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19 November 2008 @ 07:48 am
The Hoard Potato Rants About Gnomes In D&D  
paka posted a "D&D Meme" last night. I'm not going to answer the whole thing; regular readers have probably deduced that I haven't played enough D&D in recent decades to be able to answer them. One question, however, pushed one of my buttons:

8) Halfling or Gnome?

I've been saying this since AD&D1: Why does D&D even HAVE Gnomes? They're REDUNDANT. The ecological niches that Gnomes traditionally fill in folklore get filled by either Dwarves or Halflings. In TV Tropes lingo, they're not "Stouts" and they're not "Cutes".

Really, there's nothing for Gnomes to DO except fill up an unused folklore name; that's why every single edition and sub-edition and variant setting gives'em an entirely different gimmick and identity. If you look at the First Edition version, it was really a half-assed, gamery attempt to cash in on adapt the Gnomes from the Huygen & Poortvliet coffee-table book that was so popular in '78.

When the Tolkien Estate groused about them using "Hobbit" in the first printing of Greyhawk, they should have just dubbed THEM "Gnomes" instead of "Halflings", and been done with it.
I feel: annoyedannoyed
SilverClawbfdragon on November 19th, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
Now that I think about it (though it's been a long time since I've played up until recently) I don't think anyone has ever played a gnome in a group I've been in.
leonard_arlotteleonard_arlotte on November 19th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Up until she very recently quit our group for ambiguous reasons, the primary meat-shield in our group was a gnome. We are going to be hard pressed to replace a damage-sink such as that.
soreth on November 19th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
I always wondered what the hell they were in there for too. I've only once seen someone play a gnome, and then it was one of those variant 'whisper gnomes' or something that he only picked because it fit into his semi-munchkin min/max desires.
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Your Obedient Serpent: hoard potatoathelind on November 19th, 2008 05:11 pm (UTC)
I read it! That's how I could pin down First Ed gnomes as rip-offs homages.
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Stalbonstalbon on November 19th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
I really always have tended to like Gnomes. However, I've been the only one to ever play a Gnome in any game I've done...and even then, I could easily have said I was a halfling and no one would have guessed different. Nonetheless, I've always thought of Gnomes as tinkerers and progressive thinkers moreso than the Dwarves (who I often see as bitterly stoic blacksmiths) are. This probably stems from Dragonlance, which is where we get that type of stereotypical gnome from. Nonetheless, one of the short stories from that setting 'Through the Roof of the Sky' perfectly portrays how I see gnomes and why I love them. And it has mindflayers in it. And a brass dragon! It's one of my favorite stories ever.
Reveille D'Giovanettireveille_d on November 19th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
In D&D 4th ed, Gnomes aren't even included as a core race. In 3/3.5, they were a clannish, xenophobic, semi-subterranean people who specialized in gems and illusions, and exhibited a faerie-like tendency for tricks and mischief.

I think most people's views of gnomes these days is colored by MMOs, which was in turn colored by Dragonlance. Both Everquest gnomes and Warcraft gnomes are tinkerers, and live[ed] in towns characterized by mechanical, steam/coal/clockwork-powered wonders, and exhibit a tendency to be blown up, much like the Tinkergnomes of Dragonlance.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on November 19th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
I can't think of a single D&D game I've been in in the past seven or so years since it's been one of the games I've routinely played that has allowed gnomes. As a GM, I routinely disallow anyone to play short people races because they inevitably try to do it as comic relief - and do it poorly, hehe.

And you hit the nail on the head. The reason they were included in the first place is because there was an unused fantasy critter name laying around. I think it's obvious that the 1st ed AD&D guys weren't really thinking about "ecological niches" or even, really, "party niches" when they made the game - but once they were in, they were tradition and they got made into every edition since then . . . with the exception of 4th, which has dispensed with them (save as unimportant monsters, lumped together with goblins, kobolds and the rest of the critters 1st level characters fight).
Rakeesh Sorrelrakeesh on November 20th, 2008 12:38 am (UTC)

....nah, just doesn't have the same ring to it.
K. Peaseceruleanst on November 20th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
Gnomes are gadgeteers. They're not there to be characters, they're there to supply cool technology in standard fantasy settings.