Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kids, why playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple rules, went through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human and role playing a dragon born. Today we are going to talk about playing the smallest and most full of life character race, gnomes.
If you think about gnomes outside of Dungeons & Dragons, a few things probably come to mind. You might be thinking of the annoying little gnomes that Ron, Harry and Hermione enjoyed tossing out of the Weasley’s garden. You might be thinking of the vicious gnomes that show up in Grimm’s Fairy Tales or you might be thinking of the little cutesy lawn gnomes that keep watch over your grandmother’s house. When it comes to D&D, that’s all sort of accurate with the game, except that the gnomes don’t tend to be mean spirited or especially annoying and they can be cunning warriors, excellent wizards or even mighty paladins. On second thought, D&D gnomes are really unlike any of the ones you are probably familiar with. The good news is, I’m here to tell you about playing a gnome and why this can be a great character race for a kid to play into, especially if they love to make jokes or puns.
Gnomes live for centuries. Anywhere between three and five hundred years is average for them. Unlike elves, who tend to take the time to slowly savor the world, gnomes feel like they need to make maximum use out of their time and live life to the absolute fullest extent they can. For this reason, they tend to make great adventurers. They really want to get out int the world and see everything there is to see. If there is a quest to kill a dragon, a gnome will want to go, not for treasure, not for violence, but because they have never actually seen one and who wouldn’t want to do that?
Gnomes also tend to be pretty upbeat and cheerful which can be a whole lot of fun to play both as a character and as a nonplayer character if you have one in your game. I always like to have a gnome I can play at some point in my game and I’ll tell you why in a little bit.
Gnomes have a refreshing take on life because they love to joke around but they are also able to get down to business when the stakes are high. They take well to tasks they set out to do. While some set out to become wealthy, and they have a love of gems, their true passion really is just the experience of life. They do live underground but they are likely to be found outside more often than dwarves tend to be. Gnomes can be found as any of the character classes in the rules but they do make especially good bards, wizards and paladins. They even do pretty well as rogues considering their small stature and the ability they have to sneak around when needed.
Gnomes love to joke, play pranks, and make puns. I am a dad and being a dad means that you are legally required to make a certain number of dad jokes, silly pranks and bad puns per year. I get the majority of mine in when I put a gnome NPC in the game. Why? Well, then it’s not dad telling the joke right? It’s the gnome! Okay, so my kid still rolls his eyes at the jokes but I enjoy it anyway. A gnome is a great comedic vehicle when you need oneand that’s how I use it but of course you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to.
Before we get into all the ability bonuses and stuff you get for being a gnome, I want to take a minute and talk about gnome names. In the basic rules they tell you that gnomes love to have a ton of names. They have so many names it’s hard for humans to keep track of what they should be called. But the gnomes always pick the names that they think are the most fun to say. Now usually I would say just name characters whatever you want, and that’s still true in this case but I am also going to give you another great source of gnome name inspiration. The master of all time at fun sounding names is one, Dr. Seuss. When looking for gnome names, his books are a gold mine. Barholomew Cubbins? Cindy Lou Who? Benjamin B. Bicklebaum? Oh those are such gnome names. And those are ones you have probably heard of. Look for some of the more obscure ones if you need to and I promise you are going to find a name that is fun to say.
There are a few things you get for playing a gnome
Ability Score Increase
Gnomes take quickly to the things they learn and they have a long lifespan of experience to draw from. For that reason they get to add 2 to their Intelligence score
As I said above gnomes live 300-500 years or so but they age at the same pace as humans and are considered adults around age 40.
If you use alignment in your game, gnomes tend toward the good side. This is pretty good news for the rest of the world because they can be a bit mischievous and like to play tricks on others.
Gnomes are the smallest of the playable races in the basic rules. They stand only 3-4 feet tall and are very light usually coming in around 40 pounds. For game purposes your size is small.
Gnomes aren’t exceedingly fast but they are not exceptionally slow either. Their speed is 25 feet.
Since gnomes live underground they are pretty used to seeing in the dark. For this reason they get darkvision which means you can see out to 60 feet as if it were bright light while in dim light and in darkness you see out to 60 feet as if it were dim light.
Gnomes can be smart, wise and charming so they get to have advantage on saving throws with these traits when a magic spell using one of them calls for it. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what that means yet, just know that gnomes are resistant to a lot of types of magic but certainly not all types.
Gnomes are fluent in common and gnomish. Gnomish is fairly complex due to the fact that gnomes live so long and learn so much but it still uses dwarvish script when written. Other creatures are able to learn gnomish but gnomes don’t necessarily share the language easily with anyone unless they are very close to them.
