Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Gnome By Any Other Gname

A slight follow-up to my previous post, with some more musing I've done on the roles of dwarves, gnomes, and halflings in my campaign.

Previously, I've been hamstrung in attempting to make major changes to my game, largely in part due to the ruleset being used (AD&D 2e for some time). I was reluctant to change things due to other elements of the rules taking the specifics of each part into account when making additional material. Admittedly, 2e isn't nearly as strict about this as 3.5 or Pathfinder, but the problem is still there to some extent.

A major advantage of switching to a sparser system (in this case Basic Fantasy, although it could have been original D&D or Dungeon Crawl Classics if different circumstances had prevailed) is that I feel more freedom to build things up as I and my players see fit. The players who have little interest in giving input on the rules - i.e., most of them - find it easier to begin with less and then add more, instead of starting with too much and then having me take it away (which I would have to do if I ran 5e or some other thing).

In the interest of "less", I've been thinking about what exactly a gnome should be in my game world. When most people hear "gnome", they think of the really little lawn jockeys with white beards and pointed hats. The same might be said of "elf", but the cultural impact of The Lord of the Rings is so massive by this point that the roughly human-sized elves come to mind just as easily. Since the Bombadilesque gnomes aren't a firm factor in my game... why not make them Tiny?

It would add a race even shorter than halflings, who have some magical capability, but don't have the complications that, say, pixie-fairies from HackMaster 4e have (with their natural flight and... interesting life cycles). Having tiny characters would require some adjustments to the rules, especially where ability scores and hit dice are concerned. I'm thinking that I'd have them roll 3d4 for Strength and Constitution, but if I come up with sterner firmer stuff I'll probably make an entire post about it.

So, gnomes possibly solved... let's tackle their better-known cousins. The D&D rules have been a little fuzzy on the exact distinction between "hill dwarves" and "mountain dwarves" until 3e or so; there weren't clear distinctions between them like there were with the high, wood, and dark elves. I've considered just collapsing halflings into dwarves; the slightly shorter ones formerly known as halflings would now be hill dwarves, while the stouter ones would be mountain dwarves. This would fit with how dwarves have been used in post-Tolkien fantasy movies, as well; Peter O'Farrell's character of Baldin in Hawk the Slayer has a very Dwarvish name, but a short beard and a slightly twisted spin on the traditional halfling's appetite... rather reminding me of Gollum, now that I think of it.

"Give it to us raw, and wriggling..."

This would also solve the problem of dwarves' awkward size in old-school D&D; too tall to be Small, but to short to wield polearms. Now they could just be Small, flat-out. I'd probably mix their racial abilities a bit, too, but both stealth and mining detection are very useful in-game. Since dwarves didn't have any special classes in my campaign at this point, they could still be druids as halflings are.

The only disadvantage to this is that I would have to decide once and for all: do these newly-combined dwarves speak German, or Irish? 😉

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