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

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
It seems to me.

Traditional D&D was strongly beholden to Tolkien and his innovation to reinvent nature beings (!) into human-like ethnicities of flesh-and-blood. The D&D "core four" races − namely human, elf, dwarf, and halfling − have little difference from each other.

I find the Tolkien approach problematic because it disconnects the names, like elf and dwarf, from the reallife folkbelief of nature beings as minds/spirits of specific natural features. Indeed, one might even find it surprising that the hobbit is a hob.

In 4e and 5e, more clearly nonhuman races, like dragonborn and tiefling have proved successful. According to some metrics even seem to displace traditional races.

The D&D game is trending away from the Tolkien assumptions.

This ... dehumanization ... of the popular races gives us more breathing room to make the traditional races less human too.

I think this can be done well.

If each race has default features plus a list of feats to choose from, players can decide what they want their race to be.
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
1. Not "flavor text".."just flavor text".. reflecting that it is a weak bit of text from which to make an argument..which is what I said..and which you disagreed with..or something.

No weaker than "halflings are simple folk".

You seem to think that if this text was some how not the test it is, that I'd treat it differently. Based on the belief that I'm only saying we should look at the text because it supports an idea I agree with.

But, here is the issue. It isn't any weaker than any other text. It carries the same weight as the rest of the (very limited) lore than exists for halflings. However, you want it to be expressly weaker.... seemingly because you don't like what it says.

2. Wow you went up to the original post..and then didn't read the context..here it us..


So.. @Yaarel 's response just a non sequitur then? Cool.

The remainder of your post is a sweeping general complaint which is broadly inaccurate and unnecessary. If it's painful for you to respond, you can just not do it, as I have has to do with several of our exchanges in this thread.

No, their post wasn't a non sequiter. They responded very logically to the post. Are they identical to humans? No. No one has ever said they are, because that would be so demonstrably false as to be a waste of time. Are they incredibly similar? Yes. Does the PHB specifically comment on how similar halfings and humans are? Yes. Does the PHB say "we are similar" in many other places? No. In fact, the word "similar" doesn't appear once in the PHB race section and "a lot a like" only appears once.

So, uniquely in the entire book section, human and halflings are pointed out to have similarities. You can hate it, you can say that "everything is really human" but you can't make words appear in the book that aren't there.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Yes, if you take away all the ways they are different, they're basically the same.

It'd be like if you gave elves a human lifespan, or increased the normal lifespan of a human.

It's a pointless exercise.

See, it is points like this that make me scratch my head. I assume you are being glib, but let's take you at face value for a moment.

1) Short
2) a positive mental outlook
3) childlike appreciation of the world

#2 and #3? That is something I can literally make for any character. It is more out of lockstep with certain racial depictions than others, I will admit that, but it is not undoable or even that hard to do with just about anything, and certain races like Elves, Tabaxi, Gnomes, Air, water or Fire Genasi, Humans, Firbolgs, Satyr, Centaurs, Aasimar, Kenku, Kobolds, Fairy... I can go on for a while. They all fit that mold easily.

And that is "all the ways they are different". And, I've made this point over and over and over again. If the only unique thing about halflings is being a commoner with a list of personality traits... then they aren't unique. I can play the exact same character with a different race. Maybe not the short part, that is a little more rare. And that race is also going to have other unique features that I could draw on.

And despite how many times people have "explained it" to me... they keep saying the same things. They point to the part I have a problem with, the utter lack of anything beyond a set personality, and say "but that is the solution" while otherwise ignoring things that seem like really good solutions, like the animal husbandry angle.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
See, it is points like this that make me scratch my head. I assume you are being glib, but let's take you at face value for a moment.

1) Short
2) a positive mental outlook
3) childlike appreciation of the world

#2 and #3? That is something I can literally make for any character. It is more out of lockstep with certain racial depictions than others, I will admit that, but it is not undoable or even that hard to do with just about anything, and certain races like Elves, Tabaxi, Gnomes, Air, water or Fire Genasi, Humans, Firbolgs, Satyr, Centaurs, Aasimar, Kenku, Kobolds, Fairy... I can go on for a while. They all fit that mold easily.

