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

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I said I tried to make them for my world and they didn't fit. They overlapped too much for my world with Gnomes.

Just because I won't use them in my world doesn't mean that there can't be a better write up for them. I don't use Tritons or Sea Elves either. In fact, I had a rather big problem a few years ago when I realized I had never placed an ocean in my first draft of my setting.
😂Been there
I am not against trying to have a discussion. I don't know if the thread would allow for it to be a fruitful discussion.

Edit: Especially since even before I had a chance to respond to you, Oofta started taking shots at me.
Yeah maybe it’s best to let this thread die before trying it.
Ennh. PHB says "mental exercises that have become reflexive". Perhaps there is an argument that one of those exercises is recalling a past life, but to me it reads as a rewrite of the ability rather than an expansion of it.

It's certainly more flavorful than the base ability, but it suffers from the same issues the long life span does in that whatever has occurred during pre-life adventuring or past lives is almost 100% in the hands of the DM, and if it never comes up, the player would never know the difference.
This is why I let players decide their backstory in broad strokes and ask for hooks that are left with some open paths.
That's your campaign, though. It uses your mythology and you can enforce both how many people play them (if you choose to), how common they are in your world, and how people see them. You can't do that in the game as whole. If your alfar or jinn (or whatever) were in the PH, then you would have no control over what people in general do with them.
Sorry, when I said game this time I meant the TTRPG I’m writing the 3rd major iteration of, not a campaign. Alfar are not fully mortal, and are part of the spirit world.

And a thing needn’t be rare to be special and otherworldly. Spirits aren’t rare in many Miyazaki films, but they’re still very clearly not humans, not mortals, not mundane.
Case in point: in the earliest days, Gygax wanted nonhumans to be very rare as PCs, and probably would have preferred having no nonhuman PCs at all. Which is why he included level limits and the like. He could enforce that in his settings and while he tried to do the same for the game as a whole, that clearly failed. Most of the games I am in have no humans at all.
If he wanted that, he should have directly made that the rules. It’s not like people aren’t out there making fantasy games where you can only play humans even though stranger creatures exist in the world.
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
Ennh. PHB says "mental exercises that have become reflexive". Perhaps there is an argument that one of those exercises is recalling a past life, but to me it reads as a rewrite of the ability rather than an expansion of it.

It's certainly more flavorful than the base ability, but it suffers from the same issues the long life span does in that whatever has occurred during pre-life adventuring or past lives is almost 100% in the hands of the DM, and if it never comes up, the player would never know the difference.

I fully disagree. Detailing your past life would be almost 100% in the player's purview. Sure, if they want to say something obviously powergaming to take advantage of the situation, like remembering the location and code to a thousand year old vault full of gold and magic items, then the DM is going to step in, but detailing past lives? That's on players, unless they give the DM a go ahead to use it for a hook.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I don't know. But considering that is super common religious belief in real life, it would be weird if there wasn't. In any case, it is not particularly 'alien' as it is based on real human belief about humans.

However, I think a group of creatures being particularly connected to their past lives is an interesting thing, but I feel it is a bit of afterthought with the elves, the PHB doesn't even mention it. Do any setting actually do anything interesting with it? Also, I feel it might work better with a species that was not ludicrously long-lived to begin with. Elves already have "oh, but I was there three centuries ago when this historical thing happened" and having on top of that "I was there in the past life" doesn't really add much. Also, with shorter lived species reconnecting with your friends from the past lives etc would be a more regular occurrence.

That is a fair criticism of the ability. I don't think any setting has really done much interesting with it regarding elves, but Hussar did link a module that makes use of it, so it has come up at least a little bit.

And, to my knowledge, there is no DnD setting in which humans commonly reincarnate. The basis of DnD is based on a heaven and hell model of the afterlife. So, to my knowledge, this is something unique to Elves in the settings. Are elves the best vehicles for it? Maybe. I agree with them being long-lived already making it not as useful directly, but this "eternal" quality of elves who live for a very long time, die, and then are reborn is interesting.

