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D&D General why do we have halflings and gnomes?


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Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
lol no.

That is why they are in the earliest version of dnd.

It doesn't explain their longevity in the game. That is quite simply explained by the fact that people enjoy playing them, and like the fiction of being an underdog in a small frame and overcoming that, and various other fictions that are well suited to these races.
That wasn't the question. This thread is in the general D&D forum, so the question isn't "why are they still in D&D after 46 years?" The question is "why are they in the game at all?" Also, it isn't "why are they in the game as PCs?" It's just "why do we have them?" This is why.

Also, there are plenty of races that people would enjoy playing that aren't in the game, so I'm not sure that's such a good reason for why these particular races are in the game.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
You know, this thread is just ticking me off.

We have gnomes and halflings in the game for same dang reason we have elves, aarakocra, humans and goliaths: Because you can tell make a character that is one of them, and have fun doing so. That should be the beginning, middle, end, and after credits scene of the discussion.
I get what you mean, but I do think there’s value in analyzing the narrative role a race fills in a setting. Yes, the fact that people can make characters with them is reason enough for them to exist in the game, but it’s a worthwhile exercise to examine what it is about a race that makes people want to make characters with them.
 

You know, this thread is just ticking me off.

We have gnomes and halflings in the game for same dang reason we have elves, aarakocra, humans and goliaths: Because you can tell make a character that is one of them, and have fun doing so. That should be the beginning, middle, end, and after credits scene of the discussion.

Well I clicked on the thread thinking the question was "why don't we just have one of these similar races or the other" rather than "what right do these two particular races have to exist in the game". To the extent the thread has been about differentiating these races I've found it interesting, and to the extent it is about the history of the game I've found it interesting, but to the extent it is just about whether halflings or gnomes somehow justify themselves I very much agree with you.
 

representation is an odd concept for me as I have been told since I was 14 I was supposed to identify with I had nothing in common with nor any character to be honest so the concept does not really make sense to me. tell a lie I could get one but he was nuts and honestly should not have been chosen for the task.
If you didn't identify with a character or groups of characters that's not an indictment on representation or your own identity. That's an indictment on the characters and character groups to which you've been exposed.
 

Stormonu

Legend
As an aside, I've renamed halflings to "hillenfaey" (or hillfey) for my homebrew world. These are the short(ish) write-ups:

Hillenfaey​

Hillenfaey, sometimes colloquially called halflings, are small humanoids who dwell in hilly areas and rolling plains. They are hardy and generally courageous fellows, but prone towards mischief to outsiders.

Physical Traits​

Hillenfaey tends toward being slightly portly, with the general height and frame of an 8-year-old human child. Height averages 3’ 6” to 3’ 9” for both males and females. Weight averages 30-45 lbs for males, with females about 5 lbs. lighter.

Hillenfaey tend to have dark brown skins, ranging from a walnut to a deep umber color, though there have been some clans with lighter or even darker skin tones encountered. Hillenfaey hair tends to be curly and deep brown to reddish in color. Extremely light skinned hillenfaey may have sandy blonde hair. The eyes of hillenfaey tend to be brown or green, though light-complexion hillenfaey have been encountered with slate blue eyes.

Hillenfaey males can grow beards, though they grow only along the chin line and tend to curl upwards. For this reason, few hillenfaey wear beards that are longer than an inch or so.

Culture​

Hillenfaey live in small communities burrowed into the sides of hills or built as rounded mounds protruding from the ground. While there are many hillenfaey-only communities, hillenfaey are generally gregarious enough that they often build their homes on the outskirts of human communities and willingly trade with human society.

Hillenfaey are gregarious, but rarely stray far from the creature comforts of home. They enjoy the benefits of civilization in good food, drinks, stories and pleasantly decorated surface burrows. Though they can be industrious, they prefer to trade for goods than craft their own. They can be mischievous at times, especially towards those larger than themselves who believe that their size somehow makes them superior.

Gnome​

Gnomes are small, prankish humanoids who are the offspring of ancient unions between elves and dwarves. They possess the carefree nature of elves and the dwarven fondness of treasure and skills at crafting.

