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Conerning Gnomes (+thread. please don't crap the thread with anti-gnome negativity)

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
A gnome is a creature of incredible cunning, creativity, and curiosity. They live in "bright burrows", speak to small critters, enjoy the company of other races but also treasure their own spaces, and absolutely love life. Rock gnomes are more robust in health, and generally more interested in invention and technical discovery, while Forest Gnomes are more nimble, and more interested in illusion and artistic expression, but in every Gnomish culture there are all manner of creatives, inventors, thinkers, and other enthusiasts of intellectual pursuits.

They are also one of my top three favorite races, and about in the middle of the pack according to DnDBeyond data from a couple years ago.

However, as much as I love them, I think they made a key mistake when designing the 5e Gnome.

For one, Advantage on all mental stat saves against magic is an enormous race feature. It consumes most of the space available to the race in terms of power. Meanwhile, they put the ability to speak to small animals into one subrace, which leaves many classic dnd gnomes in a weird place.

Sure, David the Gnome should be able to talk to foxes, but even looking at DnD 5e art, so should Gnomish inventors and alchemists!

Meanwhile, the Rock Gnome is just sort of...weaker...than the Forest Gnome or Deep Gnome? The Tinker's Tools proficiency can be strong, but only if your DM is willing to deal with invention in a game that doesn't have any actual rules for it. You can use magic item crafting rules as a baseline, and use DMG guidelines to determine balance by translating damage into spell levels, and then spell levels into item rarity, and use XTGE tables to figure out if a tinker item is more like a minor or major of a given rarity. However, that is a lot of work to ask of your DM.

If your DM isn't up for that, you have some toys, and your Forest Gnome cousin has a really useful cantrip and the ability to speak to small animals.

My current concept of a solution is simply to give all Gnomes critter speech, and see how it plays out. But maybe one could also add more useful tinkered inventions to the list, like repeating crossbows, or automated grappling hook devices, or nonmagical darkvision goggles, or something?

Conceptually, I think they've done a good job of presenting Gnomes in 5e, though I do find I have to draw upon 3.5 and 4e a lot for both Rock and Forest Gnomes quite a lot. My Forest Gnomes just are the 4e Gnome entirely, at this point, and Rock Gnomes are defined mostly by the 3.5 Races of Stone supplement.

I think that each Gnome subrace, much like elven subraces, have a stronger ID on their own than as a group. I don't put much stock in races needing to have a strong and distinct narrative niche, tbh, but I do think that Gnomes have that. I'll go more into in a second post in this thread, so that this one doesn't get too enormous.

I want to hear from other people who actually like Gnomes, and I'm not interested at all in why some folks don't like them tbh! Don't yuk others' yum.

Also, is anyone like me in having rarely if ever played Gnomes who are ridiculous?
 

not-so-newguy

Explorer
I love playing Rock Gnomes because a) I like playing 5e wizards b) I like playing the eccentric, absent minded professor types. I do agree that inventor ability, while a cool idea, is close to useless. Perhaps more potent inventions available at higher levels?

My last Gnome Wizard, Dr. Irky Turgen, insisted (INSISTED!) that you always called him doctor and rocked an orange sherbert colored cardigan.

eta The answer to your last question is no. I’ve had a more “serious” no-nonsense Gnome Wizard that was an investigator, but I don’t shy away from silly.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Gnomish Cultures, and Their Places In The World

Now, first, a quick note about the idea of a race needing to be the "XYZ" race.

[sblock] IMHO, this is a nonsense concept. Orcs and Minotaurs and Goliaths and Firbolgs are all distinct, and them all being in dnd or in a specific dnd world has nothing at all to do with whether or not a new "big strong scary guy" race should be included, or a "monstrous looking and antagonistic to the pretty races" race. Just like the real world has several island dwelling fisher-gatherers, fantasy worlds can have as many or as few "small, quick, likeable" folk as a group wants. The world won't be any more or less good based on whether it has none, or several.

