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

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Do you not see how that is my entire point? Their post was about halflings. Their post then went out of their way to set up a dichotomy. If you are against halflings, you are against all of those traits they listed. You in their own words, only see the point in playing edgelords and anime characters. Again, their EXACT words stated this unequivocally.
I’m not going to keep litigating this. Several other people understood what they were saying, but it is what it is.

Their words stated that if you don’t see the value in a race that is just those traits, nothing more complex or grand or dark or world-shaking, it comes across as not valuing those traits.
Right now, they are not only in the PHB, but they are under the "common races" section in the PHB.
As they should be.
In the future should they still be listed like that?
Yes.
Or would it make more sense to have them in a later release, and move popular races like goblins and gnomes up?
No.
Using Merry as an example of what Hobbits are is very misleading, because no other hobbit is like him.
He represents part of what halflings are. I could also use Samwise in the Orc tower when he is saving Frodo.
Is that truly a flawed premise? If I wrote a character in a novel who had no flaws... did I write a good character? No.
A race isn’t a character. Besides, people have already pointed out some easy flaws you can play with you want that.
Which again, that is hard to work with. That is hard to make into anything that a player can explore or dig their teeth into.
For you, perhaps. Not for people who enjoy halflings as they are. And you can just use gnomes. No one is being deprived of anything, here.
I can play that simple character with anything. But, when I build out the world. When I look to "who are elves in the wider world" I have a lot to pull on.
For me, I find the same is true of the halfling.
I can look to their origins, their religion, their place in the larger world and see how they affect it. With haflings... you can't. They don't have an origin. They don't have a place in the world other than "they live in small communities near humans".
My point, again, because I know things can get lost in these novels we are writing back and forth, is that that place is good. It is good that a “core” race (insofar as that concept even matters) is just folks.

Here’s my question, then.

If Brandobaris (my favorite halfling god) and Yondalla and all the other FR hin deities had a solid writeup in 5e, with things like what kind of PCs might represent different priests and knights and other servants of their gods, and the River halflings of 4e (who are mentioned in the 5e PHB) had a little more prominence, and there were some notes in some subclasses about how this or that tradition started with halflings, would that be enough?

Because if not, I think maybe this really is just a case of you not liking halflings and trying to spin it into something bigger than that.

But regardless, it remains a good thing that a core race is just folks.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
But halflings are supposedly on the same tier and if they aren't mentioned... I don't notice.
Because you don’t like them.

I wouldn’t notice dwarves. I often forget they exist. I also didn’t notice that we’d had no clerics in my games for nearly a decade until a player recently multiclassed cleric.

But halflings, I’d notice.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Sure, they aren't against individual DMs doing what they want, but they do seem to be against the company making large changes going forward.
Large changes, sure. I don’t support changing the character and basic premise of stuff between editions unless it’s obscure like Firbolgs.

But adding lore would be fine. As long as it doesn’t involve changing them into something completely different. Halflings don’t need innate magic, or a dark history of violent colonialism, or whatever.

The gnome writeup in Mordy’s is great, for instance. One of the only lore sections I don’t dislike in that book. I wish that halflings had gotten as fun and interesting a writeup.

Just more info on their gods, reminders of halfling heroes, notes of halfling traditions that can be viewed as PC builds, etc.

And more info about the River halflings, and how they tie the trade relations of various realms together, as well as being a welcome source of information as they go from town to town.
 

I've never been able to find a good lore difference between Mountain Dwarves and Hill Dwarves. They mostly seem to be a culture difference, which is easily explained away as different dwarf cities being different.
Honestly, the best one I've seen on this is Warcraft.

Warcraft has all three types of dwarf. Your Mountain dwarves are the regular in your Ironforge dwarves, who have all of that regular dwarf-ness plus archaeology as they have a bit of a thing about looking up their history

Then there's the Wildhammer, the hill dwarves, who ride gryphons, have shamans, and have above-ground villages with underground houses. They're the berserker warrior type but also fairly friendly with elves

And the Duerger equivilent are the ashen-skinned Dark Irons who were enslaved by the Elemental Lord of Fire for the past few centuries until we murdered him, and now they're in the position of being The Morally Ambiguous Alliance Race. Most magical of the dwarves
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Honestly, the best one I've seen on this is Warcraft.

