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Puh Laden
2019-04-20, 10:53 AM
So I've never really understood halflings. It probably doesn't help that my first exposure to them in a fantasy role-playing context was Belkar. I'd seen LotR of course, but even as I kid I wondered what hobbits <i>were</i> in a sense and how they survived. Though now, at least in that universe, I can justify their continued independence as a combination of being blessed from the heavens and not holding all that much valuable land to begin with (and also being far away from Mordor). But in the context of D&D and other fantasy role-playing games, I've never really understood how halflings could have independent communities. I have no problem with settings where they get absorbed into human culture -- particularly more metropolitan magic-as-technology settings. But in a more medieval, low-fantasy setting that follows in the wake of a collapsed empire, how do halflings survive? It's mainly that I just can't picture halflings having an army or militia or even town guard really of any kind. How do they defend themselves from the goblins, and orcs, and hobgoblins? Or do they just not get attacked all that often and, if so, why?

Clistenes
2019-04-20, 11:07 AM
So I've never really understood halflings. It probably doesn't help that my first exposure to them in a fantasy role-playing context was Belkar. I'd seen LotR of course, but even as I kid I wondered what hobbits <i>were</i> in a sense and how they survived. Though now, at least in that universe, I can justify their continued independence as a combination of being blessed from the heavens and not holding all that much valuable land to begin with (and also being far away from Mordor). But in the context of D&D and other fantasy role-playing games, I've never really understood how halflings could have independent communities. I have no problem with settings where they get absorbed into human culture -- particularly more metropolitan magic-as-technology settings. But in a more medieval, low-fantasy setting that follows in the wake of a collapsed empire, how do halflings survive? It's mainly that I just can't picture halflings having an army or militia or even town guard really of any kind. How do they defend themselves from the goblins, and orcs, and hobgoblins? Or do they just not get attacked all that often and, if so, why?

There are very few Halfling nations in most D&D settings. Most of the time they are integrated in human society, or they live in villages within more powerful races' countries...

Puh Laden
2019-04-20, 11:28 AM
It's the scenario where they live in villages within other countries that I'm curious about. Maybe I'm thinking of goblins and orcs incorrectly. I normally think of goblins and to a lesser extent orcs as living inside the territory of a human nation, but in the wilderness of it raiding villages and caravans. Do halflings have village guards?

2D8HP
2019-04-20, 11:46 AM
It's the scenario where they live in villages within other countries that I'm curious about. Maybe I'm thinking of goblins and orcs incorrectly. I normally think of goblins and to a lesser extent orcs as living inside the territory of a human nation, but in the wilderness of it raiding villages and caravans. Do halflings have village guards?


It shouldn't be too hard to imagine a seperate minority culture that doesn't have it's own military and police existing inside a larger culture that mostly controls military and police forces which the minority mostly doesn't, for a different D&D culture example of a distinct culture that travels among a neighboring culture think of the "Vistani" in Curse of Strahd/Ravenloft.

I'm sure parallels readily come to mind.

Pex
2019-04-20, 11:52 AM
The halflings survive because they live near people who protect them, willingly or unknowingly in either direction. Halflings are friendly folk who welcome visitors. The human soldier who fights the enemy far away protecting them will find upon visiting a halfling home a warm meal, good drink, and a place to sleep in comfort for the night free of charge. Halflings don't take great risks so they don't get great rewards. It's as the dwarves describe them in PHB. Adventuring halflings are the exception not the rule.

To be Cosmic Spiritual about it, a thriving halfling society is the natural sign and result of the triumph of Good in an area. It could not exist in a place of Evil.

zlefin
2019-04-20, 11:53 AM
Also, while rules vary by game, people like halflings tend to be able to do just fine in combat in most systems.

I'd assume they do have town guards/militias; I'm not sure why oyu have trouble imagining it. Remember also, that in many rulesets halflings have some bonuses to ranged combat; and swarms of ranged weapons can be quite dangerous.

Puh Laden
2019-04-20, 12:19 PM
The halflings survive because they live near people who protect them, willingly or unknowingly in either direction. Halflings are friendly folk who welcome visitors. The human soldier who fights the enemy far away protecting them will find upon visiting a halfling home a warm meal, good drink, and a place to sleep in comfort for the night free of charge. Halflings don't take great risks so they don't get great rewards. It's as the dwarves describe them in PHB. Adventuring halflings are the exception not the rule.

To be Cosmic Spiritual about it, a thriving halfling society is the natural sign and result of the triumph of Good in an area. It could not exist in a place of Evil.

I think this is something that can work for me. My problem with imagining halflings as having a militia is that it goes against their core themes (at least, hobbit-style halflings, for metropolitan campaigns I like to have halflings be a criminal underclass that usually form mafia-style mobs or gangs -- because again Belkar was my first real exposure to them and they're well-suited to being rogues). But this explanation goes well with their themes of peace and community. Makes sense since it appears to be the explanation from LotR.

Grek
2019-04-20, 12:36 PM
Regardless of edition, Halflings are small, fearless, lucky, sneaky, dexterous and excellent with ranged weapons, particularly slings and javelins. They are tiny compared to humans (a mere 30lbs when fully grown), but their proportional strength is greater - halfling sized equipment weighs half as much as human equipment, but a halfling can carry 75% as much as an equally strong human. They eat less and take up less room, but they can work as much land as a human could. Their settlements have a tremendous population density as a result. A halfling lives twice as long as a human, leaving them with more experienced, yet more conservative leaders on average - a council of halfling elders is twice as 'elder' as the analogous human institution.

