Gnomes value talent and innovation. Like their Dwarfish cousins, they are skilled craftspeople, but they have expanded the concept of "craft" to include some new and fascinating areas. Gnomes are entranced by anything new. They love to experiment with ways of doing things. Gnomes are compulsive problem solvers with a genuine desire to fix anything they find to be broken. One of the highest compliments one Gnome can give to another is to call him or her "clever".
"Wrench Gnome, Hammer Gnome,
Knife Gnome, Spanner Gnome,
Magic Gnome, Planner Gnome,
Ore Gnome, Tanner Gnome,
Your heart will show which way to go,
So look within you as you grow."
--Gnomish cradle rhyme
Gnome characters must paint their cheeks rosy red. Additionally, most Gnomes wear pointy hats in various styles. In fact, in Gnomish culture, it is considered improper to be seen in public without such a hat.
Gnomes tend to be friendly and helpful, if a bit soft-spoken. Most will try to solve problems without being asked for help or seeking gratitude which generally endears them to those in their company. No one can say whether this behavior stems from a well-meaning nature, an inborn desire to "fix" things, or a combination of the two.
There is one notable exception to the Gnomes' near-universal good will. They are known to loathe Goblins who have a long-standing history of raiding Gnomish mines and stealing Gnomish inventions.
Gnomes value the following traits and encourage them in their offspring.
- Intelligence: Gnomes should be good problem solvers and quick to see and understand. They should value knowledge and promote learning in themselves and others. Most Gnome shops have many books on a variety of subjects. Gnome scholars are encouraged to write and share their discoveries. Gnomes were the first race on Orn to develop moveable metal type to facilitate the printing of books
- Inquiry: Everyone has a duty to look and see. There is always a way to do things better and anyone can discover wonders if they just look for them. Questions deserve answers. Most older Gnomes are very tolerant of questions from Gnomelings, but there are occasions when they will encourage their offspring to "go see for yourself".
- Cooperation: We must all work together to make things better. This is largely an outgrowth of the Gnomish system of learning and working. All the workers in a shop contribute to the success of a project and all of the shops in a town contribute to the prosperity of the town. Most Gnomes would rather see an entire shop succeed than receive personal acclaim for a group project.
- Merit: This virtue balances against cooperation in the Gnomish psyche, credit is given where credit is due. Gnomes admire those who do excellent work and receive praise humbly. The traditions surrounding the presentation of a Gnome's hat are largely a recognition of gnomish merit. Gnome hats are earned and to be stripped of one's hat is a mark of ultimate shame.
- Tolerance: Gnomes feel that they can learn something from every person they meet. They tend to have a very benevolent view of other races, with the sole exception of Goblins, and are excellent hosts and companions. Gnomes value harmony and find their Dwarfish cousins' outspoken prejudices to be rather embarrassing. They prefer to make their own judgments when meeting newcomers.
No race is perfect. These are some of the more common Gnomish flaws:
- Eccentric: Gnomish ways often appear strange to outsiders, and individual Gnomes are prone to weird quirks and superstitions. In some individuals this tendency can lead to full blown madness. Gnomes can seem distracted or rude when they're trying to figure something out. Gnomes are also sometimes oblivious or cheerily dismissive of danger, especially in relation to their inventions.
- Secretive: Despite the cultural respect for cooperation, plenty of Gnomes hoard their trade secrets and inventions from their friends and colleagues. Gnomish research tends to be competitive and while few Gnomes will openly steal a new invention, there are many who would happily "improve" upon a prototype if given access to it. "Secret" recipes are fairly common, and many an apprentice Gnome has made her first real breakthrough while trying to deconstruct her Master's house formulae.
- Naive: Gnomes are known for their sweet tempers and general good nature. Evil or unscrupulous types love to take advantage of such people. And Gnomes also suffer from their belief that everything can be logically understood. More than one Gnome has been dragged into the Pit after being just a bit too accommodating to a Fiend.
Despite the pernicious rumors, Gnomes are NOT the half-breed offspring of Humans and Dwarves. Both Gnome and Dwarf scholars agree that Gnomes were created by the Ageless One Brodix and have lived alongside their Dwarven cousins since before recorded history. A charming legend claims that in the Age of Wonders the Immortal Muralakrum once took the form of a Gnome to woo a willful but lovely Dwarven princess who refused to take a husband with a beard longer than her own. This is utter nonsense, of course, but the spirit of the Immortal of Change seems to thrive among the Tinkerkin to this day.
