• COMING SOON! -- Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition! Level up your 5E game! The standalone advanced 5E tabletop RPG adds depth and diversity to the game you love!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

Status
Not open for further replies.

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
What do non-Duergar Dwarves do to push things ahead narratively that can't also be done by humans?
Dwarven Resilience, Darkvision, etc. Sure, humans can be miners and smiths, but the point of dwarves is that they were created to fulfill that niche (by Tolkien, the D&D game designers, and the in-lore gods in lots of worlds). They have a niche, and IMO, justify their existence in that. Halflings don't fulfill their niche as well as dwarves do, IMO.
(Or what do most humanoids do that can't be done by humans?).
Darkvision, innate spellcasting, damage resistances/immunities, powerful build, magic resistance/gnomish cunning, Small size, flying/climbing/swimming speeds, age ranges, Deathless/Constructed Nature, etc, etc, etc. I could go on and on. If you don't want just mechanical things, how about things like this:
  • You were made out of metal to serve as war-slaves (Warforged).
  • You're part animal (Centaur, Satyr)
  • You're an anthropomorphic animal (Tabaxi, Leonin, Owlfolk, Aarakocra, Lizardolk, Rabbitfolk, Locathah, etc)
  • You're half-(insert otherworldly/monstrous creature), and it changed your physical nature and granted you magical powers (Dhampir, Tiefling, Aasimar, Genasi, Hexblood, Kalashtar, etc)
  • You came back to life, but not really (Reborn)
  • You're half-(insert other race) (Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Mul, etc)
What do gnomes do that a short variant elf wouldn't do?
Be master tinkers/illusion-masters, not connected to Corellon, be curious and antisocial instead of haughty and xenophobic, etc.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad


Thoughts:

1) If we go through the books and say "does this have an actual niche," we're going to end up with substantially shorter books.

2) At a certain level, D&D was meant to simulate what people saw in myth, folklore, fiction and movies. This has become less important over time, as D&D is effectively its own genre of fantasy at this point, but it's still a consideration. If I was on the 6E team, I'd want a lot of elements from fantasy CRPGs brought in, like Minecraft creepers and Zelda-style boomerangs. But having don't-call-them-Hobbits is important from this stance, as the LotR movies are still, by far, the most successful fantasy movies of all time and there's a big audience that expects to see halflings in a fantasy game as a result.

3) You could definitely merge gnomes and halflings together. Given how both were treated in 4E, that was my stated preference on these boards. If you combine the two races, there's more than enough to carve out a pretty substantial identity.

4) That said, while I am obviously a fan of gnomes, folks on the Mystara Mailing-List might remember me going to bat for the Five Shires in the late 1990s when everyone was saying it had to be turned evil or destroyed or the like to make it interesting. Being the good people who don't start trouble from a good place worth defending is a niche. Not everyone needs to be super badasses. In worlds where everything is dark and edgy, maybe traditional halflings don't have a role (I'd argue the Dark Sun halflings are so different as to effectively be another species, although they have a narrative use there to show how much the world has changed since its climate change apocalypse), but in lots of worlds they do. Now, the counter to this is that you could use humans for the same thing but, except for when player character races have wings or breath weapons, that's pretty much true of all of the PHB core races.

5) But I also think that everyone should be free to restrict or add whatever they want at their tables. When my campaign began, everyone had to be a human, dwarf or gnome, because that's what was in the starting area, and all of the player characters were locals. I felt it added some realism and focus to the game, and my players seem to have agreed. It also made adding other races in later on more special, since it showed how far everyone had come, literally and figuratively, from the small town they had started off in.
 
Last edited:

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.
Goblins in modern fantasy are often tinkerers, merchants and urban. The brutal wolfrider thing is mostly just Tolkien and D&D at this point.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Thoughts:

1) If we go through the books and say "does this have an actual niche," we're going to end up with substantially shorter books.

2) At a certain level, D&D was meant to simulate what people saw in myth, folklore, fiction and movies. This has become less important over time, as D&D is effectively its own genre of fantasy at this point, but it's still a consideration. If I was on the 6E team, I'd want a lot of elements from fantasy CRPGs brought in, like Minecraft creepers and Zelda-style boomerangs.

