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


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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
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.
Halflings and kobolds should fo definitely
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I don't have a problem with haflings, but I do have a problem with elves... D&D seems to be treating them more and more as just elitist long-lived humans with pointed ears, and it's getting boring to me.

I definitely prefer the elves as presented in the Witcher... specifically, the Wild Hunt elves. Literally from another world, and view humans as literally animal chattle to enslave.

Or, as I'm reading Berserk now, I love this concept of elves. They're more like the original Nordic concept.

Mod Edit: Sorry, but we had to remove the image as NSFW. ~Umbran

Speaking of the Wild Hunt, Marvel actually hit on a fun idea for Dark Elves.

1623362169475.png
 
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I will say I have noticed a division in previous conversations (not just here) between those who want high-concept races and those who are satisfied with the differences being basically cosmetic. I feel a little mismatch between myself and one of the GMs I play under because when he designs custom races, he goes for the high-concept, and I sometimes find them more stifling than liberating to play.

It's just a matter of taste.
 


Quartz

Adventurer
Something I suggested in another thread was that in campaigns set in far antiquity halflings might be masters of the plains and cavalry as horses were too small for other races to ride, being limited to chariots.

Maybe in your world horses never got larger and halflings still fill that niche?
 
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see

Pedantic Grognard
If your best argument against some part of D&D is "This is in D&D for no better reason than it's a traditional part of D&D", you have successfully made an absolute, ironclad, and unassailable argument for keeping it.

We know what happens to D&D when you approach it with the view of making every element positively justify its inclusion, and changing it until it did so. It was called Fourth Edition.
 

4e wasn't what you say. 4e was designed to play online, because Hasbro wanted more revenue from D&D, and the WotC heads figured they could pursue a subscription model, sorta like World of Warcraft. Things were designed to be fun in a video-gamey way.

Then the lead designer of the virtual tabletop system committed suicide, and the whole project fell apart, but they still had to publish the edition, even if the digital tools were dramatically pared down from the original idea.
 

As for the topic of 'why have halflings,' I dunno, why have dogs? Why have anything? There's no guarantee that the planet earth would have ostriches, but we do.

Why have the town of Vaughan, Mississippi? It doesn't even have a gas station. It's not important to the world. It's just a thing that exists, that probably won't matter. Except one time I really had to use the bathroom on a road trip, and I pulled off there, and got really annoyed that there was no public restroom anywhere, so I had to get back on the interstate and drive a half hour to the next rest stop. It was unimportant other than as a tiny vignette.

You don't have to justify anything. Stuff just sometimes exists.
 

Mercurius

Legend
I will say I have noticed a division in previous conversations (not just here) between those who want high-concept races and those who are satisfied with the differences being basically cosmetic. I feel a little mismatch between myself and one of the GMs I play under because when he designs custom races, he goes for the high-concept, and I sometimes find them more stifling than liberating to play.

It's just a matter of taste.
I think a lot of this has to do with how deep one wants to get into immersion. Playing a truly non-human character is difficult, and most films and tv shows aren't really all that good at doing it. Some (most, I would guess) people just want the imaginative fun of playing an elf or a dwarf, but don't really care about the deep psychology of it.

The archetypal Tolkienian races were different enough to be, well, different, but close enough to be relatable. Elves are more angelic beings, Dwarves more earthly, and halflings more domestic. But they all portray different aspects of our own nature.

Or we could look at Star Trek. Vulcans are basically humans with far more mental development, but at the expensive of emotion. Klingons are the reverse: more emotion, less mental. Romulans are kind of like Vulcans whose mental nature has been twisted by psychopathic tendencies, and perhaps why the Vulcans work so hard to remain "pure."
 

If your best argument against some part of D&D is "This is in D&D for no better reason than it's a traditional part of D&D", you have successfully made an absolute, ironclad, and unassailable argument for keeping it.
You literally just used the Appeal to Tradition fallacy to try and justify a part of D&D. D&D used to have THAC0, but it dropped that. By your reasoning, we shouldn't even have a 5e, D&D should still be stuck in its original form, with no development ever happening to it.

The point of saying "this only exists because of tradition" is to show that there's not really any value to it besides nostalgia (and I'm too young to have nostalgia for LotR-style D&D games). If the best argument for including a race in the game is "this has always been a part of the game", IMO, that's a flaw.
We know what happens to D&D when you approach it with the view of making every element positively justify its inclusion, and changing it until it did so. It was called Fourth Edition.
Ah, no. That's what happens when you try to make D&D a video game. Also, there were a lot of things from 4e that were highly popular, some of them still continuing into 5e (like Dragonborn and Tieflings).
 
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As for the topic of 'why have halflings,' I dunno, why have dogs? Why have anything? There's no guarantee that the planet earth would have ostriches, but we do.

Why have the town of Vaughan, Mississippi? It doesn't even have a gas station. It's not important to the world. It's just a thing that exists, that probably won't matter. Except one time I really had to use the bathroom on a road trip, and I pulled off there, and got really annoyed that there was no public restroom anywhere, so I had to get back on the interstate and drive a half hour to the next rest stop. It was unimportant other than as a tiny vignette.

You don't have to justify anything. Stuff just sometimes exists.
I'm not sure what this type of fallacy is, but if feels like a bit of Retrospective Determinism, so it's probably some variant of it. "This thing exists, so we might as well have it" isn't that compelling of an argument for keeping that thing, IMO.

Also, we have dogs (probably) because they wanted (and still want) our food, and we wanted friends to help us hunt and herd animals. They served/serve a purpose, and if they didn't, we wouldn't have "made" them.

