Halflings: The Race Who Shouldn't Have Been


Ever since I started playing D&D back in 1992, I've always marveled at its complexity and genius. Every great piece of inspiration has its flaws however, and D&D was no exception. I could look past them all, enjoying the game for all it was meant to be, but one thing always stuck in my mind: what the hell is a Halfling and why is it here?

Ever since I started playing D&D back in 1992, I've always marveled at its complexity and genius. Every great piece of inspiration has its flaws however, and D&D was no exception. I could look past them all, enjoying the game for all it was meant to be, but one thing always stuck in my mind: what the hell is a Halfling and why is it here?

Halflings, for those of you who don't know, are demi-humans standing approximately three feet tall with general human features, aside from an occasionally pointed ear. They are very much home-bodies, as in they like to stay at home and enjoy the simple things in life. However, there are times when the younger of the race feel a driving wanderlust and have to get out and explore the world. This can lead to death for some, but more often than not it leads to adventuring. Then, as the desire to see the world dies, settling down and founding new villages. Is it me, or does this sound like it reads right out of Tolkien?

As far as I can see, Halflings are hobbits, plain and simple. They may not eat as many meals, but their general attitude and demeanor is just about the same. Even the wanderlust experienced by the youths can be traced to characters like Bilbo and Frodo, or even to the adventurous Took family. That said, it would appear as though Halflings are merely borrowed ideas. But wait, there's more!

Each race has a certain niche to fill in the world, but Halflings don't fill any in mine. Dwarves are miners with little sense of humor and a strong sense of honor. Gnomes are similar to dwarves, but they are the illusionists and jokers of the world, an amusing race who brings fun and frivolity to everyone who comes in contact with their kind. Elves are the elders, the wisest, the mages and the scholars. They are mysterious, and as such are greatly respected. The humans fill in the rest of the cracks. So, where do Halflings fit in? Simply put, they are basically like short humans. Yes, they do have a defined culture. However, it's defined exactly like a human farmer or peasant, except for the size. In essence, Halflings are short humans.

I've done a good deal of role-playing in the nineteen years I've graced this planet with my geekiness, and never have I once played a Halfling or even known anyone who has played one. When it came time to make characters, Halflings were never among the choices my players ever fought over. In fact, I've only used two Halfling NPCs in my entire life. Halflings possess no special traits or quirks to truly separate them from humans, other than their size, and there's never been anything wrong with being a midget, right? Is TSR trying to tell us midgets should be classified as another race entirely?

The only Halfling-like race that truly deserves to be recognized for its particular contribution to world politics is the Kender, the kleptomaniacs of Dragonlance. If all Halflings were like that, I would have no problem whatsoever. The Kender represent a truly unique group of beings with powers very unlike their fellow demi-humans. They operate on different levels and have very different attitudes towards life, making them exciting and wonderful as NPCs and player characters. However, the Halflings are not Kender, though the Kender may be classified as Halflings.

Now, some may argue the DM has the power to change any rule he or she sees fit, and this is very true. A DM's world is his/her own. But why should something as fundamental as a standard race of beings be so utterly useless? I might be able to change things, but what's the use of working with a Dungeons & Dragons rule set if I have to edit one of the building blocks of character creation? It just doesn't make sense to me. I might as well remake all the races as I see fit, and while I'm at it I'll change the attribute system to fit my needs. Pretty soon my tinkering has changed a D&D game into a twisted facsimile my players will have a hell of a time trying to decipher.

For those of you who use the Halflings on a regular basis, or with any frequency, I congratulate you; you've managed to see something I simply cannot believe is there: the worth of a Halfling. Perhaps you can show me how this pathetic group of midget humans is worth my time and effort, or even worth the pages their rules are written on. My guess is my thoughts are closer to home than TSR would have you think. Which means I should probably change my address soon 'cause I hear their drow assassins do REALLY nasty things when they catch you bad-mouthing Gary Gygax and his crazy ideas.

I agree with some points of this article, but to me halflings are not useless, far from it. They have usually different personality than humans. It changes things, and players might usually trust them more than humans which opens oppurtunity to be "evil GM".

Read the Steve Jackson Games book "The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming" (Yes, I know it should be italicized or underlined) for some very interesting ideas on the worth of a Halfling. Give them mithril (another Tolkien steal) dentures, indeed!

A couple of points:

"That said, it would appear as though Halflings are merely borrowed ideas. "

Um...and so would be Elves and Dwarves, by that calculus. Say "elf" to a non-gamer, and the person you're talking to will envision one of Santa's Little Helpers in a pointy hat. The standard fantasy conception of Elves and Dwarves comes to us from Nordic and Germanic myth, *directly* through the medium of Tolkien.

Many of the conventions of the fantasy role-playing genre owe their very existence to the Middle Earth stories. It's pointless to pretend otherwise.

The true contribution of the original D&D group to fantasy gaming was not so much its sense of originality as its conception of the "dungeon" as a place to go adventuring.

"Halflings possess no special traits or quirks to truly separate them from humans, other than their size, and there's never been anything wrong with being a midget, right?"


"I might be able to change things, but what's the use of working with a Dungeons & Dragons rule set if I have to edit one of the building blocks of character creation?"

What rule set are you using? In 3d Edition, the halfling player race is almost cheaty, it's so good. Moreover, the halfling race as described in 3d Ed has evolved a long way from the thinly diguised hobbits of D&D's early days. Halflings are now described as tenacious survivors who will carve a niche for themselves wherever they must. I think their new gaming statistics reflect that description admirably.

One of my fantasy world settings includes two important halfling NPCs. If you don't see anything to like about halflings, I think you're missing out.

One must envision a role for the halflings...

If they are meek, they are funny - though not making jokes like Gnomes do, they ARE jokes - "Strange. A Halfling pie ... but there is no Halfling in it" might be a perfect ork joke. If a Halfling manages to beat a PC, the player will be turned into even more of a laugh, as will be his beloved hero. And of course, there is the occasional comic relief - a halfling guardsman amongst human fellows is funny even without trying, more so if he insists to carry a halberd as they do.

If the Halflings are indended to be more than victims, even better - they are smart, sneaky and seem innocent enough to be underestimated.
The natural area for halfling attacks is the groin, the kneecap or the purse. Halfling Mafia is not to be underestimated, and halflings are loyal - thus noone will betray the culprit to the PCs. Just think of their faces when they cross a Halfling crime lord (say, unwittingly) and find their beloved missing, property damaged and reputations ruined ... WITH NOONE TO BLAME

I admit, in GURPS, the halfling racial package just plain sucks, but it is too good to be true in DnD - a halfling rogue is the only character that is of some use at first level. Get that 20 DEX, and rock-n-roll!

And even if you fail to find any use for them, think of Halfling-tossing, the only true Ogre sport - the goal is to thjrow the midget into the gaping maw of your buddy.


Are halflings stolen from Tolkien? In a word...YES.

Actually, if you think about it, the entire D&D setup as we know started out as being a way for people to play in the middle earth. Think about the main races. Think about the main classes. Think about racial relations.

Then other fantasy stories started becoming popular. Conan's popularity led to the introduction of the Barbarian class, and so on...

Why? Why do kids pretend to be the Ghostbusters or Power Rangers (or whatever they pretend to be nowadays)? Because they're COOL, and the kids want to take part in the COOLNESS.

And YES, halflings are defined as being basically short humans. Hobbits are, too, when it's all said and done. But if you don't have hobbits, then you can't play in the middle-earth and go kick Sauron's 25th-level-lich-Sorceror @$$, because there aren't any halflings in the world, and everyone knows Middle Earth through the halflings.

No place in the world? Interesting, considering as how humans get the part of "everything else." You'd think that the nimble halflings would work better as theives (easier to get through those itty-bitty windows...), artisans (they're great at manipulating small parts), etc. After all, Elves get a place, and they're really just "older humans."

Are you stupid for not wanting them? Not at all. Would your game be better without them? Depends on the game (duh). Is D&D worse off for having them? My vote certainly goes to "no." Heck, even if they were a horrible race to actually play, I'd give the D&D people credit just for saying as clearly as possible (without legal problems) that they ARE stealing from Tolkien. I /much/ prefer a game company that admits to their inspirations.

You have no idea how good it is to hear someone else say that Kenders aren't pointless. ^_~

Um... In the original edition of Dungeons and Dragons Halfings WERE Hobbits. In fact, TSR was sued for using the name Hobbit. Since then, halflings have evolved away from being hobbits of a different name. I have to admit that they're not my favorite player character race, but they can be useful in a campaign. Cocytus is completely correct in saying the 3E halflings are almost cheaty. They are the perfect race for thieves. Which, is just one more nod to the Tolkein inspiration for our game.

