What the Heck is a Gnome?
TVTropes sums up the problem with strictly defining gnomes within the entry “Our Gnomes Are Weirder”:
Within the larger fashionable pop consciousness, gnomes are fairly well-defined. Particularly, backyard gnomes: tiny (anyplace from two or three inches to a yard excessive), lengthy white beard, jolly demeanor, and a giant pointy (or possibly floppy) purple hat. Typically seen shilling for trip offers. The issue turns into larger in Dungeons & Dragons and different role-playing video games, the place they share conceptual area with at the very least two different “quick” races, dwarves and halflings. In consequence, gnomes tended to go unnoticed and forgotten in D&D settings; in reality, they had been explicitly known as “the Forgotten Folks” in Forgotten Realms.
A Quick Historical past of the Gnome
The phrase gnome comes from the Renaissance Latin “gnomus,” which was coined by Swiss alchemist Paracelsus. He makes use of the time period to reference one in every of 4 elemental, particularly as earth-dwelling beings eighteen inches excessive and really taciturn:
Paracelsus, a Swiss alchemist, thinker, doctor, botanist, astrologer, normal occultist, and the credited founding father of toxicology, derived the time period gnome from the Latin gēnomos, which itself was from the Greek γη-νομος, that actually means “earth-dweller”…Paracelsus categorized gnomes as small, humanoid earth elementals, whom he described as two spans excessive, very reluctant to work together with people, and capable of transfer by means of strong earth as simply as people transfer by means of air. Paracelsus additionally thought of gnomes an important of the diminutive spirits, which is excessive reward from a famous alchemist and founding father of toxicology.
Gnomes had been later utilized in poetry within the 18th century:
…introduced as small, celestial creatures which had been prudish girls of their past-lives that now spend all of eternity searching for different prudish girls. (Now that’s juicy.) The nineteenth century noticed gnomes come alive by authors who introduced them in fairy tales, albeit used principally synonymously with goblins. Lastly, within the late 1800s the gnome began to get his due. Famed poet William Cullen Bryant contrasted gnomes to elves. They had been later used to satirize materialism, likened as subterranean creatures that guarded treasures of gold buried inside mountains.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Arda
Though gnomes weren’t part of the Fellowship, they did certainly exist in Tolkien’s Center-Earth. The time period was used briefly in The Ebook of Misplaced Tales to explain the races of elves that may change into the Noldor. “Gnomus” has loads in frequent with the “gnosis” which is why the time period was used to reference the elves, Noldo which means “The Sensible” in Quenya.
As a result of gnomes had been historically recognized with most of the traits of dwarves, they’re typically confused with them: quick, underground dwellers. Much like the confusion between “goblin” and “orc” (between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings).
For that purpose Tolkien dropped the time period, involved that the similarities would confuse readers. Nevertheless different folkloric names would persist, though Tolkien finally segregated Elves” and “Dwarves” (he did exchange “Goblin” with “Orcs” after the publication of The Hobbit).
In Dungeons & Dragons
In Dungeons & Dragons, Gnomes first seem in Chainmail, grouped with dwarves. They seem as monsters in Blackmoor as dwelling in “air-enclosed cities on the underside linked to the floor by tunnels.” Gnomes did not seem as a playable race till the arrival of Superior Dungeons and Dragons:
Afterward I added gnomes to D&D to broaden the alternatives for non-human PCs, as I did in AD&D. This was carried out as a result of a variety of gamers, myself included, had been uninterested in having so many dwarves, elves, and halflings within the group of adventurers.
Gygax went on to clarify that he created gnomes to fill a niche between Halflings and dwarves – particularly a demihuman spellcasting various to elves. He cited the gnome illusionist as being the first function for gnomes. Gnomes modified over time in D&D, with expertise assigned to gnomes as a part of what makes them distinctive. TVTropes explains:
That started to vary with the Dragonlance setting and the tinker gnomes of Mount Nevermind: descendants of people cursed by the god of the forge for being petty and small-minded, the minoi shunned magic in favor of the sciences, significantly engineering… and had been utterly incapable of approaching these rationally, compelled to make all the pieces they constructed as sophisticated and Goldbergian as attainable, and valuing failure above success since you could not be taught something new when you’d bought it proper. Tinker gnomes had been performed for pure comedy, and proved pretty widespread. Since then, engineering prowess has change into a recurring trait for gnomes in varied universes. A few of them are as inept as the unique tinker gnomes, however different variations are literally way more competent.
Gnomes As we speak
The affiliation with expertise has change into most prevalent in World of Warcraft:
Gnomes in World of Warcraft (and, briefly, in Warcraft II) are closely primarily based on Dragonlance tinker gnomes; they’ve superior expertise all the way in which as much as nuclear reactors in a world the place most different races are nonetheless fidgeting with steam engines (not that it actually issues that a lot, ‘trigger Rock Beats Laser every time wanted).
I ended up positioning my gnome tradition as initially winkies, transplants from Oz who had been pressured into servitude by bigger humanoids to churn out their innovations. Now free, they’re extremely suspicious of anybody bigger than them, and use their clockworks to behave as go-betweens with the surface world. Their extremely capitalistic tradition is predicated on a inflexible guild hierarchy impressed by Florentine guilds wherein every guild’s specialty is a degree of household delight and social standing. They liberally use mercenaries, referred to as condottiere, to do their bidding, pitting them towards one another in video games referred to as calcio. It’s additionally an excuse to run gameshow type competitions for participant characters and provides some justification for the inclusion of the artificer class.
With a number of tweaks, my gnomes grew to become bureaucratic, capitalistic, barely paranoid, and consistently scheming to push their artwork to extremes within the hopes they’ll climb their social ladder (e.g., the Bakers Guild creates bread golems and construct gingerbread homes, the Metalworkers Guild makes powered armor, the Tinkers Guild makes firearms, and so on.). It is labored properly for my present journey and my participant is having fun with taking part in her gnome artificer.
Your Flip: How have you ever match gnome tradition into your marketing campaign world?