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

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
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.

Why would most worlds particularly have elves or dwarves instead of warforged or tieflings except because we've always been told they should be there?

If warforged or tieflings or the flavor of the day are popular, is it mostly because they're new? If elves and dwarves are popular is it omnipresence and momentum?

Are there a lot of threads about who is unreasonable when a DM has a world conception with limited race and class options and, invariably, a player wants to add in another race or class? Is taking out halflings just going to make them the thing folks will want to add into the world that has no place for them (at least in the DMs mind)? Is having players try to justify Halflings to thwart their DM's world conception the best way to get unique takes on the race?
 

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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?
Innate magic is almost always implied to be genetic, not societal. The tinkering ability is obviously cultural, but gnomes are shown to have large heads (and therefore brains) to show that at least some of their intellect is genetic.
(Is 5e heading in a way that they would be societal?)
In the current 5e direction, I do think that Forest Gnomes would keep the magic and Gnomes would keep Gnomish Cunning, but Tinker would be cultural.
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?!?
But fluff matters. Fluff is what this whole thread is about. How certain races are fluffed matters for how drawing their stories are. The story of Garl Glittergold and the story of Corellon are intrinsically different. Garl is a tricky prankster that prefers using traps and wit to avoid his enemies (Kurtulmak and his kobold servants), while Corellon was a warrior (cut out Gruumsh's eye). They're very different and have fairly engaging stories, IMO. (Yondalla is boring, IMO.)

And, obviously, the whole races aren't antisocial, haughty, or xenophobic, but parts of the society are. Also, I don't think antisocial is a bad trait for a race to have. I'm antisocial. We're all nerds here. I'm sure lots of us are antisocial as well. Haughtiness and xenophobia are flaws, and are almost always illustrated as such in fantasy, and that's a typical fantasy depiction of elves, dating back to the mythological origins of Elves (the Norse Alfar).
 



Why would most worlds particularly have elves or dwarves instead of warforged or tieflings except because we've always been told they should be there?

If warforged or tieflings or the flavor of the day are popular, is it mostly because they're new? If elves and dwarves are popular is it omnipresence and momentum?

Are there a lot of threads about who is unreasonable when a DM has a world conception with limited race and class options and, invariably, a player wants to add in another race or class? Is taking out halflings just going to make them the thing folks will want to add into the world that has no place for them (at least in the DMs mind)? Is having players try to justify Halflings to thwart their DM's world conception the best way to get unique takes on the race?
you are not wrong on the first part but they at least have more to mess with to generate different interpretations.

warforged really depends on setting and tieflings without some kind of fiend presents in the setting are just cooler looking humans but being tired to hell is at least a thing that has more than two interpretations.

I like limited focused settings and if I want to bring it a race I want to be able to say how it could work and be interpreted in a setting, halflings have near nothing in that department.

I myself want to know how to build better races that can be both widely interpreted but have a core that inspires things, halflings lack both can you even imagine what a society of evil halflings would be like?
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Re-reading the Nero Wolfe corpus right now, and it feels like some humans can get at this too :)

Sure. But humans don't seem to be made to resemble the elements of stone and iron. Dwarves don't just have a tendency to not move physically, mentally, and spiritually, they are actually hard to move, had to slow, and hard to drop.

Whereas Halflings kinda feel like a culture turned into a race. Which is kinda what Tolkien did. And now with an edition with themes, Halflings feel more like a background than a race. Like you could be a human, take the Halfling background, and take the rogue class. Prioritize Dexterity, Charisma, and Wisdom.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Innate magic is almost always implied to be genetic, not societal. The tinkering ability is obviously cultural, but gnomes are shown to have large heads (and therefore brains) to show that at least some of their intellect is genetic.

I'm pretty sure using head size as a sign of intellect of humanoids, and having some humanoids be more intelligent based on appearance, is certainly not in line with the way things are going. (We can't tell if you're evil by your appearance, but we can tell you aren't very smart?).

IMO. (Yondalla is boring, IMO.)
Sounds like you're pretty solidly anti-Halflingist. Even going after their religion!?!? ;-)
 

Sure. But humans don't seem to be made to resemble the elements of stone and iron. Dwarves don't just have a tendency to not move physically, mentally, and spiritually, they are actually hard to move, had to slow, and hard to drop.
Almost all of that has no mechanical basis in the game. It's fluff, just like the fluff around halflings. You can take a human, give them the appropriate background (Miner feels like it ought to be a background, generally speaking), prioritize Constitution, Strength and Wisdom.

