Last Updated: April 25, 2022
Halflings are perhaps the most iconic small race in Dungeons and Dragons, dating back to its earliest editions. Their mechanics have changed as much as any race, but they have consistently remained a staple option for players who enjoy playing thieves, rogues, or other stealthy characters.
While halflings have few subraces, they have enough variety that they can easily succeed in a broad array of classes even without the custom origin rules. While their core Dexterity increase can limit them to Dexterity-based builds, Dexterity is a powerful ability score and almost any class can be built to fight using either Dexterity or a mental ability score.
The custom origin roles do a lot to open up the Halfling’s horizons, but the Lightfoot Halfling is still mostly pigeon-holed into rogue and other sneaky classes.
Fun fact: The Halfling was originally called the “Hobbit” all the way back in 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons until the Tolkien estate sent them a Cease and Desist letter. TSR was forced to hastily rename many iconic creatures which had been lifted from Middle Earth, including hobbits (halflings), balrogs (balor), and ents (treants), and those creatures have retained their replacement names since that momentus event.
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
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Halfling Classes (Customizable Origins)
This section assumes that you’re using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the next section.
The halfling brings very little to the Artificer beyond ability scores and Lucky. None of the halfling’s subraces add meaningful new capabilities, including the Mark of Healing. Stout is likely your best bet for front-line builds, and Ghostwise or Lightfoot may be appealing for stealthy armorer builds.
Being small means not using greataxes, but if you already planned to use a shield or go for Path of the Beast, that doesn’t really matter. Stout is your best option unless you’re planning to go for Bear Totem, in which case the damage resistance will be mostly redundant.
Bards make surprisingly few rolls compared to other characters, so Lucky is less useful than you’d hope. The Halfling’s subraces don’t offer anything especially helpful for the Bard, so as a whole there’s just not much here that makes a halfling bard effective.
Lotusden offers some Wisdom-based druid spellcasting that works well for the Cleric. Other halfling subraces don’t offer anything that’s especially useful for the Cleric.
Lotusden gives you some additional spellcasting. Ghostwise gives you telepathy that works while using Wild Shape. Otherwise there’s not a lot here.
With up to four attacks (before considering TWF or Action Surge), Lucky is a great asset for the Fighter. Stout is your most likely choice of subrace for the poison resistance.
With up to four attacks with Flurry of Blows, Lucky is very useful. If you’re building a sneaky monk, Ghostwise can be helpful, but remember that halflings don’t get Darkvision so you may want to go Way of Shadow so that you can cast Darkvision.
Lucky can be helpful on top of Aura of Protection, and the Stout Halfling’s resistance to poison is another great addition to the Paladin’s already impressive durability. Unfortunately, halfling subraces offer little that will help the Paladin actively do anything.
Without the Rogue’s Cunning Action, the Lightfoot Halfling’s Naturally Stealthy is considerably less impactful. If you want a stealthy build, Ghostiwse is probably the right choice.
The Lightfoot halfling is built to work with the Rogue’s Cunning Action, allowing you to hide behind an ally as a Bonus Action without worrying about real cover or a decent hiding place. That utility alone is difficult to match, but if you want to go another route, the Ghostwise Halfling’s telepathy is great for sneaking around.
The Halfling’s traits offer basically nothing that adds to the Sorcerer’s capabilities.
The combination of Lucky and Eldritch Blast makes the Warlock a good spellcasting option, but beyond that there’s nothing uniquely effective about a halfling warlock.
The Halfling’s traits offer basically nothing that adds to the Wizard’s capabilities.
If you’re using dragonmarks, a Mark of Healing wizard is a uniquely powerful combination because you have the overwhelmingly powerful wizard spell list plus crucial healing options normally reserved for clerics and druids.
Halfling Classes (Default Rules)
This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything or the updated version of the race published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
No Intelligence increase.
No Strength increase. If Rage wasn’t limited to Strength-based weapon attacks this could be doable, but currently that’s not an option.
A lightfoot halfling makes a fantastic bard, adding both Dexterity and Charisma, plus other traits like Lucky and Naturally Stealthy. With the right background you can pick up proficiencies to replace a rogue, easily serving your part as a Face, a Scout, and Support Caster with a very simple build.
The Ghostwise Halfling and the Lotusden Halfling both get a Wisdom increase, making clerics possible. For the Ghostwise Halfling your best bet is a trickery cleric with rogue-like skills, but you may do fine in other domains so long as you avoid using weapons. For the Lotusden Halfling, the Cleric is a great option and the innate spellcasting can add some interesting druid options.