While they have quite a few rogues among them, they're also quite excellent paladins - they tend to be lawful good and are small enough to ride any whatever sort of exotic mount that their patron diety elects to grant them. Most famous are the war ponies, riding dogs and hound archons, of course, but a halfling paladin would be just as comfortable in the saddle of a great cat (hello, cheetah lancers), a giant celestial bee (imagine if the mongol archers could move in three dimensions), a blink dog (an intelligent species which tends toward law and good as well) or a young metallic dragon (who grow up to rideable sizes at the same ages that halfling warriors grow up into young heroes).

Which isn't to say halflings don't also have rogues. Rogue is the halfling favoured race for a reason. They get a size AND racial bonus to stealth, have good Dex and get special bonuses with ranged weapons. For every brave halfling folk hero who befriends an implausible animal and rides down trolls with a lance, there's a mischievous trickster hero who tells riddles, hides behind an orc warlord's own cloak, and stabs people in the kidneys. For every cavalry unit on riding dogs, there's a commando unit with a well oiled crossbows hiding in a tree somewhere. They're not above pre-emptive strikes either - sometimes an early assassination means there was never a war in the first place.

This duality is reflected in their religion. The head of the Halfling Pantheon is Yondalla, their goddess of fertility and protection (who's symbol is a shield with a cornucopia painted onto it) but they also worship her twin sister and mirror opposite: Dallah Thaun, their goddess of mystery and good fortune (who sponsors the thieves and assassins that Yondalla was forced to give up in exchange for the right to create the Halfling race). They have other gods too (their death god has a giant overly-friendly god as a psychopomp!), but the big two are the ones that really embody the Halfling ethos.

Pippa the Pixie
2019-04-20, 01:18 PM
There are plenty of martial halflings. You might want to read a LOT more about halflings.

Halflings have militias, guards and law enforcement...just like any other society. They generally don't have massive armies or massive military fortifications.

To give and example:
The halfling city is well defended by about a cohort of marchwardens as well as a large group of militia. The marchswardens would use skirmishing tactics to surround and ultimately destroy a besieging army.

The typical halfling force is small, and uses a lot of stealth...and ranged hit and run attacks.

Mark Hall
2019-04-20, 04:40 PM
On Tellene, they really don't; for the most part, they live adjacent to humans, use human languages, and, while they keep to themselves, don't avoid humans at all.

The Jack
2019-04-20, 04:42 PM
Couple more less often considered things about halflings.

1. They need less material than other races. Less food, less water, less metal. For the latter; they'd also bounce a little more, their reduced size makes it easier for them to go with the blow.

2. Tiny buildings and tight fortifications. They can make nightmare castles against big people.

Clistenes
2019-04-20, 04:52 PM
It's the scenario where they live in villages within other countries that I'm curious about. Maybe I'm thinking of goblins and orcs incorrectly. I normally think of goblins and to a lesser extent orcs as living inside the territory of a human nation, but in the wilderness of it raiding villages and caravans. Do halflings have village guards?

Halflings are good farmers and traders. They pay taxes, and don't cause trouble. Hence, human, dwarven and elven lords protect them.

If the local lord is a tyrant or just doesn't protect them, they move to another location...


The halflings survive because they live near people who protect them, willingly or unknowingly in either direction. Halflings are friendly folk who welcome visitors. The human soldier who fights the enemy far away protecting them will find upon visiting a halfling home a warm meal, good drink, and a place to sleep in comfort for the night free of charge. Halflings don't take great risks so they don't get great rewards. It's as the dwarves describe them in PHB. Adventuring halflings are the exception not the rule.

To be Cosmic Spiritual about it, a thriving halfling society is the natural sign and result of the triumph of Good in an area. It could not exist in a place of Evil.

I remember a homebrew setting that had a remote valley populated by a prosperous, peaceful gnomish community. They scouted veteran good-aligned adventurers and offered them a place to retire and raise their children... peace, friendly neighbours, cheap housing, good food, good booze, fancy stuff, good healing services, good schools with bardic, alchemy and wizardry courses... The gnomes did it because they knew the adventurers would murder anything remotely dangerous in a dozen miles radius around their families' homes...


Couple more less often considered things about halflings.

2. Tiny buildings and tight fortifications. They can make nightmare castles against big people.

Yep. If they fortify their settlements, they can do it so nobody medium-sized or bigger can move freely inside their fortress...

Tanarii
2019-04-20, 07:42 PM
Halflings are often portrayed as decent milita warriors, especially with slings and in outdoor terrain.

In Mystara, BECMI's "Known World", their nation (The Five Shires) is kind of out of the way. They were overrun by an Orc horde at one point until they successfully revolted and drove out the conquerors. But Mystaran Halflings are pretty solid warriors, and they're also decent sailors/pirates (it's a coastal nation). They still face threats from humanoids in their northern border mountain range, but in modern times they are either scattered natives left in the ranges, or have to invade past an Elven nation to their north. Also the Black Eagle Barony on their eastern border, but their militia and a narrow pass between the mountains and swamp make it defensible.

The Moot in Warhammer RPG has the backing of the human dominated Empire, although it has several dangerous neighbors. Including a vampire nation and chaos invasions at times (and depending on edition).

Raphite1
2019-04-20, 08:42 PM
It's the scenario where they live in villages within other countries that I'm curious about. Maybe I'm thinking of goblins and orcs incorrectly. I normally think of goblins and to a lesser extent orcs as living inside the territory of a human nation, but in the wilderness of it raiding villages and caravans. Do halflings have village guards?