And that is "all the ways they are different". And, I've made this point over and over and over again. If the only unique thing about halflings is being a commoner with a list of personality traits... then they aren't unique. I can play the exact same character with a different race. Maybe not the short part, that is a little more rare. And that race is also going to have other unique features that I could draw on.

And despite how many times people have "explained it" to me... they keep saying the same things. They point to the part I have a problem with, the utter lack of anything beyond a set personality, and say "but that is the solution" while otherwise ignoring things that seem like really good solutions, like the animal husbandry angle.
Really...you can't think of ANY other differences between halflings and humans besides your 3 point list?

OK...let me add one difference you seem to have forgotten (even though it's been discussed about 600 times just in this thread) that is so fundamentally baked into the laid back friendly farmer halflings.

Halflings are not, generally, motivated by wealth. One of the fundamental draws for a stereotypical DnD adventure is killing things and collecting loot. In the US, modern society is built on a bedrock of systems involving the literal accumulation of weath well beyond the needs of an individual. What do you do with your millions? You use it to make more millions. What does the adventurer do with his treasures? Use them the become more powerful to kill better things to acquire better loot on a treadmill.

All the power hungry kingdoms (or dictatorships, empires sultanates, etc...) exist to build and gather more and more power. The elves, dwarves, and humans all do this. In fact, humans are the most power hungry of them all because they don't even have a traditional lane to stay in to build their power, they can be found everywhere some group wants to get a leg up on another group.

And halflings....halflings abide.
 

See, it is points like this that make me scratch my head. I assume you are being glib, but let's take you at face value for a moment.

1) Short
2) a positive mental outlook
3) childlike appreciation of the world

#2 and #3? That is something I can literally make for any character. It is more out of lockstep with certain racial depictions than others, I will admit that, but it is not undoable or even that hard to do with just about anything, and certain races like Elves, Tabaxi, Gnomes, Air, water or Fire Genasi, Humans, Firbolgs, Satyr, Centaurs, Aasimar, Kenku, Kobolds, Fairy... I can go on for a while. They all fit that mold easily.

And that is "all the ways they are different". And, I've made this point over and over and over again. If the only unique thing about halflings is being a commoner with a list of personality traits... then they aren't unique. I can play the exact same character with a different race. Maybe not the short part, that is a little more rare. And that race is also going to have other unique features that I could draw on.

And despite how many times people have "explained it" to me... they keep saying the same things. They point to the part I have a problem with, the utter lack of anything beyond a set personality, and say "but that is the solution" while otherwise ignoring things that seem like really good solutions, like the animal husbandry angle.
People keep using "short" like that's all it is. It's a dramatic understatement of the difference.

Approximately the same height and weight as a human toddler. And, in a fight, able to perform with equivalent effectiveness to a full-size adult human/dwarf/etc.

It is way..way..way..more of a difference than some cute little horns, pointy ears, or green skin.

In a similar way, a "positive mental outlook" understates having a fundamentally different worldview with different values, who make different decisions about how they choose to live.

It's an argument constructed on mischaracterization.
 


No weaker than "halflings are simple folk".

You seem to think that if this text was some how not the test it is, that I'd treat it differently. Based on the belief that I'm only saying we should look at the text because it supports an idea I agree with.

But, here is the issue. It isn't any weaker than any other text. It carries the same weight as the rest of the (very limited) lore than exists for halflings. However, you want it to be expressly weaker.... seemingly because you don't like what it says.
I asked you specifically, if the quote had been addressing dragonborn rather than humans, if you would be trying to make the case that halflings are basically dragonborn.

In fairness, you didn't answer.. for some very important reason I'm sure..which I took to mean that you would not. If that is not the case, then please clarify.

And here is the issue..you seem to think that the green boxes that are intended to give us glimpses into how the races might view their relationships with other races is equivalent to the text where the PHB says what the races are and what they can do. It isn't.

