Monday, August 17, 2009

The Halfiing Forth shall stand

While much of D&D stems from the pulp fantasy and swords & sorcery the single most influential individual, outside of Gary Gygax, is J.R.R. Tolkien. This influence can clearly be seen in the choice of races in Original D&D. Indeed TSR had to change hobbit to halfling to avoid issues with the Tolkien estate.

For Elves and Dwarves the Tolkein portrait of these two races lend themselves to roleplaying. The problem come with the Halflings/Hobbits. Tolkein has stated several times that the hobbits were the everyman of his novel. They were representative of what Free People were fighting for. Unfortunately their society and the Shire is product of specific circumstances the most important of which is this isolation from the other great cultures of Middle Earth. Ultimately for role-players it's biggest sin is that it is boring to play and deal with.

The typical D&D setting a melange of races all thrown together dealing with each. More often than not the adventuring party isn't even majority human. A trend that is especially true for later editions. The isolated Shire Hobbit is not a good fit for this type of setting.

But despite all that I like the Shire and it's quaint hobbit culture. I thrown in several hobbit realms in the Majestic Wilderlands despite my inability to come up with something interesting. Two prominent halfling PCs were Zoldan the Battle Hobbit a typical halfling thief. (typical of how most people played halfling thieves in the early 80s) and the second Toy a psychopathic Chaotic Evil halfling.

While the player did well with both character both had nothing distinctive that made me say "That my setting's halfling." Of then there are Dragonlance's Kenders while fun and interesting, kenders were not a road I wanted to go down. Luckily I never had to deal with this in my background as halfling were not a part of any major plots.

But now with the project I am working comes the reckoning. I need to define my halflings. After a massive case of writer's block I think I came up with something that not kender and preserve the Shire aspect of the halfling.

Halfling were breed by the Demons as agricultural slaves. It was felt their small statue would require them to eat less food and increase the crop surplus they produced. However the Demons did not count on their ability to easily hide and elude searchers. Many escaped the latifundias of the Demons and joined the revolt. After the wars they began to farm cleared lands next to larger realms and traded their surplus for goods made by the Elves and Dwarves.

  • Halflings are long lived and have double the lifespan of Man.
  • Halflings are +2 to Dexterity
  • Halfling automatically gain Stealth at Skill Level 1.
  • Halflings gain +4 to any Stealth task.
  • Halfling are of small stature. Armor cost half.
  • The following are considered two handed weapons for Halflings: Battle Axe, Club, War Hammer, Heavy Mace, Long Sword, Staff.
  • The following are considered one handed weapons: Dagger, Light Mace, Short Sword, Hand Axe.
  • The following Missile weapons can be used. Hand Axe, Short Bow, Light Crossbow, Dart, Sling.
Halfling Culture
In most aspects Halflings are similar to bigger cousins the humans. However their small size has left them with a marked disadvantage dealing with the monsters haunting the Wilderlands. This in combination with their initial training as farmers has caused Halflings to be far more cooperative with each other compared to normal human. They know if they fight among themselves they will be prey for the larger and nastier creatures and races around them.

A legacy of their origins is their interest in Agriculture. Like many of the other races created by the Demon Lords they continued their vocation for the revolt. Growing the food needed to feed the armies of the revolt. When victory came they continued this tradition their lands becoming the breadbaskets feeding the other demi-human realms.

The Halflings are also the greatest allies of the elves in prompting harmony among the races. They take a leading role in the Rangers and other organizations that reach across the boundaries that separate the races. They view that should the various alliances fail then their own lands will open to bandits and worse.

These views have opened a darker side of the Halfling race. They take pride their unbroken history of cooperation among themselves and view the troubles that afflict other races with contempt and condescending. In private talks between the elders they blame the elves for whole mess in the first place as they couldn’t maintain cooperation among themselves resulting in the Dark Elves becoming Demons.

Since the Halfling race lacks the physical strength and are no more gifted magically than any other race to force the issue the only means they have is manipulation and guile. They will plant rumors, lie, and steal to nullify any threat to their race. Their ideal is to transform a situation into one of mutual cooperation. But they will do what takes to nullify the threat if that can’t be achieved.

1 comment:

Sturat said...

Very nice characterization. I usually dislike halflings, but this has grip.

I fully expect this to be 'flattered' in many a campaign.