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D&D 5E (+) Halfling Appreciation and Development Thread

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay, so lets discuss Halflings.

What do you like about them?

What lore do you use from the books, and what do you specifically ignore, if anything?

How have you used them in your worlds?

Do you consider them mechanically powerful, and if not have you done anything to add to them?

Should they get proficiency and better damage with slings?

Should Kender influence Halflings, insofar as giving halflings the ability to taunt?

What edition has the best Halfling writeup?

Any of the above questions, or anything else you want to talk about halflings that is positive, and/or directly about developing them in ways you find interesting, are fair game for discussion, here.
 

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Yora

Legend
What are the established facts about halflings that define them?

I think the main traits are that they are short, and that they are good at sneaking. Saying that they are very social, at least among their own kind, is also an appropriate generalization. That's not a lot, but I think every further development should build on that.
 

RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
I personally prefer their 4e write up, where halflings were quick-witted, resourceful, courageous, and inquisitive folk that tended to live by rivers, lakes, swamps and other bodies of water (even living on the water via houseboats). They used these water ways for travel and trade, something they were surprisingly adept at and made them valuable allies to other humanoids who lived by major water ways as they were some of the best boater with many successful trade caravans. They were also known to have strong oral histories that they used to preserve their history.

Though I do like to mix this with the older editions depiction of them as rustic farmers who strongly value families and community.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So I guess this should be a short list? ;)

All races represent some aspect of humanity taken to an extreme. Elves are the cool hippy types, goliaths are jocks, tieflings are the antisocial but "cool" kids. Gnomes are either the slightly nerdy hippy or crazy inventor type that can still be outgoing and entertaining.

Halflings? Halflings are the ones nobody pays much attention to and aren't overly ambitious or bothered by the fact that they will never be class president or prom king/queen. They're just happy doing their thing and hanging out with friends and family. The quirk that they are brave is a mirror of that seeming lack of ambition. A lot of people are driven by the fear that they aren't good enough, driven to keep up with the Joneses. Halflings lack fear for the most part or at least feel it less so they aren't as driven.

From a mechanical perspective, lucky is always fun, being able to move through larger creatures leads to some fun visualization. I've played ghostwise halflings because being able to cheerfully annoy people by speaking in their heads is fun. Lightfoot halflings are awesome at hiding. Never played the other subclasses.

How I use halflings in my own campaign:
There are different groups of halflings. Some are nomads and traders, tinkers specializing in detailed work. Most people enjoy when the Renai visit because of their cheerful nature, compassion and general good nature. Occasionally local artisans secretly object to the competition and spread rumors of them being thieves passing off shoddy workmanship.

In the city, halflings happily do work that others may consider beneath them such as chimney sweeps, rat catchers and the like. They literally find small places to live, being happy in attics and back alleys, making use of small unused spaces and making them remarkably comfortable.

Other halflings live quiet lives in peaceful countryside, happy to pay taxes for someone else to have the hassle of running the government. Their homes tend to blend into the countryside and when they need fences for livestock, it's most likely to be a line of thick brambles that may not appear to be a fence at all. Bandits and ruffians rarely bother them because they have little value but are fierce in the defense of their homes and those of their allies if necessary.

Visitors to a halfling's home are welcome as long as they behave but people will notice that while the furniture is well made and maintained, it's fairly minimal. Decorations are as likely to be dried flowers from last summer as a mural painted by a child. Expensive items or displays of wealth are rarely if ever seen even among those halflings that in different communities would be wealthy. The most expensive items most halflings own will likely be something related to a hobby or a musical instrument, but even those are likely to be made by hand.
 

Casimir Liber

Explorer
Pretty much all of the above - I love their down-to-earth nature as a foil for almost all other races taking themselves too seriously. I liked the editions where there were three subraces (based on tolkien) - I'd diversify the stours/stouts a little more - give them natural swimming ability and make them matriarchal, while the other two subraces are averse to and fearful of water - make stouts/sours neutral and the others good (broadly speaking)
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I never had a problem with halflings, but I like them better in their hobbit incarnation. The unlikeliest of heroes, but more than competent when they choose the adventuring life.

That said, I also liked Dark Sun's approach of basically making them jungle pygmies who were once the most powerful race on the planet.

But my favorite take on the halfling was in the 3.x Player's Handbook, because the illustration looks just like one of my friends from high school.

