We hope that by now you are getting into our weekly WFRP blog posts by C7 writer Ben Scerri. If you’ve missed any, you can catch up on our blog anytime. As always we would love to hear your feedback on our Facebook and Twitter pages. For now, let’s get stuck into blog number 6!
Hello, everyone! My name is Ben, and I’m here to discuss the most diminutive yet least disparageable (despite popular belief) Species currently available during Character Creation: the Halflings! There are a few misconceptions concerning Halflings online, and I’m here to clear these up. The focus today is the Size rules on page 341 of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Core rulebook. For many, what I discuss here will be obvious; but for some, it will come as a surprise. So, grab your best Rumster’s pie and settle into your comfy chair, and let’s talk Halflings!
All Halflings, at Character Creation, get the Small Talent (page 145). This means the Size rules in the Bestiary (page 341) apply to them. Given no other Species (currently…) start with Small, this means Halflings appear to be at a significant disadvantage to almost every Character and Creature they might meet, right?
Yes, being Small has its drawbacks (and we Maltese know all about height issues, trust you me) but it’s also a blessing in disguise… you just need to know how to think about it. To that end, I’m going to discuss each of the parts of the Small Trait, and what they mean for the mechanics and fiction of a Halfling Character.
Size Combat Modifiers
There are many modifiers a Character gets depending on size. If a Character is bigger than their opponent, they gain the Damaging Quality, multiply their damage by the number of steps, and all successful strikes activate the Deathblow special rule (page 160)! However, if a Character is smaller, they gain a +10 bonus to hit their opponent. One thing to note, here, is +10 to hit… Not ‘to hit in melee‘, but ANYWHERE!
By itself, this might not seem like such a big deal… until you remember that one of the best ways to get rid of Advantage is to shoot at someone, because they can take damage from an unopposed Test. Whilst a Halfling would certainly suffer greatly in melee, their size difference makes them an ideal sniper on the battlefield! Indeed, the State Army of Mootland is dominated by Halflings armed with slings and shortbows, largely because this is an area where they excel. So, if you are playing a Halfling, or you are a GM using Halfling NPCs, play to the strengths and arm the doughty fellows with appropriate ranged weapons.
Defending Against Big Creatures
When parrying big folk, you receive a penalty of –2 SL for each step your attacker is larger. This is another great reason why Halflings shouldn’t be looking to charge into combat against most enemies, but there’s more to it than that. Note the penalty isn’t applied to use of the Dodge Skill.
Again, this might not seem like much, but actually, it’s rather freeing. When an option is, essentially, closed to a Character — i.e. it’s a pointless choice to make, because it’s never going to work — then all the resources (the XP) that other Characters are spending on those choices are suddenly freed up for other things. So, whilst your Halfling may never be much of a fencer, or be known as Bullingham the Boxer, your Character is likely to have a higher Dodge than anyone else in the party, and that really pays off when you go up against really big guys like Ogres, Trolls, or worse. Your Character is prepared. The others are less likely to be.
Fear and Terror
Here’s where things really start to turn south for our intrepid Halfling Heroes: whenever they’re confronted with a Creature they perceive to be aggressive, they suffer from Fear or Terror (page 191), depending on its size. For Humans, Dwarfs, and Elves, this means the Halflings have to deal with Fear 1, contested by the Cool Skill.
Now, this is a big deal. Halflings can keep their distance — but they will likely be outrun by a Human, if they’re pursued, and will have to Test against gaining BrokenConditions in that event — but running isn’t really a solution. Fortunately, Halflings have a high Willpower (and thus, better Cool), so they have a good chance of resisting this Fear, but that’s never certain. Indeed, many Halflings will find themselves fleeing difficult combats at the most unfortunate times unless they are careful.
The real clincher to being succesful in combat requires not being confronted by a Creature you perceive as aggressive. In other words, keep away from the big folk, and the Psychology Tests to avoid Fear are never a problem. Facilitating this, Halflings start with access to Stealth, Perception, and Intuition, and you should seriously consider bumping these Skills. Reading the big folk, understanding their emotions, and keeping out of their way, is very literally a survival mechanism for the Halfling Species. They’ve evolved to keep out of the way of others and appear unassuming and unthreatening, because a showy Halfling is a stomped-on Halfling!
So, yes, Halflings suffer from Fear and Terror far more frequently than their bigger brethren… but they are very small (the shortest of the Species by a considerable margin — for all they are also the most rotund!). So, remember Halflings need to keep an eye out for danger to a much greater degree than their long-legged friends, and that they need to work together to bring down bigger enemies.
