Halfling (Dungeons & Dragons)

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Alignment Usually Neutral
Type Humanoid
Image Wizards.com image
Stats Open Game License stats
Publication history
Based on Hobbit

The halfling is a fictional race (with many subraces) found in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Halflings are similar to humans, but about half their size. The original Dungeons & Dragons included hobbits,[1] but later the game began using the name "halfling" as an alternative to "hobbit" for legal reasons.[citation needed]

Publication history[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

The hobbit first appeared as a player character class in the original 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons.[2][3]

In earlier editions of D&D, halflings are strongly inspired by Tolkien's hobbits (even referred to by that word frequently), being diminutive, chubby, furry-footed home-bodies with a penchant for dwelling in hollowed out hillsides and a racial talent for burglary.[4]

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition[edit]

The "halfling" appeared as a player character race in the original Player's Handbook (1978).[5][6] The halfling also appeared in the original Monster Manual (1977), which described the halfling subraces of hairfoot, stout, and tallfellow.[7] A number of halfling subraces were presented as character races in the original Unearthed Arcana (1985).[8]

Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

The halfling appeared as a character class in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1977, 1981, 1983), Companion Rules (1984), and Master Rules (1985).

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition[edit]

The halfling appeared as a character race in the second edition Player's Handbook (1989).[9] The hairfoot halfling, the stout halfling, and the tallfellow halfling also appeared in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989),[10] and Monstrous Manual (1993). The Athasian halfling for the Dark Sun setting first appeared in Dragon #173 (September 1991), and later appeared in the Dark Sun Monstrous Compendium Appendix II: Terrors Beyond Tyr (1995) and Dark Sun Campaign Setting, Expanded and Revised (1995). Several halfling sub-races were detailed as player character races in The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings (1993), including the Athasian halfling, the furchin (polar halfling).[11]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition[edit]

The halfling appeared as a character race in the third edition Player's Handbook (2000),[12] and in the 3.5 revised Player's Handbook[13] The lightfoot halfling, the deep halfling, and the tallfellow halfling appeared in the third edition Monster Manual (2000), and the 3.5 revised Monster Manual (2003). The jerren, a race related to halflings, appeared in the Book of Vile Darkness (2002). The lightfoot halfling, ghostwise halfling, and the strongheart halfling for the Forgotten Realms setting were detailed in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001), and in Races of Faerûn (2003).[14] The aquatic halfling, the arctic halfling, the desert halfling, the jungle halfling, the halfling paragon, and the water halfling were detailed in Unearthed Arcana (2004).

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition[edit]

The halfling appeared as a character race in the fourth edition Player's Handbook (2008) and the Essentials rulebook Heroes of the Fallen Lands. The halfling also appears in the fourth edition Monster Manual (2008).[15]

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition[edit]

The halfling was included as a player race in the 5th edition Player's Handbook (2014).[16] Two subraces were introduced with it: the lightfoot halfling and the stout halfling. The Player's Handbook also suggests using the statistics of the lightfoot halflings to stand in for the hairfeet halflings and tallfellow halflings of the Greyhawk campaign setting, as well as using the stout halflings to represent the strongheart halflings of the Forgotten Realms.


In the original 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there was a race of demi-humans known as hobbits that were very much like those found in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Tolkien estate did not appreciate the resemblance and threatened legal action against TSR, the makers of Dungeons & Dragons.[citation needed] TSR renamed the folk halflings, another word used by Tolkien for the race, but used much less often in the books.

Early Dungeons & Dragons halflings also seemed nearly identical to Tolkien's hobbits: They lived quiet lives in their homes away from adventure and, despite being well suited for the task of thievery, they seemingly would not accept a life of larceny. A very similar race, kender, appeared in the Dragonlance campaign that had a lifestyle much more suited to the thieves that most halfling player characters became[citation needed]. The game's Third Edition altered the halfling lifestyle to become more in line with how some players played the race: They became troublesome opportunists, nomadic wanderers, and seekers of wealth[original research?]. In short, they became more like the slender, childlike kender rather than the pudgy, homebody halflings they once were.


