• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

The Unified Theory of Gnomes

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Reposting myself from October. People periodically link to the post in an old thread I made, with my explanation that, IMO and IMC, I don't see gnomes has having too many disparate focuses; they have one focus that's never been properly identified as such:

The most devilishly handsome gnome there ever was said:
Gnomes are the equivalent of magical rabbits. They are smaller and weaker than almost everyone else (except for kobolds, whom they compete for living space with -- no one ever remembers that kobolds also live in dark forests per the RAW). EVERYONE can wipe them out if they want to, so gnomes, like rabbits, have learned to hide.

They're not illusionists because they're into Zen Buddhism, as Races of Stone tried to explain. They're illusionists because, if they're not, the local orc tribe will dig them all up and eat them during the next lunar eclipse.

And they're not illusionists in the cold, dry way that D&D magic is often portrayed. It permeates every aspect of their society. They learn tricks to hide their settlements, with secret doors and traps all over the place (albeit less cruel than the ones the kobolds use). They tell tall tales about the size of their settlements and nations, concealing the fact that the local king of the gnomes rules over four families living beneath a single meadow. They use false names and disguises when dealing with outsiders, to effectively increase their numbers. They lie and trick everyone they meet to see how easy they are to fool -- because they have to fool them to survive. Garl Glittergold isn't some Harlequin-style fool, he's El-ahrairah, the rabbit trickster hero from Watership Down. Some of them might even tell the world they're halflings because, you know, they're short and smart-alec and who really checks what race the short guy is?

They speak with animals because even the elves don't worry if a ground squirrel is watching them move through the forest, little realizing that the ground squirrel will pop into a gnome burrow for a treat later on, and tell the gnomes all about the band of elves marching single file through the woods.

They play with clockworks to bolster their numbers and master technology as an outgrowth in their trap-making expertise.

They trade in precious gems to buy the things they need to survive, and they call themselves "forest gnomes" who know nothing about mines and such when they're talking to races that figure a gnome burrow full of gems will be easy to rob.

There's one race of gnomes. They're just not foolish enough to show a single face to the world.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
And, for the record, all of this is how gnomes are played by me and IMC in practice:

One of the two gnomes IMC (Ebuferpaly Potentloins, gnome rogue/cleric of Garl Glittergold) is currently investigating an attempted murder in the gnomish enclave of Wit's End, a combination between a faerie mound, a gnomish commune and an old text adventure-style puzzle dungeon. Illusions abound and go even deeper than that, as very little is as it seems in Wit's End.

In the game I play in, my gnome illusionist/bard/gnome paragon (after this adventure, when I get my next level), Baeril Underhill, is a consulting detective in Ptolus -- basically an excuse for him to badger people to tears with endless questions -- investigating the apparent threat of a gnome illusionist intent on disrupting the wedding between two noble families. Here, it's pretty clear, that even less is as it seems than in Wit's End.

For Baeril, life is all about having layer upon layer of illusions piled upon him. He dresses like a crazed Swiss mountaineer and yodels and claims to come from a gnomish nation no one's ever seen. When he succeeded on his saving throw in a zone of truth, he pretended otherwise and proceeded to annoy the crap out of everyone by quizzing them about their personal secrets and announcing opinions that made him look foolish, so he could then start saying some inaccurate things because everyone now "knows" he's forced to tell the truth.

In late 2008, when the rumored arcane magic book comes out with the core illusionist class that WotC has mentioned, I'll use the retraining rules to turn Baeril from a gnome wizard to a gnome illusionist, as his "archetypal gnome" thing is really me playing with 3E mechanics currently. He'll still yodel and still wear lederhosen, though.
 
Last edited:


Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Oh, and even Zogonia subscribes to my Unified Theory!

strip7zogonia.jpg


ANYONE could be a gnome!
 
Last edited:

Jinete

Explorer
I really liked your Gnome flavor, but I don't think it fits my vision of what a 4e PC is going to be.

From the mechanics and flavor previews, I see 4e characters as "Going Around Kicking The Crap Out Of Evil With Our Cool And Balanced Powers" not "Going Around Outsmarting People Because We Are In Fact Weak"

I'm not saying you couldn't fit a Gnome as you imagine him in your 4e campaign, I just think that he would be the outsider. Well, maybe not in *your* campaign he wouldn't, but in campaigns that will go with the imaging and flavor that the WotC give us.

I hope I'm wrong though.
 

withak

First Post
That description is full of win. I will be using gnomes just like this IMC.

That said, I agree with Jinete. This sort of flavor doesn't seem to mesh well with what 4e wants out of its PCs. This sort of gnome isn't "heroic" enough, at least not in the ass-kicking sense. That said, there is no way I would discourage a player from creating a gnome of exactly this sort to use as a PC. It'd be way too much fun.

It will be interesting to see what kind of flavor gnomes get in the 4e MM.
 

Wepwawet

Explorer
Jinete said:
From the mechanics and flavor previews, I see 4e characters as "Going Around Kicking The Crap Out Of Evil With Our Cool And Balanced Powers" not "Going Around Outsmarting People Because We Are In Fact Weak"
"Going Around Outsmarting People Because We Are In Fact Weak" is just a smart way that weaker guys use for "Going Around Kicking The Crap Out Of Evil With Our Cool And Balanced Powers" efficiently.

And there are many ways to be heroic. You don't need to literally kick some butts to be a hero.
Probably this idea is just a consequence of the game favoring combat while leaving role-playing behind.
 

Irda Ranger

First Post
Jinete said:
I really liked your Gnome flavor, but I don't think it fits my vision of what a 4e PC is going to be.

From the mechanics and flavor previews, I see 4e characters as "Going Around Kicking The Crap Out Of Evil With Our Cool And Balanced Powers" not "Going Around Outsmarting People Because We Are In Fact Weak"

I'm not saying you couldn't fit a Gnome as you imagine him in your 4e campaign, I just think that he would be the outsider. Well, maybe not in *your* campaign he wouldn't, but in campaigns that will go with the imaging and flavor that the WotC give us.
I agree with the above (including the "I like your style" part). D&D 4E is catering to the "butt-kicking" style of game. Roleplayers will be just fine because there's no rules that can stop you from roleplaying; but ever race has to "kick ass" in combat its own way. Gnomes (as you present them) are all avoid avoiding combat.

You know what the second-most-famous[1] saying is among the Gnomes? "Never get in a fist fight with tall folk when death is on the line."

I'm glad you wrote the above now. I still think Gnomes will remain an NPC race IMC, but now I have some really good ideas how to play them. I hope the 4E MM does a good job of presenting some similarly unified, coherent and playable picture of them.


[1] The most-famous is of course "Never get in a land war in Asia."
 


Remove ads

Top