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D&D General why do we have halflings and gnomes?

why do we have halflings and gnomes?

I get that they are classic and all that but I can't for the life of me figure out the appeal of them or what to do with them in a setting?

I know why Tolkien used hobbits but I do not see who the use them in a non-story setting (gaming settings are slightly different)

gnomes I just have no idea aside from loving gems which is not something to build a culture around.

I know of similar concepts to them that I am more familiar but they are very different in rather drastic ways (they have more location-based subtypes than even elves) but I was asked for something less completely out there.
do any of you know what halflings, gnomes and such types are for in a setting? or why people might play them?
 

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Hatmatter

Laws of Mordenkainen, Elminster, & Fistandantilus
I have a campaign of no sentients but humans, halflings, gnomes, and dragons. Gnomes are great because they are usually hidden and often going into the Fey Wild and then returning. Halflings are simple villagers who sometimes produce heroes, but they always have to negotiate a difficult and dangerous world. They have less magical protection and secrecy then gnomes. Only the humans and dragons have empires. Humans, gnomes, and handlings all produce heroes and adventurers.

Until now, I never even thought much about not having dwarves or elves in the world until now, to tell you the truth. It just seemed simpler for me to create a world without long-lived empire builders like dwarves and elves.
 

I think its fairly obvious why hobbits where included - LotR fans wanted to be like their heroes.

Gnomes is a good question. They didn't enter D&D until the 1st edition AD&D players handbook. They are drawing from the same mythological well as elves and dwarves. In Tolkien's writings, the noldor elves are specifically identified with gnomes. D&D gnomes resemble non-Tolkienated elves. Magical little people who make toys for Santa, make shoes for poor cobblers, help maidens spin straw into gold, miners who take in lost princesses etc.

There are gnomes in L. Frank Baum's Oz stories, maybe they jumped from there to AD&D?
 

NaturalZero

Adventurer
Gnomes I like because they're A. from real world folklore with history and B. they have innate magic powers that not every other PC shows up with at 1st level.

Halfings... feel like absolute worthless filler, to me. I'll let people play them, but I'll detail a campaign setting with like 20 races and always, always leave them out, by default.
 


Otherwise elves have no-one to make fun of.
the elves would find a way.

okay so gnomes are magic earthy people and halflings are well I know exactly what the things they are based on but I kinda wanted ideas for a different direction to go with them.

fae wild is aside from a thing in the dmg is so undetailed that I have no idea how to tie into it.
anything else?

my task was set to make high fantasy and by high fantasy, they meant Dragonlance mixed with Tolkien, not the madness I prefer.
 


I like gnomes because they embody that liminal space in folklore where the bright line between elf and dwarf just doesn't exist. They are the classic little people and mythic tricksters. They are also important in alchemical lore, which I'm a fan of.

For halflings? Not a clue. They seem to me a one story people, that don't serve much point outside that one story.

Which brings up an interesting thing I've noticed. There are a contingent of players that for what ever reason don't like "short races", so they believe that there are also players that like "short races" just because they are small. It's kind of strange.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
why do we have halflings and gnomes?

I get that they are classic and all that but I can't for the life of me figure out the appeal of them or what to do with them in a setting?

We have them because some folks find them fun to play. That's it. That's the only thing for ANY race, actually. Let us dispel the notion that there's anything more than that to them.

Halflings we have as the bucolic reflection of humans. While humans take the role of heroes, halflings take the role of the "everyman" in a story - they could be livig a quiet life with a cup of tea and a scone, but instead, they in the middle of whatever's happening.

Gnomes are the natural druids and tricksters. They are Coyote and Anansi. They are the race with a touch of the Feywild, and the triumph of wit and good humor over self-important brawn or power. While other races follow their gods for power, for fear, or for honor, or history, gnomes follow gods because those gods are freakin' cool, and do awesome things. If they lived in our world, gnomes would totally have anime versions of Garl Glittergold's adventures.
 

Halfling PCs are quite common in our games. I think some players feel they have a cuteness factor. They also don't have any real negatives - humans, elves and dwarves all have a reputation for being pretty prejudiced, whereas halflings get along with everyone.

If you don't want them in your world, don't have them - it's up to you as DM and worldbuilder, so if you want a world populated by gillyfish and bumbledags you can do that.

Dragonlance replaced halflings with kender, who are what you would get if you cross-bred a hobbit with a gungan then multiplied the irritation factor by a billion.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Hobbits were added in because of LOTR and later renamed halflings (and slowly lost some of the visuals of hobbits) because TSR was sued by Tolkien's estate. Gnomes? I always assumed they were meant to represent the fey "little people" of legend.

