DnD Elf 5E race guide – all D&D elf subraces and more

D&D Elves are among the most popular of Dungeons and Dragons' fantasy races - here's our full guide to Elf characters and Elf subraces in DnD 5E

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an Eladrin elf from the feywild

The DnD Elf is one of the iconic, core DnD races to be found in 5E’s fantasy worlds. This graceful, magical, and martial race has been part of the game since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s very first edition in 1974. Comfortable in all DnD classes – and equally adept at wielding a sword, bow, or slinging fireballs – the Elf is a byword for fantasy, adventure, and mystery.

The DnD Elf race draws on a rich history that can be traced back into European folklore. The Elves’ mythical ancestors were both mysterious and capricious. The Alfr and Svartalfr of Norse folklore and the Seelie and Unseelie fairy courts of Celtic myth were capable of deadly whimsy or spite, as likely to ruin a human’s life as shower them in magical gifts.

When Tolkien adapted them into the Elves of Middle-earth, he retained their sinister side as well as their regal nature. Elves were ancient, mysterious, aloof and not always heroic. This archetype is used in the whole fantasy genre, including for DnD Elves. Elves are better than you and they know it.

In DnD 5E, Elves have the ability and adaptability to fulfil any role. Your Elf already knows that they’re the most talented adventurer in the party. This guide will help you to prove it to the other players at your game.

The Elf race in DnD 5E

Although there are several elven subraces that reflect the myriad ways this ancient race has split and spread across the DnD multiverse, they all share common features that connect to their shared history. Elves are nimble, perceptive and strong-minded. While the links between race and DnD stats are being broken down by Wizards of the Coast, currently these are the Elf stats you need to know:

Ability score bonus +2 DEX
Speed 30 feet
Darkvision 60 feet
Skill proficiency Perception
Unique abilities Fey Ancestry: advantage on saving throws vs. charm, and cannot be put to sleep magically.
Trance: meditate for four hours instead of sleeping for eight hours
Languages Common and Elvish

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an elf bard playing a lute with a frog in the Feywild

Elf subraces in DnD 5e

DnD Elf subraces in 5E cover multiple different histories and cultures. Many of these, such as the sylvan Wood Elves, regal High Elves and subterranean Dark Elves can be found across the many planes of the multiverse, while the Pallid Elves are native to the Critical Role setting ‘Exandria’ and found only in the small valley of the Pallid Grove.

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a wood elf surrounded by foliage

Wood Elf

At one with nature, the Wood Elf is swift and secretive, able to disappear into the lightest foliage and close the distance with a foe far quicker than seems possible. The Wood Elf is a natural Ranger or Druid and a deadly Rogue who can hide in situations where others would find it impossible.

Ability score bonus +1 WIS
Weapon Training Longsword, shortsword, shortbow, longbow
Unique abilities Movement speed: 35 feet; Mask of the Wild: hide in any kind of woodland cover

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a high elf in white raiment

High Elf

The High Elves of DnD are urbane and civilised. Even the least High Elf has mastered the basics of magic. This power can make them haughty and imperious, looking down their noses at the short-lived other races. Want to be an Elf Wizard, or need a single specific cantrip to make a particularly janky novelty build work? Play a High Elf.

Ability score bonus +1 INT
Weapon Training Longsword, shortsword, shortbow, longbow
Magical abilities Know one cantrip from the Wizard spell list.
Unique abilities Know one extra language

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing Drizzt Do Urden, a Drow or Dark Elf

Drow

The Drow – a.k.a. Dark Elves – reside in the subterranean Underdark. Most of their kind serve the sinister spider Goddess Lolth, enslaving surface dwellers or scheming in the lightless depths of their cities. Some Drow adventurers follow a more noble path, including the famous Drizzt Do’Urden.

Ability score bonus +1 CHA
Weapon Training Rapier, shortsword, hand crossbow
Magical abilities Drow magic: Dancing lights cantrip; Faerie Fire 1/day at 3rd level; Darkness 1/day at 5th level.
Unique abilities Darkvision to 120 feet; Disadvantage on attacks and perception rolls when in or targeting something in direct sunlight

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a mystical elf with magic patterns and glyphs

Pallid Elf

Many centuries past, the demon god Torog burrowed deep beneath a wooded valley in the Cyrios Mountains, drawing the vale into the earth to prey upon its Elvish inhabitants. While most believed these Elves extinct, in recent centuries their descendents – called Pallid Elves – have emerged into the world, their race protected by the goddess known as the Moon Weaver. You can find out more about these elusive elves in the Wildemount Gazetteer.

