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View Full Version : How do you tell the difference between Elves and Half-Elves?



Othniel
2015-02-09, 01:10 AM
Now, I know this is a bit of a broad question, and it probably depends on what universe we're operating in, but what do you look for, from a roleplay perspective, when trying to differentiate between an Elf and a Half-elf? Here are the Pathfinder descriptions of Elves (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/races/core-races/elf) and Half-Elves. (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/races/core-races/half-elf) Obviously, Half-Elves look a little less Elven, and a little more Human, but let's say I'm a human, and I'm walking down the street. I see somebody with pointed ears, who is taller than myself (let's say I'm 6' even), and has more of a graceful build, am I going to conclude that I see an Elf, or a Half-Elf? I suppose the human that has had little exposure to either Elves or Half-Elves might assume an Elf, while someone who has head much exposure to representatives of either group might be able to pick out subtle differences. The hard part is the latter. How do you conclude (without finding out directly from the individual, and asking is likely going to be taken as quite rude) one way or the other? This makes me think that a great many Half-Elves can pass for full Elves, particularly away from Elven settlements.

The question could also be posed to Half-Orcs as well, although I suspect Half-Orcs also tend to be slightly more civilized than their full-blooded relatives.

I'm curious as to what others' thoughts are on the matter, as I have found myself playing Half-Elves and Half-Orcs on occasion, and may want to work something related to this into a backstory here or there.

(Un)Inspired
2015-02-09, 01:12 AM
Half-elves lift there legs when they pee and elves squat.

Gavran
2015-02-09, 02:09 AM
Well, setting dependent I am sure, but I feel like facial/body hair strongly* tends to be not-elf, and thus most bearded elves are half-elves. That's not really applicable to a typical fantasy interpretation of half-elven females though.

*Meaning I can't think of an exception though I have no doubt at all many of you could so don't feel like it's a challenge to provide them.

I think I have to ask, "Why do you need to?" I feel like any time humans have strong feelings about elves in general (say: humans are in vicious and unending war with elves) a lot of that will affect half-elves too, and that's internally consistent. And if it's not a generalized thing (say: you're supposed to meet a half-elf at the inn) then you'll have additional specific details to go off of or they're simply the most half-elf half-man looking person there. In other words it's not a test of "can you tell what race this guy is?" but instead "can you tell which guy is most likely this race?"

Just for the sake of completeness, I'll list some other "elven" features that could indicate elven blood in a "human" and vice versa.

Elfy man: light hair, light eyes, particularly of non-"natural" shades. Bright greens, silvers, and so on. Slight build, height, sharp angular features. Pointy ears. :p

Manly elf: darker hair, and eyes, particularly those that are genetically dominant in real life humans. Stockier, rounder features, non-pointy ears. Signs of age.

All of the above is of course setting agnostic: it is my conglomerate perceptions from... all things. And of course none of it is likely surprising to anyone, but there it is anyway.

Seppo87
2015-02-09, 02:24 AM
uuuh, can't you tell a full asian person aside by a half-asian, half-caucasian?

Othniel
2015-02-09, 02:25 AM
I think I have to ask, "Why do you need to?"

I've got this character concept bouncing around in my head of a Half-Elf who desperately wants to prove himself, particularly to Elven characters. It's still a bit muddled right now.

goto124
2015-02-09, 04:33 AM
Full elves have 2 pointed ears, while half-elves have only 1 :P


uuuh, can't you tell a full asian person aside by a half-asian, half-caucasian?

Not me.

Yora
2015-02-09, 04:38 AM
You tell by seeing the difference to full blooded elves you've seen before. If you have never seen an elf before, it might be possible or even likely to mistake a half-elf for one. Once you know what an elf looks like, you can see the difference.

Lord Raziere
2015-02-09, 04:46 AM
Bah, just do it the dwarven way of telling the difference:
Assume the best and think they are all half elves!

or if you really need to differentiate, just yell out
"Hey elf!"
the ones who are elves will respond in some elitist snobby manner such as "Yes dwarf, what is it?" while the Half-Elves are ones that will sigh and say "I keep telling you I'm a HALF-ELF!" in exasperation wishing people would stop lumping them in with the elves.

goto124
2015-02-09, 05:07 AM
Depending on the world, half-elves might actually WANT to blend in with full elves. Halves tend to get discriminated, even more than 'normal' races.

Which makes the 'call everyone an elf' a good idea in a different sense.

Lord Raziere
2015-02-09, 05:25 AM
No see by dwarven logic, the only real difference between humans are the ears, since to dwarves both races are tall people who are not as dwarven as dwarves. so the only difference between a half-elf and an elf by dwarven logic is that there actually is none since any person with pointed ears with an elf, but that half elves somehow believe that there is one. so the best way to tell is to call out "hey elf!" and that tells you all you need to know because the ones who think they're elves will respond as they think an elf does, and the ones who think they're half-elves will respond as they think a half-elf does, because to dwarves the only difference is whether you think you are a half-elf or not. therefore the best way to tell is just call it out, and no matter how little of a difference it makes to you, you'll know the difference, as in the individuals preference to be referred to as half or full elf.

works on "half"-orcs to. once you know whether the person wants to be an elf or a half elf, you accept whatever the answer is. its all nonsense to you anyways, your a dwarf after all!

