Racial Bias: Halflings
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
-Thorin Oakenshield; The Hobbit
The halfling, one of the most beloved creatures in fantasy role-playing. Short, often stout (though not dwarf levels of stout), friendly and courageous, halflings have sneaked into the hearts of gamers since their inception back in 1974, and a little game called Dungeons & Dragons. Our love for the goes even further back when we were calling them hobbits as we were reading our way through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Oh, come on. You knew hobbits were the inspiration for halflings. If you didn't, you may want to check and see if your geek card has expired. Sure, they may have changed a bit over the years. They've moved out of their hillsides, some have become nomads, their height has fluctuated a bit (looking at you, 4th Edition), and they've been called by a few different names like lightfoot, hairfoot, tallfellow, stout, strongheart, furchin and kender, but no matter what form they take, they remain brave (when they need to be), friendly, and hold a deep fondness for family and comfort.
"Figures. Four halflings try to return jewelry and thousands die."
Homebodies At Heart
"There is no place like hobbit hole."
If there is one place a halfling thrives, it is at home. Even those halflings of a nomadic nature are really just in search of that final place to hang their hats, put up their big feet, and smoke their comically oversized pipes. Home and hearth are fundamental facets of the halfling's life.
Early editions of D&D described the halfling as a homebody, a creature that spends a great deal of time in their living space. As such, halflings have made their habitats extremely comfortable. Their furniture is the stuff that fluffy dreams are made of. There is often plenty of food for snacks, meals, little somethings in between, desserts, pre-snack noshes, and of course, plenty left over for 30-40 guests who might happen to drop in suddenly.
The decor is usually something the halfling wouldn't mind seeing several hours a day, every day, for the rest of their prolonged little lives, usually with a roaring fireplace, plenty of mantles for trinkets and knick knacks and a rustic kitchen that Gordan Ramsey would die for.
This treatment doesn't just extend to the interiors of their homes, but the outside of their dwellings as well. The original halflings of D&D were so close to Tolkien's hobbit that they lived in hills (so close in fact that the Tolkien estate threatened legal action against TSR). Tolkien's little furry-footed friends loved good, tilled earth and things that grow. It's not at all surprising that many halfling homes are adorned with gardens of colorful flowers and fresh vegetables. Perhaps an apple tree or two. After all, if it grows and you can eat it, it counts as a double win!
"Or brunch, if you will."
However, not all halflings are saints. Some have professions most would call... clandestine. Strangely enough, these halflings also spend a good deal of time at home, though their's may look a little differently that most. Sure, they'll possess the same creature comforts that you would find in most halfling homes; fireplaces, mantles, kitchen, maybe a few more trinkets and bobbles than others. It is what one doesn't see in these homes that set them apart from others of their kin.
Halflings can be very protective of their homes (what with the attachment and all). As such, those who procured their favored memorabilia through ill-begotten means will no doubt want to keep said items safe. Enter the wrong halfling's house without permission and you may be walking into a deathtrap showcase. And if you thought that was bad, just keep this in mind; halflings love their homes, and they are not about to stink it up with your smelly corpse, so there is no doubt a series of measures to ensure that your remains are properly disposed of in a variety of hilarious and awful ways.
Halflings are very receptive to guests. Not so much uninvited ones.
Speaking of guests....
Screw the hospitality of elves. The hospitality of a halfling is the stuff of legend. If you've read The Hobbit (or seen the movie), you'll know that poor Bilbo wasn't expecting guests, least of all dwarves that evening. And even when 13 of the little buggers arrived on his doorstep, tracking in mud and helping themselves to his food, he still felt like he needed to be a proper host.
That's commitment, folks.
"Who wants seconds?"
Halflings love to entertain company. Since most are pleasant little shut-ins that only leave to get more food, more ale, more pipeweed, or grow things that produce all three, they appreciate hearing about things that happen in that wild and crazy world outside their doorstep, even if it just happens to be neighbors from down the way.Aside from taverns, guests are how halflings receive most of their news.
To these guests, halflings often show their altruistic natures, bending over backward to ensure their visitor is comfortable, well fed, and well supplied. In a way, visiting a halfling is like visiting an Italian grandmother, you'll have a great time while you're there and there is no conceivable way you are going to leave hungry.
It is for these reasons that it is my personal belief that halflings make the greatest race of innkeepers ever to grace the material plane. Every bed is comfortable, every meal delicious and hot, and the entire time you stay at their establishment they will treat you like family. Not immediate family, but the visiting kind everyone tries to make extra comfortable, but prays won't stay too long.
Shrewd Little Dudes
Some halflings get bit by that adventure bug and find themselves struck with a bit of wanderlust. So they take a risk, set their fuzzy foot outside that door, and head off into the big, open world to walk among the longshanks (that's us). One thing that halflings often discover very quickly is that the tall folk tend to look down their noses (both figuratively and literally) at the hin. The other thing they discover just as quickly as that, by nature, they can talk circles around these blundering oafs.
