Thursday 16 May 2019

WrenMen - Making Halflings Interesting?

To me anyway.

This is my addressing Halflings for Eldritch Foundry, essentially by making them a genetically-engineered sub-species created to inhabit Rama-style generation craft and explore deep space.



The Wren, small, brown, unassuming and rather rotund, still sings with a loud and imperious voice, drowning out the calls of other birds. “Little King”; so came the name from hedge-stepping country folk.

So “Wren-Men” is a better phrase for the race. “Homon” is simply a corruption; “Somon” refers to the single names borne by standard humans, but “Homon” doesn’t really mean anything except ‘Half-Men’. WrenMen do not have half a name and they are not a part or reduction of anything.

Some other terms are ”Halflings”, “Hobbits” and the oldest word; “Zeegees”; its origin unknown.

But “Homon” is simple and “Homon” has stuck.

The WrenMen look just like classic Humans, half the height, a little wider by proportion, and for some sub-groups, with broad, thick-soled dexterous feet. Other than that they could easily be mistaken for a Somon child or a sport of nature.  As if they were only half a step from each other.


In almost every case other than their size, Wrenmen are a “superior” race.

A brief list of problems they don’t have;

Cancer, dementia, insomnia, schizophrenia, lung infections, damaged tendons, concussion, depression, torn muscles, hysteria, hypnosis, arthritis, dizziness, hallucination, mutation, superstition (except for their Ghost Festivals), Alzheimer’s, poor spines, heart disease and post-traumatic stress.

Bones and muscles retain their strength and flexibility even without use. (They can dance their way out of prison after some time in the clink). They tan in minutes, skin colour shifting to the relative level of light. They can live on very little, infesting marginal environments, in which Somon would starve. They live as long as Somon, but excellent health (“And a good attitude ^_^”) seems to make it count for more. They breed true. A Homon parent always produced Homon young.

And they are fiendishly, frustratingly lucky, surviving disasters or impossible dangers with unnerving glibness, all while remaining friendly and even-tempered to the point of patrician dullness.

In short, for anyone, but ­­especially for standard humans, Wrenmen are some of the most agonizingly frustrating and irritating beings its is possible to encounter.

"It is fortunate indeed for Somon that out greatest competitor is, not only deeply agreeable, but conveniently half the size. If they were of equal mass we would be enslaved within a decade. Or, what might be worse, simply managed." - Vosis Fail, excommunicated Sophont of Yga.


Homon as a group, hew closely to a mean, with less diversity of thought and action than in Somon culture. They are practical, sensible and agreeable, sometimes to the point of absolute boiling insanity.

It's been remarked that if their house was on fire and the vote was split on whether to leave, a Homon would simply stand in the doorway and let half of their body char to ash. They almost always think the 'middle way' is best, and because their communities are so uniform, the power of the majority can take on a terrifying aspect.

While they are certainly friendly and reasonable, they are hugely intolerant of anyone who doesn't seem to care about, the things they do.

Anyone absorbed in the mind, 'theory' or abstract thought is “a queer fellow”.

Anyone with a point of view outside the mean is “a bit odd”, even if they happen to be right.

Homon, especially in a group, will systemically deny, rationalise and ignore these flaws. All Homon know they are a tolerant and reasonable people. THEY KNOW IT TO BE TRUE.

They grasp detail and process relating to people, (as opposed to Deoth) but they have real difficulty with things that have no immediate or obvious utility. If half a society were in favour of banning slavery, and the other half for it, the Homon would simply vote for some slavery, some of the time, and be entirely morally secure in their choice. Anyone distant, disagreeable or 'other’ will be labelled “haughty” or “high” and quietly and ruthlessly ostracised.

Living with Homon can resemble being crushed slowly to death by a fat man. The enormous intensity, intimacy and uniformity of Homon culture is the prime creator Homon adventurers.  If you cannot fit in, you have to get out out out.

Their strange luck, knack for survival, uniformity and ease of aging means they lack 'depth'. (In the opinion of non-Homon.) They rarely experience or feel tragedy.  They rarely hit bottom.  And so, because they never crash and burn, or fall apart, they rarely have crises or dramatic moments of growth and change.

The Homon mind-state is alleged (by non-Homon) to make them unsuitable for certain kinds of magics, especially those of a dark, dreamlike or entropic aspect. (Though any Homon would claim that those are simply ridiculous and unreliable methods anyway.)

The only way which they could be considered 'fey', is that, for them, large matters are invariably treated lightly, and small matters are of great importance. So that death, love, fire and disaster are looked over as small things, but knives or pistols might be drawn,(and have been), for instance, over the matter of a missing spoon.