Warcraft has all three types of dwarf. Your Mountain dwarves are the regular in your Ironforge dwarves, who have all of that regular dwarf-ness plus archaeology as they have a bit of a thing about looking up their history

Then there's the Wildhammer, the hill dwarves, who ride gryphons, have shamans, and have above-ground villages with underground houses. They're the berserker warrior type but also fairly friendly with elves

And the Duerger equivilent are the ashen-skinned Dark Irons who were enslaved by the Elemental Lord of Fire for the past few centuries until we murdered him, and now they're in the position of being The Morally Ambiguous Alliance Race. Most magical of the dwarves

These are decent Dwarf cultures. They remind me of classic martial Fighter Dwarf versus recent primal Druid Dwarf.

But I wish the Dvergar (using a reallife culture term) were more mythologically accurate. These "dwarves" are different.

Dvergar Traits
• Actually is the mind of a feature of rock or clay
• Petrifies in sunlight (when reaching zero hit points from radiant damage)
• Personifying an ineffective fate, whence curses and destruction
• Typically same height as human
• Black hair, sunless pale skin
• Somber, protective or cruel, generally uncooperative
• As rock, are unmoving, perceived as shamanic trance, mind outofbody
• Powerful mages: psionic, primal, elemental (earth)
• Superlative makers of tools and technology
• Extreme Strength while holding something up without moving
• Typical classes: Psion, Druid, Bard, Artificer, Cleric (cosmic force of fate), Wizard
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
These are decent Dwarf cultures. They remind me of classic martial Fighter Dwarf versus recent primal Druid Dwarf.

But I wish the Dvergar (using a reallife culture term) were more mythologically accurate. These "dwarves" are different.

Dvergar Traits
• Actually is the mind of a feature of rock or clay
• Petrifies in sunlight (when reaching zero hit points from radiant damage)
• Personifying an ineffective fate, whence curses and destruction
• Typically same height as human
• Black hair, sunless pale skin
• Somber, protective or cruel, generally uncooperative
• As rock, are unmoving, perceived as shamanic trance, mind outofbody
• Powerful mages, primal, possibly arcane
• Superlative makers of tools and technology
• Extreme Strength while holding something up without moving
• Low Charisma relating to ineffective fate, not taken seriously despite power
• Typical classes: Druid, cosmic force Cleric of fate, Artificer, Wizard
That is a take on them, but hardly universally agreed upon.

Whether they all turn to stone in the sunlight is debatable, as plenty of stories of them don’t feature that.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Or would it make more sense to have them in a later release, and move popular races like goblins and gnomes up?
What's the evidence that gnomes, in particular, are more popular than halflings? (I don't recall seeing evidence for goblins either, but I'd find that easier to believe for a variety of reasons.)
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
That is a take on them, but hardly universally agreed upon.

Whether they all turn to stone in the sunlight is debatable, as plenty of stories of them don’t feature that.
The texts in the Old Norse language mention how the Dvergar petrify in sunlight. Kennings for the "sun" include "the game of Dvalin", where Dvalin is an ancestor representing all Dvergar, and the "game" is being careful to avoid direct sunlight. The Dvergar Alvis is tricked by Thor into remaining above ground while the sun rises, thus becomes stone.

Becoming stone relates to how the Dvergar are certain rock formations.

For D&D, spellcasting a Fog Cloud, and similar magic, would screen out direct sunlight.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The texts in the Old Norse language mention how the Dvergar petrify in sunlight. Kennings for the "sun" include "the game of Dvalin", where Dvalin is an ancestor representing all Dvergar, and the "game" is being careful to avoid direct sunlight. The Dvergar Alvis is tricked by Thor into remaining above ground while the sun rises.
And other tales have them walking in sunlight.🤷‍♂️
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Of course that was mostly with 3e and 4e. In 5e with the group I mostly game with now we would notice the absence of elves, but mostly because Half-elves in 5e are awesome, and they have to come from somewhere.
Just call 'em something else. If you don't like elves but have fey in your setting, call them fey-touched. And Eberron has half-elves as their own people now. Maybe there used to be elves in your world, but they cross-bred themselves into extinction.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
From the Realms, sure, and from Greyhawk. Those are rather generic, older worlds, made when halflings were just homebodies. But if you remove halflings from Eberron or Athas, you'd have the exact same problem as you'd have with elves in the Realms.

