The Dungeons and Dragon 5e Halfling: Half-Sized but Full Abilities
When most new players think about halflings, often times the first image that comes up are hobbits from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" & "The Lord of the Rings." While there are definitely many common traits borrowed from this source material, to assume 5e D&D halflings are just like hobbits is to diminish everything this race brings to the table. While they are often overlooked by many players, that is an unfortunate mistake. This small race might be short in stature but they have a wide array of interesting traits that can help to create some really remarkable characters, not to mention mechanics that can be used to create some truly epic and interesting characters.
Standing at only three feet tall, halflings rarely cause the instant suspicion or worry that races like tieflings or half orcs must deal with. They have a reputation for being practical, jovial, and very easy going. They are also found among many different societies because of this ability to get along. While a mostly halfling community will likely come in the form of small villages, especially around farms and fruit orchards in the rolling hills of the country, members of this race can be found just about anywhere. They easily move around groups of dwarves, elves, or humans.
They are incredibly loyal friends and while known for an affable nature, they can be fierce fighters and steadfast allies for those they care about. This loyalty and general friendliness makes them rather popular in many communities and among many different races.
Looking at the Racial Mechanics
Halflings tend to be very nimble, and as a result start with a +2 dexterity bonus. In addition to this, their nimbleness allows them to move through any space of a creature larger than them. Since they're small, that means even being able to move through spaces occupied by humans or elves, managing to slip through the legs or around the side before continuing to their target destination.
They are also brave and that works out to having advantage against any saving throws that are related to becoming frightened. Finally, halflings are also lucky and this leads to one of the most life-saving mechanics of the game. Any time a halfling rolls a critical fail (natural 1) they may re-roll the dice and then take that new number. This lucky trait has saved many a character during a 5e D&D campaign.
Two Sub-Races from the Player's Handbook
There are two sub-races from the PHB: the lightfoot and the stout. The lightfoot tend to be the most nomadic of all the halflings. Because of this tendency to travel and wander from home, they also gain a +1 charisma and have the ability to hide, even when barely obscured such as by a creature of medium height. This mechanic can be extremely useful for rogues.
The sub-race of the stout are hardier than their lightfoot cousins, and some believe they are halflings who have dwarven blood within them. Because of this they not only get a bonus of +1 to their constitution score but they also get advantage on all saving throws versus poison and also share the dwarven trait of having resistance against poison damage - which is definitely a major benefit when out adventuring.
What's in a Name?
Like many other races halflings tend to have a given name and a family name. However, often times they may have a nickname they are best known for, as well. In addition to this, if a nickname really stuck then over the generations that may actually supplant the family name. This is how many family names can sound like nicknames like Berrygather, Alebrewer, or Applepicker.
This gives a wide variety of options when it comes to names, and there is a wide variety of normal male and female names that are common among this race in the Player's Handbook as well as Xanathar's Guide.
What Classes Fit Well?
If the short, easy to hide, easy to blend in, widely accepted halfling doesn't scream rogue, then what race does? There are several classes that halflings can naturally fit into, but it's hard to argue with rogue. Not only to the beginning stat bonuses match well, but story wise having that short, affable individual who blends so easily into so many societies makes them a natural fit for the Thieves' Guild or any type of rogue profession. Having that lucky trait to re-roll ones when making a stealth check to sneak by or trying to pull off a sleight of hand is pretty convenient, as well.
While ranger and monk are two classes that might not pop into mind when thinking about this race, they should. Both heavily rely on dexterity, which halflings start out with. The same stealthy nature that rogues rely on in the cities is equally as important or useful to rangers in the woods, who also can supplement that with the "Pass without a Trace" spell to add +10 to stealth checks. A dexterity based halfling fighter concentrating on bows and ranged weapons is also a powerful option, though certainly a bit more unconventional compared based on the general traits most halflings show.
While very unconventional and unusual, a stout halfling barbarian can be a surprising force to be reckoned with, especially when they get to re-roll every critical fail attack to get another chance to hit.
Interesting Build: The Luckiest Adventurer
Ever wanted to build a character who somehow got by on ridiculous luck as opposed to skill? Could cause incredible headaches for a DM as things just kept working out? Somehow despite incompetence and a befuddling lack of wisdom could just have things work out? Introducing an interesting build for a halfling: the luckiest adventurer.
The point of this build isn't necessarily to optimize, but to create a fun character who can improbably stumble through challenging adventures that put down more experienced and capable adventurers. The key here is luck. This build is for a halfling wizard, focusing on divination. At level four take the Lucky feat. Mechanically this means as a halfling you get to re-roll anytime you roll a one, you can re-roll three dice per long rest because of the lucky feat, and as a divination wizard you get to roll two d20 at the beginning of a day and at any time replace your (or another) die roll with one of those d20s.
This gives your halfling an insane ability to change dice rolls all the time, or change the fates so to speak. Instead of role playing it as a master of the arcane, play if off as feeling like you're always dodging a bullet due to chance. With the ability to conceivably change five dice rolls in addition to re-rolling and ones, you now have an adventurer who is a bookworm wizard who, thanks to changed dice rolls, just somehow has everything work out perfectly for them.
So Many Options
Dexterity is a quality stat to have boosted, and the mechanics of the halfling means that this race has plenty of versatility and flexibility. While they naturally make incredible rogues and rangers, they can also be spellcasters with the ability to easily hide, lucky adventurers who just have things work out, or surprisingly effective fighters who don't look too intimidating but whose small package provides a giant punch.
In other words, this is a surprisingly versatile and effective race that can add quite a bit of power and flair to some unconventional characters. While they aren't likely to catch up to humans as a popular race in D&D 5e, there's a lot to love about the big effect that comes in a small pint sized package.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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