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  1. - Top - End - #31
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Consensus View Post
    I'm not really inspired by any D&D interpretation of either race, save for halflings in athas and eberron. I think it would be much more elegant to get rid of them both and just give more diversity to dwarves.
    Eberron Gnomes are also fairly interesting as information brokers and scribes.

    -- -- --

    In one setting, I had Gnome be nuclear-family-centric researchers. They'd stay in one place as long as one (magical) research project took to finish, then pack up their family and move on. They'd collaborate with other families when convenient, and they'd try to do so when their children reached physical maturity, because marriages were often the result of a collaborative doctoral thesis -- simultaneously proving maturity (by publishing a thesis) and proving maturity (by starting a family of their own).

    Humans treated them as visiting scholars when they set up in a human-controlled area: worthy of intellectual deference, but be on guard against owlbears if they're doing that kind of magical research. (For this reason, it's not uncommon to find a family of Gnomes out in the wilderness, where an escaped owlbear or two won't attract unkind attention.)

    From a game standpoint, Gnomes could act as an oddly convenient magic store near a remote adventure site. This emerged naturally from their research focus.

  2. - Top - End - #32
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    -- -- --
    In one setting, I had Gnome be nuclear-family-centric researchers. They'd stay in one place as long as one (magical) research project took to finish, then pack up their family and move on. They'd collaborate with other families when convenient, and they'd try to do so when their children reached physical maturity, because marriages were often the result of a collaborative doctoral thesis -- simultaneously proving maturity (by publishing a thesis) and proving maturity (by starting a family of their own).

    Humans treated them as visiting scholars when they set up in a human-controlled area: worthy of intellectual deference, but be on guard against owlbears if they're doing that kind of magical research. (For this reason, it's not uncommon to find a family of Gnomes out in the wilderness, where an escaped owlbear or two won't attract unkind attention.)

    From a game standpoint, Gnomes could act as an oddly convenient magic store near a remote adventure site. This emerged naturally from their research focus.
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  3. - Top - End - #33
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Consensus View Post
    Huh.. I really like that take, I might steal it some time
    If you do, you may be interested in my own behind-the-scenes justification:

    Gnomes live for a long time. They like humans & halflings & such, so they want to visit with them and share their lives. But they live 2-3 times longer.

    So the happiest gnomes were the ones who had a reason to stay in an area for a while, then leave when the people they had become friendly with either changed significantly or died. Other gnomes emulated these happiest gnomes, and they found a healthy lifestyle pattern which enabled them to both enrich the world (through research), enjoy themselves (by temporarily integrating with other races), and pass on their traditions to the next generation.

    It also gave them a good excuse for harboring orphans and the odd widow -- they are perpetual outsiders themselves, so they have sympathy for misfits. The fact that a human orphan's lifespan relative to a gnome is comparable to a dog's lifespan relative to a human is pure coincidence.

  4. - Top - End - #34
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    A friend of mine suggested making dwarves, gnomes and halflings basically different ethnicities, or races in the real-world sense, within the same species. This avoids the problem of a race being pigeonholed into stereotypes, while also aerting the common fantasy pattern that only humans are ethnically and culturally diverse.

  5. - Top - End - #35
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    A race is not superfluous if the GM has a purpose for it, or a player wants it for a PC. What other purpose could there be?

    I have never had "halflings" in my games; they have always been hobbits. Back in the 1970s, the Tolkien estate made TSR file the serial numbers off, but as long as I'm not making money with it, they can't affect me.

    NPC hobbits are usually a bucolic race, mostly unknown, living it a quiet out-of-the-way place. PC hobbits are as much exceptions to the rule as all PCs are.

    My most recent game (which I hope to get back to eventually), had no hobbbits, gnomes, dwarves, or elves.

    Gnomes and hobbits didn't exist, because I was using Lloyd Alexander's Fair Folk as the Little People. Dwarves didn't exist, because everybody knew that they were wiped out in the dwarf-giant wars a couple of centuries ago. [In fact, they weren't wiped out; they were captured and enslaved, hidden in deep giant caves far to the north. Rescuing the dwarves is a potential high-level quest.]

    And elves exist, but like most truly magical races, have been off the prime plane for decades. When they return (soon), I intend for them to be Terry Pratchett's elves from Lords and Ladies.
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  6. - Top - End - #36
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    The material plane is overcrowned of races.
    As a consequence, unless a PC is a halfling, they don't appear in the narrative (so it's as if they didn't exist) in the campaigns I've played.
    However, the Feywild is less overcrowded, so Gnomes can find a place there when the PCs visit it (though still rare if no PC is a Gnome).

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    I like Halflings from Warhammer Fantasy, where they are seen as an excellent domestic help you have to keep an eye on. I usually dislike halflings, consider them kind of useless burden that eats up all your supplies.

