Small heroes have it rough. That’s because humans write the setting books, and humans tend to be a little taller than the halfling-standard 2 ft. 8 in. + 2d4 in. No matter how good of a fantasist you are, it is freaking hard to break out of that mindset. We assume that our secondary worlds are built along the same lines as our own, and the primary world is built to accomodate humans.

Consider this: Have you ever seen a setting where halflings were the dominant race? How about gnomes? I wrote a whole continent chapter about a goblin empire a few years back, and now that I think back on the project, I’m pretty sure I neglected to mention the scale of architecture in Goblinvania. (In my defense, I was more interested in writing about the  dieselpunk orc air force and the ogre motorcycle gangs.)

Even though we all love watching Luke bump his head in Yoda’s hut and Gandalf bump his head on Bilbo’s chandelier, it’s rare to get the same effect at the table. I think it has something to do with the difference between a visual medium like film and the verbal nature of TRPGs. We assume that our characters can go wherever we want. We gloss over the need for high chairs in the local pub or the difficulties of getting the ogre barbarian into the witch’s cottage as an ease-of-play thing. And because we don’t have to visualize those interactions, we’re able to dismiss them without much thought. The size of the heroes only becomes an issue in set piece encounters, like cramped tunnel fights or the wonderful Alice in Wonderland mushroom dungeon in Out of the Abyss. Meanwhile I’m left to imagine cosmopolitan settings like Dinotopia, wondering whether a game could be better served by that sort of shift in scale.

So what do you say? Do you guys think that size differences could stand a little extra emphasis in your games? Or do you think glossing over that detail for ease of play is truly best practice? Let’s hear it in the comments!


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