Sunday, August 06, 2006


Physical: Gnomes are one of the “small folk” races. Depending on subrace they range from 2 to 3 ½ feet in height. The size of a gnomes head in proportion to her body height is the same as in a human. However, the face is proportionally larger, especially the ears. Gnomes have strong bones, a wiry muscle build and a good immunity – they are tough. However as they are so much smaller than a human, they tend to be less strong.

Gnomes have excellent hearing, possibly as a result of their large ears. They spend a considerable amount of their time underground (svirfneblins spend all their time underground) and they enjoy the light of the moon and stars as much as the sun. It is not surprising that they see well in low light conditions. Gnomes have somewhat prominent noses, and find very large noses attractive. Their sense of smell is as keen as their hearing, and they frequently use this in their practice of the alchemical arts.

By preference, gnomes defend themselves by keeping out of trouble. Their small size means they are adept at dodging the larger races, and young gnomes are trained in this skill. Rock gnomes especially train their young to dodge giants as well as the goblinoids and kobolds that are their usual enemies.

A gnome has hands that are strong, nimble and dextrous. These hands are well suited to intricate and delicate tasks, and also to the less delicate task of extracting gems and ore from the rocks.

Psychology : All gnomes have a great love of gem stones. The stones are not prized as signs of wealth, but for their own beauty. Gnomes love to display precious stones in the best possible settings, and love to mine precious metals for this use. They are arguably Faerun’s best gem cutters, and are excellent gold and silver smiths as well.

They are a somewhat reclusive folk, forest and deep gnomes much more so than rock gnomes. However in their own cities and villages they are warm-hearted and affectionate. Gnomish miners often sing while they work, and frequently laugh as they tell jokes or play small pranks 0n each other. As well as openly expressing humour and joy, gnomes will freely express grief and sorrow. An outpouring of grief can be very healing, and gnomes funerals have been known to move from weeping to a joyous celebration of the lost ones life – much like the wakes of the Northern Moonshae Islanders. Rock gnomes are louder and more exuberant than the other two races of gnomes as they feel much less threatened. Svirfneblin and forest gnomes are more restrained, but they still have great love for home, hearth and family.

All gnomes love a good party, and have many festivals. Surface gnomes celebrate special birthdays, and festival days. Deep gnomes do not count days or use calendars. They call for a festival when ever their leaders feel the time is right.

Gnomes have inquisitive and enquiring minds. This combined with their skills at intricate hand work means they are superb makers of clockwork and other machinery. Their mind set leads them into alchemy as well. They are the finest gunsmiths on Faerun.

All gnomes are very fond of playing practical jokes. There are two things you must realise to understand the nature of these pranks. Firstly gnomes love intricacy and complexity. The more involved the set up and joke are the more kudos go to the prankster. Secondly there is no malice involved. The pranks are usually harmless, and if any hurt comes to the victim the prankster will be very upset and remorseful.

Relations With Other Races: Svirfneblin are slow to trust any individual members of other races, and view other races as a whole with distrust and fear. Bitter experience has taught them that this is the safest way. They seldom let a member of another race know where their homes are, let alone allowing them to enter the communities. When they do they are greeted with silence and reserve. The warmth and caring of svirfneblin communities are saved for other deep gnomes. Their belief that the hands of all the other Underdark races are lifted against them is essentially true. Drow in particular hate the deep gnomes, finding them to be dangerous enemies and rebellious, useless slaves. Mind Flayers value deep gnome slaves for their skills in mining and shaping stone. Although both grey dwarves and svirfneblin are enemies of mind flayers and the drow, they never form alliances and regard each other with hostile suspicion.

Rock gnomes have an excellent relationship with dwarves. They share the love of precious metals and stones, and the love of working in stone. Both races also share the love of a good party! Dwarves and gnomes are also both intrigued by gadgets and machines. Rock gnomes also get on very well with the merry halflings, who have a similar sense of humour, and admire a good practical joke. Villages and towns that are exclusively gnomish tend to stay isolated and hidden from the taller races, and view them with caution. However there are many communities of gnomes in the larger, multiracial towns and they have shown no difficulty in adapting. They are willing to work and trade alongside members of other races, sharing skills and ideas as well as friendship.

Life Cycle

Childhood and Adolescence: Rock gnome youngsters have a carefree and happy childhood. Their homes are warm, safe and friendly, and gnome children are guided with praise and example rather than through punishment. A rock gnome adult will rarely say a harsh word to a child. Adolescent rock gnomes still have a very relaxed life. They have few responsibilities but spend time experimenting and observing; finding out which occupation best suits their talents and personality.

