Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why not to extinguish Halflings, Part 1

Short answer:
They invented beer. Gave them credit for centuries to come...

Long answer:
I like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as much as the next fantasy enthusiast, but I always asked myself how the hell hobbits fit in a D&D campaign setting. The values they stand for are neither heroic nor epic. I'm not able to imagine an evil halfling without him being a small evil human of sorts. There is no variety to them, no huge subtext to draw from like I tried with the Elves nearly a year ago. The most sensible conclusion would be to dismiss them or, like Brendan, replace them with something different.

The Neanderthals didn't make it, why should the Halflings?

There are several extinction theories about the Neanderthals. I'll go with Wikipedia, because it's enough for the ideas I'm about to develop here. I'm sorry to say this, but it applies to great degree to Halflings:

  • First things that come to mind, are the facts that halflings are small and live longer than humans. Both are believed to be part of why the Neanderthals didn't survive. They were slower than homo sapiens (halflings are slow as well) and they reproduced slower, too (using the Rules Cyclopedia, humans age up to 100 years, halflings up to 200 years*, this should slow the reproduction rate of halfings down).
  • Crossbreeding might be another cause for the vanishing of the Neanderthals. It's been, as far as I'm aware, never really discussed (or even canon) if humans and halflings are able to have cute little bastards. But them being demihumans (I'm thinking something like homo floresiensis) suggests it might be possible. And believable, too. It's not hard to imagine Halfling men liking big women or women liking kid-sized men (to give but two examples...).
You get the idea...
  • Let's not forget genocide. I know, it's a bad word. But whenever humans encounter something weaker, chances are, it won't be around for long. Why should Halflings get away, where Neanderthals, Native Americans, you-name-it, couldn't?

What could save those poor guys from being extinguished?

Two factors, actually. One of them is magic. Not that halflings are famous for their power in the arcane arts (at least not in the older editions), but if some powerful entity likes and protects them, they are good to go, I guess (I'd go with a goddess, but more on that in Part 2). And look at the saves they got:

This is good stuff (Rules Cyclopedia, p. 109)
The second aspect is something that might be considered another reason for the demise of the Neanderthals. They weren't advanced enough to compete with humans. Halflings, on the other hand, seem always much more civilized and it's not far fetched to assume they might have been a little bit more advanced when they first encountered humans. There you go, halfings invented beer...
Not to forget: they are good at hiding and are good snipers. So the Halfling might be saved after all.

Let's try and give them a history...

...in the next post. Have to learn to keep those things short :) Next up is not only an attempt to fit halflings in an epic fantasy setting (not only "beause Tolkien did it"), but also my shot at an Halfling Adventurer. So stay tuned and have fun!

See also:

A short intermission     and

Part 2

*See Rules Cyclopedia, p. 143

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