"Not sure why I am paying YOU to buy MY horse, but everything here seems legit. Where do I sign?"
A halfling's friendly nature and charismatic personality often help it get exactly what it wants in the wide world. It is no wonder that so many of these short, shrewd, clever little business folk find themselves operating in a mercantile capacity. Halflings are born merchants, able to cobble together deals on the fly, or sway even the most non-compliant client. These halflings often find a great deal of success, making an almost sinful amount of coin, which they use to build themselves a more lavish and opulent home to inhabit.
Man, these folks love their homes.
It is a good thing that the halfling is so good with its tongue because it often lacks the physical capabilities to perform hard labor and tasks requiring an abundance of strength. Even so, there are other professions for the canny halfling that is good with their hands...
There are fewer races that are more apt at excelling as a thief than the halfling. concerningly quiet by nature, halflings take to the shadows with relative easy, and their fast, graceful fingers are well suited for purse snatching, lock picking, and trap disarming/building. Mix that with their charismatic nature, and you have a force to be reckoned with.
"Small but fierce!"
When halflings find themselves out in the world, it is often in populated areas where their skills are highly sought after by organizations of a less than savory nature, like thieves' guilds. With the regular hustle and bustle of busy city streets, halflings must seem of little consequence. Most barely stand as tall as an average person's waist, and so they can maneuver in and out of a crowd without being seen. Mix that with their propensity for being stealthy and you've got yourself a pocket picking little shadow, Jason Bourne-ing their way through crowds.
"Now you seem me..."
Because of all this, halflings are perfect for infiltration. They can move without being seen, enter places their taller counterparts couldn't dream of getting into, and are sure of foot and finger enough to avoid or disarm any security measures that may be in place of wherever it is they are burgling.
This exact skill set makes a halfling a perfect candidate for another profession, though this one is altogether less savory than thievery. Their ability to move in the shadows, infiltrate locations, and slip out undetected make them some of the most proficient assassins alive. Not to mention their skill with knives and other finessable weapons make them more than proficient in taking someone's life.
And you thought they were all cheerful little guys.
"The last thing you see isn't the halfling. It's the dagger he is sticking in your eye."
Sure, we all know halflings make good rogues. If they didn't everyone wouldn't be playing one. But what of the other classes? Where does the halfling fit well? Well, not surprisingly, they fit everywhere. Besides humans, halflings are the most adaptable race in either D&D or Pathfinder. They can acclimate anywhere, and that doesn't just stop with geography. They can fit into virtually every class.
- Arcane Spellcasters: Halfling spellcasters are a rare breed, but proficient in what they do. Their power with spells is not directly tied to their size, making them any elf or human's equal in potency. Halfling also feels they have a lot to prove, compensating for their lack of height with mastery over the laws of reality. They are excellent wizards, powerful sorcerers, and warlocks, and some of the most prolific bards you'll ever have the pleasure of meeting.
"Halfling rocking out on a lute. If this doesn't make your day, you probably have no soul."
- Martial: While they lack the strength at arms of half-orcs and dwarves, halflings are quite skilled in compensating for what they are missing. While one might gravitate toward a fighter or monk with raw power in mind, a halfling approaches such concepts with something deadlier; precision. They are very good at striking small pinpoints on their targets and reducing them to broken creatures in no time. Those halflings that feel an uncharacteristic bubbling rage brewing below the surface, a barbarian can transform a physically weak specimen into a powerhouse in a Jekyll and Hyde-like transformation. Their skill with stealth and a short bow make them excellent candidates for rangers, especially if they happen to be the nomadic type. Also, as a bonus, most can ride their animal companion. Halfling riding a dire badger into battle while pegging enemies with a volley of arrows is a visual I don't want out of my head.
"This belongs airbrushed on the side of a van."
Divine Spellcasters: Some may look at the halfling and brush them off as vessels of divine power, but many people underestimate the halfling. As clerics, while short and hardly able to heft the traditional mace, they are some of the most skilled healers, able to navigate a battlefield and deliver a lifesaving surge of positive energy to their comrades. Their love for making things grow and their inherent tie to nature make them a good fit for a druid. And while many might write them off as paladins, one thing that can't be denied is their fearlessness, bravery, and their copious amount of heart.
If you want to play a race that is loyal to their friends and family, with a warm heart and a cheerful demeanor, that enjoy good food, comfort, and possibly slitting someone's throat while robbing them of their personal possessions, then I would highly suggest the halfling.
+Ed The Bard
And thanks to my Epic-Adventurer Level Patrons
Looking for an article? Just want to browse the archives? Wander over to my Master List, a directory of every article I've ever written, right here.
Would you like to support the bard in another way, and still get some pretty cool stuff out of it? Kick in the door to the Open Gaming Store. They have a mountain of affordable aids to help you be all the player or Game Master you can be. Just tell them Ed The Bard sent you.
Like what you've read? Follow me on...
And coming soon to...