Gnomes are smaller relatives of Dwarfs; they have a similar cultural background and speak their own Dwarvish dialect. If anything, Gnomes are even more short-tempered and difficult to get along with than Dwarfs. Like them, they live mostly underground or amongst mountains. Gnomes can be found almost exclusively on the western side of the Worlds Edge Mountains. Their numbers are few and declining all the time. Some communities survive in the remoter areas of the Isle of Albion, but these cannot be said to constitute anything other than a backward remnant of the race.
Within The Empire, Gnomes have a reputation for clannishness, being regarded as a well-balanced race insofar as they obviously have a chip on both shoulders. It is true that they do not easily mix with the other races (adventurers being an exception to this, of course), but they are by no means as secretive and withdrawn as, for example, the Wood Elves of the Laurelorn Forest.
Gnome pedlars are a relatively common sight and Gnomish smiths and engineers are accorded almost as much respect as their Dwarven counterparts - often more, but this is usually from fear of their acerbic wit and sharp-tongued sarcasm. Indeed, it is probably the Gnomic capacity for vitriol which led to the appointment of a Gnome as Imperial Court Jester as long ago as 1143; since then, such appointments have become a tradition and one which the current Emperor, Karl-Franz I, continues to maintain.
Nevertheless, Gnomes prefer to live among other Gnomes in self-contained, isolated communities. These are invariably burrows or cavern networks beneath The Empire's numerous limestone plateaus and other hill ranges. The Gnomic fondness for fishing is almost as infamous as their love of practical jokes and no permanent settlement is ever established far from a well-stocked fishing lake or river (preferably underground). Indeed, the Gnomic skill with rod and line is almost legendary.
The largest Gnomic community in The Empire (Glimdwarrow) is to be found beneath the hill range known as The Mirror Moors and numbers nearly a thousand inhabitants. Like other Gnomic settlements, it is run along complex hierarchical lines, but since each member of the community has several different roles and a corrospondingly different status according to which role they are filling, Gnomic society invariably strikes outsiders as an incomprehensible confusion. Even their cousins, the Dwarfs, find it difficult to fathom the significance of the innumerable Gnomic customs and rules of etiquette. In each community, there is a clan overlord who acts as a sort of head of state, there is a religious leader who deals with matters spiritual, a craftsmaster who supervises mining and smithing activities, and a loremaster who guards the secrets of the clan's history, preserves its learning, and ensures that ancient customs and rituals are observed with clockwork precision. Some clans also have a spellmaster who passes on the Gnomic skills in illusion-weaving to those few Gnomes deemed worthy of such an apprenticeship. Then, of course, the society's warriors are trained in the use of weapons and assigned to the Gnome guard...
Unlike their close cousins, the Dwarfs, Gnomes have a strong affinity for magic, particularly illusionist magic. Gnomes see illusions as a natural extension of their love for jokes, tricks, and gadgets. Within Gnome society, some clans have a spellmaster, who passes on illusionist skills to apprentices. Some Gnomes are present at the highest levels of the Empire College of Illusionists; others follow their forebear, Addic - according to legend, the first gnome to leave Glimdwarrow and travel in human society - and wander The Empire, either alone or with a band of travelling players, providing illusions as entertainment.
Gnomes are short and stocky, rarely exceeding four feet in height. Characteristic features include bulbous noses, shaggy hair and beards. Hair colour is usually black, but can also be brown or red. Skin colour is the same as Dwarfs, but Gnomes have a tendency to look weather-beaten and tanned.
Any, but nearly always Neutral.
Gnomes have Night Vision extending up to 30 yards.