a new take on the halfling

m. werneburg, 2014-12-12

I'm adapting the Dungeons and Dragons game "Labyrinth Lord" to my own tastes, and decided to redo the halfling.

One tricky bit is stripping the tiresome multiplicity of sentient demi-humans from the game (last night it was Brownies and P'xies). This has involved a complete reboot of the Halfling. Note that this uses text from several sources, including Labyrinth Lord, Dungeon World, Jonathan Becker's superb "B/X Blackrazor" blog (to which I am particularly indebted), and Gavin Norman's "Theorems and Thaumaturgy", the "Companion Expansion" by Barrataria Games, "Playing D&D with porn stars", and other blogs and websites.

I decided to discard the absurd Mary Sue aspects of the "Hobbit" of Tolkein, and merging the goblin and gnome to make a semi-civilized race with less-than-jake attitudes towards personal property, law, and things like that. What I wanted was a nation of goblins that wandered into the daylight and developed some skill color.


Attribute adj.:DEX +1, STR -1, CHR +1, WIS -1
Base speed:Land 25’

Halflings are small fey humanoids known for their stealth, cunning, and eccentric sense of humor. They are clearly non-human in appearance, outlook, and ability. Like goblins, halflings are short-lived, charismatic, garrulous, mischievous, and unconcerned with the passing of the ages or the passing of laws. Unlike goblins, halflings are loyal to one another – if easily misunderstood by other races.

The tribes known to others as Halflings don’t settle countries or even large communities, but rather settle in villages (inside kingdoms founded by other races) or travel in caravans. Some serve as traders or tinkers, some simply live off the land. Halfling traders are warily welcomed by the other races as their place as go-betweens is acknowledged. They have a strong oral tradition that claims a long racial history: their stories include, for instance, the arrival of humans and dwarves at a time roughly 250,000 years in the past.

Halflings stand between 105cm and 120cm tall. They are skinny, and rarely weigh more than 30 kilos. Their skin ranges in color from rosy to light green, and though only one in two has any cranial hair, that hair grows thick, course, quickly, and varies through the earth tones in color. This includes the rust red of garnet and even dusty blues of certain shale. Halfling eyes are sometimes slitted, and often glittering. Some Halflings have pronounced lower canines, wide-set or narrow eyes, an enormous nose, bat-like ears, claw-like fingernails, or even vestigial horns. Many have none of these features and simply look like short shifty elves.

Language: Halflings speak Common, Goblish, and their own language.

Names: Halflings consider names as semi-permanent aliases at best, and one usually goes by a different name in each non-halfling community he or she visits. When among their own kind, halflings usually stick to the names given to them by their parents.

Vision: A Halfling can see twice as far as a human in starlight, moonlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. As cousins of goblins, halflings have black and white darkvision when underground to 3 meters.

Additional abilities

Pick pockets: A halfling may pick the pocket of a creature of fewer or equal level/hit dice than the halfling without error. A creature of greater level/hit dice will automatically fail.

Spot secrets: A halfling who merely passes within 5 feet of a secret or concealed door is entitled to a search check as though actively looking for it.

Climb walls: Attempting to climb sheer surfaces under abnormally hideous conditions (blizzards and magical wind storms, etc.) may require a climb roll on d00. At 1st level the success rate is 87%. This goes up at 1% per level until 99% at 12th level.

Open locks, hide in shadows, search for traps, or remove (small) traps: requires one turn per effort (during which time wandering monsters may well be encountered).

Move silently: A thief may move silently at will when encumbered by less than 600 coins weight.

Level 4: A halfling can read languages (any) with 80% probability. This ability does not include magical writings. If the roll does not succeed, the halfling may not try to read that particular piece of writing until he reaches a higher level of experience.

Level 10: Halflings may cast one spell from the following lists once per day, subject to the same rules as wizards:

  1. Charm person
  2. Dancing lights
  3. Detect magic
  4. Faerie speak
  5. Invisibility
  6. Mending

Level 14: is when a halfling reaches Master level, with the following abilities.

Craft device: This is the halfling’s ability to construct elaborate traps of mechanical nature. Cost and time to construct will need to be decided by the DM (similar to the construction of magical devices). Failing the roll by more than 10% means the device was not constructed correctly, and all time, money, and components are wasted. Failing the roll by 10% or less indicated the halfling successfully created the device, but is himself the first victim of the device as he sets off the trap!

