Sunday, 12 July 2015

Races of Fold: The Halflings

The halflings presented an interesting challenge. They are by virtue of their race, wonderfully vague, yet present such a strong, solid image.

To break it down; haflings are a small race, which means (stats and ability wise) they receive a bonus to attack rolls and armour class, a large bonus to the Hide skill, a large penalty to grapple checks and can only carry a fraction of the weight a human can (although equipment suitable to their size weighs less as well). This gives a clear indicator of their avergae height and build (no more than 4ft tall realistically), making them look to be human children.

Halflings also receive a +2 bonus to their Dexterity (the measure of agility and coordination), but a -2 penalty to Strength (the measure of physical power), suggesting they're nimble, but comparatively weak next to humans. To me, this suggests a kind of "physical inferiority" when stood next to the 'big folk', almost like they'd rather evade, maybe strike from range, rather than get up close. This is similarly reflected by their further ability; a +1 bonus when using thrown weapons and slings (so things such as javelins, shuriken and darts), but also suggests a preference for simplistic weapons. They also receive a +1 bonus on all saves (Fortitude, Reflex and Will), as well as a further +2 bonus against fear effects; which suggests to me a certain strength of spirit. They also receive a +2 bonus on checks to make Listen, Climb, Jump and Move Silently checks, an acrobatic and stealthy flair to this race. Their short stature also limits their speed to 2/3 that of a human (20ft as opposed to 30ft).
So I have, in my mind, the image of a short, wiry figure, defiantly whirling a sling, loaded with a "bullet"...

Halflings are also described as living nomadic lifestyles, travelling the land in caravan communities, rarely settling for too long. I like the idea of the caravans, but to me it seems impractical. Maybe the halflings have a few sheltered and hidden permanent settlements, farmsteads or rural communities. This makes me want to have them renowned for their culinary skill. This is purely a roleplay application and not a fixed ability; the halflings have an excellent knack for arable farming and cuisine, using herbs and spices and unusual ingredients to make masterpieces of food. It's joked amongst some races that halflings would actually be as big as humans for the amount they eat, were it not for how active they are.

But I digress... Why are the halflings the way they are? Semi-nomadic and agile little gypsy-folk with a penchant for stealth. The halflings of Fold weren't always a cheery, vivacious race.

They originate in the Age of Gods, created by a cruel, dark deity who favoured a ruthless and tyrannical human empire. Derived from human essence and, as a joke, made small and weak and given simian and feline traits to make them "laughably adorable", so that they could be a slave race to their imperial oppressors. Belittlingly referring to them as "halflings", the humans set about forcing them to work in horrendous conditions and allowed them few rights beyond being penned in together in walled and guarded slums. Living as kitchen servants, dogsbodies and novelties at banquets they were treated entirely as chattel.
The humans, however, were not expecting that through either a twist of fate, or the capricious machinations of their cruel patron, for the wee folk to have a strength of spirit greater than the human template they came from. Living in squalour, performing back breaking tasks, the halflings endured, finding comfort in their communities and using what freedom they had to create games throwing stones and performing acrobatics. Ironically, their human masters always forced them to be quick and quiet, attentive and nimble; often requiring them to shimmy up buttresses and the likes to complete tasks, the feline and simian elements woven into their nature helping greatly. Over time, though, new generations were born and grew restless and weary of the servitude.
Legend and lore both speak of dissidence rising within their slums across the empire, and of two firebrands rallying the camps around them, somehow managing to sneak between them all to spread their messages. One approached the families, espousing the virtues of togetherness and unity, encouraging strength in numbers. The other spoke out to the individual and spoke of self-empowerment, encouraging independence and cunning as well as underhanded tactics. They were Yondalla and Dallah Thaun, respectively, their ideals and spirits to this day forming the basis of halfling faiths. Yondalla is the very public side of halfling religion, the one known to the wider world, while Dallah Thaun is kept as something of a secret, her priesthood and their spies operating in shadow... Some even argue that the two women were actually one and the same, and that this "dual nature" has become intrinsic to halfling culture.
Needless to say, the halflings began to rise up, and strike back against their masters, their skill with acrobatics and shadowy movements suddenly becoming incredibly fruitful, and their surprising facility with seemingly innocuous slings and stones made their sudden uprising all the more successful. Their strength of spirit and fearlessness taxed the spells of the empire's magical adepts to their limits. Legend tells that the empire crumbled after losing the halflings, though, with the events of Godfall, these claims are impossible to prove.

Now, the halflings live free and unchained, forming hidden cities in wooded hills and highlands. Their buildings are hidden up the trees, where they climb and leap with ease and grace, the ground below home to their farms and plantations and any workshops and large kitchens that would be hazardous higher up in the trees. Frequent caravans move between halfling communities and those of big folk, allowing trade and even adventure to the wee folk, for they are possessed of a spirit that makes them itch for experience, as well as security.

Halflings are very short, ranging from 2'10" to 3'4" for males, 2'8" to 3'2" for females and they rarely weigh more than 40lbs in weight, and are considered "adults" by age 20. From a distance they could be mistaken for skinny human children, but up close the differences are apparent. Their ears are slightly larger than a human's would be, and pointed at the top, and seem able to move independently. They possess slender, long fingers, a great advantage for grasping handholds when climbing. Their faces bear a slightly endearing simian cast, with a suggestion of a muzzle and small, button nose, and when they grin they show sizable (but wholly harmless) canines. The most striking feature of their faces is their eyes, which are invariably catlike, in various hues of green, yellow and gold. Their hair is usually in shades of chestnut brown or rich auburn, with a few examples of coppery or gingery strains showing in some communities, and they prefer to style themselves in a practical manner. The other unusual feature of halflings are their feet, which are oddly tough and resilient, often requiring them to completely eschew footwear, or opting for such accessories that lack soles and allow their toes to be free. Their unusual feet also possess a big toe that is opposable, like a thumb, while their other toes are relatively long, flexible and strong, another sign of their simian traits, and an indicator as to why they're often skilled climbers.

Halfling fashions frequently make use of cotton and linen, as well as the wool sheared from their favoured beasts of burden, the sheeplike brixashulty, and are often made into hard-wearing and practical items. Pockets, padding/quilting and useful loops are commonplace, enabling them to carry items such as tools, coinpurses and the likes. Leather and hide is often used as well. Most clothes are kept in neutral, earthy tones, including various umber and ochre shades. Finery is often a little more vibrant, using reds, purples, blues and even oranges and pinks, should the dyes be available. Such clothing is often fanciful and decorated beautifully. Finery is always kept for celebrations and holidays, as their day-to-day life working or adventuring doesn't call for such things.

While halflings do settle into some of the larger multiracial communities, and become part of the day-to-day goings on, it is still noticable when a halfling caravan comes to town, with an influx of trade, resources and temporary offers of workers. Halflings are always willing to work and be helpful, but only if there is a fair return for it, either in pay or trade, and halflings rail against indentured service and slave labour. A happy halfling is a hard worker, but a maligned one is liable to be trouble. If halflings are unhappy things often go missing, or buildings are broken into with nothing taken, or with items moved around.

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