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Halflings: An Identity Crisis

Zarithar

Adventurer
What's with halflings?

A brief history which I'm sure everyone is aware of:

AD&D 1e and 2e: Halflings are basically Middle-Earth Hobbits, hairy feet and all. There is nothing wrong with this in my opinion, and they made some of the best thieves in the game due to their racial bonuses/abilities.

D&D 3e: Halflings morph into l33t mini ninja warriors which are almost non-distinguishable from humans save for height.

D&D 4e: They are now nomadic river gypsies who specialize in animal training.

What is going on here... and why did WoTC feel the need to change them so drastically from their original iteration? Tolkienesque hobbits are COOL... why ruin a good thing? Character's like Salvatore's Regis "Rumblebelly" must be having a serious identity crisis (he began life as a classic "hobbit")

The dwarves and elves remain close to the Tolkien archetype... so why the drastic change in halflings?
 

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mhensley

First Post
Zarithar said:
why did WoTC feel the need to change them so drastically from their original iteration? Tolkienesque hobbits are COOL... why ruin a good thing? Character's like Salvatore's Regis "Rumblebelly" must be having a serious identity crisis (he began life as a classic "hobbit")

The dwarves and elves remain close to the Tolkien archetype... so why the drastic change in halflings?

I feel exactly the same way.
 

Corinth

First Post
Halflings are hobbits. WOTC needs to quit trying to make them into something that they're not. Embrace Tolkien's best creation and be done with it.
 

Zarithar said:
What is going on here... and why did WoTC feel the need to change them so drastically from their original iteration? Tolkienesque hobbits are COOL... why ruin a good thing?

I strongly suspect WotC's market research indicates precisely the opposite.
 


Zarithar

Adventurer
Ruin Explorer said:
I strongly suspect WotC's market research indicates precisely the opposite.

It's funny that their market research didn't include (arguably) the most popular and influential fantasy series of all time.
 

JA_Reave

First Post
The problem is there's just no good niche for halflings in a world that has humans and dwarves. In all honesty, IMO, they should have just dropped halflings from 4e core books altogether.
 



Zarithar

Adventurer
JA_Reave said:
The problem is there's just no good niche for halflings in a world that has humans and dwarves. In all honesty, IMO, they should have just dropped halflings from 4e core books altogether.

Tolkien would beg to differ. Dwarves and halflings are extremely different culturally and physically.
 

Toryx

First Post
Tolkien's hobbits/ halflings are generally uninteresting mechanically for D&D. For all that they're the defacto heroes of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, you have to remember that the traits that made them so heroic and successful are not traits that can mechanically be reproduced for game play.

If you actually read the books, you'll see that there's very little contribution any of the hobbits made to actual combat. Bilbo's strongest encounters -- getting away from Gollum and later sneaking into the dragon's lair -- were primarily instances of quick thinking and good luck. These are not things that can be reproduced in any fashion that would aid gameplay. It was Frodo and Sam's determination that got them to the volcano. Pippin and Merry contributed to combat occasionally by throwing rocks, by the actual damage they did beside Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were insignificant. Maybe you could reproduce that in game by giving them a better chance to hit (as halflings have always had) with little damage, but it's not generally fun to play mechanically.

The most martial elements of the hobbits in any of the books were found in Bilbo's sword and chain shirt, but these a character do not make.

Of course certain campaigns can utilize the kinds of abilities a defacto Tolkien Hobbit would have, but to a general audience it would never work. If you actually take a Tolkien Hobbit and reproduce him for gameplay, what you'll end up with is something very colorful but mechanically, not very useful. In a high roleplay game, that might be enough. In your standard dungeon crawl gaming group, the halfling would likely never be played.
 

JA_Reave

First Post
Zarithar said:
Tolkien would beg to differ. Dwarves and halflings are extremely different culturally and physically.

Examine the whole of Tolkien's work on Middle-earth. Mountains of material has been published by his son. Where are halflings in all of that? They are tacked on at the very end. Shone in the light of the entire history of Middle-earth, the Hobbits are astoundingly uninteresting.