You mentioned your impressions being formed by LotR. In LotR the halfling homeland (the Shire) was protected by halfling "Shirriffs" and militias that could be raised by the Shirriffs. They're mentioned at the end of Return of the King when Saruman attacks the Shire, which I think was omitted from the film versions.

The halflings of the Shire also defended their land from goblin armies in the past; a notable hero of that time was Bullroarer Took, one of Bilbo's ancestors. Most goblins in Tolkien's world are smaller than humans and halfling armies could stand up to them in battle (the larger Uruk-hai that appeared in the War of the Ring were far more dangerous). Halflings may not be a martially-inclined society, but it's not like they just give up and die if circumstances become pressing. They'll form militias, even armies, and defend themselves.

That said, you won't find a halfling village nestled up against the mountains surrounding Mordor, but then again you won't find anything there. Even the great, fortified city of Gondor was some distance away. The Shire was safely in the west, and not without it's occasional troubles from goblins from the Misty Mountains and other threats, but the halflings endured. And their human neighbors didn't conqueror them because not every society is okay with genocide and slavery, especially when a peaceful and mutually-beneficial coexistence and trade is an option.

Gnoman
2019-04-20, 10:40 PM
You mentioned your impressions being formed by LotR. In LotR the halfling homeland (the Shire) was protected by halfling "Shirriffs" and militias that could be raised by the Shirriffs. They're mentioned at the end of Return of the King when Saruman attacks the Shire, which I think was omitted from the film versions.

The halflings of the Shire also defended their land from goblin armies in the past; a notable hero of that time was Bullroarer Took, one of Bilbo's ancestors. Most goblins in Tolkien's world are smaller than humans and halfling armies could stand up to them in battle (the larger Uruk-hai that appeared in the War of the Ring were far more dangerous). Halflings may not be a martially-inclined society, but it's not like they just give up and die if circumstances become pressing. They'll form militias, even armies, and defend themselves.

That said, you won't find a halfling village nestled up against the mountains surrounding Mordor, but then again you won't find anything there. Even the great, fortified city of Gondor was some distance away. The Shire was safely in the west, and not without it's occasional troubles from goblins from the Misty Mountains and other threats, but the halflings endured. And their human neighbors didn't conqueror them because not every society is okay with genocide and slavery, especially when a peaceful and mutually-beneficial coexistence and trade is an option.

In the prologue to my edition of LOTR, it is mentioned that the hobbits of the Shire were once subjects of the kingdom of Anor, settled the Shire only with the permission of the King of Anor, and (claim to have) sent bowmen to aid that king in the final battle against the Witch-King of Angmar at Fornost - although only hobbit-records mention this. It also mentions that, while hobbits were never a warlike people, they were obliged to fight in older days, with only the long peace of the Shire - sheltered by Rivendell and the Rangers of the wilds - that they became the complacent people we see in The Hobbit.

Halflings not being capable of defending their lands isn't just inconsistent with D&D in general, but also with their original inspiration.

Ravens_cry
2019-04-21, 12:43 AM
Well, that really depends on your world. I actually had an idea where they mostly lived in enclaves and ghettos within, usually human, nations, with a strong sense of cultural identity with their own traditions and rituals, probably religion too, but without any independent nation of their own. Think, as the most obvious example, the Jewish diaspora.

deuterio12
2019-04-21, 12:57 AM
You mentioned your impressions being formed by LotR. In LotR the halfling homeland (the Shire) was protected by halfling "Shirriffs" and militias that could be raised by the Shirriffs. They're mentioned at the end of Return of the King when Saruman attacks the Shire, which I think was omitted from the film versions.

The halflings of the Shire also defended their land from goblin armies in the past; a notable hero of that time was Bullroarer Took, one of Bilbo's ancestors. Most goblins in Tolkien's world are smaller than humans and halfling armies could stand up to them in battle (the larger Uruk-hai that appeared in the War of the Ring were far more dangerous). Halflings may not be a martially-inclined society, but it's not like they just give up and die if circumstances become pressing. They'll form militias, even armies, and defend themselves.


And in The Hobbit it's pointed out halfling rogues have an exceptional reputation, that's why Gandalf managed to persuade the dwarf party to go hire one. And when Bilbo meets the trolls, the neutral narrator mentions your average trained halfling rogue could've backstabbed all 3 trolls easily before they knew what was happening, whereas a really good trained halfling rogue would've stolen everything valuable from them right under their noses.

Meanwhile Gollum shows just how nasty an evil hobbit can be even if completely unarmed, able to live for years in goblin-infestated mountains, murdering anything that looks at him funny with his bare hands, and able to stalk Frodo all the way to inside Mordor. Hobbit mercenaries/assassins would be a force to be recognized and so you wouldn't really want to piss off their countries in pain of being picked as their next targets.

Kaptin Keen
2019-04-21, 02:05 AM
Arguably, they don't (survive as an independent culture). They're a part of human culture, generally speaking, at least if you listen to the fluff.

But it's silly, really, because if you take a force of orks (or, to be honest, elves or humans or whatever except gnomes) and an equal force of halflings - with stats plucked directly from the Monster Manual - and pitch them against each other, the halflings will obliterate the orks if played intelligently.

Small and stealthy and ranged beats big and strong and fond of axes, hands down. Halflings are in positively no danger from ork raiders.

