Saturday, October 18, 2014

Defining the OSR... Nah, Just Kidding, This One's about Halflings.

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Like this guy but shorter, less neckbeard.


On with the Show:

Halflings are quiet, introspective sorts not given to companionship.

Some scholars suspect that one to two percent of almost all human populations are comprised of halflings, not that most would notice this. Halfling communities, such as they are, are always influenced by the local human culture but remain far more pastoral and contemplative.

Halflings are humanness made small, self-limiting. Solitary walks and contemplative journaling are the very height of entertainment. They are like an entire race of Henry David Thoreaus.

Settlements often spread out across miles of quiet, wholesome countryside. Households are solitary affairs. Married couples keep separate bedrooms and interests. Spouses can go for days without seeing each other. Children move away from home as soon as they are able.

These homesteads take pride in being almost entirely self-reliant. Halflings tend to be masters of make-shift repairs and improvisation. Those few halflings with specialized skills, the type needed by their fellows, often consider their abilities a great but necessary burden.

Though, halflings are not entirely antisocial (else they’d be extinct instead of dwindling). Visiting friends and relatives of an evening is an acceptable and necessary part of the culture. It is then that halflings swap quiet conversations, finished journals, and look for companionable mates. The species must be continued after all; that drive is still in them, dulled though it may be.

Halflings rarely have more than one offspring and almost never more than two. The birth of a third child is a cause for celebration. It will result in the largest mass of individual halflings in a single place (and what is likely to be the single loudest event) in any generation. (Though it is extremely rare, human parents have been known to produce halfling offspring.)

On occasion a halfling will set out for a stroll, and simply never stop meandering. These halflings might be considered quite queer if other halflings really considered these wanderers at all.

“… Oh, have you seen Thimwald of late?”
“No, his house is empty. He had a well-made stove. I carted it off to my place when I saw it going to rust. He must have left.”
“Ah, I see. Well like I was saying, I was under that willow tree, the one Thim wrote about, last night. I’d been looking at the stars for some time when a thought occurred to me. We are much like these stars. Spinning and tilting slowly in fixed positions we can barely begin to comprehend…”

Do not take from this that halflings are some monolithic culture, secretly living the exact same way all across the globe. The traits mentioned above are fairly common to many halfling cultures, those or traits much like them.

For instance, there are places in the Far East where halflings live communally. They spend their lives in painfully close proximity; working, eating, and sleeping within a few feet of their fellows at all times. Mating is handled by lottery, and most of their days follow patterns set centuries beforehand. All the while, they attempt to achieve perfect solitude through meditation and introspection. They bide their whole lives trying to compose their own personal mantra.

In certain other times and sundry places, song, sculpture, lyric poetry, and many other art forms have been driving forces amongst halfling societies. Ancient chroniclers wrote of the aching beauty of halfling tragedies performed on the sacred days. Currently,  most professional ballet troupes will have a halfling or two in their midst.

But do try to remember this, too: not every halfling is the same. Their cultures tend to emphasize individual thought above all else. This has bred as many monsters as it has quiet poets. Let us not forget the blood wake left by the Little Emperor nor the Sapphic vice-laden beauty of the Pale Poet’s unforgettable verses and strange slavish cult.

Halflings are all around us, but you’re not likely to notice. Unless, of course, one of them wants you to, and that is not very likely.

Halflings are unchanged from LotFP standard.