Like we're not all complaining about how haughty elves are, or how humorless dwarves are..Are we?
 


Hussar

Legend
I asked you specifically, if the quote had been addressing dragonborn rather than humans, if you would be trying to make the case that halflings are basically dragonborn.

In fairness, you didn't answer.. for some very important reason I'm sure..which I took to mean that you would not. If that is not the case, then please clarify.

And here is the issue..you seem to think that the green boxes that are intended to give us glimpses into how the races might view their relationships with other races is equivalent to the text where the PHB says what the races are and what they can do. It isn't.

Like we're not all complaining about how haughty elves are, or how humorless dwarves are..Are we?
Y'know, with this clarification, I see your point and I will edit my previous point. You aren't arguing what I thought you were. You are instead engaging in whataboutism that is completely removed from reality. Still arguing in poor faith, but, for different reasons.
 

And yet, funnily enough, you double down with comments like "cute little horns and green skin".

Yeah, this was a mistake to think that letting things cool down a bit and demonstrating how I don't actually hate halflings would make any difference. The second a point is shown to be completely specious, it's "Oh, you just don't understand." Yet, no one EVER talks about how folks that agree with your point don't understand. Only people who disagree. It's rhetorical judo and completely arguing in bad faith
Dude. I don't even know what point you are trying to make here except that you are angry about it. I mean it literally though. Your response had nothing to do with the course of the conversation.

As it relates to this post though, regarding the second point, I was referring to how halflings view wealth and community, which is a helluva lot more nuanced than "has a positive attitude".

And in several places in this thread, where I have disagreed with other posters on the "pro-halflings" side, I have acknowledged it, and explained my position.

I can recall only two times when I've suggested that people "don't understand" something. First @Yaarel when they responded about me finding the discussion painful. I assumed that they had missed where @Chaosmancer had complained about the painful circuitous course of conversation before levying a series of accusations.

The second was with you, because you went off on a rant about the "Star Wars" cantina and other such nonsense in response to a post about applicability of PHB flavor text. I still don't know what your issue was.
 

Y'know, with this clarification, I see your point and I will edit my previous point. You aren't arguing what I thought you were. You are instead engaging in whataboutism that is completely removed from reality. Still arguing in poor faith, but, for different reasons.
It's more what-if-ism than whataboutism.

The logic is, if the text is equally authoritative, then changing the subject matter shouldn't change what you are willing to argue based on it.

Is that the case?

Edit: didn't realize who I was responding to.
 
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No, their post wasn't a non sequiter. They responded very logically to the post. Are they identical to humans? No. No one has ever said they are, because that would be so demonstrably false as to be a waste of time. Are they incredibly similar? Yes. Does the PHB specifically comment on how similar halfings and humans are? Yes. Does the PHB say "we are similar" in many other places? No. In fact, the word "similar" doesn't appear once in the PHB race section and "a lot a like" only appears once.

So, uniquely in the entire book section, human and halflings are pointed out to have similarities. You can hate it, you can say that "everything is really human" but you can't make words appear in the book that aren't there.
The course of conversation up to that point was that halflings should be a Human subrace, including a challenge issued to name three ways that halflings are not humans. You can read into that what you will. I did, and I wasn't alone in it.

As to the response..

If I say, "a glider is not a plane", how does "this aurlthoritative book says a glider is like a plane" address that statement? On it's own, it is neither agreement nor disagreement and broadly unresponsive.

Orrr..it is intended as evidence for a counterclaim. And the available counterclaims are...
 
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Every childlike character concept is less motivated by wealth.
Perhaps. But how many others "races" have a significant incidence of childlike characters? One has to presume that in a large enough population you will find Dwarves who take up Wizardry or who don't like beer, Elves who become miners or can't nance, Humans with timeless patience, Dragonborn who are honorless bastards, or Tieflings who aren't emo. Or elves who prefer beer and dwarves who like nancing (in public).

