Gnomes, What the Hell?

Posted on July 6, 2012 by


In my mind, there are three different kinds of gnomes.  First, we have the garden gnome, which I’m going to stop talking about because they don’t fit the archetype of a regular pen and paper game.

The second type is the tinker gnome, a race of inventors, scientists, and otherwise sneaky and creative little buggers.  I’m no expert on tinker gnome history, but I believe Dragonlance really kicked off the concept, and I know that they can also be found in the Spelljammer setting.  Of course, if you want to see the most successful tinker gnomes in the business, you need look no further than Warcraft.

So lets take a look at the D&D Gnome.  Wait, what happened?  Is that a tiny elf?  Shouldn’t it be dressed in red and green somewhere in a workshop, making toys for the good children while dreaming of dentistry?  Did the elves get so jealous of the halflings that they wanted itty-bitty versions of themselves?

Seriously, can you tell if these are gnomes or elves?

What is it that makes the D&D gnome interesting?  Is it a fondness for illusions that has slowly been drained out of the race in each new edition of the game?  An affinity for speaking with small burrowing creatures (the worst ever racial ability ever to make it into a sourcebook)?  Do we really need smaller elves?

Let’s face it, the D&D gnome is boring.  They lie somewhere in between elves and halflings, with the defining characteristics and personality of neither.  I would much rather reintroduce the tinker gnomes to pen and paper, a race unlike anything else in the game.

So why not bring them back?  Obviously introducing steam power and rudimentary technology to a fantasy setting isn’t always what the DM has in mind, and that’s okay.  All I’m saying is that we don’t need the gnome, at least not as it exists now.  Maybe gnomes could be some sort of elementals, or plant people, or maybe just living illusions that have taken a form of their own.  Anything is better than what we have now.

Posted in: Game Talk