Svirfneblin children have lives that are much more controlled – an inevitable consequence of living surrounded by enemies. They have a disciplined adolescence, during which they are taught the skills they will need to mine the Underdark and to survive as they do so.

Adulthood: Rock gnomes are deemed as being adult from the age of 40 onwards. A gnome’s 40th birthday is a great celebration, and the party can go on for a tenday or even longer. Svirfneblin may reach adulthood at a slightly younger age. It is difficult to tell as deep gnomes do not count years, and there is no special festival to mark coming of age.

When gnomes reach adulthood they are expected to become a contributing member of their communities. The majority of Svrirfneblin will work as miners, or in mining related fields. All miners are also warriors – any gnome who ventures into the Underground needs to be able to defend themselves. Rock gnomes have a wider choice of occupations.

Late Adulthood and Old Age: A rock Gnome reaches her middle years at around her 100th birthday. This is the time when a gnome tends to look for a quieter and more settled life, and by then they are usually raising their own families. Rock gnomes have a markedly extended period of later life. They are considered old when they reach the age of 150 and venerable at over 200, but the average life expectancy is 350. Individual gnomes have been known to live well into their late 400s.

Deep gnomes may also reach very advanced ages, but the records are not clear on this.

Occupations: The majority of gnomes in the smaller towns and villages work either as miners, or as craftsmen working with the precious metals and gems produced by the mines. Rock gnomes lend a hand at all aspects of the mining. Deep gnomes are more specialist miners – each individual works the seam, collects the stones and ore or wheels the heavy carts. As a result they are extremely efficient miners, perhaps more so than the dwarves. All those who regularly leave the town and interact with outsiders are trained warriors as well as miners, craftsmen or traders.

Metal workers and woodworkers are common in gnome communities. Gnome craftsmen produce delicate and intricate works of great beauty that rival the famed works of the elves. Each town or village will have a blacksmith, although gnomes do not smelt their own steel.

Many gnomes are traders, ensuring the communities have a sufficient supply of salt and other foodstuffs, weapons, clothing and other necessities. As a rule, gnomes are not farmers or weavers, and are gold and silver smiths, not black smiths. They are not suited to heavy haulage, and are served by haulers and carters of other races. Gnomes do make their own ale and spirits, and are known to be excellent innkeepers.

In larger towns and cities gnomes often find work that suit their inventive minds and dextrous hands. They may work with wood as they are skilled carvers. Gnomish furniture is highly valued, and often contains cunningly hidden compartments. Some may make musical instruments; others ingenious objects such as telescopes, magnifying glasses and puzzle boxes. It goes without saying gnomes make excellent and effective traps!

Magic: Gnomes have a kind of innate magic. It is not like that of the elves – gnomes are not part of the weave, yet this magic does not involve them actually learning to manipulate the weave like the other races. Gnomes have innate spells. These spells do not have to be learned in the same way wizards learn spells, like sorcerers young gnomes discover them through experimentation. The spells use chanting, hand movements and sometimes a spell focus much the same as the same spells cast by a wizard or sorcerer. However, gnomes do not have to prepare these spells – they are always there every day.

Most rock gnomes can cast some simple cantrips; very low level spells, to perform simple tricks and illusions with sound and light. As well as this special ability rock gnomes can learn spells in the normal manner. In fact rock gnomes make very good illusionists.

This special relationship with magic shows itself in a different manner in the svirfneblin. Not surprisingly their innate magic is less to do with fun and entertainment, and more about defence and safety. Deep gnomes can cause blindness in an enemy, or cause their bodies to appear blurred or altered in shape. These are not simple cantrips – as a svirfneblin matures and becomes more experienced her innate spells become more powerful. Svirfneblin also have an innate resistance to magic, and can protect them from being seen by magical means.

History: All the races of gnomes have kept themselves apart from the kinds of deeds and events where history is made, whether it is the halflings or the big folks involved. They are a hidden folk, who have almost always remained hidden from those who write the histories of Faerun.

The one time when the Svirfneblin broke this unwritten rule and did become involved in wider affairs proved to be a fatal disaster. The deep gnomes of Blingdenstone came to the aid of the dwarves of Mithral Hall, and helped them drive off the drow invasion. They paid a high price. The drow of Menzoberranzan did not forgive them for this, and destroyed the Svirfneblin city killing most of the inhabitants.

Festivals, Food and Drink: All the gnomes of the realms enjoy a good festival. They like nothing better than to eat, drink, dance and laugh with their family and friends. Though halflings and dwarves have reputations for partying hard, nobody parties like a gnome. Even the simplest festivals last for two days, and a good party can last well over a tenday – if not two tendays!

