further shore up weak will saves.
Sorcerer: Sorcerers can cast paragon surge, and they also have access to a human-only bloodline, the Imperious Bloodline, which is sort of a strange one, but it does include the ability to increase morale and competence bonuses for yourself and your allies, which is pretty cool.
Summoner: Half-elves have a Summoner archetype of their own, called the WIld Caller. This archetype trades summon monster spells and spell-like abilities for the equivalent summon nature’s ally spells, which seems a little bit weak at first, but the WIld Caller’s eidolon also gains bonus evolution points, so it all balances out very well. However, as I will explain below, the First Worlder archetype actually does almost the same thing, but does it better.
Witch: The half-elf-exclusive Witch archetype, the Bonded Witch, is a really excellent choice thanks to gaining a bonded item, which gives your Witch another spell to cast per day which is pulled from a seperate list of spells, almost akin to gaining a second patron. Witches can also cast paragon surge, so this is a great class choice for a half-elf!
Wizard: A half-elf Wizard has access to the Spellbinder archetype, which isn’t the best archetype out there as I explained up in the Elf section. Wizards can also cast paragon surge, of course, but of the two I’d say a half-elf makes a slightly better Witch than a Wizard.
UnArcaneElection's Thoughts on New Classes:
UnArcaneElection's Thoughts on New Classes:
- Arcanist: Like a Wizard, this is a 9/9 Intelligence-dependent spellcaster, and Half-Elves have an Intelligence Bonus if they want it, and while some Arcanist Exploits are Charisma-dependent, Half-Elves have no Charisma penalty, although no bonus either (in principle, you could use the Kindred-Raised alternate racial trait described above to get a bonus to Charisma, but you have to give up so much to get this that it isn't a worthwhile trade). Not only that, but the Elven Favored Class Bonus is awesome, giving you more Arcane Reservoir points, which are otherwise painfully limited as part of the class design (while the Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus is specific to Enchantment spells, making it useless against a lot of enemies, and the Human Favored Class Bonus is a trap, like the one for Wizard). If you aren't allowed to use the Elven Favored Class Bonus, the rating of this class for Half-Elves goes down from outstanding to merely very good. Unlike Elves, Half-Elves don't get a Dexterity bonus, but on the other hand, they get to cast Paragon Surge, making their Arcanists even more flexible, although not quite as quick on the draw.
- Barbarian and Bloodrager: Unlike Elves, Half-Elves have no Contitution penalty (and a floating ability score bonus), allowing them to be solid Barbarians and Bloodragers; keep Elven Immunities for best synergy with the frontline nature of these classes. If you can access the Elven Favored Class Bonus (same for both classes -- 1/5 of 5' speed boost per level), these classes are potentially even better, although the lack of a second ability score bonus tends to push towards an extra hit point (or sometimes an extra skill point) per level due to MADness, especially for Bloodrager. The Half-Elven and Human Favored Class Bonuses for these classes are mostly lacklustre and quite situational, except that the Human Favored Class Bonus for Bloodrager is actually different and very good, giving you an extra round of Bloodrage per level; if you use a Bloodrager archetype like Metamagic Rager that expends rounds of Bloodrage for purposes other than maintaining the Bloodrage itself, this becomes almost a must-have, and so this archetype gets a split rating to reflect the absence or presence of permission to use the Human Favored Class Bonus for Bloodrager.
- Brawler: Again, having no Constitution penalty (and a floating ability score bonus) is a big help compared to Elves. For a change, all of the Favored Class Bonuses are at least decent: Half-Elf gives you a rapidly scaling CMD bonus to Overrun and Trip; Human gives you a rapidly scaling CMD bonus to 2 combat maneuvers of your choice; Elf is the same as for Barbarian and Bloodrager (1/5 of 5' speed boost per level).