The highest level character in one of our D&D campaigns is a halfling bard-rogue-shadowdancer. He's to the point where he can hide in plain sight. Not to mention that he was given the personality of a kender to boot.

Forgot to mention: the reason he's the highest level is because everyone else changed characters in the middle of the campaign. When we do this, our DM has us make characters 1 level below everyone else.

I agree with most of the previous comments. Halflings take the purpose of 'younger humans', if you wish, as elves are the elder.
Yes, they ARE sort of like small humans. So? They've been developed with a very unique gypsy-like culture. The only reason I don't play them is purely mechanical--I think playing a rogue is boring. And while I could certainly take another class as a halfling, I've got so many character ideas my brain's already overflowing!

P.S. I hate Kender. :p I have a low annoyance threshold. My feeling is that they're so sharply defined (innocent-ish, klepto, etc) that they lose individual personality. You seen one kender, you seen 'em all.

Halflings are a cool race to play. Though I haven't played them as often as elves or humans, I am very fond of them.

Their social structure is based on the family cell, all gravitates around that. Halflings are well wishers who are all too willing to live and let live. But touch a member of the community and you've got yourself a mean guerilla war on your hands.

Halflings are like good intentionned kobolds or gremlins. They are the best scouts and thieves. Their size lets them get into places others can't, and they are usually more agile and dextrous than most other races. Combined with their discrete nature and curiousity, it makes one hell of a efficient stealthy character.

The halfling hero is like that. the adventuring group become his or her family and woe to those who would harm them. They are often willing to let the "too talls" do the heavy lifting and the heavy hitting, while they strike from the shadows or circle around the opposition.

Yes they are basically Hobbits, but as someone pointed out Elves and Dwarves are Tolkienian rip offs also.

The most unique copy of hobbits is boggies which appears in "Bored of the Rings".

That comment has no sense at all (not that I would have), but I just write it here.

I only ever once played as a Halfling and I basically played him as a Kender. None of the people I played with had ever heard of a Kender (till i pointed them to Dragonlance) or played with a Halfling character. Granted, he died quite often but it was a blast and we all had fun.

I can't say D&D would be better off without them because in the end its all about roleplaying. The possibility of taking some random, interesting role and making a person...an entity out of it. I don't know about you, but I don't go always go for the high rolling, invincibile character who can take on an elder red dragon in my sleep. The point is to have fun, and kicking ass is really secondary

Retard! Not that I have a problem with your hatred of Halflings but at least know that: Yes Halflings are Hobbits. Tolkiens estate just sued TSR years ago so that they couldn't have certain traits. Hell the proudfoot halfling is DIRECTLY from Tolkien. Why do think they have an affinity for rogue skills... BECAUSE FRODO WAS A BURGLAR.

As a DM I find halflings to be far more interesting as antagonists (NPCs) than as player characters. The trick is to present them as something which is easily underestimated, then surpise the players with the halflings' resourcefulness and cunning. The same holds true for many of the smaller races (Kobolds, etc.).

Having the players encounter a pack of feral carnivorous desert halflings has been oodles of fun as they've had to roleplay mightily just to stay out of the stewpot. Another adventure had them trying to infiltrate and rob a halfling thieves guild; it was fun watching the party's human thief go up against a guild of thieves with a racial advantage.

I find halfling NPCs a bit formulaic individually but a force to be reckoned with in numbers, particularly when they have a clever leader.

The elves in Lord of the Rings call Hobbits halflings, thats their name for them in the book itself. Also, 90% of D&D really is a lord of the rings rip-off. Think about rangers, duh, Strider is a ranger. And there are many more examples, though I dont wish to go to deep into it. Just suffice it to say D&D is heavily based on LotR, not just one race in D&D.

Hmm...organized halfling crime...

In the FR Campaign setting book, there's a section that gives ideas for scenarios in various locales. In the halfling homeland, there's a small guild of thieves that use tanglefoot bags very effectively. Sneak attack can become a real problem when you can't turn around. ;-)

Actually, Chichiri, it's the Men who call the hobbits halflings. Elves call them Pherian. Sorry, couldn't resist. :)

It's true that halflings started as imitations of hobbits, but they've come a long way baby since then. They're a lot smaller, for starters, they don't live in holes, and they're mostly nomadic. But even if they were carbon copies of Tolkien's hobbits I don't see why that would make them hard to incorporate into your game setting. Of course, you're the GM so if you don't want halflings you don't have to have them.

Personally I've always wondered where gnomes came from. Those definitely aren't Tolkien inspired. I think they overlap a bit too much with both dwarves and halflings, but I have a friends who runs a mean gnome druid.

Hm. I think you guys missed the point of this article. I don't think what yer guy there was trying to say that halfling characters, as individuals, are pointless. What he is trying to say, is that there is nothing to a halfling that you can't put on the ever-flexible human being, by chance or modification, and the like, save for maybe a size modifier... And I must agree with 90% of it. When I think of the halflings in my game, they aren't, and haven't been made, so distinct, that I even care to write them differently from humans. Their houses are smaller, and that's about it. Humans too, are ambitious creatures Remember that. Humans too, seek to do the same as halflings: carve a niche, etc, etc. Two or three of you mention how the halflings have changed over the years, and while you could easily view the changes as a good thing from the perspective of someone who's known the varied versions of halflings, I started playing D&D a few years ago with the 3rd edition material, and simply can't find a way to make halflings anything truly special in a -racial- way. If halflings were described as if they were hobbits now, they'd be worlds more interesting than they're described in 3rd ed D&D manuals. I do use them, but I have to sit down on my own time to write down the quirks and personalities of each halfling NPC like it were a human being, because what racial characteristics they do have, are very BLAH. Despite having all kinds of goodness statistically, their racial personalities are borderline nondescript. On top of that, I'll confirm that none of my players are interested in halflings either. And the people I talk to on the internet who enjoy playing halflings, are usually halfling freaks who never play anything but halflings. Sorta like a halfling fetish. I don't know anyone, with less static character ideas, who uses halflings more than once on twenty different character occasions. If that.
You guys also sorta missed the point. The point wasn't so much that the halflings are a rip off, and wasn't to say that elves and dwarves weren't, but I think this statement said in reference to the Kender says it all.
"They operate on different levels and have very different attitudes towards life, making them exciting and wonderful as NPCs and player characters. However, the Halflings are not Kender, though the Kender may be classified as Halflings."
Such things are entirely true of dwarves, elves, and gnomes, but when you get to halfling... they don't operate on their own level. If Humans were on level 1, and elves on level five, halflings would be on level 1.25. Heh. I hope this stuff isn't too redundant. I'm sleepy.

" What he is trying to say, is that there is nothing to a halfling that you can't put on the ever-flexible human being, by chance or modification, and the like, save for maybe a size modifier..."

I think that statement is true of any race, really. Halfling bonuses to Dex, size, saving throw bonuses, and ranged attack bonuses make them extraordinary rogues. I think you have a hard time exceeding them with a human to be honest.

Also, if you want unique halflings with their own niche, go play Dark Sun. Everybody fears halflings in that world.
Or Birthright. Those halflings are very interesting as well. It's all in the campaign world, so if your campaign has no niche for halflings, you can only blame yourself.

"This is a cool sig."

I have fun playing halflings against type. One of my NPCs is a Tallfellow who has a love/hate relationship with the halfling race in general, who loathes pipe smoke and beer, and would prefer to hang out with wood elves.

This character's attitudes are fairly common for a Tallfellow, but my PCs enjoyed them because they are so different from the outlook of the hobbit-like halfling. Many of them found it strange to be yelled at by a halfling for smoking.

As for Sadie's criticism above, I agree with Belphanior. Sadie, all you seem to be saying is that humans can be caricatured any which way, and that the halflings share a caricature with humans. It's my opinion that the other demi-human races do the same: elves are humans caricatured as graceful and mysterious, dwarves are humans caricatured as earthy and cantankerous, and so on. If your complaint is that these caricatures don't make stock fantasy races distinct enough from human stereotypes, I'd agree...but I'd also remind you that the same charge can be leveled in lots of other places.

