I don’t know what it is about Halflings
that makes everyone want to reimagine them. Probably because the standard
halfling is a short fat bumpkin.
For me, it’s mainly because my Australian group
were of the opinion that halflings are way lamer than dwarfs or wizards or
whatever and anyone who took them were chumps.
This is chiefly because they did not look
into the mechanical advantages of good saves, health and AC, and instead
focussed on how nobody wants to be a fucking hobbit come on man why is this class
even in here.
What can I say? Maybe they’re right. I
didn’t want to make mechanics a focus so I swapped them out for goblins which
they liked much more.
But anyway, now a guy in my new (!) group wants
to play one so they’re back and what was intended to be a little bit of a blurb
about monster-taming Halfling culture and psychology blossomed into a fucking 1500
word essay on a fictional history of the world.
Oh well, I had fun -
Millennia ago, back in what we would call
Biblical times, humans were ruled over by Halflings.
Similarly to Biblical times, everything’s
wrapped up in so much legend and myth and anachronism that truth and fiction
are impossible to unravel.
The following is the truth.
The Halflings believe themselves to be the
After all, humans are just tall clumsy
Halflings, Dwarves are just fat grumpy underground Halflings, and goblins are
just green stupid Halflings with pointy ears.
Clearly all of these races are mere
derivatives of the Halfling form.
And so Halflings believed (and in many
cases still believe) that all creatures upon the Earth are theirs to do with
what they will. They draw no great distinction between animals and certainly
wouldn’t think of a non-Halfling as a person, in much the same way we would
admit that a chimpanzee is more intelligent than a pigeon but wouldn’t give it
Halflings used humans as we would use any
other domesticated animal. Dogs for hunting, oxen for plowing, humans for
menial labour, ponies for riding, pigs for meat. All very nice and neat and
The first age of the Halflings lasted many
hundreds of years. Over time their farmlands of gently rolling hills and
circular doors gave way to large, peaceful towns. Humans, along with dogs and
cats, were the perfect housepets for a gentlehobbit of means.
Humans are difficult to breed, sure, but
easy to train. Craftsmen would use them to pump the bellows of the forge or lacquer
wood while they did the real work, and even the most meagre Halfling family would
maintain a few of them to do household chores.
And so over time humans took over the
physical labour behind Halfling society, while the Halflings gave themselves
over to fine arts, music, and other nobler distractions.
The world got more complicated. Halfling
territory, unlike the Dwarves who built down and the goblins who built up, was
constantly expanding outwards.
There was the occasional war, of course, but
the lesser races were easily defeated by the Halflings with their well-equipped
human soldiers and their dominated battle beasts. It only takes one Halfling
getting close enough to Dominate a leader to disrupt the whole battle line, and
every mighty champion sent into battle is just one more thrall for your
Wars between the Halflings themselves
became ritualised, fought by Dominated proxies in order to protect Halfling
lives. Tournaments between the strongest and most skilful monster trainers were
great public events. After all it took the strongest mind to train and control
the strongest monster, and thus it followed that the Halfling with the strongest
monster had the strong intelligence and force of will it takes to be a leader of
Their culture stratified around the
capture, training and maintenance of battle beasts.
Moving up the social ladder involved
battling your neighbour. To win a promotion you battled your boss. Young
halflings often set off into the world to find mighty beasts to take back home and
bring them fame and fortune, and children younger still would enthrall insects
to fight in schoolyard battles like living conkers.
The Halflings were the very best, like no
one ever was. But beneath their hairy feet things were changing. The humans,
long disregarded and domesticated, were breaking free.
It was almost too late when they found out.
What was assumed to be simple babble from their servant-beasts, a cute human
aping of Halfling language, was discovered to have evolved into a heavily
nuanced form of communication. And worse, they were using it to plan a revolt.
It was like discovering that parrots have
been secretly conspiring against us all along. That all of the dogs have been
planning to rip your throat out in your sleep. They are our pets and friends!
Why would they turn against us?
It was a harrowing time to be a human
dissident. If the Halflings got a hold of you your whole cell was fucked, your
family dominated and your free will gone forever. They could, and would, make
you publically tell everything you knew, your darkest secrets and most
embarrassing moments, before executing you as a warning to the others.
Three things made a difference.
One, industry. Everything from agricultural
implements to forge bellows was now designed for and built by humans. When humanity
made its move the Halflings were cut off from weapons and supplies, forcing to
rely solely on their Dominated beasts for military strength.
Two, religion. The humans had found God, filling them with wisdom and resilience of mind and spirit. Some were so
devout that they gained the willpower to resist Domination, heal the sick and
command Halflings to release their mental hold.
Three, hubris. Lesser animals were
disregarded. Humans were too weak to survive the arenas and Halfling society was
based around the control of increasingly deadly beasts which required constant,
sustained Domination to keep under control. Many Halflings, particularly those
in positions of power, could no longer Dominate their human subjects lest they
let control of their monsters lapse.
Often the Dominated beasts had been driven
half-mad by long years of mental subservience. The assassination of a single successful
Halfling would be enough to send their beast on a rampage, a rampage that
killed ever more Halflings and released ever more creatures from bondage. The
districts of the rich and famous were hit hardest, buried under the scything
claws and searing breath of a thousand rare and odious beasts. The Halfling
leaders, having gained their positions through monster battling rather than
merit, did not last long.
|The symbol of the Tallfellow Rebellion was, of course, a shoe.|
When humanity finally toppled their rulers
from power they began a series of pogroms against the Halfling race, both to protect
themselves from retaliation and to prevent any other races from being enslaved ever
The Halflings were forced into hiding.
Those who survived the purges slipped away into the dark forests and
uninhabited wilderness, there to carve out small niches of civilisation far
from the sight of man.
Halflings today continue to live in insular
farming communities. There they have lived for long generations, learning how
to track and hunt and use dominated beasts of the forests and farmlands to
They no longer trust humans and, truthfully,
no longer trust any creature save themselves.
One animal rose up, so what’s to stop
another? And thus Halfling farmers waste their waning Domination abilities on
farm animals rather than using them to reclaim their lost glory.
They believe that God dominates the souls
of all Halflings. They have no free will, for they are all being commanded by
God and thus it is impossible for them to do wrong. Resisting Halfling
domination is resisting the will of God, and thus the godless legions of
humanity are despised and hidden away from.
Those who travel too close to a Halfling shire
are always turned back, scared off or mysteriously disappear, often before they
even know how close they were to finding the village. A human who actually manages to stumble
across a halfling shire finds a coldly calculated show of quaint, merry little
hill folk, friendly and welcoming.
They will be very offended if you refuse
their hospitality and seem exceedingly polite and gracious until you finally
choke to death on their poisoned honey wine.
It is impossible to dominate an already
dominated mind, so parents dominate their children to protect them from others.
In truth it is mainly to stop them from being little shits.
Nevertheless, the ability to disobey your parents’
orders has become the Halfling rite of passage.
Sometimes a teenager reads the ancient,
barely credible history books and imagines a world where Halflings were the
rulers of the world. They think it is rather unfair that they’re forced to live
in this stupid farm village when they could be out there having adventures and
ruling the planet.
Sometimes they disobey their parents and run away from home.
Out into a world ruled by those
who destroyed their people.
Out into a world which barely remembers to fear
And out into world which has forgotten what it means
to be a slave.