So in my campaign gnomes originate from the feywild, and are the "good" side of the goblin ancestry that split off. They have a close association to nature and magic. A fair number are druids or warlock with fey patrons. That or they are tinker gnomes simply because I have fun making up crazy inventions as they try to out-do each other on the creativity of their inventions. In game they also tend to be sages, particularly when it comes to arcane studies (although not necessarily wizards).

Halflings? They're one of those races I'd get rid of but they've been in my campaign world forever. I don't have a problem with them, they just don't really have much going for them either. So I give them a niche of being itinerant wanderers and a people that fit into the literal cracks in society. They represent the (literal) little people that happily go around their daily lives doing odd jobs or living a pastoral life.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Gnomes is a good question. They didn't enter D&D until the 1st edition AD&D players handbook. They are drawing from the same mythological well as elves and dwarves. In Tolkien's writings, the noldor elves are specifically identified with gnomes. D&D gnomes resemble non-Tolkienated elves. Magical little people who make toys for Santa, make shoes for poor cobblers, help maidens spin straw into gold, miners who take in lost princesses etc.

There are gnomes in L. Frank Baum's Oz stories, maybe they jumped from there to AD&D?
The Nomes of Oz resemble Svirfneblin being rather short, rather round and rough and rugged as if they had been broken away from the side of a mountain.

Gnomes however are awesome, they are a small reclusive race, fey like but rugged, and as you allude chock full of folklore (although miners adopting princesses is dwarfs). They do need to be tiny (1-2ft) rather than small though. Smurfs are my favourite depiction of gnomes, not to mention the TPratchetts wee small men.

I dont know, but suspect they were added to D&D to provide another small race that wasnt boring or subject to Tolkiens copyright,

Birthright has a nice take on Halflings, neutral evil denizens of the Shadow World who can detect undead, see shadow creatures and use shadowwalk to move between worlds.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I think its fairly obvious why hobbits where included - LotR fans wanted to be like their heroes.

Gnomes is a good question. They didn't enter D&D until the 1st edition AD&D players handbook. They are drawing from the same mythological well as elves and dwarves. In Tolkien's writings, the noldor elves are specifically identified with gnomes. D&D gnomes resemble non-Tolkienated elves. Magical little people who make toys for Santa, make shoes for poor cobblers, help maidens spin straw into gold, miners who take in lost princesses etc.

There are gnomes in L. Frank Baum's Oz stories, maybe they jumped from there to AD&D?
The Noldor weren't identified WITH Gnomes, they were the Gnomes. For Tolkien, Gnome was just a name for a tall, fair elven race that forged and created. He dropped it, because of the association with European gnomes which were smaller and looked different.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Smurfs are my favourite depiction of gnomes

So, I play in a game run by a friend of mine - his young daughter also plays, and I wanted to make sure I watched my language...

"Smurf," in gnomish, is a rubbery blue residue resulting from botched alchemical processes. Lumps of the stuff are most often created in failed attempts to create homonculi, it is however not uncommon in other processes when the reagents weren't pure. It is rubbery, slightly tacky... and has no purpose the gnomes have yet discovered. It is not sticky enough to be an adhesive, it has only marginal structural integrity, is not edible (but is basically non-toxic). It is... a little blue lump of failure.

It thus becomes a bit of gnomish invective. "You smurfhead!" "What the smurfing smurf?" "Well, that's smurfed it." "We're smurfed." and so on.
 
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I'm not a super-fan of either, but they fill a need for players. Gnomes fit a niche between elf and dwarf, being of the earth and the surface. Halflings are normal people who live in a huge world, and have to learn to adjust (and often take advantage of it). I've had a player who's chooses halfling about every other character, and we think that's just because people might object if he chose them every time.
 

ART!

Hero
I did an inordinate amount of folklore and etymological research on gnomes years ago, and what i came up with for my gaming worlds was a reclusive race known for their arcane knowledge and ancient lore, with fey-like natures and origins, but with a very earth/underground bent. If you want to know something obscure, magical, fey, ancient, or some combination thereof, your best bet is to find some gnomes and ask them.
 

Ringtail

World Traveller
I find gnomes a little redundant with Haflings, but this is really in standard D&D lore, where they are like Hafling and Dwarves rolled together.

I really like the Gnomes from Pathfinder, where they are strange, fey-like and quite unique. I also kind of like the tinker gnomes and mechanical experts from something like Warcraft, but that doesn't fit everyone's campaign setting or even tone. (That ACME Science Steampunk stuff can be a little silly.)
 


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