Physical Traits​

Gnomes are generally thin and wiry like short elves, though some clans tend toward a portly frame like their dwarven ancestors. Average height is 2’ 6” to 3’ 2”, with females being a mere half-inch shorter than males. Average weight is about 25-30 lbs.

Gnomes generally have ruddy skin, with their most prominent feature being their oversized nose. Gnomes generally have either white or earth-colored hair and eye color tends to be slate blue, gray or brown.

Male gnomes can grow beards and are often as proud of them as dwarves.

Culture​

Gnomes are known for their hard work and skill at craftsmanship that rivals that of the dwarves, but they are equally capable of frolicking and enjoying themselves as much as any elf. Gnome workshops are often filled with the whimsical as well as the functional, often alive with contraptions and experimental clockwork gadgets that can be found nowhere else.

Gnomes generally live in clans isolated from other races; their small size tends to make their homes unsuitable for larger individuals to maneuver through comfortably. They are also prone to pranks and practical jokes that few outside of the their own kind tend to appreciate after long.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
In my campaign, at least a certain portion of halflings would say "Ooooh, Caves of Dooooommm!!! I wonder what's in there, I bet it's just a scary name to keep tourists out let's go find out!"

Curiosity killed the cat, but halflings are lucky and small enough to hide behind the barbarian. :)

If you want it to make sense, you can always do the rebellious teen thing. No matter how green the grass is, someone will always get tired of green and want to check out the wide world. They may not care about riches and fame, but they can be curious about what's over the next hill.

That'swhat3e and 4e did.
They moved halflings from a race of psudeo-hobbit farmers to a race of acrobatic thrill seekers.

5e dialed it back.
 


And rightfully so! They’re a very important piece of the modern fantasy canon.
At the time they were featured in exactly one author's works. I'd argue they didn't become part of modern fantasy canon until much later, possibly with some help from their inclusion in the original D&D. Warhammer originated as a way to play Wargames with the models Citadel produced for RPGs. Would they have bothered to make halflings if those weren't called for in D&D? Take away D&D and Warhammer halflings, and would many other popular RPGs have bothered to include them just for the sake of emulating Tolkien?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Gnomes however are awesome, they are a small reclusive race, fey like but rugged, and as you allude chock full of folklore (although miners adopting princesses is dwarfs). They do need to be tiny (1-2ft) rather than small though. Smurfs are my favourite depiction of gnomes, not to mention the TPratchetts wee small men.
They can tak' oour lives but they cannae tak' oour troousers! Bigjobs!
 

Al'Kelhar

Adventurer
You know, this thread is just ticking me off.

We have gnomes and halflings in the game for same dang reason we have elves, aarakocra, humans and goliaths: Because you can tell make a character that is one of them, and have fun doing so. That should be the beginning, middle, end, and after credits scene of the discussion.
Yep, agreed.




Except gnomes. Was it in 4E gnomes were relegated to "monsters"? Best version of the gnome, ever. (Except, maybe, for that concrete one you stick next to the fishpond in the garden, you know, the one with its pants down that's p**ing into the pond).
 

why do we have halflings and gnomes?

I get that they are classic and all that but I can't for the life of me figure out the appeal of them or what to do with them in a setting?

I know why Tolkien used hobbits but I do not see who the use them in a non-story setting (gaming settings are slightly different)

gnomes I just have no idea aside from loving gems which is not something to build a culture around.

I know of similar concepts to them that I am more familiar but they are very different in rather drastic ways (they have more location-based subtypes than even elves) but I was asked for something less completely out there.
do any of you know what halflings, gnomes and such types are for in a setting? or why people might play them?
The only (mostly) non-D&D game I know of that features halflings is FFXIV with its Lalafell. They're basically nothing like Tolkien's halflings other than size, though.