Deception: the master’s disciplined ear and study of languages, as well as control over his own body movement, allows the halfling to disguise himself, mimic speech and mannerisms, and even throw his voice (as the 1st level spell ventriloquism). The DM should roll whenever the halfling attempts to deceive someone; the halfling will always believe his deception has succeeded. If the roll fails, the halfling’s opponent will know that the halfling is not what he appears to be (or will know where the voice really came from, in the case of failed ventriloquism). The DM will determine the reaction of the presumptive victim.

Halfling level progression
XPLevelHit points
016 hp
573,00110+2 hp*
753,00111+2 hp*
933,00112+2 hp*
1,113,00113+2 hp*
1,293,00114+2 hp*
1,473,00115+2 hp*
1,653,00116+2 hp*
1,833,00117+2 hp*
2,013,00118+2 hp*
2,193,00119+2 hp*
2,373,00120+2 hp*
*hit point modifiers from constitution are ignored


Small: As a Small creature, a halfling gains a +2 bonus to Armor Class, a +1 size bonus on attack rolls. Halflings use smaller weapons than humans use, and their lifting and carrying limits are three-quarters of those of medium-sized characters. Halflings may use leather armor or a simple chain mail tunic.

+1 bonus on attack rolls with thrown weapons and slings.

+1 bonus on attack rolls against kobolds and goblinoids (including goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears): halflings battle these creatures frequently and practice special techniques for fighting them.

+4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against monsters of the giant type (such as ogres, trolls, and hill giants): Halflings learn tricks that previous generations developed in their battles with giants.


The name "gnome" is usually applied (by non-halflings) to a scattered population of halflings who prefer to live in more permanent towns. In fact, all halflings call themselves "gnome" but outsiders disregard their preferences. Sppang is a post-collapse world where giant snakes and rogue bio-weapons lurk in ambush on a daily basis: social justice just isn't on anyone's radar. This more settled variety of halfling is found in remote locations and such as desert valleys, the frigid arctic, or high alpine climates. Slightly more diminutive than most halflings, gnomes of both genders stand around 1m tall and are of a tough, wiry build.

Gnomish wizards have a strong tendency to make use of their natural skills with illusion to become master illusionists. Much of the magic they have developed is known only to them. It's been rumored that they routinely hide entire villages from outsiders.

Arctic gnomes have large noses and eyes that resemble glacial ice in hue and depth. They have an innate connection to magic of the cold, and tend to live in small villages in pine forests and frosty caves. They tend to keep wolves and other boreal beasts in their villages, training them to act as pets and hunting companions.

Desert gnomes live in isolation far from civilizations in their own tribes. Desert gnomes are known for their vast catalogue of rare beasts found in climates much too unforgiving for other races, and they are experts at befriending them. With deep red skin, long ears, and narrow dark eyes, they more closely resemble their goblin cousins than do other halflings.

Desert gnomes have learned to exist through symbiosis with other desert species such as termites (using the termite nests and channels to store and distribute water) and giant desert arthropods. Desert gnomes are known for their hospitality among travelers; stumbling among a desert gnome settlement while crossing a desert is a godsend.


Redcaps are a twisted population of halfling that live in the most impenetrable of Sppang's old-growth forests. Eons of privation, isolation, and sharing a territory with the likes of trolls and ghouls have eliminated the compassion and hope from these groups, leaving a degenerate, desperate and resentful rump population that makes sport of cruelty and thinks nothing of killing. With pale skin, limpid eyes, and floppy red caps their appearance belies their nature.

Xnor syndicate

symbol of the Xnor syndicate

This is a band of gnomish master illusionists who have devoted their lives to a terrible mission, rumored to be the construction of an "Xnor gate". No outsider knows the details, but all encounters with a member of the Xnor syndicate are marked by considerable chaos. Xnor agents are willing to do whatever it takes to bring about their ends: if this means destabilizing a peaceful kingdom, stealing a priceless artifact, or ending a species—so be it. Armed with the skills of 5th level wizards, a mysterious intelligence network, and resourceful servants and allies, the Xnor syndicate is both competent and formidable.

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