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I decided to write this guide as a basis for a matter which, apparrently, is a rather touchy subject among many players in the Roleplay community of WoW. With that in mind, here's a guide on how to play a Half-Elf
Now, before I begin, I should point out that not only will playing a Half-Elf be difficult because of racial tensions, it will also be difficult because, to do it right, may mean not doing it very often. You'll see why as you read through this guide, but if you are a person who plays an MMO purely for the RP, then maybe a Half-Elf isn't for you.
I should also point out that playing a Half-Elf will mean having to explain that you're a Half-Elf often, since there's no information box you can fill in on a character that people can read. This can disrupt the flow of RP, and mean a lot of repetitive typing for you, so, that's some fair warning aswell.
Finally, as I stated before, playing a Half-Elf is a very touchy subject. Some players will be willing to give you a go, but a fair amount of others will not be happy with your race choice. Be prepared for a fair bit of flak.
With that in mind, let's begin.
Which game race to choose/Which class to be
Before we get into the fluff, we should analyse the game mechanics of it all. Since Half-Elves have no in-game playable race, it means having to pick from the three most obvious: Human, Blood Elf or Night Elf.
Half-Elves are commonly born of a union between a Human and a High Elf, but known cases have occured between a Human and a Night Elf, so that's not totally out of the question. It's a shame, really, because the easiest one to roleplay would be the latter, since they reside in the same faction (Perhaps you could get other players to be your parents), but the more likely is the former.
To be perfectly honest, this choice is up to you. Look at your backstory, then back to me, then back at your backstory. Depending on the career path your character has chosen, how they were raised and the interaction with their parents will shape who they are today, and are the biggest factors when choosing which race to play as. A child who was raised by a human ranger, for example, may be more inclined to follow in those footsteps, taking on the features and mannerisms associated with that lifestyle.
In relation to this, not only will you have to read up on the Half-Elf article, you'll have to look into the Human article and whatever elf is your parent article. Both races will have Radically differing lifestyles, and, unless you were raised by only one parent, or were adopted into a new family, chances are, you would have been affected by both. Below, I'll include an example of a half-elf I made a while back, and explain how the different aspects in his life had a major influence on him.
The reason why I say this is because, again, a lot of factors are important to the life of a Half-Elf, and even if you don't plan on making your character terribly complex, they are still going to be terribly complex to play.
Age gets its own section because, while the human and elven races have been around for a fair amount of time, how old your character is will depend on what parents you had.
To begin, if you claim to be the child of a Blood Elf and a Human, you'll recieve immediate flak. Why? Blood Elves changed their identity from High Elves very, VERY recently. Chances are, you'll only be just entering the double digits in your age, and since we can't play kids in this game, you may want to reconsider your choice to be a High Elf child instead.
You also have to consider that with the events of the first, second and third wars, the relationships between the Humans, High Elves and Night Elves will determine how likely it is that your parents hooked up and when. Of course, love is a bound that surpasses all, blah, blah, blah, but you have to remember, Azeroth is a world still in the midsts of chaos (especially with the Cataclysm) and a 'quiet, tollerant social life' is actually a hard thing to come by.
so, yes, this requires more reading, or, in a more entertaining capacity, dig up the Warcraft games (they should be pennies by now) and play through them.
Lifestyle and Culture
One core thing to remember is that Half-Elves essentially don't have one, or, a set one, at least. They have no racial capital, no defined racial leader (there is the Windrunner Dynasty but that's Sylvanas and she's busy being the leader of the Forsaken) and while they largely work with the Alliance, there's nothing stopping them working with the Horde or being independant.
To be a Half-Elf means to integrate yourself with a society that will have you, or being a Nomad, and if you chose the former, your mannerisms and personality will be affected by that as well (Yet more reading. I did say this is a difficult one to play, didn't I?). Either way, this is a reason why playing a Half-Elf means not playing it often. Chances are small that you'll reside in RP focussed meeting spots, and constantly moving around relies on bumping into RPers around the world.