Ghostwise halflings make excellent moon druids. Silent Speech allows you to speak to your allies telepathically, and it doesn’t appear to be dependent on your physical form so it should work fine while using Wild Shape. For other druid circles, the Lotusden Halfling is generally your best bet, providing some additional low-level druid spellcasting that works in any druid build.
Any halfling will do well with a crossbow or a bow, and a stoout halfling makes as good a Defender as any dwarf would, though you’ll want to stick to rapiers or whips since they’re the best finesse options available.
Both ghostwise and stout make fine options for the Monk. Lucky is helpful on a class which depends on making numerous low-damage attacks.
Lightfoot’s Charisma increase is tempting for the Paladin, but beyond the Charisma increase they have little to offer. Stout is the better option, adding poison resistance and extra Constitution to the Paladin’s already excellent durability.
Any halfling subrace works for the ranger. Ghostwise, lotusden, and stout all make excellent rangers based on their ability score increases and other traits, and while ligthfoot’s Charisma increase is largely wasted on the Ranger you might still enjoy Naturally Stealthy.
The obvious choice for the Halfling, any halfling subrace works great for a rogue depending on your build. Lotusden may be the least-suited to the Rogue, but even then the Dexterity increase is enough for you to be functional. The Lightfoot Halfling is an iconic rogue, and their Naturally Stealthy trait works alongside Cunning Action to make it easy to hide in combat even when you don’t have normal sources of cover or concealment.
Lightfoot works fine, but since you’re not as reliant on attack rolls and skills, Lucky isn’t as useful so you’re not getting much beyond ability score increases. Other races like the half-elf will generally work better.
A better option for the Lightfoot Halfling, Lucky works great with Eldritch Blast. You’re making as many attacks as a Fighter, and Lucky still applies.
No Intelligence increase.
Dragonmarks are detailed in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Halflings treat Dragonmarks like a subrace.
Mark of Healing
Mark of Healing’s spell list adds several crucial healing spells to your spell list. Unfortunately, with Dexterity and Wisdom increases the most likely classes to pair with Mark of Healing are the Cleric and the Druid, and they already get access to the most important spells on the dragonmarks spell list.
With the custom origin rules, Mark of Healing becomes a spectacular option for every full caster except the Cleric and the Druid (they already get most of these spells), offering crucial healing options to classes like the Sorcerer and the Wizard without dedicating other major decision points like your subclass.
Mark of Hospitality
Mark of Hospitaly is a challenge. Dexterity and Charisma increases work appeal primarily to bards, rogues, sorcerers, and warlocks, and while the dragonmark spell list has some interesting options, most of them are only situationally useful. Aid is really good on a warlock since your spell slots scale in level and you can take a short rest to recharge right after casting Aid, but I don’t think there’s anything else here that’s going to be good enough to justify one of your limited number of spells known. The non-spellcasting benefits definitely aren’t enough to entice rogues compared to ghostwise or lightfoot.
With the custom origin rules, non-Charisma-based spellcasters are an option. Artificers, clerics, druids, and wizards will all find that parts of the dragonmark spell list overlap with their normal spell list, but there are a few gems for each of those classes. Artificers will find Leomund’s Tiny Hut a useful ritual. Clerics will enjoy Goodberry and Sleep at low levels, though the higher-level options mostly overlap with their own spell list. Druids will enjoy Sleep and Aid, especially melee builds like Circle of Spores which suffer from the Druid’s lack of durability. Circle of the Moon might also eye Aid, but it’s unlikely that the spell’s effect applies to both your natural form and to each Wild Shape form which you might take throughout the spell’s duration.
The more rolls your party is making, the better this gets. If you have a party that makes a lot of attack rolls (fighters, summoned pets, etc.) or if you just have a big party, you’ll get a lot of use out of this. It doesn’t benefit you directly in any way, but sometimes being a hero to the rest of the party is enough.
A fantastic option for nearly everyone except the Rogue. The Rogue already gets Uncanny Dodge to mitigate damage from attacks directed at the Rogue, so spending a feat on Second Chance is a poor investment. If you’re at 19 in an ability score that you want to increase, this is a great option if you don’t want to split your points between two abilities.
Interesting, but I don’t know what sort of build I would include this in. It feels like a good, thematically-appropriate feat, I just don’t know what to do with it. It could be good if you’re at 19 Dexterity, but at that point Second Chance will typically be a better option. Rogues could take it since Second Chance isn’t very useful for the Rogue, but at that point Expertise in Acrobatics works fine if you’re worried about being grappled.