According to the best reckoning of scholars, the first sizeable Gnomish communities appeared in shallow caves within a century of Dwarfkind's first forays into the surface world of Orn. Gnomes are more comfortable making their homes just under the surface of the ground, or even in caves or single story constructed homes on the surface itself. Their communities usually have deep cellars and passages that allow for regular interaction with their Dwarfish cousins below. Gnomes and Dwarves trade freely, collaborate on projects and sometimes even intermarry. But the two cultures are definitely traveling down divergent paths.
Gnomes have long been known as innovators and craftsfolk of great skill. They value knowledge over tradition and are continuously pushing themselves to learn and explore more. Many modern Gnomish communities are models of progress and invention with motorized transportation, advanced communications, and luxuries and amenities unavailable elsewhere on Orn. This has long been the Gnomish Way. In ancient times Gnomes happily instructed primitive Human and Angori settlements in the construction of tools. Gnome laborers assisted in the construction of the great cities of many Ornish empires. And, all the while, Gnomish inventors improved their own works.
Gnomes have always been fairly widespread throughout Orn, arising from below and co-existing peacefully with their Dwarfish cousins, they have rarely felt compelled to compete for limited space or resources, with one great exception. Goblins.
Goblins favor the same shallow subterranean and cave habitat as Gnomes. At first the Gnomes tried living alongside the green menace, sharing space and resources, but this quickly proved impossible. Goblins breed quickly and become more aggressive as their numbers increase. They fight, first among themselves for dominance, and then they gather up behind their new "leaders" to kill or drive out all the other inhabitants of their territory. Across Orn, Gnomish communities were overrun and destroyed by their Goblin "neighbors". And so the Gnomes struck back. For the first time, Gnomish ingenuity was used to craft weapons, and these weapons were turned upon the Goblin hordes. In some places the gnomes prevailed. In others, they were unable to defeat the sheer mass of Goblinkind. And since those days, no gnomish community will allow a Goblin settlement to become established within five day's travel. The Gnomes maintain stockplies of Goblin-killer weapons and patrol their territory regularly for encroachment. Each able-bodied Gnome must be prepared to rise to the defense of the community at any time.
The Shattering is rightly considered a tragedy by most Gnomes; many Gnomish communities suffered losses in the destruction and upheaval of that day, and some Gnomish towns were completely lost or destroyed. However, Gnomes found the challenge presented by the changed world to be a fascinating opportunity. Gnomes born post-Shattering especially, have been drawn to experiment with and explore the altered world around them. There is a good chance that the Gnomish desire to fix what is broken prompts them to view the current situation as a fascinating puzzle with an eventual solution. One of the great Gnomish projects of the modern age is the push to design a vessel that can travel between Shards without being forced to use a Span. All attempts have so far met with failure, but the hope remains.
Gnomes are a largely homogeneous people. They self-differentiate in their youth along trade and skill lines. While certain talents can run in families and it is considered good luck to go into the trade of one's parent, Gnomes are too individualistic to succumb to clannishness.
Gnomes have always lived in small independent communities organized around a collection of workshops. Most Gnome towns have a chief and a council of shop masters. The chief Gnome is usually an older Gnome who has some leadership and administrative skills. This leader serves as a foreman coordinating community projects, managing disputes, and serving as a liaison to the outside world. "Boss" is the honorific most frequently used for the Gnome in this position. Each of the workshops in the town is represented by that shop's master. Shops are the power blocs of Gnomish politics. As each shop has a role in the life of the community, so that shop has influence and leverage in the community. Shops are also the de facto social structure of Gnomish society as well, most young Gnomes are apprenticed to a trade at a very young age. Their Master takes on a parental role and is extremely influential in helping the young Gnome establish himself as an adult.
Gnomish society is organized around the professional talents of its members. After their apprentice training, young gnomes are sent out as journeyfolk. They travel to other Gnomish towns, work with other masters and develop professional contacts. Eventually a Gnome will find a community in which there is a need for her talent and she will settle down there to become a Shop Master. Shop Masters communicate among themselves, but each Master is the authority for his profession in his town.
