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Halflings – A guide to D&D Races

Halflings are diminutive pastoral humanoids and clearly distinct from any other race of diminutive pastoral humanoids from well known fantasy at all… Over time they have waxed and waned in their similarity to those other short fantasy folk, but have always had some elements in common with them.

Lore and Heritage

Halflings are small and practical folk, agricultural home-bodies for the most part, but there are some among them who are driven to explore and adventure. Halflings tend to be stoutly built and enjoy a good meal and a good drink, preferably in large portions!

Halfling origins are rarely discussed, in many ways they are like a piece of old furniture that has always been in the family. They tend to live in small, rural communities on the outskirts of other races’ lands, neither a part of them, nor entirely separate.

Affable as they are, Halflings tend to get on well with all the other races and while often viewed a ‘lesser’, they are nearly universally accepted thanks to their good nature, abundance of farm crops and ability to blend in and avoid notice.

Defining Characteristics

Probably the most defining characteristic of the Halflings is their size. Generally, they are not much taller than three and a half feet tall, about the size of a human child, but stocky and well built with it. Halflings are also a practical people, as befits their pastoral nature, favouring simple clothes in practical styles.

The majority of Halflings are farming folk, living in small, widespread, communities and growing crops. They think in seasonal terms and live day-to-day without many concerns for the future other than how it may affect their planting. Others are nomadic folk, travelling the roads in family groups of bright wagons as traders or entertainers.

Some Halflings take up the mantle as adventurers, either as local heroes for their community or explorers of the unknown. Others simply enjoy travelling with friends and building up stories that they can tell in the tavern when they get back home.

Home is important to Halflings, whether village or wagon and most strive to return their once their adventuring is done.

Halflings in Social Environments

Halflings are socially adaptable creatures, equally at home with the other races as with one another. Hard working and loyal as companions, Halflings are valued friends and allies, often fond of long conversations and tall tales.

Among themselves, Halflings vary greatly in their sociability – some are big talkers, while others are good listeners, but all have learned to get along with others. Partly this is a defensive measure – were halflings not so affable, they would not pose much of a threat to the armies of the larger races – and so by becoming valuable as farmers and inoffensive as neighbours, Halflings have survived.

Halflings are a great choice if you want to play a social character. Small size can easily be countered by a big mouth and a winning smile, not to mention the low expectation of fighting on the front line. Halfling Bards are an excellent character option, turning the affable nature of Halflings into a career, particularly with the Lightfoot Halfling option.

Halflings in Combat Encounters

Combat is not often an area where Halflings excel, although with the right class-based benefits this can be overcome. Halflings are, however, nimble and make good skirmishers or ranged combatants. Short bows, crossbows and slings make for good halfling weapon choices, as do finesse weapons like rapiers. Halfling Rogues and Monks can be quite devastating when coupled with the nimbleness of the race.

The best way to fight as a Halfling is either at range or in motion. You don’t want Halflings up close and personal with enemies, but a high Dexterity score can go a long way to protecting you.

Halfling casters make excellent support characters for a party, either weakening the enemy or boosting their allies and a Halfling Bard can really come into their own in this role, particularly with the Lucky and Brave racial features.

Reasons to Play Halflings

Aside from their fame from a certain well known fantasy setting, Halflings can bring the element of fun into an otherwise serious game. They don’t need to be jokers all the time, but a little comic relief can be an excellent counterpoint to all the aloof Elves, grumpy Dwarves and tormented Humans of the world.

Often out of touch with world politics, Halflings also present an opportunity for the novice player to ask what is going on if they aren’t following a plot, but doing so ‘In Character’.

Halfling size is also an advantage when fighting Large creatures or bigger as they find it harder to hit Small targets. Halfling Luck is also an easily overlooked ability that is incredibly useful, conferring a huger mechanical advantage against failure!

Reasons NOT to Play Halflings

Since they are so often used (or misused) as ‘comedy sidekicks’, it can be easy for your Halfling to fall into that trope too easily, ending up as the joke character or the one that nobody takes seriously. Halflings and their ilk have not always been treated kindly in fiction, which can lead to a fair degree of eye-rolling around the table when you ask to play one!

The reduced movement speed of Halflings can be an annoyance in combat – unlike Dwarves who can offset their lower speed with increased toughness, Halflings are slower because their legs are smaller, although Stout Halflings are a little more durable.

Halfling Mechanics

Halflings have a Dexterity increase of 2. Their base walking speed is 25 and they can speak Common and Halfling. Halflings mature at age 20 and can live to be as much as 150.

Halflings are Lucky and can reroll a ‘1’ on a d20 for attacks, abilities or saving throws once per check. Halflings are also Brave and have advantage on saves against being frightened. Finally, Halflings are Nimble and can move through the spaces of any creatures larger than them.

Two ‘subraces’ of Halflings (choose one at character creation) are outlined in the Player’s Handbook:

  • Lightfoot Halflings have a bonus of 1 to their Charisma. They are Naturally Stealthy and can attempt to hid behind anything larger than they.
  • Stout Halflings have a bonus of 1 to their Constitution. They have advantage on saves against poison and resistance against poison damage.

Written by Rawand Al-Issa

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