Homon are one of the few prople to become adventurers to learn how not to get along with people. Or at least how to respect the privacy and inwardness of others without frustration or contempt.  To learn that the study and comprehension of abstracts can sometimes be, not only useful, but meaningful, even if it is not used!  And to, eventually, with great difficulty, learn that the middle path is not always the best path That sometimes, occasionally, VERY OCCASIONALLY, the right thing might be a very slightly extreme choice.


Homon LIVE roughly four patterns; the 'Cantons', large settled groups whre they make their own law, the small ghettoes in the Grey Cities, the marginal travelling (and criminal) communities and the strange 'wild' Homon, who live on the borders of the Waste, or even in the Waste itself (if they are even real).


Small sub-nations within the spheres of larger cities, or, in the Mountains of Reality, in the more distant valleys of a Gloom Queens rule.

Here, in their own micro-nations, the Homon are at their most Homon-esque. They run agricultural communities with ruthless efficiency and the farm owners, or Squires, spend every single spare copper on enormous hats, clothes, parties, interior design, cooking and siege equipment.

They are insanely socially competitive, obsessed with out-doing their neighbour, and love splendifereous displays; big hats, parties, games, balls, more parties, parliaments, meetings, guilds, markets and simply any or every chance they can get to both interact with, subtly judge and painfully outdo their immediate social group.

This is the society that many Homon adventurers are trying very hard to escape.

The Cantons are well-defended and several send treaty-troops to their larger parent polities. These rarely serve directly along their larger allies but the Homon very adept at logistics and the handing and operation of siege equipment. Their troops have marvellous esprit-de-corps and magnificent hats. Their generals are dumb as muck; part-time enthusiasts bloated on delusion and self-importance, but once they are distracted with a pie, the relatively high quality of Homon troops, training and logistics comes into play.

And of course they have cavalry.

There is nothing a Homon will not ride, or at least try to ride.  Every Canton has a species which they have dedicated to mastering.  Depending on the place you may see Homon riding Goats, Sheep, MegaDogs, Snails, Pigs, Donkeys, Giant Tortoises, Huge Turkeys, Miniphants, Hippos or Weird Lizard Things.


When WrenMen make it to 'the big city' they become politicians, socialites, scribes, sewer-workers, journalists, teachers, thieves, gangsters, assassins, restaurant owners and celebrity chefs.

They love to run major cultural institutions, but it can be very, very bad to have two two news-sheets, theatres, operas etc, and similar prestige, in the same city, both run by Homon.

They will go to war.

On the positive side, this does result in a brief cultural incandescence as each organisation drives the other to ever-greater heights of excellence and hard work.

On the down side are whispering campaigns, threats, violence, murder, whispering campaigns and opportunistic demonic summoning.


Guns, goats, bare-knuckle boxing and highway crimes.

Those who cannot get along in the Cantons, and have been banned from the cities, travel the highways and waterways of Blackwater;, a dangerous business at the best of times, considering the wars, monsters, waste incursions, tyrannical rulers and unstable politics of that realm.

They move in groups, ranging from a single family to a trail of thirty, as waggon trains or in long river-boats.

These friendly travelling groups of Homon are popularly assumed to be thieves and charlatans which, to be fair, is true a meaningful percentage of the time, though in most cases they limit themselves to petty theft, confidence scams and the more useful forms of smuggling.

More dangerous are the river pirates, goat-bandits and highwaymen who prey on honest trade. The Mountains of Reality are infested with outlaw tribes of Goat Riding Halfling thuggees who ride near-naked except for vast cloaks of sheepskin and who spend all their ill-gotten gains perfecting the breeding of bigger and bigger goats. Bantito legends say that the greatest of these rievers have, through deep communion, perfected the power to psychically control goats.


Strongly-denied rumour speaks of wild and feral Halflings in the Waste. Groups of “wild” WrenMen living naked in vast warrens.

The addled tales of memory-stripped travellers describe squirming piles in the warm darkness.
Homon sniffing each others musk and running out in starving crowds to pull down prey. Huge balls of flesh, composed of hundreds of Homon piled together a linked arm-to-arm, rolling over the land chasing and collapsing on travellers to devour them.

Though these are almost certainly mere figments of the imagination, drug visions, deceptions, delusions or snares of Yggsrathaal,


Homon are secretly symbionts.

WrenMen themselves call it their ‘ghost', ‘belly ghost’ or ‘stomach spirit’, and, the common people see it as a semi-spiritual thing.

Inside their body, and integrated with their flesh, is a tissue of pale filaments, like torn translucent silk, wadded up sheets of thin wet paper, a crushed pale rose, or an albino octopus held in a fist. It does look a lot like the common conception of a ghost.

This is a psychic, non predatory, largely sessile and ethereal extradimensional creature. A peaceful, vulnerable organism that needs an anchor to survive. If allowed to grow within a host it can feed off their bodily sustenance (one of the reasons Homon like to eat so much).

If allowed to integrate, the ghost gives subtle benefits.