- Hunter: This class is a hybrid between Druid and Ranger, and Half-Elves can be decent at it for the same reasons they are passable at Druid and good at Ranger. All of the Favored Class Bonuses are at least decent: Half-Elf (1/5 of 5' speed boost per level for your Animal Companion) is good; Elf (bonus to Critical confirmation with a specific weapon) is the same as for Ranger, which is serviceable, although overly specialized; Human (extra skill rank per level to your Animal Companion) is also pretty good.
- Investigator: Like Alchemist, Investigator is Intelligence-based, although with no Bombs. This time, only 2 of the Favored Class Bonuses are decent to good: Half-Elf gives a slowly scaling bonus to your Inspiration rolls; Elf adds to your Inspiration Pool at a decent clip; Human (extra Extracts in your Formula Book) is a trap unless you live and work in such a dump that you can't pick up Extracts from purchases or loot.
- Kineticist: Kineticist is a quasi-spellcaster whose primary (quasi-)spellcasting attribute is Constitution, for which Half-Elves have a bonus if they want it. The Half-Elven and Elven Favored Class Bonuses gives a damage bonus when using Elemental Overflow, but scales slowly; the Human Favored Class Bonus gives you extra Wild Talents, but VERY SLOWLY, so you can instead consider a bonus Hit Point per level to be a good Favored Class Bonus. (Avoid the Overwhelming Soul archetype unless you are planning on being Undead -- for most people, this archetype should really be called Underwhelming Soul.)
- Magus: As already in the guide, but: A very good Magus guide that is currently still being updated is available: Myrrh, Frankincense, and Steel: Kurald Galain's Guide to the Magus (advertises "Core, APG, ARG, UC, UM", but actually has plenty of stuff from newer books as well).
- Medium: This is a Charisma-dependent spellcaster, and although it normally only uses 4/9 spellcasting, which is fine on a character with no Charisma bonus or penalty, the Archmage and Heirophant Spirits temporarily upgrade this to 6/9 spellcasting, and Half-Elves get a Charisma bonus if they want it. You should probably keep Elven Immunities, which thematically work with the Medium, although unfortunately, by Rules As Written, Elven Immunities do not protect you from running into your own class features. The Half-Elven and Elven Favored Class Bonuses give a decently scaling bonus on all Occult Skill Unlocks, which is pretty good; the Human Favored Class Bonus slowly gives you more extra uses of Spirit Surge without incurring Influence, provided that you are usinga Taboo. The basic problem is that the Medium class itself just doesn't seem very good no matter what race you are -- the concept is fine, but the execution of the design doesn't seem very good (the playtest version had so much promise -- maybe we'll eventually get a Harrowed Medium archetype that revives and fleshes this out, and if it works okay in general, it should be okay for a Half-Elf).
- Mesmerist: This is another Charisma-dependent spellcaster, this time using 6/9 spellcasting, and Half-Elves get a Charisma bonus if they want it. The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus is specific to Enchantment spells, making it useless against a lot of enemies, although that is somewhat of a problem for Mesmerists in general. The Elven Favored Class Bonus gives a rapidly scaling bonus to Acrobatics for moving through a threatened area or to Bluff for feinting. The Human Favored Class Bonus gives a decently scaling bonus to Towering Ego, but caps out after 6 levels, so switch to one of the other Favored Class Bonuses after this.
- Monk (Unchained): As for Monk, but lacks access to most Monk archetypes.
- Occultist: This 6/9 Occult caster is Intelligence-dependent (except Wisdom-dependent for the Reliquarian archetype) rather than Charisma-dependent, and Half-Elves have an Intelligence (or Wisdom) bonus if they want it. The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus gives a rapidly scaling bonus on Spellcraft checks to identify items and Use Magic Device checks to emulate a race. The Elven Favored Class Bonus gives a rapidly scaling bonus to Mental Focus. Overall, a very good choice. The Human Favored Class Bonus (adding Focus Powers) is a nice idea, but scales far too slowly to be of much use.
