Abridged History of the 10th Age
The halflings are so-called due to their minor stature; the First Men dubbed them puolemais, meaning half-men. However, the halflings are more closely related to gnomes or dwarves than men. Where or whence they came from is unknown – they do not appear in any of the myths of the elder ages, and only seem to surface in the Fifth Age, after the hero Machnanen stumbled upon the place known as Greenfield while hunting giants in the northern mountains.
From that day on, the Greenfield halflings began to expand, wandering the world. They are a curious people, often endowed with a powerful desire to travel and explore. They have developed the strange habit of dwelling in hills and holes much like forest gnomes. Unlike forest gnomes, their towns are well-organized and guarded.
Halflings love nothing more than a good joke or a well-told riddle. They also love gatherings, festivals, and well-prepared food. It is said that the art of spicing food was invented by elves but perfected by halflings.
Halflings are matriarchal in social order, and trace family lines down through their mothers. Land passes first to women and then to men and the prolific halfling lines are governed by an aged matrona. While men are not second class citizens, there is a slight gender bias against them.
The halflings have a complex and storied mythology concerning the Greenfield (also called the Greensward) and enjoy recounting it to outsiders. As the descendants of Leesha Roseheart they lived amongst the sward; according to halfling astrologers the earliest of their legends can be traced back to the middle of the Third Age.
Their legend-cycles relate hundreds of years of sacred history in the sward; there the halflings strove against encroaching gnolls, giants, and hobgoblins. After emerging into the world during the Fifth Age, the halfling folk quickly became fond of wandering. IT is said that before the War of Three Kingdoms (in the Fifth or Dust Age) there were no halflings south of the great River Bardaele but after the end of that war they could be seen in every land ever settled by men.
Halflings are creatures of contradiction: they are possessed of a great desire for conservation. Their towns are generally peaceful, quiet places in touch with the agrarian lifestyle in which they reproduce the paradise of the Sward. On the other hand, however, they are also possessed of powerful urges to see the wider world and to try their mettle amongst the dangers of Arune. It is thus often said that halflings are socially restrained but individually wild.
All halflings of Arune can communicate with each other, though each region has its own dialect of language. The mother-tongue of Kuilrede has developed into a myriad of regionally accented languages that are nevertheless kept close to ancient Kuilrede because the holy stories are always told in the most ancient tongue.
Divisions of the Halfling People
The halflings, who call themselves “mensen” after the old Kuilrede meaning “People of the meadow”, are divided into three general strains. These are the harvoet, sterk, and talsam. What group a halfling belongs to depends on their ancestry, dating all the way back to the original three divisions of the Greensward into central, north-eastern, and north-western regions.
The harvoet tend to have larger, hairer, feet and are the descendants of the peaceful agrarian folk of Harvoe, the central region of the Sward. It is often said amongst halflings that harvoet are the least adventuresome of all three halfling peoples.
RULES: Harvoet halflings may add +1 to any encounter check to see if the target is friendly or to change the target to friendly. Harvoet are genial and good-natured.
The sterk folk are descendant from the region of Sterkston at the edges of the Sward. Legends say that they spent many hours amongst the dwarves during the Fifth Age. Sterk kindred can sometimes see underground and often share some of the same uncanny abilities to determine grade as dwarves do.
RULES: A sterk halfling has a 15% chance to have infravision to 60’ and a further 30% chance to have infravision up to 30’. Only pure-blood sterklings can have 60’ infravision. In addition, they can determine grade with a 75% accuracy and direction underground half the time.
The talsam folk lived at the borders of Samwud in the Sward, where many elvish merchants and travelers passed through. This has led telsam to be slightly higher than other halfling folk, and to have a deep love of poetry, silver, and the moon. Talsam have similar uncanny abilities as elves to discover hidden things.
RULES: A talsam halfling can discover secret doors half the time, just like an elf can.