View Full Version : Deconstructing the Gnome

06-26-2009, 12:35 PM
Joining a new group recently, we began working up character ideas and concepts when another player suggested he play a gnome. Everyone sighed a bit, having been playing for years and knowing the stereotypes. I myself have DM'ed for years and have crafted my own image of gnomes. Later I kept returning to why I had these ideas and it was something that pervaded the entire core gamers. Gnomes had never been detailed out very well, their societies never constructed some large towns like the other demihuman races. Even their source books seemed sketchy at best and outright ludicrous on occasion. Dragonlance had crafted them into something tangible, but that image would hardly suffice for the Realms or Greyhawk.

I began reading some things and looking to answer some of my fundamental questions about why, when applied to gnomish culture at large. I found a great site in which the author does a very good and well thought out approach to them, not rewriting anything, but just making sense of all the small hints that need to be pieced together to see the picture as a whole. I bookmarked the page and will definitely incorporate his ideas into my games in the future. As I was looking it over I thought that some here might enjoy his work and that I should post a link.

Here is the link to Danny R. Nolan, Jr's essays (3 total)
Deconstructing the Gnome (http://home.insightbb.com/%7Emrzoink/gnomes1.html)

Rebuilding the Gnome (Giving the gnome his own place in the world) (http://home.insightbb.com/%7Emrzoink/gnomes2.html)

Gnome Religion (http://home.insightbb.com/%7Emrzoink/gnomes3.html)

I would be imnterested to hear others opinions on his work and on gnomes in their world.

Do they have their own towns / villages?

Average professions?

Population Density?

Most visible gnomes to any non gnomish characters?

How nature oriented are your gnomes? (druid treehuggers that barely stay clothed or more urban and modern)

How do you feel they will do compared to the other races as your world develops? (are they on the cutting edge of technology or will they eventually die off from low populations)

06-26-2009, 01:15 PM
The bit about gnomes' traits being prey traits are a bit off; acute hearing and smell don't make wolves, for instance, prey animals. (Actually, if gnomes are subterranean, those make more sense than sight, anyway. That and the gem obsession.)

I've been kicking around a fae-based world idea, inspired by White Wolf's best old World of Darkness line: Changeling: the Dreaming. Gnomes are essentially Nockers, - cynicism, insults, massive gear-driven creations. Nature-lovers? Bah! They have the tools, literally, for greatness! (Too bad about that perfectionism thing ;)) Gnome culture, as it were, wouldn't exist, since they're basically fae born into human bodies. (Then again, so are all the others, but that's somewhat tangental.)

06-26-2009, 01:20 PM
The links are unreachable from my site at the moment.

'Gnome' has been handled in different ways in different games, all of which are called gnomes:

AD&D 1st and 2nd Edition, and GURPS Yrth/Banestorm
mischievous humanoids, potentially closely related to dwarves. They definitely have their own homes and culture. Their culture and gods were covered in Dragon Magazine in the 80s, and I think reprinted in one of the Best of Dragons. (Of course, the archetype gnome in 1st edition was Illusionist/Thieves.) All are mischievous. No more nature loving than any other group of humans who work the land.

I was recently introduced to gnomes in 4th E D&D, and now they are more closely aligned to faerie and fae, rather than having the same earthly grounding as other standard mortals. It's an interpretation I'd not seen before.

I've seen gnomes as humanoid earth elementals in other games - can't think of them at the moment, - but Carl from the TV show 'Special Unit 2' was this sort of gnome.

06-26-2009, 01:30 PM
Don't get me wrong, I love gnomes, and I frequently focus on them in my worldbuilding.
But this is too heavily geared toward the D&D canon to be useful for most systems or settings.

IMO, you'd be better off using the Ducks from Glorantha as inspiration. (Downplaying the silliness, while playing up the tragic.)

Arch Lich Thoth-Amon
06-26-2009, 01:36 PM
I'll get back to my review and add to it, but do to time constraints at the moment, I'll keep it short.

I love gnomes, and i do like the links and what they had to say. Very similar to what i have regarding gnomes, which is a bit of said links as well as whats written in the Best of Warpstone, for WFRP.

In my campaigns, Hobbits and Gnomes are as different as Elves and Humans, so they bring something worthwhile to the games. Gnomes only crime is that they really haven't been shown any love and have suffered because of it.

More to come...

06-26-2009, 03:03 PM
Gnomes were definitely type-cast in our group, as they were rarely used, except when someone wanted an illusionist.

At one point, I had a small band of adventuring gnomes as NPCs, with a decent range of classes: fighter/illusionist, cleric, illusionist, fighter/thief, fighter, and even a homebrew paladin (before it was ever brought up in the "official" rules that races other than humans could be a paladin). They were tasked with patrolling a wooded area near the entrance to their home city and keeping the orcs and goblins thinned out. I did give them all their little amusements, such as sneaking into the PC's camp and putting outmeal in their boots while they slept, but other than things like that, the band was not in the norm with the way most everyone else played them.

06-29-2009, 07:56 AM
I can but offer my own interpretation of Gnomes (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6620). I posted it on P&P a while back. One can also get the same from my Culture Chapter, (http://www.penandpapergames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7126) along with the rest of the races.

06-30-2009, 11:36 AM
I've always liked gnomes. I have played a couple over the years, my favorite being one named: Izzit Reallythear (fighter/illusionist). I wrote up a good deal for my DM at the time about gnomish culture and played my gnomes that way since then; even though I have had many DM's since then.
They were basically taken from AD&D lore, but I added my own little twists to their warren-living, joke-pulling addicted to bling hallf-pints that have become the sterotype.

As an aside, Paizo's current version of gnomes in their Pathfinder rules set lends yet another twist. They seem to encapsulate/explain their inventiveness bend into a trait called the "Whitening". They explain that all gnomes as they get older find something to keep them interested in life, and if they don't, they begin to fade and their skin whitens until they lose the will to live. I'm sure I'm not explaining it well-but I like this new interpretation. Paizo also makes them more fae than humanoid which adds to their reclusiveness and mystique.
If you're interested, you can download the Beta rules for free and check out how they constructed gnomes.

be well

06-30-2009, 11:43 AM
My first character ever was a gnome bard. Whenever the group met someone new, he'd sing the entire tale of their adventure to that point, which eventually turned into a 2 or 3 hour ordeal. By the end of the campaign, the barbarian would knock him out and carry him around in a backpack, and they'd wake him up when they needed his skills.

In the D&D game I was GMing which just wrapped up, gnomish wererats were a very common foe. But most worlds tend to subjugate gnomes to a dying or dead society, if they have one at all. That said, my favorite implementation of gnomes is when they show up in Warcraft's lore. (http://www.wowwiki.com/Gnome) Their society amuses me.