- Psychic: This is the 9/9 Occult caster, and it is Intelligence-Dependent, and Half-Elves get an Intelligence bonus if they want it. On the other hand, it is also somewhat MAD by design, with Wisdom or Charisma being an important secondary ability score depending upon your choice of Psychic Discipline, and Half-Elves get no bonus or penalty to either one, so choose solely on the merits of the Psychic Discipline itself (in principle, you could use the Kindred-Raised alternate racial trait described above to get a bonus to Charisma, but you have to give up so much to get this that it isn't a worthwhile trade). The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus (adding Phrenic Amplifications) is a nice idea, but scales far too slowly to be of much use. The Elven Favored Class Bonus adds +1/3 to your Phrenic Pool, which is quite good. The Human Favored Class Bonus adds spells known, which is very good on any spellcaster having a limited number of spells known
- Rogue: As in the guide, but now the Eldritch Scoundrel archetype is available that trades out some of your skill points, Sneak Attack, and Rogue Talents for Intelligence-based 6/9 spellcasting.
- Shaman: This is a Wisdom-dependent 9/9 spellcasting and Hexing class, and Half-Elves get a Wisdom bonus if they want it, but it also tends to be MAD. The Half-Elven and Human Favored Class Bonuses add Cleric spells that are not already on the Shaman spell list to your spell list, which is very good, because the Shaman spell list is rather limited out of the box. You might be able to get good use out of the Elven Favored Class Bonus, which extends the range of your Hexes by 5', one at a time.
- Skald: See Bard, except that Skalds are more martial (and thus more likely to get beat on), including getting martial weapon proficiency and Medium Armor The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus adds rounds of Raging Song, which is certainly welcome. The Elven Favored Class Bonus (slowly improves your Well Versed defensive ability) is serviceable although not outstanding. The Human Favored Class Bonus adds spells known, which is very good on any spellcaster having a limited number of spells known
- Slayer: Slayers are like Rogues, but are not as Dexterity-dependent and better made for holding their own in straight-up fights; the ability to take Ranger Combat Styles helps, including with the option to go ranged, preferably using the Sniper archetype; however, unlike the case for Elves, you don't have to feel pressured to go ranged, since Half-Elves have no Constitution penalty. The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus (rapidly scaling bonuses to Bluff to Feint and Diplomacy to gather information) are situational, but very good in the proper situations. The Elven Favored Class Bonus (slowly improving Studied Target bonuses to Stealth and Survival, and eventually to Stealth) is decent. The Human Favored Class Bonus (adding Slayer Talents) is a nice idea, but scales far too slowly to be of much use.
- Spiritualist: If you want to be sort of a Summoner, but Wisdom-based, and without being something like a Herald Caller Cleric, this is for you, and Half-Elves have a Wisdom bonus if they want it. The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus (1 skill point for your Phantom) is just okay. The Elven Favored Class Bonus (Shield Bonus to the 3rd level Ectoplasmic Bonded Manifestation ability) scales too slowly to be useful, so skip it. The Human Favored Class Bonus (1 hit point or 1 skill point for your Phantom) is just okay.
- Swashbuckler: Swashbucklers are like Rogues, but unlike Slayers, they remain just as Dexterity-dependent, for which Half-Elves get a bonus if they want it. They are also Charisma-dependent (in principle, you could use the Kindred-Raised alternate racial trait described above to get a bonus to Charisma, but you have to give up so much to get this that it isn't a worthwhile trade). The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus gives you a slowly scaling bonus to the number of times per day you can use Charmed Life. The Human and Elven Favored Class Bonuses gives you scaling of your maximum Panache with level -- the scaling is a mosey, but normally you wouldn't get ANY increase in Panache with level, so this is pretty good, although note that (unlike the Extra Grit/Extra Panache feat) it doesn't increase the rate of recharge of your Panache pool, so you still need to watch your Panache spending.
- Vigilante (see below for ratings): Vigilantes are like any of several sorts of other classes, depending upon choice of Vigilante Specialization and/or archetype. The Half-Elven floating ability score bonus is good for this class in general -- where you put it depends upon choice of Vigilante Specialization and/or archetype. The Half-Elven and HumanFavored Class bonuses give you a rapidly scaling bonus to Seamless Guise. The Elven Favored Class Bonus is only useful if you are in forested areas, but if you are, it is really good.
