D&D 5E What interesting niche do Gnomes have in your Homebrew Campaigns?

Oofta

Legend
IMC gnomes are goblins, and vice versa. Both sides deny it, but it's true nonetheless.

In terms of niche, like elves, gnomes came from the Feywild back in their prehistory. But where elves have an affinity with trees - tall, straight, and mighty, gnomes are much more associated with fungi and the other, more mutable, life of the forest.
Kind of the same here. They both originated from feywild goblins which are neither. Long ago when the feywild goblins emigrated to Midgard they split into two groups, one following the wicked and hurtful trickery path and the other the light hearted fun trickery path.

But for the OP I'm afraid my gnomes would be boring. 🤷‍♂️ Most lean in to being inventive creative types, always trying to outdo each other in their competitions. It doesn't really matter if it's illusion magic or mechanical invention, always pushing limits in search of improvements. This is both beneficial because sometimes things really do work, other times they just end up breaking things that worked just fine.

Forest gnomes are more likely to play pranks and practical jokes and specialize in illusionary magic that blends in to their surround environment.

Individual gnomes of course are free to go their own path, but without some racial tendencies and tropes, I don't see a lot of reason to have multiple races in the first place.
 

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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Gnomes are not from the Land of Faerie. When the material world contained only dragons and titans, and the Elder Gods walked the land, gnomes were, in fact, the original species of [Prime] Material beings.

They were made by the titans to act as servants and caretakers for the "garden." The dragons taught them all of their magics. The titans taught them all of their crafts. The gnomes were responsible for the proper growth and tending of all the plants and flowers, trees and vines, the newly made animals and goodly creatures of the land, sky and stream...as evil and corruption had not yet found its way back into the world.

When Evil came to the world and the garden was corrupted and (largely) destroyed, the gnomes were broken and divided, thrown into disarray and discordance. Many lost their way and fell into their own evil ways. Many others used their knowledge and magic to escape the blasted material world for -presumably- safer and more stable existences. The fewest remained in the material realm, hiding their communities as best they could, distrusting most other species as they, one by one, came to being, their nations rising and falling in the tumult of evil and chaos that is constantly ebbing and flowing across what -once- was the perfectly attuned existence of peace and harmony that was facilitated by them.

The Kaldoi went into the deep wooded hills, hiding away but keeping/deeply connected to their original purpose of "tending the garden of creation." Their willingness to trade and trust other species, believing and hoping for fostering the good of creation, have been led to their all-but-complete extinction. Only a few [known] enclaves scattered around the world remain or could be found by those consciously seeking out the Kaldoi.

The Pekki (commonly called "Pechs" by other peoples) found their way to the plane of Elemental Earth and became the elemental beings alchemists commonly refer to as "gnomes."

The Daktoloi went deep beneath the ground. Whether or not they still exist in the Underworld is a matter of some speculation, even for the more surface-dwelling Kaldoi.

The Telkini fled the upending chaos beneath the waves and are said to only heed the will of the gods and creators, destroying all who attempt to gain their aid to make wondrous weapons.

Many others did flee to the Land of Faerie -once it was created- at the start of the Godswar. Some are now called Spriggans, the Buckawns, others the goblinoid Redcaps, or bizzarely warpred Korreds. Still others, it is thought may have found their ways through secret paths to the Planes of Shadow, Ice or Fire. But these are mostly tales told by other gnomes for where the various original clans of gnomekind went (versus acknowledging their various destruction through all of these long ages).

All types of gnomes possess knowledge, history and lore, metallurgy and alchemy, and of course expertise for illusion and nature magics beyond almost any species. The fact most of the bigfolk see "gnomes" (the Kaldoi, as those are the only most people think or know of) as dangerous untrustworthy tricksters is a ruse they are happy to perpetuate to keep their communities hidden and their knowledge/secrets of the true natures, powers, and histories of the world, all their own.

Gnomes watched the coming of the first elves to the world. Oversaw (and some will say aided in) the creation of the first dwarves. Marveled at the elder gods' making of the Five Tribes of Men. The gnomes know and accept this unquestionably. It is a great "joke" -for them- upon the other species of the world. Gnomes were first (non-divinely made) people of Orea and knew/know arts, sciences, magics, and crafts the other species have hardly begun to imagine.