Lightness – Ghost-holders about ten percent lighter than they should be, relative to mass.  This makes Homon surprisingly supple, bouncy and agile, despite their plumpness.  If they die of natural causes, the corpse of a Homon will occasionally float up into the night sky. (The ghost going home).

Memory - The ghost, though somewhat intelligent, has almost no personality of its own. Instead, as a psychic creature, it continually and intimately reads the mind of its host and keeps a nearly-complete para-personality as a kind of living simulation. If the host suffers memory or personality loss, the ghost can 're-load' lost memories and even run the whole body in a dreamlike state.

The ghost and the host sleep at staggered interval, one of them is usually awake at any particular time, making them hard to surprise, even when ‘asleep’.

 They even share and swap dreams. Halflings can have up to three sets of dreams inside them; their own, the ghosts, and a marginal realm in which the two meet.

This makes it very hard for the Children of Yggsrathaal to prey on Homon. Name-Thieves are frustrated, (Homon can sometimes 're-grow' names in a way incredibly rare for other creatures).
Memory-Eaters find the memories replaced and Dream-Stalkers are utterly confused.

Dimensional Awareness – The belly ghost gives Homon a soft para-sense for extradimensional things manifesting as a dull intuition, or a 'queer feeling’. They are rarely totally surprised by the cascading otherness of dimensional incursions and it is hard for them to get lost in non-Euclidian space.

Magical Resistance – The ghost can split the effect of the more deadly spells, confusing the precise coding such murderous thaumaturgy requires by essentially having multiple identities in the same body.


Most take the WrenMens references to 'my friend', 'my own ghost' or ‘the stomach spirit, and their weird giggling and belly rubs, as just an odd cultural affectation.

Even if the 'ghost' itself is seen, during moments of trauma, or due to strange magics, well, it looks like.. a ghost, exactly the vague kind of ethereal spirit that many cultures believe rests inside mortal flesh.

Ghost Festivals are seen across all Homon cultures. A rare, rather spiritual, and somewhat spooky party-day with a great deal of eating and drinking, parades and dances with ghost puppets and ghost-flags, Homon dressed as ghosts, and then private parties behind closed doors late at night where Homon commune with their own ghosts.

Its possible to pass or swap the ghost between Homon, which allows them to share or exchange memories and personalities with each other.

Its also possibly for an old ghost to inadvertently enter a young body. In theory the new personality should rapidly overwrite the old memories as the child develops. But in practice they can guide the development of the mind to produce particular patterns of thought and knowledge.

These are all things that civilised Homon will avoid at all costs, considering them “savage” or, worse, “very regrettable”.

No such strictures prevent ‘Wild’ Homon (if they are real), or criminals on the margins from using the ghost to gain skills, knowledge and education from each other, or to produce ‘hive minds’ of tightly bound ultra-competent beings.


  1. Not just interesting, but creepy too, in an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-esque nightmare of conformity. Cool to see Tolkien's idyllic view of rural English life through your other lens.

  2. Got my copy of Silent Titans in the mail yesterday. It's great, can't wait to wrap up my current campaign to start it!

  3. Another great one! Really digging into the core of these fantasy concepts.

    What is the subtext of the ghost, if any? Or in other words, how does it contribute to the overall "theme" of the homon? It does give them some "traditional" halfling abilities, but otherwise seems kind of out of left field, but I may be missing something. Nothing wrong with that, I'm just wondering about your inspiration and intentions.

    1. There isn't one really. Most of the Uud races have a kind of para-SciFi interpretation or aspect to them. And most of them have some kind of spritual or parralel world duality to them. The word 'Somon' for Homo Sapiesn, relates to them only having one name when encountering extradimensional creatures. Every other race has multiple names, or with Nathlings, no name at all. And I wanted the Homon to have been in space in some way, so I liked the idea of them having an extraterestrial parasite/symboite of some kind, and it seemd to fit in easily enugh and synergised well with everything else about them, and gave them a world-particuilar 'hook' so it was clear that 'our halflings are different'.

  4. This can go into all kinds of disturbing very well. I always thought that the horror of hobbit life (or, rather, of the ideal that Tolkien built it on) is underused.

  5. Love the write up, I've enjoyed all the other ones too. The idea of halflings origins being off world is one I gravitated to as well, mostly because they never seem to fit into the origin of the worlds of classic D&D. They are always shiftily inserted into a corner with paint drying over the label, obscuring the name "Hobbits" and replacing it with some variation of "Totally not Hobbits."

    The idea of the Ghost is pretty cool, and disturbing. I also like the sort of entrenched pleasantness, and fixed middleground mentality that suffuses them to the point of madness. The way they KNOW they are reasonable, reminds me of many humans.

    Is there any connection between the name Wrenmen and the Wrannamen of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn books by Tad Williams?

  6. aw dang you made hobbits appealing