I’ve always found it strange that half-elves and half-orcs are races as opposed to templates. The half-elf race is a very powerful blend of elf and human, and because of that they get benefits from both of their “parent” races that can, in some cases, make them superior to either one (check out the Oracle if you don’t believe me!)
Ability Scores: Like humans, half-elves may choose one of their ability scores and add +2 to it.
Size: Half-elves are the same size as humans.
Speed: Half-elves have the standard 30ft base movement speed.
Elven Immunities: Thanks to their elven heritage, half-elves are immune to magic sleep effects, and gain a +2 on saves against enchantments.
Adaptability: This is one of the less useful of the half-elf’s racial abilities unless you’re planning a build that is based on a skill check, like an Intimidate-based Fighter, or a combat stealing Rogue (Sleight of Hand). This is also very useful if you’re planning to take Eldritch Heritage.
Keen Senses: +2 to the best skill in the game, gotta love it!
Low-Light Vision: This can come in handy in shadowy areas, though in my experience most DMs only really pay attention to darkvision. Still, it’s a useful ability when it’s needed.
Elf Blood: Half-elves are humanoids with both the [human] and [elf] descriptors, which means they are treated as both of those races. This can come in very handy, as half-elves therefore qualify for any feats, class archetypes, or spells that are specific to either humans or elves. NOTE: This is NOT the case for Pathfinder Society games, where the developers have stated that half-elves may NOT take human-only or elf-only feats, class archetypes, etc. Very sad.
Multitalented: This ability makes half-elves some of the best multiclassers in the game by far. I’ll talk more about alternate favored class bonuses in a bit, but I’ll make sure to point out which ones can be used to maximum effect for a multiclassed half-elf.
Ancestral Arms [Adaptability]: There are some seriously awesome exotic weapons, and so a free proficiency in one is a great choice. If your character is going to be combat-focused, you’ll probably want this one.
Arcane Training [Multitalented]: This ability is ALMOST useless, since an arcane caster’s caster level DC to cast from a scroll is only the scroll’s caster level + 1, which means that almost invariably he’ll have no problem casting from a higher-level scroll. The bonus is even more useless for Spell Trigger items, like wands, because as long as the spell is on your class list, it doesn’t matter what level the spell is, you can activate it with no check required. In other words, if you’re sure you’re going to play a single-classed arcane caster, you may as well pick this one up, but it’s just not that useful.
Drow Blooded [Low-light vision]: If you want your character to have darkvision, this is a fine way to get it, but light blindness is a painful trade-off for it. I’d suggest sticking with the low-light vision.
Drow Magic [Adaptability, Multitalented]: Gaining several spell-like abilities can be useful, especially if you grabbed Drow Blooded along with them.
Dual Minded [Adaptability]: A +2 to Will saves can really come in handy. If you don’t need either Skill Focus of Exotic Weapon Proficiency, grab this one.
Integrated [Adaptability]: +1 on Bluff, Disguise, or Knowledge (local)? Really? Take Ancestral Arms instead, please!
Sociable [Adaptability]: This one’s even worse than the one above it. IGNORE IT!
Wary [Keen senses]: Perception is always better than Sense Motive and Bluff. Always. Don’t take this.
Water Child [Adaptability, Multitalented]: This one is only worth your time if you were planning to use your racial Skill Focus feat on the Swim skill, AND you’re going to be a single-classed character who is around the water constantly, like a pirate or something. Not a fan of this one.
Now, let me point out here that the half-elf, half-orc, and human class descriptions are going to be a little more sparse than those up above, since these three races can really excel at ANY class thanks to their floating ability score bonus. If the class isn’t listed, that just means that there’s nothing specific that makes it any better or worse of a choice than other classes. In other words, there’s really no wrong choice of classes if you have human blood!
Alchemist: A half-elf can be essentially any class very well, but there are some perks to picking specific ones, such as the Alchemist. Half-elves have their own Alchemist archetype, the Bramble Brewer, which is a pretty cool option for a bomber Alchemist. You also get access to one of the best spells in the game, paragon surge, which lets you gain ANY ONE FEAT that you qualify for!
Bard: Half-elf bards get access to the Leaf Singer feat, which is okay but not incredible. Otherwise, there’s nothing that specifically makes Bard a better or worse choice than any other class, so enjoy your half-elf Bard!
