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D&D General My Problem(s) With Halflings, and How To Create Engaging/Interesting Fantasy Races

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ccs

41st lv DM
As the player of a good many 1/2ling characters over the decades, I disagree with you.
(my very 1st character was a 1/2ling - specifically inspired by Bilbo)

Yes, Halflings exist in D&D because of the massive influence that Tolkiens' works had on the formation of the game. That is a fact. But so do a great many other things.

So why do I disagree with you that there's no niche for Halflings? Because we look at the game completely differently.
You seem to need everything justified by the company to fit their settings/worlds, or to fill some mechanical or theory design space. That WoTC (& TSR before them) hasn't done much with them, or much that interests you, causes you to dismiss them. And worse - equate them to goblins & kobolds.
ME? I see another tool with wich to build stories, worlds, adventures, characters, etc. It doesn't matter to me how much, or little, the company has built on to something. I'll keep anything I like & re-write/create anything else I need. My games? Have a rich (enough) 1/2ling culture developed over years & years play. I've added stuff as the DM. Players have added stuff over the years. I've added stuff by playing halflings in others games, revealing tidbits that those DMs have accepted & then written back it into my own campaigns. And I've kept stuff from Tolkien/TSE/WoTC.
So I would argue that the relatively under developed 1/2lings niche in the game is as a tool for people like me.

So there's no need for you to worry about what the 1/2lings niche is in the game, just in yours.
Go forth & create something interesting for Halflings in your own games.
 

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
I find the thought of replacing (substituting?) goblins or kobolds for halflings really odd - the races just aren't equivalent.

Halflings (in most settings) are enjoyers of their comforts, fine things, usually the status quo. A halfling adventurer is one who is unusual because they are bored of such things (which would make them stand out) or because they were artificially thrust from their safe environment.

Goblins an kobolds are known to have brutal home lives where the focus is on survival (be it from external threats or that of other members of the tribe) rather than any kind of comfortable existence.

The ONLY real similarity is that the races are all "short" - which isn't much of a common point really.

I find halfling society useful as a bit of a foil to the adventuring (so generally nomadic and unpredictable) existence. Sure you can convey something similar with humans - but it seems to resonate a bit better with a halfling village. Maybe that's because my players are of an age where they're familiar with not only the Hobbit but Willow - and the halfling village/community - immediately conveys what I'm talking about above in a way a human village (even similarly situated) wouldn't.
 

As the player of a good many 1/2ling characters over the decades, I disagree with you.
(my very 1st character was a 1/2ling - specifically inspired by Bilbo)

Yes, Halflings exist in D&D because of the massive influence that Tolkiens' works had on the formation of the game. That is a fact. But so do a great many other things.

So why do I disagree with you that there's no niche for Halflings? Because we look at the game completely differently.
You seem to need everything justified by the company to fit their settings/worlds, or to fill some mechanical or theory design space. That WoTC (& TSR before them) hasn't done much with them, or much that interests you, causes you to dismiss them. And worse - equate them to goblins & kobolds.
ME? I see another tool with wich to build stories, worlds, adventures, characters, etc. It doesn't matter to me how much, or little, the company has built on to something. I'll keep anything I like & re-write/create anything else I need. My games? Have a rich (enough) 1/2ling culture developed over years & years play. I've added stuff as the DM. Players have added stuff over the years. I've added stuff by playing halflings in others games, revealing tidbits that those DMs have accepted & then written back it into my own campaigns. And I've kept stuff from Tolkien/TSE/WoTC.
So I would argue that the relatively under developed 1/2lings niche in the game is as a tool for people like me.

So there's no need for you to worry about what the 1/2lings niche is in the game, just in yours.
Go forth & create something interesting for Halflings in your own games.
two things have you considered giving out your great halfling lore so we may see it.
secondly crafting great lore takes inspiration halflings are not known to be very inspiring.
I find the thought of replacing (substituting?) goblins or kobolds for halflings really odd - the races just aren't equivalent.