3) You could definitely merge gnomes and halflings together. Given how both were treated in 4E, that was my stated preference on these boards. If you combine the two races, there's more than enough to carve out a pretty substantial identity.

4) That said, while I am obviously a fan of gnomes, folks on the Mystara Mailing-List might remember me going to bat for the Five Shires in the late 1990s when everyone was saying it had to be turned evil or destroyed or the like to make it interesting. Being the good people who don't start trouble from a good place worth defending is a niche. Not everyone needs to be super badasses. In worlds where everything is dark and edgy, maybe traditional halflings don't have a role (I'd argue the Dark Sun halflings are so different as to effectively be another species, although they have a narrative use there to show how much the world has changed since its climate change apocalypse), but in lots of worlds they do. Now, the counter to this is that you could use humans for the same thing but, except for when player character races have wings or breath weapons, that's pretty much true of all of the PHB core races.

5) But I also think that everyone should be free to restrict or add whatever they want at their tables. When my campaign began, everyone had to be a human, dwarf or gnome, because that's what was in the starting area, and all of the player characters were locals. I felt it added some realism and focus to the game, and my players seem to have agreed. It also made adding other races in later on more special, since it showed how far everyone had come, literally and figuratively, from the small town they had started off in.
In regards to Point #3, isn’t that what Monte Cook effectively did in Arcana Evolved with its Quickling and Loresong Faen?
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
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.
That's kinda what I ended up doing in my homebrew world, making there only be two subraces of Halfling (Ghostwise and Brightstep Halflings), and the Stout Halfling and Forest Gnomes merged into one race; the Stoutlings (but there are still Rock/Tinker Gnomes on Lantanea and Deep Gnomes that live on the surface world after being driven out of the Underdark by Duergar).
 

Mercurius

Legend
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.
Well, a campaign setting! It is for a campaign that just started with a group I played with in 2008-15ish, and based loosely on the homebrew I used then. Or are you asking for more specifics about theme and atmosphere and such? The short version: A post-(magical) apocalyptic setting which draws from Sword & Sorcery (Howard et al), Earthdawn, Middle-earth, and other sources. What it doesn't draw from is the more anthropomorphic and video-game inspired ideas of the last 20 years or so.

Anyhow, this brings me back to my underlying (but unspoken) point above: I see the vast and varied corpus of D&D ideas as a toolbox, which each individual DM draws from to create a campaign setting. What a DM picks and chooses is entirely up to them, and what sort of setting they want to create. If it is a more co-creative setting, then players are part of that process.

WotC can model this in different ways through their official settings - which is what they're already doing. Each setting has different thematic qualities, but they range from "anything goes" to "strongly thematic." This, I think, can inspire creativity in DMs, if they recognize the toolbox idea. "Ooh, Theros is cool - I want to design something similar, but use Mesoamerica as inspiration instead of Greece." Or, "I love Dark Sun, but it is a bit too dark for me...how could I adapt it to being part of a larger setting, perhaps as an isolated continent ?" Or, "I like the anything goes approach of the Forgotten Realms, but could I build something similar but a little more cohesive, in which everything doesn't seem to haphazard?" Etc.
 

In regards to Point #3, isn’t that what Monte Cook effectively did in Arcana Evolved with its Quickling and Loresong Faen?
He did it in Ptolus first. Both gnomes and halflings (loresong and quickling, respectively) are subspecies of faen (elves) and many people in the world of Pramael can't tell gnomes and halflings apart from one another at a glance, something I've used to great effect in my campaign for years.

I think it would also be fun to have a gnome wizard fulfill the Gandalf role in a halfling town. Similar, but different enough to stand out, in multiple ways.
 



Cadence

Legend
Supporter
What do gnomes do that a short variant elf wouldn't do?
Be master tinkers/illusion-masters, not connected to Corellon, be curious and antisocial instead of haughty and xenophobic, etc.

