D&D General Reassesing Robert E Howards influence on D&D +

The Scythian

Explorer
Gnomes (up-scaled ripoffs of the Gnomes from the very popular book released in English in 1977) first show up in the PH in 1978
They definitely predate 1977.

Gnomes appear as far back as 1971's Chainmail. They make it into OD&D in 1974, and the illustration of gnomes above the alignment table in Men & Magic depicts small men with beards and Phrygian caps. Even without the helpful caption "GNOMES", we would probably recognize them as such today.

I think that there's actually a very strong case that the AD&D gnome was Gygax's attempt to bring Hugi the woods dwarf from Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions directly into the game. (I've made this case before, and when I figure out how to like to an older post in a different thread, I'll do that here. But for now, I'll plagiarize myself, possibly with some light editing.)

In the novel, Hugi is depicted as being just shy of three feet tall, with a comically oversized nose, earth-brown skin, a white beard, and white hair. His people have "working arrangements" with the creatures of the forest and live in "woodsy burrows." Hugi himself is such an adept burrower that he is able to identify sloping passages that confuse his human companion and also tell when his party is nearing the surface.

The AD&D Players Handbook refers players to the Monster Manual for details about the gnome, and what do we find there? Most gnomes have skin that is "wood brown" but some range to "grey brown." Their hair ranges from "medium to pure white." They stand three feet tall and up. Most live in the hills, but some make their home in burrows. They tame badgers and wolverines to serve as guard animals. They are able miners so, like dwarves, they are able to detect various features underground, and they are slightly better at it. In fact, turning back to the Players Handbook, we find that gnomes are specifically better than dwarves at detecting sloping passages and figuring out how far they are underground - the two abilities Hugi specifically displays in the novel!

The correspondence between Anderson's wood dwarfs and the AD&D gnome is so great than when the character was adapted for AD&D in Dragon #49, he was just referred to as a gnome with no changes made.

Turning the clock back, gnomes in Chainmail appear as a parenthetical variant of (or alternative to) dwarves. They are not distinct mechanically, but they and kobolds are described as mortal enemies in the same way that dwarves and goblins are. (This has nothing to do with Anderson or Tolkien, it's just that this is the only difference in the shared entry for dwarves and gnomes.)

Gnomes are not mentioned in OD&D's Men & Magic as a distinct race that players can choose, but they do make it onto the alignment table as "Dwarves/Gnomes", which is where the picture I mentioned above is located. However, dwarves are given the ability to identify certain features underground, which suggests that Gygax was probably thinking of Anderson's dwarfs as well as Tolkien's dwarves at the time.

In Monsters & Treasure, gnomes are described as the shy "cousins" of dwarves, who live in "hills and lowland burrows" and grow their beards longer but are otherwise very similar to dwarves. There are some minor mechanical differences (gnomes are more likely to be encountered in their lairs, their treasure type is different, and they have slightly worse AC). The "hills and lowland burrows" bit is probably a reference to woods dwarfs, which is more evidence that Gygax was thinking of Anderson's dwarfs as well as Tolkien's dwarves.

In Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975), the gnome is explicitly listed as a playable type of dwarf for the first time, with the distinction being that gnomes are identified as burrowers, which I think is additional confirmation for my theory that gnomes are basically Anderson's Hugi as a race.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
They definitely predate 1977.
They appear with their own rules for the first time as a playable race for official D&D in 1978's PH.

Fair point that they appear as a monster before that, and that Greyhawk appears to consider them as a kind of burrowing Dwarf, a sub-type of the PC race with no separate rules.

Great collection of references, thank you! I think your argument that gnomes are meant to be Hugi (despite Anderson not using that term) is a pretty good one, but the gnome/dwarf cross-references in Chainmail and OD&D read more to me like Gygax trying to generify concepts. Roger Moore making Hugi a gnome in Dragon magazine three years later seems more to me like he followed some of the same logic that you did, in terms of mechanics.

I think you've made a strong argument that gnomes aren't purely an up-scaled version of the guys from the 1977 book, but I would be inclined to view its success as a strong factor in gnomes being promoted to full PC race with its own stats in the PH, as opposed to just being functionally a synonym for or alternate name for Dwarves.
 

The Scythian

Explorer
They appear with their own rules for the first time as a playable race for official D&D in 1978's PH.

Fair point that they appear as a monster before that, and that Greyhawk appears to consider them as a kind of burrowing Dwarf, a sub-type of the PC race with no separate rules.

Great collection of references, thank you! I think your argument that gnomes are meant to be Hugi (despite Anderson not using that term) is a pretty good one, but the gnome/dwarf cross-references in Chainmail and OD&D read more to me like Gygax trying to generify concepts. Roger Moore making Hugi a gnome in Dragon magazine three years later seems more to me like he followed some of the same logic that you did, in terms of mechanics.

I think you've made a strong argument that gnomes aren't purely an up-scaled version of the guys from the 1977 book, but I would be inclined to view its success as a strong factor in gnomes being promoted to full PC race with its own stats in the PH, as opposed to just being functionally a synonym for or alternate name for Dwarves.
AD&D gnomes are not like Anderson's woods dwarfs solely in terms of mechanics, though. Like woods dwarfs, AD&D gnomes have brown skin. Like woods dwarfs, AD&D gnomes are explicitly described as living in burrows. Woods dwarfs have an arrangement with the lesser animals of the forest, which is not a perfect match for AD&D's gnomes taming badgers and wolverines, but it's in the same ballpark. Woods dwarfs and AD&D gnomes are right around the same size. Those would be enough similarities to convince me, but the fact that Gygax made AD&D's gnomes better than dwarves at identifying sloping passages and determining how far they are from the surface, the two proficiencies Hugi displays in the novel, confirms it. At least for me.

