Gnomes are small human-like beings, two to four feet tall. They are clever and good with their hands, making excellent craftsmen. They are naturally comfortable underground, but aren’t cave-dwellers the way Duerfar are. They still prefer homes that are den-like, and build sunken, burrow-like houses with soft, rounded edges. Gnomish dwellings can be mistaken for human barrows, and an active community may appear to be a graveyard. This has led to many tales of haunted barrows and graves.
Though there are different gnomish societies, just as there are different human societies, all gnomes honor Clan and family. Gnomes do not form political entities such as nations or countries. They form Clans. Clan business is politics. They don’t elect leaders, not in any way humans would recognize. Any gnome can declare himself, or herself, leader of a family, or a Clan, or a project. People will either follow him, confirming his position, or they will not. If Granny has been matriarch of the family for decades but Aunt Gertrude is tired of doing things Granny’s way, then Aunt Gertrude can start ordering people about and organizing the family affairs as she wishes. If the rest of the family is ready for the change (and Aunt Gertrude’s ideas seem reasonable) the family will start doing what she tells them to do. Otherwise, they continue to do as Granny tells them, and they ignore crazy Aunt Gertrude. Or perhaps many family members think Aunt Gertrude is right, and the family splits. This is how new Gnomish families are created. From the smallest projects to the largest Clans, this is how Gnomes operate politically. A Gnome stays in power only so long as people are willing to follow.
This practice of rule by consensus works for the Gnomes but it isn’t without its drawbacks. For example, if a group is building a sailing ship and a few of the workers decide the Captain’s designs are terrible, they may arbitrarily start changing those designs. This can lead to a ship that looks like it was built by blind children. Its seaworthiness would be in question. However, if this happens enough it’s a signal to the entire group that their Captain (or other project leader) isn’t strong enough. The group itself would splinter and the members would either join other groups on similar projects or the group would reform under a new Captain. This may happen several times until they find a consensus on design, and they may very well end with the original Captain, building a new design.
Although Gnomes are very imaginative and creative, this manifests in what they make, not in their language. This is why they have ships named This One Won’t Sink, followed by This One REALLY Won’t Sink. They have taverns named Grab A Beer Here, and We Don’t Like Watered Wine, and We Only Serve Rabbit Stew. If a Gnomish magician crafts a new spell she names it for what it does: Shoot Sparks from Your Fingertips and Set Everything within 10 Feet on Fire.
Gnomes marvel at the linguistic abilities of other races. The other races are often terrified by the Gnomish method of creation.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.