But those aren't prevailing trends. The word "generally" tends to imply trending.
 
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Hussar

Legend
It's more what-if-ism than whataboutism.

The logic is, if the text is equally authoritative, then changing the subject matter shouldn't change what you are willing to argue based on it.

Is that the case?

Edit: didn't realize who I was responding to.
Well, points for honesty here. At least you're up front about it being about the poster and not the post. Can't really argue with that, now can I?
 

Hussar

Legend
Ok, so, as I understand the argument, people are saying that the primary problem with halflings is they are too close to humans. Is that fair?

So, with that in mind, I devised a little test. Below are 11 character pictures taken from various sources. 9 of them are halflings and two are not. If halflings are as distinguishable from humans as is claimed, then it should be a snap to tell which is which, right? Now, full disclaimer, I have altered the pictures to cut off everyone's feet. After all, 5e halflings aren't hairy footed, so, a hobbit picture is kinda cheating. Basically, I went down and picked a selection from r/ImaginaryHalflings . I skipped the ones that were deliberately from Tolkien and picked 11 pictures that I figured would make a fairly decent test.

So, without looking at the Reddit thread, can you find the 2 non-halflings in this picture?
halflings.jpg
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
Perhaps. But how many others "races" have a significant incidence of childlike characters? One has to presume that in a large enough population you will find Dwarves who take up Wizardry or who don't like beer, Elves who become miners or can't nance, Humans with timeless patience, Dragonborn who are honorless bastards, or Tieflings who aren't emo. Or elves who prefer beer and dwarves who like nancing (in public).

But those aren't prevailing trends. The word "generally" tends to imply trending.

All I am saying is.

I am unsatisfied with Small and innocent counting as a separate species.

If such would count as a species, the dog would be hundreds of separate species, each breed with separate sizes and temperaments.

No.
 

lingual

Adventurer
Ok, so, as I understand the argument, people are saying that the primary problem with halflings is they are too close to humans. Is that fair?

So, with that in mind, I devised a little test. Below are 11 character pictures taken from various sources. 9 of them are halflings and two are not. If halflings are as distinguishable from humans as is claimed, then it should be a snap to tell which is which, right? Now, full disclaimer, I have altered the pictures to cut off everyone's feet. After all, 5e halflings aren't hairy footed, so, a hobbit picture is kinda cheating. Basically, I went down and picked a selection from r/ImaginaryHalflings . I skipped the ones that were deliberately from Tolkien and picked 11 pictures that I figured would make a fairly decent test.

So, without looking at the Reddit thread, can you find the 2 non-halflings in this picture?View attachment 141059
Not sure what this test proves. I thought the problem was lore or culture. Honestly, the physical difference between elves and humans are even less. Cherry picking some images of 2 humans that are drawn with disproportionately larger heads or something doesn't prove anything. Not that anything can be "proven" here anyways. I think at this point, this thread has just become a part of our lives that we are not willing to let go
 

lingual

Adventurer
All I am saying is.

I am unsatisfied with Small and innocent counting as a separate species.

If such would count as a species, the dog would be hundreds of separate species, each breed with separate sizes and temperaments.

No.
And that is fine. That is your opinion. Some disagree with it. Some don't. Some might consider it more of a wolf vs. dog thing. Honestly, elves and the rest could be hyenas or something. All the races are a type of human.

Personally, a husky would be offended if it found out that my puny little dogs were classified as the same species.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
And that is fine. That is your opinion. Some disagree with it. Some don't. Some might consider it more of a wolf vs. dog thing. Honestly, elves and the rest could be hyenas or something. All the races are a type of human.

Personally, a husky would be offended if it found out that my puny little dogs were classified as the same species.
Heh. I assume the sense of smell of the dog instantly recognizes each other.

I know that some players love the character concept that the Halfling can readily do, and they dont want to lose the Halfling.

I respect that.

At the same time, I care about good gaming design.

Size and temperament by itself is insufficient to justify a separate species.
 
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