Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Races: Halflings

“Oh, don’t look so glum. After all, it’s not every day a man gets to be immortalized in prose. How many “e”s are there in “disembowel” again? You’re right, it doesn’t matter. I guess I’ll be going- arrgh! Doesn’t anyone clean up after their pets anymore? Oh! How *very* nice of you to sop that mess off my shoe. I guess ma was right- a knife across the kidney always improves an elf’s disposition.”

Temperance Elfgutter, making someone famous while living up to his name

At first glance, halflings are an open, gregarious people. Natural traders and travelers, halflings are genteel in the extreme and have a collection of traditions and customs that most find charming. While conventional wisdom would dictate that due to their diminutive size, they would be a natural target for thugs, only the most bloodthirsty of ruffians are willing to go out of their way to harm the charming wee folk. Of all the peoples on Wune, halflings are the least obtrusive, and some go so far as to believe them beneath notice.

This is exactly what they want others to think.

Untold millennia ago, when the naked avarice the gods bore for the true elves matured into the desire for a servitor race, of all those created, halflings were the first not thrown away in disgust. To hear them tell the tale, the remainder of the Second Races were created only in a vain attempt to improve upon their already perfect design. As a people, they cherish the finer things in life- heady wine, passionate music and salacious company- but they are not as hedonistic in their appreciation of it as some believe. They learned a hard lesson in pragmatism during their time as the darlings of the gods, when they faced disorganized but regular hostility from the rejected First Races. While they had no problem defending themselves, the damage these skirmishes were doing to their homes was disheartening. Scouts took a survey of the land, but found they were hopelessly outnumbered. Since direct confrontation would be suicidal, they decided to take passive steps to avoid attrition. Borrowing divine magic from their creators, halflings created a series of rituals that transformed mundane beasts of burden and watchdogs into magical creatures powerful enough to serve as both guardians and a form of transportation. Though supernaturally durable, these now dire animals retained the need to eat and drink, and their increased mass meant that they would have to rely on bodies of water and foliage large enough to be landmarks. The expatriate halflings agreed to meet up at these landmarks to share tales, handfast and perform important ceremonies that would bring them together as a people and provide a brief sense of community before answering the call of the road once more. Even the most skeptical have to admit this is the origin of the caravan that exists today, and to halflings this is but one example of the world made better through their experience. The small folk claim responsibility for everything from shoemaking to the distilling of spirits, it appeared that the innovators would be leading the Second Races in cultural development for a long time.

The Divine War changed all that. The astute halflings were as surprised as any when the First Races displayed uncharacteristic levels of cooperation and cunning. Their slow-moving caravans were no match for marauding armies, so they took refuge wherever they could find it, primarily among their long-time dwarven and gnomish allies. Although they lead the world in terms of exploration, they took a back seat when it came to the bulk of the fighting- their chaotic natures lead to trouble when it came to working with the highly regimented dwarf infantry and disciplined gnome battle-wizards. They excelled as unorthodox cavalry and skirmishers, and put generations of halfling knife-fighting to good use, but ultimately lost alongside the dwarves. When the smoke cleared and the dwarves retreated to their mountain empire to lament their defeat, halflings went with them. Lacking their appetite for mourning, the halflings constructed new caravans to determine what their role in this new world would be.

True Elves, who ignored the halflings both before and during the Divine War, were content to do the same now, and the halflings returned the favor. Humans, known to halflings as a people almost as prolific as they, were EVERYWHERE now and running around like chickens with their heads cut off! Still, they needed the exquisite arms and armor that only the dwarves could provide, and so halflings began a very profitable trade industry (which the dwarves would eventually join them in as soon as they ended their period of mourning). Some humans could be trusted, but they also occasionally spawned fell things such as Half-Orcs and Half-Dragons- ugh! While finding the Third Races distasteful, they saved their true ire for the Common Elves, who halflings claim slaughtered the gnomes and stole their magic.

Halflings retain the height and look of “wise children” as described in the PHB, but their eyes are slightly larger, which lends an angelic air to their features- even more corpulent specimens lean more toward cherubic than unappealing. These eyes vary in color as do humans, but they are of one hue, with irises and pupils only becoming visible at extreme proximity. While they are not particularly prone to emotional outbursts, their haunting eyes make their cheerful moods seem euphoric, and their darker ones unsettling at the very least. Their clothes are brightly colored, but fall well short of being garish.

Even the most humble of halflings has a hint of a smug, superior air about him- after all, so much of what makes the civilized world civilized came about because of their trials and tribulations! Still, they are a genuinely polite, cheerful people who do their best not to flaunt this fact. After all, to do so would be uncivilized! They are quick to make friends with anyone larger than they are (which is to say everyone), eat, drink and be merry- but they do not plan to die tomorrow on anyone’s account. While those who do not return smile for smile and laugh for laugh are well tolerated (i.e. dwarves), any who return such overtures with even the slightest whiff of violence are dealt with quickly if fortunate, and painstakingly slowly if not. “Never cross a halfling” is a surprisingly common epitaph.

Naming Conventions:
Halfling names are a complicated affair because they can grow quite long over the course of their lives. A halfling’s first name is a virtue (such as Patience or Courage) given to them by their parents in an elaborate naming ceremony at birth, while their last names are a collection chosen by the halfling that immortalizes their adventures. For example, a halfling named Charity who saves two children from drowning in a river may call herself Charity Riversgrace and go by that name for several years before besting a cunning sorcerer in a battle of wits and changing her name to Charity Riversgrace Swindlespell. A few years after that, she marries and adds the name of her husband to the mix, becoming Charity Riversgrace Swindlespell Thistlekiss.

All halflings have a burning desire for freedom, which causes them to prefer chaos over law. Their lethargic attitude concerning good and evil often justifies their bad reputation as hedonists and con artists.

The halflings’ preferred class is rogue, as the vast majority of halflings not only seek to exploit their naturally quick reflexes(and light fingers), but also the fact that most of the larger races underestimate them as a gaggle of cheeky souses who wear their daggers for ornamentation. Those that have sharp wits to match can become wizards, although sorcerers are the rule when it comes to magic in halfling society. Religion is a serious issue in halfling society, so many leaders are clerics. Bards are usually the caretakers of the innumerable artifacts that the gnomes left behind in addition to their more mundane roles. In contrast, druids, paladins and rangers are not trusted in that they gain their powers from a divine source that has yet to reveal itself. Reavers, fighters, and monks are rare among halflings that grow and develop amongst their own people, and coming about due to extended exposure to other races. Halfling barbarians are rare enough that the very idea of one is enough to make most people burst out into fits of laughter- until they actually come across one…

Halfling Traits:
As Halflings in the PHB except as follows:

-2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom. Halflings are small-bodied in almost every sense of the word, but their reflexes and minds (their detractors would say their hands and tongues) are swift.

Wunian halflings do not have a +2 bonus to Listen checks, instead gaining a +2 bonus to Spot checks.

All halflings may ignore the class and level prerequisites for the following feats- Weapon Specialization, Greater Weapon Focus, and Greater Weapon Specialization- provided it is being applied towards daggers that are made to their scale (i.e. Small). Halflings are infamous for their skill with this humble weapon.

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