Some larger Gnome settlements host advanced workshops in which multiple masters work together to advance the profession. This is especially the case for music, magic, and engineering. The primary school of music, the Melodium, is located in a Gnomish settlement outside of Northcrest on the continent of Nastal. The mages of the Hidden Academy dwell in the foothills below Targas on Tarkalsys, and the workshops of Brodix's Forge are powered by the river running into Sendai of Upper Mestar.
Gnomes tend to measure their time by the completion of training, tasks, and other life events. As a people with their eye on the future, Gnomes don't give much thought to events of the past, however notable they may be. The completion of a major community project is always the occasion for a feast and celebration in a Gnomish town. Some Gnomes of a more mystical bent like to mark the passage of the seasons with ceremony, but this practice is very localized.
Infant Gnomes are usually born as twins or triplets and are raised by their parents for the first few months. Gnomes do not like to lose time from their work, so most towns have a community nursery, where Gnomelings can play with other young children under the attentive eye of a caregiver until they are ready to begin schooling, or the parents will each shorten their workday to allow themselves time to care for their offspring together. Gnomish families usually live in apartments adjoining their shops, and the little Gnomes are returned there at night. Gnomes are long lived and mature slowly, but they are bright and strong enough to begin formal learning by five years.
School aged Gnomes learn to read, write and figure. They also get instruction in observing and recording the world around them. From the very first years young Gnomes are observed for signs of talent. Little Gnomes are encouraged to try whatever interests them and the young students are often taken to the community's shops to see their elders at work. Within the first ten years most Gnomes will demonstrate some talent and most are ready to begin as apprentices by their tenth year. Parents, teachers, and the town's masters meet together to try and match each young Gnome with an appropriate profession. Some youths will stay in the town to learn, but many others will be sent for formal instruction in another town or even on a different Shard.
Parents are responsible for getting their young Gnome to his first apprenticeship, and this journey is often the first adventure of many young Gnomes' lives. In a short but poignant ceremony, the student is formally assigned to her master. The master then assumes all responsibility for the care, safety, and education of the young Gnome. Gnomes who are entering particularly difficult trades may not have an opportunity to return to visit their families for twenty to thirty years. This practice is described as The Binding and is the moment at which the Gnome is formally acknowledged and welcomed into society. Bound Gnomes are expected to begin acting like adults and must obey their Master and whichever journeyman or older apprentice he chooses to assist in their teaching.
Gnomes are bound to their masters until he or she deems that they are ready to begin journeying. An apprentice who is mistreated, abused, or truly unhappy with their master can ask to be unbound. This is an extremely serious charge, and the Master will be called to answer the accusations of his student before all the shop masters of the village. If cause is found, the apprentice is unbound and the master must arrange to have him or her returned to the home village. Apprentices who cause trouble in the master's house by stealing or fighting can also be forcibly unbound by the shop masters. A Gnome who is forcibly unbound must find his own place to live or make his own way home. His master is no longer responsible for him. More than a few Gnomish adventurers chose that path after being forcibly unbound.
Once an apprentice has been raised to the status of journeyman he is ready to strike out on his own. His master presents him with a letter of introduction to several of his fellow masters in other towns. The journeyman also receives his apprentice wages. The amount of these wages is determined by recording the value of the apprentice's work and deducting any expenses for his training, room, and board. Particularly skilled apprentices can begin journeying with a tidy sum already in their pockets. Journeyfolk Gnomes are also given their first hat.
The hat is a mark of honor in Gnomish society. It is crafted or commissioned by the master to suit the Gnome and his profession. Hats may be upgraded and replaced over the years, but they are always initially given as a gift from a Gnome employer to his student or employee. Only adult Gnomes wear hats and to go without one's hat in public is quite indecent. A disgraced Gnome who wears a hat he has not earned is worse than a Goblin.
Once the Gnome has concluded his journeying he will find a place, either as a lesser Master in a large shop, or as a new proprietor in a town without his profession. Masters do return to journeying on occasion, especially if there has been a breakthrough in their field, but most Gnomes are content to settle down and get to serious work.
Gnomish romance is a private affair. Some Gnomes meet a compatible partner as an apprentice or journeyman. These two Gnomes may reach an informal arrangement between themselves, but they will not be recognized as a married couple until one of them has established a shop. Other Gnomes wait to start looking for a mate until they are already settled. Gnomes do have romances with other races, most commonly with Dwarves. The offspring of a Gnome/non-Gnome union is a pair of Gnome twins or a set of Gnome triplets about half of the time. Gnomes born before their parents have established a shop should serve as the impetus to settle, but some Gnome grandparents have been known to take in their grandchildren and raise them until the parents are established.