- Standard Vigilante with Avenger Specialization: While this is supposed to be sneaky, it is also supposed to be able to hold its own in a straight-up fight, but only gets d8 Hit Dice.
- Standard Vigilante with Stalker Specialization: This is more like a Rogue -- sneaky but without the Base Attack Bonus improvement.
- Brute Vigilante: This is just a bad archetype, no matter what you are.
- Cabalist Vigilante: See Witch.
- Gunmaster Vigilante: This is like a Gunslinger. Still, you are probably better off just being a Gunslinger.
- Magical Child Vigilante: This is like a Summoner, including the Charisma dependence, which is only okay for Elves. That said, this feels right thematically, since Elves take second prize (after Gnomes) for this, and Half-Elves are, well, Half Elven.
- Mounted Fury Vigilante: This is the Cavalier substitute Vigilante. The basic problem is that it just isn't a very good archetype, although at least it isn't as bad as Brute -- still, just be a Cavalier instead.
- Psychometrist Vigilante with Avenger Specialization: See Standard Vigilante with Avenger Specialization above, but this adds a certain amount of Intelligence-dependence.
- Psychometrist Vigilante with Stalker Specialization: See Standard Vigilante with Stalker Specialization above, but this adds a certain amount of Intelligence-dependence.
- Warlock Vigilante: Intelligence-dependent spellcasting, but don't dump Charisma, since you need this for your Social Simulacra to disguise themselves as you.
- Wildsoul Vigilante with Avenger Specialization: See Standard Vigilante with Avenger Specialization above, but this adds a certain amount of Intelligence-dependence.
- Wildsoul Vigilante with Stalker Specialization: See Standard Vigilante with Stalker Specialization above, but this adds a certain amount of Intelligence-dependence.
- Zealot Vigilante: Wisdom-dependent spellcasting and some abilities that use Wisdom-dependent skills.
- Warpriest: Half-Elves are good at being Warpriests for the same reasons they are good at being Clerics. The Half-Elven Favored Class Bonus (scaling damage or healing bonus on Channeling) is a nice idea, but scales too slowly to be of much use, and Warpriests are usually going to want to save their Divine Fervor rather than use it on Channeling. The Elven Favored Class Bonus (adds to the uses per day of Blessings within a certain nature-themed set) is not too shabby, provided that you have such Blessings and that they are good in their own right. The Human Favored Class Bonus (bonus combat feats) is a nice idea, but scales too slowly to be of much use.
Racial Favored Class Bonuses:
Alchemist: This favored class bonus is a pretty good choice for a bomber Alchemist, increasing the range increment for thrown splash weapons including bombs.
Barbarian: Increasing the Barbarian’s AC is great, except it only works against traps, and you just won’t see traps often enough to make this worth it. Take the free hit point instead.
Bard: Extra bardic performance rounds each day can always be helpful, especially if you use abilities that use up extra performance rounds often, such as Masterpieces.
Cavalier: More base movement for a Cavalier’s mount is a really great choice, so definitely use this one.
Cleric: For either a healing-centric character or one who focuses on damaging undead, this is an excellent option. You can also use this option to increase the potency of alternative channeling abilities, like Alignment Channel or Elemental Channel.
Druid: This option is nice because it is applicable to either domain powers or animal companions, so whichever one you pick this could be useful. However, a skill point for your companion isn’t the best choice out there, so this still gets orange.
Fighter: Adding to a Fighter’s CMD is nice, but since this only applies to two combat maneuvers that aren’t used that often, this is a dud.
Gunslinger: Extra grit can be helpful to any gunslinger, so this is a good one.
Inquisitor: Additional uses of the Inquisitor’s teamwork feat changing ability is pretty sweet, so I like this one.
Magus: More arcane points are ALWAYS helpful, so definitely take this one.