I think the only reasons halflings and gnomes stick around are:
  1. Tradition. They've been around a long time, so people expect them. We saw what happened when 4e delayed them until the PHB2, there were the equivalent of mass protests...even though most people, then and now, don't play them. WAY more than any class, races are where we have a ton of cruft like this, but we're almost certainly never going to pare things back.*
  2. The thematics of size. Most people like playing someone tall; it's socially advantageous to be tall IRL, so most people prefer it. But there's a meaningful (if perhaps not sizable, hah!) contingent that really like being small, too. It's part of why "thief"-type stuff has always been such a thing for halflings, even though their culture doesn't really support it.
  3. The mechanics in general. It's not hard to extol the virtues of being smaller in 3.x, at least, and as a result many guides will note that halflings and gnomes are good choices for squishy, hide-away classes like wizard or casting-focused bard/cleric/etc. In 5e, halflings are lucky, and that luck is thought to be worth considering even without TCoE-style stat redistribution, while gomes in general make great Wizards (without TCoE) whatever subrace you pick (SCAG deep gnomes even get superior darkvision without sunlight sensitivity).
So yeah. I definitely think gnomes and halflings exist primarily because tradition says they should. However, there ARE just enough genuine fans and mechanics-first folks (who use them without specifically loving them) that they'll never really go away.

*My personal approach is to fold halflings and gnomes together into a single "small humanoids" race, and likewise try to fold several common options together. So "dragonborn" might absorb lizardfolk, tortles, and kobolds, while "orc" might absorb hobgoblins, goblins, and bugbears. This lets you cover more ground with fewer sprawling pages of content.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Except gnomes. Was it in 4E gnomes were relegated to "monsters"? Best version of the gnome, ever.

I hope in 6e or maybe in a 2nd 5e MM, they go back to including the PHB races in the MM as monsters.

I'd love to see more races monsterized and unshackled of the balance of PCdom. What really is a halfling or gnome NPC besides farmer and badger thrower?
 

I hope in 6e or maybe in a 2nd 5e MM, they go back to including the PHB races in the MM as monsters.

I'd love to see more races monsterized and unshackled of the balance of PCdom. What really is a halfling or gnome NPC besides farmer and badger thrower?
Eberron: Rising from the Last War has stats for the races in that world in the bestiary section. I would love it if they did that for all of the races, too.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Previous editions both had halflings and gnomes as "monsters", it's not a 4E thing.

There's been the likes of halfling outriders, slingers and burglars to oppose PCs. On the gnomish side at the least goblinstickers, illusionists and warren defenders.

If you want them as opponents, there's nothing stopping you and they can be just as vicious as any of the other races (Really, just take NPC stat block in the MM, VGtM or MToM and make the race halfling - or do you want to pretend there aren't also isn't any specific hill dwarf or high elf NPC stats blocks?). But I think there's more of a call for them to be on the PC's side, if not PCs themselves.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Halflings are one of my favorite races to play. They are the plucky underdog. They band together naturally, perfect for forming a party, and are known for stubborn loyalty. Their fearless plays into plucky well - where others fear to tread they'll go for life, love, and friendship. They are the anti-edgelord.

Gnomes I used to have a hard time with as well. I taught my kids how to play, and my youngest's third character was a Forest Gnome. She read all the lore about them and then spun me this tail of this hidden settlement in the forest, so perfectly part of nature that bigguns can walk through without noticing. About their communal help, referncing things like barnraising and the like. She talked about how they weave their natural ability to do illusions into everything. Entertainment like storytelling or music is easy, but even things like when there are overdue children they put a big arrow up above the tree line pointing towards the settlement, and any other gnomes that see it do the same so the whole forest guides them home. How they talk to the animals and use them as early warning of dangers, as messengers to other gnomes, and as friends-of-the-community that they gladly feed and help adn get the same in return. Each tree or area having it's own gnome band that get together in friendly rivalry and try to out-play each other at frequent contests. As she put it "they've so darn wholesome!".

So of course, I had to twist it. In another game, exploring a new world, there is an established gnome were-leopard forest kingdom, vaguely LE. That work together, treat the birds and squirrels and everything like part of the family and have a built-in network that warns the of interlopers, etc. All the goodness, turned to a purpose opposed to the PCs. Such fun.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm not saying halflings can't become adventurers. I'm saying that halfling culture actively discourages leaving home and disruption. Most halflings adventurers would be the weird kids and disaster survivors.
Every single culture actively discourages adventuring. It's an insanely dangerous thing to do. It's always been for mavericks, those with little to lose, or those who have a huge point to prove.
 

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