I don't think that Huygen and Poortvliet's gnomes have anything to do with AD&D's gnomes. Unlike Hugi, they're not associated with adventuring. They're about the size of large mice. They have white skin, not brown skin. It's been years since I've read Gnomes, but I don't remember his gnomes being especially good at identifying sloping passages or anything of the sort. About the only similarity is their relationship with animals. In that like, it seems strange to me to point to that book as an influence on the AD&D gnome, when the AD&D gnome is pretty much exactly Hugi, a character from a book that Gygax also took the paladin, the troll, and the law vs. chaos alignment system from.

I agree with you that Gygax was attempting to genericize classes and creatures in Chainmail and OD&D. That's why we have Heroes and Superheroes as unit types in Chainmail, and Fighting-Men and Magic-Users in OD&D. A Hero could be Bard the Bowman from The Hobbit. A Superhero could be Conan, Holger (from Three Hearts and Three Lions), or King Arthur. A Fighting-Man could be a barbarian, a knight, a member of the town watch, or a paladin. The Paladin would be added as a subclass of Fighting-Man in the same supplement that Gygax would explicitly mention the gnome as a playable type of burrowing dwarf, which suggests he might have had Three Hearts and Three Lions on the mind.

This may or may not be true with creatures, though. In Chainmail, Gygax suggests that only Anderson's trolls are actually trolls, while other trolls are simply ogres. So, we know that he had Three Hearts and Three Lions on his mind when compiling the fantasy unit types. That doesn't prove that he was thinking of woods dwarfs when he listed gnomes as an alternate to (or variant of) dwarves but given that he increasingly identified the gnome with the woods dwarf as the game became more complex and he had more and more room to write, I think a case could be made that he was thinking of them the whole time.

Edit: One thing that I keep forgetting to put in my posts is that Gygax claimed that he added the gnome to break up the monotony of seeing party after party with the same Tolkienesque races operating in the same ways. This quote is somewhat suspect because he claims he pulled the gnome from folklore, when he clearly pulled it from Three Hearts and Three Lions, but it also might explain why he gave the gnome/woods dwarf an increasingly distinct identity from the dwarf, because people kept showing up at his tables wanting to play Tolkienesque dwarves. (There are things that are related that I want to address in a separate post soon.)
 
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The Scythian

Explorer
@The Scythian Interesting posts!
Thank you!

I share your feeling that Gygax is not going direct to folklore, as opposed to mediating via authors such as Anderson.
This is something I hope to get to if I can compose the post I'd like to quickly enough for it to remain relevant.

Was Anderson familiar with The Hobbit?
Yes. Not only was he familiar with The Hobbit, but he put wargs into Three Hearts and Three Lions as an homage.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I don't think Huygen and Poortvliet's gnomes came into D&D until the Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings and the section on Forest Gnomes, and even that seemed to be a short-lived view of gnomes in D&D.

Oddly, my first encounter with D&D gnomes was the unkeyed gnome lair in the Moldvay/Cook Expert set, until then I hadn't noticed their stat block in the Basic book, and I don't remember them being in any of the B/X line of modules. I was familiar with "David the Gnome", but D&D's gnome did not strike me as being like them.
 

pemerton

Legend
Yes. Not only was he familiar with The Hobbit, but he put wargs into Three Hearts and Three Lions as an homage.
Thanks for this information (I've never read Three Hearts and Three Lions).

Upthread I posted this:
Gygax did not independently come up with the idea of armies of Elves and Dwarves who might fight alongside human armies. The whole notion of turning fairy stories - with their Elves and Dwarves and the like - into more-or-less naturalistic fiction, where the faerie people have homes that might be visited and lived in, and inhabitants who might be interacted with, in an "ordinary" way, comes from JRRT.
It may be that my post is inaccurate to this extent - Gygax may have got the idea from Anderson, who seems at least to have been influenced by JRRT (via The Hobbit), rather than directly from JRRT.

I still stand by my view that Gygax did not independently come up with the idea.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
One thing that I keep forgetting to put in my posts is that Gygax claimed that he added the gnome to break up the monotony of seeing party after party with the same Tolkienesque races operating in the same ways. This quote is somewhat suspect because he claims he pulled the gnome from folklore, when he clearly pulled it from Three Hearts and Three Lions, but it also might explain why he gave the gnome/woods dwarf an increasingly distinct identity from the dwarf, because people kept showing up at his tables wanting to play Tolkienesque dwarves. (There are things that are related that I want to address in a separate post soon.)
If one looks over his postings here and at Dragonsfoot in the last years of his life, EGG seems to misremember things or do what a lot of people do and retroactively ascribe motives to actions that make sense in later life, but which might not have occurred to them at the time.

But, as with the Gnomes book, it's possible for something to be inspired by multiple things. He could have wanted to not have every group look like the Fellowship of the Ring and have liked gnomes from mythology and have remembered the gnome from Three Hearts and Three Lions and have read and enjoyed Gnomes like everyone else in the 1970s. And later on, he might have remembered none or all of these desires or have "remembered" rationales that might not have occurred to him at the time.
 

Thanks for this information (I've never read Three Hearts and Three Lions).

It is actually a very helpful read for understanding oder versions of D&D. I never really grasped the whole race equals class thing for demihumans for example (it makes a little more sense reading something like Poul Anderson, and the alignment system also makes more sense---at least the original L and C and N. It is a fairly short book as well. I wouldn't say it is a book I would be all that interested in if there wasn't a D&D connection (there isn't anything wrong with the writing, it just isn't the kind of book I tend to go for).
 

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