BEFORE WE GET TOO FAR, I do have to get something off of my chest which pertains to this race. I personally hate it, however I will be as subjective as I can as I am looking to get over my bigotry and personal preferences in favor of a nice round gaming world. Hopefully I can keep neutral on the subject of these disgusting creatures.
HALFLINGS IN MYTH & LEGEND
The halfling is just a word that TSR came up with so that they wouldn’t get sued for using the term, Hobbit. Everybody knows this, it isn’t a secret. There are no cultural reference to hobbits or halflings, and are purely rooted in the mind of the writer, Tolken. This doesn’t change its role in a fantasy realm, in fact it helps it more then hinders.
A HALFLINGS PLACE IN THE WORLD
The halfling is a simple supplier, well known for their ability to cook the finest foods and brew the greatest wines and ails. Typically a halfling village will work together to specialize on a specific specialty, such as wine, or cheese. This will be the finest item of its kind and make the town famous, however this specialty is different for each halfling village, thus the halfling enjoys a brisk trade with other cultures and other halfling towns, and unlike the other demi-human races, the halfling alone understands the coins of the realm, and are masters of bartering.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE OTHER RACES
As far as the rest of the races are concerned, the Halfling is always the preferred demihuman to deal with, and they enjoy the warmest reactions. This is not an accident, the halfling is a naturally charming and charismatic species who find themselves welcome in foreign lands which are normally off limits to foreigners.
All visitors, regardless of race, are welcome into the community. The halfling loves to trade with them, and they love hearing the stories that the guests have to tell.
Halflings have no racial enemies, and a peculiar way of trying to get along with all neighbors, even the ones that the rest of the races consider to be monsters. Perhaps this is their secret to creating such famous products?
Even stupid beings, such as the Orks have realized that it is better to kidnap a halfling and force him to cook for you, then it is to just out-right eat him . . . not that they don’t enjoy eating halflings or nothing.
THE RACES OF THE HALFLING
The halfling is an odd race who has evolved subtly depending on who their neighbors are. The most common neighbors being, elves, dwarves, and humans.
Hairfoot: This is the most common Halfling, choosing to live close to rural human settlements and villages. They live similar to humans, with all of the trappings of a human village; their crafts being practical and ordinary which will be desirable to the humans whom they cater too. They will create as many different items as possible, but become famous for specializing in one especially.
Stout: This halfling prefers to live near Dwarven cities, and typically have several agreements with each other in regards to all aspects of life. The Stout villages are usually made in hilly, rocky country, near a river stocked with fish. The stout is a capable miner, and has developed some infravision. Their products typically cater to their dwarven allies, and are capable of concocting some amazing technical marvels to get much of the work done, however what makes this halfling unique is that he isn’t as afraid of work as his cousins.
Tall-fellow This, the rarest of halfling, live near settlements and camps of the wood elf. The tall-fellow are carpenters and artists, as well as hunters and gatherers. They keep their homes in the forest glades and live off of the forest, as well as have many agreements with the wood elves for barter.
MAGIC AND THE HALFLING
The halfling isn’t as magically resistant as some races, but he isn’t very good at it either. There are no halfling mages, they simply don’t have the dexterity or the drive to make good wizards. The do collect magical items, or items that they claim to be magic, but in reality, the proud owner has no idea as to what it is or what it does.
THE RELIGIONS OF THE HALFLING
The halfling is a very visual creature, they see the evidence of their gods all around them. Like the gnome, the halfling has no place in the creation myth, they’ve always been here and they always will be here.
The closest thing that they have, and that they all share, is the belief in the legend of Little Man, and the goddess whose name is different for each village, but it is typically the same story about a wondering goddess who searched for the perfect followers and discovered Little Man. She sent him on a quest to tell all of his halfling brothers and sister to worship her, and in exchange she will protect them and let them florish.
Before this time, the halfling led a cold life of hiding and starving. This was called “The Bad Time”. Because they worship the goddess, they are protected and can live in communities and at peace with all around them. There are many versions of this story, with subtle changes depending on the village, as all of them claim to be the very village which Little Man called home.