EccentricCircle
2019-04-21, 02:11 AM
Then there are the halfling berserkers who puff pipe weed until the smoke comes out of their ears, and then whirl into battle as tiny little balls of death...

a_flemish_guy
2019-04-22, 12:11 AM
The halflings survive because they live near people who protect them, willingly or unknowingly in either direction. Halflings are friendly folk who welcome visitors. The human soldier who fights the enemy far away protecting them will find upon visiting a halfling home a warm meal, good drink, and a place to sleep in comfort for the night free of charge. Halflings don't take great risks so they don't get great rewards. It's as the dwarves describe them in PHB. Adventuring halflings are the exception not the rule.

To be Cosmic Spiritual about it, a thriving halfling society is the natural sign and result of the triumph of Good in an area. It could not exist in a place of Evil.


I agree with all of this, I have the idea that once you have halflings in a region of your realm then that region just works, you'll get a steady stream of agricultural products, luxury goods and tax revenue with no further input required except for protecting them against invading armies

I'd imagine the first lesson of a duke towards his succesor is "don't antagonise the halflings"

edit: this is also why halflings don't thrive under evil rulers, "if they give me so much without complaining then think how much I can get out of them if I put a bit of presure on them"

which is not how halflings work

Jophiel
2019-04-22, 10:10 AM
I never considered halflings to be without town guards or militias. Halflings are very much about their home communities and traditions and they would consider it a duty to fight to protect their towns. Rangers and rogues are obvious choices for scouting or strike teams but they also have their fighters and clerics and druids. This reverence for their community means that they are not expansionists and so don't typically form their own larger kingdoms or nations. As mentioned, they get along fine with good human communities and don't object to being nominally under the banner of a good lord, provided they are allowed a fair amount of autonomy within their own towns. They get the additional protection and trading partners and the lord can expand his reach without having to fight a bunch of halflings for it so it's a symbiotic relationship.

There are, of course, halflings who head out for the big city or become adventurers but those are a distinct rarity measured against the rest of halfling society.

geppetto
2019-04-22, 02:21 PM
I think they probably do have militias. Focusing on ranged hit and run tactics. Which unfortunately would require them to actually have pretty active patrols out a good distance and project force at least a days, and probably 2 or more march out from their community.

Hit and run doesnt work to protect a community against raiders who are willing to ignore the pin prick attacks and go straight to the village with fire and the sword. So they would be focused on ways to delay attackers while civilians fled.

I imagine a second force would hold a village with the standard earthen wall and ditch to further hold up any attackers where they are vulnerable to missile fire.

They wouldnt want to stand in an extended fight though even as archers. Short bows lose against long bows after all, as the taller attackers could simply stay out of range and pelt the halfling attackers on the walls.

Corsair14
2019-04-23, 06:46 AM
Even in Ravenloft they are the only race not discriminated against because no one really notices them. They keep to themselves hidden in plain sight, stay below the radar, pay their taxes and don't cause issues. Most big people hardly notice.

Willie the Duck
2019-04-23, 08:06 AM
My problem with imagining halflings as having a militia is that it goes against their core themes


I never considered halflings to be without town guards or militias.

Here we have what I feel is the fundamental issue of the thread. The OP just doesn't envision halflings as having the traits which would lend themselves to be able to defend themselves (or at least they wouldn't be thematically appropriate). Obviously, lots of people don't see the same halflings (or at least can picture halflings that can defend themselves without them being absolute mold-breakers). I'm not sure if this is a perfect fit for a 'True Scotsmen' comparison, but it seems perilously close.

To the OP, what comes to mind when someone mentions 'Halfling militia' or 'Halfling warrior?' Is it something akin to what those of us who grew up with TSR-era D&D feel when we hear 'Dwarven wizard,' -- i.e. 'glad that's now an option, but I'll never picture that as iconic?'

Mind you, I get it. I picture 'iconic halflings' as farmers a commonfolk. They are just as vulnerable to raiders or monsters as any commonfolk. Of course, when commonfolk are terrorized, we figure out who comes to defend them, and it is either outside heroes or the like, or some fresh-faced teens from amongst the commonfolk strap on the padded armor and wooden shields and become 1st level adventurers. I guess it didn't occur to me that the same wasn't true for Halfling commonfolk.

Jophiel
2019-04-23, 09:52 AM
Even the 1st edition halfling was depicted (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/2/21/D%26DHalflings.JPG/200px-D%26DHalflings.JPG) as armed with bow and spear in the Monster Manual. They're described as being stout fellows and the PHB allows them to be fighters or thieves (or fighter/thief). I guess it never occurred to me to consider them a bunch of guys who wouldn't put up a fight if you started messing with their stuff or keep a citizen militia and train some guards.

Themrys
2019-04-23, 10:10 AM
You seem to make the assumption that all humans are jerks and will invade any country they can possibly invade / not hinder their fellow humans from doing so.

In LotR, the only regular threat to Hobbit culture are wolves and goblins, both of which they stand a decent chance against. Human society has mostly forgotten about them.

I think it is said, somewhere in the epilogue, that Aragorn makes a law that men (and, I suppose, elves) are not allowed to enter the Shire. Because he is not a jerk, but recognizes that other men are, and that it is best to establish clear rules so that harmful intent will be immediately recognized as such.

If the law were to be broken, the shirriffs could probably just burn the bridge. The river as natural border would give them an advantage and help them hold out until a friendly army arrives.

And that's something that makes sense if you don't have a completely bleak worldview. Hobbits (and, I suppose, most halflings not called Belkar) are a friendly, peaceful people, and that, together with their tiny size, would naturally trigger a decent person's protective instincts. Anyone who wants to mess with them would first have to get past their allies.


One could, I suppose, consider a thriving halfling society an indicator of a Good country, much like some species of lichen are indicators of good air.

