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

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Hussar

Legend
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
Y'know, I should have bet someone that this would be the first response.

Try it. Pick 10 elf pictures and one human picture and see if we can't find the human. Elf pics are generally pretty easy to spot. It's very, very difficult to draw an elf that looks human. And since 3e, elves have become even more distinctive.

But, hey, if halflings are so easy to spot, have at it. Shouldn't be difficult, after all, halflings share nothing with humans according to poster after poster. And, while elf might be hard to spot (which, honestly, I doubt) dragonborn and tieflings surely aren't. Yet, people keep telling me that all these races are indistinguishable from humans. They're just like humans. :erm:
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Elf pics are generally pretty easy to spot. It's very, very difficult to draw an elf that looks human. And since 3e, elves have become even more distinctive.
I suspect 5e now depicts the physical variations of Elf. Which I like.

Some elven individuals look like human feminine physiques. And now, some elven individuals look like human masculine physiques. For example, in Tashas, the High Elf Psiknight is beefy and masculine. I feel this is important, because the Elf personifies beauty, and masculine beauty includes muscularity. The Elf has the full range of beauty, including individuals of androgynous beauty. Of course, feminine "elf babes" have been part of D&D since the 1970s.

When looking at the Psiknight, only the ears signal that the character is nonhuman, and even then some players might assume a "Half" Elf.

Anyway, I like this direction. With regard to the Elf, their magical nature is far more important to define their nonhuman traits than their "swimmers build" or their ears.

Also, because any race can swap their ability score improvements there will always be individuals of any race, who are exceptionally strong, dexterous, or tough. I want D&D to depict these.
 



Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Y'know, I should have bet someone that this would be the first response.

Try it. Pick 10 elf pictures and one human picture and see if we can't find the human. Elf pics are generally pretty easy to spot. It's very, very difficult to draw an elf that looks human. And since 3e, elves have become even more distinctive.

But, hey, if halflings are so easy to spot, have at it. Shouldn't be difficult, after all, halflings share nothing with humans according to poster after poster. And, while elf might be hard to spot (which, honestly, I doubt) dragonborn and tieflings surely aren't. Yet, people keep telling me that all these races are indistinguishable from humans. They're just like humans. :erm:
Without a frame of reference? Looking at them only visually without knowing anything else? Pictures by a variety of artists with different styles? Some of which (like #6) are so dark you can't see any distinguishing features? I would say #6 is unknown, #8 is a gnome because of the facial hair. But it doesn't prove anything.

Visuals, and only visuals with no context are not what distinguish the races. So what if they look like a different race if you have no scale? That's only part of what makes them different. They're half the size, have different motivations and different abilities. But yes, take away just about everything that they stand for and they're just like every other race.

But fundamentally all races in D&D are just humans with slightly different visuals. Take away a dragonborn's scales and breath weapon and voila! Human! Look at this picture, what race is it?
dccaxgd-6c01393d-ba77-4074-aacf-8e7cc5810cde.png

According to the artist, it's a dwarf female. Because they're wearing armor I guess?

So I guess dwarves are just humans, right?
 

It is bizarre how people ignore the size like it was no big deal (pun intended.) Being half the size of most people alters things massively. Imagine if you lived in world where most things were twice the size they're now. It would feel pretty different. And visually it is definitely far greater difference than having pointy ears. (And halflings often are depicted with somewhat pointed ears too.)

As for mechanical traits, I think that lucky and brave are far bigger deals than dark vision or even breath weapon. They actually affect the psychology of the being instead of just being super powers.
 

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?
If you cannot engage with the content of my posts, please feel free not to reply.

The only purpose of the edit was to remove the part that indicated that you had not replied, because it was true of the poster I thought I was replying to but not you.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
It is bizarre how people ignore the size like it was no big deal (pun intended.) Being half the size of most people alters things massively. Imagine if you lived in world where most things were twice the size they're now. It would feel pretty different. And visually it is definitely far greater difference than having pointy ears. (And halflings often are depicted with somewhat pointed ears too.)
The Small size can help flavor a package of clearly nonhuman traits, but by itself is negligible.

As for mechanical traits, I think that lucky and brave are far bigger deals than dark vision or even breath weapon. They actually affect the psychology of the being instead of just being super powers.
Brave is kinda useful, at least when one needs it. The Fear Resistance is better than the elven Charm Resistance, in any case.

If I was forced to choose between Fear Resistance and Darkvision, it would be a tough choice. Darkvision sure is convenient and, situationally, can be useful for stealth.

Mechanically, Lucky is unpleasant. It is infrequent and passive without any player agency. It is not nothing. Some players might find its gambling aspect fun. At most, it is worth a good skill. By contrast, the Lucky feat is worth a feat, grants player agency in vital situations, and outclasses the Halfling Lucky.



