On Athas, Halflings aren't amiable riverfolk; they're xenophobic headhunters and cannibals who hunt and kill trespassers in their mountain forests.
Beyond the Ringing Mountains are jungles that flourish in rains that never reach the Tablelands or the Sea of Silt. There life is abundant, the foliage thick and untamed. The undisputed rulers of these jungles are the halflings.
A wiry halfling is a very short humanoid, standing no more than 3 1/2 feet in height. They are muscled and proportioned like humans, but they have the faces of wise and beautiful children. Halflings live to be as much as 120 years old, but once they reach adulthood, their features never succumb to their years— it's very difficult for an outsider to determine a given halfling's age. A halfling weighs 50 to 60 pounds and is virtually always in peak physical condition.
Halflings possess a great deal of racial unity. Though divided politically into separate villages and communities, halflings have great respect for their race as a whole. Political differences between them are settled wherever possible peaceably, through ritual and custom, most often under the direction of their clerical leaders, the Shaman Witch Doctors. On a personal level, halflings relate very well to one another, well enough to have built a considerable culture rich in art, song, and other expressive communication. However, they tend to rely heavily on their culture for communication, a culture that both parties in a conversation are assumed to understand. It is difficult for a halfling to compensate in conversation for a listener who isn't intimately familiar with halfling culture, and as such they easily become frustrated with outsiders. Depending upon how "official" a meeting is, outsiders often have to take great pains to learn local customs merely to communicate with the halflings in question. Of course, halflings who have travelled widely outside their traditional jungle home have a much greater tolerance of those with a "lack'' of halfling culture; so much so that they can communicate easily and without frustration.
The wiry halflings live in shamanistic tribes in the Forest Ridge. Most Halflings are very xenophobic and vicious cannibals. Rarely will Halflings leave their tribes of their own accord. Those in city-states are usually slaves.
Halfling culture is fabulously diverse, but difficult for other races to comprehend. A complete history of their culture, if such a thing existed, would speak volume upon volume of complex social change, inspirational clerical leaders, and in-depth personal studies of the halfling and his duty to his jungle home. Conspicuous in their absence would be references to great wars of conquest or tremendous monetary wealth —the yardsticks by which other races measure cultural success. Halfling culture cares for the individual's inward being, his identity and spiritual unity with his race and environment. Their culture does not provide for more traditional values, and vices such as greed and avarice are particularly discouraged.
Oddly, the richness of the land may be disturbed and examined, even used for a halfling's own gain. However, those riches belong to the land and, in the mind of the halfling, should never be moved away. For instance, nature intended a spring to bring water only to a certain area. To move the water through irrigation to some other area is not what nature had in mind. Similarly, an archaeological find in the jungle that yields a great pile of gold and metals is an event that shouldn't be tampered with—the gold might be used to raise a spectacular series of clerical buildings on the spot, but it should not be carted off to some other location.
The Common Tongue (2nd Edition)
Halflings speak Halfing, their own language and they do not speak common tongue. It is strongly recommended, however, that player character halflings use one of their proficiency slots to obtain the common tongue.
Halfling characters have the same high resistance to magic, resistance to poisons, talent with slings and thrown weapons, and bonuses to surprise opponents that are described in the Player's Handbook. No halflings have infravision.
Due to their small size, halfling characters subtract two from their initial Strength score and one from their initial Constitution score. Also, their introverted nature means they subtract one from their initial Charisma score. However, halflings are possessed of tremendous speed and agility, and so add two points to their initial Dexterity score. Finally, their pious unity with their race and their jungle environment grants them an additional two points to their initial Wisdom score.
As mentioned in the Player's Handbook, halflings with a Strength score of 18 never roll for exceptional strength—while they may be quite strong, their small size precludes them attaining the muscle mass or leverage to apply tremendous strength.
Halflings are very comfortable when in their own groups. While not afraid to adventure on their own among other races, they tend to have a difficult time adjusting to other customs and points of view. However, being generally open-minded, rather than becoming abrasive or combative, halflings tend to be curious and, at times, utterly confused by the behavior of others.
To quell their own confusion, their curiosity demands that they attempt to learn many of the customs of those they confront on the outside world. This is not to say that a halfling character will adopt these customs. On the contrary, they will almost certainly not, but a wide variety of experience is encouraged by the clerical teachings of halfling Witch Doctors —they see the customs of others as no threat to their own and as a welcome chance to learn through a different point of view.
The accomplishments that are normally held in high esteem by other races are completely alien to halflings. For example, tremendous booty from an adventure might tantalize other races, but a halfling would, instead, be concerned with how his part in the adventure will help advance halfling culture, his own knowledge or inner well-being—the treasure would not be a consideration for the halfling.
Also, whereas many other races will think less of halflings because of their small size, they quite honestly see great bulk as a drawback in others. They are usually prepared to respond to short' comments with their own philosophical views on the virtue of stealth, speed, etc.
When among others of his kind, a halfling will never cross or lie to his brethren. They will help each other in times of need, regardless of danger.
The notes given on roleplaying each race are also very important, since a character earns additional individual experience point awards when played according to these racial descriptions.
- Dark Sun Boxed Set. 2nd Edition. TSR Inc.
- Fury of the Wastewalker. Adventure. Wizards of the Coast, by Nicholas K. Tulach.