Belphanior's suggestions for non-stereotypical halfling portrayals are good ones. I'd say that you can go further and look for non-standard portrayals of elves dwarves. For elves that aren't too hackneyed, see Tad Williams' Sithi from _Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn_. For Dwarves with a different twist, check out the Chaos Dwarves from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. I was really impressed with the portrayal of Dwarves in the videogame Morrowind; it's a little standard in some ways, but it was also well developed and kind of eerie. I'm sure there are other examples to be had: you just have to look further than the D&D source material.

One use of halflings a friend of mine used in his first campaign, which I really liked, was making halflings the desert people. Giving them a unique environment in which to live and thrive (as elves have the forest, and dwarves the mountains) gives them a culture to themselves and makes them a useful part of the racial blend of DnD. But yeah... mostly I just ignore them too.

Hello ... ? Anyone at home ... ? You know what the 'R' in RPG stands for ? While halflings are probably the least popular of the standard races, like thieves are the least popular of the standard classes, they allow variation for the player who doesn't want to power play. Its up to a good DM/Player partnership to provide relevant and interesting scenarios for these types of character. I had a lot of fun with one of my characters 'Solon the younger'. I played him as a sort of Raffles character, a halfling dandy who no-one would suspect of being a thief and a spy. He may have not been of much use in a firefight, but he was great for casing a joint, getting access and information, and was a great lover as well (not everything about him was small ! ).

Halflings are also useful in adding variation to your campaign. To make a race interesting, you have to get under their skin. oops .. are we roleplaying again ? As a DM I try to imagine myself as a halfling. I generally have them living for protection, with humans or other races, as a minority. They are generally peaceful lawabiding people , the backbone of society, but maybe the subject of bullying, racism etc. There will be halfling farmers, doctors, clerics, merchants, moneylenders, scoundrels, innkeepers, but not too many lords or fighters. The possibilities for NPCs are endless. I rest my case.

I agree whole-heartedly with the above statement. The Hafling race can be neglected by you if you choose not to use it, but to say they are completely worthless is an affront on anyone who takes the time to play the game. Haflings in my campaigns, as NPCs, are generally farmers and doctors, the backbone of society, but always itching about something

You want to know the Niche for Haflings? Occurences. Haflings can be the key to making things happen. So a war takes place or kobolds steal a village. It's always standard. Then a Hafling runs off and picks up a magic stone, coveting it for ages... Haflings are the stuff that make adventures different from normal every-year fantasy life. Don't you ever get tired of Role-playing the normal life? Haflings bring interest to the world, even if they don't define the world itself.

I'm not a DM. I'm a writer and lover of good fantasy. But I suck at remembering math and charts and such, so i merely build a character with my own ideals and write a story about him. You can also play a story, which is how my writing usually works. I can't say I know alot about this but here are some ideas for halfling NPCs:

1. Halfling Gourmet. He is rather normal-looking, but if you're not careful, you cold be his next ingredient. Special skills: cook all dead (some undead possibly?) monsters. Minor knowledge of basic fire spells.
2. Halfling Innkeeper. Again, appears normal, but never mock the man who rents you a room. Special skills. Can make potions, poisions, and has alot of charm. Never suspected, proven less.
3. Halfling Plot device. Seeing as they are easily unnoticed and naturally curious, they can stumble upon artifacts, legends, spells, scrolls, just about anything! Their small stature creates a different perspective of observation and gives you better shots at finding things.
4. Halfling crooks. The organized crime thing is a cool idea...but why petty larcen? Make 'em more than pickpockets, how about asassins, or maybe if you're on the seas or coast, pirates? Could you think what a hobbit could do with asassin training, or a boat that could merely hold fifty full size men? It would hold maybe 75 halflings, once you count in food storage.
5. Halflings gone really small. Here's a question: Who said three feet? I have heard of nine-foot giants, I have heard of mountain-sized giants. Why not a two inch halfling? Are leprechauns halflings? They ought to be, If halflings were based on Hobbits, whom I always thought were based loosely on Leprechauns, as they both are less than half human's size, drink, smoke, dance, farm, are thought to be innocent, but can be very tricky at times. Odd similarities, huh?
6. Halflings as unlikely allies. Every thing effects every thing else in D&D, right? Write it so that saving some measly halfling that you save or spare the life of ends up saving their butts in the end. No one would see it coming, and that's why it's interesting. My Uncle Higgins has been a dungeon master for years now, and when he did the stuff, it seemed like story telling, not number crunching. So if it's creativity you need, these are some of my Ideas. Personally, I like to toy with Minotaurs in my stories.' Anyhow, nothing is truly useless or junk. It merely shows a lack of interest or skill on your behalf. If you lack interest, hey whatever makes you happy. If you just wanted a few good ideas to try and use them, here you go.

I must say you all have interesting and pertinent points.

It's true, I have never found Halflings to be anything special. I admit that it does create a bias, and those who enjoy the rogue class are certainly against me on many fronts. I think Sadie came closest to the point I had in mind when I first wrote the article, but the comments in gerneal have been very good.

I had forgotten about the Dark Sun campaign, as my friends have little love for a world so different (in their eyes). I have also never played Birthright, though I would have loved to give it a try.

I can see how many of you use Halflings to play key roles in your worlds just by their new, Third-Ed description. Me, I got started with 2nd ED, and since I haven't played a halfling in my 3rd Ed games yet my mind is still running over outdated, less distinctive descriptions. Perhaps there's something I really am missing in my roleplaying life. Who knows.

Anyway, it was a pleasure reading your feedback, and I hope while you may disagree you can at least understand my position.

My game group and I decided to take bits from the Darksun campaigns, ancient Rome and a little player criticism and rewrite the Halfling.
The Halfling Empire (Empire of Two Brothers):
Condones slavery
Is run on one side by a senate and the other a sorcerer king
Considers all other races inferior and subject to it's rule
Holds brutal gladitorial contests
Imports massive amounts of food from other countries (import is a nice word for it- steal is more truthful)
Constantly wages war on it's neighbors
Is not a place that you would ever want to vacation if you were not a Halfling
They are feared and hated throughout the world and it makes for interesting character interactions. This is not to say that all Halflings are exactly like the governments that run their society- just that it's the background they come from.

Two points, ok, opinions.

First I kind of like halflings as a race and as a culture. Not every race needs to fit a nice in the world. Look at our world, cultures don't fit niches of the world around them. Halflings were renamed hobbits but they have changed alot, but this has been said allready. Now Gnomes, Gnomes suck.

Which leads me to my second point, racial stereotyping. I personally really like Kender. I have sence I first discovered Dragonlance. Now Kender and Halflings are VERY different. Granted they were originally copied from Halflings they were made to be different. And 'meet one Kender you've met them all' is just plain hurtful. Kender are as varied as any other race. Granted most people don't realise this and play Kender to the unbearable annoying level. Those people annoy me. The stereotype for Kender is an annoying and hyperactive klepto but that is not true. A stereotype can easily be applied to most races and it would be as equally untrue.

That's enough from me.

Oh yeah, my point.

I hate it when Kender are lumped in with Halflings.

My friends allways call me a Kender, if that part isn't real obvious by now.

As a player I prefer halfings -- specifically 2nd ed. halflings. They appeal to me because they are the only race that (in most cases) require serious justification simply to appear outside of their home environment -- let alone have the sorts of martial skills that are almost required to survive the standard issue hack-n-slash D&D adventure.

One of my main beefs with 3E was how it turned halflings into kender clones, but (back when I was still playing D&D) I managed to work around it.

Anyway, it's good to see Darius has realized the folly of slandering the good name of halflings.

Hey wait a minute!
I've just realised people are saying the rogu eis the least interesting standard character class.
Hey Rogues are waaaaay cooler than Barbarians, Druids, Bards or Fighters.
They are the class that offer the most options to their player. The amount of skills they have is amazing, have a chance to use most magical devices and their sneak attack/backstab ability gives them a nice edge in combat to make up for their lower chances of hitting. They can be spys, infiltrators, sentries, burglars, tomb raiders, scouts, con artists, assassins, etc.
If you cross-class with a fighter type (you're a navy seal kinda character), cross class with Monk (a ninja), spell casters offer nice options to coplement the rogue.

Honestly a rogue is essential in a team, if you don't have one then a bard, Ranger or Monk makes a good substitute but won't be the same.

"Each race has a certain niche to fill in the world, but Halflings don't fill any in mine. Dwarves are miners with little sense of humor and a strong sense of honor. Gnomes are similar to dwarves, but they are the illusionists and jokers of the world, an amusing race who brings fun and frivolity to everyone who comes in contact with their kind. Elves are the elders, the wisest, the mages and the scholars. They are mysterious, and as such are greatly respected. The humans fill in the rest of the cracks. So, where do Halflings fit in? Simply put, they are basically like short humans. Yes, they do have a defined culture. However, it's defined exactly like a human farmer or peasant, except for the size. In essence, Halflings are short humans."

