Overlooked and disrespected, halflings and gnomes get by in their own way. Human society's misguided expectations don't mean much when you know who you are and what you're about. Let's take a look at the ancestry entries for these folks!
You might also want to take a gander at the Big Beards and Pointy Ears blog to see how dwarves and elves work if you're a fan of ancestries that are entirely too tall and entirely too stuffy.
Illustration by Wayne Reynolds
Living among taller folk gives halflings a good bit of perspective and plenty of opportunities to make new friends—plenty of opportunities of all kinds, really. Keep your eyes open and your heart brave, and you can accomplish anything!
Both halflings and gnomes get 8 Hit Points from their respective ancestries, are Small, and have a speed of 20 feet. A halfling speaks Common and Halfling. Halflings have nimble fingers, giving them an ability boost to Dexterity, and are jovial, getting another ability boost in Charisma. They also get one free ability boost to put in any score. Now, there's nothing wrong with how you're made, but halflings do get an ability flaw to Strength. Seems like a better deal, though. Goblins are a bit stronger, but they're not so wise, and good sense is a good trade. (You can read more about goblins here!)
We've mentioned ability boosts and flaws a few times now, so let's go into more detail about how those work! At 1st level, your ability scores all start at 10. Your ancestry then gives you ability boosts, each of which increases the score by 2. Most ancestries get three ability boosts, two of which have to go into specific scores. The remaining free ability boost can go into any score except the two set ones. Most ancestries also get a flaw, which decreases a designated score by 2. You can put your free ability boost in the same score as your flaw if you want to get back to 10. In later parts of character creation, you'll get more ability boosts, which we'll cover in later blogs! (And if you want to roll your ability scores randomly, we have an option for that in the playtest so you can see how that might work, though we prefer for characters used in the playtest to be generated in the standard way.)
Now, where was I? Halflings, right!
At 1st level and as they level up, halflings can pick up halfling ancestry feats that take advantage of their size, their gumption, and their fabled luck. Distracting Shadows lets them sneak around by using larger creatures as cover. They might also pick up Plucky to overcome fear and other detriments to their emotions. They can take Titan Slinger to get a bonus to damage when using their slings against Large or larger creatures. This bonus increases on critical hits, even before being doubled! Additionally, the sling is now a more formidable weapon than in Pathfinder First Edition—we've both increased its damage and done away with the difference in damage die size between Small and Medium creatures. A halfling with a sling can be pretty dangerous!
One feat we know will be popular is Lucky Halfling, which lets you reroll one skill check or saving throw you fail or critically fail once each day. Rules in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook list traits that apply to feats, often indicating special rules. This one has the fortune trait, which appears on all sorts of things that involve rerolls and manipulating dice in your favor. You can benefit from fortune only once on a given roll, and misfortune can cancel it out.
As mentioned in the blog post about dwarves and elves, ancestry entries suggest some backgrounds you might choose that are common for those of your ancestry. Halflings are often entertainers, acrobats, or street urchins. Many come from hard lives as criminals or laborers.
A gnome's life is a constant barrage of the curious, the compelling, the cacophonous, the colorful, and the chaotic. There's always something new to discover. There... kind of has to be. See, gnomes who don't take in enough novel experiences are stricken by the Bleaching—their colorful hair turns white as their minds fall into despair. So let's not do that. Let's explore!
Now, when you're exploring, it's good to be durable because who knows what you might encounter. It helps that gnomes are tough and charming, with ability boosts to Constitution and Charisma, plus their one free ability boost to any other score. Gnomes have a flaw in Strength. Who needs it? Magic's better. And alchemical bombs. Those look fun. Gnomes can speak Common, Gnome, and Sylvan, but might want to study up on some other languages too. They can also see in low light—all the better for exploring into the dusk.
Gnomes came from the First World, the realm of the fey, long ago. Their ancestry feats can reflect this, like Fey Fellowship, which makes a gnome more charismatic when dealing with fey, or First World Magic, which gives the gnome a cantrip spell chosen from a wide number of options (including dancing lights, prestidigitation, and tanglefoot, to name a few).
Discerning Smell lets a gnome truly appreciate peculiar food and drink, or sniff out that invisible orc who's caked in the clay from a particular mountain pass, hasn't bathed in roughly 8 years, and recently ate a live bird. (A swallow, fittingly.) And, of course, you can choose Animal Speaker so you can talk to all your favorite burrowing animals!
A gnome's younger years will no doubt be weird, so they could have any kind of background—even a path they abandoned early on. A gnome might be an entertainer, a merchant, a nomad, an animal whisperer, a barkeep, or a farmhand.
How do these two ancestries stack up? (About 6 feet high, I'd say.) What sort of halfling or gnome characters do you look forward to playing?