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

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Yeah, I just use Shifters for this, but I could see a Lupin/Canid race being added to the game. We currently have 2 cat-races in the game (Leonin and Tabaxi), but no Dog-race. I wouldn't play one, because I'm still disturbed by the idea of a dog-human hybrid (but not most other human-animal hybrids, for some inexplicable reason), but would like them being an option for those that do want to play them.
Dog-headed people are a bit of a Thing in some mythologies, so I'm surprised they haven't brought the Lupin back as yet to fill that role
 

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Casimir Liber

Explorer
Dog-headed people are a bit of a Thing in some mythologies, so I'm surprised they haven't brought the Lupin back as yet to fill that role
Funny - I think there have been many dog-race starters over the generations but none have ever really caught on wholeheartedly....(?)
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Right, the empathetic race displays some empathy, where the other ones don't. That sounds about right.

The empathetic races displays some empathy. In a specific way to show they are like the race canonically they have always been the most like. And that they don't show to any other race. And that never appears between any other two races. And it means nothing more...

OR: Halflings are like humans and they acknowledged that in the book.

"Very distrustful" serms like a lot to read into: "you never know what's going on behind their smiling faces, surely more than they ever let on".

To be honest, it reads as another example of empathy to me, that they can detect that there is more there than what's being expressed outwardly, even if they are unsure what it is.

Can see it as open to interpretation though.

That isn't empathy. That is intuition.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share emotions. That isn't what I feel like is being expressed here.

Actually, thinking about it... halflings would be terrible at Empathy. Their luck, bravery, and contentment with life that is intrinsic to their race is presented as a emotional core to a personality, and to have empathy you have to be able to understand the emotions of others. Could halflings empathize with someone who is discouraged or too terrified to change when they never feel those sensations? Or if they do feel them they are fleeting moments gone tomorrow?

I could see a case made for halflings being the least truly empathetic race out there. They simply don't understand the struggles with rage, depression or other negative emotions of the other races. That doesn't mean they don't care, or that they are less kind, just that... they don't get it.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
The empathetic races displays some empathy. In a specific way to show they are like the race canonically they have always been the most like. And that they don't show to any other race. And that never appears between any other two races. And it means nothing more...

They only give those descriptions for the four "common races", and humans and halflings are the only short-lived ones, right?

I could see a case made for halflings being the least truly empathetic race out there. They simply don't understand the struggles with rage, depression or other negative emotions of the other races. That doesn't mean they don't care, or that they are less kind, just that... they don't get it.
"You know how you feel when you don't get second lunch or have to defend the village instead of working on the garden? Now imagine your brain made you skip second lunch and gardening like every other day!"
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
The Fey origin works well for the British elf, who are explicitly faerie.

D&D has an awkward disconnect between Fey and Elemental. Both would be nature beings, and both would be primal power source.

The Elf could be Elemental. The British elf is a land spirit associating with the plants. The Norse elf is a sky spirit associating with the sunlight, which feels even more Elemental.

One solution might be that all of it is aspects of the Ethereal Plane. The ether includes the four elements, and also includes the fey and the shadow. Potentially some earth elementals might be fey land spirits, including Gnome.

Altho a land spirit, the British sith elf might specifically be a Fey Plant Elemental, relating to fertile soil. And altho a sky spirit, the Norse alfar elf might specifically be a Fey Fire Elemental, relating to sunrays.

If the Feywild itself includes Elemental beings, the aspect would be the four elements coexisting with each other, in a dynamic equilibrium that brings forth and sustains life.

(This elemental eqilibrium compares to the Dark Sun concept of preserver magic where the four elements are in a lifegiving harmony. Perhaps Athas became unable to access the Feywild because it became too out of balance because of the destruction of water.)

Similarly, the Norse Dvergar dwarf would be a Fey Earth Elemental.

The Norse alfar and dvergar are Fey in the sense of personifying human fates, successful and unsuccessful, respectively. But they retain their elemental aspects, respectively.

