Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Gnomes? Oh Nos!

I'm sure pretty much everyone remembers the "No Gnomes!" videos and other similar advertisements that WotC used when it was rolling 4e out the door. Somehow "No Gnomes!" was supposed to be a selling point.

How did the little buggers get such a bad rap?

In AD&D, the were the only non-elf (or non-half-elf) race to get access to arcane magic, although they did it as illusionists.

In the realm of OSR retroclones, halflings might get slighted, but they aren't overlooked like gnomes are:

Swords & Wizardry - Gnome free

Labyrinth Lord - I believe they make their appearance in the Advanced Edition Characters book

LotFP Weird Fantasy - Just be happy halflings made the cut and don't ask about the gnomes. They're probably being corrupted as I write this.

ACKS - Halflings were omitted on purpose. Gnomes weren't even thought about enough to be purposefully mitted - the were just left out.

Is it just because they were one of the last races (certainly the last race that wasn't a hal breed) that was added to the adventuring mix that they suffer this oversight? Is it because they are some ill defined quasi cousins of dwarves? Is it the curse of the Garden Gnomes that keep them down? Did the Tinker Gnomes of Krynn use up the last of the goodwill that was aimed in the Gnome's direction?


  1. I've always hated Gnomes. I've always seen them as not different enough from Dwarves.

    Whence did D&D get gnomes anyway? I can't recall any fantasy world with dward-sized gnoes. They're usually much smaller -- and hence less fit as player characters.

  2. Don't be silly! It's the 'G' in Gnome. It's silent. Silent and sinister. How can anyone be comfortable around a species with a silent 'G' at the beginning of their name?

    It's also why no one trusts anyone named Hugh...

  3. I've got a new gnome type slated for my Creature Compendium - it's a gnome with abilities beyond illusionist, with some inherent illusionist abilities (not as spells, but as "powers") and true arcane spellcasting ability, like traditional MUs.

    It's in the list of creatures in my post from yesterday - http://savevsdragon.blogspot.com/2012/08/160-new-oebx1e-monsters.html - look for "Gyrax (Gray Gnome)". And you should see the image I've drawn... it looks like EGG as a gnome! (I might finish it up for next week's Monster of the Week post.)

  4. For the longest time I have had 3 rules when starting a new fantasy campaign:
    1) No attacking each-you can argue and roleplay all you want but once you attack each other the campaign is over. (Nothing kills campaigns faster than pvp.)
    2) Must play the same gender as yourself. (Nothing breaks immersion faster than looking at the player and forgetting they are playing an opposite gender.)
    3) No gnomes. (They serve no function race-wise and are silly.)

    I have since relaxed on rule #3.

  5. I've said it before many times, and now I say it again: F GNOMES! Stupidest race ever. I've hated them since I started playing D&D over 20 years ago.

  6. @Drance - tell us how you really feel ;)

  7. In 0/1/2 the main rationale for non humans was the JRRT connection. Elves, dwarves, half-orcs, etc. but no gnomes. Only non Tolkien race in the PHB1, and so kind of a third wheel. This is why ACKS feels it has to explain leaving out halflings but not gnomes,I'd say.

  8. Huh, i'm in the minority here: i love gnomes and about half of all my PCs where gnomes (including 1 svirfneblin).

    What i liked about them was, that they were somewhat crazy and usually get away with it. Pull that level that sends down a comrade into a pit and when he is back up again, use your doggy-gaze and everything is allright...At least, that was the case in our group. Don't know why, but my gnome PCs were ALLWAYS forgiven (especially by the motherly priestess) *ha*

  9. Gnomes are far and away my favorite demihuman race - they're one of only two demihumans to make the cut for my swashbuckling & sorcery campaign brainstorming.

    The problem, at least in 1e AD&D, is describing gnomes as 'cousins' to dwarves. Look at what gnomes can do which dwarves can't - cast illusions, talk to burrowing animals. Gnomes are more akin to brownies and leprechauns than they are dwarves. They are the largest and toughest of the wee folk.

    A gnomish player character should always have illusionist as one of his classes, and she should be organizing every squirrel, gopher, and badger into a forest mafia.