    You can use them as a catapult shots for biological warfare during siege as their fat pudgy bodies explode easily on impact.

    Or you can use them to poison the dragon as halflings are/were resistant to poisons (comes from eating EVERYTHING). You poison the halfings food and when he has eaten (which he will do because halflings can't resist a meal) you send him to scout the dragons cave and hope that the halfling gets eaten by the dragon.

    Another use is that you don't have to outrun the monster, only the halfling.

    Last but not least, when the halfling has eaten all your supplies then you eat the halfling.
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Aren't they both superfluous?
    Yeah, you only need goblins, which are better than both and can fulfill both roles and their antagonistic role without any inconsistency and would in fact gasp make them complex and interesting to play with.
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  9. - Top - End - #39
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    In my world, gnomes and goblins are the same species. They're always born in litters of 4, three servile goblins (either are warriors, bodyguards, slaves, companions, or assistants) and one leader gnome.

    Halflings, however, are seagoing merchants that enslave sea elves and tritons to tow their boats.
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    The current setting I'm designing has no dwarves this is explicitly to allow gnomes to be the dwarves of the setting, the crafters of legendary items, while still allowing the setting's 'dwarves' to be magical without anybody raising an eyebrow. Of course that sword is magical, it was made by a Gnome.

    It also has halflings, who have taken over the nature elements of the small folk. Although they tend towards agriculture compared to the wilds of the elves the halflings are able to rear healthier and more productive plants than almost anybody else in the setting.

    Although I'm having a lot of trouble justifying having any of then when I could just have everybody be human. I wouldn't be missing much, in practice all that would disappear is some pointed ears and some height variation. The older I get the more I question the point of having nonhuman species when they inevitably end up as humans with silly ears. It also seems to reflect the fantasy I read these days, where nonhuman species are rare and not something you'd interact with a lot (and are likely either alien or artificial).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
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    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    I don't always halfling, but when I do, I kender.

    I never gnome. Well I did once, but that was spelljammer. And what happens in spelljammer, stays in spelljammer.
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Gnomes are more interesting to me, which funnily enough initiated because my first character when I was very young was supposed to be Bilbo Baggins but I didn't understand the difference at the time, but I wouldn't ask for either to be removed from D&D. Both have elements I like: I like that gnomes balance out the dwarves love of mining and sometimes genius in engineering with an appreciation for nature and some level of sneakiness. At the same time, they aren't like elves who often come across as snotty or boring or both. What I like about D&D halflings has mostly to do with their status as nomads in most D&D settings.

    If I have a desire to introduce short, quiet homebodies, I actually prefer gnomes because their homes are more interesting for a party to explore than me just recreating Hobbiton*. They might prefer to stay in their small communities, but those communities are still inventive or magical. Races of Stone from 3.5 gave a really great write up of gnome communities having a great deal of art and culture even in small villages.

    *I like Hobbits, but some guy named Tolkien already did a lot with them and they're so iconic to LotR it would feel weird truly using them even under another name outside of a LotR setting.
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  13. - Top - End - #43
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    D&D gnomes always seem to me to be 'dwarf-lite' so yeah I feel the same way OP. Halflings all the way.
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Gomes are like hobbits. Halflings are small humans.

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    I admit I haven't run a gnome, but while putting together some homebrew it forced me to go back and have a read of Races of Stone to see where 3.5 was coming from in the portrayal of gnomes, and then on to halflings.

    Following that, I think there is an interesting distinction between the two, but D&D probably isn't very well equipped to explore the difference.

    Gnome psychology, as RoS would have it, is essentially all about duality. They take the idea of the Gnome Illusionist and amp up the idea: a gnome illusionist, being proficient at generating stuff that looks just like reality, they are bound to muse if not really think carefully about the nature of reality itself: if the illusion looks real, seems real, is real - then who is to say it actually isn't real? A gnome being asked to contemplate Plato's Cave Allegory would likely stop around the point where the teller says that the shadows on the wall are just illusions, he might well challenge that very proposition from the beginning. That's why gnomes are so interested in illusions, magic, prestidigitation - because magic tricks dance around that fine line between what's real and what isn't. Try reading a book like The Prestige and I think you'll get into the mindset of what a gnome is thinking about most of the time. Gnomes are just as likely to contemplate whether a hammer actually exists as bang in a nail with it. Play them as having two distinct personalities - one academic, one practical, or one Apollonian, one Dionysian - and they become easier to tell apart from halflings. RoS suggests that a lot of gnomes are artisan-philosophers, which is actually not a bad way of portraying it: someone whose whole philosophy on life dances around the subject of whether what he does has intrinsic worth or not. The more stereotypical gnome - annoying little buggers, mostly just cheap merchants - is only one side of the gnome's personality. The problem with them is that typically it ain't interesting to have philosophical debates in a game where gods are literally real and Divination spells provide objective data. But I think if more DMs played up to this idea - having gnome NPCs who slavishly are patrons of artists while running the Magic Mart - they'd be more compelling.