Since humans can fulfill all of the above niches, are the other races any more useful than Halflings?

Personally I mostly play halflings as angry. They are short. They are nothing special. Also they are pissed at being looked down on and being called names. My halflings have brades, tatoos, piercings and play vicious assassin style rogues.
My own halfling race for versus ( www.lugaru.net ) is a tad tougher than the 3e halflings as well.

Personally I mostly play halflings as angry. They are short. They are nothing special. Also they are pissed at being looked down on and being called names. My halflings have brades, tatoos, piercings and play vicious assassin style rogues.
My own halfling race for versus ( www.lugaru.net ) is a tad tougher than the 3e halflings as well.

Seems to me that Sir Darius should have done some more research. The word "halfling" is synonomous with "hobbit". The other races of Middle-Earth (with the exception of those who live close to the Shire) refer to hobbits as halflings. Sir Darius should also be aware, as another poster pointed out... that the original D&D rulebooks actually used the term "hobbit", which was later changed. Additionally... Warg became "Worg", Ent became "treant", Balrog became "Balor". Yes, D&D borrows heavilly from Tolkien and other popular fantasy authors (R.E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Fritz Leiber, etc). I guess I don't see the problem with this. Even the original elven races from 1st ed were directly taken from Tolkien (High, Gray, Wood, etc). Halflings are as useful as you want them to be. It's all about the roleplaying. If you are a power gamer (not counting 3rd ed halflings, which I consider an abomination), then halfling is not the race for you unless you want an excellent thief/rogue character... but the roleplaying opportunities are excellent.

Furthermore, the traditional "role" that halflings fill in a fantasy world is that of peace-loving farmer. They are a rustic country folk who appreciate life's simple pleasures. For someone who has played the game for 19 years, you seem to be poorly versed in the fantasy genre in general. Have you even read Tolkien?

Actually I never played a single classed halfling rogue.

I've played a sorcerer, a ranger, some clerics, several rogue(thief)/fighter or Rogue/clerics and a few fighters, but never a single classed rogue or thief.

Hum... maybe I don't like stereotypical halflings.

The gripe I have with this article is that it claims halflings to be useless in the gaming world. I say your gaming world doesn't have room for them, which is OK but quite different.

Oh and the best area for hobbits to live in are Grasslands and forested Hills. There they can hide both themselves and their homes from the Too Talls.

For me, equating D&D halflings with Tolkien hobbits *is* the core of the problem. Hobbits are, as Thorvar said, "peace-loving farmers", "rustic country folk"... in a way, the bucolic, happily ignorant peasant class to complement the humans' knights, nobles, warriors, thiefs, wizards, sorcererkings, merchants and other social niches. Yes, there are of course human peasants, too, but they're usually neither important to the medieval-ish fantasy setting nor "colorful" enough to be of interest in a game (unless you play Belgariad saga).

If halflings are played as synonymous with hobbits, they generally _don't_ make good D&D character material, simply because they are not interested in "adventuring", which is still the main focus of D&D. Yes, Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings both feature hobbits as main protagonists, but frankly neither Bilbo nor Frodo really went along on adventures by their own choice or knew what they were getting into.

Both novels stress the fact that hobbit society looks down their noses on hobbits who venture far the Shire, and most hobbits, with the exception of the Took family, had no interest whatsoever to seek out new things. Afterall, they already live a simple, pleasant life of blissful ignorance in paradise.

Furthermore, the whole D&D idea of "halflings" as a race of excellent, naturally talented thiefs/rogues is based on a hoax: Gandalf sold Bilbo to the dwarves as a "master-thief" (it was never explained why). And in The Hobbit Tolkien wrote that hobbits are of the "little folk" and have a talent of disappearing and hiding from the eyes of Bigger Folks, in effect equating hobbits with gnomes, leprechauns or brownies. This is I guess where D&D's halfling bonuses to hiding, stealth and pickpocketing come from. But by the time of LotR, neither Frodo nor the other halflings show exceptional "rogue" abilities.

That would leave as player character material either
a) halflings who are dragged into adventure against their will, and have no suitable skills for adventuring, or
b) young "black sheep" halflings who left their people in search of "uncouth" excitement, were consequently ostracise by hobbit society and had to acquired strange new skills, namely, one of the D&D classes. And then they could as well be small humans.

So, either halfling PCs are so rare that other adventurers would comment on it when meeting one, or we're forced to make D&D halflings quite different from
hobbits. Dragonlance did that with the Kender, as already mentioned by other posters, and actually I prefer the spunky roaming kenders. For them, natural rogue class makes sense. They're neither small elves nor gnomes in disguise, as kender were barred from becoming wizards or sorcerers, too flightly to be interested in mechanics or metalsmithing.

Halfling crooks, halfling mafia dons, cannibalistic halflings of Dark Sun... it makes for interesting variations, but the novelty value comes from the fact that *players* subconsciously expected halflings to be hobbits. If the crook, mafia don or sadistic emperor was a human, no player would bat an eye. If you invent a game world where halflings are known to be cannibals or pony-riding raiders, then technically no player *character* should be surprised to meet one. They'd rather be surprised at the idea that halflings could be gentle, fat little farmers.

But that basically means, in a "generic" D&D campaign, halflings are only feasible as a PC race when they're not hobbits any longer.

Well in Forgotten Realms, there are several sub-races of Halflings:

The mainstream Tallfellows.

The nomadic and driven Stronghearts.

The barbaric and tribal Ghostwise who whisper to your mind.

Most willing halfling adventurers are Stronghearts, just as most elven adventurers of that world tend to be moon elves or wood elves.

Oh and Memehunter:

there are several races who look down on adventurers.

Gold elves who see it as unsavory and beneath most respectable elves.

Many a dwarf clan sees a dwarf's place as not too far away fron the clan halls.

Wild elves don't see why one would want to get out of the woods.

Many human cultures will not like adventurers either (all of them beinfg trouble makers).

Yet, there are adventurers (be them PC's or NPC's from all these races). So I don't see why halflings can't be a viable choice.

I had a Ghostwise Halfling barabarian/psionic warrior. He was the master of the barbed chain-whip. He died protecting a party member form an evil warrior from the plane of shadows. I miss him. *sniff*

You're right, Sam, when you say that in most game worlds adventurers are looked at askance by society; at least those adventurers who are heavily armed homeless mercenaries, thiefs, scoundrels and wandering wizards.

Classes like the paladin or cleric are respected even when wandering the country. They are monster slayers and protectors of the common people. But we're getting into the topic of reputation here, and that's not what I was trying to address.

Please let me clarify. Perhaps I should have put it this way: D&D player characters usually belong to one of the core classes (or more if multiclassing). They may be wizards, rangers, paladins, druids etc. Maybe even nobles, artificers, explorers if the GM allows core classes from non-WotC d20 supplements in 3e D&D. But rarely you'll see a merchant, farmer, miller or tailor accompany a group of adventurers. Although PCs may have points in craft or professional skills as part of their character background from the time before they left home and hearth, or may pick them up later, they usually make their living by their class abilities.

Now, admittedly, not all races available as player characters support *all* possible classes (there'll never be a Gold Elf Barbarian, in all likelihood), but at least in 3E a member of a PC race can technically get training in any class (except the Barbarian class) without being frowned upon for their choice. Certain races even have a preference for one class, i.e. according to the rules on a generic D&D world you'll find a high percentage of arcane spellcasters among elves, rangers among the wild elves, warriors among dwarves.

A dwarf can deceide not to become a smith like his father but instead devote himself to a warrior career as defender of his people, and not be frowned upon. The trouble only starts if he suddenly gets it into his head to leave for the big human city and make money as a mercenary there. Unless his clan is desperately poor and he sends money home.... Well, anyway.

The point is, hobbit society does not support training in any of the traditional core classes. A hobbit paladin? A hobbit sorcerer? The Player's Handbook pretends the halflings' favored class is Rogue. If they're indeed like hobbits, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. The NPC class "Expert" might have been a better choice, but that class is not balanced power-wise against the core classes. So unless you rewrite halflings as something un-hobbit-like (which of course you can), you're left with the occasional wandering Took who was forced by bad luck train in a core class and is now a sort of living oddity, much like a sheep playing the fiddle.