Monk: A bonus to Escape Artist and Acrobatics... really? No thanks, I’ll take the skill rank or the hit point instead.
Oracle: Adding more known spells is really great for any spontaneous caster, so definitely use this one.
Paladin: This one is interesting, so if you find the Paladin’s aura abilities to be really useful, definitely go for it. If you pick an archetype that gives up some of the auras, you’re probably better off taking the hit point instead.
Ranger: Extra skill ranks for your animal companion can come in handy, but there are definitely better options out there.
Rogue: A situational bonus to Bluff and a bonus to Diplomacy isn’t really worth your favored class bonus. Stay away unless you’re planning to use the feint maneuver a lot.
Sorcerer: If you’ve got a nice 1st-level bloodline power, this is a great choice. Otherwise, take the skill rank.
Summoner: Extra evolution points are a GREAT option, take this one!
Witch: You can just use gold to add spells to your familiar, so I consider this a trap.
Wizard: This one could be good for enchanters, but otherwise it’s pretty weak.
Let me point out here, quickly, that all archeteypes available to humans and to elves are also available to half-elves, so make sure to look at both of those sections when determining which archetypes you want to use for your character. [Human Archetypes, Elf Archetypes] Note, however, that if you’re playing a Pathfinder Society game, your half-elf CANNOT take human or elf archetypes.
Bonded Witch (Witch): This archetype gives up the standard witch's familiar for a bonded item, which is actually a very nice trade-off. You don't have to worry about a living spellbook getting hit with a spell and getting killed. Based on what type of item you bond with, you also learn a new spell of each spell level, which is similar to having a second Patron. The only negative effect of this is that you can't learn new spells from other witches' familiars, and you don’t get to role-play having a familiar.
Bramble Brewer (Alchemist): The point of this archetype is to have a more nature-themed Alchemist, including the ability to throw tanglefoot bombs that are way better than the standard Alchemist discovery of the same name. You also get a mutagen variant that grants more natural armor at the expense of only graning +2 to a physical ability score instead of +4. This archetype is flavorful, if not quite as powerful as a standard Alchemist.
Wild Caller (Summoner): At first glance, I liked this archetype, because it makes for a more nature-centric summoner. While at first it seems like switching out summon monster spells for summon nature’s ally spells weakens the druid overall, it actually is well-made-up by extra evolution points gained every four levels. HOWEVER, for a Summoner who focuses on summon nature’s ally spells, the First Worlder archetype does almost the exact same thing, but is even more flavorful because your eidolon is a fey creature instead of an outsider, and the evolutions that the eidolon can take aren’t restricted, so of the two I would choose First Worlder instead. Make sure to also take the half-elf favored class option to get another extra evolution point per four levels, and your eidolon will be quite beastly indeed.
Wild Shadow (Ranger): This archetype for the Ranger focuses a bit more on wild terrains, dropping the hunter’s bond ability for more terrain-focused abilities, and eschewing “urban” as a favored terrain option. Without the option of gaining an animal companion, I personally would stay away from this archetype, since I’m a huge fan of companion creatures, but if you prefer your character himself to shine on his own, this could be a good option.
Aldori Swordlord: This archetype is all about using the Aldori Dueling Sword, which is a pretty sweet one-handed exotic weapon with a decent critical rating. Half-elves can qualify for this prestige class very quickly, thanks to the Ancestral Arms race trait. This class allows you to use Dexterity to damage instead of Strength, so it’s excellent for a Dex-based Fighter or Rogue. If you go with Fighter, make sure to start off with the Aldori Swordlord archetype, which was obviously meant to prepare your character for taking this prestige class.
Brightness Seeker: The Brightness Seeker is an elf-only Prestige class, taken from the Elves of Golarion sourcebook. The idea of this class is sort of like an Oracle of nature, gaining the ability to read “omens” to gain insight into the future, and then gaining natural aspects and wild shape as you progress. The Wild Shape ability stacks with a Druid’s ability of the same name, and you can also gain some really cool abilities that you can switch out every day, such as a fly speed, a swim speed including water breathing, or THREE natural attacks, all of which deal 1d6 base damage! Since this class is not a spellcaster, though, be cautious of losing spellcasting levels for these abilities. This is a flavorful and fun prestige class, but it would have been a LOT better if it increased spellcasting also.
