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Gnomes – A guide to D&D Races

Gnomes are among the most overlooked of all the available Player Races in Dungeons and Dragons, but present an interesting contrast in both size and outlook to the more commonly played races. Gnomes present players, both new and old, with a range of possibilities unavailable to the more classical Humans, Elves and Dwarves.

Lore and Heritage

Gnomes are fast thinking, fast talking creators and innovators in whatever field they employ themselves. With their Intelligence modifier, they are a natural choice for Wizards in particular, but if your game allows for it, they make even better Artificers.

Similar in some ways to both Dwarves and Halflings, Gnome’s dwell in comfortable and well-hidden underground burrows, filled with a wide array of experimental projects, toys and scribbled notes.

Gnomish culture is busy and fast-paced, with Gnomes spending their time talking, working, building and researching – often all at the same time! Despite living longer than any race other than the Elves, they live fast and cram as much into every minute as they can.

Defining Characteristics

Gnomes are small in size, much like Halflings, but are slenderer and with more exaggerated characteristics. Most prominent are the noses which dominate their faces and their hair which tends to get wilder as the day wears on.

Great intelligence and creativity are the defining qualities of Gnomish personality, as is their tendency to speak very quickly and at length about their interests or surroundings.

Gnomes live between three and five hundred years and do their best to fill every second of it with activity – even their leisure activities tend to be active and loud and pranks and jokes are a staple of Gnomish interaction. Gnomes also acquire names like others acquire coats. All have a given name and clan name, but most also accrue nicknames based on their features, activities or adventures.

Curiosity is another hallmark of the Gnomish intellect and is the most likely driver for them to be adventuring, particularly with non-Gnomes.

Gnomes in Social Environments

Gnomes are generally affable and good natured, although some can become grumpy or bitter if life has served them ill. When encountering others, most Gnomes will respond with curiosity at first – understanding and knowledge are important to them, so they will seek to gain as full a picture as they can before making any detailed plans. Of course, at the same time as this, they will be performing an ‘info-dump’ of their own and devising a range of potential future conversation points!

Gnomes think fast and talk fast, so be prepared to fill the space around you with words. Gnomish social characters are full of fascinating information brimming over to share with others – whether they want it or not!

Gnomes in Combat Encounters

Much like Halflings, Gnomes are not best equipped by nature as front-line combatants. They can more than make up for this with a range of magical or ranged abilities. With a high Intelligence, Gnomes make excellent historians and strategists and can have the benefit of hundreds of years of tactical analysis to draw on – a Gnome general will be both a student of the past and an innovator of the future, which can be a terrifying combination.

Gnomes are also masters of the unexpected and will often have a trick, illusion, tool or stratagem up their sleeve that their enemies are not expecting, which can often turn the course of a battle.

Forest Gnomes can even call on small animals and beasts to assist them and are often on good terms with the fey, while Rock Gnomes increased Constitution and ability to Tinker with devices can both provided an unexpected edge.

Reasons to Play Gnomes

Gnomes are exuberant and expressive creatures, perfect for the dramatic and ebullient role-player to really flex their outgoing nature as a character. They make outstanding Wizards, entertaining Bards and mechanical-genius Rogues very easily and lend themselves well to anyone wanting to play an intelligent but fun character.

With the magical equivalent of ‘techno-babble’, Gnomes provide everything you need to be a fast-talking, wise-cracking genius – with access to unstable chemicals!

Reasons NOT to Play Gnomes

Gnomes aren’t a great fit if you’re a bit shy or quiet and if you want to play a brooding warrior, they’re definitely not for you. Gnomes are best matched to specialist wizards and are usually good-hearted (and aligned), slightly chaotic individuals who get the most out of life, so if you want to be a bit mean or antisocial, you probably want to stay away from Gnomes.

Gnome Mechanics

Gnomes have a bonus of 2 to their Intelligence. Their base walking speed is 25 and speak Common and Gnomish.

As subterranean dwellers, Gnomes benefit from Darkvision up to 60’. Gnomes also possess Gnome Cunning, which grants advantage on all Intelligence, Wisdom and Charism saves against magic.

There are two Gnomish sub-races (you must pick one at character creation):

  • Forest Gnome. Dexterity increases by 1. Natural Illusionist you gain the minor illusion cantrip for free. Speak with Small Beasts lets you communicate simple ideas with Small (or smaller) beasts.
  • Rock Gnome. Constitution increases by 1. Artificers Lore means you can add twice your proficiency bonus on an Intelligence (History) check related to fabricated items/objects. Tinker means you can create a Tiny clockwork device that lasts for 24 hours. Choose from Clockwork Toy, Fire Starter or Music Box.

Written by Rawand Al-Issa

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