DnD 5e - The Halfling Handbook
Last Updated: November 14th, 2020
I will use 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.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
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.
Halflings are perhaps the most iconic small race in Dungeons and Dragons, dating back to its earliest editions. Their mechanics 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. 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.
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 new names since that momentus event.
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 can 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.
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, but neither is truly spectacular, but only the Lotusden Halfling can compete with the Wood Elf since ability score increases are so critical to the monk.
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.
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.
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.