I agree with Eberron and Athas, but I will also note those are two settings that went out of their way to alter races and make them different than normal. And in "general" DnD lore, the halflings are still just homebodies. So our "generic" lore is the same as Greyhawk and the Realms as well.

No. Not unless your world is otherwise incredibly generic and you spend no time worldbuilding.

You don't have to have a race of foresty, fey-ish people in your world. You can very easily have a world were fey exist and live in their Fey Woods, and mortals fear to enter lest a fair folk follow them home, or they are captured and given as a present to the Faerie Queen and never leave again.

Likewise, you don't have to have dwarfs. The only thing you'd lose out on are those giant dwarf halls and forges. Instead, you'd replace them with winding warrens built by kobolds or goblins, or cluttered gnomish workshops.

Nothing playable "needs" to live in the ancient forests, mountains, or dark depths. We're just used to it.

And if there's a "gap" that needs to be filled then you can just stick another race there. Humans can live in the woods, mine the mountains, and plant the meadows. There's been "jungle dwarfs" since at least 2e, and drow and shadow elves (the weird nuclear-worshiping ones) have been around longer, which just shows that they can put any race in any "gap" you want.

And yet each time you take a race out of the area, you put a similar race in. You took out dwarves and put in another underground race, like kobolds, goblins, or gnomes. When someone mentioned taking out the elves, they offered gnomes or firbolgs.

I'm not making up these gaps. Sure, you can not fill them, but almost every world DOES fill them. Sure, maybe it is dwarves living in the jungles. But SOMEONE lives in the jungles and forests. Maybe it is fey monsters, maybe it is elves, maybe it is dwarves, but there is someone there. But Halflings are...living in the human cities and the human farmlands. They don't fill a natural gap, they are just attached to humans.

So I decided to look up halflings on the Forgotten Realms wiki. That has them as being:

(1) anarchists (they "don't recognize claims of kings and sovereign rulers")
(2) lorekeepers
(3) curiosity-driven adventurers
(4) bat-fishers(!)
(5) chefs and brewers
(6) mostly xenophiliac
(7) nomads

That's a lot of interesting stuff there! Heck, if you ignore 4 and 5 above and threw in some martial arts, you could have the basis for Pratchett's History Monks here.

If they haven't taken a bigger role in Forgotten Realms history, that's the fault of the writers for not using them, because they have a lot to offer them. After all, they have a lot of use in Eberron and Athas, because those writers saw their potential.

And please, don't No True Scotsman them by saying that those are so different as to not be "real" halflings. They're halflings.

I didn't see some of this the first time, so let me look again.

1) Anarchists is a really bold claim. They don't do anything, they just ignore claims of kings and sovereigns. And, weirdly, the kings and sovereigns... don't do anything about it. No body seems to care that the halflings are ignoring them, so what is the point of having them ignore them?

2) I'm guessing you are pulling lorekeepers from the part about halflings having stories and this point that they sometimes inadvertently have lore about ancient things. But that isn't their role in the setting. There are actually organizations that are lorekeepers, like Candlekeep and the like. Sure, more than one group can do the same thing, but the Halflings keeping lore almost seems accidental to a degree.

3) And so is everyone else. Seriously, this is a non-point. Every PC race is an adventurer.

4) You are going from a single line of text. It literally only states "Halfling children were known to fish for bats using a light, durable twine string, and bait of live moths." and seems to be from the novel Azure Bonds. Are being bat fishers an interesting detail? Sure. Is it something that is ever utilized or mentioned anywhere else? Nope.

5) Being chefs and brewers are... again not much of a thing for their entire race. Dwarves and Elves are known brewers too. Humans are brewers and chefs. The article doesn't even say anything more than that they cook food and make alcohol. They aren't even well known for it in the world, or making delicacies that other races like.

6) Maybe this is pulled from the fact that it says they are dominated by other races and don't live in their own communities. Otherwise... they are extra friendly. That is fine, but "we like outsiders" isn't something I can build off of. They don't have anything of their own to actually make them different.


So, we are seeing a lot of very reaching things. I mean, you want to include a single line about bats and the fact that they go on adventures as part of defining the race. And yes, it is perhaps the fault of the writers for not doing anythign with them. But... that is our point. Nobody seems to ever do anything with them. We are told again and again that they are subsumed by the other races.


Again, it really doesn't. There won't be any impact unless you are taking them out of a pre-established world and deciding that it happened in the setting and wasn't a ret-con. You'd just be making a different world.