OH! The new Elven Shadar-Kai explicitly use this. I'd forgotten because they stole the name of the Raven Queen, but that entity does have the Shadar-Kai reincarnate endlessly alongside her. I think that is supposed to be FR, so they must be using it there.
 

I fully disagree. Detailing your past life would be almost 100% in the player's purview. Sure, if they want to say something obviously powergaming to take advantage of the situation, like remembering the location and code to a thousand year old vault full of gold and magic items, then the DM is going to step in, but detailing past lives? That's on players, unless they give the DM a go ahead to use it for a hook.
The issue is that the further into the player's purview you push it, the more you allow the player to define it, the less flexible it is as a DM tool should you want to use it. You run similar risks of powergaminess and irrelevance.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The list was non exhaustive. It could have included same primary forms of locomotion, same general assortment and configuration of sensory organs, same general physical characteristics as measured by game statistics...etc. etc. etc.

They are all "humanoids". By literal definition, that means like a human. I'm saying that if your question is, how similar are they to humans, the answer is going to be "more similar than not". It's a waste of energy.

As to the rest, it's all fantasy conjecture. Not wrong, but you can apply similar "reasoning" to halflings to conclude that they too are very different from humans (cities especially, the difference in ergonomics alone would yield settlements that are structured very differently than human ones).

Either way, it is conjecture though, supported by almost nothing in lore or rules. It can be used to draw any conclusion you wish to draw.

You realize the more you make this list, the more ridiculous it ends up sounding right?

Yeah, we get it. They are all mortal bipeds that eat. You've described everything from Trolls to pixies. But if you want to argue that there is the same level of difference between trolls and halflings as there is between humans and halflings, maybe move away from things like "can think" and give us things that actually end up mattering to most people.

I mean, if I went up to someone and said "Well, there really isn't any significant difference between a horse, a rhino and a goat" they'd act like I was insane.

And I wonder why this is so important a hill for you to build, but when asked to move past "do they have two arms, two legs, two eyes and a mouth" into something like "how are their cities different" you immediately dismiss it as "conjecture" and put no effort into it. Sure, halflings would build on a half scale compared to humans. Got anything else? Because "human city but smaller" drives straight into what we keep seeing with halflings. Human but small.

And, there are a lot of dwarven, human, and elven cities in the lore. Don't think those are exactly "conjecture" I think they kind of exist, are mapped, and have some noticeable differences.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
My opinion on it from our discourse here is that you place much more emphasis on lore equating to hard written facts for all settings than I do. This probably is why you might feel there is too much missing from the PHB entry for them versus me, which can take "laid back farmers who are friendly" and extrapolate from there without needing more from the PHB.

As for the statement specific to halflings and dwarves....the language used in the sentence is what tells me it's rumor and innuendo, not some historical hook. "Some people say..." equates to being BS in my interpretation.

Id say if it was meant to be more factual they wouldn't have used "Some say..." and would instead just state it directly.

Sure, maybe, but why do people say it? You wouldn't theorize that half of a group of people has a direct blood tie to an entirely different group of people for no reason right? There must be a reason that they think these halflings are somehow related to dwarves.

But, you are partially right, I do seem to care a lot more about the lore of the game being presented to people than a lot of other posters. Extrapolating from "laid back farmers who are friendly" doesn't lead me anywhere I find terribly interesting, not without changing that basic premise. And causes massive problems if I somehow have to justify them being the only farmers in existence. The designers putting in lies that in no way have any basis in the lore (stout halflings have dwarf blood) doesn't help either.

But, I do find that at this point, I feel like I've made my point on this subject. For all that people were telling me that I am wrong, that halflings have great lore that isn't incomplete... the only person who even responded to this lore question is basically convinced it is a lie and meaningless and has nothing to do with anything. They could have written that they have elk blood in their veins, it would mean the same thing. Nothing.
 

