Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dr. Half-love, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the halfling

Back when I first got the Mentzer Basic Set for my 11th birthday, I still hadn't read The Hobbit or LotR.  None of my friends had, either.  And Elmore's art really played a big part in how we viewed the Halfling.

OK, not so bad here.  The chubby Halfling is complaining to the cute Elf chick about something the Dwarf obviously did but is pretending he didn't.  But the other images of Halflings in the set are of one running from a big, shadowy monster, and of one getting put to sleep by a Magic-User (probably Bargle).

We also had all read Dungeon of Dread, the first Endless Quest book, where wimpy and cowardly Laurus the Halfling is the hero Caric's sidekick.

So we didn't have the most heroic image of Halflings in our early games.  And they tended to be used as the butt of jokes.

One summer vacation day, our library was playing the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit in the background while they had some other activities going on.  So I saw parts of it, between checking out the books on Bigfoot or reading compilations of Garfield comics.  I don't remember much, other than it was on, and the blue elves were freaky.

After a few years, one guy I knew but didn't hang out with so much (Killingmachine spent more time with him) named Bryce had read The Hobbit and LotR, while I had gotten into the Dragonlance books (the original Chronicles trilogy was a step above quite a bit of the fantasy drivel available at the public library that I was scarfing up).  We had a debate once about the merits of the two, even though I had no idea what Tolkien was really about.  It starred Hobbits, who are Halflings, and we all knew how lame they were from D&D.

Then George Lucas came out with Willow.  It looked like a kick-ass fantasy movie, but it was called such a girly name and the main character was a Halfling.  Of course, eventually I saw it, and it was a fairly kickass movie, even though it was about a Halfling.  Madmartigan made up for that.

In high school, Killingmachine read The Hobbit in his English class.  He told me there was actually some good stuff in it, such as the Mirkwood spiders, Gollum, and Smaug.  That got me to read The Fellowship of the Ring, and it also had some good stuff in it.  Ringwraiths, barrow wights, killer trees, goblins/orcs, a Balrog, more Gollum!  Great stuff!  Maybe I'd been wrong about Bryce.  (insert Afterschool Special style lesson learned moment here).

About the same time, I rolled up a character with a 3 Int, and an 18 Dex.  He had a high enough Con, so I made him a Halfling.  Farley the Halfling.  He had amazing AC 0 - platemail plus Dex bonus, a short bow - with Dex and Halfling bonus to hit made him very accurate, and the ability to hide if need be.  Of course I played him as this happy retard who would always talk about how he once "shot deer like this" while picking off whatever targets he was against.  No matter how many orcs, trolls, dragons or vampires he helped slay, it was always that deer he was proudest of.  Dumb as a brick, but friendly and helpful (in his oft mistaken way).  I realized that the Halfling didn't suck, and could be quite fun to play.

Since then, I've played a few here and there.  They're still not my favorite Classic D&D class, or my favorite AD&D race, but I do still get an idea for a fun Halfling every now and then and have at it.  I'm currently playing one in an online RPOL game, and so far he's been pretty fun to play as well. 

Long story short, I'm really looking forward to the Peter Jackson Hobbit movies.  My son, however, wanted to watch the Rankin-Bass Hobbit with me yesterday, but about the time they got to Rivendell he got bored, ran into the bedroom, and called me to come play with the dragon toys with him.  Well, he's only 3.  He'll learn!


  1. Dude, halflings are one of the best races in all of AD&D. In my group, we refer to them as the master race. Of course, we were half-heartedly joking, but in truth, they can really be badasses. I ran through a Night Below campaign as a player with a halfling fighter/thief dart master, and he was, by far, the best fighter in the group. Honestly, they are my favorite race to play, and in the hands of a munchkin, my least favorite to DM, because a lot of their bonuses are ridiculous. Fortunately most munchkins I've ever played with don't play halflings because they don't know how to build an awesome halfling character and overlook them in the game because of what they are.

  2. Halflings are by far my favorite race to play in any game. Since most people write them off, I tend to play them as little guys with something to prove. They know they are baddass, they just have to show it to everyone else.

  3. Halflings are my favorite race. So much so that people say I personally live in a Hobbit Hole. But I digress. The 3 Int halfling story is great. I could not help but think of the Tom Cullen from The Stand who says M-O-O-N that spells truck.

  4. I totally agree with you about Laurus from Dungeon of Dread. I think that he was the one who gave halflings a bad reputation among our little group when we first started playing D&D.

    Farley really helped erase the damage that Laurus had done though because now when I think of halflings, Farley is the one that pops in my mind first. Who knows? He might have been just as cool of a character if he was a big dumb fighter, but I'm glad he ended up being a halfling.

  5. Yeah, it's funny how our characters with "3" ability scores, Caric of the 3 Charisma, and Farley of the 3 Intelligence, really were memorable and fun characters.

    One of the reasons I knew I'd finished with 3E/3.5 was the whole subculture in the game of gamers complaining that they had scores of 8! "Oh no, I'll have a -1 penalty to some skill I likely won't ever use! This character is unplayable!"

    Granted, there aren't many like that, but they all sure seemed to congregate on the Wizards message boards back then.

  6. really enjoyed the Mentzer artwork... it took me a while to warm to 1/2lings too... don't like 'em much in my DDO (except they breakdance when you /dance)

    super-cute elf chick... mwaaaaaa

    i think the last 1/2ling i had sported "Shredder" (ala TMNT) gauntlet/vambraces so he had ultimate cool points to my jr. high brain.

    (this is Jeremy)