Ability score bonus +1 WIS
Magical abilities Blessings of the Light Weaver: light cantrip, Sleep 1/day at 3rd level, Invisibility 1/day at 5th level
Unique abilities Advantage on Investigation and Insight checks.

Elves of Eberron

The plane of Eberron is famous for its magical technology and the sentient Warforged constructs, but its Elven cultures have also been shaped by the history and technology of the world.

The region of Valenar was seized by an Elvish mercenary company during Eberron’s last great war, and is now their own Kingdom. Valenar Elves are warlike, and both High and Wood Elves of Valenar have weapon proficiency in scimitar and double-scimitar instead of with the longsword and shortsword.

Many dimensions: Read our guide to DnD planes

Elves from the distant island of Arenal, called the Aereni Elves, are part of a civilization over 20,000 years old. They use their long lifespans to pursue utter mastery in even the most simple acts, and instead of Elven Weapon proficiencies, double their proficiency bonus with a single tool or skill.

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an Eladrin elf from the feywild

Mark of Shadow Elf

Descendents of the noble House Phiarlan and House Thuranni may bear the ancestral Mark of Shadow. They are consummate performers and gifted in the art of stealth, making them ideal court performers and court spies. Spellcasters who bear the mark gain access to additional Illusion spells in addition to their class spell list.

Ability score bonus +1 CHA
Magical abilities Shape Shadows: Minor Illusion Cantrip, Invisibility 1/day at 3rd level.
Spells of the Mark: If the Elf is a spellcaster or has Pact Magic, their spell list is extended with additional spells.
Unique abilities Add +d4 to Performance and Stealth checks

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an Elf wizard with a staff

Elves in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse

Three elven subraces were listed in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, but this has been discontinued by Wizards of the Coast.

The newer Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse provides rules for them, but they work a little differently to how they did before. They are statted as independent races instead of subraces, though if a rule says it affects Elves, it still affects these descendants.

Ability score bonus +2 to one attribute and +1 to another, or +1 to three attributes
Speed 30 feet
Darkvision 60 feet
Skill proficiency Perception
Unique abilities Fey Ancestry: advantage on saving throws vs. charm (but not resistant to magical sleep)
Trance: meditate for 4 hours instead of sleeping for 8 hours. After meditating, gain proficiency in two weapons or tools of your choice until the next long rest.
Languages Common and one other

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing an Eladrin elf from the Feywild

Eladrin

Eladrin are native to the Feywild, a parallel plane of vibrant natural energy and whimsy that many believe is the true origin of the elves. They are the closest in temperament to the Fair Folk of European folklore, elusive and aloof spirits whose glamour and magic disguises darker depths.

Progression: Here’s our full DnD level up guide for 5E

Eladrin are attuned to the emotional energy of the different seasons, and can harness the bountiful magic of their native plane to blink from one place to another, bursting forth with the latent magic of their season.

Unique abilities Teleport to any visible space within 30 feet, as many times per day as proficiency bonus.
From 3rd level, gain a bonus based on their Season.
Autumn: Charm nearby creatures
Winter: Frighten nearby creatures
Spring: Teleport an ally instead of yourself
Summer: Deal fire damage to nearby creatures

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a Shadar Kai Elf

Shadar-kai

The Shadar-Kai dwell in the Shadowfell, a grim parallel plane of deathly energy and sinister aspect. Their racial connection to the Feywild has been almost completely overwritten by the tenebrous power of the Shadowfell.

Like their Eladrin cousins they can teleport, but this renders them ghostly and incorporeal. Attuned to a plane of negative energy, necromantic magic has little chance of harming these elves.

Unique abilities Teleport to any visible space within 30 feet, as many times per day as proficiency bonus.
From 3rd level, gain resistance to all damage after teleporting.
Resistance to Necrotic damage

DnD Elf 5e guide - Wizards of the Coast artwork showing a sea elf with a staff

Sea Elves

Across the multiverse, Elves have recognised the beauty of the open ocean. Between their magic, long-lives and whimsical nature it’s unsurprising that many elven cultures have adapted to a life underwater. Sea Elves can swim and breathe underwater and are understood by natural marine creatures. Sea Elves are part Tolkien, part Aquaman.

Unique abilities 30 feet swimming speed
Breathe in water
Resistance to cold damage
Speak to any marine creature: it understands the Elf, but the Elf doesn’t understand what it says back.