The Design & Development article series premiered on the D&D website back in September 2005, and has been a staple ever since. With the approach of 4th Edition, and our designers and developers focused on the new edition, this column will be the primary vehicle for 4th Edition coverage. We’ll not only give you peeks at what’s forthcoming, but also the “how” and “why.”
Keep in mind that the game is still in a state of flux, as refinements are made by our design and development staff. You’re getting a look behind the curtain at game design in progress, so enjoy, and feel free to send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rivers and streams crisscross the world, and upon these waterways, the nomadic halflings quietly do the same. Legend says that Melora and Sehanine together crafted the halflings, instilling in these small folk a love of water and nature, as well as an innate wanderlust and stealth. The same stories say that both goddesses then left the halflings to their own devices.
Left to themselves, halflings lived for ages. They formed close families and communities, centered on their wisest elders. Clans of halflings wandered creation, never stopping for long, and rarely claiming any particular spot as their own. Their traditions formed and survived among a population constantly on the move and influenced little by the ways of other races. Unassuming, resourceful and independent, halflings hardly ever attracted much notice.
But Avandra, the goddess of boldness, luck and travel, took note of the halflings traversing the world. It seemed to her as if these little people, whom she didn’t create, were hers nonetheless by virtue of the fact that they were living manifestations of her best-loved ideals. Halflings say Avandra smiled on them that day, adopting them as her people and blessing them with good fortune through their worldly struggles. Anyone who knows halflings has little doubt that chance is indeed on their side.
Halflings, for their part, hold fables such as these as true, and their rich oral tradition of such tales is an important part of their culture. Young halflings learn the lore of their people, clan and family from hearing stories. From these, halfling children also pick up lessons on morality and knowledge of many subjects. Outside the political struggles, wars, and other concerns of nations and empires, but widely traveled, halflings have observed and preserved what they learned in their common yarns.
Favorite sagas retell the life and deeds of halflings bold enough to strike out on their own to see the world, right a wrong, or accomplish a great task. Most halflings are practical folk, concerning themselves with the simple things in life. Adventurous halflings are of the same stripe but practice such habits in a different way. A halfling leaves the security of family and clan not for high ideals, fame, or wealth. Instead, he goes to protect his community or friends, to prove his own capabilities, or to merely see more of the world than his nomadic lifestyle can offer.
A halfling hero might be the size of a preteen human child, but he has quick feet, deft hands and quick wit. He is forthright, bold and nigh fearless. His talents run toward sneakiness and craftiness. Pluck and fortune carry him to success where others would fail. He is an expression of all that halflings esteem, and so he is a valuable ally and a daunting foe.
All this went into creating halflings for the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons game. The popular halfling of 3rd Edition is only slightly re-imagined so the race’s mechanical elements make the story elements true. Halflings are still Small, even though they are not 3rd Edition’s versions—in which halflings are the size of 3- or 4-year old humans. They still make great rogues, but they also make good rangers. A few new aspects, such as a tweak to Charisma and a slight influence over luck, in addition to making halfling warlocks viable, reinforce the halfling as a lucky, loveable protagonist. A halfling can also be a hard-to-kill enemy sharp of tongue and blade.
In other words, halflings are exactly what veteran D&D players expect from the 4th Edition refinement to something that worked well in 3rd Edition. Similar flavor, mechanical underpinning to the story, and as much, if not more, fun.