There are a few other gods, but Halflings don’t worship as humans do, they don’t typically build churches, and it is usually acceptable to make a few sacrifices to the gods, and more important to tell your children about these stories so that they will learn from them. The local clerics are more healers and doctors then community leaders. The true acolytes of the religion are the grand parents who entertain the children with their stories, and if the Halfling would have a temple, it would be the hearth. All Halfling homes feature the hearth which is used for warmth, cooking, and to socialize around.
THE LIFE-CYCLE OF THE HALFLING
The halfling enjoys helping adults as soon as possible. Business is a family affair, with no distinction between the sexes, male and females are equally allowed to succeed or fail at what they do with no one person in a relationship having more say so then the other.
The young are loved and cared for, and much like human children, are born absolutely helpless and fully dependent on their parents. If a parent dies, then a relative will be quick to raise the orphans with love.
The young halflings aren’t forced to work, and have a lot of time to socialize with one another, and encouraged to play games which secretly teach them skills such as rock pitching and hide and seek.
Once an adult, the halfling is concerned with keeping himself and his family as comfortable as possible. He will work hard to earn the coin needed to buy the best that he can afford, however, he won’t work so hard that he isn’t enjoying the fruits of his labor himself either.
The Halfling is highly family oriented, and burrows house extended members of the family. The old do what they can around the house, and rarely live by themselves unless they have suffered some terrible tragedy, and even then somebody will come and check on them regularly.
Because of the myth of Little Man, the halfling never forgets to be thankful for everything that he has, and this is why he usually stays were he is. He lives content and happy, he’s got a warm fire and wonderful food and drink, and his family is right there to enjoy . . . so why leave? Not all halflings feel this way, a few get bitten by a wonder bug, and they feel that they must answer the call.
A Halfling can become an adventurer for a lot of reasons, such as out of necessity, or to make money, but the most common reason is out of boredom. He wants to live a life of excitement and adventure and simply isn’t as content just hearing about it from guests. In his mind, in order to better understand Little Man, he must become Little Man. His family doesn’t encourage this, but they don’t discourage it either. Neighbors will shake their heads, but wish the traveler well and a safe return.
The quest for fame is also prevalent in halfling society, some have a desire to start their own homestead, believing that a better place is out there where they can find wealth and fame and immortality, as all Halfling villages are named after their founder.
These are things which halflings do when they are still young enough to fail. Typically an adventurer returns to a heroes welcome, even if he has failed: As, to a halfling, failure is just as much of a learning experience as success is, maybe even more so! Therefore, common Halfling myths and stories involve tales of failure. Even the myth of Little Man ends sadly, as Little Man loses everything in the end but his wife, and for his wife he is still thankful. This speaks much of the philosophy of the halfling in general.
Halfling villages are typically all pleasant, as like the gnome, they prize craftiness and intelligence over fighting, indeed, it is a taboo to pick a fight with another halfling, even if you think that you can beat him. In these circumstances, it is considered more honorable to simply walk away. For this reason, crimes of any kind are very rare.
Most Halfling settlements have a sheriff to enforce laws, normally he enforces laws in regards to unruly visitors. He has the power to arrest, and to organize a party in cases where he requires assistance, however, typically the strongest and best fighter will lead this deputized party, even if it isn’t the sheriff himself.
Once arrested, the sheriff will keep a prisoner confined until he can figure out what to do with him. This is usually only for a couple of days, and the jail is in most cases the sheriffs shed and if it rains he’ll be needing this space back.
Lawbreakers are given a chance to redeem themselves, but if a law is broken too often, or if it is warranted because of violence, then he is banned from the village and is disowned even by his own kin. To a halfling, being removed from one’s family is the worst punishment that can be imagined. This will either leave a halfling enraged and bitter, or cause him to strive to reform and perhaps one day prove that he is again worthy to carry the family name and return; a very long and hard processes.