Minotaurs don't talk to plants and disguise themselves as elves or have a knack for druidry, Goliath don't have a cultural association with labyrinths or a bestial nature, orcs aren't part of The Mountain, etc, but even if orcs and minotaurs were more similar than they are, so what? How weird would it be if there were only one (1) race per broad archetype? How much divine intervention would be required to make that even happen? Look at the real world! Look at all the flying species in the world, and how many of them have literally no relation to one another beyond the relation of literally all lifeforms on Earth by way of the first organism. What nonsense would it be if there were only birds, because bats and flying insects are redundant? Likewise, if aarakokra are the only flying intelligent tool users in a world where a dozen or more intelligent tool users evolved and share the world, how is that more realistic or more interesting than their being 3-4 races who "share" the air space, compete for aeries and resources, etc?

I can't imagine finding the forest particularly interesting in dnd if they only "people" who come from there are elves.

That being said, Gnomes are not "silly dwarves" or "magic halflings" or "small elves" or any such thing. They're just Gnomes. [/sblock]

So, in brief, who are each of the Gnomish peoples?

All Gnomes are inquisitive, creative, and incredibly intelligent. For each subrace, this manifests in different ways.

Forest Gnomes are a bit more secluded than their Rock Gnome cousins, though not nearly so much as the Deep Gnomes. Still, they are quire friendly when they are interacting with other peoples, and make fast friends with the critters, elves, and friendly/good-spirited of the woods where they live. Their burrow-towns are more often root-burrows, similar to a series of root cellars, if a root cellar were converted into a home. They might also make home in tree hollows up in the limbs of a tree, in a forest with sufficiently large trees, but the classic image is much more David The Gnome.

Forest Gnomes also have a particular knack for illusion, and can speak with small and smaller animals, and one must consider how that impacts their culture and day-to-day lives.

They are unlike Wood Elves in several ways. For one, they are much smarter, not quite as graceful, and not as wise or intuitive. Beyond those things, though, they are not beings who live in harmony with the wood, but instead are beings who study and seek to truly understand, catalog, and categorize, the forest and all it's creatures and spirits.

They are just as inventive as Rock Gnomes, but much less technically inclined. Instead, Illusions are their domain, both in terms of creation, and in terms of defending their communities. Generally, unwelcome visitors will never find a Gnomish community, but where Rock gnomes use ingenious architecture, and Deep Gnomes hide their cities behind walls of solid stone, Forest Gnomes use simple illusions to hide what little is otherwise visible of their homes, so that to a passerby it seems simply that there is nothing but untouched forest all around them.

Similarly, when it becomes necessary to engage with an enemy, an army of Forest Gnomes and their animal and fey allies can appear out of every bush, root tangle, treeline, and pond in and around an enemy formation. By the time the invaders realize that these natural formations aren't real, it is much too late, and quiet soon returns to the wood.

Rock Gnomes and Deep Gnomes are cool too, but I will return to them another time!
 

aco175

Explorer
I liked to play gnomes back in 3e days. They seemed to have a place in the world. Maybe it was their abilities and having them as a mage or something. 4e say the gnome become a monster and get its own lair rather than be a PC race at first. Maybe that lost everyone. I never went back. 5e has gnomes, but I do not recall anyone I played with who ran one in a game.

I do not think there would be a problem giving all of them critter speech. Not sure that would matter in who will play them.
 

Eubani

Explorer
Maybe Rock Gnomes could get a tool proficiency and the ability to create a set of tools they are proficient in.
 

Richards

Adventurer
I like gnomes and in my current 3.5 campaign we have a gnome fighter (played by my son) named Binkadink Dundernoggin. He rides into battle on his jackalope steed wielding his magic glaive and of the six PCs in our group, he is definitely the meat shield and tough guy. (And his 3-foot height isn't a problem due to his gnomish stilt-boots, which can raise him to almost human height as needed.)

He uses his ability to talk to burrowing mammals to communicate with his jackalope, and in fact learned that as a secondary language so he can speak in that fashion all day if needed.

He once used his inherent prestidigitation and ghost sound abilities over the course of many months to convince the rest of the party that they were being followed (and tormented) by invisible fairies, whose giggling laughter could often be heard just before a PC's hair turned bright pink, or neon green, or deep violet for an hour.

And, despite the 3.5 descriptions of gnomes, those in my campaign are closer to those in 1st and 2nd edition AD&D: generally with large, bulbous noses and ridiculous-sounding names.

(And now that I think about it, for a short time in a AD&D 2E campaign my other son ran a gnome thief named Joniik, AKA "Big Daddy J.")

