Tyranny of Dragons
Gnomes, or the Forgotten Folk as they are sometimes known, are small fey humanoids known for their eccentric sense of humor, inquisitiveness and engineering prowess. Having had few overt influences on the world’s history but many small and unseen ones, gnomes are often overlooked by the powers that be despite their craftiness and affinity for illusion magic.
Gnomes are very small compared to most other races and, with an average height ranging between 3’0" and 3’6" and a weight range of 40 to 45 lbs, gnomes are generally larger and heavier than halflings, though forest gnomes (ranging between 2’1" and 2’10" in height and 21-35 lbs in weight) tend to be smaller than the halflings, leading some scholars to erroneously classify all gnomish races as “smaller than the Hin”. However, while halflings are commonly said to resemble short humans, gnomes are more comparable with Tel-quessir, with whom they share pointed ears and high cheekbones, or even dwarves, who they are compared to due to their tendency to grow beards and live underground. Many gnomes have a more feral appearance than either, however, with hair that often sprouts from their heads in odd directions.
Gnomes are an intelligent and innately curious race and have a strong affinity for all thing magical, particularly the arcane. Gnomes may lack the drive and ambition of other races, particularly humans, but their creativity gives them a strong ability for ingenuity. Most gnomes are content to live simple lives, acquiring knowledge merely as a hobby but others explore lost ruins, delve deep into the heart of the world, and conduct dangerous research in their unquenchable thirst for knowledge, leading more than a few to an untimely demise.
Gnomes are naturally witty and jovial, and they prefer to overcome obstacles through cunning and innovation rather than the obvious way. Ever curious, gnomes are drawn to adventure more often by a desire to see the world than out of greed or the hope of fame. It is this curiosity, along with their cunning and witty repartee that makes gnomes both entertaining friends and adept arcane spellcasters or scholars.
In their original home of the Feywild as well as some places on Toril gnomes live in burrows and dug-out homes akin to those used by badgers, foxes, or rabbits and as such are fond of these small animals, feeling a sense of natural kinship with them. And, like these animals, gnomes have an aversion to danger they can avoid that makes gnomes naturally inclined to hide away if they are able and many gnomish homes are carefully hidden by magic or other methods.
Like other races, gnomish culture varies based on region and ethnicity, but a few characteristics are common to most gnomes. Amongst virtually all gnomes, great value is placed on one’s ability to avoid trouble and stay out of the way of others. Children’s games often involve elements of stealth and amongst adults drawing attention to one’s self is considered a breach of etiquette. The few legends of gnomish heroes are not of powerful warriors but of subtle tricksters, who sneak past or trick their opponents rather than vanquishing them in combat. This in part comes from the long-standing issues gnomes have faced, which is their miniscule size compared to larger predators or enemies such as the fomorians of the Feywild, whom few gnomes could hope to stand toe to toe with in a fair fight.
Gnomes have an intricate society based on their love of all kinds of arts, pranks, and their long lives. Gnomes love indulgence, and they make most celebrations on a grander scale. Gnome weddings last for a week, even though gnomes don’t view love the same way humans do. If love begins to go wrong between a couple they may break up, believing it was a prank by Garl Glittergold. Their society is based on art; all gnomes must take up some form of art whether music, painting, cooking, building, or any other form that is considered creative by the time they come of age.
Gnomes who leave their home to seek an adventurer’s life are rare, given the race’s famed shyness and lack of ambition. Those that do are motivated by a number of factors, but the impulsive race is often driven by curiosity more than anything else. Many gnomes feel no more rationale for adventuring than simply to explore the world that surrounds them. A few, the more orderly ones that is, seek out adventure for more innately noble purposes, such as to help others, but these gnomes are rare. Other gnomes are driven on to become adventurers by little more than simple avarice, as adventuring is often seen as a quick, if unsafe, avenue for wealth. Adventuring is not necessarily a welcomed lifestyle amongst gnomes, in spite of the curiosity that fills the whole race, and sometimes is, in fact, seen as a betrayal of sorts to a gnome’s clan.
Following Gond’s appearance in Lantan during the Time of Troubles, many more gnomes have taken on the adventurer’s life though, as always, gnomes have an aversion to becoming a part of anything “too big,” usually scattering into smaller, like-minded communities instead of attempting to direct larger ones.
MAGIC AND RELIGION
Gnomes are talented illusionists, with a natural grasp of the arcane. Regardless of their other talents, all gnomes are capable of casting cantrip or two and have the capacity to disappear from sight if they wish. Gnomes are well-suited for all forms of arcane training, particularly that of a bard, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard.