Imbalance
2019-04-23, 10:14 AM
They're less
"we have a standing army"
and more
"we'll fight when the need arises."

gurrumph
2019-04-23, 11:55 AM
As has been previously mentioned LOTR has the bounders and sheriffs, usually drawn from the more fierce families such as the Tooks and Brandibucks who lived around the borders of the Shire.

The other example that comes to mind is from the movie Willow (if that's not an appropriate setting for D&D...), most of the community is devoted to farming and other peaceful work but there is a dedicated force. The community is away from most human settlements and largely hidden in the woods, but they're prepared to defend themselves and their homes.

The core question I believe revolves around whether those who prefer peace will defend themselves if attacked. As halflings are noted as a hearty peace loving folk who would rather raise a pint after a good days work than ride into battle, I think this question would apply to them and the answer is yes, yes they would. In every setting I can think of where halflings are mentioned they will defend themselves if pressed and rebuild or relocate if need be once the conflict is over.

Eldan
2019-04-23, 12:00 PM
You can also see it like this: if Halflings didn't fight, why would they be so supremely deadly with thrown weapons? Compared to a human they have a +2 to hit with a javelin or sling. Sure, they deal slightly less damage, but that is significantly more accurate. And slingers and similar skirmishers were very valuable troops in many armies.

I assume they are a bit like the shepherding folk that made up the skirmishers of many armies in antiquity: they have a lot of time to practise slinging to hunt small game or scare away small predators.

Kaptin Keen
2019-04-23, 12:22 PM
You can also see it like this: if Halflings didn't fight, why would they be so supremely deadly with thrown weapons? Compared to a human they have a +2 to hit with a javelin or sling. Sure, they deal slightly less damage, but that is significantly more accurate. And slingers and similar skirmishers were very valuable troops in many armies.

That's by no means the full picture. If the halflings know what they're doing - and they do - they're in hiding, the humans are surprised, it's an incredibly slaughter. And even should the humans move to melee, even then, equally geared halflings will win. *

*None of this is necessarily true for a company of fully armored knights. But then I reserve the right to kit out a similarly powerful unit of halfling skirmishers with sneak attack damage, and the result will likely still be the same. Maybe.

Jophiel
2019-04-23, 12:42 PM
As has been previously mentioned LOTR has the bounders and sheriffs, usually drawn from the more fierce families such as the Tooks and Brandibucks who lived around the borders of the Shire.

The other example that comes to mind is from the movie Willow (if that's not an appropriate setting for D&D...), most of the community is devoted to farming and other peaceful work but there is a dedicated force. The community is away from most human settlements and largely hidden in the woods, but they're prepared to defend themselves and their homes.
The Dennis McKiernan novels (which come across as barely disguised LoTR fanfic) replace hobbits with Warrows which are diminutive good-willed people who often live in hillside burrows, except these are more "tiny elf" looking than "tiny man with hair feet" looking. But they're excellent archers and tend to a massive wall of thorny brambles to keep the riff-raff out of their sylvan glades and pastoral farmlands. Learning to fire a bow and walk the wall is just part of being part of the community.

Theodoric
2019-04-23, 01:04 PM
A strong sense of (cultural-religious) identity and history helps a lot, as does an economic niche and the occasional 'protected' status for communities or individuals. Think the Parsis of India, or medieval European Jews. In my setting the former I use the former as a model for Halflings, while I based its Rock Gnomes on the latter (mostly Ashkenazi).

Pauly
2019-04-24, 08:32 AM
It depends on how tight you want to hold onto your Tolkien. If you want to run Tolkeinesque agrarian idyll style hobbits then you pretty well need to make them dependent on humans or elves for protection.

However if we look at human history, we can take examples of societies where the individuals were smaller and less warlike than their neighbors.

1) The Romans. They were smaller and considered themselves at a serious disadvantage in any one on one fight with a Celt or a German. The Romans dominated their opponents by being more organized. The same applies to some extent with the British Empire (more so in the 18th C. Than the 19th C. When the technology gap was smaller). Like the Romans they were more organized, more technologically advanced, and focused on the big picture.
This gives you halflings as a dominant expansive empire.

2) Eskimos, Kalihari bushmen and Congolese pygmies. They couldn’t compete with their larger more warlike neighbors and were pushed into less productive land. This also meant less resources for trade and technology.
This gives you halflings as a species pushed to the margins and eking out survival. Possibly relying on poisons and other such “ungentlemanly” conduct.

3) Japanese /Quechua Indians. Being isolated from threats by sea (Japan) or The Andean mountains (Quechua) allowed these people to build up a formidable home base that is very impractical for outsiders to conquer. Whilst there may be times of expansionary wars, for examples the Quechua under the Incas, Generally they survive intact because of the extreme difficulties in organizing an invasion. Most of their warfare was internecine civil war type fighting, but they would band together to defeat a common enemy.
This gives you halflings an an exotic “far kingdom” culture. They probably would be quite warlike but will have developed their own peculiar style of fighting.

If I was building a halflings culture from scratch, but based on their D&D stats. I would be very tempted to base them on Quechua or Aymara cultures. Basically for the other cultures to get to them they’d have to cross a desert for 2 or 3 days, then climb a mountain range, which has been expertly fortified at all the key choke points. With the halflings mostly living and farming in the river valleys of the altoplano. They’re close enough to have regular trade with the other nations, but the natural barriers plus the expert fortifications make them too expensive to go to war with.

JAL_1138
2019-04-24, 07:12 PM
I think this is something that can work for me. My problem with imagining halflings as having a militia is that it goes against their core themes (at least, hobbit-style halflings, for metropolitan campaigns I like to have halflings be a criminal underclass that usually form mafia-style mobs or gangs -- because again Belkar was my first real exposure to them and they're well-suited to being rogues). But this explanation goes well with their themes of peace and community. Makes sense since it appears to be the explanation from LotR.