I agree, adventurers are not the norm in a typical halfling society (if you are using pre-3rd ed halflings as a model). However, even in the Shire there were a number of so called "bounders" and of course the Shirrifs (elected officials) who has warrior skills. In addition, halflings are counted as having uncanny aim with ranged weapons, particularly slings and even plain thrown rocks. The moving about unseen factor, and "clever, nimble fingers" are useful rogue traits. In 2nd ed AD&D and before, halflings had some of the best starting thief skill bonuses of any race (if not the best). I further submit to you that adventuring is outside the norm for ANY race. Most simply wish to stay within the confines of their society and live a peaceful life, raise a family, take up a trade, etc. Adventurers are always (and always should be) outside of the norm.

I play halflings as rogues and fighters. The statement about halfling culture and society being vanilla to the point of bland is an accusation that can be leveled at nearly every other "main" character race. Dwarves are miners (yawn), elves are tree hugging wizards (boooooring), Human are everything (nice and clear that) and gnomes are pranksters (yeah a pc race that if played correctly has a 30 minute half life). These are all stereotypes, and foolish ones at that. I am just saying that a race is as boring and vanilla as you make it. For the record my favourite race is svirfneblin, but they have a bogus ecl


Now that was a race that should have never been! Talk about useless Lawfull Good creatures.

I realize this conversation has died down for a while, but someone raised a point I'd been thinking about, which is... Gnomes!

I don't really buy the halflings == hobbits thing anymore. It was the case with 2nd ed, and I'd never consider playing a 2nd ed halfling. Since 3/3.5, though, Halflings have gotten a kind of gypsy/survivalist/nomad schtick, and it works really well.

Someone brought up giving them their own environment,and I think that that is also spot on. Elves and Dwarves have their own environments and Humans' environments are basically everywhere else. This doesn't really leave a lot of room for Halflings, and so it would kind of make sense for them to be nomadic and insular.

It might be interesting to play them as having been displaced by the humans, and resentful in some larger context. I imagine the sequence of events being somewhat similar to the way the indigenous peoples of North America were systematically displaced.

I have a hard time imagining that humans have any sort of cultural kinship that the other races seem to share, and so it isn't difficult to imagine that they might not have any compunction about displacing Halflings. It wouldn't have to be militarily; it might just be humans more or less ignoring the halflings as they began building their own civilization. Humans tend to spread quickly and consume lots of resources, which would make life difficult for the Halflings. At that point, they'd have a number of options: they could ignore the humans and risk their livelihood being destroyed. They could go along with it and risk being assimilated as second class citizens. Or, they could go to war with the humans.

At some point, the Halflings might have petitioned the Dwarves and Elves for help, and they, too, overlooked the Halflings, for a variety of reasons. Maybe they looked the other way. Maybe they told the Halflings to deal with it themselves. Maybe they were too busy making it clear to the humans that the forests and mountains were off limits.

Or, another possibility is that the Halflings were determined not to ask for help, which would add another interesting layer of culture.

I'm just sort of thinking out loud here.

But yeah, Gnomes... I mean, for god's sake, the basic premise of the Gnome race is that they're annoying.

Hey, I just noticed something here that is really funny...well, at least to me...

We've got some people extolling the virtues of the halfling/hobbit/whatever, and others saying how they are basically useless/harmless, etc.

Isn't it funny that this is EXACTLY how they were viewed in Tolkien's work? You have Gandalf, and a few others, who know the worth and toughness of the hobbit, contrasted with others, who view them as worthless, or at best helpless small versions of humans.

I don't have a preference either way regarding playing one, but it DID strike me as funny...carry on, please.

OH, and one more thing.

Let's pretend that hobbits are real. I know, you have to turn your imagination on...

If they are so genetically predisposed to stealth, thievery, and whatnot...umm..wouldn't that mean that maybe, just MAYBE, people in world with hobbits would EXPECT a travelling hobbit to be, well, a thief? Wouldn't they have a sort of reputation for this?

"Oh, sure, he LOOKS innocent, Grakus, but count your fingers when you're done shakin' his hand."

Seriously, all races have modifiers and whatnot, but most races are somewhat versatile, and therefore hard to pin down. I know, I know, you can run a most atypical hobbit necromancer, but come on, be honest...doesn't everyone sort of EXPECT the hobbit to be the thief/rogue type? I know I do, and I'm betting in a world with hobbits (or halflings, if you prefer) everyone else would, too. A member of a race of peaceful homebodies, known to be really, REALLY good at sneaking, stealing, etc? Travelling to steal what? Or running from whom after stealing what? "
Get your arse out of my tavern, thief!!"

Ok, NOW carry on. Please.

"...genetically predisposed to stealth, thievery, and whatnot..."?? Thin ice here. Thin ice, Arek.

Not even in a fantasy world I buy it that a race is "genetically predisposed" for a skill you need to learn. A talent for sorcery perhaps, a feat like Alertness maybe.... but pickpocket skill? Or do you mean kleptomania? Well, that's exactly what Tolkien's hobbits were _not_, kleptos. That's back to the topic of kender.

Yes, I know, in (bad, lazy) Fantasy and SF there's a lot of that crap. Races who are famous for being healers, or great warriors, wise monks all sitting on a mountain somewhere, or basketweaving nutcakes, whatever....? A tribe of warriors I could get (with slaces doing the dirty work, and mercenary money buying bread), a society of wizards (with servants darning their socks). But a race? That's as annoying as the cliche of anthropomorphic "catpeople" being all haughty and wise, "dogpeople" being loyal, etc. ::sigh:: Yes, we have to live with the d20 D&D racial modifiers, but hell I don't have to like them, sorry.

If a race is predisposed towards something, either by heredity or by culture, there need to be a reason for it, or a selective pressure, a certain way of living that has created this ability. For example, certain bird species are very dextrous with their beaks, able to tie knots, build elaborate nests, while others are not, but there's a reason behind those nests, and not all birds can do it equally well. Some is instinct, but it needs training too.

In a Fantasy world, would a deity just *create* a "race of thieves"? Why? Or did the ability to do X better evolve from a need to do X better, especially if training hones the ability? That would tie in with Tra'Hari's idea of halflings as a race driven from their homeland, forced to live unseen among the humans in their cities, like sewer rats. But then we're far away from the jovial hobbit of description.

OK you know why hobbits, goblins, koboldas and other small races make good sneaks?
Cause they have no choice!!!
They're too fragile and little to fight up front and they are too slow to run away. Hence sneaking around and using guerrilla tactics is the only viable option left to them.
Hence the devellopment of these tendencies in the whole race. They also make excellent rangers, assassins, monks, shadow dancers, etc

My statement about the genetic predisposition was intended only as a humorous aside; the serious part (well, as serious as a fantasy topic can get, anyway) was that in my mind it seems like hobbits, being so dang good at sneaking, pilfering, and the like, would be suspect where ever they went, just because they are so good at it. I partially agree with sam from quebec's assertion that they got good because they had to. The up-front thing just doesn't work so well when you're eye level with someone's crotch. Although logic and common sense WOULD dictate a decrease in the difficulty of the hobbit hitting the aforementioned family jewels...but that's off the topic.

I am only trying to say that if you know that on average a hobbit/halfling is, due to racial attributes, better at thieving than most other races, wouldn't they acquire a reputation for it? And be suspected of it?

I just got this picture of a group of town guards asking a tavern full of adventurers if anyone knows who stole the king's crown. And the hobbit in the corner asking "Why is everyone looking at ME???"

Whether the tendencies be, genetic, or cultural is, not an issue. The Halflings size would promote an easier ability to hide, the small hands would fit into pockets easier, the hieght puts them below line of sight for most other races making them unseeable, the quiet demeanor make the unseeable unhearable. Not to mention the fact the just because the Hobbits of Hobbiton were snobbish and reclusive, that does not mean that the Hobbits of east LA would be, proximity to ones neighbors makes for attitudes and attributes as well.

Another point is that adventurers in general have to be rare. If the adventurer was not rare all the quests and unexplored area would be taken care of many times over. How long would any antagonist last if they had virtual armies of fighters and mages pounding down thier doors.

Lastly people generally congregate with their own kind, right or wrong it is the way things are. In my home town of Baltimore , Md. the different parts of town are held by different ethnicities, Little Italy is generally italians, Pig town is generally polish (where my family comes from), and so on. Exceptions to the rule exist but exception is not the rule.

conclusion, seeing the Halfling Palladin in and of itself would be such a rare occurence as to make it the topic of conversation in a small town or even section of a city for a good while.