I feel comfortable relating the alfar with D&D both Fire and Air, and the dvergar with both Earth and Water. There are a number of Norse texts that correlate this.

If each elf correlates with two elements, then the British elf is definitely both earth and plant. Whence the D&D Wood Elf is earth and plant, and the High Elf might be plant and air. The Drow Elf is obviously earth, possibly water too, thus correlating but nonidentical with the Norse Dvergar.

I tend to drop the Ethereal plane, but I think that Eberron hints at a good way to go about the Feywild and potentially the Shadow Fell. Well, they at least have the direction.

The Feywild is not only life plus, it is a realm of dreams made reality. The Shadowfell is nightmares made reality. I think the Sorrowsorn highlight this the best. The Hungry is a creature that ( in some versions of the lore) comes about when a mortal in the Shadowfell is starving and obsessed with hunger. Meanwhile, in Faerie, you would have something similiar in a creature that is constantly feasting, and draws others into participating in an endless feast and party. It is less about the elements and more about the emotions.

The problem is creatures like Dryads. The feywild is also where we find the nature spirits. But, thinking about it... I'm not sure how much sense that actually makes.


Pivoting, the elemental planes are pure expressions of the elements. Water, Earth, Fire, Air. They aren't a source for plants and animals. You can have plants in a purely water sense, with plankton, but pure earth isn't conducive to plant growth. Plants and Animals are expressions of the Prime. I'd almost consider it more likely that plants and animals migrated from the prime back to other planes, while the raw stuff that made the Prime came from those other planes.

This actually ties into why I prefer the Elemental Chaos to the four planes. The only usage I can think of for the four planes is to make them the raw stuff that was used to make the Prime. The only planes that have any real major civilizations I've seen are the Water and Air planes. Fire has the City of Brass, but that is a single city. Water has... so much. But, I could easily see transferring it to just be in a distant ocean. The Oceans of the Prime are vast and generally underutilized, and the Elemental Plane of Water is just Ocean plus so I could see moving some of that into the Prime with little disruption.

So, how does this tie to Dryads? I think maybe you steal an Eberron concept. In Eberron the Rakshasa and a few other inhabitants of Khyber are "native fiends" they are fiends native to the Prime, whereas something like the Balor or Pit Fiend is an Outsider, a fiend from the plane of Fierna. Dryads are fey, but they are fey native to the Prime. They are less a dream and more an extension of a dreaming plant. A Naiad would be the same way. Not a fey of the Feywild, but a fey of the river's dreams.

Does the feywild have Dryads and Naiads? I think so, but I think that is because the Feywild is a reflection of the prime, and therefore it has things from the prime in it. I'd also then say we would have Dryads and Naiads in the Shadowfell. The hungry spirit of a hangman's tree would be a type of nightmare Dryad.

I haven't developed this idea at all, it just came to me while reading your post, but I'd be curious if it has legs.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Y'know, that's an interesting point that I never really considered.

As a small race, medium flying creatures become viable mounts. Giant Wasps (reskin as Bees as I could totally see Halfling bee keepers) would easily carry a halfling rider. Ooo, that would actually be pretty cool. Halfling communities, known for their honey and beeswax, field giant bee riders in battle. Slings wouldn't work, but, crossbows certainly would.

Shame that 5e giant bees don't have magic honey that heals. I always thought that was something they should bring back.

Giant bees and wasps are awesome, and I support this message.
 


Gnarlo

Gnome Lover
Supporter
Yeah, I just use Shifters for this, but I could see a Lupin/Canid race being added to the game. We currently have 2 cat-races in the game (Leonin and Tabaxi), but no Dog-race. I wouldn't play one, because I'm still disturbed by the idea of a dog-human hybrid (but not most other human-animal hybrids, for some inexplicable reason), but would like them being an option for those that do want to play them.
Always played Vargr in Traveller, but as my profile pic shows I’ve always been a dog person :)
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I can’t argue the cuteness of bees.