-JAR
 

Zarithar

Adventurer
Toryx said:
Tolkien's hobbits/ halflings are generally uninteresting mechanically for D&D. For all that they're the defacto heroes of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, you have to remember that the traits that made them so heroic and successful are not traits that can mechanically be reproduced for game play.

If you actually read the books, you'll see that there's very little contribution any of the hobbits made to actual combat. Bilbo's strongest encounters -- getting away from Gollum and later sneaking into the dragon's lair -- were primarily instances of quick thinking and good luck. These are not things that can be reproduced in any fashion that would aid gameplay. It was Frodo and Sam's determination that got them to the volcano. Pippin and Merry contributed to combat occasionally by throwing rocks, by the actual damage they did beside Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli were insignificant. Maybe you could reproduce that in game by giving them a better chance to hit (as halflings have always had) with little damage, but it's not generally fun to play mechanically.

The most martial elements of the hobbits in any of the books were found in Bilbo's sword and chain shirt, but these a character do not make.

Of course certain campaigns can utilize the kinds of abilities a defacto Tolkien Hobbit would have, but to a general audience it would never work. If you actually take a Tolkien Hobbit and reproduce him for gameplay, what you'll end up with is something very colorful but mechanically, not very useful. In a high roleplay game, that might be enough. In your standard dungeon crawl gaming group, the halfling would likely never be played.

Sam fared pretty well against Shelob who was no pushover, and then their were of course the Mirkwood spiders and Bilbo. When the Hobbits finally got organized during the Scouring of the Shire, they made short work of Saruman "Sharky" and his gang of thugs.

Looking back at Shire history we see such standouts, mostly from the Took family, and individuals such as Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took, who fought and killed numerous goblins/orcs.
 

Transit

First Post
The truth is that WOTC had to make changes to the Halfling because Tolkien style Hobbits just aren't "Anime" enough to fit into 4E.

;)
 

Dausuul

Legend
Zarithar said:
It's funny that their market research didn't include (arguably) the most popular and influential fantasy series of all time.

Last I checked, Frodo Baggins wasn't buying RPGs. When he does, then the Lord of the Rings will have a place in WotC market research. Until then, the opinions of real live gamers count for infinitely more. If having hobbits in the game were so important to those gamers, it would show up in WotC's surveys. I suspect they discovered just the opposite: Most players may love the Lord of the Rings, but they don't want to play Frodo. Gimli, yes; Legolas, yes; Aragorn, absolutely. Frodo, not so much... possibly because in a group that includes Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn, the guy playing Frodo is apt to feel like something of a wuss.

I at least find 3E halflings to be vastly more appealing than the Tolkien rip-offs of earlier editions. The change from 3E to 4E is not nearly so big, but I still consider it an improvement.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
If you actually read the books, you'll see that there's very little contribution any of the hobbits made to actual combat.

So what? Those hobbits were non-combatants.

1) That doesn't mean that ALL hobbits are non-combatants.

2) Combat isn't the end-all-be-all of roleplay.
In your standard dungeon crawl gaming group, the halfling would likely never be played.

Groups who love their Halfling rogues or mounted warriors would beg to differ.
 


Zarithar

Adventurer
JA_Reave said:
Examine the whole of Tolkien's work on Middle-earth. Mountains of material has been published by his son. Where are halflings in all of that? They are tacked on at the very end. Shone in the light of the entire history of Middle-earth, the Hobbits are astoundingly uninteresting.

-JAR

Yet in the primary works which were published in his lifetime (excluding the Silmarillion), Tolkien chose hobbits as the main protagonists and focal point of the stories. Honestly, without The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, would there really be that much interest in The Silmarillion or any of the various manuscripts which Tolkien himself may or may not have even wanted published (Lost Tales etc) ?
 

DandD

First Post
Hobbits are just peasant humans who are half as tall as normal humans. And they were meant as stand-ins for Tolkien's children. A nice community of little child-like people going on an adventure with big adults, magical elves and grumpy dwarves. Hobbits/Halflings will always be in an identity crisis, and I'm sure that we can expect those Halflings to change in 5th edition anyway.
 

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