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-09, 05:39 AM
uuuh, can't you tell a full asian person aside by a half-asian, half-caucasian?

That really depends on the person, I only know that one of my friends is half Pakistani because she told me so, but now I know some of the small clues.

Bare in mind that mixed race people can look almost exactly like one of their parent ethnicities, I'm confused as to why all half elves are such a perfect mix. It should be a mix of more elfy and more human, with a few near perfect half and half's.

Also, the elves in my campaign setting are Chinese influenced, just as much as my dwarves are "European", which extends to them having Chinese features instead of being mega-white.

Rondodu
2015-02-09, 06:23 AM
Thatís easy: if itís moving, itís an elf. If itís not moving and there is blood everywhere, itís probably a half-elf.

Tragak
2015-02-09, 08:28 AM
How do you tell the difference between Humans and Half-Humans?

dps
2015-02-09, 06:00 PM
I've got this character concept bouncing around in my head of a Half-Elf who desperately wants to prove himself, particularly to Elven characters. It's still a bit muddled right now.

I'm not sure how the ability of humans to visually recognize your character as half-elven instead of elven is relevant.

Though I suppose that if your character is mostly interested in proving himself to elves, he'd try to make his physical appearance as elven as possible. He'd almost certainly wear elven-type fashions instead of human clothes, assuming there are obvious differences there in your setting. He might even go to the length of having his appearance magically altered to appear more elf-like.

LooseCannoneer
2015-02-09, 06:07 PM
With a Knowledge (Local) check with a DC equal to 10+CR.

Lord Raziere
2015-02-09, 08:11 PM
How do you tell the difference between Humans and Half-Humans?

a human looks like a human.

a half-human looks like the race of the other half, but that race lite.

half humans are basically "any race lite" you want to play an orc but the DM wants them all to be chaotic evil no matter, play a half-orc, orc lite! want to play a dragon but there is too much problems with level adjustment not mention size and hands? half dragon! dragon lite. want to play a giant but still want to fit through doors? half giant, giant lite.

problem is with half-elves is that they already look human but with pointed ears. elf lite is hard to pull off when elves themselves are basically Fair Folk lite.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-09, 11:12 PM
Half elves look mostly like an elf but smell mostly like a human.

goto124
2015-02-09, 11:21 PM
I wonder which systems have a smell mechanic, and how you're supposed to sniff everyone without looking... wierd.

What do elves smell like? What do humans smell like?!

Psyren
2015-02-09, 11:27 PM
In D&D one of the key differences is that half-elves can grow facial hair. Tanis from Dragonlance is a key example of this.

In Golarion, full elves have larger pupils (sometimes filling the entire eye) and much longer ears (that poke above their heads.) Half-elves have pointy ears but they are otherwise not much larger than those of humans. Full elves are also slightly taller (as opposed to D&D, where they are slightly shorter.)

http://i6.ifrm.com/10402/138/upload/p9636540.jpg

http://nsa25.casimages.com/img/2011/01/16/110116115740666268.jpg

Vidrina
2015-02-10, 04:22 AM
D&D (5e, at least) says that to humans, half-elves are nearly indistinguishable from elves, and to elves, half-elves are basically human. So I think depending on the race's perspective, it'd be hard to tell. If you're looking from someone like a dwarf's eyes, I think you wouldn't care much, but you could probably tell the difference from an elf and a human if you've lived long enough, and would likely just sort of be able to tell that they're a half.

Ettina
2015-02-11, 08:57 AM
In D&D one of the key differences is that half-elves can grow facial hair. Tanis from Dragonlance is a key example of this.

Tanis certainly could grow a beard (I remember at one point he was going around with a full beard to make it harder to tell he was part elf). But we don't know how much variation there is among half-elves in that respect.

Red Fel
2015-02-11, 10:34 AM
You tell by seeing the difference to full blooded elves you've seen before. If you have never seen an elf before, it might be possible or even likely to mistake a half-elf for one. Once you know what an elf looks like, you can see the difference.

Pretty much this. Once you get accustomed to how a particular race looks, you can distinguish them. It's like being able to distinguish between Gnomes, Halflings, Kender, and Dwarves. You just compare with your past impressions.

For example, if the first Elf you saw was shaved completely bald, wearing a ratty robe and reeking of mushrooms, literally hugging a tree uncomfortably, you'd probably be surprised if you later met one who had well-maintained hair, a sober attitude, and no unhealthy attraction to plantlife. Because your first experience with Elves was... Yeah.

Point is, you compare with what you know.

If you need something more specific, in most systems there's a skill to check what you know - a Knowledge skill, if you will - about a given race or person. In 3.X/PF, for example, it's Knowledge (Local) to identify a Humanoid by race. That includes both Elves and Half-Elves. (Unless your setting reclassifies Elves as Plant instead of Humanoid. I'd understand.)

Psyren
2015-02-11, 01:11 PM
Tanis certainly could grow a beard (I remember at one point he was going around with a full beard to make it harder to tell he was part elf). But we don't know how much variation there is among half-elves in that respect.

Indeed, not every half-elf will have facial hair. But we can say that every elf with facial hair is in fact a half-elf.