Folks have already mentioned the shirriffs and the bounders. (who admittedly didn’t do much in peacetime). Buckland had bugle calls for raising citizen defenders (“Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!”), and the hobbits fought a battle or two—in one notable incident, Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took, fought orcs at the Battle of Greenfields, before the time of The Hobbit, to repel an invasion from the Misty Mountains, and knocked the goblin-king (note, “orc” and “goblin” are interchangeable in LotR) Golfimbul’s head clean off his shoulders with a club, whereupon it sailed through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and thus the battle was won and the game of Golf invented simultaneously.

Mark Hall
2019-04-25, 08:14 AM
Folks have already mentioned the shirriffs and the bounders. (who admittedly didn’t do much in peacetime). Buckland had bugle calls for raising citizen defenders (“Fear! Fire! Foes! Awake!”), and the hobbits fought a battle or two—in one notable incident, Bandobras “Bullroarer” Took, fought orcs at the Battle of Greenfields, before the time of The Hobbit, to repel an invasion from the Misty Mountains, and knocked the goblin-king (note, “orc” and “goblin” are interchangeable in LotR) Golfimbul’s head clean off his shoulders with a club, whereupon it sailed through the air and went down a rabbit-hole, and thus the battle was won and the game of Golf invented simultaneously.

Though, really, the idea that an invasion of Orcs from the Misty Mountains reached all the way to the Greenfields is kind of amazing. That is a LOT of territory to cover.

Max_Killjoy
2019-04-25, 09:15 AM
Wait, halflings are supposed to be more robust than they look, sneaky, and good with ranged weapons... but a village of them can't defend themselves?

IMO, aggressively trying to seize a halfling area would just result in having to deal with a years-long guerrilla struggle, while not gaining much from taking their town.

The Jack
2019-04-25, 10:58 AM
So I imagine a Halfling fortress, and I imagine hell.

"After days of guerilla skirmishes with deadshot-foes that always seem to escape through tiny tunnels or on the backs of supprising mounts before we could close with them, we began our assault on the small fortress over the village. They'd turned the terrain leading up to the castle into a procession of traps, wire and spikes that their small size allowed them to easily navigate, whilst we struggled to crawl through the hazards under constant threat of ambush and precise marksmanship. They would snipe from the battlements and sally from the door and tunnels they'd made in their hellish serrated field. We would become issolated as we were picked off from above and moved through obstacles with a limited field of vision, and it was difficult to turn, many were felled when the Halflings surfaced at the rear and drove us through with spears and picks.
Eventually, we made it to the fortress, which possessed all the usual horrors of a fortress with so much more. The cover was built with halflings in mind, and they could easily shoot over their own ranks whenever we set foot on the walls. Indeed the volume of fire was so significant because the halflings could fit two crossbows per our one. We had to crawl through the small doors and the fortress interior, having to remove the bodies of our comrades which blocked the tiny spaces of which we had to crawl. It felt like they'd made a fortress within their own fortress. We would have to crawl though spaces too small to fight through, a hobbit would be waiting on the other end with a warhammer.

When we finally took the fort, our dead were uncountable, and we'd killed fifty. At least half of the halflings had escaped with supplies through their tunnel system. A Pyrrhic victory to be sure. Now we need to make it out and home, because we don't have the men to advance. I'm not even sure if we have the men to make it home."

Now, Goblins are a menace to halflings. Goblins could probably pull the same shenanigans as halflings. But goblins are notoriously not well organized, poorly equipped and cowardly. You could send goblins down the tunnels, but they'd likely use them to desert! Were I a hobgoblin commander, It'd be painfully obvious that Goblins aren't the equals of Halflings and I wouldn't want them to be; Don't give those gobins ideas above their station! True, Halflings don't have the low light vision that goblinoids have, and halflings are slower on foot, but there's a lot of reasons why halflings would beat out goblins (or Kobolds), and most armies don't have the luxury of having those small units.


This gave me ideas for a hobbit-hunter specialist. Shame rangers suck in 5e.

JAL_1138
2019-04-26, 11:56 PM
It could go the other way, too. A halfling siege force could be a real threat. As skilled as they’re supposed to be with burrowing, tunneling, and other earthworks, they’d probably make terrifyingly-effective sappers. Trenches, tunnels, undermining (literally, as in mining under) defenders’ fortifications, quickly building earthen fortifications for their besieging forces to use as bases of operations and avoid defenders’ fire...

deuterio12
2019-04-27, 02:05 AM
It depends on how tight you want to hold onto your Tolkien. If you want to run Tolkeinesque agrarian idyll style hobbits then you pretty well need to make them dependent on humans or elves for protection.

However if we look at human history, we can take examples of societies where the individuals were smaller and less warlike than their neighbors.

1) The Romans. They were smaller and considered themselves at a serious disadvantage in any one on one fight with a Celt or a German. The Romans dominated their opponents by being more organized. The same applies to some extent with the British Empire (more so in the 18th C. Than the 19th C. When the technology gap was smaller). Like the Romans they were more organized, more technologically advanced, and focused on the big picture.
This gives you halflings as a dominant expansive empire.

Tangent, but a lot of the roman technological "advancements" were actually shamelessly looting stuff from other cultures. Like the famous gladius sword was actually first developed by the celts, and the romans also copied the celt's wooden barrels which were great for carrying liquid supplies.