No, you aren't understanding what I am saying.

Let us say that you make a world with elves in the forest. Then let us say that you make a world with Firbolgs in the forest. Those two worlds are markedly different. There is a big difference between using Elves and using Firbolgs. It makes a noticeable change to make that swap. Yes, you can make two different worlds, but they are obviously not interchangeable.

But Halflings... don't have a role like that. They are just "we are short humans that live with humans". And if you swap halflings and humans... there isn't a super noticeable difference.

Some people like them. Three out of the five PCs in one of my games are playing halflings (well, two halflings and a halfling with a bit of tiefling mixed in). I knew a guy back in college who only played halflings, unless you let him play a kender, in which case he played a kender.

That's great for him, but doesn't answer any of my questions. At all.

Farmers do. Or specifically, people who need to eat and can't easily grow, hunt or gather food themselves. Which is everyone in a city--which is the preferred habitat of humans.


Seems like halflings could be the main agriculturalists of these standard worlds. They may not be making history, but without them, everyone else would have starved to death before they could make history themselves.

I'm familiar with that comic. I get the joke. Because it is a comic that doesn't take these things terribly seriously.

Because, let me ask you this. Your first answer was that farmers need to live in the human farmlands. Doesn't that mean... humans?

So the race that lives in human lands is... humans. And for some reason halflings. Who else would you have live in the human lands and be basically humans with human culture, other than halflings? That seems to be their role.... but why does it exist? Why do we need two human races in the same lands sharing the same cultures?

In the Realms. Not in other settings. In my above-mentioned world, it's the other way around--halflings have towns; humans only have little villages. And halflings are one of the only two races to mint coins or use standardized currency. Mind you, it's a complex, non-decimalized system, but it exists. Everyone else trades or uses hacksilver or weighs the coins before accepting them (background flavor only; players get to use standard coin values to buy stuff).

It is wonderful that you homebrewed them like that. Truly.

But that does nothing for official materials. Nowhere in any official material does it say that humans only live in villages and halflings live in towns. Or that halflings are the only ones who mint coins or that I'm assuming dwarves.

And yes, that matters because we are talking about the official halflings of the official game. I could make a world where all halflings can walk into the land of the dead and are the spirit guides for all souls. But that doesn't make that what halflings are in the larger game, because that is just my own made up lore. Which is fine for my own personal game. But I'm not the type of person to get on a soapbox and start demanding that people change everything to match my personal homebrew ideas, and since my ideas don't like this thing then no one can do anything with them.

So, I'm glad you have an interesting homebrew. I'm sure that having your halflings be one of the most advanced races is an interesting take, but it doesn't really help with anything we are given by the game.

I personally would say "no elves, gnomes, or halflings?" and then never think about it again. Because once it's been established that they're not part of the world, I don't have to worry about it.

But, again, you would notice it. You would have that thought.

I literally did not have that thought with the missing halflings in the game I mentioned. I literally noticed today that a 4 year campaign didn't include any halflings. That is what I am talking about. Not some sort of worrying about them every session or whatever people are responding with. The very concept of "there are no halflings?" didn't even cross my mind.
 

These are decent Dwarf cultures. They remind me of classic martial Fighter Dwarf versus recent primal Druid Dwarf.

But I wish the Dvergar (using a reallife culture term) were more mythologically accurate. These "dwarves" are different.

Dvergar Traits
• Actually is the mind of a feature of rock or clay
• Petrifies in sunlight (when reaching zero hit points from radiant damage)
• Personifying an ineffective fate, whence curses and destruction
• Typically same height as human
• Black hair, sunless pale skin
• Somber, protective or cruel, generally uncooperative
• As rock, are unmoving, perceived as shamanic trance, mind outofbody
• Powerful mages: psionic, primal, elemental (earth)
• Superlative makers of tools and technology
• Extreme Strength while holding something up without moving
• Typical classes: Druid, cosmic force Cleric of fate, Artificer, Wizard
This is cool, but to me it runs into the problem of being basically a new race.

I might use such a race in a game, especially if I was running a game based around nordic myths, but it does run into the issue that I'm no longer including a race from the Player's Handbook.