The village itself is ran by a mayor, this is typically the most wealthiest halfling in the village, and bears the family name of the town itself, when a village name dies out, then an election is held and the most popular person becomes the mayor.
Typically the mayors are not your average halfling: they are bossy, rude, and used to getting what they want. If they weren’t born into it, then they have gained their position of power by being loud and making promises that they may’ve intend at the time, but once elected didn’t ever seem to get around to actually doing.
Not all mayors are this way, but the majority of them are nothing but bullies who take advantage of the Halfling taboo of fighting. The rest of the halflings honestly ignore them most of the time, saying pleasant things to their faces but only doing as ordered if they really see a benefit to doing it. The only exception to this rule is the poor sheriff who has to put up with the mayor on a daily basis, and doesn’t have the option of just walking away and ignoring him.
The most powerful person in town, with the most sway and favor, is a Burglar. If a town is lucky enough to have a burglar in it, then they feel safe, and famous themselves! A burglar is a local hero who has lived an adventurous life, full of experience and knowledge, and if a bad time comes to the people, he can help them out by bringing money back. Burglars don’t make good mayors, as they are prone to up and leaving on adventures or visiting with friends in far off lands; but in regards to “REAL” power, the local burglar is the true leader of the town.
A Halfling burglar never steals from his own kind, and exemplifies what it is to be a true halfling! He values his sharp wit and luck more then violence, and it is he who has the largest sway in getting help if the village comes under attack because other races listen to him and respect him as well.
Halflings are brave, but by their own standards; they care little about how other people think. Like the gnomes, they have developed tactics which are common with the little folk: Preferring to out-wit their enemies and allow them to retreat.
The halfling will keep hidden, while the most talented stone pitchers and archers clobber the enemy directly, and others make a lot of noise, well out of sight in an attempt to trick the enemy into thinking that reinforcements are coming, or that there are more halflings out there then what there really are. A band of 300 halflings can effectively trick an enemy into believing that he is being attacked by 3,000. This isn’t magical, it is just that a halfling knows the land better then an enemy can hope to, and a subtle defense has been lying in wait for centuries. Each halfling knows exactly what to do in cases such as this, and they will bravely comply.
An extended war against a halfling village is completely unheard of! Enemies can always be trusted to underestimate them, and the halflings are always willing to take advantage of this gross miscalculation yet reinforce the belief at the same time.
HALFLINGS AND YOUR WORLD
Not all halflings are whining crybabies, they make able bodied warriors and all of them make excellent thieves!
The finer points of roleplaying require the halfling to value all life and allow retreats, and to never fight anybody except as an option of last resorts. Therefore, we DM’s need to make it possible for creative players to outwit their enemies.
Halflings also have a knack at getting the best prices for everything. They have a different sense of moral obligation to others then humans do. To a halfling, it is perfectly expectable to entertain a merchant and eat or drink much of his supply without paying for any of it. After all! They were entertaining him, granted, the merchant may not feel this way when he wakes up, hung over, in the morning, but this is no skin off of a halfling’s nose.
Thieves are local heroes, and this weird sense of right and wrong are common to all halflings. If they see something that they feel that a person doesn’t deserve, wouldn’t miss, or secretly desires to be rid of, then the halfling will take it without the slightest problem. Perhaps one can say that the halfling is selfish, but not when it comes to his family or village, he isn’t morally bankrupt, and despite this fact, humans still enjoy doing business with them, knowing full well that they aren’t going to make a profit by doing so.
Halfling NPC’s will go out of their way to keep adventurers comfortable, and if they are entertained themselves, will treat the adventurer with the same respect as they treat a merchant when the shoe is on the other foot. Entertaining adventurers will be treated to free meals and drinks, and possibly even cheaper lodging then adventurers who keep to themselves.
Halflings know the value of coins, and the more that they have, the better that they can live. This is the prime concern of the halfling, and as long as we remember this, then we’ll be playing the characters correctly.
ART: “The Five Shires” by Clyde Caldwell
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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