Screenshot_20210719-200621-896.png
 

Casimir Liber

Explorer
Musing on other things to expand on - from LoTR hobbits like mushrooms - so much could be made of this I suspect. e.g. they could keep pigs and dogs as they are good truffle hunters (wild boar-like sidekicks, animated mushrooms, psychoactive/berserker mushrooms, healing mushrooms, mushrooms that confer temporary magic resistance etc.)
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Musing on other things to expand on - from LoTR hobbits like mushrooms - so much could be made of this I suspect. e.g. they could keep pigs and dogs as they are good truffle hunters (wild boar-like sidekicks, animated mushrooms, psychoactive/berserker mushrooms, healing mushrooms, mushrooms that confer temporary magic resistance etc.)
Halflings were-boars could be seen as a blessing.

''Mark of the Truffle-Hunter'' has a nice ring to it.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
One day, in a setting, I'll have the Halflings be somewhat like the gnomes from Midgard:

Being always tormented by the greater folks around them, they made a deal with the god-demon of Sloth and Indulgence. In exchange for yearly human sacrifice, the halflings can live in idyllic little house on the hills, with their perfect neighborhoods and full of free time to do nothing but to enjoy a simple of life of rest and eating, far from the great folks who would harm them.

Their hills would be impossible to find for anyone with a goal or motivation, only aimless wanderer, lost travelers or daydreamers might stumble upon an halfling village to be invited at their table...and probably sacrificed to their dark lord.

Ignorance is bliss they say. If the halflings could rip the veil of willful ignorance, they would see that their fields are full of weeds, with catoblepas grazing in them instead of cows, with rotten foods fulling their closets and dirty baths and laundries instead of what they thought was the comfiest of bath houses.
 

aco175

Legend
I never liked the 4e version with halflings as riverfolk. I always thought you needed more strength to do that kind of work and I feel they fit into what @Oofta said above.
 

Faolyn

Hero
What I'd like to see is their smaller strengths dialed up a bit. They're known as rustic farmers. Make them the farmers of the world, in the same way that dwarfs are the smiths of the world. They wouldn't be the only ones, of course, but they'd be the best. And with farming comes animal husbandry, cooking, and creating things like cloth from the animals and vegetables they farm. As well as herbal remedies--halflings could be natural alchemists--or drugs.
 

cbwjm

Hero
Okay, so lets discuss Halflings.

What do you like about them?

What lore do you use from the books, and what do you specifically ignore, if anything?

How have you used them in your worlds?

Do you consider them mechanically powerful, and if not have you done anything to add to them?

Should they get proficiency and better damage with slings?

Should Kender influence Halflings, insofar as giving halflings the ability to taunt?

What edition has the best Halfling writeup?

Any of the above questions, or anything else you want to talk about halflings that is positive, and/or directly about developing them in ways you find interesting, are fair game for discussion, here.
I'm somewhat ambivalent about halflings, but I do still tend to include them in my campaigns. I tend to have them living within human kingdoms, sort of a symbiotic relationship (humans provide protection, halflings provide farm goods and services (they're some of the best cooks). My current setting has only one group of halflings defined, a travelling carnival but I'm sure I'll add more groups as I expand on the setting, otherwise, halflings can be found wherever the larger races are.

I don't think they need anything else added to them, they seem powerful enough and I probably wouldn't give them any additional abilities like improved sling use or taunting. If I was playing in dragonlance though, I might make the lightfoot halfling the default kender race and also give them proficiency with slight of hand. Probably wouldn't bother with a taunt ability though I guess the vicious mockery cantrip could kind of simulate it.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I personally prefer their 4e write up, where halflings were quick-witted, resourceful, courageous, and inquisitive folk that tended to live by rivers, lakes, swamps and other bodies of water (even living on the water via houseboats). They used these water ways for travel and trade, something they were surprisingly adept at and made them valuable allies to other humanoids who lived by major water ways as they were some of the best boater with many successful trade caravans. They were also known to have strong oral histories that they used to preserve their history.
Well--none of that is ruled out by the 5E writeup; it does mention nomadic halflings, including some who live on boats! You can always use the 4E material to flesh it out further.
 

RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
Well--none of that is ruled out by the 5E writeup; it does mention nomadic halflings, including some who live on boats! You can always use the 4E material to flesh it out further.
Oh definitely. The Halflings of my world act as major traders who help the three major kingdoms of the main continent facilitate trade agreements between them, as well as being one of the major contributor of farmed goods on the continent.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
As I said in that other thread…

I realize that it was done for copyright reasons, but problem #1 for Halflings is their D&D name. No other species name is so clearly referential to another species, “Half” of what? Humans, clearly.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a RW culture that named itself reverentially to another peoples. I mean, even looking at tribal names, a lot of them translate to something like “The People”, because everyone else isn’t.