Half-Elves work a variety of jobs, blacksmith, sailor, woodsman, that sort of thing. These aspects would have become a part of your lifestyle and taught to you in your youth by your parents and peers. Bear in mind, however, that due to your very existance, and the near-bigotted views of the world, you may not have had many friends in your youth.
If you're a Night Human offspring, then it'll be alright. Night Elves and Humans get along relatively well, being part of the same faction and all, and there shouldn't be too much trouble beyond childish bullying and the odd occassion of mild identity crisis, but nothing too severe or angst worthy about.
High Human offspring, on the other hand...
Humans, as a whole (this does count for both types of half-elf here) will be jealous of your longevity and (this one just for the High Elf side) suspicious of your affiliation with a race that they may believe abandonned them and joined the 'Savage' Horde. Night Elves will be suspicious of you due to these same ties, considering the events of the Sundering. High Elves (or rather, Blood Elves now) will be the worst of the three. They will look down on you for your 'tainted' blood, and while they won't slay you for being an 'abomination unto their pure and superior race' you will not be too welcome in Silvermoon (it's for this reason that you can't really claim to be in Quel'Thalas during the tutorial In-Characterly unless you want to set yourself up for a difficult time.)
Infact, if your High Elf parent upholds their traditions, they will more than likely abandon you after your birth, probably to a caring couple or, in very worst cases, to your own devices. If your Human parent is still around, they may care for you, or even mannage to convince the High Elf to stay and care for you (though, this is quite idealistic and cliche, so becareful using this)
The Tauren, in their shamanistic ways, may infact be the most tollerant of the races in the horde, and while they won't welcome you with open arms and a big smile, they will probably allow you to stay with them, so long as you respect their culture and lifestyle (no burger jokes here, people)
Goblins may also allow your presence, so long as it makes a profit. If you can proove yourself a valuable asset to them, they'll probably employ you, only to drop you if you begin to fall behind.
Neutral cities, like Dalaraan or Gadgetzaan, will probably be more welcoming as a whole. To be neutral, there is usually a level of tollerance that exists among the races that reside there, but, due to age old predjudices among out of towners and some residents, don't be surprised if you experience the same problems described above.
hell, you could even be a sailor, since most boats are racially neutral with their crews.
I'll start by saying that, no, Half-Elves in WoW are not the same as they are in DnD. They aren't charismatic confident speakers who wind up as diplomats, and by now, reading through this, you'll agree with me.
Considering your lifestyle, you may not be the most social of creatures. Your entire existance is viewed in a negative light by most of three races. Growing up, you will more than likely had few friends, been home schooled, and interacted with your parents most of the time. There's a very high chance you would be a very lonely person, have difficult to mannage social skills and have lived a rather sheltered life.
This can branch out to you being a very apologetic individual, seeing yourself as always in the wrong, the cause of most problems, and/or silently resenting yourself, or acting out, transfering your hate and frustration to the world around you. No matter what personality your go with, one of these two aspects (maybe even both if you can pull it off well) must be found in your psychology somewhere, because what would make a Half-Elf complex and driven is the desire to be accepted, by someone, no matter who.
Also, because of this sheltered lifestyle, you may wish for your character to be unaware of various events in the world. In the case of a High Human, you may want to restrict your character to speaking Thalassian (having not learned Orcish because of your seclusion from the Horde), and if you wish to interact with members of the Alliance, my best suggestion is to get to know a player in the Alliance, exchange Skype, Raidcall or MSN information then tell them what you're typing (yes, this does double the time it takes to say anything, but in leau of being able to learn Common, what're you gonna do?)
Finally, personality traits can be attributed to each character class in the same way they are for the other races, but one class in particular will influence you, and that, of course, is a Death Knight.
Being a Death Knight will only add to the secluded feeling because, not only are you an unwelcome halfbreed, you're an abomination against nature, a perversion of life itself. Your progress towards being accepted sundered because of the Lich King, and cannonically, it's not like you can get revenge for it, is it? Dammit, Tirion Fordring, kill stealing son of a...
Example: Morganek Demonbane
As promised, here's an example of what I believe may be a working Half-Elf build.
