Monday, December 24, 2012


This is a very, very rough overview of gnomes in my campaign. I wrote it for one of the perennial "gnomes have no identity" threads on EN World. There's a single sentence summary of changelings tucked in here; I've meant for them to be a player race for decades, but the concept didn't gel until recently. Suffice to say, changelings are pretty screwed up.

Here's a slightly more exhaustive rundown of gnomes in my campaign. I feel this presentation is true to the spirit of gnomes as presented in most of D&D, but have their own identity separate from elves, dwarves, and halflings.

Gnomes live in the wild border lands, in hills and moors and woodlands. They are highly valued by adventurers and other who sojourn into the wild places, for a gnomish village is often the closest and safest refuge to a dungeon or ruin. In the summer months most gnomes live in small family steadings, or warrens, scattered throughout their domain, and in the winter they gather in large winterhalls dug below the roots of the deep forest. The winterhalls are where gnomes keep their records, libraries, and schools, and the most accomplished gnomish spellcasters remain in residence here throughout the year.

Gnomes are independent, preferring their own rulers to those of other races, and both adaptable and militant when necessary, able to field short-bow and hand-axe wielding guerrilla fighters as well as companies of crossbowmen and pikemen. Their proficiency in digging and tunneling allows them to quickly seed a battlefield with pits, spikes, ditches, and ramparts, as well as sap fortifications and enemy emplacements.

They are clever, careful, and cunning, fond of puzzles, riddles, and esoteric lore. They consider themselves guardians of knowledge the other races have forgotten, and are driven by a sometimes almost pathological need to "know more". In a well-balanced gnome (and most are) this drive manifests itself as a constant curiosity and inquiry into the world, and is lightened by a childlike sense of levity and joy. They do not hoard the knowledge, but simply seek experience for its own sake. Gnomes who become bards or minstrels do so to travel and interact with people, and satisfy their curiosity that way.

It is not difficult, however, for a gnome to become consumed by their thirst for knowledge. This doesn't usually manifest as cackling, handwringing evil so much as a cold amorality; nothing matters except their obsession. Some, like the spriggan or fhmor, manifest this through greed or hoarding; others with intricate deceptions and manipulations. The svartneblin are among these; their cities contain illusions so deep not even they know what is real, and interaction between individuals is so rare and so clouded they kidnap human children to serve them and supplement their numbers, returning and abandoning them to the upper world when they reach adulthood, prematurely wizened and bent, with senses honed by years in a glamoured underworld, and utterly overwhelmed in the sunlight.

Metagame notes:
  • I haven't used halflings in my campaigns for years, finding them unheroic and frankly rather boring. I'm reconsidering that decision, but halflings would be rebranded as domovii and described as something like "humanity's familiars", a quasi-fey race that lives in symbosis with humans. In any case, I see the similarities between halflings and gnomes as pretty much height and nothing else. 
  • I find tinker gnomes grating. Really, really, grating. 
  • Kender are twits. Gnomes aren't twits. They are curious, even recklessly curious, but they're not fearless, they're not stupid, and they have a plan. 
  • Gnomes as fey is fine, and mine are mostly there, but it's not enough to just say that they are fey. What does that mean? How does "being fey" manifest? 
  • I find it both amusing and depressing that so many people accuse gnomes of being weak imitations of elves and dwarves, as if not being copied from Middle-Earth somehow makes them less original.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Articles never written, circa 1996

In the past week I've finished grad school, had a minor medical procedure (totally routine), my daughter turned 6, and am desperately trying to find time to put up the Christmas tree which is living on our front porch. In a bucket. Tomorrow I drive 8-hours round-trip to pick up my Mom and bring her back here.

I will sleep so hard in January....

Anyways, back in ye goode olde days of TSR and AOL, we'd write up "articles" and post them in TSR's file library to share.  I wrote several, and outlined a rather ambitious series of articles.  Of the list below, from April, 1996, I actually wrote & released the Halfling Warden, the Githtorai, the Illithid, and the Wizard's Collections 1-3.