Do halflings have a niche in the worlds at large, no, but neither do humans, and gnomes, or dwarves, or elves. Everyrace needs miners, and farmers, and lawenforcement, beurocrats, etc.

of the descriptions i've read halflings are kind of diplomats

of the descriptions i've read halflings are kind of diplomats i mean the books always say all the races like them don't they

I am very new to D&D...i have only played a few times. In the game a I am playing the DM did not want any Gnomes which I was had wanted to be because of some of the things they like to do was fiting for the caracter I wanted to have...(she is ...as nice as I can put it a bit of a tart) so while looking at the many books the group has gathered over the years i found that Halflings make very good bards. They love telling tell and having fun and enjoying the fine things in life..while looking out for them and them alone. Much like my "little girl" I had envisioned. Her size has come in had many a time....I can hide behind others when danger is near and I always find a way out of walking....but that might have something to do with her other "gifts" ;) I think I need to wrap this thing up now. I LOVE MY HALFLING!

I am very new to D&D...i have only played a few times. In the game a I am playing the DM did not want any Gnomes which I was had wanted to be because of some of the things they like to do was fiting for the caracter I wanted to have...(she is ...as nice as I can put it a bit of a tart) so while looking at the many books the group has gathered over the years i found that Halflings make very good bards. They love telling tell and having fun and enjoying the fine things in life..while looking out for them and them alone. Much like my "little girl" I had envisioned. Her size has come in had many a time....I can hide behind others when danger is near and I always find a way out of walking....but that might have something to do with her other "gifts" ;) I think I need to wrap this thing up now. I LOVE MY HALFLING!

I always thought that gnomes were wasted on the bard class. I much prefer the old, 3.0 illusionist gnome to the new 3.5 bard gnome. True, Nebin's by no menas as charismatic as Gimble, but still, I feel the gnome race fits better as an illusionist.

I just started playing D&D again, finding a new group and I was fascinated by the changes from 2nd ed. Particularly the psionics handbook. While the basic rules of psionics have changed greatly to be incorporated better, it does seem to add a flare, regardless, when my halfling character "picks up" a torch a fighter is carrying and I hit him upside the head with it for doing something stupid. (I love CG align) Yes the psionics class gives all of its bonuses to the humans, there aren't that many and not enough to really claim that humans are better at it than any other race (imo). I think while it's a preferred human class, the psionics class (if you can call it that with all of the disiplines) Making a Halfling psion just adds fun and sponteneity to a quest.

Off the psionics note, I have never been in a group that has had a human, and any npcs that were, were structly minor, such as barkeeps, blacksmiths etc, no one that went with the group, initiated quests, etc. Most people when I asked why claimed, "Who wants to be a boring human? Why not something else that changes things up and aids or restricts you?" I SOMEWHAT agree with this, and even in my newest group there is not a single human yet. However I believe that even humans (and gnomes) have their place if the imagination is there, I've never had the opprotunity. When I played years ago, I had different characters of Elven and halfling heritage. once I was even a half-elf/half-halfling ... the GM hated me for that racial modifier process, and the character was picked on to boot, but it was still fun.

I think that the Halfling race has grown to state that "All hobbits are halflings but not all halflings are hobbits." -many people. Period. End of Story.

Last thought I have is in regards to anyone that doesn't see a need for something: How valuable a race or class in any RPG is only limited by your imagination. I've never had a problem coming up with personality traits of any charater. It's all how you see it can best suit you and your group.

It's all very well to say that, Seamus, but who here can seriously see the gnomes as being musical? I bloody can't! They need to be mending shoes whilst the cobbler sleeps, not throwing miniture, clockwork television sets out of tavern windows!

P.S. My album's not doing to well at the mo', p'raps because of your ugly mug on the sleeve! If I don't sell at least three copies of it by Tuesday, it'll be your ass on the barbie! :-)

The Halfling's size and luck bonuses make them very good rangede or finesse fighters, what they lack in strength, they make up for in ability to hit enemies, and avoid being hit themselves. The nomadic nature of the 3rd ed Halfling also gives the PC a chance to be from somewhere exotic or perhaps verboten to other players.

now, I've played as both hobbit-type and mini-human type, and I loved them both. my favorite hobb-halfling was drawn to adventure by the words of a very charismatic bard. Much fire can be stirred in the bellies of homebodies by a good tale or four. I actually played him as a ranger. He'd been an orchard owner prior to his first PC level, and had to keep watch on his trees, growing quite fond of them as he worked year in and year out. The bard had told him of dangers to his trees, and how they he could help protect them. (note; the bard managed to convince more than one halfling to help, but the NPCs were lost early, which was a turning point for my character. he would either give up or go on, and after much thought of his trees, he went on)

as for the 3rd ed halfling, the first one I played was a sorcerer. with his bonus to missile weapons, and excellent dexterity score, he was able to survive in combat even without casting valuable spells that could better be used later. His first level feat was actually track. (I don't tend to make characters based on huge combat bonuses, I like to give them unique and yes, sometimes useless-seeming feats and skills. mainly because I have an excellent DM that knows all of our characters as well as we do). He and his bat familiar could find anyone, given enough time. It proved valuable on more than one occasion, and the quirky little gypsy was a well-liked member of the party.

now, perhaps I am biased, but I tend to think that the halflings are the PERFECT race for adventuring, not because of what they are, but because of what they aren't. they aren't big and strong. they aren't tough. they aren't particularly smart or wise (more so than anyone else, anyways). they're small, and they're lucky. they're the physical embodiment of the archetypal reluctant hero's ego and id. They're great because they're anything but great. I think this is probably why the hobbit characters in LOTR are so popular. They managed to become heroes in spite of their weaknesses and in spite of the lack of reputation for adventure that the other races enjoy.

and that was my rant!

:: looks around ::

Nice article...has anyone said that yet? ........no? Okay, nice article. I cannot really comment on it, really, because I've never played a halfling/hobbit/midget/little buddies/whatever...

And in my gaming experience, they're generally LEFT OUT. Unless there needs to be a village that is burning/under attack/under siege/etc...

Like the hobbits or the nelwens from "Willow" they seem to take the role of the victims. They're the "hey why the hell is this happening to us?" people who send out the most incapable person(s) in their village to wander off into unfamiliar lands and inevitably defeat an army of darkness and save the world.

:: dodging various projectiles ::

STOP THROWING STUFF! I loved Willow and LOTR...but there seems to be a definate pattern there...

The Good Cap'n

The coolest halfling character I ever saw was made by my good friend Oz. She went totally against type and made the runt a desert barbarian. This was done in the early days of 3rd Ed so it was cool. She had one magic item that was a vorpal chakram of returning. It was sick because she had four attacks per round with it. She was a sick little hobbit.

Beside her I was playing a little wimpy water spirit wu-jen. The other player was this ass-kicking elven druid. I was a little outclassed. That was, after my monk died. From an illusionary purple worm! Goddamn dice can't make a friggind saving throw!!!! GAH!!!!


I think I wandered from the point a little there.

Nah... don't worry eater, nobody noticed.

:: opens rulebook to argue the invalidity of making four-attacks per round with (1) thrown weapon ::

...you know, I think...

:: realizes dork muscles are protruding out of shirt ::


You're forgetting; D&D is based on Tolkien's works...

Interesting article, though I think you're not giving halflings a fair chance.

I've only had the chance to play D&D on the computer. However, out of all the races I've played, Halflings have not only been the most successful, but the most enjoyable to play. Elves are too concerned with nature, dwarves never really caught my attention, same with gnomes. Half-orcs aren't really too smart, and humans are kind of boring in my opinion.

A halfling thief, though, is always fun. They steal, they tend to get along well with others, and no one ever overestimates the small guy. I've had fun with my halfling characters and even have a Cleric of Brandobaris planned a little for when I finally do play a pen and paper game.

I have started playing a halfing wizard in my friends 3e dnd campaign.

With a litle twist a fire elemental.

Can we say entangle?


I remember a dwarf Troll-slayer of the name Mad Yoric, who once made "Fun" of my Halfling thief for being too "Small and Insignificant". Apparenlty, said dwarf did not find me "Intimidating" or "Worth Noticing".

I had a great time laughing at him as the Swing Axe Blade Trap swished over my Halfling Head and into his Dwarven Neck (about Human Waist High)....


"Oopsie! My 'Bad'. Guess I must have forgot to warn you about the Axe....."

I had a player who wanted to play a human with a birth defect (dwarfism) so he was only 3'6" tall. Many a nose was broken by Fornac the Mighty (Short) jumping from the nearest chair at being called "halfling". And with an 18/86 strength he always surprised the hell out of them.

