Excerpt from Chapter 1: Cultures
Gnomes are another of the imported races. They arrived from other worlds in the days before the suns drifted apart and rendered magical travel impossible. Gnomes surprisingly call themselves Gnomes. It seems that apart from "big noses" there was little to typify them. Gnomes are noticeably smaller than Dwarves, and claim there is no relation. Gnomes, as they proudly maintain, are also less rotund than Dwarves. Their noses, however, are significantly larger.
Gnomes have lively and sly senses of humor, especially for practical jokes. They have a great love of living things and finely wrought items, particularly gems and jewelry. Gnomes love all sorts of precious stones and are masters of gem polishing and cutting.
A Gnome is not happy in idleness. Indeed, it is doubted whether they can sit still. Busy and happy about it is the Gnome way. A dozen Gnomes at work can drive a Human to distraction, scurrying about and talking all at once. Yet the job seems to get done is a swift and efficient manner.
Gnomes prefer to live in areas of rolling, rocky hills that are well wooded. Their diminutive stature has not made them shy. Gnomes freely integrate with other races, although family habits tend to form natural neighborhoods of Gnomes even when they share a town with other races. Dwelling by preference in mines and burrows, they are sympathetic to Dwarves, but find the Dwarven aversion to the open sky foolish.
It is impossible to crowd a Gnome. Even Dwarves who l like "in your face" conversation find Gnomes a bit close for comfort. Gnomes take time to learn what is comfortable for others. If business is involved they can be models of other people's social mores.
Gnomes are practical in matters of dress. Modesty or its lack means nothing. Gnomes will dress to fit the weather their idea of fashion, and the mores of others, usually in that order. They will observe the local community standards if that is the way of least resistance, and the most profit. For the sake of his purse a Gnome will be the most flexible of any race in personal modesty.
A Gnome comes into the world after a 9 month gestation. The Gnomish family is a chaotic place. Mother, Father, Sister, Cousins, Aunts, and Uncles abound. This extended family may well number as many as 50 individuals or even more. Even in human style villages (what Gnomes call "stick towns") the family will take dwellings as close together as possible.
A Gnome child has many watchful eyes, and many ears listening. Advice and instruction comes from all quarters. Indeed, it would be a rare child that managed to avoid instruction from its elders.
Adolescence comes at about age 15 and lasts till age 20. Long before this time the elders will be sounding out the child for what trade they are interested in. While it is not imperative that a Gnome follow his Father's, or even Mother's trade, a trade they must have. Indeed, even if the Gnome elects the family trade, they will not train at home, but be apprenticed out. Gnome girls are expected to know a trade as the boys are to be familiar with domestic duties. "A Gnome," they will be told, "can and should do everything."
At the end of apprenticeship it is expected that a Gnome will "go and see the world". This might mean as little as a trip to the next town, or a true vocation in adventure. Some experience outside the local area is a must for the well-rounded Gnome. They cannot call themselves wise if they have never see the other side of the hills. Girls are usually excused this duty, but are not discouraged from taking a trip if they want to.
Once the world is seen the Gnome can settle down (if that can be said of a Gnome) marry and raise a family. While the Gnome is expected to find his own mate, they will not lack for advice from every quarter. Not every Gnome finds the time for romance, and bachelor hood is not an unusual state. It will be commented on, and possible mates pushed at the reluctant suitor, but even that after a time will stop (except for the most determined aunties). The Gnome's choice of the single life will be accepted.
The life of the family Gnome is one of happy chaos. Children underfoot, relatives everywhere, coworkers (many Gnomes do enter the family trade), in-laws, and even visitors. This cacophony and bustle are music and dance to the Gnome.
As old age approaches a Gnome tends to get cranky. Physical limits, be they caused by age or disabilities, are not handled well. The Gnome wants to be active. Any limits on this desire are perceived as an affront to his dignity. Few Gnomes age gracefully unless that aging is not accompanied by disability or a decrease in capacity.
Death when it at last arrives is either welcome or repulsed depending on the physical state of the Gnome. Those laid low are likely to see an end to the suffering of inactivity, those still capable are more likely to busy to die, and resent the disruption of their schedule.
Gnomes handle politics in the same manner they do everything else, with an in your face manner and seeming lack of structure. Gnomes regard the career politician as lazy and useless, the lowest form of life. Anyone that does not practice a trade that makes something is thought of as less than someone that does. Because of this Gnome magicians will always be producing small magic items to justify their existence. Gnome run temples have plenty of holy water and small religious charms for sale. As a result all Gnome political figures are also master craftsmen. Having proven they can craft they can enter politics respectfully.
Gnome communities are thus run by the guilds. There is no equivalent to "civil" authority in all Gnome communities. A Council of guilds sits over all matters of community interests, with the guild masters each representing the interests of their crafters. Those that, for some awful reason, are not in guilds are out of luck. In mixed towns and cities, where most Gnomes live, the Gnomes will freely mingle with the crafters of other races, and seldom bother with politics at all outside their guild.
What kind of system Gnomes would devise if presented with an entire country is unknown. Gnomes have not controlled a nation state in the written history of the Elves.
Criminal matters are likewise handled by guild masters in those communities that have no formal justice system. Not surprisingly the Gnomish body of common law regards damage that prevents the victim from producing as the highest crime, quickly followed theft of goods or skills. Outright killing someone is considered less of a crime.
Gnome Art & Culture
Gnomes are famous for their art. Indeed, they are hailed as the best gem cutters and jewelers on the world. This skill extends into any metal decoration. Gnomes are masters of malleability and ductility. They can carve the most intricate details into the least workable metals. Lastly Gnomes are the masters of mechanism. It is they that have perfected and hold the secrets of precision machining necessary to make instruments and clockworks. These skills are regarded as secrets and never taught to non Gnomes.
This is not to say they have no skill at other forms of craft. Leather wood, bone, what ever the material you will find a Gnome that works it, and works it well. Even a Gnomish shoemaker will be the best shoemaker he can be.
Left to their own devices Gnomes prefer busy art. The styles of Rococo and Baroque would be good examples of Gnome preference. However, they are not limited to this. A good Gnome craftsman can make what you want the way to want it. They have an excellent ability to copy other styles given either a drawing or a sample.
Parties are the prime Gnome recreation. They have little patience with passive entertainment such as plays or concerts. They prefer singing in mass, or just social interaction. The Gnome imperative to do shines through.
Gnomes have few gods and usually honor them more in the breach than practice. Religion produces little of value, and therefor is little valued by Gnomes. They will attend a priest for healing, or to marry, or bury the dead. Beyond these simple matters Gnomes trust that the gods will favor those that are diligent in their labors. They have little use for those gods that would not want them working but spending idle time in temples and ceremonies.
There is only one "race" of Gnome. Regional variations will occur. Gnomes have dark tan to nut brown skin. Their hair is always white. Eye color is brown or black, rarely green.