Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Assumptions of a 5e World: Races, Part III: Halflings

Oh, Halflings...

A lot of people have some pretty strong ideas and criticisms about Halflings--and most of it valid. The evolution of the D&D Halfling has strayed far from its Tolkien roots.

1. Field Mice and Citizen Soldiers
There are two quotes in the PHB that strike me as interesting regarding the Halfling racial character. First:
The diminutive halflings survive in a world full of larger creatures by avoiding notice or, barring that, avoiding offense. (p. 26)
And:
For them, adventuring is less a career than an opportunity or sometimes a necessity. (p. 27)
This, along with the very pastoral and no-nonsense description found in the flavor text remind me of the romanticized small-town America in the early part of the 20th Century--plain talking, lawful, and pleasant farm folk who are willing to take up a noble cause when it is just to do so. However, there is also a side to them which attempts to remain anonymous. They integrate into other communities as easily as forming their own, often becoming an invisible, but vital, aspect of society. Even urban halflings, cooks and butlers extraordinaire, routinely move around unseen by the taller folk.

2. Subraces
Personally, it has been difficult for me to really get a strong feel for the subraces of halflings. The Lightfoot Halflings are sneakier, chattier, and more prone to wanderlust, while the Stout Halflings are hardier. And that's really all the differentiation in the PHB. The subraces appear to be almost more mechanical bonus options compared to living, breathing cultures.

3. My Halflings
What might differentiate the two is the environment they come from. Shire-based halflings, more rustic and laconic, might fit the traits that the Stout Halflings possess. City halflings mesh up well with the Lightfoot Halflings--the charisma bonus is suitable for members of the service industry and the Naturally Stealthy trait relies on being around tall people, something urban halflings have in far more abundance than their rural counterparts.

For the most part, I don't see much of a reason for Stouts to be out and about in the world unless there is a pressing need. And when they do leave their homes, they do what they need to do and then come home. A Stout who chooses the life of adventure would certainly be a bit scandalous. Lightfeet, on the other hand, could easily be brought on initially as servants of adventurers, evolving into adventurers in their own right and slipping into more mainstream culture. The majority of Lightfeet would probably cock an eyebrow and "tsk" the adventurous halfling, but urban halflings are far more tolerant of this behavior than the Stouts.

On Friday... HUMANS!