Morganek was born to a High Elf mother and Human father during the later parts of the second war. His father was a Gilnean (a rather tollerant one at that) and quite a caring man. He only just mannaged to convince his love to stay and help care for the child, and the life was a fiarly good one up until Morganek, at that point named Mendell, was about 7 years old. At that point, Zorias, his father, left for Gilneas to see some sick relatives, but was trapped there behind the wall (it's possible, at this point, to make a Worgen half-sibling, or even Zorias himself and still have it make sense, but, we won't delve into that)
Atrea, Mendell's mother, took him further north after a year of waiting, and then fell for another High Elf, who was far more proud of his heritage. Manipulating Atrea, she went back south with Mendell, then left him to his own devices. Both Atrea and her new Husband dwelt in Suncrowne, and were killed when the Scourge hit.
Mendell grew tired, hungry and ill, only to be found by a wandering human paladin named Morganek Demonbane. He raised the boy and taught him the values of compassion and courage, educated him in his own perceptions of the holy light, and when Mendell was thirty, Morganek was slain by a Scourge ambush. Mendell wandered for days, beside himself that the only people in his life who accepted him so were now gone. An idea came to him that he could repay Morganek by taking his name, and travelling the world, doing good deeds and earning him the recognition he believed the old man deserved.
Like most in this situation, while he is a caring person, Morganek would be shy and socially awkward, with the inherent desire to become accepted in the world. Unintentionally, he has trapped himself in a paradox: his desire on this quest is to gain recognition and acceptance for someone else, betraying his own psychological need, leading to a depression that is seemingly obvious.
Not only is the desire to be accepted from his seclusion, but to to the disappearance of his father and the acts of his easily-led mother, Morganek suffers from abandonment issues, and unless he finds Zorias, chances are, he'll never get the chance to resolve them in a direct confrontation.
The name is a human one, so people talking about him would assume a human Paladin of the church of light. However, since he covers most of his facial features, some would assume, due his build and what they can see of his face, to be a High Elf, possibly going so far to assume him to be a Blood Knight of Silvermoon. Raising his reputation will also raise questions as to his racial identity, and being a Half-Elf, that's a problem.
While he is a nomad, and has no defined home, he does what he can to avoid Silvermoon and Quel'Thalas as much as possible, only ever venturing there if in need of some supplies he can't find anywhere else.
ICly, due to his heritage, he can't use the Hawkstrider mounts (He avoids Silvermoon, where would he get one?), or the Blood Elf magic drain ability (lacking the magical prowess and the magical addiction the blood elves have.)
While he will willingly work with the horde (he spent a lot of his time in Kalimdor) he is mainly independant, doing whatever he can for both sides.
As a character? It works, to a degree. Yes, there are a variety of issues. For starters, this is merely assuming that Morganek's mother was heartless enough to simply leave her eight year old son, on his own, at the end of the second war/start of the third war. It uses a cliche that his mother was also easily manipulated enough to 'accept' him as her son to begin with, as well as to use a Gilnean that was tollerant enough to fall for and bed a High Elf (Romeo and Juliet stories like these can become less believable over time). It works, it merely requires a basic improvement to make the character A) more believable B) less benevolent and selfless.
drop the premise of gaining recognition for his dead mentor and foster father, and merely have him stuck in that state of wandering, not finding the right place to call home, and only doing good deads for those that would accept him, adding a quality of Naivete. Perhaps instead of his Mother staying, we could have her leaving Zarias shortly after the birth, who cares for Mendell, leaving him in Morganek's hands before heading to Gilneas, never to be seen again, adding the sidequest "Find my father," to the list. Hell, Zorias may not even need to be from Gilneas at all, perhaps Morganek was the biological father.
There are a wide variety of possibilities here, ones that, perhaps require the player to think over said concept, but they'll have to remember, this is going to be a concept that will hardly ever be played.
With that in mind, remember what I said at the begining: This is a VERY difficult race to play correctly, and chances are, even if you mannage it, it won't be entertaining. Think long and hard before going ahead with it, possibly resign it to being an NPC that you play on the rare occassion. If you're sure this is what you want to be, and have a solid concept down that you can RP, then give it a go, and enjoy.