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The halfling, originally called the hobbit, is a race in Dungeons & Dragons. Halflings are short, nimble humanoids with an aptitude for sneaking.

Appearance and personality[edit | edit source]

A halfling is a short humanoid, typically around three to four feet tall, and weighing around 30 to 40 pounds.[1]

Abilities and traits[edit | edit source]

Halflings are especially nimble. They have a reputation for exceptional luck when it comes to avoiding danger. They often possess excellent skill at throwing sling stones, darts and other ranged weapons, these being popular sports in halfling communities. Their small size gives them an advantage against larger opponents, and they are skilled at hiding from danger.

Halflings tend to be Lawful Good.

Culture[edit | edit source]

Halfling societies enjoy peaceful living and hearty meals. They are curious and kind-hearted.

Religion[edit | edit source]

In the World of Greyhawk, halflings worship Yondalla, goddess of halflings.[1]

Variants[edit | edit source]

Numerous subraces and varieties of halfling have been documented. The most common are as follows:

  • Hairfeet: The most common sort of halfling in many worlds. Noted for their hairy feet.
  • Tallfellow: An uncommonly tall breed of halfling. Speculated to have partly elven blood.
  • Stout: A sturdy, dwarflike halfling. Speculated to be the result of interbreeding between halflings and dwarves long ago. Also called deep halflings, while in the Forgotten Realms, they are called stoutheart halflings.
  • Lightfoot: A common form of halfling related to the hairfeet and tallfellow, standing around three feet tall and similarly proportioned to a human. Athletic, and ambitious, and the most likely to be encountered as adventurers. Friendly and well-liked. Called the hobniz in the world of Oerth.

Less common halfling subraces and variants include:

  • Aquatic: Underwater halflings.[2]
  • Athasian: Feral halflings native to the world of Athas.[3]
  • Desert: Nimble-fingered, catlike halflings able to resist heat.[2]
  • Furchin: A rare polar halfling able to grow hair, and most closely resembling the stout halfling. Native to the frozen world of Falakyr.
  • Jerren: A callous, evil offshoot of the lightfoot halflings.[4]
  • Jungle: Barbarians who lack the lightfoot's luck or bravery, but resist poison.[2]
  • Kender: A kleptomaniac halfling native to the world of Krynn. Technically unrelated to the halflings of other worlds, burt rather a covergent evolution.
  • Water: Especially tough halflings with bluish-green hair and faint scales. Weak to fire.[5]
  • Wispling: Planetouched descendents of halflings and demons. Usually evil, and have red hair. Possess the ability to alter their apperance. [6]

Notable halflings[edit | edit source]

Publication history[edit | edit source]

Halflings have appeared in every edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Chainmail[edit | edit source]

In Chainmail, the 1971 wargame which inspired Dungeons & Dragons, halflings appeared under the name hobbits[7], in reference to their inspiration from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, notably The Hobbit (1934).

"Hobbits" are included in Chainmail for the stated benefit of recreating battles from the works of Tolkien. Their ability to "blend into the background" first appears here, and they have excellent accuracy with sling stones.

Original D&D[edit | edit source]

In the original 1974 release of Dungeons & Dragons, halflings were known as hobbits, referencing their inspiration in the works of Tolkien. Following a lawsuit by the Tolkien estate over TSR's Battle of the Five Armies game[8], hobbits were renamed to halflings from the game's sixth printing onward (1977).[9] Hobbits were likewise renamed in the fifth edition of Chainmail (1978).

In original D&D, hobbits/halflings are limited to the Fighting-Men class (Fighter), and to a maximum character level of 4. They possess magic resistance and accuracy with ranged weapons, although how that accuracy works is poorly defined. Halflings are of Lawful alignment.

The halfling's aptitude for stealth was not defined until Greyhawk (1976), which introduced the thief class. Halflings may reach unlimited level as a thief, and gain bonuses to all thief abilities, including opening locks, removing traps, pickpocketing, moving silently, hiding, and hearing noise.

AD&D 1st edition[edit | edit source]

Halflings appear in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition Players Handbook (1978).

Halflings may only be thief or fighter, and are limited to 6th level as fighters. For the first time, they gain a bonus to Dexterity, but a penalty to Strength. They possess magic resistance and poison resistance, similarly to dwarves. They can surprise enemies by stealth.

The AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual (1977) introduces two variants: the Tallfellow, a rare subrace friendly with elves, and Stout, with the dwarven abilities to see in the dark and detect the slope of passages. The original type of halfling are retroactively known as Hairfeet.

AD&D 2nd edition[edit | edit source]

Halflings appear in the AD&D 2nd edition Player's Handbook (1989).

Halflings may now play clerics in addition to fighter or thief. Their statistics are generally similar to AD&D 1st edition, with the addition of a +1 bonus to attack with thrown weapons and slings. This references an ability previously alluded to in OD&D.