    Halflings are different again. They are first and foremost about family and community in tension with a need for new experiences. A halfling who's torn between going back to his family and looking for the dragon over the next hill is much more interesting than the standard annoying kender as they tend to get played. This was the centre of the conflict driving Bilbo and Frodo, at least to begin with: the call of the road straining against the desire for a simple, warm life in the company of one's own kind.

  16. - Top - End - #46
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    The truly superflous creatures are hobgoblins. Large goblins are orcs.

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quite. Even considering that the "Hob" in "Hobgoblin" is a nickname for Robert, or Robin Goodfellow and means one specific fairy. It just annoys me they have nothing in common with Robin Goodfellow.

    That said, a lot of monsters are originally single creatures, so who cares.
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  18. - Top - End - #48
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    The truly superflous creatures are hobgoblins. Large goblins are orcs.
    Our DM made a clear difference between the two: hobgoblin are Loyal, organized in a miltiaristic dictature, and orcs are Chaotic, more barbarians-like.

  19. - Top - End - #49
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    I never gnome. Well I did once, but that was spelljammer. And what happens in spelljammer, stays in spelljammer.
    Isn't the POINT of Spelljammer that what happens in Spelljammer DOESN'T stay in Spelljammer?

    Seriously, though, I think the two tend to be insufficiently differentiated in a lot of cases, to the point where you could easily cast them as different ethnicities of the same species (along with dwarves). Consider, for example, in 2e (and I think 1e), gnomes were called out as being cousins of the dwarves, while stoutish halflings were given some infravision and mining detection abilities... if they had some dwarven blood.

    The question always becomes "What are you DOING with them?" It's more than just "they are mechanically similar", though AD&D certainly had them as such... what differentiates them socially and culturally from each other?
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Consensus View Post
    I'm not really inspired by any D&D interpretation of either race
    I'm not sure I'd call D&D halflings an "interpretation". They started as a direct knockoff of a specific intellectual property, and then subsequently had all their distinctibe traits scrubned out to avoid a lawsuit, leaving behind a bland formless mass

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    D&D gnomes always seem to me to be 'dwarf-lite' so yeah I feel the same way OP. Halflings all the way.
    They're different aspects of an earth element affinity. Dwarves are about stone, gnomes are about soil.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    Although I'm having a lot of trouble justifying having any of then when I could just have everybody be human.
    I see it the other way aroind. If you had all the characters be human you would have to justify why you're playing D&D instead of just playing D20 modern

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    I see it the other way aroind. If you had all the characters be human you would have to justify why you're playing D&D instead of just playing D20 modern
    Who says I'm playing either? I mean right now I'm running Unknown Armies, which is about as humanocentric as you can get/

    But in all seriousness, there's a lot to be said for all-human fantasy worlds. They're not uncommon in fantasy, and ones with only a handful of other intelligent species are a tad more common, especially among modern novels (no I don't want to list them, but it seems to be caused at least partially by a backlash to every fantasy novel having elves and dwarves). Part of the problem with D&D is the huge number of intelligent species and the tendency for GMs to shove every player race into their setting no matter how little they add (as I used to do before I sat down and seriously started building settings).

    Now sometimes the point is 'human with aspect taken to the extreme' (which I believe is half of Burning Wheel's take on nonhumans, along with 'game balance? We didn't even include it for the humans'), which can be interesting but it begins to become hard to find new bits to shove in. So dwarfs have greed, elves have pride or spirituality, Gnomes have inquisitiveness, Orcs have anger/violence, goblins have cunning, halflings have mundanity*, and now I'm starting to run out of ideas.

    I'd much rather have a handful of well done near-human species or only humans. My setting is moving more and more towards being a three species affair, the Imperialistic humans, the Spiritual beastfolk, and the Crafty gnomes, with even goblins being axed as intelligent material beings (and I do like me some gobbos). Even then I'm trying to establish the difference between cultural and species differences, as some beastfolk are getting along fine without all that spirit-worshipping stuff but still have a tendency towards wandering and a lack of focus in their lives.

    * This is the reason some people think halflings are superfluous, even in The Lord of the Rings part of the point of the hobbitses was that they were middle class Englishmen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

  23. - Top - End - #53
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    They're different aspects of an earth element affinity. Dwarves are about stone, gnomes are about soil.
    Counterpoint: In 2e, at least, gnomes were about gems, while dwarves were about metal.