Halflings (in most settings) are enjoyers of their comforts, fine things, usually the status quo. A halfling adventurer is one who is unusual because they are bored of such things (which would make them stand out) or because they were artificially thrust from their safe environment.

Goblins an kobolds are known to have brutal home lives where the focus is on survival (be it from external threats or that of other members of the tribe) rather than any kind of comfortable existence.

The ONLY real similarity is that the races are all "short" - which isn't much of a common point really.

I find halfling society useful as a bit of a foil to the adventuring (so generally nomadic and unpredictable) existence. Sure you can convey something similar with humans - but it seems to resonate a bit better with a halfling village. Maybe that's because my players are of an age where they're familiar with not only the Hobbit but Willow - and the halfling village/community - immediately conveys what I'm talking about above in a way a human village (even similarly situated) wouldn't.
I do not see your point you suggest effectively just repeating what we have done for what nearing 50 years which is copy lord of the rings, can you put halfling in a totally different concept without removing the halflingness? I do not think you can but I would like to be wrong.

halflings lack history, drive for anything more than survival or easy survival and easy survival they have little to lean it to as for a character and humans are for the blank slate character.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Like in lord of the rings halfling are suited for the accidental adventurer niche.
“I should have stay home” is their credo, but push to their limit they can be resourceful.
Useful for antiheroic, underdog character and thematic.
The problem is one can be an accidental adventurer as a human and have the same experience.

Halflings when run as short farmer humans are redundant. That redundancy I'd expect is noticeable to many. Therefore Halflings require a mostly unique aspect or more to feel fitting to many. Some iterations of the race do this. Some don't.
 
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ccs

41st lv DM
I find the thought of replacing (substituting?) goblins or kobolds for halflings really odd - the races just aren't equivalent.
Indeed. Goblins & Kobolds are the xp generating monsters for low lv adventurers.
You exterminate them, loot them & lv. up.
Order 66 is in effect once the party is safely out of sight of the towns watchtowers. :)
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
I do not see your point you suggest effectively just repeating what we have done for what nearing 50 years which is copy lord of the rings, can you put halfling in a totally different concept without removing the halflingness? I do not think you can but I would like to be wrong.
But if I didn't like the halfling's concept I just wouldn't use halflings.

I like the concept of a race that views comfort above anything else - it's an easily defining trait - and not one assigned anywhere else really.

But if it's not something you like - don't include it.

halflings lack history, drive for anything more than survival or easy survival and easy survival they have little to lean it to as for a character and humans are for the blank slate character.

Why should halflings have a history outside of the world you are showcasing to the players? As long as they have a consistent history within that world - they fit like any other well defined race.

Plus, I disagree, drive for maximum comfort is a pretty good defining trait - and unique enough to merit distinction.
 

I think the problem is being too strongly tied to Hobbits at the beginning of the game. When the D&D started to expand in a bunch of directions, Halflings mostly stayed the same. There's occasionally a subrace where they try something different, like the Ghostwise or controversially the Kender.

It's possible the introduction of Gnomes have kept Halflings roughly where they started, as Gnomes got into all sorts of interesting directions across editions. As they sort of have that fey and artificer niche.
I have already said this many times, but I'll say it again. I like both halflings and gnomes a lot, but I don't think they need to be two separate species; they're very similar and having them separate pigeonholes possible niches too much. Just have one gnomeling species that can be various things.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic Dungeon Master
So don't play one?
. . . This is completely besides the point of this thread. The point that I was making in the OP is that halflings are all fine and dandy for the people that use them and have a good time with them, but they just feel a bit "Sacred Cow-y" to me, for the lack of a better term. Like, they exist because Hobbits, and for no other reason. Not to fulfill a narrative niche, because other races can do that just as well (and sometimes better), not to inspire people (because I honestly cannot think of a more boring and uninspired race idea that "Humans, but short!"), and not for any important mechanical aspect of the game.