Rage Prophet: Since the half-elf is both well-set to be a great Oracle and the best race in the game for multiclassing, it makes sense that a prestige class that requires a multiclassed oracle would work out well for a half-elf. You only actually need one level of Oracle to qualify for this prestige class, but I would recommend that you take four levels of Oracle with the Ancient Lorekeeper archetype, then two of Barbarian (grabbing Moment of Clarity as your first Rage Power), then go into Rage Prophet. This will get you paragon surge at level 8, two spells from the Sorcerer/Wizard spell list, and tons of fun abilities from the prestige class itself.
A quick note here: Even though I don’t have the time to list them twice, half-elves also qualify for any feat that requires you to be human or elf, so make sure to look at those sections [Human Feats, Elf Feats] for additional feats that might come in handy.
Arcane Talent: A thrice-per-day cantrip spell is not worth a feat, period. Stay away.
Discerning Eye: A +2 bonus vs. illusions can come in handy, but unless you’re planning to play in a campaign that includes a ton of document forging, the bonus to Linguistics to recognize forgeries is pretty useless.
Elven Spirit: This is a pretty good option for a spellcaster, as you will eventually run into spell resistance, and a +2 bonus to beat it is a big deal. The 1/day spell-like abilities can come in handy too.
Exile's Path: The ability to reroll a Will save can save your party from having to fight against you when you get dominate person cast on you, which can avoid a total party kill in some more extreme cases. This is a great choice.
Half-Drow Paragon: This feat is really only a gateway into a line of drow-specific feats that require you to have drow spell-like abilities. This line of feats give you more and more powerful spell-like abilities which can be pretty cool, but it requires a LOT of feat investment, so I’m not a fan.
Human Spirit: A whole feat for four skill ranks? Definitely not worth it.
Leaf Singer: If you’re a half-elf bard, and you will be coming up against a lot of fey creatures, this is definitely worth a look. Doubling your bardic performance’s range in the forest is a little less exciting, as many bardic performances don’t have an actual range limit other than “as long as they can hear your voice.” Still, for the boost against fey, you’ll wanna consider this one.
Multitalented Mastery: This feat may be worth a look if you’re planning to multiclass a lot, especially if the classes you’re going to take have good alternate favored class bonuses. This is also the only way to get a favored class bonus for prestige class levels. If you’re planning to take a full ten levels in a prestige class, or are planning to take multiple prestige classes, definitely take this.
Neither Elf Nor Human: This is the pinnacle of a set of feats that allow your half-elf to have all of the benefits of being considered both an elf and a human, without any of the penalties. This specific feat does not allow human- or elf-bane weapons to cause extra damage to you, which is excellent. However, this requires a lot of feat investment, so I’d suggest really thinking about it before you take this path.
Pass for Human: If you find yourself trying to fit into a human-only society for some reason, this feat will give you a nice bonus to your Disguise checks. Otherwise, ignore it.
Seen and Unseen: For a stealthy character who needs to sneak around a lot, this might be worth a look, and the prerequisite feat is really good so you don’t need to feel like it’s a tax. I’d say this one’s a solid option.
Shared Insight: If you’re a buffing character with a high Wisdom, like a Druid or Cleric who focuses on making his allies better, this feat could be a good choice, since you gain a bardic performance-like boost to Perception checks for all of your allies within 30 feet.
Shared Manipulation: This one isn’t nearly as good as Shared Insight, because as I’ve said before, Perception is the best skill in the game. Unless your allies make a lot of Intimidate checks, ignore this one.
Sociable: This one’s even worse than Shared Manipulation, since it only boosts a single skill that is not Perception. Skip this one, it’s not worth a feat.