Yesterday I sketched out a vision of Hobbits/Halflings that I’m working on for an upcoming campaign. I’d kick around a few example communities since everyone seems pretty into the idea. (For you tl;dr types, there’s a normal shire, a troop of zombie hunters and a family of halfling illuminati.)
There are three key ideas in yesterday’s post:
Halflings are very conformist (lawful), in the way Japanese culture can be conformist but maybe more intense than that.
They reproduce quickly and are experts at cultivating the land. They survive largely because their numbers are so great.
Halfling communities are defined by charters, documents that spell out in great detail how that community will be run. It governs both overall goals and everyday matters.
With that in mind, for those of you who like longer pieces, here are a few halfling communities you can drop in your game.
Wormgrunters of Baronswood Shire
Forty years past, the Baron’s Wood was a game forest reserved for the Donhellee Clan. When the Baron and his men were away at war, two halfling families formerly of Dunwill moved into the forest.
Today, the Baronswood Shire is home to twenty thousand halflings and their livestock, cats, dogs and worms. The residents call themselves “wormgrunters” after their expertise in vermiculture. The shire exports their best worms to other halfling settlements and sells the leftovers to the local humans. Their crop rotation, irrigation and waste management plans are all support this industry. It is rumored that they have managed to grow worms large enough to swallow a fully grown human.
Wormgrunters have lived in peace with their human neighbors since the treaty of Donhelleeton was signed in the year 22 AS (after settling). This treaty ended a bloody ten-year struggle between the local human population (2,400) and the newly settled ‘grunters. Over 1,500 acres of the Donhellee’s private wood were sold to the halflings in exchange for a semi-annual payment of crops and an agreement to cap the ‘grunter population at eight hundred. The treaty was amended three times, exchanging more land and higher population limits for more frequent payments of food and stronger wine to a dwindling but content human population. There are now three hundred humans spread across Donhellee. Many families left, despite the benefits of this agreement, because the birth rate suddenly dropped. Some humans claimed the halfling wines were to blame. Others said halfling witches had cursed them. In actuality, halflings give off small amounts of pheromones that somehow block fertilization in other races (another reason why there are no half-halflings).
The Wormgrunter’s charter establishes an elected mayoralty which is passed in turn between the heads of eight families (no one would be so rude as to not vote for the candidate whose turn it is). Marriages are in four, eight, twelve and twenty year terms, renewable by both parties provided the required number of children are birthed during the fourth and/or eleventh month of designated years during the contract. Property is owned by the family and dwellings are rotated every two years. Sewer maintenance duties are rotated between age groups on a monthly basis.
If the community can be said to have one problem, it is pipeweed. The youngest generation is not smoking enough of it to maintain a trade balance with the Leafroller’s of Southhill. There is no known reason for the decrease in smoking, and in fact pouches of the leaf bear labels touting the benefits of a relaxed mind and increased appetite that comes from a good pipe. Since there is no charter or treaty that requires pipeweed consumption, the mayor is at a loss and has considered consulting an oracle or human wizard.
The Wormgrunters trace their heritage to the Beatlewranglers of the southern continent and have sent out their own settlers four times. Two settlements are successful, one died in route to the eastern shore and one headed north has disappeared.
The Stakers are a small community of halflings living in the mountains bordering between Nordland and Sudland. Their charter is only a few years old, having been passed by a vote less than three years ago under the leadership of the late Borro Macehand. The Stakers are a lost caravan of Wormgrunters, who left the comfortable life in Barronswood ten years ago heading north toward Nordland.
The caravan was stuck in a snowstorm when a pack of ghouls fell upon them. After a week of terror, Borro and the surviving forty settlers managed to escape on improvised sleds. Having lost their families and their charter, Borro and his sister Brandy wrote a new charter with destruction of the undead its ultimate goal. Borro Macehand was pulled to pieces by a pack of wights. His sister, Brandy Wightburner is the Mother-General.
The Staker Charter emphasizes combat readiness, mobility, scientific study of the undead, rapid procreation and a decentralized command, allowing groups to escape and re-establish the charter when necessary. While the charter is written, it is also memorized by all children just in case.
The first milestone in the charter is the establishment of a base of operations, such as a fortress. Since the number of undead in the area has been growing steadily, the Stakers had better hurry.
Walkers are a secretive halfling group, more like a conspiracy than a settlement. They live in “regular” halfling communities, having infiltrated posing as distant cousins or settlers from related communities. They live as normal halflings, often quite successful and admired, but all the time they are working under the charter of the Walkers. Walkers have their own language, writing, rituals, and secret handshakes. Some dabble in the occult or go off on adventures to gain arcane artifacts or knowledge.
Most Walkers have a simple role, such as skimming funds out of municipal budgets, sabotaging certain crops in crucial years or quietly disposing of particular citizens. A smart Walker might rise to a position of importance, such as vice-mayor, charter-holder or even chancellor of a region (multiple communities). They receive instructions from merchants who speak in code, or in innocuous-looking letters from distant kin.
It is a rare elder who knows anything about the Walkers. Those that do have a hard time convincing anyone they are a real threat. If Walkers do live in the community, they will try to make the suspicious halfling paranoid, until he is committed or is driven out. Occasionally, a Walker will not be able to take the pressure that comes from having any sort of secret from the community, and working at cross-purposes takes its toll. If they begin spilling Walker secrets, they are usually found hanging from a tree or at the bottom of a well, clearly a poor, mad soul.
The Walker’s ultimate goal and the identity of its leadership should be decided by the DM. Goals should be nasty and long-term (but perhaps near key milestones or close to fruition) and should involve terrible consequences for halfling and human alike. One suggested short-term goal is the collapse of the pipe-weed market.
There. I hope this inspired someone. If you like this series, check out the hit job I did on elves last month.