I know I don't have to play one, you don't have to explain that to me. However, when I craft worlds and am going through the PHB and other manuals with player races, I see Halflings and sigh in boredom as I try to come up with something, anything, that they can do that Humans can't, and that gnomes can't do better.
Eliminating the race means a rejection of the only race that encompasses the pastoral and non-magical.
Counterpoint: Humans. D&D settings are generally pseudo-medieval, and the vast population of people in medieval times were farmers. You could also use any other non-magical race, and it would work just as well. Goblins are nonmagical, and could provide just as good farmers in a civilized goblin society as halflings. Gnomes are connected to the feywild, which has some connection to nature/plants, and sure, most types of gnomes are magic, but I don't imagine that it would be a huge sticking point for many people if somebody snapped their fingers and suddenly all halfling farmers were replaced with forest gnome farmers, or maybe a new subrace that doesn't get magic if that is a real issue.
The zero-to-hero trope is strongest in hin/halfling/hobbits because their normality is so bland. That tale is important.
So, you're saying that they only exist because of the Zero-to-Hero trope, but otherwise they're so boring that they don't justify their existence.

That's kind of my point. Their so called "niche" of "zero to hero" is so vague and open that literally any race can fulfill that. A Tortle wanderer that was just making a living catching fish and cultivating seaweed could go from Zero-to-Hero if their fishing port was attacked by some sea monster, or raiders burnt down their home. A dusty-blonde haired whiny male moisture-farmer on a desert planet could find out that they have magical powers and leave their home after their aunt and uncle are incinerated by a bounty hunter. A Half-Elf could randomly be warped by otherworldly magic and become a Hexblood, being disowned by their "Picture-Perfect"-obsessed parents, and having to strike off on their own against the dangers of the fantasy world.

Those are all "Zero-to-Hero", and quite good and compelling stories, that can be fulfilled by dozens of different character races. IMO, a race cannot justify its existence if its niche isn't even their niche. If WotC were to come out with a new fantasy race of "Santa's Elves", people would complain about it filling the exact same niche as Rock Gnomes. If a race's so called "niche" that it lives in is redundant, their existence is no longer justified.
Plus, embracing shortness as normal is good.
Gnomes exist. Goblins exist.

Furthermore, in 6e, WotC could completely eliminate the Halfling race and just allow Humans to choose between Medium and Small at character creation, like the lineages from Van Richten's get to. That's embracing shortness as normal, and not creating a whole other race of just short people by just keeping them "Human".

Just saying. 🤷‍♂️
 

What do non-Duergar Dwarves do to push things ahead narratively that can't also be done by humans? (Or what do most humanoids do that can't be done by humans?). What do gnomes do that a short variant elf wouldn't do?
live in an environment that long term humans can never live in, be a place of rest and help in the darkness down below, dug up something super evil that the party gets paid to kill.
I have already said this many times, but I'll say it again. I like both halflings and gnomes a lot, but I don't think they need to be two separate species; they're very similar and having them separate pigeonholes possible niches too much. Just have one gnomeling species that can be various things.
honestly, I agree with you it would need a cool name but it could work.
But if I didn't like the halfling's concept I just wouldn't use halflings.

I like the concept of a race that views comfort above anything else - it's an easily defining trait - and not one assigned anywhere else really.

But if it's not something you like - don't include it.



Why should halflings have a history outside of the world you are showcasing to the players? As long as they have a consistent history within that world - they fit like any other well defined race.

Plus, I disagree, drive for maximum comfort is a pretty good defining trait - and unique enough to merit distinction.
the point of op is they barely matter in the setting they are common in and they do not fit lots of settings, so why are they the fourth major race? why should they have that spot?
 

Aldarc

Legend
@AcererakTriple6, I am sympathetic to your overall point and I may add more thoughts to it later if I am able to get around to it.

