Subj: Halflings are the Mexicans of fantasy gaming
DISclaimer: I would like to preemptively apologize to all Mexicans and non-Mexican halflings on this forum. No insult or degradation of character is intended. Enjoy!
Every few years it seems like there's an all new comprehensive supplement for running D&D games within the Waterdeep setting of Forgotten Realms. This re-release is always "updated with all new information to DM the most complete and exciting urban fantasy campaign setting" or some bullshit like that. I own the first Waterdeep supplement. It was a pretty comprehensive supplement to begin with, especially at the time it came out - the mid 80s. It details how the city was divided into sections, each ward had a particular theme of architecture and business. The city itself, if one is to believe the scale of the map, is three times the size of Manhattan.
So a new book is coming out. I think its already been released actually, but since I don’t really care about it I don’t really know. And I looked at a picture for the upcoming book recently. It shows the open lord of the city, with some elf who is probably a significant character and a dragon, overlooking the city from his castle. It got me thinking. The immediacy of that image just kind of immersed me into the idea of a fantasy city. I recently watched Lord of the Rings again and I had halflings on the brain because of it. So I was thinking, if a city like Waterdeep really existed, with all of those different fantasy races mixed together how would they really adapt. The truth is: they wouldn't. The same racism and intolerance that exists in our world would be there in Waterdeep too.
Now perhaps Waterdeep could be considered a "good" city, the place is a hotbed of liberalism or at the very least political-correctness. Waterdeep is made up of many ethnicities and was, like America, built by them. People are free in Waterdeep and the laws of the city, which are explicitly written out in the very first supplement, do not imply a draconian or conservative ruler ship. I know there's a whole backstory to the secret lords of Waterdeep, but our own world has conspiracies about the oil companies and the military-industrial complex controlling the government, and I don’t want to touch on that aspect because it frankly has nothing to do with my point, which is: Halflings are the migrant workers (i.e. Mexicans) of Waterdeep.
There's a throwaway line in almost every gaming supplement I have about halflings. Its almost a cliché. Halflings always make up between 10 to 40% of fantasy cities, but they remain hidden or segregate themselves from everyone else. They live in the hills surrounding town or stay in a particular backwater of the city layout. They're thrown in because halflings are a character option, so you need to give players who make halflings a special section of town to go in that they can feel is emblematic of their character. However, few authors pan these out and delve into the halfling politics because, let's face it, halflings were invented by Tolkien and everybody is just ripping him off.
If those fantasy cities really existed, halflings would take all of the menial labor jobs at half the price. They would stay in their section of the city, smoking weed and drinking ale. Some humans would come to resent them. Some humans would victimize the halflings. And some humans would feel they need special privileges because of their stature. The debate in our country about Mexican immigrants coming to this country and taking over jobs leaving the American people without jobs would be mirrored in these fantasy cities, where hundreds of halflings just deposit themselves along the outskirts of town and in the backalleys of the metropolises, and scrounge off of the humans and elves. Sort of like gypsies.
Now think of every immigration story you read in the newspapers or hear on the news. President Bush ‘s proposal is to allow millions of foreign workers legal status in the United States for three years. Haitian refugees refused admission to America by Clinton. Illegal aliens dying from heatstroke while being smuggled across the border in a semi trailer. Now think of all of these immigrants as halflings.
Can you imagine a villain who uses the halfling community as a scapegoat to bolster his image in local politics? *cough*cough*Jesse Jackson*cough
Can you imagine the next major villain of a campaign being some guy who got laid off from work because a halfling could do his job just as well for half the price, so he dived into local politics and worked his way up to a significant position so he could create a movement to expel halflings from the city?
How about the halfling equivalent of Hitler? Somebody who invades a region of a gameworld and starts systematically rounding up all of the halflings and methodically exterminating them. What could motivate somebody to do that? Do the halflings have the secret to some great mythical weapon? Is a halfling destined to destroy the world? Or did this villain get turned down for a date when he was 20 by a halfling whom he had a fetishistic crush on?
Please Note: I'd just happened to cut and paste this (and save it as a Private entry) on the off-chance that the Moderators at roleplayers would take it down. Which they did, so I fixed up the formatting. Please direct any critiques to nerdwerds (since I've no clue if he/she will ever read this, so commenting here'd be rather moot).