Friday, April 8, 2011

G is For Gnome, A New Take on the Old

A-to-Z Challenge - G

I love Gnomes.


Man it's amazing how much dislike there appears to be on the gaming blogosphere for the non-Human races of D&D's various incarnations. It all seems to me to make the game less magical. Don't like Elves, don't like Dwarves and certainly don't like Gnomes...


Well, while the curmudgeons are off playing Humans & Holes in the Ground, I'm off on my latest crazy idea. Two words. Gnome Guard!

See, my love of the Gnome comes not from any game or related sourcebook but from the 1976 book by Wil Huygen and artist Rien Poortvliet. The incredibly well illustrated book, now celebrating its 35 anniversary with a new edition, details down to the smallest elements the ins and outs of the Gnome people, their culture and their society. These are not Tinker Gnomes or Illusionist Gnomes but the tiny, pointy capped woodland folk who help animals and somehow fend off some of the coolest looking trolls I've ever seen.

I love the concept and application of scale in stories and games. The idea of the tiny being or the giant and how they relate to the world and vice versa. So I got to thinking, what about a game where you play these miniature defenders of the forest and live in a world sized for Humans but a sort of secret one that mankind is unaware of. How would you handle their skill with constructing and fixing things, their magic that isn't magic so much as common sense and the way they deal with the other woodland inhabitants. Then it hit me...

Mouse Guard.


Here is a simple, relatively rules lite game of small creature who are portrayed as Humans but not Human in a setting appropriate to the Gnomes of the book. Importing Gnomes into Mouse Guard, thus Gnome Guard, should be a snap. The key element would be determining the Nature of Gnomes.

In Mouse Guard, the Nature of a species effects the way you perform certain actions and activities. Drawing on your Nature can help you but sometimes you need to go against your nature to achieve things which can be taxing and involve added risks. Mice for example has as part of their Nature Climbing, Escaping, Hiding and Foraging. Fighting a snake to protect a friend is very difficult for a Mouse but a key element of those who serve as their guardians. Interesting no?

So if you look closely at Gnomes I could see tradition, family and that sort of thing being in their Nature but their desire and need to help animals is so strong it can potentially put them in dangerous situations.

Developing the nature of Trolls and other denizens of this world would be a very fun excercise I would think. Anyway, I need to get some rest but I don't think this is the last time you'll hear about this idea. This thing has some serious potential if I can lock down the particulars. Guess I'll be rereading the Gnomes books for the 100th time...

Oh, speaking of a hundred...100 Followers!!! Holy Heck on a Highwire! Can you believe it? I am so excited I could burst. Not a pansy burst either, a real 'Destruction of the Death Star' kind of thing with ILM effects and maybe that ring thing from the Special Edition. Maybe. Not a big Special Edition fan but I do like the ring effect.

Special celebration something coming soon.

Barking Alien


  1. One of my group despises gnomes, so we often have a joke at his expense by generating all-gnome parties whenever he starts up a new campaign. It is a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure indeed.

  2. As usual, my group and I are unusual.

    On average, the ratio of Non-Human PCs to Human PCs is about 2-3 to 1. This is true for D&D, Star Wars, Star Trek, a lot of our Superhero games and almost any other game milieu where the possiblity for Non-Human PCs exists.

  3. I think the trend in modern RPGs is for a strong bias towards Star Wars Cantina adventuring parties, rather than mostly human with the occasional Demi-Human.

    I like pointy hat gnomes. :)

  4. Yay Stuart!

    I agree and while it's not right for every campaign, there is the 'if you got'em you might as well use'em' mentality. Like, "If we're playing Star Wars I've got to play a Wookiee. Where else and when am I going to get the chance, right?"

  5. I'm always drawn more to nonhumans. :)

  6. Well Mouse Guard is OK but I'd use a cut-down version of ICONS limiting the range to 1-3 and calling it MICRONS


    I've played a gnome character or two over the years and I'm not ashamed to say it.

    Don't think "Garden Guardian" so much as "Yoda with a hat".