Building clockwork toys, firestarts, and music boxes, or having an illusion cantrip seems a slow start to being a master-tinker or master-illusionist. But even so, are those genetic or societal? (Is 5e heading in a way that they would be societal?). Isn't being connected to a particular God purely fluff (Halflings are connected to Yondalla and not Garl Gllittergold. Do we really want to paint entire races as antisocial, haughty, and xenophobic?!?
 


Well, a campaign setting! It is for a campaign that just started with a group I played with in 2008-15ish, and based loosely on the homebrew I used then. Or are you asking for more specifics about theme and atmosphere and such? The short version: A post-(magical) apocalyptic setting which draws from Sword & Sorcery (Howard et al), Earthdawn, Middle-earth, and other sources. What it doesn't draw from is the more anthropomorphic and video-game inspired ideas of the last 20 years or so.

Anyhow, this brings me back to my underlying (but unspoken) point above: I see the vast and varied corpus of D&D ideas as a toolbox, which each individual DM draws from to create a campaign setting. What a DM picks and chooses is entirely up to them, and what sort of setting they want to create. If it is a more co-creative setting, then players are part of that process.

WotC can model this in different ways through their official settings - which is what they're already doing. Each setting has different thematic qualities, but they range from "anything goes" to "strongly thematic." This, I think, can inspire creativity in DMs, if they recognize the toolbox idea. "Ooh, Theros is cool - I want to design something similar, but use Mesoamerica as inspiration instead of Greece." Or, "I love Dark Sun, but it is a bit too dark for me...how could I adapt it to being part of a larger setting, perhaps as an isolated continent ?" Or, "I like the anything goes approach of the Forgotten Realms, but could I build something similar but a little more cohesive, in which everything doesn't seem to haphazard?" Etc.
first I see what you're going for but lizardmen fit better in that than small plump Englishmen so why halflings specifically?

we know it is a toolbox that much is not being questioned but why the prevalence of the halfling implement it some unnecessary for the general use toolbox called the phb, they seem super limited to a certain setting which is not one wotc owns?

so again can you justify the halfling in most dnd settings?
notable non-inspiring guys like Bilbo, Frodo, Samwise, etc etc.

At this point the only way to think that halflings can't be heroes is to ignore fantasy literature all together.
that was not the point those are all based on the unlikely hero archetype what else can you do with a halfling? what other than that one archetype do they have? they end up super similar as they would not make wizards or monks, they care for nothing but comfort they are just Eloi without the being food angle.
 



Of course not. You’re a boy.
what?
Guess I'll throw away the halfling characters that I've made. They just aren't optmized enough.
you missed the later part that applied context as we all agree they are more or less pastoral people who care for nothing save immediate comfort, so why would they seek knowledge of the arcane or seek enlightenment.
they are made to be victims who have horrible stuff happen to them that the party avenges.
or they are the reluctant hero.
not seeing world presence here I could dump them on an island like the dodos and ignore them.
 


Minigiant

Legend
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?
Dwarves stand in as the race of tradition and resistance to progression.

Their longer lifespans, toughness, skill with practical tools, proficiency with tool like weapons, and resistance to movement and poison display this.

Dwarves sit, squat, and don't move with the times. If a dwarf or multiple dwarves act instead of react, it's major.
 

Some people find that an engaging question. You clearly don't, which is fine.
they are defined as not caring about such things so they have no wizards or monks, rangers or barbarians are unlikely.
certainly no warlocks or most rogue subclasses as why would they want to assassinate people?
bard I have no idea, sorcerers could work for a caster, would they ever be sufficiently devoted to make clerics or paladins.
rangers and druids means sacrificing comfort so they would not naturally produce them.
not seeing a lot of class variety other than forcing them into it at which point why play a halfling.

I am not saying no small folk or halflings but why are they so common in world-building other than because we are told they should be there?
we could put something better in its place and move it to say a forgotten realms book.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Now is not the time to make me feel old with my perfectly acceptable movie references.

He did it in Ptolus first. Both gnomes and halflings (loresong and quickling, respectively) are subspecies of faen (elves) and many people in the world of Pramael can't tell gnomes and halflings apart from one another at a glance, something I've used to great effect in my campaign for years.
Thought so, but I couldn't remember well enough to say.
 

Status
Not open for further replies.

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top