D&D 3rd edition[edit | edit source]

Halflings appear in the D&D third edition Player's Handbook (2000).

Halflings now possess bonuses to saving throws, sneaking, listening, climbing, jumping, and saves versus fear. They retain their earlier skill with thrown weapons (and, as of D&D 3.5, their bonus with slings), improved Dexterity, and reduced Strength. They see better in low-light conditions than humans. They are Small sized, which in this edition grants bonuses to armor class, attack and hiding, but limiting the ability to wield large weapons and usually reducing movement speed.

The division of halflings into subraces no longer appears in the core rules, although the art style now depicts them as proportionally sized small humans, rather than squat hobbits.

D&D 4th edition[edit | edit source]

Halflings appear in the D&D 4th edition Player's Handbook (2008).

Halflings now have bonuses to both Dexterity and Charisma. Their Small size impedes the ability to wield large weapons, but they do not suffer the associated reduced speed or Strength. They retain their resistance to fear and aptitude for nimble movement and thievery, and gain skill at avoiding enemy attacks. However, they no longer possess skill with slings or ranged weapons, nor their superior sight or hearing.

They are taller and heavier in this edition than in third edition, standing around four feet and weighing around 70 pounds.

D&D 5th edition[edit | edit source]

Halflings appear as a standard player character race in the D&D 5th edition Player's Handbook (2014).

Halflings in this edition retain their improved Dexterity and resistance to fear. They are exceptionally lucky, able to avoid all manner of dangers, and move nimbly between larger creatures. They are three feet tall and weigh around 40 pounds, as in third edition. They lack the ranged weapon skill of earlier editions.

The halfling subraces of AD&D make a return. Hairfeet and tallfellows, now known as Lightfoot halflings, have increased Charisma and improved stealth, while the Stout halflings have improved Constitution and resist poison.

Creative origins[edit | edit source]

Halflings are inspired by hobbits, creatures from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1934) and Lord of the Rings trilogy.[10] AD&D's three halfling subraces, the hairfeet, stout and tallfellow, closely match Tolkien's three breeds of hobbit: the harfoot, stoor, and fallohide, as well as their propensity to be of mixed heritage.

The name "halfling" appears in the works of Tolkien as a synonym for hobbit:

"We had not heard of hobbits, or halflings, for many a long year, and did not know that any yet dwelt in Middle-earth."
— Haldir, The Fellowship of the Ring

"Halfling" is speculated to draw etymology from the Scots halflin or hauflin, meaning an adolescent human, although whether Tolkien drew from this meaning is unclear. Contrary to popular belief, "halfling" does not appear in any of the works of Shakespeare[11], although it does appear in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, where it refers to a coin, not a person.

The name "hobbit" appeared in The Denham Tracts (1895)[12], where it is briefly mentioned in a list of spirits or creatures from the folklore of northern England. The hobbit as a fantasy race was defined by Tolkien's The Hobbit (1934), from which Gygax took inspiration.[10]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 D&D 3.5 Player's Handbook, p.19-20
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Environmental Racial Variants, D20 3.5 SRD.
  3. Dragon Magazine #173 (Sept 1991), p.9-17.
  4. Book of Vile Darkness (2002), p. 13.
  5. Elemental Racial Variants, D20 3.5 SRD.
  6. Fiend Folio (2003), p.139.
  7. Chainmail 2nd edition, copyright 1972.
  8. "One morning a marshall delivered a summons to me as an officer of TSR. It was from the Saul Zaents division of ELan Merchandising, the sum named was $500,000, and the filing claimed proprietarial rights to the above names as well as to dwarf, elf, goblin, orc, and some others too. It also demanded a cease and desist on the publication of the Battle of Five Armies game." - Gary Gygax, Dragonsfoot forums, 2005.
  9. "References to Hobbits and Ents have been changed to Halflings and Treants (see page 9 of Men & Magic), due to copyright conflicts with the Tolkien estate (with the exception of a single leftover reference on pg 6 to Hobbits!). Furthermore, many other infringements on Tolkien's literary license were excised or changed; notably, references to Balrogs, Nazgul, and even several mentions of Tolkien himself" - Original D&D Set, The Acaceum.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Hobbit is another folkword borrowed from legends, but Tolkien personified and developed these diminutive stalwarts extensively. They, and the name, are virtually unique to his works, and the halflings of both game systems draw substantial inspiration from them." - The Influence of J. R. R. Tolkien on the D&D and AD&D Games, Dragon Magazine #95 (1985), p.12-13
  11. A search of the collective works of Shakespeare reveals no instances of the word "halfling". This claim was first added in a Wikipedia edit in September 2004, and was later repeated in The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games (2010), who cites "Bevington 1992", but this is almost certainly a print copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, which the author is unlikely to have checked in its entirety.
  12. The Denham Tracts (1895).
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