Of course there's still plenty of merit in the romans for recognizing the best bits to copy from other cultures, always being open to new ideas.

The Insanity
2019-04-27, 04:39 PM
Tucker's KoboldsHalflings?

deuterio12
2019-04-27, 08:17 PM
You see, it's not the halflings that are living under the human's protection.

It's the humans that live under the halfling's protection.

Dark lord rising with his hordes of orcs and goblins? The only hope of men, elves and dwarves is to go call for the halflings help so they can send a crack team of halfling commandos to infiltrate the dark lord's main fortress and destroy their uber artifact. The best dwarf, elven and human champions try to follow and help the halfling commandos, but can't keep up and are left behind with the halflings needing to finish the job by themselves.

Vinyadan
2019-04-27, 08:50 PM
So I've never really understood halflings. It probably doesn't help that my first exposure to them in a fantasy role-playing context was Belkar. I'd seen LotR of course, but even as I kid I wondered what hobbits <i>were</i> in a sense and how they survived. Though now, at least in that universe, I can justify their continued independence as a combination of being blessed from the heavens and not holding all that much valuable land to begin with (and also being far away from Mordor). But in the context of D&D and other fantasy role-playing games, I've never really understood how halflings could have independent communities. I have no problem with settings where they get absorbed into human culture -- particularly more metropolitan magic-as-technology settings. But in a more medieval, low-fantasy setting that follows in the wake of a collapsed empire, how do halflings survive? It's mainly that I just can't picture halflings having an army or militia or even town guard really of any kind. How do they defend themselves from the goblins, and orcs, and hobgoblins? Or do they just not get attacked all that often and, if so, why?

In Tolkien, the Hobbits were Humans (this is stated plainly in Letter 131; in the Prologue to LotR, they are simply said to be closer to Men than to all other races). That's why they could live together in Bree. If you wonder about the political conditions that allowed for their survival, well, I don't think that there is much to say beyond Eriador in general being extremely depopulated. They did rarely fight off invaders, like Orcs in 2747. In general, this great peace doesn't hold much verisimilitude, even being quite near to Elven settlements and with the Rangers keeping watch. But it's possible that they were so isolated that no one knew there was something to conquer, and numerous enough to handle whatever menace could appear from depopulated Eregion.

About survival of villages, you can compare Greek and Albanian villages in Italy from around 1500 AD. If you wonder about coexistence of different cultures in the same town, there are many examples in the Levant, with Greeks, Armenians, Arabs, Jews, and others often living as separate communities in the same cities.

Bohandas
2019-05-02, 02:31 AM
In LotR they survive for the reasons mentioned by the OP (junk land, far from Mordor, etc). In RPGs they survive due to poor writing.

Eldan
2019-05-02, 04:27 AM
In LotR they survive for the reasons mentioned by the OP (junk land, far from Mordor, etc). In RPGs they survive due to poor writing.

How ist "they are vicious Guerilla fighters" Bad writing?

jjordan
2019-05-02, 09:55 AM
I always thought of the halflings as Tolkien's nod to the bucolic folk of England. Decent, hardworking, not interested in politics or martial glory, but stalwart when necessity requires. In the worlds I've crafted they survive by a variety of means:
-Being economically useful and geographically isolated.
-Being group (family, guild) oriented among polities ruled by other species.
-Being servants of the species they live among.
-Being stalwart AND isolationist in regards to political affairs.

Bohandas
2019-05-02, 02:28 PM
How ist "they are vicious Guerilla fighters" Bad writing?

The impression I got was more that they had a vicious gurellia characterization. It's everywhere and nowhere. The game devs can't decide whether they're Hobbits (everything from OD&D and onwards, excluding Dark Sun), Kender (everything from 3e on), or Tcho Tcho (Dark Sun and smatterings elsewhere).

The Jack
2019-05-02, 02:54 PM
The real question is why aren't goblins the master race? They're not stupid, hobs are smarter than most,they're well organized, willing to work with other races, and goblins are the best bet at beating the halfling menace

Luccan
2019-05-02, 07:19 PM
It might also help to look at some similar real world cultures, in terms of travelling halflings. There are certainly distinct cultural differences found in some nomadic cultures that are noticeable in comparison to the people they frequently interact with.

I tend to think of halflings being similar to humans, but smaller and more prone to both travel and search for a "simple" life. What that means for them is that they like to see new things, are fairly adaptable, but halfling wizard, warrior, or rogue is just as likely to prefer a common meal with their family as a halfling farmer (and all are more likely to prefer that over a fancy party with lots of small courses and complex social rules in comparison to humans and most other humanoids). Halfling communities actually tend to be temporary and though they will congregate in villages and "counties", they tend to be in out of the way places. Halfling communities that are permanently settled tend to be inconvenient for big folk, so big folk don't visit. And because they're a pain to conquer for relatively little farmland, most creatures won't bother. They will absolutely defend themselves and their homes, but if a decent enough king comes along and offers to do it for fealty and a tax, they're usually willing to pay for the extra protection, just in case.

Vizzerdrix
2019-05-02, 07:24 PM
In LotR they survive due to poor writing.

Fixed that for you bud.

Jay R
2019-05-02, 08:27 PM
"Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch."

Go re-read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Yes, Gandalf picked out Bilbo for the dwarves' quest because, "There is a lot more in Bilbo than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself."

And yes, Bilbo and Gandalf thought Frodo the best hobbit in the Shire. But his gardener came along with him, and so did two spoiled rich kids. And they all became heroes when it was necessary.

And focus on the chapter, "The Scouring of the Shire," where the Shirefolk rise up and defeat the Southerlings who had taken over.