Halflings in Dungeons & Dragons have been further divided into various subraces:

  • Hairfoot halflings were the standard, "common" subrace of halflings in the game's earlier editions. Clearly derived from Tolkien's Harfoots, they most clearly resembled Middle-earth's hobbits, being a good-natured race of homebodies with fur-covered feet. With the advent of the game's Third Edition, they were replaced by lightfoot halflings.
  • Tallfellow halflings were based on Tolkien's Fallohides[citation needed]. They are taller than hairfoot or lightfoot halflings, with lighter hair and skin tone, and prefer to build their homes in woodlands. They have survived the change to Third Edition more or less intact.
  • Stout halflings were based on Tolkien's Stoors[citation needed]. Shorter but broader than hairfoot halflings, stouts make good craftsmen. In Third Edition they were renamed as deep halflings but have otherwise remained unchanged.
  • Furchin, or polar halflings, are the rarest of the subraces[citation needed]. They live in Arctic regions and can grow facial hair.
  • Lightfoot halflings are the standard halfling subrace of Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition gaming rules. They are more removed from Tolkien's halflings, being athletic and ambitious opportunists, although they retain their love of comfort and family. They differ visually from the stereotypical depiction of halfings; rather than having the thicker proportions normally associated with halfings or hobbits, they are slender and graceful in appearance, resembling a human gymnast in miniature.
  • Jerren are found in the third edition supplement "Book of Vile Darkness", described as brutal and chaotic halflings who acquired those traits by Vile magic during a war.[17]

Campaign settings[edit]

  • The third edition version of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting has done away with both tallfellows and stouts, replacing them with two completely original subraces.
    • One, the strongheart halflings, are a semi-nomadic people who move from town to town within their nation in the south of Faerûn. They are more martially-inclined than other halflings.
    • The other new subrace is the ghostwise halfling, who parted with their braveheart cousins after a war between the two kindreds. Ghostwise are savage and insular, rarely leaving their woodland homes, and have developed the ability to speak directly from mind-to-mind, without words.
  • The Dragonlance campaign set has a completely different race that fills the niche usually held by halflings, known as kender. They are completely immune to fear, even if magically generated. Also they have a very 'communal' outlook on property ownership. They are known to wander off while still holding, looking at, or even after pocketing an item that catches their fancy. They do not consider this stealing, but rather borrowing the item. Kender have a tendency to discard items for what they deem more valuable (what catches their eye more), at the time of acquiring a new item if they need more space in their pouches.
  • In Eberron, the most recently introduced D&D campaign world from 2004, halflings are even more removed from the Tolkien versions. In this world, halflings are a wilderness-loving barbarian race that uses domesticated dinosaurs as mounts. Although they are nomadic and clannish and thus viewed as barbarians by other races, these halflings are still adept at fitting in with civilized peoples when they leave their prairie homes. Some halflings give up their nomadic lifestyle to settle in human cities, but retain strong ties to their heritage.
  • In the Dark Sun setting, the wiry halflings seldom exceed 3½' in height and live in shaman-ruled settlements in the jungles beyond the mysterious Ringing Mountains.[18] Halflings are the oldest race on Athas. Most of them became barbaric cannibals, while a handful of them inhabited the Pristine Tower.


  1. ^ Gygax, Gary. "Gary Gygax (Interview)". TheOneRing.net. Retrieved 2008-10-07. 
  2. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)
  3. ^ Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, McFarland, p. 62, ISBN 078645895X 
  4. ^ Though some sources claim that "'Hobbit' had some precendent as a folkword borrowed from legends, Tolkien personified and developed these diminutive stalwarts extensively. They, and the name, are virtually unique to his works, and the halflings of both game systems draw substantial inspiration from them." Gygax, Gary (March 1985). "On the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on the D&D and AD&D games". The Dragon (95). pp. 12–13. 
  5. ^ Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  6. ^ Gygax, Gary (1978). Players Handbook. TSR. ISBN 0-935696-01-6. 
  7. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
  8. ^ Unearthed Arcana, by Gary Gygax, published 1985, ISBN 978-0-88038-084-3
  9. ^ Cook, David (1989). Player's Handbook. TSR. ISBN 0-88038-716-5. 
  10. ^ Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
  11. ^ Niles, Douglas. The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings (TSR, 1993)
  12. ^ Tweet, Jonathan; Cook, Monte; Williams, Skip (2000). Player's Handbook. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-1550-1. 
  13. ^ Tweet, Jonathan; Cook, Monte; Williams, Skip (2003) [2000]. Player's Handbook v.3.5. revised by Andy Collins. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 0-7869-2886-7. 
  14. ^ Boyd, Eric L.; Matt Forbeck; and James Jacobs. Races of Faerûn. Wizards of the Coast, 2003
  15. ^ Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
  16. ^ Player's Handbook. Wizards of the Coast. 2014. 
  17. ^ Cook, Monte (October 2002). "1". Book of Vile Darkness (Print (Hardback)). Wizards of the Coast, Inc. p. 192. ISBN 0-7869-2650-3. 
  18. ^ Swan, Rick (September 1992). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR (#185): 65–66.