Half-elves are born from two worlds, but welcome in neither.
Elves and humans travel many of the same roads on Athas —elven tribes have at times encountered human mercenaries, just as elven warriors have found gainful employment in the armies of the city states. The merchant class, too, is overrun with traders of both races, so it is not at all unusual for children of mixed parentage to be born into the world—the half-elves.
A half-elf is generally tall, between 6 and 6 1/2 feet tall, but more meaty than his elven counterparts.
His facial features are clearly more deeply defined than those of a human, but based solely on his countenance a half-elf can usually pass for either an elf or a human.
A half-elf's life is typically hardened by the intolerance of others. Neither fully human nor fully elven, half-elves rarely find acceptance with either race.
They truggle to find their place in a hostile land. Humans and Elves rarely share trust or affection. However, the children of unions between Elves and Humans are rarely happy. Half-elves typically face intolerance and prejudices throughout their lives. Elves are especially intolerant, at times driving mothers of half-elven infants from their camps into the desert, with the object of their shame. Humans are more apt to accept halfelves as allies or partners, but seldom accept them into their homes, clans, or families. Rarely do half-elves congregate in great enough numbers to form communities of their own, so they remain outsiders, forever wandering from situation to situation without a people, land, or village to call home.
Intolerance, however, has given the half-elf his greatest attribute—self-reliance. As a loner, usually without permanent residence, a half-elf survives the rigors of life in the wilderness completely on his own. The skills involved in survival, such as locating food, water, and shelter, are only half of the challenge they face—half-elves must also learn to deal with the absence of companionship, the complete lack of conversation and basic friendship.
Because of that half-elves are loners. They must contend with hostility from both sides, Half-elves are a people without a home-land, forced to endure on society's fringes. Some half-elves live as loners in the desert, surviving as herders, hunters, or employees of more tolerant merchant houses. Other half-elves adjust by developing confident, assertive personalities, transforming themselves into people who win friends and engender trust. Ironically, they are treated better by unrelated races than by their own kin.
As one might assume of a race of loners, Half-elves hold self-reliance as their highest virtue, never expecting or asking for help no matter what their situation. Self-taught and naturally adept at learning half-elves dabble in a variety of areas, mastering the skills they need to survive on their own. Some half-elves are bitter and sullen, but most seek to make the best of their circumstances. More than anything, Half-elves take pride in defeating expectations.
Coincidentally, faced with intolerance from the races of their parentage, many turn to completely alien races for acceptance. Dwarves, halflings, and ever Thri-kreen, have no basic dislike of half-elves -nor do they grant them any favor. At the very least a half-elf dealing with these races can expect no automatic prejudices. Also, some half-elves turn for companionship to the animal world, training beasts of the air and sands as servants and friends.
Half-elves add one to their initial Dexterity score because of their fleet-footed elven ancestry. However, they inherit the same light frame and thin bone structure of the elves as well, causing them to subtract one from their initial Constitution score.
Half-elven characters have no resistance to charm or sleep-related magic, nor are they endowed with an ability to find secret doors. Half-elven infravision enables them to see up to 60 feet in darkness.
A half-elf character can choose from all of the available character classes, though he will have to face eventual level limits in many of them. He can also become multi-classed, having the widest variety of combinations available to him (see the multi-class combinations table in Dark Sun Boxed Set).
A half-elf gains some benefits as he increases in levels.
A half-elf gains the survival proficiency when he reaches 3rd level. He need not spend any of his proficiency slots in order to known survival. Like other characters, half-elves must specify a terrain type for this proficiency. Dark Sun terrain types include stony barrens, sandy wastes, rocky badlands, mountains, scrub plains, forest, salt flats, or boulder fields.
A half-elf can befriend one pet when he reaches 5th level. The pet may be of any local animal, no larger than man-sized. The half-elf must spend one week with the animal while it is still young. After that time, the pet will follow the half-elf everywhere and obey simple commands. A half-elf can only have one such pet at a time, and must wait 100 days after the death of one pet to begin training another. Choice of pets is always subject to the DM's approval. Refer to Chapter 11: Encounters (see Dark Sun Boxed Set) for possible pet choices.
Half-elves pride themselves on their self-reliance. For example, when a half-elf is part of a larger party of characters, he will rarely eat of the meal prepared by the others, nor will he use the fire set for the camp. He will instead hunt for his own food, cook and eat it by himself, away from the others. A half-elf character will discuss strategy with his companions when he has them, and will cooperate as necessary, but will always seem semi-detached and aloof.
Despite their self-reliance, when faced with elves or humans, half-elves often find themselves looking for acceptance. For instance, when among elves, a half-elf will go out of his way to prove just how elven he is, by running great distances with them and observing other social and cultural rituals with the elves. These efforts, however, are mostly lost on the elves and therefore serve no purpose. The half-elf's behavior is seen by some as slightly irrational, but only by those who are comfortably wrapped in the blankets of racial acceptance; having none leaves half-elves out in the bitterest cold.
A player with a half-elf character should keep this in mind and apply it whenever possible.
The notes given on roleplaying each race are also very important, since a character earns additional individual experience point awards when played according to these racial descriptions.