"Proving" that halflings don't have enough substance to merit inclusion in the PHB means "proving" that's true of almost all the races, except for the most non-traditional of player character races who have supernatural abilities other than darkvision (because honestly, everyone but halflings and humans have darkvision, so it's almost not even worth considering -- it's not unusual or special any more).

This is not a "provable" argument. If people don't think halflings belong in their games, they don't. If people think halflings belong in their games, they do. It's a matter or taste and given that the PHB race list is a toolkit, not a list of mandatory features for D&D, everyone can be right at their own table.
 

edemaitre

Explorer
There are a couple of ways to approach Halflings in a D&D game.

-They replace Half-Elves and Half-Dwarves (the other half being human). The Lightfoot combine the rustic nature of some humans with the nimbleness and fey appreciation for nature of the Elves, while the Stout combine Dwarven solidity with human curiosity.

-They replace/merge with Gnomes. Traditionally, Gnomes are more about craft while Halflings are more about agriculture, but your world could have the same race/subspecies occupying both niches. Or they could be offshoots of the same race.

-They're the good-aligned mirror of Kobolds. If cruel Orcs are twisted Elves, martial Hobgoblins are monstrous humans, and tunnel-dwelling Goblins the rivals of Dwarves, perhaps the small and mischievous Kobolds have their equivalent in the more sedentary Halflings. This might not jibe with the current thinking of not making entire races evil, but if their creator gods or rulers are, and their function is to provide slayable opponents, they should at least fit into some sort of cosmology and ecosystem.

-They're a subrace of humanity. It always bugged me that the official, "kitchen sink" settings felt that every Player Character option had to have a culture and homeland, leading to some very crowded worlds. Sure, some cities might be cosmopolitan, but perhaps the different "races" are just that -- people with slightly different physical and cultural characteristics that developed in relative isolation.

-They're not magical. Sure, humans aren't either, but some have a talent for spellcasting. Perhaps Halflings were created by some deity to resist magic (like Dwarves, but less craft-oriented). I could see them making decent Druids with some magical resistance. I agree with the posters who noted that Halflings are meant to be the simple, cheerful counterpoint to the powerful and dark aspects of other characters.

-They're stand-ins for medieval English peasants. As others on this thread have noted, if you have analogues for different historical cultures in your world, you can simply assign them one. For example, the High Elves are Celtic aristocrats, the Dwarves are Slavic nomads, and Gnomes Germanic guildspeople. You can also give your humans different cultural overlays and mix and match.

Each campaign is a mix of the sources the D.M. chooses and the options the role-players like. Your world doesn't have to have Halflings, but Warrows, Brownies, Hobbits, and Podlings are a popular fantasy trope.
 

-They're the good-aligned mirror of Kobolds. If cruel Orcs are twisted Elves, martial Hobgoblins are monstrous humans, and tunnel-dwelling Goblins the rivals of Dwarves, perhaps the small and mischievous Kobolds have their equivalent in the more sedentary Halflings. This might not jibe with the current thinking of not making entire races evil, but if their creator gods or rulers are, and their function is to provide slayable opponents, they should at least fit into some sort of cosmology and ecosystem.
I had previously pondered creating a series of Fantasy Heartbreaker games based on 3E and BD&D. Each book would be a standalone (think the second editions of the Chronicles of Darkness), where each book would be about one race, with specially tweaked classes, magic, monsters, a starting village and nearby low level adventure. Basically a dramatically expanded Point of View series from the Dragon, designed to be the basis of a single-race campaign, on the theory that an all-dwarf campaign should be different than an all-elf campaign, but they each have compelling stories to tell.

One of the things I ran up against was that the halfling and gnome books would, historically, use kobolds as their opposite numbers as a rival race in their same ecological niche. But kobolds are a better match for gnomes, as they live in hills and some versions of D&D talked about them living in the darkest of woods, which moves them away from halflings. My plan was to create a halfling-specific group of rivals, probably rabbitfolk, who would pillage farms and food stores, as they don't have an agrarian culture, but one based on hunting/gathering/raiding. (Peter Rabbit as a villainous intruder.)
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
I myself want to know how to build better races that can be both widely interpreted but have a core that inspires things, halflings lack both can you even imagine what a society of evil halflings would be like?

Really easily actually!

Just ratchet up the desire for comfort and safety into a xenophobic paranoia that everyone not "of the tribe" is out to destroy that comfort and safety and build from there.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Really easily actually!

Just ratchet up the desire for comfort and safety into a xenophobic paranoia that everyone not "of the tribe" is out to destroy that comfort and safety and build from there.

