Thursday, November 15, 2012

Breaking the limits: Halflings

The third and final installment in my series on modifying race-as-class demi-humans to use the same level scale as the human classes...I've saved the best for last.  I know, a whole lot of people don't agree with me, apparently including the acknowledged father of the game, E. Gary Gygax himself, but I've always had a big soft spot for these little guys.  Whatever the reasons for halflings being included in the game, and however grudgingly it was done, they've always been a part of my D&D.  Anyway, without further ado: The Halfling.

The Halfling class as written, Moldvay and Mentzer editions

Hit dice: d6
Armor: Any, may use shields
Weapons: Any of appropriate size
Special abilities: Hide in wilderness 90%, hide in dungeons 2 in 6, +1 bonus to hit with missile weapons, -2 bonus to AC against creatures larger than man-sized, better saving throws.
Base XP: 2,000
Maximum level: 8
Beyond max level: Attack Ranks allow the halfling to continue improving attack rolls, to a maximum equivalent of a Fighter of level 22-24.  Also gains the combat options for high level fighters, multiple attacks, and half damage from magic and breath weapons.

The halfling as written is pretty tough in a scrape, equal to a fighter in ability to hit opponents, and with hit points about equal to a cleric.  Damage potential is a little bit inferior due to the size restriction on the weapons available to the class, but even so halflings have access to quite a few 1d6 weapons.  The halfling's forte, in my estimation, is not his ability to dish out damage, however, but his ability to avoid harm.  Halflings may wear any armor, and with Dexterity as a prime requisite, are more likely than most other classes to have an AC bonus, which makes them a little harder to hit, on average, than a human fighter.  Against some of the heaviest-hitting opponents - those larger than man-sized - they get a further bonus of -2.  Their ability to "disappear" in wilderness settings, and to a lesser extent in dungeons, is of course yet another way halflings can avoid harm.  At high levels, they receive both the dwarf's extra resistance to magic and the elf's resistance to dragon breath.

The Halfling, revised

The Halfling class really isn't too badly in need of toning down, but it could match its literary origins a little better, specifically in the area of fighting ability.  I'd definitely use the Cleric/Thief combat table progression rather than Fighter for a race which is rarely or never depicted with strong martial leanings. This helps prevent the humble Halfling from overtaking the Dwarf and Elf (both of which have higher XP requirements) in combat prowess.

The Halfling's stealth abilities, particularly outdoors, don't leave much room for improvement as the character gains experience.  Since we've slowed the class's combat progression, it makes sense that halfling characters should have some other improvements to look forward to as they level up, so I've adjusted the beginning chances to 50% to hide in wilderness and 30% in dungeons, with incremental improvement as the character gains levels. Tolkien's hobbits are prominently described as being exceptionally quiet of movement, so it makes sense that the Halfling class should have the ability to Move Silently as a thief of equal level as well, penalized by -20% if the character wears medium armor (chain, scale) and -40% for heavy armor (banded, plate.)

What we end up with is a class that has some of the Thief's stealth capability, without intruding into the province of lock-picking, trap disarming, or backstabbing, and some of the Fighter's capability in combat without rivaling its damage potential or overall competence in battle.  The strengths of the Halfling class are evasion and avoidance, making it distinct from both of those classes.

Higher levels

Beyond 8th level (the halfling's last hit die), a halfling gains 1 hp per level.  I don't think the Fighter combat options are all that appropriate to the class, so instead I've added a couple abilities that build  upon the Halfling's role as a master of avoidance and evasion.  Fortunately there's no need to create a whole new XP table for the Halfling; at low levels it's identical to the Fighter table, and so the Fighter table will serve perfectly well all the way to level 36.  Thus, only levels in which the Halfling gains or improves abilities are detailed in the table below.  Hiding skills are standardized to use d% for both wilderness and dungeon.

Level                           Abilities                                       Hiding:  Wilderness#    Dungeon#
1                   -2 AC bonus vs. large, +1 to hit with missiles              50%              30%
2                                                                                                  55%              32%
3                                                                                                  60%              35%
4                                                                                                  64%              37%
5                                                                                                  68%              39%
6                                                                                                  72%              41%
7                                                                                                  76%              43%
8                   +2 to hit with missiles                                               80%             45%
9                                                                                                   84%             47%
10                 Half damage from magic, save for 1/4                          88%             49%
11                                                                                                  91%             50%
12                 Evasion*, Goad**                                                        93%             51%
13                                                                                                  95%             52%
14                 -3 AC bonus vs. large opponents                                  97%            53%
15                                                                                                   98%            54%
16                                                                                                   99%            55%
18                 Half damage from dragon breath, save for 1/4
24                 Two attacks per round@
27                 -4 AC bonus vs. large opponents
30                 +3 to hit with missiles
33                 +4 to hit with missiles
36                 -5 AC bonus vs. large opponents

* The halfling foregoes all attacks and spends the round evading the attacks of opponents.  All attacks against the character are at -4 to hit.  This does stack with the usual bonuses against creatures larger than man-sized.

** Rather than attacking with his or her own weapon, the halfling attempts to turn a large opponent's strength against it by getting so close to the opponent as to make any attack against the halfling risk hitting the attacker itself instead.  The halfling rolls an unmodified attack vs. AC 5 to get close to a vulnerable spot and maintain a position there.  This could be actually clinging to the opponent, or simply darting in and sheltering beneath its bulk, so close that it can't get a clear swing in.  Each attack directed at the halfling, whether by the primary opponent or another, is made at a penalty of -2.  If the halfling is hit, he takes normal damage, and is dislodged from his position, ending the Goad maneuver.  On a miss, a new attack is rolled with no penalty against the primary opponent, causing full damage to the opponent if it hits.  The Goad continues until the halfling is hit, makes a direct attack, or moves away from the opponent.   

For example, a halfling fighting two giants uses a Goad maneuver and latches herself onto one's thigh.  It foolishly swings its club at her and misses, so it must roll again against its own AC.  It hits and damages itself.  Its partner also swings at the pesky halfling and misses, thus the second giant ends up attacking the first as well.  During the next round, the first giant lands a successful attack on the halfling, so her Goad is ended, and the second giant may attack her normally.

If the opponent does not attempt to attack the halfling before the halfling's next combat action, the halfling may attack with a +4 bonus due to its advantageous position.  Note that a smart opponent may minimize the risk to itself by using grappling attacks to grab the offending halfling rather than swinging deadly weapons dangerously near its own body.

# Maximum hiding ability is reached at level 16.

@ Multiple attacks may be applied to sling, short bow, and thrown missiles as well as melee attacks.

Saving throws

Halfling saving throws are identical to those of the Dwarf class.  Suggestions for handling high level Halfling saves are the same as for Dwarves, here