Of all the traits that the Halfling has, I consider the Fear Resistance to be the only one with potential to explore as a nonhuman quality. But, of course, the D&D Players Handbook doesnt explore its nonhumanness. Being unusually brave around Undead and Dragon and so on, is noticeable.

The fearlessness slightly conflicts with the childlike qualities, which tend to be timid and nonconfrontational. But it can work, in the sense of children often not understanding danger. A child can walk right into a busy road, jump off a house trying to fly, or play with an electrical outlet, and stuff like that.



The Brave trait is less than enough, but it is something to work with as part of a package of nonhuman traits.
 

The Small size can help flavor a package of clearly nonhuman traits, but by itself is negligible.
Definitely not negligible. It is always present. In actual play it tends to matter much more than the long lifespan of the elves for example.

Brave is kinda useful, at least when one needs it. The Fear Resistance is better than the elven Charm Resistance, in any case.

If I was forced to choose between Fear Resistance and Darkvision, it would be a tough choice. Darkvision sure is convenient and, situationally, can be useful for stealth.

Mechanically, Lucky is unpleasant. It is infrequent and passive without any player agency. It is not nothing. Some players might find its gambling aspect fun. At most, it is worth a good skill. By contrast, the Lucky feat is worth a feat, grants player agency in vital situations, and outclasses the Halfling Lucky.



Of all the traits that the Halfling has, I consider the Fear Resistance to be the only one with potential to explore as a nonhuman quality. But, of course, the D&D Players Handbook doesnt explore its nonhumanness. Being unusually brave around Undead and Dragon and so on, is noticeable.

The fearlessness slightly conflicts with the childlike qualities, which tend to be timid and nonconfrontational. But it can work, in the sense of children often not understanding danger. A child can walk right into a busy road, jump off a house trying to fly, or play with an electrical outlet, and stuff like that.



The Brave trait is less than enough, but it is something to work with as part of a package of nonhuman traits.
Lucky and brave work thematically well together. Both support optimistic and curious outlook. Granted, that doesn't do much with hobbity homebody halflings, and that's why I prefer kendery nomad halflings.
 


Hussar

Legend
Huh, funny. I was told that it was no problem to distinguish halflings. There was no uncertainty at all. I mean, "Take away scales and breath weapon from a dragonborn and you get a human" is pretty disingenuous. "Hey, remove all the defining traits of something and it looks like something else!!!" In other news, rain is wet.

No takers at all? Really? You folks don't seem to be too confident in yourselves. I can spot a dragonborn in every picture. 5e tiefling? Not a problem. Note, several of those pics that I put back there, they're Paizo pics. So, it's not like they're some random deviantart pic. Most of those have been published, a few have not. But, where's all that confidence I saw about how halflings are easy to distinguish and share virtually nothing with humans? Not ready to put your money where your mouth is?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Huh, funny. I was told that it was no problem to distinguish halflings. There was no uncertainty at all. I mean, "Take away scales and breath weapon from a dragonborn and you get a human" is pretty disingenuous. "Hey, remove all the defining traits of something and it looks like something else!!!" In other news, rain is wet.

No takers at all? Really? You folks don't seem to be too confident in yourselves. I can spot a dragonborn in every picture. 5e tiefling? Not a problem. Note, several of those pics that I put back there, they're Paizo pics. So, it's not like they're some random deviantart pic. Most of those have been published, a few have not. But, where's all that confidence I saw about how halflings are easy to distinguish and share virtually nothing with humans? Not ready to put your money where your mouth is?

Visuals without context are not the only thing that separate races. Nobody cares about stupid gotcha postings. Sorry, not sorry. 🤷‍♂️
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Definitely not negligible. It is always present. In actual play it tends to matter much more than the long lifespan of the elves for example.
I feel Size and temperament are important for defining a character concept, but unimportant for justifying a separate species.

Lucky and brave work thematically well together. Both support optimistic and curious outlook. Granted, that doesn't do much with hobbity homebody halflings, and that's why I prefer kendery nomad halflings.
Actually, I agree in principle. Lucky and Brave could potentially work well together. But the problem is, the mechanics for Lucky kinda suck. If the player had more agency to actualize the concept of Lucky during gameplay, it would become a noticeable trait. Then, the concept of the Halfling could double down on the nonhuman aspect of this luck.

And I definitely dont want to hear, "a god did it". That is almost a non-answer. By that logic, a god could create a human ethnicity called a halfling. The deference to a "deus ex machina" is meaningless. Besides, personally, I am sick of D&D gods. I want less character concepts dependent on them. It is fine for the Forgotten Realms setting to feature the gods, but I want them away from any core considerations.