But dragonflies have their own charms as well.
Just need to find the right one
abstract-polygonal-colorful-dragonfly-illustration-260nw-1603319995.jpg
 

The empathetic races displays some empathy. In a specific way to show they are like the race canonically they have always been the most like. And that they don't show to any other race. And that never appears between any other two races. And it means nothing more...

OR: Halflings are like humans and they acknowledged that in the book.



That isn't empathy. That is intuition.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share emotions. That isn't what I feel like is being expressed here.

Actually, thinking about it... halflings would be terrible at Empathy. Their luck, bravery, and contentment with life that is intrinsic to their race is presented as a emotional core to a personality, and to have empathy you have to be able to understand the emotions of others. Could halflings empathize with someone who is discouraged or too terrified to change when they never feel those sensations? Or if they do feel them they are fleeting moments gone tomorrow?

I could see a case made for halflings being the least truly empathetic race out there. They simply don't understand the struggles with rage, depression or other negative emotions of the other races. That doesn't mean they don't care, or that they are less kind, just that... they don't get it.
Or at least one halfling feels kinship with some humans. It's a pretty weak bit of text to make sweeping generalizations based on.

Assuming you are right about halflings and empathy (though if swear I'd seen something explicit to the contrary), what you are describing would be a race that differs significantly from human beings (and wouldn't even know that they are different).
 


Chaosmancer

Legend
They only give those descriptions for the four "common races", and humans and halflings are the only short-lived ones, right?

Yes, I'm just not sure why people want to dismiss the literal in-world evidence of similarty by trying to hide it behind empathy.

"You know how you feel when you don't get second lunch or have to defend the village instead of working on the garden? Now imagine your brain made you skip second lunch and gardening like every other day!"

pfft, that could work, but I think it would take someone explaining that to them, not something they would come by naturally.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Or at least one halfling feels kinship with some humans. It's a pretty weak bit of text to make sweeping generalizations based on.

Text that is literally a sweeping generalization of the race written in the first person is weak evidence for a sweeping generalization.... sure, that is how we should view this literal text meant to show how the general relationship of halflings and humans are.

Assuming you are right about halflings and empathy (though if swear I'd seen something explicit to the contrary), what you are describing would be a race that differs significantly from human beings (and wouldn't even know that they are different).

Differs significantly in a the realm of mental health, but I'm not sure how many PCs are accurately portraying the mental health struggles they would normally have in the IRL situation.
 

Text that is literally a sweeping generalization of the race written in the first person is weak evidence for a sweeping generalization.... sure, that is how we should view this literal text meant to show how the general relationship of halflings and humans are.



Differs significantly in a the realm of mental health, but I'm not sure how many PCs are accurately portraying the mental health struggles they would normally have in the IRL situation.
Yep. Text used to illustrate how races view themselves in relation to others is not good evidence for objective comparisons of actual similarity.

You could literally sub in any race for that text. If it'd been written about dragonborn, would you be trying to make the case that halflings are basically dragonborn?

This new casting of halflings as very human friendly sociopaths is an interesting spin.
 
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Humans think Dwarves are human, as do Elves

Dwarves. “They’re stout folk, stalwart friends, and true to their word. Their greed for gold is their downfall, though.”
Dwarves. “Dwarves are dull, clumsy oafs. But what they lack in humor, sophistication, and manners, they make up in valor. And I must admit, their best smiths produce art that approaches elven quality.”
 

I just hope that everyone who hopes all these intelligent hominids with very little physiological difference from humans take a sudden right turn into xenofiction never complain about 'verisimilitude' in a fantasy world.

Actually, I hope everyone stops that so I can have fun, interesting fantasy again, but especially the people for whom these idea are contradictory.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Yep. Text used to illustrate how races view themselves in relation to others is not good evidence for objective comparisons of actual similarity.