They exist on a cosmic platform all their own. Beneath their titan makers and dragon teachers, of course. But well above the "accidental" (if immortal) elves, the "carved rocks" called dwarves, and the -most laughable- "momentary flickering lanterns" known as humans.

They let the elves and men and dwarves tell their tales and write their histories...All telling different ways how and where the gnomes came from...All the while, it was the gnomes watching from the shadowed glades and deepest caverns, as these "new/young" species being born. It was gnomes who led the first elves to figure out how to harness the magics of nature. It was gnomes that taught the first dwarves (the "Rocks of Oor") how to mine and work with gold and iron. It was gnomes that brought Men to the discovery of their first letters and words to record their histories and ways and kings.

It was all the gnomes...but only the gnomes know that. How it makes them laugh. And they'll never tell.
 
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Villains.

I make fun of gnomes, but this one word has me inspired. What I’m picturing, though, is that the gnomes seem like archetypical gnomes, and are only unearthed as the villainous masterminds over time. First the players have to realize/accept they are evil. Then they try to prove/persuade the rest of the world.

Could be fun.
 

Voadam

Legend
In d20 days I house ruled gnomes to be fey and gnomish to be a dialect of sylvan.

In my homebrew mashup campaign gnomes are mostly the Pathfinder background of having come from the feywild to escape some calamity they do not remember.

I like the Midgard backstory for gnomes. At one point a prince of the gnomes crossed Baba Yaga in a big way and she swore vengeance on him and his people so she started to genocidally hunt down all gnomes. The gnomes are a people on the run and in hiding.

I incorporated that into my campaign world when running the pathfinder Reign of Winter adventure Path. The party were crossing a path through the Feywild/First World and ran into a fleeing gnome asking for help as he was being chased by a witch. The Ulfen paladin offered his protection and then a young Baba Yaga showed up asking for the gnome wrongdoer. When the paladin refused she could do nothing about this directly (they were on the path and had not strayed off it) but she instead declared vengeance on the gnome's people and the Ulfen people, which instigated her conquering half of the former Lands of the Linnorm Kings and setting up the nation of Irrisen in the present day world's past, the default setting setup the party had started in. The gnome's name was Garl. When they met him he was the oldest of a set of gnomish brothers, the only gnomes in existence at that point.

In my present the gnomes are a full PC race option present in the world and I have used NPC gnomes.

Midgard continues with the gnomish story with a gnomish prince in desperation making a deal with an archdevil to protect his people from Baba Yaga. The archdevil sets up a protected homeland for a population of gnomes, but the price is a regular sacrifice of souls. The gnomes of that population have turned into trickster kidnappers to avoid having to sacrifice their own to meet the regular quota price. This is quite dark, if I incorporate this it would be for one specific community of gnomes.
 

Voadam

Legend
I also like the gnome backstory from Cultures of Celmae: Gnomes.

"The Gnomes of Celmae are one of its oldest, but shortest lived races. Long before the Shattering sundered the world, they fought the horrific gugs in the world below, defending the surface from their depravity. After the cataclysm, the gnomes were forced from their ancestral country and traveled the world, looking for new places to call home."
 

Voadam

Legend
I make fun of gnomes, but this one word has me inspired. What I’m picturing, though, is that the gnomes seem like archetypical gnomes, and are only unearthed as the villainous masterminds over time. First the players have to realize/accept they are evil. Then they try to prove/persuade the rest of the world.

Could be fun.
In my current campaign half the PCs are members of a copper dragon cult. Two cult leader patrons to the party in different cities have been gnomes partially patterned off of the Joker and Harley Quinn.

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Blackrat

He Who Lurks Beyond The Veil
My gnomes used to rule the world and pretty much uplifted and enslaved the other species. Then they broke the world and magic in their hubris, and most of them devolved into goblins. The remaining gnomes are feared and shunned for their ancestors’ actions.
 