My biggest complaint about halflings is that everyone who plays a halfling plays them as a thief or a scout. Apparently halflings, as a race, cannot fight, cast magic, believe in a god, or sing for a living (although bards are pretty close to thieves).

I have never seen the halfling warrior (outside of Dark Sun). I've been told that they are too small and weak for that.

Halflings mages or priests? Why not? Halflings can read, right? They have gods or a god, right? It'd be cool to have the main bad guy be a halfling necromancer...

Or how about a bard? Halflings in everygame that I've ever played, with the exceptions of Dragonlance and Dark Sun, states that Halflings as a race are always singing and playing music. Why don't they get a bonus for this? Why don't people play a halfling Bard?

I'd like people to try playing a halfling who's not a klepto for a change. How cool would THAT be, huh?

"If you can't beat them, snipe them from a distance."

I'm not harping on you, Calamar, but I think this entire thread is retarded.

The "halflings always as rogues" phenomenon arose, I believe, because of the combined effect of game-mechanics (high DEX, low STR, good bonuses to rogue skills) and the portrayal of halflings in literature (The Hobbit, the Dragonlance books).

Anyone else here play Baldur's Gate 2? Mazzy Fenton was a great addition to your party - and a fighter. Tough little chick. Bonus money for Knights of the Old Republic fans: Mazzy's voice was done by Jennifer Hale, who voiced Bastila for KotOR.

I rarely get to run PCs any more, but in the last setting I used for halflings, I ran an arcane trickster (it really is hard to pass up those rogue-skill bonuses, but this character was a Tallfellow - they don't get 'em!) and a ranger as NPCs.

I don't buy the "[insert race name here] are useless" line of thinking. That sounds very min-maxish, game-wankerish to me. If you're playing a race purely for its stats, shame on you! It all depends on the setting.

Then again, I tend to run settings these days where not every race in the Player's Handbook is allowed. When you narrow the field, you can flesh out the non-human races better, I find. And a good, well defined cast of non-human player races tends to produce PC ideas that aren't confined to the usual D&D stereotypes. With so many races to choose from in the standard rules, it's easy for me to understand why certain races (in my mind: halflings, gnomes, and half-orcs) tend to get stereotyped and marginalized by players.

Well..."entire thread is retarded" is a bit of an over-statement. I do get tired of seeing stuff like OMG HALFLINGS SUCK, though.

Yeah...BG II had a good halfling in Mazzy. I kept her as an NPC just because I thought she was a cool take on the race -- she didn't exactly click with the group I had...meaning, that I was already too fighter heavy...but, heck, I kept her anyway.

Other credits to Jennifer Hale can be found at www.imdb.com

And, since you mentioned BG II...well, I think the murderous Montaron from BG I (and II - sorta) should also be mentioned. He certainly wasn't the happy go lucky halfling that we normally see.

In my D&D games, there is a halfling NPC named Bubo...who *pretends* to play up the typical halfling standards...but, is actually a spy master for a yet-unnamed secret society. Everyone thinks he's sweet, fat, and innocent. And then, at night, he sends ravens to his boss with updates on what's going on.

I played a halfling Paladin-like character once and really enjoyed him. He was part of what was known as the Ilyeash Protectorate -- a lawman of sorts who solved crimes, defended the weak, and tried to impose justice on lawless lands. He had a frontier kind of feel to him -- Leather Coat, Hat, etc. He was honour-bound and his word was taken as fact in the lands that upheld the codes of the protectorate.

The protectorate was a hard environment at times for the little guy, who still enjoyed the farms and the countryside more than the towns that he often had to frequent. His weapons of choice were sticks and leather straps for binding unyeilding villains. He did a lot of getting on peoples backs and trying to choke them out. In game terms that meant that he did a lot of getting thrown into corners, off walls, etc. He was fun to play though.

If I remember correctly, Halflings still are hobbits. I recall "hobbit" being the term that the actual creatures use for themselves, while "halfling" was the term that Saruman used for them. Both are accurate, but it seems to me that the term "halfling" is a little more demeaning, e.g. "They're only half a human".

Anyhoo, where in the world did the fantasy genre come from, if not Tolkien? All fantasy (at least as we know it as the traditional genre), be it games, novels, movies, action figures, or cheesy advertisments descended from "Lord Of The Rings", just as science fiction its parenthood in Frank Herbert's "Dune" series (amazing books by the way, if you haven't read them you should) and reality TV stemmed from "Survivor". All a genre really is is a lot of people taking one guy's basic idea and adapting to their own liking, not to say that there is no originality in genre-specific products.

"Every society needs a cry like that, but only in a very few do they come out with the complete, unvarnished version, which is "Remember-The-Atrocity-Committed-Against-Us-Last-Time-That-Will-Excuse-The-Atrocity-That-We're-About-To-Commit-Today! Hurrah! And So On!"
-Terry Pratchett, in his novel "Thief of Time"

i have to say, it's a little simplistic...
even though LotR is a major influence on current fantasy litrature, games and movies, it is not the only one. Franz Leiber's work as well as Elric (not to mention greek mythology) come to mind. I think this is even more the case with sci-fi, as this genre probably started way back with Jules Verne and H.G Wells.
anyway, you can look around the site for more on that at

  • http://www.gamegrene.com/node/513
  • Thanks, zip. Took the words right out of my mouth. And good to see you're still hanging around...

    Something you're touching on here is worth expanding. The source of fantasy is mythology, and Tolkien wasn't the first to work in the genre. Eddison's Worm Ourobouros predates LotR and The Hobbit by fifteen years, and someone would've borne the torch if not our beloved master JRR. Tolkien borrowed very heavily from Norse and Anglo-Saxon myth -- so heavily that the names of some of the Dwarves in The Hobbit are taken directly from the source material! Tolkien's elves, too, are Norse figures. While it's nice to know what Numenor was, it's also nice to know a bit about Freya, the Vanir, and all the rich myth underlying the themes and symbols in LotR.

    Now, if we're talking about Fantasy gaming, well, you've hit the nail on the head. Tolkien is one of the godfathers, but far from the only one. Moorcock's Law vs. Chaos mythology is equally important, and once upon a time Leiber's Nehwon mythos shared space in Deities & Demigods with Elric, Cthulhu, and King Arthur. And whatever happened to good old Robert E. Howard? Swords and Sorcery, man, and some of it at its earthy finest. And that was three years before The Hobbit!

    I think that the main thrust of the argument here is why play a halfling as opposed to another race? I guess in a world/game/whatever that focuses on stats you wouldn't play a halfling as anything but a thief or scout because that's all that they are good for.

    If however, you the GM takes the time and effort to create or steal cultures for your races, then force the players to play those races within their cultural limitations.

    Thus if halflings in your world are desert dwelling cannibals, and someone wants to play one, the that character should not remind you of Tolkein or the player and the GM are not doing your jobs.

    Your JOB is to create a world in fill it with interesting people and things. The players JOB is to make a character who travels and interacts with other people and things within that world. This is a group creative effort in storytelling but the final determination falls to the GM. If the players want thier own world then let them run a game.

    This is your world and if you feel strongly about a race or you have taken the time and effort to create your own view of their culture than what you say goes. Anyone who doesn't agree with you can either start running games and put their money where their mouth is or leave.

    I know that this seems harsh but this is a point very near and dear to my heart. It's a respect thing. I may not agree with my GM, but it's his world and I like and respect him enough not too mess with it unless I have to.

    I like JRR...but me also thinks he gets a bit too much credit.

    REH's Conan, Kull, Kane, Bran Mak Morn...all older than Frodo.

    So is Tarzan and John Carter and a host of other ERB characters.

    And while a bit on the "light" side, there is Baum's Oz books to consider as well.

    As OldTimer would say...just my 2 cents...

    Well said.

    Thank you.

    ...reality TV stemmed from "Survivor"...

    It was Gilligan's Island before that...

    - Aaron

    Spindowners (an online sci-fi rpg being developed with the upcoming Drupal Game module)

    For the last five years, I have played a Halfling Priestess of the Hearth and Home. (The GM took the time to round out his world by creating many different deities) She is what Memehunter would define as a stereotypical Halfling. He further states "halflings are only feasible as a PC race when they're not hobbits any longer". My priestess had good reason to adventure away from home. (She was called by her goddess in an effort to aid other heroes in the protection of simple farmer types. She had skills which made her useful to the party (as a healer).
    She has been a thrill to roleplay. At first the other characters had no idea what to do with her, but excepted that if her goddess said that she was to be with them that they really shouldn't argue. She has since proven herself to be brave, strong and useful. She can run forward and heal other players when a human priestess would never dare. As she puts it " When a six and a half foot tall warrior is swinging a sword at you the least of your concerns is the kid sized thing wrapped around his knee." But if that kid sized party member can heal you before you goes down that's a huge boon to the party. Part of what makes a halfling so much fun to play his that they can step into any role. When they step into one that is unexpected, they tend to make certain they can do it very well.