Johnathan
 

Mistwell

Adventurer
Critter speak has the potential be be hugely beneficial, but the issues I have with it are it works best with spells like Conjure Animals (because they become much more effective scouts if you can talk to them at will). However, that gnome's stats don't line up well with a druid. I wish they had a bonus to Wisdom instead of Dex or Int.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
In my current campaign, a rock gnome's clockwork toys will be more useful than speaking with small animals because it's an urban campaign.

I agree that what is useful is going to be campaign dependent, but what works for one campaign won't work for yours. At the same time, I don't think that all races need to be balanced as long as they have their own unique flavor.
 

Azzy

Explorer
Really, the thing with rock gnomes is that the 5e forrest gnome pretty much has the abilities of previous-edition rock gnomes, and 5e rock gnomes have inherited the tinker qualities of the Dragonlance gnomes to a minor extant (that didn't exist in the AD&D gnomes apart from that setting).

I've only seen a handful of gnomes in games that I've played or DM in (I've never played a gnome), but they've always been played seriously. I've got to say, that I fell in love with the depiction of gnomes in Paizo's Golarion setting, and have pretty much adopted that depiction (for the most part) for the settings that I run.
 

Hriston

Explorer
First, I don’t think Gnome Cunning takes up that much design space. It’s conditional advantage on one good save and two bad ones. IMO, that’s worth the same as a cantrip. It’s just that Gnome is the lightest base-race in the PHB. Most of the value is in the subraces.

Second, I think the clockwork toy is meant to have combat applicability, given that it specifies movement “on each of your turns”. This should at least distract any opponent with which it interacts, giving you or an ally advantage on attacks. Of course, the game leaves it up to the DM, but I’d say that in any game where the DM doesn’t rule that a rock gnome can reliably use its clockwork toy in combat, you’re better off playing a forest gnome.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
They used to be good as the intelligence buff in AD&D was unique in the phb.

Intelligence is kinda weak in 5E though and only benefits 1 class and is a tertiary stat for two archetype s.

Tieflings don't have the best package either but Mirdemkainens takes care of that.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Critter speak has the potential be be hugely beneficial, but the issues I have with it are it works best with spells like Conjure Animals (because they become much more effective scouts if you can talk to them at will). However, that gnome's stats don't line up well with a druid. I wish they had a bonus to Wisdom instead of Dex or Int.
I mean it works fine with just having good persuasion, as well. And makes falconer rangers interesting. (As long as your DM is nice about your pet or uses the revised ranger or otherwise helps you keep it alive)

but conceptually i agree that forest gnomes should be better druids than they are. As a DM I’d consider allowing a wisdom boost rather than wisdom, or since I don’t view druids as divine in my worlds/games, using Int for casting. But, honestly, I don’t think 5e needs you to match race to class all that much.

Then again, I also think that Druidic should allow you to speak with animals and without a spell, and maybe trees, too. Even if it had to be a tier 2 ability, I’d be okay with that.

In my current campaign, a rock gnome's clockwork toys will be more useful than speaking with small animals because it's an urban campaign.

I agree that what is useful is going to be campaign dependent, but what works for one campaign won't work for yours. At the same time, I don't think that all races need to be balanced as long as they have their own unique flavor.
I’m fine with races not being perfectly balanced, but a tool and a ribbon isn’t much for a subrace, and the reason I brought up that shortage is simply that it means there is plenty of room in the rock gnome to also be able to speak with critters.

As to the urban campaign...rats, birds, racoons, cats, and insects, are all small or smaller beasts. Speaking with them is incredible in an urban campaign.

Really, the thing with rock gnomes is that the 5e forrest gnome pretty much has the abilities of previous-edition rock gnomes, and 5e rock gnomes have inherited the tinker qualities of the Dragonlance gnomes to a minor extant (that didn't exist in the AD&D gnomes apart from that setting).

I've only seen a handful of gnomes in games that I've played or DM in (I've never played a gnome), but they've always been played seriously. I've got to say, that I fell in love with the depiction of gnomes in Paizo's Golarion setting, and have pretty much adopted that depiction (for the most part) for the settings that I run.
Im not familiar with the Golarion depiction, can you give a tl:dr of why you love them so much? I’d also love to hear about your favorite non-silly Gnome PCs!

First, I don’t think Gnome Cunning takes up that much design space. It’s conditional advantage on one good save and two bad ones. IMO, that’s worth the same as a cantrip. It’s just that Gnome is the lightest base-race in the PHB. Most of the value is in the subraces.