Moving in Combat
And, since we’re discussing combat, it’s worth noting that larger Creatures are able to move out of melee combat without having to Disengage from smaller opponent. This means that, even if your Halfling manages to become proficient in hand-to-hand combat, the Character will still never be the equal of their larger opponents. After all, the bigger folk can just move away without worry, pushing the smaller folk aside with relative ease! What’s more, other than Dwarfs, all the other Species have a higher Movement than Halflings, so should opponents flee, they often manage to escape.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, bigger is best when it comes to Opposed Strength Tests. Smaller creatures receive significant disadvantages when trying to use brute force against larger targets. However, like everything else, this rule shouldn’t be saying to you: ‘Try to perform an Opposed Strength Test and fail’, but rather ‘When a Human would normally perform an Opposed Strength Test, you have to think more creatively.’
Halflings, being disadvantaged and marginalised in the world, need to come up with more creative solutions to their problems. It’s obvious that a Halfling can’t grapple an opponent in combat and will be overpowered… but that just means they need a net, right? Or a trap…
Whilst this mechanic sounds like it’s for use by Creatures larger than Humans (like Dragons, for example) as they squash adventurers with impunity, because Halflings are Small, they’re at risk of being Stomped by just about everything they might encounter. Which means Stomp is another one of those Big-Folks-Have-It-All mechanics, which reinforces the need for a Halfling to get out from underfoot, as Humans with easily kick them aside (or perhaps punch), in addition to their normal attacks.
And finally, we come to the Wounds.
Halflings don’t add their Strength Bonus when calculating their Wounds, unlike Humans, Dwarfs, and Elves, which means they end up with (on average) 2 fewer Wounds than their companions. This isn’t so much of a problem — maybe one small hit more can be absorbed by bigger Characters. But a lot of people think that Average sized Creatures would deal twice their Damage to a Small Creature: this is not the case when using the full Size rules in WFRP. The Damage multiplication is based on the number of Size steps between the fighters. An Average Creature is only one step larger than a Small Creature, so their Damage is only multiplied by 1 (which means it is unchanged).
Considering all of the above comments, a Halfling caught in melee is in trouble and is very likely to be hurt badly… But a Halfling on the sidelines is unlikely to be the target of many enemies; perhaps only with Ranged weapons. Therefore, fewer Wounds (at the normal rate of Damage) is nothing to worry about…
Unless they have an Ogre, that is.
What Does All This Mean
All of this, together, should be painting a pretty clear picture: Halflings should probably avoid close combat. The trope of the sneaky, charming Halfling isn’t one of laziness, but rather, one of biological imperative. Halflings just can’t survive in the world of the big folk unless they are careful. So what would a life be like when everything you do you have to be wary of your size, and be careful of the world around you?
It doesn’t take much to consider what this would be like, and there are folks in the real world who can relate to these experiences…
As a Halfling, you need to stick close to other Halflings. They’re the only ones who really understand you, after all. As such, Halfling clannishness makes a lot of sense in practice. Massive families who live very close together, and who spend all their time in proximity, not only support each other socially, but also provide help when the big folk come calling.
Friend of the Big Folk
But a Halfling adventurer can’t stay at home all the time, so they need big folk — friends and allies — to have their backs. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Halflings are very good at making friends —they have the highest Fellowship of all the Species, and begin with Charm — and are swift to adopt the culture of others when living amongst them. In fact, the larger their companions, the friendlier Halflings seem to get. Halflings and Dwarfs may not get along very well, but Halflings and Humans are often firm friends, and Halflings and Ogres… Well, they are as thick as thieves!
A Culture of Sharing
Because Halflings live in such close proximity to their fellows, and have to rely on less from the outside world, they share everything they have… so much so that they don’t really have the same concept of ownership as the other Species. That’s why they get in trouble so often for ‘stealing’ things, when really they’re just borrowing them, with the full intention of giving them — sharing them — back with those they took them from, or, at the least, with those who need them.
It’s a Big (Old) World Out There
No one said being a Halfling was easy… Least of all the Halflings! But that shouldn’t be a deterrent to enjoying the Halfling experience. Halflings, just like Elves or Dwarfs, offer a completely different playing experience to a Human Character. If that’s not what you’re after, then naturally, the drawbacks of being a Halfling count against you. But if you embrace those differences, you can have a truly rewarding play experience!
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