    Play a kender; it's much more fun than a halfling.

    See, i feel the same way about Gnomes. I'm not 15 anymore, and I don't need my games full of silly joke-making illusionist buffoons. I would prefer to separate Dwarves into two clans, a magic using not as hearty one, and a hearty not as magically gifted clan before using Gnomes. What is the difference really if you are not going for comic relief. I remove both Gnomes and Halflings, adding in Hobgoblins and Half-Dwarves as playable races.

    "silly joke-making illusionist buffoons"

    That is what they are only if you choose to make it so. If you have enough determination to make two dwarf variants, then you should have enough to adjust the Gnomish personality to suit your needs. However, if you concerned about the tactical problems with the Gnome or Halfling characters, you could certainly make adjustments.

    I suspect that most of the resistance to Gnomes and Halflings is coming from those who enjoy "optimizing their build," as neither of these options compete particularily well in a power-gaming environment.

    I think the problem lies somewhere right between preconceived notions and misaligned expectations. If ones perception of something is directly tied to the things reputation or colloquial signifigance, then the actual thing itself gets skewed and distorted.

    Which raises the question; does it truly matter what something *is*, when *what it's reputed to be* is so much stronger? I hear about the hackish gnomes and campy halflings all the time when speaking about roleplaying with people. As written, they aren't that at all. However, what they've become outside of the written context is so much more powerful that the thing in and of itself no longer matters. We're allowed, by dint of the power of association, to completely misinterpret something and still be intrinsically correct.

    Halflings for example, are hobbits. They most certainly *are not* hobbits as written these days. They're more akin to slightly more careful kender, living vicariously through some author or anothers gypsy fantasies. And yet...to the vast majority...they are hobbits. Most of this relates directly to laziness; when asked to explain "what are halflings like?" by a new player, how many GMs say, "they're like hobbits...except for these things I'll explain now." I, myself, would have stopped listening after "they're like hobbits...".

    A great many people in RPG-writing-land (a country I like to visit, but by no means wish to relocate to) have tried very hard to "do their own thing" as it were. Gnomes and halflings prove that this is painful and labor intensive. As long as our settings continue to rely on, "it's like this Tolkien thing, except in these areas where i changed it to be like this Wheel of Time thing" we will face the dire beast of preconception; and our settings will be filled with farmerhobbits and garden gnomes, living in burrows with their pipes clenched firmly in their teeth as they crack wise about the neat rows of cabbages laid out before them.

    And it truly is a hellish beast to face. It's AC is too high, and many of us don't have the THAC0 to prevail in it's midst.

    It's a very simple problem, though. Change the name and several key features, much like the Wheel of Time actually. It's hard to describe Trollocs as Orcs because they're so clearly not. They share some key features, such as service to some dark lord and residence in a blasted wasteland where only they (and a few crazes) live. But then you see how they look and act, etc. and they become completely different.

    Personally, however, I don't like fantasy "races" at all. Why can't we just play humans? Really, besides fairly meaningless stats, there's little difference between a human with a "dwarven" culture and a dwarf especially since most players either end up treating them like humans or falling into stereotypes (which are based on human behavior). I'd rather we just skipped all that and got into what's fun about fantasy - various beasts, a foreign world, and magic. Races are just a distraction, a token cliche that really pulls me out of the world, because I try to portray "elves" correctly, but then you realize, wait, what the hell am i thinking? How exactly does one portray a fictional being correctly? It really just comes down to a waste of effort. I'd rather skip all that and spend my time on the story, various human cultures, etc. I dunno, just one of my preferences. I like the "savage" races but little else. Even those, however, are easily replaced by humans.

    In the fantasy setting I'm currently using (the second one of my own design since I stopped using the one that had too much gaming in it) I did just that. No other races...just different humans in different places.

    I've always hated those blarsted elves.

    Halflings can be played well if you get rid of the Hobbit description completely. Halfings in my world are patterned after the ones found in the ADnD setting Darksun. Cannibalistic savages living in swamps akin to the Everglades found in Florida.

    I kept elves, dwarves, and other races, but they have been drastically changed as well. Dwarves have an appearance similar to ET. Short, almost nonexistant legs, long thin arms, bulbous eyes, no hair... Get the picture?

    I could go on, but I'm outta time. Basically, change the race to fit YOUR world, rather than the stereotypical Tolkein or DnD templates.

    I guess my exception to that is this; if you're going to change them so drastically that tehy no longer are your typical elves, dwarves, etc...why all them by those names at all? Doesn't taht just cause confusion when you mention them? isn't it easier to explain a new race when you aren't also fighting against preconceived notions? I think the only reason to keep the standard race names would be to give them a sticking point that people can lock on to and understand them a bit better before play starts. If there are more differences than similarities, isn't it better to jsut call them something different anyways?

    I actually have different names for most races. Like Aiel for Elves, Dwarrow for Dwarves, and so on. But humans tend to change words over time and thus "Dwarrow" became "Dwarf".

    There ARE enough similarities between my races and the general conception of these races to make the connection between the name and reality.

    Elves live for thousands of years, are beautiful in an animalistic sorta way, are at one with nature, and highly magical. They are slightly shorter and more slender than humans (built like the Japnese compared to white European or American), much more graceful, with pointy ears, odd colored eyes, and white hair.

    However, their culture is a mixture of Native American Apache and ancient Japanese. They do not marry, have no rulers, and are gender blind. The vast majority are highly zenophobic and they are the absolute best guerilla fighters in the world.

    Dwarves live underground and age much like elves do. The know the Words of Making and almost every magical item in the world can be traced back to them. They are modeled more after the race of rock lovers found in the second book of the Dark Elf trilogy by RA Salvator than after the typical dwarf. They are hairless, built like ET, and are complete pacifists.

    As you can see, there is enough about them to connect them to the typical Elf or Dwarf but they are so different in reality that any preconceived notions are dashed immediately on meeting one.

    On a side note, this is one of the main reasons that I do not let people PLAY an elf or dwarf. The have a totally alien culture and view of the world. It's hard enough to lay a human in my world with the cultures, histories, religions, and governments that I have. Only a few people have the ability to play a race like this as other than a human with pointy ears.

    Actually, halflings are so mechanically powerful that they render the other base races almost pointless for any base class in the book. The only time you might ever want to play another race is if a prestige class has a racial requirement. IE: arcane archer. The truly pointless race mechanically is the half-orc which has absolutely nothing going for them. No really, look at them. They suck.

    A halfling barbarian or fighter has the advantage of higher AC, more accurate attacks.

    Bards gain ... Well, they do almost everything slightly better. A halfling bard can, easily, be better at sneaking than the dedicated rogue while being better at ranged combat than the dedicated fighter, while having rudimentary healing spells. Yeah, it's a sad sight for the party when the bard outshines them.

    Halfling monk? Specialize in your sai, and the slight unarmed damage reduction is worth the bonus to your already high saves, AC and the benefit of slightly more accuracy behind each blow.

    Paladins are given smaller mounts that can be ridden inside a dungeon, unlike the heavy medium-sized characters' horses.

    Clerics and druids get the same benefits as the halfling fighter, except druids all but lose any problems from a penalty to strength while transformed. With natural spell, you can cast spells while transformed with no problems at all so in a pitched fight there's no reason to NOT be transformed.

    Rogues go without saying. Very little reason mechanically to be a rogue of any other race.

    Sorcerers, clerics and wizards gain to stand the most from the halfling racials. The +2 dexterity helps with those tricky touch attacks, the AC for being small helps with not-getting-brutally-killed for the sorcerers and wizards (since they need every bit of AC they get). The best part: Spells are in no way dependent on size. A fireball deals the same damage if it comes from a small sized, or a medium. So a halfling of the smallest size possible, under the effects of a permanent reduce person becomes tiny sized. +2 AC, +2 attack rolls anyone?

    And all this is before you even consider the existence of the more specialized halfling subraces, which only compound upon this.

    Roleplaying wise, if you don't see any difference between a halfling and most the other base races, give the player's hand book another read through, except this time try to pay attention to the black ink on white paper... The thing we call "words".