And then what? They become Amish?
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I myself want to know how to build better races that can be both widely interpreted but have a core that inspires things, halflings lack both can you even imagine what a society of evil halflings would be like?

Greed feels the obvious route (Sackville Baginses, but steps on classical Dwarves, but the classical Dwarf greed has been noted as being problematic).

Being small and sneaky and sticking to the shadows, preying on the big folks who have trouble looking down.

I always thought the Ewoks should have been shown to either be cannibals or (more clearly?) eating storm troopers in episode IV. A society of hole dwelling humanoid killers waylaying travellers.
 

Really easily actually!

Just ratchet up the desire for comfort and safety into a xenophobic paranoia that everyone not "of the tribe" is out to destroy that comfort and safety and build from there.
It's certainly not hard to find historical real world analogues. There are and were plenty of societies that mostly wanted to be left alone and enforced that with polite requests, followed by increasingly less polite violence.
 

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?
Quick and dirty halflings I have created and played within the classes you insist are unplayable as halflings.

Wizards - in this case he sought knowledge to make his life around hearth and home easier. He was lazy as all could be. Now, he's a master abjurer who loves to cook and clean safely.
Monk - this was a sheriff build who defended the home town through non-lethal violence
Ranger - an herb collector with a dog companion. Also a badger riding warrior that defended the steadiing.
Barbarian - you ever take a man's cheese? He gets angry.
Warlock - I haven't made this yet, but would probably look at connecting to a patron because he never wants to suffer from the death of his family again.
Rogue - I have literally made every single Rogue/Thief in 1e,2e, and 5e with a halfling. The most famous halfling in literature is a rogue.
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Almost all of that has no mechanical basis in the game. It's fluff, just like the fluff around halflings. You can take a human, give them the appropriate background (Miner feels like it ought to be a background, generally speaking), prioritize Constitution, Strength and Wisdom

Dwarves can see in the dark, indentify masonry, and have various resistances depending on edition that displays them being a complete race of stoney folk who live underground or in mountains, like it, and won't move by choice.

A human miner lacks these races because the mountain or hill dwarves culture is reflected in the race's very being.

Being a dwarf is telling the DM "But I have darkvision" or "Oh but I am resistant to that."

The redundant feeling some have of Halfling is that their race feels just like a culture and one that a human or gnome can easily replicate.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Quick and dirty halflings I have created and played within the classes you insist are unplayable as halflings.

Wizards - in this case he sought knowledge to make his life around heart and home easier. He was lazy as all could be. Now, he's a master abjurer who loves to cook and clean safely.
Monk - this was a sheriff build who defended the home town through non-lethal violence
Ranger - an herb collector with a dog companion. Also a badger riding warrior that defended the steadiing.
Barbarian - you ever take a man's cheese? He gets angry.
Warlock - I haven't made this yet, but would probably look at connecting to a patron because he never wants to suffer from the death of his family again.
Rogue - I have literally made every single Rogue/Thief in 1e,2e, and 5e with a halfling. The most famous halfling in literature is a rogue.
And in earlier drafts, Strider was going to be a hobbit.
 

BrokenTwin

Adventurer
As a frequent halfling/hobbit/pech player, I've looked at them primarily as filling the niche of being over their head (literally), but surviving due to preserverance and luck. They're the underdog ancestry.

I find the niche difference between goblins and kobolds to be just as miniscule as gnomes and halflings. I'd feel no strong loss if gnomes and kobolds disappeared entirely.
 

Mercurius

Legend
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?
Sure. It is a classic D&D trope, going back to Tolkien. People like playing halflings. I don't think it needs more justification than that, at least as far as the core rulebooks are concerned. To put it another way, there's more reason to keep it in there than to leave it out, and there's nothing wrong with maintaining tradition - especially when it serves what people want.

Each setting might have their own reasons or takes on halflings, but most simply go by "because it is in the core rules."

As for my setting, halflings aren't "small plump Englishmen." They're more river-faring gypsy-nomads.

Oh yeah, the toolbox thing. I don't think it is being explicitly questioned, but these conversations tend to have an underlying current that goes in that direction, especially with the usage of "we." "Do we need halflings?" Even your phrasing: "we know it is..." Who is this we? Evidently some who question the necessity of halflings in the core rules. But why is that a thing? There's really no reason to take them out - just leave them in the toolbox, and do with it what you please. Even if you're not homebrewing, you can say to your group, "I'm running the Realms as-is, but without halflings. Instead you can play X, Y, or Z for weefolk options."
 
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