I would like to say though that halflings are much bigger to Dark Sun’s lore than you are giving them credit. It’s not that they are just short cannibals; they are basically the progenitor ancestry of other humanoids. The Big Bad of the setting launched his mass genocide so that halflings could go back to ruling the planet. It was only when the Sorcerer Champions learned that halflings, and not humans, were meant to inherit the earth that they turned on the Big Bad.
 

@AcererakTriple6, I am sympathetic to your overall point and I may add more thoughts to it later if I am able to get around to it.

I would like to say though that halflings are much bigger to Dark Sun’s lore than you are giving them credit. It’s not that they are just short cannibals; they are basically the progenitor ancestry of other humanoids. The Big Bad of the setting launched his mass genocide so that halflings could go back to ruling the planet. It was only when the Sorcerer Champions learned that halflings, and not humans, were meant to inherit the earth that they turned on the Big Bad.
I heard a lot of people complained about that revelation but also any humanoid could have filled that role really.
 



Mercurius

Legend
It really depends upon the world, and the same applies to other races. Warforged have a reason to exist within Eberron, but not so much in other settings, except for players who want to play a "kewl robot."

Kender are pretty embedded within Dragonlance which was really explicated most fully in the novels, particularly the Chronicles. Tasslehoff was both comic relief and also representing a kind of "eternal child." Whether or not this translates to gaming is debatable.

In Lord of the Rings, the hobbits were essentially stand-ins for English country folk. Tolkien was having a bit of fun making jest of his own people. But also, as someone said above, the "reluctant adventurer."

I think, also, that "reason to exist" could be looked at in a variety of ways. I kind of think primarily in terms of world-building, and whether or not something fits the aesthetic that I'm trying to capture. For me, warforged, tiefling, dragonborn etc don't fit, so they don't exist. Meaning, the primary "reason to exist" is to flesh out and inhabit the themes and atmosphere that I want to capture. If something is incongruous with that, I don't include it or, at the least, modify it greatly, and I tend to modify most D&D tropes to suit my aesthetic.
 

It really depends upon the world, and the same applies to other races. Warforged have a reason to exist within Eberron, but not so much in other settings, except for players who want to play a "kewl robot."

Kender are pretty embedded within Dragonlance which was really explicated most fully in the novels, particularly the Chronicles. Tasslehoff was both comic relief and also representing a kind of "eternal child." Whether or not this translates to gaming is debatable.

In Lord of the Rings, the hobbits were essentially stand-ins for English country folk. Tolkien was having a bit of fun making jest of his own people. But also, as someone said above, the "reluctant adventurer."

I think, also, that "reason to exist" could be looked at in a variety of ways. I kind of think primarily in terms of world-building, and whether or not something fits the aesthetic that I'm trying to capture. For me, warforged, tiefling, dragonborn etc don't fit, so they don't exist. Meaning, the primary "reason to exist" is to flesh out and inhabit the themes and atmosphere that I want to capture. If something is incongruous with that, I don't include it or, at the least, modify it greatly, and I tend to modify most D&D tropes to suit my aesthetic.
may I ask what you're building exactly?
also the warforged have the second niche of being a cool robot which sounds dumb but is more to work with than you would think.
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I don't understand. That seems like a lot of writing to say "I don't want halflings in games I run," which is your prerogative (I don't have Dragonborn. A friend of mine is starting a game where humans are the only playable race).

Now if what you are trying to argue is that "no one else should play a halfling at a table in which I am a player either because I don't see a niche for them," well then. . . that seems off.

Ultimately, it is a matter of taste and that's fine.
 


First, I personally don't get the need for a racial niche as PCs should be individuals anyway.

Second, as I've said before, halflings are pretty much the most human race in the game. Humans are ambitious weirdos and hyper adapters while halflings are the ones who seek comfort and ease instead of going 100 MPH all the time.

They're also the short race that's not 1) constantly disrespected and discriminated against or 2) historically used to be 'silly' or mock sci-fantasy.
 

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