We "have anything" in D&D, because it's a storytelling TTRPG where the point is to have fun and craft stories of fantasy adventurers with other people. The lowest bar for an "acceptable reason for something to exist in D&D" is because at least some people have fun with it. IMO, the best bar to reach is "this race fulfills both important and unique narrative and mechanical niches that can enhance fun more than races lacking these characteristics". That's my point. They exist for a perfectly acceptable reason, but that doesn't mean that it's a good reason to warrant their existence.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
So you're saying that halflings need better innate abilities? That's doable, although I'd say their innate luck is a pretty big deal already.
I think all the races need better innate abilities. The halfling just more so because their racial ability is both unrealiable and uncontrollable. So you can easily go long stretches without displaying your halflingness.
 

Mercurius

Legend
You literally just used the Appeal to Tradition fallacy to try and justify a part of D&D. D&D used to have THAC0, but it dropped that. By your reasoning, we shouldn't even have a 5e, D&D should still be stuck in its original form, with no development every.
This is a bit of a category error, though. THAC0 is a rule, halflings are a race - part of the lore. Lore sometimes changes, but it is generally by addition, thus the "heapish" nature of D&D lore.

Anyhow, if you want the halfling race excised from the core rules, the onus is on you to come up with a reasonable argument. While I think your argument for why you don't want them in your game is perfectly reasonable, I don't think it applies to most. And even if it applied to a literal majority, there is a sizeable minority that like halflings enough for there to be no reason to erase them from the core rules.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
You literally just used the Appeal to Tradition fallacy to try and justify a part of D&D. D&D used to have THAC0, but it dropped that. By your reasoning, we shouldn't even have a 5e, D&D should still be stuck in its original form, with no development every.
There‘s a difference between elements of a game that are mechanical/technical and elements that are lore and character. Each type of element should be looked at differently as far as whether they are core to D&D‘s character. Descending AC and THAC0 were replaceable by ascending AC and an attack bonus because the latter two were improvements to the usability of the game. AC itself and how it is used is much harder to replace by armor as damage reduction. It’s far more core to the D&D experience and its identity. And that’s closer to the scrutiny changes to the core races should receive, not the relatively easily supplantable technology of the THAC0.

The point of saying "this only exists because of tradition" is to show that there's not really any value to it besides nostalgia (and I'm too young to have nostalgia for LotR-style D&D games). If the best argument for including a race in the game is "this has always been a part of the game", IMO, that's a flaw.
Not really, no. Sometimes “this has always been a part of the game“ is a perfectly fine argument, particularly any element that contributes the game’s identity. Sometimes the sacred cows exist for a reason, because it wouldn‘t really be D&D without it.

Ah, no. That's what happens when you try to make D&D a video game. Also, there were a lot of things from 4e that were highly popular, some of them still continuing into 5e (like Dragonborn and Tieflings).
psst, tieflings appeared in 2e.
 



BrokenTwin

Adventurer
The only thing I will say about 4E is that its Healing Surge mechanic was amazing, both as a game mechanic and as barometer of who actually tried playing the game. But this isn't an edition war thread.

In Fantasy Craft, they call them Pech (which I've taken to calling them in all my settings, halfling is a terrible name for a people to call themselves) and they lean into the Hobbit factor and make them big eaters, able to benefit from more meal buffs than other ancestries. D&D doesn't really model that aspect though, so they can't go that route very easily.

I like how SotDL made the small ancestries distinct. Goblins are fae banished from the elven realms, and can take on a dizzying array of appearances (both flavours of kobold included).

Gnomes are earth elementals, and explode in a shower of rocks when they die.

And halflings are plucky, lucky underdogs. I love my halflings as nomadic wanderers, whether they're travelling rivers, plains, or forests.

So yeah, mechanically halflings may be a little stale. But in most settings, they're the kind little folk who always approach a person with an open smile, but show surprising grit and determination when push comes to shove. And I can't not love that.
 

Mercurius

Legend
IMO, the best bar to reach is "this race fulfills both important and unique narrative and mechanical niches that can enhance fun more than races lacking these characteristics". That's my point. They exist for a perfectly acceptable reason, but that doesn't mean that it's a good reason to warrant their existence.
I think your emphasis on mechanics is where you go astray in your Anti-Halfling Agenda (AHA...haha). Meaning, if D&D were simply a collection of rules and mechanics, it might make sense. But it is far more than that.

To illustrate, in the 4E era, one of the common complaints was that the game ended up feeling kind of "samey" due to the fact that all classes had Powers (not to mention the ridiculousness, or at least Gamism-Gone-Wild, of a martial character having Daily and Encounter Powers!). One could argue, though, that 4E's mechanical sub-structure was rather brilliant, with the "implicit" classes (aka roles) of Striker, Defender, Controller, and Leader, and the "explicit" classes (classes proper) being flavoring added on top of it. It worked very, very well, from a mechanical standpoint (the Grind notwithstanding).

But the problem is that it felt paper thin. The flavor elements were clearly pasted over the sub-structure, so it felt like (to many, at least) robbing Peter to pay Paul: "Peter" being the fluff and theater of mind space, and "Paul" being the mechanical/tactical game play.

What you describe reminds me a bit of that. You are saying, as I hear it, that there's not enough justification in the "Paul aspect" of D&D to keep halflings around. But the game isn't only Paul, it is Peter too. Halflings are their own unique race, with their own qualities. Maybe, as some have suggested, the key for you would be to better reflect that in the rules - differentiate them further. Or simply to customize the race to your liking, so that it is unique enough--both narratively and mechanically--to keep around. Or the easy approach: Just Thanos them.
 

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