Second, I think the clockwork toy is meant to have combat applicability, given that it specifies movement “on each of your turns”. This should at least distract any opponent with which it interacts, giving you or an ally advantage on attacks. Of course, the game leaves it up to the DM, but I’d say that in any game where the DM doesn’t rule that a rock gnome can reliably use its clockwork toy in combat, you’re better off playing a forest gnome.
Ive never seen anyone try to do that. Interesting.
 
Gnome fan here. Had a gnome cleric character named Galidor “Stitch” Oortvliet a few years ago and enjoyed playing a cranky old gnome.

Increasingly, I’ve been gravitating to them as a less stereotyped dwarf (my #1 fantasy race). I feel like they can occupy some of that same territory without all the bad Scottish accents and other baggage that gets in the way.

Although…I know you said no negativity, but I’m currently painting a gnome miniature and I haven’t painted anything that small in years! It’s really been a test of my somewhat minimal miniature-painting skills.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Registered User
We need to make a difference between the bluff and the crunch, the lore and the gameplay.

Gnomes could be very popular in the hands of the right author. I would dare to say in the future we will see more gnomes PCs with a crossbow and Lannister surname.

But the racial traits have to be fixed. They are right if you want a illusionist spellcaster or a stealth class, but not more. I guess we need an option list of class features, like that Class Act article "Martial cultures" from Dragon Magazine 341, where the spell-like abilities were replaced with others.

In Pathfinder 2 the racial traits are replaced by optional racial feats.

I like the idea of the gnome as tamer of rider of a "monster pet". I miss the Savage Species sourcebook, one of my favorite although it was before 3.5.
 

DM Dave1

Explorer
Critter speak has the potential be be hugely beneficial, but the issues I have with it are it works best with spells like Conjure Animals (because they become much more effective scouts if you can talk to them at will). However, that gnome's stats don't line up well with a druid. I wish they had a bonus to Wisdom instead of Dex or Int.
In 5e, the Conjured Animals are considered Fey so, RAW, the Speak with Small Beasts power of Forest Gnomes doesn't apply.
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
Cookie Gnome Town.jpg
In my Eberron campaign, I added Cookie Gnomes in underground caverns who work with Mushroom Men; also, gypsy Garden Gnomes who use the Draconic Prophecy with rainbow-coloured tarot cards.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
I'm also in the camp that gnomes in 5E need...something. I don't think they are "underpowered" per se, but aside from wizard builds, they don't bring much else to the table compared to the other races. As someone else mentioned, that certainly has some to do with the lackluster Intelligence score. But in general, gnomes seem to be the odd race out.

In 3e, they were much more versatile. They had a +2 Con bonus, which was good for any class. Their small size made and skill bonuses made them good rogues, they had a bonus on illusion DCs, and even had some combat bonuses.

At the minimum, I would redo their stat bonuses. I like the idea of a Con bonus and then give the Rock gnome a +1 Int. I even like the idea of giving the Forest Gnome a +1 Wis to make it a better choice for druids and clerics.

I know the designers shied away from offering too many choices during character creation but I'm a big fan of offering racial stat choices. I could even see something like this:

Gnome Traits: +2 Dex or +2 Con
Forest Gnome: +1 Wis
Rock Gnome: +1 Int

Even without changing anything else, this opens up a TON of class options for the gnome. I could see adding some other racial spell options too though.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Being able to talk to rats in a urban campaign is about as useful as that ability gets IMO. Rats are everywhere and can get anywhere.

The Rock Gnome frankly sucks though. Tinker is flavor at best and generally bloody useless, and Artificer's Lore is neat, but really, really situational. I'll take critter talk and the cantrip every time. The Rock Gnome's total package isn't as good as either of the abilities forest gnomes get. I'm not completely married to optimization, and I have no problem playing a sub-optimal Race/class pairing if it fits the character I have in mind, but I don't think I could pull the trigger on Rock Gnome regardless of concept. That makes me sad, because I like Rock Gnomes.

Honestly, give them the mending cantrip, leave the critter talk in, plus the CON vs DEX and I'm pretty happy. Maybe give them advantage or expertise with Tinker's Tools, or even Artisan Tools generally or a subset of that list (at the expense of critter talk depending on breath of application).
 

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