Elderly Gnomes continue to work for as long as possible, which leads to an unfortunately high rate of fatal industrial accidents. In an echo of their Dwarfish cousin's machismo, a Gnome who happens to die "with his hammer in his hand" is accorded the highest respect and honor and is interred with grand ceremony by the entire community. More prudent Gnomes or those in less dangerous professions are usually cared for in their shop by their apprentices and any offspring who have had the good fortune to settle near their parents. These elders are often consulted for their accumulated years of knowledge. If the Gnome is a shop master he retains actual ownership of the shop until death. Day to day operations are usually taken over by a co-master or senior apprentice. When the end finally does come, the elder is interred or cremated and a memorial is placed somewhere on the shop grounds. Ownership/Mastery of the shop is passed on to an heir, usually the gnome who has been actually running the shop, who is designated in a will and testament written and witnessed before the village council of shop masters. Occasionally, this designation is disputed or the master may die unexpectedly and the Council hears and adjudicates the dispute, but generally all parties are prepared for a smooth transition.
Given their peaceful tendencies, Gnomes get along well with the other mortal races of Orn. Their strongest ties are with their cousins the Dwarves, with whom their culture is deeply entwined.
Gnomes have a courteous respect for the Immortals of Orn, but they do not tend toward devout worship. Instead, they want to understand the place of the Immortals in the complete cosmology of Orn. Wise Gnomes do fear the power of the Immortals and respect the beliefs of their followers and overt blasphemy is never condoned.
Istensia. As a patroness of good and healing, Istensia is honored by Gnomish Hierophants.
Githal. The Captain of Unending Battle is a patron of the Dwarves, and some Gnomes who have served in the Dwarven armies will take up his worship.
Hexadus. Slavers in service to the Queen of Chains have destroyed more than one Gnomish town and taken the inhabitants captive. Gnomes across Orn hate and fear her.
Drakerim/Atrazius.The power of magic runs deeply through the Gnomish race. Many magical workshops have a mark or shrine to call down the favor of the Steward of Magic.
Imphalios. The Gnomes love the idea of an ascendant construct and find the tale of Imphalios fascinating. There is even an apocryphal tale that Imphalios was originally of Gnomish construction. He has a small but enthusiastic cult among younger Gnomes who wish to gain his favor to empower their own devices and constructs.
Muralakrum. Modern Gnomes consider the legend that Muralakrum assuming the form of a Gnome to woo the Princess Gidel Goldbraids to be totally fictitious. But respect for Muralakrum remains high among Gnomes who consider themselves world changing visionaries.
Brodix. Some older Gnomish settlements have mysterious devices that once formed part of the worship of Brodix. These ceased to operate on the day of the Shattering. Sages of other races attribute the current Gnomish attitude towards the Immortals to be a result of the fading of the Father of Invention. Opinion is divided as to the impact of this on the long term spiritual health of the Gnomish race.
Secronus. Some Gnomes form part of the cult of Secronus. They admire the Immortal for his dedication to uncovering secrets and hold that if he is recovered, all the secrets of reality will be revealed and the world will mend itself again.
Most Gnomes fit into their society. Gnomish villages are sometimes called Clockwork Towns, as the people fit their roles as neatly as the parts fit the machines they make. If encountered away from a town, Gnomes may be messengers, Goblin patrols, experimenters, or explorers, and, rarely, adventurers.
While many Gnomes do spend some time traveling during their lives, very few are called away completely from Gnomish society. Some Gnomes will "adventure" for several years to learn or hone skills, but most intend to return to their primary occupation and homes once their objective is reached. Professional adventuring Gnomes who have completely abandoned life in a town are considered to be somewhat shady and untrustworthy.
"Hatless gnome"--A disgraced person
"Tinker or turn it on"---Make a decision
"Bolts"--A mild epithet
"Broken bolts"--A stronger epithet
"Blasted broken bolts and slag"--A fairly ripe curse
"The Green Menace"--Golbinkind
"Sparked"--As a verb "thought of an idea" ie I just sparked a good one.
"Cleverboots"--A term of Gnomish endearment