Cavalier [Samurai]: A half-elf Cavalier will work very well, and the favored class bonus is pretty excellent, adding base speed to your mount. Go for it!
Cleric: A half-elf Cleric can cast paragon surge too, so that’s one point for the Cleric!
Druid: A half-elf can choose the Treesinger archetype, which is a really cool option for elves and half-elves which I discussed up in the elves section. They also have access to the Feral Child archetype for humans, which isn’t quite as awesome as the Treesinger, but can really work if you’re trying ot make a “savage” type of Druid.
Fighter: A half-elf can make an excellent fighter, and one way of doing so is to take the Aldori Swordlord archetype, leading into the Aldori Swordlord prestige class. The Ancestral Arms racial option is a great way to make the most of the Aldori Dueling Sword without having to use up a feat slot to gain proficiency, and once you get far enough into the prestige class you can use Dexterity instead of Strength on damage rolls, which is a big boost.
Gunslinger: A half-elf Gunslinger gains access to the human-only Buccaneer archetype, the main feature of which is using Charisma to determine grit points instead of Wisdom. You also gain the ability to get extra grit points by drinking alcohol, AND you get to have an “exotic pet” familiar, which is meant to be like a pirate’s shoulder-parrot.
Inquisitor: The half-elf Inquisitor’s favored class option lets you change your teamwork feat more often during a day, and that ability can be seriously helpful, so I like it.
Magus: A half-elf can choose the Spell Dancer archetype, which is a really fun archetype I talked about up in the elves section. You can also gain extra arcane pool points with the favored class bonus, so that’s something to look forward to also.
Monk: A half-elf has access to the Wanderer archetype, which is a decent option that lets you gain some spell-like abilities and bardic performances in place of some of the standard monk powers. The lack of excellent racial archetypes won’t hinder a half-elf from being a great monk, though.
Oracle: Oracle is another class that gets access to paragon surge, and since Oracles can be so incredibly diverse already, being able to cast a spell to get any one feat you qualify for is amazing. The favored class option is also very nice, since Oracles, just like all spontaneous casters, are severely limited by their spells known. Finally, half-elves have access to the elven archetype Ancient Lorekeeper, which can let you get some of the most powerful spells in the game from the sorcerer/wizard spell list. All of this puts the Oracle at the very top of the list of classes for a half-elf to choose.
Paladin [Antipaladin]: A half-elf Paladin can cast paragon surge too, so that’s one point for the Paladin!
Ranger: The ranger can be a great option for your half-elf character, especially if you’re going to be in a more natural setting in your campaign, thanks to the Wild Shadow archetype. The abilities gained through this archetype will really let your Ranger shine when he’s in his favored terrain, especially since it lets you use woodland stride in any difficult terrain in his favored terrain, even in magically-created difficult terrain. Pretty cool!
Sorcerer: Sorcerers can cast paragon surge, and they also have access to a human-only bloodline, the Imperious Bloodline, which is sort of a strange one, but it does include the ability to increase morale and competence bonuses for yourself and your allies, which is pretty cool.
Summoner: Half-elves have a Summoner archetype of their own, called the WIld Caller. This archetype trades summon monster spells and spell-like abilities for the equivalent summon nature’s ally spells, which seems a little bit weak at first, but the WIld Caller’s eidolon also gains bonus evolution points, so it all balances out very well. However, as I will explain below, the First Worlder archetype actually does almost the same thing, but does it better.
Witch: The half-elf-exclusive Witch archetype, the Bonded Witch, is a really excellent choice thanks to gaining a bonded item, which gives your Witch another spell to cast per day which is pulled from a seperate list of spells, almost akin to gaining a second patron. Witches can also cast paragon surge, so this is a great class choice for a half-elf!
Wizard: A half-elf Wizard has access to the Spellbinder archetype, which isn’t the best archetype out there as I explained up in the Elf section. Wizards can also cast paragon surge, of course, but of the two I’d say a half-elf makes a slightly better Witch than a Wizard.
Alchemist: This favored class bonus is a pretty good choice for a bomber Alchemist, increasing the range increment for thrown splash weapons including bombs.
Barbarian: Increasing the Barbarian’s AC is great, except it only works against traps, and you just won’t see traps often enough to make this worth it. Take the free hit point instead.