I just discovered something odd when doing my research for this post. I look at the rules that are posted on D&D Beyond for the basic rules. In there they mention two subraces, the rock gnomes and the forest gnomes. However, they only explain the rock gnomes in there. So, in case you want to play one, I have done the research and I can share with you what the forest gnomes are like as well.
Forest gnomes are quick and stealthy. They have a knack for illusion as well. They are also in tune with the forestand the animals that live in it.
Ability Score Increase
You get to increase your dexterity score by 1.
You know the minor illusion cantrip. Intelligence is your spellcasting ability for it. Basically what this means is that your gnome can cast a spell where you can cast asmall but pretty convincing illusion. This is a surprisingly useful spell and I have had a lot of interesting role play moments because of the spell so it can be quite fun to have.
Speak With Small Beasts
Forest gnomes love animals and animals love them right back. For that reason, forest gnomes can speak with any animal that is size small or smaller. They have to do it through sounds and gestures but communication is quite possible among gnomes and animals.
Rock gnomes are the most common type of gnome in D&D. They are hardy and inventive.
Ability Score Increase
Because they are hardy, rock gnomes get to increase their constitution score by 1. This just means it’s harder for them to get sick or poisoned.
This one is a little wonky but it’s cool. here’s what the rules say exactly: Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to magic items, alchemical objects, or technological devices, you can add twice your proficiency bonus, instead of any proficiency bonus you normally apply. Now, I know that sounds confusing but here is the takeaway, when a gnome is looking at magical, alchemical, or technological stuff, they know more about it than others would. The reason is pretty obvious, gnomes live a long time and love to learn, so they know stuff.
This one is pretty cool too. Basically a gnome can spend 10 gold and one hour and make a clockwork device. That’s as long as they have artisan’s tinker tools. Most gnomes do so that shouldn’t really be an issue. The device will stop working after 24 hours unless it is repaired. The gnome can also choose to take it apart and recover the parts of it. they are allowed to have up to 3 of these at a time.
If you are thinking that a gnome could make anything with this, that is not quite true. There are only three types of devices that can be made in this way.
Clockwork toy: This is basically a wind up toy that can be in the shape of a bunch of different stuff. The rules set limits but I don’t think you need to restrict it too much unless your kid wants it to be a tank with full fire power or something like that. If you are wondering what use these could possibly be you have clearly not played D&D before. These toys make great gifts to little kids the characters meet, they can be an excellent way to distract an unobservant guard, and maybe most importantly, they can be used to check if the floor has any traps set into it.
Fire Starter: This device produces a miniature flame. It’s good for lighting candles, torches or campfires. Personally, I think this one is less fun than the clockwork toy but it can come in handy when there are no other light orfire sources available.
Music Box: This is just your basic music box. It plays one song when open. It can also be used in some creative ways and as a distraction if done well, but the clockwork toy is still my favorite of the three.
There is technically another type of gnome called the deep gnome or svirfneblin. They live in the underdark, in the same place dark elves live. They tend to still be good, but they have a lot less humor to them. I don’t strongly recommend this subrace for kids but if they really really want to play it, just remind the kid that these gnomes are still kind and good and want to help.
Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Gnomes
Gnomes can be a huge amount of fun for a kid to play. They get to be kind, caring, inquisitive and have a sense of humor. If you have a kid who likes to tell jokes, play pranks, or say puns, the gnome option is perfect. Even if your kid doesn’t want to tell jokes and all that, but wishes to play a character that loves life, this is an excellent choice. Most kids love life and they are natural learners so they identify well with gnomes.
Of course they can be played any way you and your kid wants them to be played. Maybe they do want to play the only bored gnome in existence. Or one that has zero sense of humor. That’s totally fine, each character is always an individual, just make sure you understand what direction your kid wants to take it when they start out.
As a Dungeon Master, I think gnomes are really fun to play. They can take the most mundane item and give a three hour lecture on it, all while keeping the crowd entertained. This can be a little challenging to role play, so one thing you may want to do is look up some jokes ahead of time. Got one you have been waiting to tell your kid? Drop it on them in the guise of a gnome character and see what kind of a reaction you get. You might be surprised to see that a joke that normally gets a groan will get a laugh in the game. Try to have fun with it. I also think gnomes make pretty good merchant characters. They can go on and on about an item they are going to sell to the party and gnomes tend to be nice so you don’t have the problem of a store keeper who really doesn’t want to be there.
As always, it’s up to you how you do it, this is just the way I like to run gnomes.
I hope you found this post useful and picked up one or two tips for playing in your own game.
Next time we will get into how to play a Half-Elf.
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