You could literally sub in any race for that text. If it'd been written about dragonborn, would you be trying to make the case that halflings are basically dragonborn?

It isn't about dragonborn though. It is about halflings and humans. The fact is, they didn't sub in Dragonborn.

So...
1) hobbits were directly related to men.
2) The first two sentences about halflings states "Halflings are a fictional race found in some fantasy novels and games. They are often depicted as similar to humans except about half as tall, and are not quite as stocky as the similarly-sized dwarves"
3) And according to other posters, earlier editions directly related them as well.

And then 5e has them saying they are similar.

Therefore, saying they are similar doesn't seem like a huge stretch.

This new casting of halflings as very human friendly sociopaths is an interesting spin.

Just a passing thought. Obviously it doesn't say anything about it in the PHB.
 

It isn't about dragonborn though. It is about halflings and humans. The fact is, they didn't sub in Dragonborn.

So...
1) hobbits were directly related to men.
2) The first two sentences about halflings states "Halflings are a fictional race found in some fantasy novels and games. They are often depicted as similar to humans except about half as tall, and are not quite as stocky as the similarly-sized dwarves"
3) And according to other posters, earlier editions directly related them as well.

And then 5e has them saying they are similar.

Therefore, saying they are similar doesn't seem like a huge stretch.



Just a passing thought. Obviously it doesn't say anything about it in the PHB.
So what you are saying is that, since the quote supports an argument you are making, it's strong persuasive evidence, but if it hadn't been, it'd just be flavor text like every other equivalent entry in the PHB.

Sure, sounds like good faith to me.

And I don't really have an issue with folks who say halflings are similar to humans. I do think that they are, broadly, more different from humans than most all the medium-sized humanoids.

In either case, the position, for which the quote was used, was not that halflings are similar to humans. It was that they are the same.
 

My observation of halfling PCs is that people tend to play them in a way which is tonally distinct from humans.

I'm not sure how relevant lore is to all this (and really I think lore is a fandom fixation, not a practical game issue anyway). My observation has been in actual play halflings are much more distinct from humans than elves generally are.

Elves might have reams of really boring lore which you could actually read through if you have a bout of insomnia, but in games they are almost always played as humans that happen to have pointy ears and meditate instead of sleeping.

You might point to how elves are different to humans in the lore, but those are just words on paper. I very rarely see that lore translate meaningfully to anything that informs characterisation in play. The fact that your PC is 3ft tall and the size of a small child informs play in a much more concrete way.

As far as easily recognisable in play I would probably put Dwarves at the top followed by goblins, and then perhaps, gnomes, halforcs and halflings.

Tieflings, Genasi, elves and Half-elves (anything "human but cooler") tend to in play just be humans with cool powers.

And this really the basic structural purpose of races, a kind of broad rough strokes hook for play and differentiation.

Worldbuilding is really not the purpose of them. Worldbuilding with nuanced distinct societies is much easier without them.

Edit: A lot of people seem to be saying they don't know what to do with halflings. This seems to be from a GM's perspective. I've never seen players have that problem. (Of course if you do you just choose something else, but plenty of players over the years have known what to do with them). The PC races are not, and have never been there for GMs. Even Gygax supposedly didn't really want them, but he put them in for his players.

So if your problem as a GM is how to make a coherent world with the options before you, then you just have to do what GMs have been doing since the 70s. Solve your problems yourself. The game doesn't care. It puzzles me that people see these inconsistencies as problems rather than opportunites - I always though that the fun of worldbuilding in D&D was rationalising these things and coming up with your own takes and solutions.
 
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AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I'm just popping in to link this post of mine from the (+) Halfling thread:

If that's what halflings are like, I can get behind that. If the 5.5e/6e PHB does something like that, I would be completely on board with that.

What do the people that disliked the possibility of making Halflings be part of Humans think about this? What about the people who agreed that halflings should be changed? Does this work for both of you? If not, why?
 

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