Elf — High Elf Subrace 5E

Hello adventurers! Welcome to my spellbook and thank you so much for checking out the sixth episode of our elf sub-race series. Today we’re going to be going over one of the more popular sub-races at least at the beginning of 5E. And that was the high elf which was released in the player’s handbook. The high elf was the most common choice at least at the beginning of 5E, for elf mains that wanted to be a good character more specifically a lawful good character.

You have to bear in mind of course when the player’s handbook was released it only had the high elf the wood elf and the drow. And naturally the drow being good although it can happen it’s not super likely and the wood elf are more chaotic than lawful so that’s where the high elf sides surge in popularity. Al though these days it’s been replaced by a couple of the other elven subraces.

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That being said, it still does have a place there are some advantages to going with it and if you’re a rules light person and you want to keep things as simple as possible, the high elf is a pretty damn good way to go about it. In any case let’s now dive right into the high elf’s description and traits.

Table of Contents


Being a high elf, you have been a keen mind and mastery of at least for the basics of magic. However in many of the worlds of D&D, there are two types of high elves. From them one type (that includes the gray elves and valley elves of Greyhawk, the Silvanesti of Dragonlance, and the sun elves of the Forgotten Realms) is the haughty and the reclusive, of course in believing themselves for being superior to non-elves and even other elves.

And the other type (which includes the high elves of Greyhawk, the Qualinesti of Dragonlance, and the moon elves of the Forgotten Realms) are more likely to be common and more friendly, and frequently encountered among humans and other races.

Even though the sun elves of the Faerûn (that is also called gold elves or sunrise elves) have been bronze skin and hair of copper, black or the golden blond. However their eyes are in the form of golden, silver, or black. Moon elves (also called silver elves or gray elves) are much paler, with alabaster skin sometimes tinged with the blue. Anyways they most frequently have hair of silver-white, black, or blue, but different shades of blond, brown, and red are not uncommon. Their eyes are blue or green and flecked with gold.


  • Ability Score Increase: +1INT
  • Extra Language: Speak, Read and Write one extra language.
  • Cantrip: Know one cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list (int).
  • Elf Weapon Training: Proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow and longbow.

In relation to your ability score improvement you gain a plus one to intelligence. You also gain an extra language of your choice speak, read and write an extra language and you gain a cantrip of your choice from the wizard spell list and intelligence is your spell casting modifier for it. And you gain elf weapon training which gives you proficiency with the long sword, short sword, shortbow and longbow.

Needless to say the classes that gain the most from this are usually the spellcasters namely the wizard in particular. Reason being plus one to intelligence super nice, you get an extra cantrip and since it uses intelligence as its spellcast modifier, it’s gonna scale with the rest of your cantrips which is super nice and elf weapon training gives you something to fall back on in case you’re in a zone of silence or an anti-magic field something of that nature.

Overall though, outside of spell casters it’s a little bit hard to place the sub-rce with any class in particular. The reason being as it does everything okay! You know like it gives you a little bit of magic through the cantrip it gives you a little bit of extra utility through the extra language and gives you a little bit of extra martial prowess through elf weapon training.

There’s always a little bit of a debate over which cantrip you should go with, with regards to anytime you can gain one whether or not it’s through magic initiate or through a subrace such as this. Most people tend to go with presta digitation, although i think it really does depend on what kind of a character you’re playing.

There are plenty of good damaging cantrips, toll of the dead and eldritch blast are pretty good examples. However there are some more utility cantrips as well things that pertain to a minor illusion for example, as well as more recent releases that help you with combat control sapping sting being the obvious choice.

In any case there’s a ton of good cantrips to pick that will give your character a decent amount of flavor. However there is a fairly obvious drawback if you’re going to be going with a cantrip that calls for a saving throw or requires you to make a spell attack and that is unless you’re going to be investing into your intelligence, there’s going to be a point of diminishing returns where the effectiveness of your cantrip starts to diminish just really significantly.

This will usually happen towards the end of the early game or the start of the mid game and that’s when creatures will just start making those saves without really putting in too too much effort. They could always roll poorly i suppose but the odds won’t be in your favor as much as they were during those first couple levels. And of course you are likely to miss as well if you’re required to make a spell attacks.

That being said all is for naught some spells piggyback off of weapon attacks right! booming blade is a pretty good example of that as is green flame blade so those are pretty obvious choices if you’re playing a martial class. However taking a step back away from the cantrip you get and looking at the traits as a whole they’re honestly pretty good, it might be over balanced to a point of redundancy in some cases but as a nice easy simple to use character where you don’t really have to keep track of anything like special abilities you can only use once per standard duration of time.

This is pretty much for you…it’s up your alley and to be fair a lot of the players handbook races were meant to be really easy. The high elf is probably the best example for the elf as the wood elf and the drow are fairly complicated in their own rights and there are somethings that are worth considering. But if you’d like a nice easy elf and you’d like to be good the high elf should be fine for you. Now let’s get to my personal thoughts on it.


Overall the high elf is i don’t know, i want to say too balanced. It doesn’t so much lend itself to an obvious play style. That being said, it’s not terrible like it won’t hurt you if you take it. But i feel like unless you’re playing a heavily restricted game, there are just better options.

The shadow marked elf in particular is super good and almost every elf outside of that lends itself to such an obvious play style. That it’s honestly just a little bit more fun to play. The high elf is really good if you’re new to 5E and it’s really good if you’re trying to get a feel for the rules and you don’t want to worry about resource management to a point of being overwhelmed.

But if you’re a comfortable player then it’s kind of hard for me to justify picking this. It is one of the only elven sub-races to currently exist that have you pick intelligence so if you’re a wizard and you’re playing in a one shot and you want to give yourself just that extra nudge then i suppose it can be quite good for that, but as you level up in most campaigns this plus one is going to be a less and less important.

So i don’t know it is really interesting, i’m sure a lot of us have a lot of nonstyle draw related to the high elf i know i do. It was one of the first characters i ever played, i played a high elf rogue. I never really got off the ground sadly. That was when i first started playing in adventurers league so, i just cycled through a lot of character concepts really quick.

But i do have fond memories of the high elf and it’s still played relatively frequently if for no other reason than its flavor of kind of being a proper elf for black of a better term. Really simple and really nice in terms of role playing but in terms of mechanics once again it kind of falls up short especially as you get those higher levels.

Wrap Up

In any case maybe i’m wrong you know maybe i overlooked something important. If you think so let me know down beneath in the comment section. Be sure to mention any thougts, questions, comments or concerns you have reagrding the high elf and any cool stories or builds you’ve done in the past as well or that you’d like to do. As always guys i hope you all have a wonderful day and of course happy adventuring.

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