Thinking on things as I brainstorm potential options:

Most races have been represented fairly well thus far. Dragonborn are uncommon only because their homeland is on the other side of a Pacific sized ocean (though it has many more islands than the central Pacific, so trade is more practical), but they do exist as a small minority. Orcs and half-orcs are quite common, as humans and orcs were two of the initial mortal races of the Tarrakhuna. Elves are less common, as their homeland lies to the south, but not at all unheard of (frex, the late Minister of Public Works was an elf who had served in the royal court of the current, relatively young Sultana's grandmother and her father as well, who had an infamously long reign.) We've seen ogres and minotaurs as merchants and shopkeepers, burrowing owlkin, dwarves (also slightly uncommon as their homeland is the eastern mountains and the steppe further east), tieflings, genasi as well as proper genies, and even the regions (presumed) first aasimar-like race. But no gnomes and no halflings.

On the one hand, I could just call it DM oversight and include some, but I think that's kind of boring. Instead, I'm going to lean into it. Why haven't we seen gnomes yet? They would need to be in some sense "further away" than across the great sea, or have some kind of difficulty with reaching the region or a barrier they cannot normally cross. There must be a reason.

And now it occurs to me: I have avoided putting too much "fae" stuff into my world. Genies fill that role in their own unique way (being more political and slightly less whimsical, but still a bit alien and rather Blue-and-Orange Morality.) Long ago, for Many Plot Reasons, the genie-rajahs abandoned (almost all of) their holdings in the mortal world (called "Al-Duniyyah") and chose to depart for Al-Akirah, the elemental otherworld where their elemental genie powers would be stronger. I have only very lightly touched on the environment of Jinnistan (the country where the genies live in Al-Akirah), as the party has only visited one city there and it was located inside a mountain.

What if gnomes are the original inhabitants of Jinnistan? (Stealing the ideas from @Charlaquin and @delericho about them having tufted ears and tails and them being the same race as goblins even if both sides deny it vociferously.) They did not have an institutionalized, magical semi-industrialized society, having lived as a mix of pastoralists and speleoculturists (my semi-invented name for cave farmers!) This creates some tension, but not as much as might otherwise be the case, because the genies mostly don't care about the underground parts of Jinnistan and don't actively police the land between their city-states any more than they previously did in the Tarrakhuna, when humans and orcs (etc.) were nomadic hunter-gatherers/pastoralists too.

This would then make gnomes unpredictable but potentially useful allies should there be any issues with Jinnistani nobles...but at the same time if the party wishes to court any said nobles (and in general they do), this could sour any relations they might later seek with gnomes.

My gnomes will be more elemental than fae. Perhaps I could even merge halflings and kobolds as well to cover the four classical elements: halflings are riverfolk (water), goblins are cave-tenders (earth), gnomes are the surface-walkers (air), and kobolds are deep dwellers whose scaly skin protects them from the heat in their lava-rich homes. I like the symmetry in that.
 


vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
My gnomes gain most of the tropes of the dwarves as miners and craftsman and their relation to earth, stone and gems. They are tiny, though. They are Brownies, using fey-mirage to hide themselves while they work relentlessly on hundreds of tasks at the time.

On the other hand, Dwarves arent all that small. They are just called ''dwarves'' because they are the descendant of the folk enslaved by the Giant empire of old (taken from 4e lore). So they are more or less as tall a humans. That's also why dwarven dialects are written in Dethek, just like Giants. They are still inhabiting the converted ruins of Ostoria, keeping the themes of Mountain folk, stout & grim folk, lost treasures, wandering folk without a homeland etc
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
Like @Voadam I prefer Pathfinder's "bleaching fey" gnomes. They were a colorful (literally) fey race forced to leave the First World (fey realm) a long time ago. They have an enigmatic existence where if they aren't experiencing new things, they gradually fade away, called bleaching, where the color leaves them until they fade away. Their fey background seems instinctively to involve pranks and nonsensical jokes. Their existence is all about "action over inaction."

For my upcoming Dragonlance campaign, I'm adopting gnomes as-is from that setting, removing the "curse" that plagues the gnomes of Ansalon (wherein their inventions don't work). They're tinkers and makers, thinking faster than they can speak, and constantly thinking of the next great way to improve on something, often however overstepping prudence with progress.
 

RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
The gnomes of my world act very much like the cross between dwarves and elves as far as how they are portrayed. They are gruff craftsmen but typically of potions, herbal substances, and other alchemical items as well as more unconventional mechanical contraptions instead of weapons, armor and other more common crafts of the dwarves. They are fairly in touch with nature and the arcane but are not as isolationist or aloof as the elves typically are. They often act as liaisons between Dwarves and Elves.
 

Omand

Hero
Great topic.

I currently do not have gnomes in my homebrew as I have struggled with how to fit them in an portray them. With Halflings also around to fit the small people slot (and I use Kobolds as well), I have not been able to see a place for them.

I will have to consider some of the options in this thread.

Cheers :)
 

jgsugden

Legend
In my setting, the various heritages originated when the Gods discovered that free willed servants that worshipped them granted them greater power. My Gods use common names from Greyhawk and the Dawn War Pantheons, now, but those are reskins to make them more accessible to new players after I moved across the country. Originally they were all homebrew. Most gnomes tend to live in cultures with strong ties back to their origin, but a small percentage break from those origins and live independent of the influence of their origin.

Rock gnomes were crafted by Erathis, and their craftsmanship is part of their cultural homage to their origin. They tend to unite and build. They also work Spelljammers, as do another heritage that originated with Erathis - the Giff. They are strongly affiliated with the Giff. This Erathis ascended to Godhood from a Gold Dragon origin, and the Rock Gnomes have a touch of Gold Dragon embedded into their cultural iconography.

The majority of Forest Gnomes come from two origins. One set are culturally tricksters. Their heritage was crafted by Erevan Ilesere. They have ties to the Archfey and elves. They tend to come from smaller clans and splinter from their clans to form new clans at young ages. The lessons of their ancestors encourage them to sow chaos, but not animosity. However, these forest gnomes were copied from the creation of Obad-hai, who is alignde with very primal nature magics. They have a strong alignment with beasts and live in harmony with them in natural settings.

The Deep Gnomes originated as a creation of the God of Dark Magics, Wee Jas. This Wee Jas is a bit different than the one many of you know. The Dark Magics are born of twisted and evil Fey Pacts, and the Deep Gnome clans are the scribes and servants of these Dark Pacts. These Dark Fey Magics are often built upon blood sacrifices, murders, and forture - and many of the Deep Gnomes are influenced by constant exposure to those levels of evil.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
In one game I was a player, I had developed Gnomish culture - they lived in a rough area called the "red hills" (inspired by an unamed region between the Alay valley and the Tarim basin in the real world). In these arid and maze-like hills, fierce clans of gnomes lived. My PC was a guide (a ranger) who helped merchant travel the area and avoid the goblin tribes, for a hefty fee of course...

In another game, I play an Autognome - I am a space probe, sent to travel the stars and explore. I do not know who my creators are, but I have heard rumors of a vast empire that trade cookies. (the PC is a fathomless warlock, but instead of the sea it's space-themed, and his powers are mechanical based)

So why not play an artificer? Because in the same campaign we have a flesh and blood gnome artificer :)
 



In my world, the gnomes and the haflings are opposite reponses to colonialism. Both of them are very old races who inhabited the current region before elves and humans and dwarves moved in. As the "big people" expanded from their own homelands, the gnomes and the halflings responded differently.

Halflings integrated with the colonisers, abandoning their own customs and history. Today, halflings live in human and elven and dwarven settlements, following human and elven and dwarven customs. Few halflings know their own language any more.

Gnomes retreated into the woods and hills, hiding their communities away from the world. A village could be half a days walk from a gnome settlement and not know it.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
In a campaign I was working on, Gnomes were true fey, but not as inherently powerful as others of their kind. There were two kinds.

The Forest gnomes were everything we associate with that name- small, cap-wearing beings who could communicate with animals. More nature-oriented than Elves.

The Tinker gnomes were inspired by the ones from D&D, but with a twist. Their mechanical creations were still functional, but only worked for gnomes.
 

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