Of all of the races in the world, few have been met with such consistent persecution as the halflings. They have been downtrodden and enslaved throughout history, often simply because of their small stature and inability to fight back against the ‘tallfolk’ (elves, men, and other non-halflings). This has left the race perpetually wary of others, and without a place to call home. Halflings have come to rely on their ability to go unnoticed and unseen to get by.
Halflings originally lived on the island now called Westmere in the Bay of the Moon. Their society was peaceful and primarily agricultural. As sailing technology developed on the Vanadian mainland, halflings quickly came into contact with other races, and welcomed them happily as trading partners, exporting crafts and agricultural goods in exchange for the more technologically advanced elven goods.
At some point during the rise of the Second Elvish Empire, the colony of Illuriel was founded on Westmere by the elves. The elves and halflings shared the island peacefully for many years, but during the empire’s decline, border skirmishes and the threat of internal rebellion meant that there was a sudden need for cheap labor to maintain the empire’s farms and industries while many of its citizens took up arms. The empire looked to Westmere to fill that need. They attacked the native halfling settlements and forced many halflings into slavery, shipping them back to the mainland to work on farms, or as assistants to smiths to aid in the war effort. Their smaller size made them less efficient as manual laborers, but much easier to keep in check than humans or other prisoners of war.
When the empire fell, most halflings were left with nowhere to go. Much of the isle of Westmere had been colonized by the elves, and their homes overtaken and destroyed. Some remained there or returned, but many more moved to the continent to seek their fortunes. Some stayed in cities and villages and tried to fit in to elvish or human society, while others, distrustful of the ‘tallfolk’ moved out into the country in roaming bands of traders and artisans.
Most halflings still suffer from the prejudice that fell upon them during their time in slavery, and it’s extremely common for the more monstrous races (goblinoids, gnolls, kobolds, etc.) to keep halflings as slaves even today.
Halflings stand just under three and a half feet tall and typically have slim frames, with proportions that tend toward those of human children (larger head, eyes, hands, etc.). They tend to live twenty to thirty years longer than humans, with rare cases of some halflings living to be up to one hundred and twenty years old. Their hair and skin tones vary, but dark or light, they tend toward more muted colors than other races.
Halfling men often sport large sideburns, sometimes mustaches as well, but full beards or goatees are exceedingly rare. Halfling hair is usually wavy or curly, and common hairstyles favor almost shoulder length hair for men and longer hair for women, with female halflings typically keeping their hair in braids. Halfling traditional dress tends toward dull blues, greens and browns, with several layers, shawls, bandanas, and lots of pockets. Most halflings living together with other races adopt the style of dress common to the culture around them, albeit in smaller sizes.
Halflings, both men and women, also tend to have particularly hairy feet. Traditionally halflings didn’t wear shoes, but those dwelling in the city or trying to assimilate into imperial culture often do.
Halflings value home, hearth, and community above all else. Either in nomadic bands of traders and trappers in the wilderness or in small enclaves within cities or towns, the most important thing to your average halfling is that at the end of the day they and their families are safe.
In many ways, halfling culture revolves around telling stories, both religious parables and folk tales. The focus of these tales is often how a seemingly disadvantaged protagonist is able to overcome adversity through their own quick thinking. Halflings also are known for their extravagant parties and dinners, their appreciation for good food and comfortable furniture, and their penchant for games of skill and dexterity such as horseshoes and stone skipping competitions.
What’s left of their traditional way of life, from before their ancestral home on the island of Westmere was invaded by the Second Imperium, is feverishly protected by halfling elders. Many traditionalists look down on those halflings that try to assimilate with other cultures. Those halfllings who live in isolated communities tend to view themselves as tougher and more self sufficient than those whole live together with other races. At best, they say, even those that do assimilate with humans and elves still aren’t treated as equals, but instead as childlike or diminutive, less able than members of other races. In general, those halflings who live in nomadic, rural, often isolated communities are more traditional, whereas those living amongst other cultures are more conformist.
To make up for their lack of physical size and strength, most halflings find employment either as tradesman or craftsmen, where their smaller statures wont hinder them. In fact, because of their smaller, more dextrous hands, halfling crafts are generally better made, and often renowned for their detail, especially their woodcarving. Halfling carvings and engravings tend to favor abstract designs with flowing, entwined lines and knots.
Halflings worship the deity Mask. City dwelling halflings are less likely to be religious than the isolationists, but despite their general ignorance of halfling tradition, still tend to worship Mask. Halflings also sometimes worship the imperial gods and participate in imperial religious ceremonies.
All halflings speak Elvish. The traditional halfling language is all but forgotten, only truly spoken these days by elders and priests, though most halflings know enough of it to pepper their speech with a few phrases and words, even if they’re not fluent.
Male Names: Alton, Ander, Cadwal, Finnegan, Heradoc, Kindal, Seelo, Urien, Wellby
Female Names: Blodwyn, Calia, Cora, Euphemia, Kithri, Lidda, Vairna, Verlyn
Clan Names: Barrelbrace, Bloombottle, Creekdrinker, Greengrass, Stoutfinger, Skybright, Woodweaver
Halflings who hail from cities or towns use the ‘Lightfoot Halfling’ statistics block from the player’s handbook. Halflings who grew up as part of nomadic isolationist halfling communities use the ‘Stout Halfling’ statistics block.