The nonhuman explanation of the Lucky trait would have to describe the nature of this luck itself, how it works.

I strongly equate the concepts of "luck", "fate", forking timelines, and psionic "prescience". As an aspect of fate, any Fey creature might have some form of luck as a trait. With regard to the alfar, they are fate in the sense of psionic prescience of a shaman and ensuring good luck and success. Oppositely, the dvergar are fate in the sense of psionic prescience and ensuring bad luck and failure. Of course, getting a dvergar to curse ones enemies can be fortunate, and in this ironic sense the "dark" "alfar" can be a benefit.

Anyway, I want the Halfling to more clearly disambiguate from the Human.
 
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lingual

Adventurer
Huh, funny. I was told that it was no problem to distinguish halflings. There was no uncertainty at all. I mean, "Take away scales and breath weapon from a dragonborn and you get a human" is pretty disingenuous. "Hey, remove all the defining traits of something and it looks like something else!!!" In other news, rain is wet.

No takers at all? Really? You folks don't seem to be too confident in yourselves. I can spot a dragonborn in every picture. 5e tiefling? Not a problem. Note, several of those pics that I put back there, they're Paizo pics. So, it's not like they're some random deviantart pic. Most of those have been published, a few have not. But, where's all that confidence I saw about how halflings are easy to distinguish and share virtually nothing with humans? Not ready to put your money where your mouth is?
An elf with hair that covers part of their ear does not look like a human? A dwarf does not look like a stocky person with a beard?

Cherry picking artwork proves nothing. Sorry .
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
An elf with hair that covers part of their ear does not look like a human? A dwarf does not look like a stocky person with a beard?
I agree with this.

The appearance would need to be an obviously nonhuman characteristic, to count as a nonhuman appearance.

By the way, I have seen reallife people who had somewhat pointy ears. It happens.

For me, the concepts of elf and dwarf are supposed to look human. Because they actually arent humans but are taking on a human form. They still retain subtle hints of their true form, being some feature of nature.

For example, the alfar are sunlight, and sometimes the human form glows an aura of sunlight. That would count as a nonhuman appearance.
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Without a frame of reference? Looking at them only visually without knowing anything else? Pictures by a variety of artists with different styles? Some of which (like #6) are so dark you can't see any distinguishing features? I would say #6 is unknown, #8 is a gnome because of the facial hair. But it doesn't prove anything.

Visuals, and only visuals with no context are not what distinguish the races. So what if they look like a different race if you have no scale? That's only part of what makes them different. They're half the size, have different motivations and different abilities. But yes, take away just about everything that they stand for and they're just like every other race.

But fundamentally all races in D&D are just humans with slightly different visuals. Take away a dragonborn's scales and breath weapon and voila! Human! Look at this picture, what race is it?
View attachment 141060
According to the artist, it's a dwarf female. Because they're wearing armor I guess?

So I guess dwarves are just humans, right?

I thought Halfling derp.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
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
If the test is to determine which of these are halflings and which are human, I have to say…

several of those don’t look like either to me.
 

Huh, funny. I was told that it was no problem to distinguish halflings. There was no uncertainty at all. I mean, "Take away scales and breath weapon from a dragonborn and you get a human" is pretty disingenuous. "Hey, remove all the defining traits of something and it looks like something else!!!" In other news, rain is wet.

No takers at all? Really? You folks don't seem to be too confident in yourselves. I can spot a dragonborn in every picture. 5e tiefling? Not a problem.
In short you can pick the two 4e/5e races but not the classic ones from humans once they cover their ears. Which is why some people find dragonborn and tieflings to be too exotic for their D&D.
Note, several of those pics that I put back there, they're Paizo pics. So, it's not like they're some random deviantart pic. Most of those have been published, a few have not. But, where's all that confidence I saw about how halflings are easy to distinguish and share virtually nothing with humans? Not ready to put your money where your mouth is?
First, who said that halflings share virtually nothing with humans? Halflings share more visually with humans than Thri-Keen do for example. So for that matter do elves. I don't think that anyone disputes this.

Second if you're saying that "Not all halflings in a single still image look like stereotypical halflings" all I can say is "Good". What you are trying to prove would appear to be that halflings are not a race full of cookie cutter stereotypes that all dress alike to ensure that you can tell halflings are halflings 100% of the time.

But for halflings to be just like humans you'd have to have 11/11 of your characters looking like humans. Are you telling me you've done that? Or are you going to admit that halflings are not actually portrayed as humans although some look more human-like (and some gnomes look halfling-like)?
 

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