    But, again, that goes back to "inconsistent characterization." In some ways, I think 3.x and later D&D making gnomes more fey, and halflings less hobbit, has been a boon to characterization. They're far more distinct; it's harder to write a character and say "Well, I'm not sure if he should be a gnome or a halfling", because making a gnome-like halfling or a halfling-like gnome is a decision to play against type, rather than a choice of where you want to fall on a spectrum. Some of the more memorable settings made it a point to emphasize that difference... though a lot of people hate Dragonlance gnomes and halflings, it's hard to argue that they aren't very distinct, and that a kender played like an Ansalonian gnome would be a deeply weird character in some ways (but entirely in character for kender to try). Dark Sun got rid of gnomes, but their halflings are cited as great examples of unique halflings. Birthright? Similar concept... halflings are more than just one end of a spectrum of "short and resists magic". Folks mention Eberron gnomes and halflings several times in this thread... because they've been given different cultural and social places in their games.

    I think this is very doable with BTB AD&D gnomes and halflings... the kind you tend to see in Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms. But it requires a bit of conscious effort to go beyond the basics.
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    In some ways, I think 3.x and later D&D making gnomes more fey, and halflings less hobbit, has been a boon to characterization.
    I agree that it's better to not have a race that's just a blatant hobbit knockoff*, but it's hardly a boon to halfling characterization since their entire purpose in the game was to be a hobbit knockoff. Moving away from hobbit knockoffs causes the race-whose-entire-reason-for-being-in-the-game-is-to-be-a-hobbit-knockoff to become useless.


    *especially since they don;t even fit into their original setting properly. They just kind of show up out nowhere at the end of the Silmarillion

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Aren't they both superfluous?
    Pretty much this.

    Gnomes have a rich history in mythology, that is often ignored in any given setting.

    Half-pints (and I'm not even going to correct that) are new kids on the block, desperately struggling for an identity.

    And either is completely replaceable. Or completely essential - and essential that their culture be exactly what the player needs it to be - for a particular character concept. (Depending on how precise the concept is).

    (Checks forum) Does a given system need either? Not innately, no. But, if they're carefully worked into the setting, then nomadic magma-eating winged storm gnomes and subterranean nudist baby-stealing half-pints may be completely indispensable.

    Having never remembered a single one of either at any of my tables, I'm going for "superfluous".

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Isn't the POINT of Spelljammer that what happens in Spelljammer DOESN'T stay in Spelljammer?
    Just wanted to agree with this sentiment.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2018-10-31 at 08:36 PM.

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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    Quite. Even considering that the "Hob" in "Hobgoblin" is a nickname for Robert, or Robin Goodfellow and means one specific fairy. It just annoys me they have nothing in common with Robin Goodfellow.

    That said, a lot of monsters are originally single creatures, so who cares.
    There are also a lot of monsters who share a name with some older creature from mythology, but don't bare any resemblance to their namesakes. Drow, are a big one, as is the Tarrasque. As you said, it isn't a big deal.

  27. - Top - End - #57
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    And either is completely replaceable. Or completely essential - and essential that their culture be exactly what the player needs it to be - for a particular character concept. (Depending on how precise the concept is).
    I think this pretty much sums up this thread neatly. I was assuming a Tolkienesque setting as a main goal. But most - if any - settings don't even aim for that. So my initial point was moot to begin with but discussing it helped me - and I hope others as well - to understand the thinking behind it.

    That being said I rather prefer a select few races to allow for really unique character options rather than 30 different races just for the sake of PC diversity that is not grounded in the setting's lore. Like allowing the player to play a minotaur just to have him be the only one in the entire campaign but he always hints at his race's affinity for seafaring.

    But I realize the reverse is also true. A PC might just not be satisfied to play almost-a-halfling-but-not-quite if he has an awesome idea for a halfling.
    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    "Dammit man, I said to use the MORALLY GREY flaming catapults!"
    Kriv, the Boastful - Dragonborn Fighter//Bard - Calm before the Storm
    Brimaz of Oreskos - Tabaxi Druid/Life Cleric - Labyrinth of Zaaar the Mad
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  28. - Top - End - #58
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymouswizard View Post
    But in all seriousness, there's a lot to be said for all-human fantasy worlds.

    Because in fantasy the mundane and the ordinary are a must

  29. - Top - End - #59
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Because in fantasy the mundane and the ordinary are a must
    Someone made a dnd setting with no humanoids.
    It makes the decision of which humanoid is superfluous way simpler.
    Last edited by noob; 2018-11-01 at 06:46 AM.

  30. - Top - End - #60
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Oct 2011

    Default Re: Rant: Halflings are NOT superfluous! Gnomes are.

    I suppose I have to amend a previous statement - there have been a number of Whisper Gnomes at my tables, which, I suppose, are technically gnomes.

    But, if a Gnome is in the party, and no one can see it, does it really count?

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