View Full Version : Some Halfling Help

2008-12-28, 12:00 AM
Hey, all. I'm a pre-newb DM (have yet to actually run a game, but I like toying with the idea in my spare time) and I've been working on a setting of my own, and I'm trying to figure out what to do with the halflings in my world.

I've got a vaguely Roman-with-a-touch-of-Imperial-China empire of humans over a patchwork European continent fast-forwarded to loosely medieval times (Imperial Knights, nobles sending representatives to the Senate to advise the Emperor, while the Church of the Circle attempts to encompass all local gods while raising the Emperor to mildly divine status), while their fallen rival Akyos is slightly Egyptian/1001 Nights-esque. The dwarves are mostly secretive and dour with exception of a dissident group that's led by a sort of Henry VIII-ish king looking to colonize and make contact with the humans, while orcs have a range from hardcore traditionalist barbarian hunter-gatherers to slightly-less-barbarous (they build forts and stay mostly in one place, at least) mercenary clans and civilized members of the Alucian (Human Empire)legions, as Roman-esque plebians. Elves as humans know them are amnesiac outcasts (or descendants of same) from Underhill, where the much scarier Fae live, and have patched together a little of their culture and copied more of it from ancient pre-Alucian relics. Some of the elvish enclaves are entirely secretive with only tentative contact with outsiders, some are integrated into the human cultures, and one runs a large and vaguely circus-like 'faerie' court, figuring if they can't remember what they were, they may as well make it up as extravagantly as possible. I've at least got vague ideas of different cultures and/or analogues I can beg, borrow or steal details from for most of my races and kingdoms.

Halflings, I've got an idea of where they're from but not what exactly they are. There's a bay at the southern edge of the continent cradled between high cliffs, wherein I know there's a place called the Floating City- there's a small island in there somewhere, but a lot of living, business and cultivation happens on the boats, anywhere from the tiny fishing boats to the huge floating mansions. I figure halflings are really good sailors and come from the Halfling Isles (creative, I know- when I have a better idea of their culture I'll get a better name for it) that stand a good ways out from the rest of the continent with the Floating City as their big intermingling trade-city.

Can I get any suggestions on what to make of their culture? Just another psuedo-European group, only shorter, doesn't really work for me. Any help is greatly appreciated.

2008-12-28, 12:10 AM
I would suggest a Greek or Phoenician culture for the Halflings because those cultures were seafaring traders in history.

2008-12-28, 12:11 AM
Well, you could just find another group of real-life historical humans that had a sea-based empire/society and base the halflings on them. I'm, of course, suggestion Halfling Vikings. :smalltongue:

If you don't want that, you could make them sort of like Renaissance-era Venice, with their floating city being a sort of hub of trade for ALL the races. They've got elvish entertainers, dwarven smiths, humans of all sorts, maybe even some of the more civilized orcs looking around for mercenaries and, in some instances, silk, spices, and other goods from far-off tribes of more exotic races. The halflings are basically the ones in charge of the economy, but they also have a seedier side - they charge members of other races protections fees to not get hit by the various (halfling-run) thieves guilds.

EDIT: Greek/Phoenician could work, too, but that's probably too close to the already Roman-type human empire.

2008-12-28, 12:15 AM
An Aztec-esque culture would be an interesting if potentially sinister addition to the game. The halflings already have a water-city like Tenochtitlan. Give them a nice military (perhaps based around swift assassinations and surgical strikes rather than brute strength) and a whole passel of vassal states. For the sinister feel, throw in the regular human sacrifices, though that's not strictly necessary - could even be fringe cults/adventure hooks. At any rate, have them follow a totemistic religion, with a powerful theocracy. It'd be an interesting change from halflings always living at the fringes of other societies, as I've seen often done.

2008-12-28, 12:23 AM
Thank you both- I do kind of like the idea of halfling Vikings in another setting, but the traditionalist orcs (there was this whole thing at the beginning of the empire where the up-and-coming king made a deal with this abandoned army of orcs who'd been uprooted from a different continent to come fight, so that they could have lands of their own so long as they chose to hold them if they'd also fight on his side- kind of the way eventually Rome absorbed a lot of its barbarian components) have that deal covered. I think there are continents around the main one where my plotting takes place, but for the most part Alucia is land-based- orcs hold the one coast to the west, barbarian humans (called the Running Tribes) the southern outline, and there's old and evil forest on the eastern coast. And North is just mountains forever, with dwarves, goats and a nuisance of dragons its only exports. So the Floating City is- by golly, that is interesting, they're prettymuch the only contact Alucia's got with anywhere more exotic.

Methinks there's plot to be had there^^ Thanks.

2008-12-28, 07:17 AM
And remember that when Halflings make war, they have some truly massive ships, the kind that look like fortresses floating on water, because they really are fortresses floating on water. They should definitely not be people to be trifled with, but the kind that make fantastic allies. Consider having them also run most of the river trade because they can navigate the water naturally.

2008-12-28, 08:54 AM
Make them seetraveling Gypsies. Halfling Gypsies are always nice :)

2008-12-28, 01:04 PM
*nod* Not Gypsy in the sense of traveling-because-they're-frequently-kicked-out-of-their-homes, but it's a part of their culture to be mobile, to travel and trade. I was thinking a Japanese/Ancient Greek fusion could be interesting, blended with a little of the standard weirdness of D&D-land. I'm imagining a house with something like shoji screens, but done up in stained glass, where guests are welcomed and honored like royalty, and tales of famous tricksters and traders are as treasured as those of great adventurers, Odysseus-like.

The seedy side of this is that they aren't always very careful of what they sell, so long as there's a high demand for it, and they will do their damnedest to both avoid any restrictions on what they sell and protect the fact that *they* are the ones who sell it, exclusively.

I think the one thing that can get the settled orcs and the humans who live across the river from them to work together is the projects that keep the end of their river from being accessible to the huge barges, instead of just the little boats.

2008-12-28, 01:11 PM
Personally, I would love to see Halfling Carthaginians. Taming elephants and whatnot. I think they were sea-faring as well.

2008-12-28, 01:18 PM
Nomadic halflings are interesting enough.

2008-12-28, 01:23 PM
D'oh. I was totally going to say Carthoginians. Punic War FTW.

Basically a rotting, once glorious-but-now-in-the-decline trading empire, but with a few flashes of true brilliance in it's higher orders. if only they couldstop the political infighting...

Big armies of exotic mercs, intrigue, trading, etc. etc.