If you have a player come along and say "I'll just play a Dwarf, I love Dwarves: beer Scottish accents, axes and beards are my jam", well basically they can't. (Whether that's actually a problem is a different question).
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Yes, you don't think about them. Just like some other people don't think about elves or dwarfs. Same thing. That's what I meant about it being 'a you problem'. Your subjective feels and preferences are (completely unsurprisingly) not universal.

I know my preferences aren't universal. I fully understand that.

But, isn't it a bit of a sign that maybe one of the core four, most important races in the game is lacking, if we all just... forgot they existed? I don't even know if the DM meant to take them out.

Sure, the other poster was in a group that actively disliked elves and would make a world that excluded them, but this isn't a group of people who actively dislike halflings. We just... didn't have them. At all. And the fact that we didn't have them didn't even register until 4 years later.
 



Chaosmancer

Legend
They can change whatever they like. It doesn't bother me as I'll only use it if I like it. My feeling about WotC lore is that it tends to be bland and dull across the board and is written more for product and brand identity purpose then with any real attempt at creativity.

I don't understand the desire to have WotC validate your feelings about this. Just fix the problem you have.

I'm not asking them to validate my feelings. I'm saying "hey, this seems like a weak part of the game. Maybe we should think of this as a problem and think about fixing it."

And it seems that the general consensus is that WoTC has no incentive to do anything, because anyone who has a problem just has a personal problem.

I'm getting tired and posting late, but I mean this is a really circular defense. "You can fix it yourself, so don't bother complaining about it, because the company shouldn't have to fix anything."
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I have seen many here opposing the change to "remove halflings from the PHB" but none that have opposed a change (or a deepening and broadening) of galfling lore. I don't even see people with an issue that halflings can be so different from one campaign works to another (hobbits, gangsters, riverfolk, or minihuman).

The fact that you realize there really isn't much to offer to make Hill vs Mountain dwarves different in the lore but you can explain it away in your game, to your satisfaction, by adding in some lore about training differences tells me that you are able to look at the matter from a fairly regular person point of view.

Ultimately you are going to like what you are going to like, and no amount of discussion is going to make you have a Halfling Epiphany and suddenly embrace them. I'm just going to echo what many said in that if you like the underdog, the everyman, the gentle soul, or the innocent soul a wide-eyed farm lad halflling grabbing his pack and hitting the road works really well for that concept.


I guess I'm glad I passed your arbitrary test to show that I am a regular person?

I'm just going to keep echoing myself I suppose. If you like the underdog, the everyman, the gentle soul or the innocent soul, there are a lot of other concepts that work really well other than a wide-eyed farm-lad halfling.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
This is cool, but to me it runs into the problem of being basically a new race.

I might use such a race in a game, especially if I was running a game based around nordic myths, but it does run into the issue that I'm no longer including a race from the Player's Handbook.

If you have a player come along and say "I'll just play a Dwarf, I love Dwarves: beer Scottish accents, axes and beards are my jam", well basically they can't. (Whether that's actually a problem is a different question).

A Tolkien "dwarf" is a different kind of dwarf. It is fine too.

I mention the Dvergar mainly as an example of a lineage that feels nonhuman.

Besides Human, every lineage in Players Handbook should be clearly nonhuman. They dont need to look monstrous, but each lineage should have something about it that is unmistakably out of the ordinary.

The problem with the 5e Halfling is they are too Human.
 

I'm not asking them to validate my feelings. I'm saying "hey, this seems like a weak part of the game. Maybe we should think of this as a problem and think about fixing it."

And it seems that the general consensus is that WoTC has no incentive to do anything, because anyone who has a problem just has a personal problem.

I'm getting tired and posting late, but I mean this is a really circular defense. "You can fix it yourself, so don't bother complaining about it, because the company shouldn't have to fix anything."
I suggest you start a thread then and ask for people suggestions about better lore for halflings.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
For example. To help a Halfling feel less Human.

A hobbit is a "hob", the mind of a house. The concept can extend to a farmland within boundary markers, a ship, a mine dug by humans, or other humans structures.

Perhaps the D&D Halfling can have powers relating to a structure, such as terrain alteration while in a room, or while in a room going into the between space, between above and below the floor surface − something like a small demiplane. Legendary abilities of dragons involving the lair come to mind − albeit need to be suitable for a level 1 Halfling.

This magical trait that associates the Halfling as a personification of a house, relates flavorwise to the Halfling being a homebody and preferring to live alongside Humans.
 

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