A far cry from the austere and aloof elves who derived from the Sidhe, the nobles of the Ald exiled to Fartherall, the gnomes of this world are the descendants of the brownies and knockers, the helpful and puckish fae who served as pages and made up the gentry of the Seelie Court. They inherited from their forebearers the overwhelming urge to intervene, whether to help or just to meddle; this has evolved over the generation into a fierce desire to do right, punish wickedness, and humble the mighty. Pranks are usually involved.
Gnomes are, sometimes quite literally, nature’s heroes. They take pains to disturb as little of their natural surroundings as possible, while at the same time fiercely defending their adopted homes from forces of wanton destruction and evil — most especially ogres and their kin, the gnomes’ arch nemeses..
Standing just over 3 feet tall (with the females just a shade taller than the males; males tend to spike and style their hair upwards to make up the difference), gnomes have hawkish eyes and a proud bearing. Their ears are pointed, though not quite so prominently as would be an elf’s. Their skin ranges in hue from the humanlike to the bizarre, with bright purple being the most uncommon. Their hair is similarly varied, and the menfolk tend to groom their facial hair into fancy moustaches and beards whenever time and practicality allows. Their clothing tends toward practical earthen tones when they wish to remain low-key, but in the safety of their homestead they prefer to dress in outfits so vibrantly colored that outsiders might consider them gaudy.
Gnomes have no centralized society, living instead in isolated holds in the deep forest. They make their homes among the trees, using druidic and arcane magic to shape the branches without cutting, shaping the canopy into an elaborate and comfortable structure with room among and within the trees to house dozens, sometimes hundreds, of gnomish raiders. New children are a precious commodity among gnomekind, as — like the elves — they have a very low birth rate.
Gnome tribes are called “clutches”. Clutches range from a dozen or so individuals to about two hundred; at this number, clutches tend naturally to split and form into new clutches, while maintaining ties with the previous grouping. Each clutch has its own method for selecting a chieftain. Sometimes a simple vote is called, and sometimes certain traditional trials must be overcome. Either way, hard feelings about losing such a contest, or the very idea of craving personal power for its own sake, are entirely alien to the gnomish mindset. They’re all certain that they have a special gift, and there is no use trying to force what isn’t meant to be.
Once a clutch has established itself, its gnomes tend to patrol the lands around their hold with almost fanatical diligence. These patrols take the form of three very unique kinds of cavalry: the Lopes ride agile and lightning-fast dire rabbits, the Grunts ride indomitable dire badgers, and the Winds sit astride dire flying squirrels. Each of these unique warrior traditions makes full use of their mount’s strengths while avoiding conflicts where their weakness would become an issue.
Another notable warrior tradition among the gnomes is that of the dreaded Hedgehog (a moniker; not an actual hedgehog). These silent killers are so named for the astonishing number of blades they can bring to bear in a short time when backed into a corner. They are not above slitting the throat of a sleeping ogre matron if it means the rest of the vile tribe will disperse after her passing.
Their martial ways and inventive nature have combined to result in several ingenious gnomish weapons that help level the playing field when they’re taking on somebody out of their size range, which is almost always the case. Gnomes don’t back down from a fight and are used to punching out of their weight.
Gnomes share chilly relationships with dwarven society due to the destructive impact the dwarves tend to have on the local fauna and flora, but they judge individual dwarves met on the surface according to their own merits. The surface dwelling dwarf-folk that gnomes most often encounter are dwarfmaids, darrows, and dwarf sons without an inheritance pending, and they’ve learned to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The gnomes share similar feelings toward humans; while their society is wicked and corrupt, individual humans run the gamut and are often quite reputable. Sometimes, gnomes have been known to “adopt” a human family as their own if the humans build their homes close enough to the woodlands. Such fortunates can expect playful pranks interspersed with helpful favors around the house — gardens weeded, firewood chopped, etc. — so long as the humans remain courteous guests in the gnomes’ territory, and respect the wilderness. These friendly relationships have been known to blossom into romance whenever gnome and human actually meet, but whenever a child comes from such a union, the gnomes will do all in their power to steal the babe away from their human parent — infant sprigs growing up in human society have too often been abused, and the gnomes won’t chance it.
Elves and gnomes have a long, and not always cordial history. While they share a definite kinship — elves and gnomes are the most prevalent of the Ald legacy races — most attempts by the gnomes to reach common ground are frustrating for both parties. Elves can’t understand why gnomes feel the need to involve themselves in the affairs of others, and gnomes can’t understand why the elves can’t just pull themselves together and get over the fact that the Ald aren’t coming back. To the gnomes, the great tragedy of the elves is everything they’re wasting: their long lives, their insight, and their chance to interact with the world they wound up in, rather than pining away wishing to return to a world they’ve never seen. Gnomish attempts to get elves evolved in the affairs of Fartherall on a societal level have so far all failed. Despite their differences, neighboring elven and gnomish settlements will almost always help each other in times of need.
Gnomes find orcs sympathetic, and appreciate their reverence for the wild, but gnomes find it hard to excuse the damage caused whenever orc tribes or warhordes go to battle. However, unlike most other races, the gnomes tend to allow an orc time to offer a greeting before deciding whether or not they’re in need of a friend or a spear in the eyes.
Halflings admire gnomes, and often romanticize what life must be like for the devil-may-care rebels who follow their hearts in all endeavors. This infatuation will often begin when a particularly dashing gnome catches the eye of a halfling during an act of derring-do. Unions between gnomes and halflings produce a hybrid race called a hob. More than once, a halfling has run away to join a nearby clutch. For their part, the gnomes are willing to admit halflings, so long as they can prove they’re able to keep pace. And it’s an open secret that the reason they allow this, and include sprigs and hobs in their clutches, is because they reproduce at such a slow rate on their own.
Ogres and ogrekin are the only races that can expected to be met with open hostility by gnomekind. Gnomes view ogrekind as a cancer that must be cut from the flesh of the world, and an ogre pride that moves too close to gnome-protected lands will be ambushed and harried over the course of several hit-and-run assaults until they are either wiped out, retreat, or find and destroy the clutch. Gnomes have been known to make exceptions for an orog or half-ogre traveling alongside other friendly humanoids, but they had best tread lightly.
Alignment and Religion
Their hatred of bullies and desire for freedom makes most gnomes Chaotic Good by nature. Their religion tends to vary in regards to their region. Unlike the elves, they don’t hold the Ald in particularly high esteem, though they appreciate all they’d done. The Ald lie firmly in the gnomes’ past, unlike the elves, who are still grieving for forebears thousands of years gone.
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