Gnomes: The Other Dwarves (or Gregory May Need to Let Go of Old Biases)

Long time Players in my games can tell you, “There are no gnomes on Rilmorn.”  That changes tonight.  Christina, my wife, long bothered by my anti-gnome stance, has convinced me to let her and Nicki, our daughter, play a gnome bard and a gnome druid, respectively.  With their eminent appearance in a Rilmorin campaign, it is time for me to delve into the anti-gnome history of my games.

In the 1500s A.D. the alchemist Paracelsus wrote about Gnomi.  He equated them with the Pygmæi of Greek legend and classified them as earth elementals.  I would not hear about them until 1976 A.D.  In 1976, Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet (illistrator) was published.  It spawned gnotebooks and other such fripperies and they annoyed me.  I was a pretentious junior high school student, who had a rod stuck up my spine.  The inundation of gnome-related items irritated me and by the time I found D&D, gnomes were persona non-grata.

1E gnomes were uninspiring; they didn’t even appear in the size comparison illustration on page 18 of the Player’s Handbook.  They were poor cousins of the dwarves and the writers of 1E knew it.  They decided to give them an upgrade…Tinker Gnomes!  (Loyal Readers may recall how I feel about that – 4th paragraph.)  They were a joke race, even more of a joke than gully dwarves.  This trend was only acerbated by the treatment given to Tinker Gnomes in Spelljammer.  I really loathed gnomes, by this point.

I will only say Gnomes in Warcraft added to my annoyance.

When I ran my doomed Namori Campaign set on the Word of Terah, I allowed a gnome NPC in there.  He was in Quasqueton and my Players thought he was a weird dwarf or a dwarf/halfling mix.

Dungeons and Dragons 3E did little to change my perception of gnomes.  Their change of making gnomes bards, instead of illusionists left me…meh, but I did enjoy Chris Perkins’ joke in the Shackled City Adventure Path about how the illusionist gnomes of Jzadirune caught a magical disease called the Vanishing.  Ebberon’s gnomes seemed okay, but by this point I did not care.

4E gave gnomes a dark backstory and initially pulled them from the ranks of Player Characters.  Yet, when Wizards of the Coast were promoting 4E with some cool animated shorts, the gnome was a joke again.

I never got to run my players through the D&D Next adventure Reclaiming Blingdenstone, but it was set on my game world of Terah and was all about the Deep Gnomes.  It would have been interesting to see how my players would have reacted to gnomes there.

5E seems to have settled for a fairly straight read on the race of gnomes.  Christina and Nicki are not Players who tend to go for slapstick or comic relief characters, so I expect them to play their characters as realistically as possible.  It may give me a new perspective on gnomes and change my feelings about them.

The background I’m working on for these gnomes is the idea that they are a mixed colony of rock gnomes, forest gnomes and deep gnomes from Terah.  They have fled the destruction of their homelands and crossed dimensions to start a new life on Rilmorn.  They live in Featherstone – a tiny, hidden, mining village nestled between the Zagreb River and the once ore-heavy Laudervai Hills near the Village of Duvamil.  Christina has suggested that the focus of the campaign could be on the flutes given to each PC by Christina’s PC’s late grandmother.  I think I can make this work.  This is looking good.

The Games Librarian has a post in response to this post of mine.  Go Enjoy It.  I did. (2014.09.10)

Game On!

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Player’s Handbook Release Day (or I Forgot to Remember to do This Yesterday)

So, to follow my Basic Rules PDF release post, I am again a day behind in letting the world know that I am excited about 5E and the Player’s Handbook release.  My wife ordered me a copy from Amazon last night and I should have it in 3 to 5 business days.  What will I do until then? (link 2014.08.23)

I’ll search the web for reviews and look through all the excerpts released by WotC.  Check out DMing With Charisma‘s review.  Found a review of the art in the PHB 5E by Raging Owlbear. (2014.08.22)

I am old enough and jaded enough to not let my hopes get too high.  I feel certain that for about every seven things I like about this game, there will be one thing that I don’t like (Alignment, I’m looking at you.) and that is okay.  There is no Holy Grail of Gaming or One True Way.  Every GM and every gaming group will have their own house rules; they will, hopefully, drop things that lessen their fun and add things that increase their fun.  Only those in tournament play and sanctioned game events won’t have any house rules, because everybody those events has too be on the same page and that’s okay, too.

I remember the fun I had looking through my first PHB. Wondering what was going to happen to thieves when they plucked the gemstone out of the idol on the cover.  Reading the spells.  Examining the art.  Learning what made every class unique.  My 2E PHB was not as exciting for me.  I was having a real grognard moment over the changes in the spells, I loved the art.  Even today, I can go back and flip through the book and relish the art.  I don’t have any memories about the 3E and 4E PHBs.  Not sure what that says about me and those editions, but I am excited and looking forward to opening my new Player’s Handbook and finding out what memories stick with this one.

My copy of the D&D Player’s Handbook has arrived!  Yay! (2014.08.23)

Until we meet again, Game On!

Resources

I have a question that I am going to ask myself and I hope my readers will ask it of themselves and share their answers in my comments section.  I’ve been playing D&D for 30+ years.  I’ve got a fairly extensive Dungeons and Dragons library.  As I build my world and create my campaigns, I make use of that library.  Now the question, “What resources from my collection do I use the most and why?”

Basics

Dungeon Masters Guide (1E) – Tables – There are tables for nearly everything I could want: Gem Values and Magical Properties, Expert Hirelings with explanations of what each does and their Monthly Costs, and Powers and Side Effects for Artifacts and Relics to just name a few. 

Monsters

Monster Manual (1E) – Illustrations – I’ve seldom seen better illustrations of the monsters I use in my games.  No offense is intended to any of the many great artists who have illustrated numerous D&D products, but sometimes a clean lined black and white illustration sparks the imagination the best.

Fiend Folio (1E) – Slaadi

Dragons (1E Role Aids) – DRAGONS!  This is a great setting and resource book.  I’ve used it for treasures, NPCs, and settings.

Denizens of Avadnu (3E Setting) – Great set of monsters in an non-standard D&D setting.

Gods, Demigods, and Heroes

Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia (1E) – Pantheons – I just enjoy looking through book and finding a pantheon or a god that would add a unique flavor to a region or an NPC.

Deities and Demigods (3E) – Advice on building religions – The examples of mystery cults and monotheistic versus polytheistic religions are good reads, useful and fun.

Religion (GURPS) – Title says it all.

Magic

Dragon Tree Spell Book (1E The Dragon Tree) Spells – Wild, weird spells from the early days of gaming.

Psionic Artifacts of Athas (2E) – Magic items, psionic tools, and life-shaped items.  I’ve made extensive use of the Rhul-tal.

Sorcerer’s Guide (Talislanta) – Magical Tomes, Magical Items, and Extra-Dimensional Entities

Tome of Mighty Magic (1E North Pole Press) Spells – More, wild, weird spells from the early days of gaming.

Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs (2E) – Life-shaped items and language

Other Dimensions

Domains of Dread (2E Ravenloft) – Great NPC ideas and adventure sites

Heroes of the Feywild (4E) – NPC ideas and site details

Heroes of the Shadowfell (4E) – NPC ideas and site details

Hordes of the Abyss (3E) – Good ideas for demonic and dark extra planar sites

Manual of the Planes (1E) – Good ideas for extra planar sites

Manual of the Planes (3E) – More good ideas for extra planar sites

I am sure there are others, but these are the ones that I have been reaching for most, when I am working on my new 5E game.

Game On!