Bard: Extra bardic performance rounds each day can always be helpful, especially if you use abilities that use up extra performance rounds often, such as Masterpieces.
Cavalier: More base movement for a Cavalier’s mount is a really great choice, so definitely use this one.
Cleric: For either a healing-centric character or one who focuses on damaging undead, this is an excellent option. You can also use this option to increase the potency of alternative channeling abilities, like Alignment Channel or Elemental Channel.
Druid: This option is nice because it is applicable to either domain powers or animal companions, so whichever one you pick this could be useful. However, a skill point for your companion isn’t the best choice out there, so this still gets orange.
Gunslinger: Extra grit can be helpful to any gunslinger, so this is a good one.
Inquisitor: Additional uses of the Inquisitor’s teamwork feat changing ability is pretty sweet, so I like this one.
Magus: More arcane points are ALWAYS helpful, so definitely take this one.
Monk: A bonus to Escape Artist and Acrobatics... really? No thanks, I’ll take the skill rank or the hit point instead.
Oracle: Adding more known spells is really great for any spontaneous caster, so definitely use this one.
Paladin: This one is interesting, so if you find the Paladin’s aura abilities to be really useful, definitely go for it. If you pick an archetype that gives up some of the auras, you’re probably better off taking the hit point instead.
Ranger: Extra skill ranks for your animal companion can come in handy, but there are definitely better options out there.
Rogue: A situational bonus to Bluff and a bonus to Diplomacy isn’t really worth your favored class bonus. Stay away unless you’re planning to use the feint maneuver a lot.
Summoner: Extra evolution points are a GREAT option, take this one!
Witch: You can just use gold to add spells to your familiar, so I consider this a trap.
Wizard: This one could be good for enchanters, but otherwise it’s pretty weak.
Let me point out here, quickly, that all archeteypes available to humans and to elves are also available to half-elves, so make sure to look at both of those sections when determining which archetypes you want to use for your character. [Human Archetypes, Elf Archetypes] Note, however, that if you’re playing a Pathfinder Society game, your half-elf CANNOT take human or elf archetypes.
Bonded Witch (Witch): This archetype gives up the standard witch's familiar for a bonded item, which is actually a very nice trade-off. You don't have to worry about a living spellbook getting hit with a spell and getting killed. Based on what type of item you bond with, you also learn a new spell of each spell level, which is similar to having a second Patron. The only negative effect of this is that you can't learn new spells from other witches' familiars, and you don’t get to role-play having a familiar.
Bramble Brewer (Alchemist): The point of this archetype is to have a more nature-themed Alchemist, including the ability to throw tanglefoot bombs that are way better than the standard Alchemist discovery of the same name. You also get a mutagen variant that grants more natural armor at the expense of only graning +2 to a physical ability score instead of +4. This archetype is flavorful, if not quite as powerful as a standard Alchemist.
Wild Caller (Summoner): At first glance, I liked this archetype, because it makes for a more nature-centric summoner. While at first it seems like switching out summon monster spells for summon nature’s ally spells weakens the druid overall, it actually is well-made-up by extra evolution points gained every four levels. HOWEVER, for a Summoner who focuses on summon nature’s ally spells, the First Worlder archetype does almost the exact same thing, but is even more flavorful because your eidolon is a fey creature instead of an outsider, and the evolutions that the eidolon can take aren’t restricted, so of the two I would choose First Worlder instead. Make sure to also take the half-elf favored class option to get another extra evolution point per four levels, and your eidolon will be quite beastly indeed.
Wild Shadow (Ranger): This archetype for the Ranger focuses a bit more on wild terrains, dropping the hunter’s bond ability for more terrain-focused abilities, and eschewing “urban” as a favored terrain option. Without the option of gaining an animal companion, I personally would stay away from this archetype, since I’m a huge fan of companion creatures, but if you prefer your character himself to shine on his own, this could be a good option.
Aldori Swordlord: This archetype is all about using the Aldori Dueling Sword, which is a pretty sweet one-handed exotic weapon with a decent critical rating. Half-elves can qualify for this prestige class very quickly, thanks to the Ancestral Arms race trait. This class allows you to use Dexterity to damage instead of Strength, so it’s excellent for a Dex-based Fighter or Rogue. If you go with Fighter, make sure to start off with the Aldori Swordlord archetype, which was obviously meant to prepare your character for taking this prestige class.
