D&D General what is the unifying theme of gnomes?

I thought occurred to me what is it that all gnomes share other than liking gems they could all be different races completely and no one would notice?

Does anyone have any idea what all types of gnomes share from both present editions and past verities?
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Does anyone have any idea what all types of gnomes share from both present editions and past verities?

They are terrible.

But less terrible than elves.

And while you think that they might share less of a common theme than elves do, I suggest finding the common denominator between the three billion, four hundred million, five hundred thousand and thirty eight varieties of elves that we currently have.*

Elves are like Baskin-Robbins ice cream- so many flavors, all of them terrible.

In comparison, gnomes are fine.


*Number are approximate, yet accurate. Search your heart- you know it to be true.
 

Reynard

Legend
They are terrible.

But less terrible than elves.

And while you think that they might share less of a common theme than elves do, I suggest finding the common denominator between the three billion, four hundred million, five hundred thousand and thirty eight varieties of elves that we currently have.*

Elves are like Baskin-Robbins ice cream- so many flavors, all of them terrible.

In comparison, gnomes are fine.


*Number are approximate, yet accurate. Search your heart- you know it to be true.
I take deep offense to this. There is nothing worse than a gnome.

Except a gnome bard.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I think there are a few sources for gnome tropes that have been very influential for D&D...

One is the various Books of Gnomes that were very popular for a time. They portray gnomes as tiny forest people, industrious caretakers of nature.

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The other is the fairy tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker. Sure they're called elves, but they're tiny magical tinkerers, and I think that helped inspire gnomes.

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I take deep offense to this. There is nothing worse than a gnome.

Except a gnome bard.

Ha! That's yet another reason gnomes are fine. Gnomes- they might tinker. They might creep you out in the garden. They might pop up in some instagrams traveling around the world.

But you almost never see a gnome bard.

Your average bard lover? Yeah, they love themselves some elves, too. Elves and bards go together like annoying co-workers and "Hot enuff for ya?"

Shake a troupe of bards long enough (something I delight in doing) and you'll get at least 29 varieties of elves falling out.
 

Agametorememberbooks

Explorer
Publisher
I have a hard time of thinking of gnomes as either; forest-dwelling caretakers or scatter-brained tinkerers (thank you Dragonlance).

As far as unifying themes; creativity, out of the box thinking, “squirrel”
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
being very small, curiosity, cunning and ingenuity is what link Gnomes of all types. Being small innately curious creatures they want to get in to everything around them but that leaves them exposed to larger menaces. Thus they must rely on cunning (trickery) to stay out of trouble and their ingenuity to negotiate obstacles.
That cunning and ingenuity can lead to to interest in illusion or tinkering or anything else a gnome wants to do
 


BookTenTiger

He / Him
being very small, curiosity, cunning and ingenuity is what link Gnomes of all types. Being small innately curious creatures they want to get in to everything around them but that leaves them exposed to larger menaces. Thus they must rely on cunning (trickery) to stay out of trouble and their ingenuity to negotiate obstacles.
That cunning and ingenuity can lead to to interest in illusion or tinkering or anything else a gnome wants to do
This is a great synopsis.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
You know what's more horrible than gnomes?

People who insist on cr*****g on stuff that other people might like in the name of "comedy".

I was going to say that the only thing worse than gnomes were dwarves.

Because they are dour and have no sense on humor. But I certainly would try to avoid the use of an expletive (no matter how mild) when doing so- it sets a bad example, don't you think?

Thankfully, humor is subjective. And we don't default to the dwarves to define it for us. :)
 

being very small, curiosity, cunning and ingenuity is what link Gnomes of all types. Being small innately curious creatures they want to get in to everything around them but that leaves them exposed to larger menaces. Thus they must rely on cunning (trickery) to stay out of trouble and their ingenuity to negotiate obstacles.
That cunning and ingenuity can lead to to interest in illusion or tinkering or anything else a gnome wants to do
How does curiosity manifest itself in forest gnomes?
I love playing them, but I've never found them innately curious – to me they are more caretakers and homebodies, with homes made of leaves and petals
 


Undrave

Hero
I thought occurred to me what is it that all gnomes share other than liking gems they could all be different races completely and no one would notice?