The primary gnome deity of the gnomish pantheon is Garl Glittergold. Among other deities of the pantheon are Baervan Wildwanderer, Gaerdal Ironhand, and Urdlen. These gods are all themselves, at least since the Spellplague members of the Seldarine, the fey pantheon headed by Corellon Larethian.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER RACES
Gnomes, in general, are a reclusive people who’d rather stay out of others’ affairs. Though some races interpret this as cowardice, it’s more the case that gnomes simply have nothing at stake in the conflicts between most other races and after centuries of being ignored or stomped on, are not particularly eager to fight someone else’s fight. In fact, generally speaking, gnomes are a very courageous and good-hearted race, who frequently use their neutrality as a way to negotiate disputes. Of all the races in Faerûn it’s fair to say that gnomes have the fewest enemies, although they have very few friends as well.
Gnomes rarely intentionally invoke ire in any group, but at times circumstances have made conflict with other races unavoidable. In the Feywild gnomes are particularly wary of the fomorians that sometimes enslave them, regarding them with fear and caution. In the Prime, gnomes are most often at odds with goblins and kobolds, whom share their underground homes and often war with them for territory or wealth. In these cases gnomes are rarely the aggressors, due to their tendency to avoid trouble rather than cause it.
Gnomes are on fairly good terms with other fey, being particularly fond of eladrin, though they also share good relations with elves. Gnomes also have sympathy for the fey commonly enslaved by fomorians, feeling empathy for creatures that share the fate many of their forbearers have suffered. Gnomes also get along well enough with halflings.
Among those gnomes who live in the caverns of the Prime, dwarves are often counted as friends, due in part to the two races’ physical and cultural similarities. Additionally, dwarves and gnomes both count goblins and giants as enemies and can often be found working together against them. Gnome are generally suspicious of other races, however.
The Treatise Historical of the Dragon Tyrants holds that gnomes were created in approximately -24500 DR from gems hidden in caverns beneath a mountain in what is in 1479 DR known as Netheril. Kobolds enslaved the first gnomes and stole the gems that contained yet-unborn gnomish souls. This prompted Garl Glittergold to collapse the mountain, killing most of the kobolds (including their leader Kurtulmak) and creating the depression known as the Hidden Lake, later as the Shoal of Thirst, and after the Spellplague as the Sea of Shadows.
Gnomish myths hold that the gods of the gnome pantheon originated as gems deep within the bowels of the earth that were then exposed to open air. Likewise, these myths hold that the gnomes were created when Garl Glittergold discovered similar gems and breathed life into them, which he followed up with a joke, inspiring the race to craftiness and mischief. This story also relates that gnomes born of diamonds became the rock gnomes, while those forged of emeralds became forest gnomes and those made of rubies were the ancestors of the deep gnomes.
Early in their history, many gnomes were held captive by the nations of Netheril and Calimshan as slaves, though most escaped this cruel fate.
Other than these early tales little is known about the formative history of the gnomes. While humans, dwarves, eladrin, and elves have all forged empires and waged terrible wars that devastated the land the gnomes have done nothing of the sort. Nor do gnomes have a known, original homeland like the halflings. For as long as anyone can remember they have been a scattered race of hidden villages, clans, and holds, rarely caught up in grand events. The gnomes are sometimes referred to as the Forgotten Folk and this title is perhaps apt and few of their race have ever graced or troubled the mighty, instead remaining characters who fade, for the most part, into the background while others go on to forge mighty legends.
For a time there was an exception to this on the isle of Lantan, a nation dominated by gnomish engineers. Here the gnomes, as an exception to the rule, were dominant and it was their culture, which dictated the laws of the land. However, the gnomish isle was overwhelmed by great tsunamis resulting from the shifting of continents that occurred during the Spellplague, destroying this small bastion of gnomish ingenuity and culture.
As the number of humans have grown and gnomes have become further marginalized, younger generations have begun to question the wisdom of their forbearers in taking a deliberately passive role in world events. This attitude was seemingly encouraged by the appearance of Gond, the god of invention, amongst the gnomes of Lantan during the Time of Troubles. As a result, ever since the Era of Upheaval there has been a gradual trend in more and more gnomes leaving their reclusive homes to travel the world.
Gnomes primarily live in wooded, hilly landscapes, most often underground. Generally speaking, though, gnomes enjoy the fresh air a good deal more than other subterranean races such as dwarves or drow and rarely burrow very deep, spending a great deal of time on the surface. Gnomish homes or communities are generally well-hidden, making it difficult for unwelcome visitors to find them. Within, gnomish houses are warm and comfortable, akin to the burrows of small mammals.
Gnomes are found widely throughout the world, though rarely in large numbers. Small communities are most commonly found in the Western Heartlands, Elturgard, and along the coastline of the Shining Sea. Other gnomes, notably the svirfneblin or “deep gnomes,” are found in the Underdark and are even more secretive than other gnomes maintaining their distance from other races except for dwarves, with whom they are careful to maintain polite relationships with for the purpose of protection. Most gnomes who do live among other races, particularly humans, live as gemcutters, mechanics, sages, or teachers, the last in particular being a highly valued profession by human employers, who know that a single gnome can tutor multiple generations.
Prior to the Spellplague many gnomes were also found in Lantan, the only land dominated by gnomes. However, during the chaos of the disaster the gnomish land was swept clean.