"But Shirefolk have been so comfortable for so long that they don't know what to do. They just want a match, though, and they'll go up in fire."

Hobbits are based on small, mostly independent English villages. Consider them the sedentary, satisfied rural English who endured the Battle of Britain.

"The English people will go so far," said Lord Willoughby in the movie Captain Blood. "And then they get up on their stubborn hind legs."

And when all is done and said, the English peasants did defeat the French chivalry at Agincourt.

Kaptin Keen
2019-05-03, 12:48 AM
The real question is why aren't goblins the master race? They're not stupid, hobs are smarter than most,they're well organized, willing to work with other races, and goblins are the best bet at beating the halfling menace

Goblins, or kobolds. Kobolds have the same advantages - plus magic.

Of course everyone sees kobolds as a slightly silly slave race of the dragons. But kobolds are just as clever as humans, they're LE, which is a slightly better reason to expect good organisation than NE. They even get a +1 natural armor, which more than compensates for how hitpoints.

But yea. Goblins are obvious masters of the greenskins and associated races: Orks, hobgoblins, bugbears, ogres and so on. The same cannot really be said for the kobolds - their associated race is dragons, and however much you stretch that, they're not going to come out on top there.

Although it's a fun thought: Kobolds being the masters of the dragons. Evil little gits with enormous fire-breathing slave-dragons. Forget about Dragon Lance - you can fit two platoons of kobolds on the back of an adult dragon =)

Not that there'd be much reason to, mind.

Jay R
2019-05-03, 07:57 AM
No race that forms tribes or clans instead of nations is going to rule the world.

The Jack
2019-05-03, 08:17 AM
No race that forms tribes or clans instead of nations is going to rule the world.

*looks at history*
*looks at your comment*
*Looks at history once more*
*now back to you*

I don't think it works that way. Nobody thought the Mongolians would be a threat, and then they made the largest empire the world had ever seen and which remained the largest till the British approached their peak.

Mark Hall
2019-05-03, 09:58 AM
In the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting, Hobgoblins (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/178078/Strength-and-Honor-The-Mighty-Hobgoblins-of-Tellene?affiliate_id=315505) have two large nations... and, if my most recent spec work for them gets published, there's another of goblins in the north. A rather major part of the history of Tellene is the 20-ish year empire of Kruk-ma-kali, the hobgoblin conqueror.

Kaptin Keen
2019-05-03, 11:37 AM
No race that forms tribes or clans instead of nations is going to rule the world.

Other than the books - which any sane GM should instantly disregard in favor of his own, better ideas - who says goblins forms tribes or clans?

The basic assumption is that goblins are dumb stone age primitives, and since humans were tribal at that point, goblins must be too.

But goblins are older than humans (says I), and as clever - plus all the aforementioned advantages. Goblins have one major flaw (again, so says I), and it's their rate of reproduction. Whenever their numbers remain unchecked, they outgrow their available ressources too quickly, then they have to go to war against stronger foes, and then they get cut down. There is a spiral of self destruction going on there.

But ... over their long history, some goblins have learned to tame this - and those goblins have mighty nations rivalling those of other, major races. Especially because clever, succesful goblins have allies to do the one thing they're not really good at - which is front line combat. Yay for dumb orcs and ogres.

Pauly
2019-05-04, 06:38 AM
The problem with Evil alignment nations is that infighting brings them down when they should/could form a cohesive front in wartime.
Which is why the Halflings menace is more threatening than the Goblins. They come in and organize the place, giving you peace and freedom as long as you bend your knee to them. Sure everybody’s well fed and there’s low crime, and they protect you from the goblins. But what have the halflings done for us lately. I imagine the human resistance will be like this
https://youtu.be/Y7tvauOJMHo

The Jack
2019-05-04, 06:59 AM
No, the problem with those 'evil' Hobgoblins is that they're fond of black and red and so every time they create a burgeoning nation all presently existing nations will align against them with trade embargos and war and the powers that be from the Current Imperial Agency will do their utmost to sabotage the state so that they can all point to it as an example that doesn't work. Regular goblins make peaceful and green communes, but as soon as those grow in size enough to be noticed they're attacked, which is why they often pre-emptively take hostages in their fight against oppressors. Sometimes humans will wake up to the goblin cause and join them The oppressors always blame all human deaths directly on the goblins, especially when they've had to brutalize a race traitor; those bodies make great warnings against allowing the goblins to live. The only good goblin is a dead goblin, according to all major governments.

deuterio12
2019-05-04, 12:38 PM
No, the problem with those 'evil' Hobgoblins is that they're fond of black and red and so every time they create a burgeoning nation all presently existing nations will align against them with trade embargos and war and the powers that be from the Current Imperial Agency will do their utmost to sabotage the state so that they can all point to it as an example that doesn't work. Regular goblins make peaceful and green communes, but as soon as those grow in size enough to be noticed they're attacked, which is why they often pre-emptively take hostages in their fight against oppressors. Sometimes humans will wake up to the goblin cause and join them The oppressors always blame all human deaths directly on the goblins, especially when they've had to brutalize a race traitor; those bodies make great warnings against allowing the goblins to live. The only good goblin is a dead goblin, according to all major governments.

https://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/001/421/731/193.gif
(this message endorsed by the Goblin Slayer committee)

AMFV
2019-05-04, 01:16 PM
Fixed that for you bud.

Point of order, in the Lord of the Rings they were conquered by an evil power, they didn't just "survive" untouched. They were affected by evil powers, and from Bilbo's story about the invention of golf, they had been before.