High Elf Playable Race Guide for DnD 5e

From lore and descriptions to traits and abilities, learn all about High Elves in D&D 5e

What are High Elves?

High Elves in the world of Dungeons and Dragons are known for their grace, intellect, and powerful magical abilities. With an ancient history rooted in sophisticated kingdoms and profound arcane knowledge, they are revered for their craftsmanship and enchanting creations.

High Elves’ reserved and noble demeanour can sometimes be perceived as aloof, yet they maintain a strong sense of cultural pride and kindness. They are just one branch of the ‘Elven Family’. All descended from the Feywild Eladrin, each having their own distinct culture.

High Elf features in 5e

Ability Scores+2 Dexterity; +1 Intelligence
Creature TypeHumanoid
LifespanAbout 750 years
LanguagesCommon, Elven and 1 other language
TraitsDarkvision, Keen Senses, Fey Ancestry, Elf Weapon Training, Cantrip, Extra Language
Book found inPlayer’s Handbook

If you want to play as a High Elf, your character will have the following traits and abilities:

High Elf traits

Darkvision – Accustomed to twilit forests and the night sky, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Fey Ancestry – You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed, and magic can’t put you to sleep.

Trance – Elves do not sleep. Instead they meditate deeply, remaining semi-conscious, for 4 hours a day. The Common word for this meditation is “trance.” While meditating, you dream after a fashion; such dreams are actually mental exercises that have become reflexive after years of practice. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit a human would from 8 hours of sleep.

Keen Senses – You have proficiency in the Perception skill.

Cantrip – You know one cantrip of your choice from the Wizard spell list. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it.

Elf Weapon Training – You have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.

High Elf Tactics

  • Making the most of a High Elf character means playing to their strengths. In this case it’s leveraging their natural +2 bonus to dexterity, and ensuring this is their primary combat ability. Opt for ranged weapons (eg. bows or slings) or finesse weapons (eg. rapiers or scimitars) for the best results in non-magical combat.
  • Alternatively, capitalise on their innate intelligence bonus (+1) and lean into a spell casting class like Wizard or Artificer. Higher intelligence will afford these classes a better spell DC (making it harder for enemies to pass checks against your spells) or a higher chance of hitting with spell attacks.
  • Regardless of class use your bonus cantrip to your advantage, there are some effective close or ranged damage spells to fill holes in your characters arsenal like Shocking Grasp or Ray of Frost. Even more useful could be flexible cantrips like Minor Illusion or Message that have applications both in and out of combat.

Best classes for High Elf

High Elves bring a lot of versatility to the table and while you can definitely go with your gut and pick a class that resonates with your character concept, there are some options that really bring out the best in High Elves due to their unique racial traits.

High Elves come with a natural boosts to intelligence (+1), dexterity (+2), and proficiency in longswords and short swords. So, if you want to maximise your High Elf’s potential, here are some classes that fit them like a glove:


  • Artificers and Wizards benefit in similar ways from the High Elves racial stat bonuses.
  • Artificers are one of the few spell casters proficient in use of medium armour. High Elves will often have decent dexterity score, this can help accrue a higher armour class from wearing this type of protection. As a Wizard the boost to dexterity can be even more crucial, they have no armour proficiency and are reliant on dexterity to contribute solely to their base armour class.
  • High Elves often make use of a strong intelligence score too, this lends well to the spell casting ability of the artificer.

Rogue (Arcane Trickster):

  • Arcane tricksters need great dexterity (for sneaking, AC and attacking) and high intelligence (for casting spells), so they benefit from strong ability scores in both of these areas.
  • High Elves will naturally have good scores in both the areas a Arcane Trickster requires thanks to its racial bonuses.
  • An extra cantrip is handy to add to their relatively small number of spells.

Fighter (Eldritch Knight):

  • As a half caster class, any way to grant the Eldritch Knight more spell options is welcome, as they will never boast the same versatility as a Wizard or Sorcerer. The extra cantrip the High Elf comes with can help a little with this.
  • Their Dexterity and Intelligence bonuses further enhance two abilities that an Eldritch Knight needs in order to fulfil their dual role as physical damage dealer (Dexterity) and spell caster (Intelligence). Just make sure you focus on dexterity over strength for attacks.

So, whether you’re envisioning a spell caster extraordinaire or a nimble warrior with magical tricks up their sleeve, a High Elf character can bring a lot to the table in your D&D adventure.

Worst classes for High Elf

If you want the best value from a High Elf’s racial bonuses and proficiencies, it’s important to avoid classes that rely on stats like strength (Barbarian) or where they’re less reliant on dexterity for AC and attacks like a cleric. Trying to use classes like this, while playing as a High Elf can still be fun, but you will find them less effective without having doubled down on the race’s strengths

About High Elves

High Elf appearance

High Elves can be identified by their slender features, pointed ears and mostly hairless bodies. They’re typically a little shorter than humans but fit within the normal range for humans, standing between just under 5ft to just over 6ft tall.

High Elf personality

With a lifespan of about 750 years, High Elves have a longer view on things and will choose to wait to see if a problem solves itself rather than rushing to action. This can create conflict with the shorter-lived races who do not have the time to spend years resolving their problems.

Elves are generally a sophisticated group and High Elves embody this most of all, typically pursuing matters of art, magic and poetry. They are not limited to these areas though and many take on roles in government, military and many other disciplines.

Roleplaying as a High Elf

There are many ways you could play your High Elf character but here’s a few ideas to get you started:

Channel your inner elegance: High Elves are all about grace and style. Picture your character as the person who always seems to move effortlessly, making everything look easy. Whether it’s in combat or just strolling through town; embrace that elegance.

Curiosity is Your Middle Name: High Elves are insatiably curious. Imagine your character as a knowledge sponge. They’re the first to grab books, scrolls, and old dusty tomes. Show a thirst for knowledge in your roleplaying.

Nature Lover: High Elves often have a deep connection to nature. Show this by respecting the environment, professing your love for natural settings, and maybe even befriending woodland critters.

Unravel Mysteries: High Elves often have hidden knowledge or secrets. Drop hints about your character’s past or let their enigmatic side shine through to keep things intriguing.

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.

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