Does anyone have any idea what all types of gnomes share from both present editions and past verities?

being very small, curiosity, cunning and ingenuity is what link Gnomes of all types. Being small innately curious creatures they want to get in to everything around them but that leaves them exposed to larger menaces. Thus they must rely on cunning (trickery) to stay out of trouble and their ingenuity to negotiate obstacles.
That cunning and ingenuity can lead to to interest in illusion or tinkering or anything else a gnome wants to do
I feel like Gnome could use a more solid unifying theme. Personally I think linking them to the element of 'Earth' would do wonders. We already have Rock Gnomes, and the tinkerers could be qualified as Metal Gnomes (or Iron Gnomes?), and we could have Root Gnomes for the forest ones, but also, eventually, Gem Gnomes and Mushroom Gnomes, Sand Gnomes and so forth. Slap a bit of Feywild craziness on top, bonus for their tiny sizes, and you got a solid basis for various flavours of Gnomes.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
How does curiosity manifest itself in forest gnomes?
I love playing them, but I've never found them innately curious – to me they are more caretakers and homebodies, with homes made of leaves and petals

Arguably, the issue with gnomes is that (like the Ranger class) they were poorly defined at the beginning of D&D, and have suffered ever since from the lack of definition.

In the beginning, gnomes were simple ... small dwarves. Really. If you look to the 1e PHB and Monster Manual, they are described exclusively in relation to "their larger cousins, dwarves ..." In many ways, gnomes were simply dwarves who lived in rocky hills instead of mountains.

There just wasn't a lot to go on. Of course, lore began to spread around them, often because of certain peculiarities; for example, gnomes were often thought of as curious and "tricky" not because of the racial description, but because they were the only race, other than human, that could become an illusionist (and could multiclass into illusionist). But, again, there just wasn't a lot "there" for a lot of the early history of D&D.

That meant that when the later "flavors" of gnome were introduced, specifically the tinker gnome (in Dragonlance) and the playable Deep Gnomes (UA), those flavors kind of overwhelmed the concept of the original idea- sort of like how, with the Ranger, later introductions (such as dual-wielding) often overwhelmed the original class concept.

That's why the "essence of gnome" is difficult to tease out now. You don't have some sort of pre-D&D lore that is agreed-upon (Tolkien) like you do with Elves and Dwarves and Hobb... Halflings. It's a diffuse concept, with later additions overwhelming the base.
 

being very small, curiosity, cunning and ingenuity is what link Gnomes of all types. Being small innately curious creatures they want to get in to everything around them but that leaves them exposed to larger menaces. Thus they must rely on cunning (trickery) to stay out of trouble and their ingenuity to negotiate obstacles.
That cunning and ingenuity can lead to to interest in illusion or tinkering or anything else a gnome wants to do
Which also describes halflings, and lately kolbolds and goblins.
 

Of course, lore began to spread around them, often because of certain peculiarities; for example, gnomes were often thought of as curious and "tricky" not because of the racial description, but because they were the only race, other than human, that could become an illusionist (and could multiclass into illusionist).
Why, if they were just small versions of the decidedly unmagical dwarves, did the author (presumably Gygax) decide that they could be illusionists? He must have already had the idea of "tricky" in his head in order to let them belong to that class.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Gnomes have no unifying theme.

They're basically there to give people a Small Size character option that isn't "Hobbit". Because way back when, that's all halflings were. It took time for halflings to be more than portly hair-footed Bagginses. And gnomes gave people a way to play small without being -that-.

That's it. That's the whole reason gnomes exist as an option for players.

WotC and most other brands and writers try and differentiate gnomes by making them tinkers or fey or bankers (which has antisemitic roots) or whatever other role they can create that is as far from "Hobbit" as they can manage. Eberron made them Teachers, for example, tutors for the wealthy and powerful and...

What are the rest of the gnomes doing while some tiny portion acts as teachers? Same thing as everyone else. Only in the "Small People" Ghetto where halflings, gnomes, and sometimes goblins hung out. And the Keith went "Let's get crazy with halflings instead!" and made them into dino-riders instead of hobbits. Well. Almost. He turned around and made Ghallanda and made them hospitable hobbits, too.

Anyway. Yeah.

Gnomes exist to give players a short race that isn't Bilbo to play. Everything else is just tacked on additions over editions to try and make them stand out more.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Which also describes halflings, and lately kolbolds and goblins.
Halflings are just midget humans and are far to Tolkien, and yeah monster races are a thing - imho though goblins are scavengers, thats there defining thing
I think of the forest gnomes’ curiosity with respect to disciplines like herbalism, botany and working with nature, etc. Want an answer to a very specialized herbalism question, consult a forest gnome type of thing.
Yes this. Forest gnome curiosity it is seen in their interactions with animals, and fascination with mushrooms, herbs and roots
,
 

My recollection is that 1e AD&D gnomes were a weird hodgepodge of dwarf, elf, and halfling traits with no special thing all to themselves.

In my settings, they're the same race/species as halflings. They don't fill a distinct niche from each other ecologically, socially or narratively. Heck, they're in pretty much the same gameplay niche. I do allow players to use either/any rules for them (race traits or subrace) and assume all the variation represent internal diversity and/or cultures.

In other words, in-universe the difference is where they live.

They call themselves gnomes - halfling is an exonym.
 

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