Assassin -- A revised assassin for the 2nd edition AD&D game...complete with kits: blooders, bone men, burkers, executioners, glassmen, hawks, quicks, and scrags!
Fili -- A master bard and true jack-of-all-trades, the fili combines warrior, wizard, thief, and druid into one (play-tested) character!
Halfling Warden -- A halfling "paladin"/defender, this file includes 16 (or so) new and rewritten priest spells for use by wardens, halfling clerics, and other priest characters.
Mage-Smith -- Part mage, part warrior, the mage-smith is an artificer and creator of the highest caliber, able to fashion magical items of nearly any sort.
Monk -- Life, beliefs, philosophy, and kits.

The Complete Book of Half-Humans: Half-elves, half-orcs, half-ogres, half-goblins, tieflings, aasimar, alu-fiends & cambions, half-fairys, half-dryads, half-satyrs, half-drow, half-aquatic elves, half-dwarves, and more.
The Githtorai -- The last race of the gith-kin, the enigmatic hunter-killers of the UnderDark...the only race less trustworthy than the drow...the githtorai (coming soon to a really nasty, despicable area near you).  [githtor.txt]
The Host of the Sidhe: Asgard, Vanaheim, & Jotunheim -- The races of aesir, jotunkin, and vanir in the realm of Faerie!  Details on relations between the vanir & the Fair Folk, the troldfolk & the jotun, and the aesir & fir bolgs.
The Host of the Sidhe: Dwarves & Gnomes -- Dwarves in Faerie; wood gnomes and stone gnomes; the gifts of Faerie.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Fair Folk -- The four races of Sìdhe: sidhe, gruagach, sithkin, and pooka.  Notes on Sidhe magic and the realm of Faerie.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Giantkin -- Fir bolgs and formors in Faerie, and other giantish races.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Outcasts -- Changelings, shadow elves, and humans in the realm of the Host.
The Host of the Sidhe: The Troldfolk -- Three new PC races: bridge trolls, trollborn, and trow; and a new troll "monster", stone trolls.
The Illithid -- One of the nastiest, most despciable, revolting villainous races can now be a PC!  Don't you just want to cheer? [illithi.txt]

            The Wizard's Collections:
Wizard's First Collection: Notes from Raliard the Mage -- A hodge-podge of thoughts and ideas from 5 years of DMing and 10 years goofing around with AD&D, Wizard's First Collection includes a revised reincarnation table, 3 new wizard kits, and details on a unique magical weapon. [wizcol1.txt]
Wizard's Second Collection: More Notes from Raliard the Mage -- Includes 3 new (and well-received) spells: Lesser Spellease, Dragonbond, & Spellease, revised experience table, and information on a new player character race, the wrowl. [wizcol2.txt]
Wizard's Third Collection: Notes from Tuernathen the Deceased -- The UnderDark edition in this fine series of stuff from my hard drive...thoughts on the magical radiation and special abilities; two new underdark PC races:mreen and tarikik; Gereint the Dark, his Holding, and pages from his Grimoire. [wizcol3.txt]
Wizard's Fourth Collection: Raliard's Chapbook  (chapbook: a small book containing ballads, poems, tales, or tracts.  Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary) -- Information on the Order of Seven, various characters from the True World, Campaign Notes, and perhaps a tale or two, and some other neat stuff.  (No poetry though.) [wizcol4.txt]
Wizard's Fifth Collection: Welan's Workbook -- Mage-smith kits, enchantments, and magical items.  Welan Artorius, an NPC mage-smith.  Moulder dwarves, a new player race.
Wizard's Sixth Collection: Observations of Raliard the Mage -- Revised Ranger and Druid classes.  Magical items, kits, & Campaign Notes.
Wizard's Seventh Collection: Notes on the NewLands -- Detailing the NewLands campaign setting, including history & culture; races & classes; and new kits.
Wizard's Ultimate Collection (One?) -- Wizard's Collection 1-4,  mage-smith & halfling warden classes, illithid & githtorai races (with S&P info).