The surface gnomes celebrate the usual seasonal events such as harvest time, solstice and equinox. They also have a strong tradition of celebrating anniversaries – even anniversaries of events that we would see as tragedies. They may party just as hard on the date of a volcanic eruption as on the anniversary of the founding of their town. Birthdays are another subject for a party – most especially a coming of age, as are the various religious festivals of the Gnome pantheon. Rare events such as a solar or lunar eclipse are occasions for especially prolonged celebrations.

Svirfneblin do not use calendars, but church or community leaders will call for a festival if they feel the time is right.

Gnomes are fond of their food, but prefer large quantities of simply cooked food to more interesting and exotic meals. They can use their innate spells to add flavour and spice to a stew, but would prefer a simple roasted side of rothé to a gourmet meal. Gnomes are skilled brewers, but their ale is somewhat of an acquired taste. They prefer the heavier ales and meads.

Common Gnomish Sayings

· I wouldn't touch that if I were you.

· If it doesn’t work on the first try, it certainly will on the 99th.

· The only thing better than working, is making plans to work.

· Well, all it needs is a bigger hammer.

· If it works well with two wheels, just think how well it will work with eighty-four.

· More steam! It worked for uncle Gnuckle, before he blew up, so it should work now!

· When the going gets tough, the tough get ten more feet of steam pipe.

· What do you mean it isn’t working? It worked four decades ago! If a machine has only one lever, and if that lever breaks down, the machine is out of use. If a machine has twenty-one levers, and if one lever breaks down, the machine still has twenty levers to be used. If it’s not broken, it must have not enough features.

Combat and Warfare: Gnomes may be brave and tenacious fighters but they are by no means foolish. They realise their diminutive size gives their enemies a great advantage in hand to hand combat. The small folk need to battle with brains, not brawn. Where ever possible gnomes avoid direct confrontation and mêlée. Instead they rely on ranged weapon attacks, camouflage, diversion and illusion.

Gnomes like to fight a battle in the terrain of their choice. When setting up a mining camp or an above ground camp gnomes will always choose an area with good cover and good escape routes. A gnome member of a party is a real asset when setting up a defensible camp. When a battle is unavoidable gnome warriors will try to ensure it takes place in rough or broken ground with plenty of cover for smaller bodies. If caught in the open a gnome party will head for tall grass, or wooded or rocky ground

These small folk like to use ranged weapons to inflict as much damage as possible on the enemy without letting them close enough to make use of their superior size. They use small but sturdy crossbows, and shortbows. As well as these gnomes have a wide variety of alchemical products that can be tossed grenade style, resulting a wide variety of damaging effects. The ultimate “gnomish grenade” is one that combines damage with humiliation, such as Sneezing Powder. Gnomes may not have the discipline and expertise with missile weapons the halflings show, but they do have a murderous enthusiasm.

When forced to fight in a melee, gnomes show skill and courage. The preferred weapon is often a spear, used for stabbing not for throwing. They make use of their small size to dodge between the legs of very large opponents, or even underneath the mounts of an average sized enemy to cut the saddle straps. They will use spells of concealment, hidden trenches and any other technique they can find to maximise the surprise factor when they enter hand to hand combat. A gnome likes to charge while invisible; attack a foe caught off their guard then disappear before the enemy can get a decent hit in.

Gnomes incorporate elaborate defences into their homes and their mines. They will build tunnels too small for anyone but a gnome, ingenious and well hidden traps, mazes, illusionary walls, and secret doors as routine features in even a small village. Svirfneblin excel in creating illusions in stone, and even a relatively short term mining camp will have well thought out defences.

Magic and alchemy are as important in gnome combat as firing a bolt or arrow, or wielding a spear. A gnome battle mage will have prepared as many spells of concealment and illusion as those spells that cause direct damage. They will hide troop movements, create illusionary bogs and marshes to funnel and divert enemy to areas that suit the gnomish plans, send them into traps and deadfalls and even fool enemy into running off cliffs and trying to cross nonexistent bridges. The effect this confusion has on morale and the disruption to the enemy’s tactics is almost as important as the actual damage caused. Svirfneblin frequently carry a gem or similar object to summon a stone elemental if they are attacked.

All gnomes are taught these tactics and strategies from an early age. They practice fighting traditional enemies such as kobolds and goblinkin, and are well versed in the village escape routes. They are also taught the value of staying alive. Gnomes are never too proud to retreat when it is the most sensible move. The maxim “he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day” could have been written for these small warriors.

A gnome adventurer or warrior will always carry a ranged weapon (even if it is only a sling), and a melee weapon. They like to use stabbing spears as the long reach of these weapons helps counter the gnome’s small stature.


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