I mean, if I went up to someone and said "Well, there really isn't any significant difference between a horse, a rhino and a goat" they'd act like I was insane.
Right. And that's why people take an issue with your stance. Because you're basically saying that because both horses and goats are domesticated hooved animals that tend to hang around farms, goats are basically just small horses.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Sorry, when I said game this time I meant the TTRPG I’m writing the 3rd major iteration of, not a campaign. Alfar are not fully mortal, and are part of the spirit world.

And a thing needn’t be rare to be special and otherworldly. Spirits aren’t rare in many Miyazaki films, but they’re still very clearly not humans, not mortals, not mundane.
Maybe we're talking at cross purposes. I mean that, if you even if you include the most spirit-y race possible in a D&D setting, it will eventually just be treated as fairly mundane aspect of that setting. Because a lot of D&D players pick races for the bonuses and don't care about its lore or mysterious aspects, or they won't roleplay them as such (since RPing as something so alien is pretty difficult even for very dedicated RPers).

If he wanted that, he should have directly made that the rules.
He was likely overruled. I wouldn't be surprised if he ranted about it in an article somewhere; I recall something he wrote in an early Dragon Mag where he said that if you used guns in your AD&D game, you weren't playing AD&D.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Sure, maybe, but why do people say it? You wouldn't theorize that half of a group of people has a direct blood tie to an entirely different group of people for no reason right? There must be a reason that they think these halflings are somehow related to dwarves.
I mean, I probably wouldn't, but people? Yeah, people definitely would. Do. People have done and still do exactly that sort of thing. A lot. Literally on the basis of like...people in a town having darker hair, or a family line have gingers sometimes in an area where gingers are very rare, or a family having big chonky boys more often than average sized scions.

A stout family group of a people, who also have poison resistence just like dwarves do? Seems like a thing that would happen.
But, you are partially right, I do seem to care a lot more about the lore of the game being presented to people than a lot of other posters. Extrapolating from "laid back farmers who are friendly" doesn't lead me anywhere I find terribly interesting, not without changing that basic premise. And causes massive problems if I somehow have to justify them being the only farmers in existence. The designers putting in lies that in no way have any basis in the lore (stout halflings have dwarf blood) doesn't help either.
Why would you try to make them the only farmers?
But, I do find that at this point, I feel like I've made my point on this subject. For all that people were telling me that I am wrong, that halflings have great lore that isn't incomplete... the only person who even responded to this lore question is basically convinced it is a lie and meaningless and has nothing to do with anything. They could have written that they have elk blood in their veins, it would mean the same thing. Nothing.
It means...that some people see a stout halfling...and think they're similar to dwarves. Like...what on Earth? This is why it's hard to even have this discussion, dude. How on earth is that a strange idea? It's just like folks saying that the Tooks have a bit of elf blood, in LoTR. You can either do something with it, or not.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Maybe we're talking at cross purposes. I mean that, if you even if you include the most spirit-y race possible in a D&D setting, it will eventually just be treated as fairly mundane aspect of that setting. Because a lot of D&D players pick races for the bonuses and don't care about its lore or mysterious aspects, or they won't roleplay them as such (since RPing as something so alien is pretty difficult even for very dedicated RPers).
In a game where everything is very concrete, I agree. I haven't found that Monster of The Week has magic become mundane just because you can play a magic user, however. It's still this wild, difficult to understand even by those who use it, thing that is dangerous to rely upon and feels totally supernatural next to even the super-tough Chosen One, much less the social and painfully mundane....Mundane.

You can get a bit of magic in The One Ring, and it feels magical and strange and special. Elves themselves feel a bit too mundane, but that's because they aren't really that distinct from humans, and elves aren't actually all that mystical and strange in Middle Earth to begin with.
He was likely overruled. I wouldn't be surprised if he ranted about it in an article somewhere; I recall something he wrote in an early Dragon Mag where he said that if you used guns in your AD&D game, you weren't playing AD&D.
As well he should have been, since the hobby wasn't, at that point, full of games without fantastical races. The fact remains that his inability to do so doesn't mean others cannot do so, now.
 

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