  10. I've always enjoyed gnome characters and make sure to include at least one in all the tourney adventures I create.

  11. All I can say for my part is that Majestic Wilderlands includes Gnomes.

  12. @Rob, if my next campaign is powered by the S&W Complete rules, as I suspect it will be, I'll need to dig out my copy of Majestic Wilderlands :)

  13. I've always liked what Pathfinder did with Gnomes. They are immortal but are subject to a condition called the "bleaching" wherein they fade in both color and eventually in life force unless they, well, behave like Gnomes.

    "While gnomes are still immortal, they now require regular wondrous or vivid experiences to sustain themselves otherwise they begin to fade, their entire body losing all its colour. The condition is eventually fatal."

    Wondrous and vivid experiences. Sounds like a good excuse to run some very fun and unique characters!

  14. Thankfully, the new HackMaster has two different types of gnomes that you can play.

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  16. For what it's worth, I believe there's a "Gnome Trickster" class in the ACKs Players Companion.

  17. Just came by to follow up what Ludanto said... the gnome makes a triumphant BX style reappearance as the Gnome Trickster in the ACKS companion...

  18. I've often thought of nixing Dwarves and Halflings in favor of gnomes. The trick is making them utterly distinct from elves, rather than just the elvish halfling/dwarf/thing.

  19. FWIW, it is generally held that gnomes come from the same source as Paladins and Trolls... "Three Hearts and Three Lions". I believe the character is named "Hugi", but it's been a few years since I read it.

    I'm generally a fan of gnomes, far moreso than halflings. Halflings are short humans. There's really no place that you have halflings that don't work just fine substituting bucolic humans. I do agree, however, that they tend to suffer from diffusion... no one is quite sure what to make of them, so everyone makes of them different things.

    My gnomes tend to be social and detail oriented. They like to talk things out with people, including people that most others wouldn't think of as people. When pressed, they fight hard, but they're usually prefer to talk about it, and deflect anger with jokes. If they have a besetting sin, it's a tendency to lose sight of big pictures, in favor of minutiae... humans may lose sight of the forest for the trees, but gnomes will lose sight of the forest for this one interesting rock. This is somewhat a side-effect of their long lives... while elves tend to let decades breeze by, letting events flow past them, gnomes get interested in mastering something... not even necessarily a skill, but simply a single object or device.

    They build, but not Krynnishly... they're not physically strong, so they use devices to multiply their strength.

  20. If you want players to play gnomes-you have to make them 'cool'.

    So marry the gnomes to your torture theme for D&D.

    Want someone to talk? Let the gnome have him alone in a locked room for ten minutes.

    "No, no! Not the gnomes! Anything but the gnomes! GNOOOoooo....!!!!"

    Halflings, of course, are the pyromaniacs-so fire is covered.

  21. "The trick is making them utterly distinct from elves, rather than just the elvish halfling/dwarf/thing."

    That actually gives me an interesting idea that could integrate both halflings and gnomes into a single setting - set up a mirror of the elf/human dynamic. Or, rather, have gnomes be to elves as halflings are to humans. Hmm . . .

  22. Gnomes have never really had a clear and cohesive identity of their own like the other races do. They generally step on the conceptual toes of either dwarves or halflings. There's just not enough room for three different races of little people.

  23. @Saroe - Funny you should say that; pyromaniac halflings are a recurring theme in our games...

  24. DWarf sized Gnomes are from the Sword of Shanara stories, aren't they?

    gnomes and dwarves are also interchangeable in a lot of mythology where dwarves aren't portrayed as comical norse-scotts in viking drag.

    Do we really need dwarves, gnomes, and halflings in every D&D world? Nope.

  25. Late to the party, but I just read this post.

    I've included gnomes in my game world but nixed the halflings for feeling that they are too similar, so I agree with others on that point.

    Gnomes occupy a strong political presence in the campaign as keepers of magic lore (wizarding). I wanted to go back to the gnome as meaning wise one and/or earth-dweller and get as far away from the Krynn gnomes as possible. They ruined it for a lot of people, I think.

    Gnomes are also set up as a foil to goblins in the world. Goblins as chaotic wild magical creatures with as much variation as possible, and gnomes as pretty rigid and lawful society.

    The Midgard campaign setting from Open Design is going to have some wicked gnomes.


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