Which is why JRRT gave them a name that at least sounds like they came up with it themselves.

If you must rewrite halfling lore, start with the name.
And I think that’s one key thing,
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
What do you like about them?
I've always liked halflings - an inoffensive appearing, jovial fellow, but one with a surprising amount of grit. They're best when they're at their most hobbit-ish.
What lore do you use from the books, and what do you specifically ignore, if anything?
I ignore pretty much all of the 3e/4e lore on halflings because of the extent to which they were kenderized up. I don't mind kender for what they are - but I keep them distinct from halflings who are not kender.
How have you used them in your worlds?
They're always part of the general background, a bit rarer than humans and with a tendency to specialize in hospitality types of jobs.
Do you consider them mechanically powerful, and if not have you done anything to add to them?
Sure, I think they're mechanically powerful in most editions. I generally don't need to add anything.
Should they get proficiency and better damage with slings?
Proficiency maybe, but I wouldn't give bonus damage.
Should Kender influence Halflings, insofar as giving halflings the ability to taunt?
No. Let them be separate.
What edition has the best Halfling writeup?
2nd edition - by far. 3e kenderized them up, 4e warped them, but at least 5e ties back to 2e's description so I find it better than its two immediate predecessors.
Any of the above questions, or anything else you want to talk about halflings that is positive, and/or directly about developing them in ways you find interesting, are fair game for discussion, here.
The halfling Lucky trait should never be underestimated. Add in Bountiful Luck as a feat, and it rocks for the whole party.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I've always liked halflings - an inoffensive appearing, jovial fellow, but one with a surprising amount of grit. They're best when they're at their most hobbit-ish.

I ignore pretty much all of the 3e/4e lore on halflings because of the extent to which they were kenderized up. I don't mind kender for what they are - but I keep them distinct from halflings who are not kender.

They're always part of the general background, a bit rarer than humans and with a tendency to specialize in hospitality types of jobs.

Sure, I think they're mechanically powerful in most editions. I generally don't need to add anything.

Proficiency maybe, but I wouldn't give bonus damage.

No. Let them be separate.

2nd edition - by far. 3e kenderized them up, 4e warped them, but at least 5e ties back to 2e's description so I find it better than its two immediate predecessors.

The halfling Lucky trait should never be underestimated. Add in Bountiful Luck as a feat, and it rocks for the whole party.
My favorite thing about the 5e writeup is how it incorporates all of Halfling lore, in a way that is easy to go whichever way you want.

I actually have been thinking of making the 4e River halflings (clearly Brandybucks) a subrace.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
By Halflings y'all mean Hobbits, right? Let's finally give 'em back their real name... :)
What I'd like to see is their smaller strengths dialed up a bit. They're known as rustic farmers. Make them the farmers of the world, in the same way that dwarfs are the smiths of the world. They wouldn't be the only ones, of course, but they'd be the best. And with farming comes animal husbandry, cooking, and creating things like cloth from the animals and vegetables they farm. As well as herbal remedies--halflings could be natural alchemists--or drugs.
And due to all this they also make excellent Nature/Agriculture/Weather Clerics or Druids - along with Elves, maybe the best-suited species for such. But not Rangers; the tough-and-hardy wilderness life of the Ranger just doesn't square with the love-of-comfort Hobbit.

They're the world's (best) cooks in my games, and farmers; though there's just not enough of them overall to be able to farm for the whole world. They're not a common species except in a few specific areas.
 

To me the big thing I like about them is how perfectly they fit with what a certain type of new player wants to do.
  1. They aren't humans but aren't that different from humans so they are playing a fantasy race without needing reams of lore
  2. They are wide eyed and curious
  3. They are in a little over their heads but determined
  4. They are more motivated by community and working with other people than seeking great power
It's just about perfect for some curious newbies. Others want a Great Magic Race or to be a humanoid dragon; different people are different. But it's perfect for one type of newbie.

They're also a much better example of the "might be magical" little people of mythology (as opposed to the objectively strongly magical little people) than gnomes are; gnomes are trying to straddle both approaches here and IMO do neither well. Which is part of why halflings make better forest gnomes than forest gnomes do.
 

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