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D&D 5e: The Gnomish Personality

Welcome back to my occasional series of posts with personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws specific to D&D races. This time I'm tackling gnomes, but it's harder than you'd think thanks to their low center of mass. Er. Actually it's harder because they're not found in Middle-Earth, so I don't have Tolkien's or Jackson's works to draw upon as inspiration. Every race varies by setting, but some more than others - I personally don't care for the comic incompetence of Krynn's tinker gnomes any more than I like the "comic relief" gully dwarves. As a result, what I've presented here is a blend of the few times I've played gnomes, or had someone play one in a game I ran, and the gnomish writeup in the Player's Handbook.

Previous posts in this series: Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings

Now, the other races I've covered so far are divided by their subraces, but I felt like forest gnomes and rock gnomes are different enough that I gave each of them a few unique options. Each table below includes a die value with a second number in parentheses. Add +2 to each roll for rock gnomes only. (Or, if you don't feel that personality differences between gnome subraces are relevant, roll one die size larger.) If you're selecting personality features, just remember that the first two in each table are (in my thinking) for forest gnomes only, and the last two in each table are for rock gnomes only... and nothing will break if you disagree with me.

Except my heart, you bastards.

Personality Traits

d8 (+2) Personality Traits
1 I think everyone's motives are ultimately as simple as those of my animal friends.
2 I'm not really comfortable anywhere that I can't easily hide.
3 There's no tale so heroic that I won't embellish it a little further.
4 I want giant piles of gems and gold, mostly for aesthetic appeal.
5 I've never been at a loss for a good pun. Well, a pun.
6 Grandiloquent verbiage cascades forth from me unstintingly.
7 I'm dangerous to myself and others if I don't have a mystery to keep my mind occupied.
8 I'm never really happy if I don't have a good secret to keep safe.
9 I have sketches of projects on every spare scrap of paper.
10 I have all kinds of half-finished projects in my room, my backpack, and my pockets.


d6 (+2) Ideals
1 Nature: The rhythms of the natural world should guide our steps and thoughts. (Neutral)
2 Fairness: Jokes and pranks should never target someone who would actually be hurt. (Lawful)
3 Creativity: With more than three centuries to spare, I'll fill my life with big new ideas. (Chaotic)
4 Power: The Big Folk will treat us as equals only when we have the strength to compel them. (Evil)
5 Peace: All people desire self-determination. Let's not get in the way of each other. (Neutral)
6 Freedom: The Big Folk ignore us, so we gnomes will make our own way in the world. (Chaotic)
7 Respect: I've been misjudged before, and treat others with respect so I don't make the same mistake. (Good)
8 Aspiration: I want to prove that I'm one of the cleverest minds of my people. (Any)


d6 (+2) Bonds
1 I will fight to my last breath to defend the living world from its despoilers.
2 I will find new places to keep gnome-kind safe from every kind of threat.
3 Nothing is more important to me than the well-being of the other gnomes of my warren.
4 It may take a century to perfect my project, but once it's done, I expect stunned silence, and maybe a standing ovation.
5 I want to prove myself to the elders of my warren, who pushed me out for "my own good."
6 I'll teach the other races of the world to find the joy in life, as gnomes do.
7 The world is a miraculous and wonderful place, and I want to know every inch of it.
8 The innovations of the gnomes are too dangerous to fall into the hands of Big Folk.


d6 (+2) Flaws
1 I found out the hard way that the Archfey don't have a sense of humor. I'm always looking over my shoulder.
2 I can't conceal a lie - it makes me giggle uncontrollably.
3 My one-upsmanship is going to get me in big trouble one of these days.
4 Once I have a goal in mind, I can't bear to part with it, or really think of anything else.
5 While I'm far from home, if another gnome asks for something, I don't ask enough questions about why.
6 I like my traveling companions… but I'll only ever really trust my own kind.
7 The problem with being bite-sized is pretty self-evident. I'm scrumptious!
8 I'm bitterly envious of inventors and crafters more successful or famous than I am.

Design Notes

What I have tried to create here is a society torn between its desire to do good in the world through unconventional means and its need for secrecy amid many dangers. I think the typical gnomish adventurer would rather handle everything gently and kindly, but the absence of a centralized gnomish state and the harshness of the world push them to underhanded ruthlessness. No one takes them seriously enough to understand just how much damage they can do. At the same time, the PH writeup emphasizes joy over anger or resentment, and I think that's cool - shades of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, maybe. (She's actually a kind of amazing model for gnomes.)

Next up (whenever I get around to it) - half-orcs presumably? I love that 5e half-orcs don't have rape as a default reason for their conception. It's kind of a strange Behold my Manfeels writeup, but well done nonetheless.

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