Brightness Seeker: The Brightness Seeker is an elf-only Prestige class, taken from the Elves of Golarion sourcebook. The idea of this class is sort of like an Oracle of nature, gaining the ability to read “omens” to gain insight into the future, and then gaining natural aspects and wild shape as you progress. The Wild Shape ability stacks with a Druid’s ability of the same name, and you can also gain some really cool abilities that you can switch out every day, such as a fly speed, a swim speed including water breathing, or THREE natural attacks, all of which deal 1d6 base damage! Since this class is not a spellcaster, though, be cautious of losing spellcasting levels for these abilities. This is a flavorful and fun prestige class, but it would have been a LOT better if it increased spellcasting also.
Rage Prophet: Since the half-elf is both well-set to be a great Oracle and the best race in the game for multiclassing, it makes sense that a prestige class that requires a multiclassed oracle would work out well for a half-elf. You only actually need one level of Oracle to qualify for this prestige class, but I would recommend that you take four levels of Oracle with the Ancient Lorekeeper archetype, then two of Barbarian (grabbing Moment of Clarity as your first Rage Power), then go into Rage Prophet. This will get you paragon surge at level 8, two spells from the Sorcerer/Wizard spell list, and tons of fun abilities from the prestige class itself.
A quick note here: Even though I don’t have the time to list them twice, half-elves also qualify for any feat that requires you to be human or elf, so make sure to look at those sections [Human Feats, Elf Feats] for additional feats that might come in handy.
Arcane Talent: A thrice-per-day cantrip spell is not worth a feat, period. Stay away.
Discerning Eye: A +2 bonus vs. illusions can come in handy, but unless you’re planning to play in a campaign that includes a ton of document forging, the bonus to Linguistics to recognize forgeries is pretty useless.
Elven Spirit: This is a pretty good option for a spellcaster, as you will eventually run into spell resistance, and a +2 bonus to beat it is a big deal. The 1/day spell-like abilities can come in handy too.
Exile's Path: The ability to reroll a Will save can save your party from having to fight against you when you get dominate person cast on you, which can avoid a total party kill in some more extreme cases. This is a great choice.
Half-Drow Paragon: This feat is really only a gateway into a line of drow-specific feats that require you to have drow spell-like abilities. This line of feats give you more and more powerful spell-like abilities which can be pretty cool, but it requires a LOT of feat investment, so I’m not a fan.
Human Spirit: A whole feat for four skill ranks? Definitely not worth it.
Leaf Singer: If you’re a half-elf bard, and you will be coming up against a lot of fey creatures, this is definitely worth a look. Doubling your bardic performance’s range in the forest is a little less exciting, as many bardic performances don’t have an actual range limit other than “as long as they can hear your voice.” Still, for the boost against fey, you’ll wanna consider this one.
Multitalented Mastery: This feat may be worth a look if you’re planning to multiclass a lot, especially if the classes you’re going to take have good alternate favored class bonuses. This is also the only way to get a favored class bonus for prestige class levels. If you’re planning to take a full ten levels in a prestige class, or are planning to take multiple prestige classes, definitely take this.
Neither Elf Nor Human: This is the pinnacle of a set of feats that allow your half-elf to have all of the benefits of being considered both an elf and a human, without any of the penalties. This specific feat does not allow human- or elf-bane weapons to cause extra damage to you, which is excellent. However, this requires a lot of feat investment, so I’d suggest really thinking about it before you take this path.
Pass for Human: If you find yourself trying to fit into a human-only society for some reason, this feat will give you a nice bonus to your Disguise checks. Otherwise, ignore it.
Seen and Unseen: For a stealthy character who needs to sneak around a lot, this might be worth a look, and the prerequisite feat is really good so you don’t need to feel like it’s a tax. I’d say this one’s a solid option.
Shared Insight: If you’re a buffing character with a high Wisdom, like a Druid or Cleric who focuses on making his allies better, this feat could be a good choice, since you gain a bardic performance-like boost to Perception checks for all of your allies within 30 feet.
Shared Manipulation: This one isn’t nearly as good as Shared Insight, because as I’ve said before, Perception is the best skill in the game. Unless your allies make a lot of Intimidate checks, ignore this one.
Sociable: This one’s even worse than Shared Manipulation, since it only boosts a single skill that is not Perception. Skip this one, it’s not worth a feat.