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Greyhawk creature
Gnome female and male, as depicted in the 3.5 Player's Handbook (2003).
Alignment Neutral good
Type Humanoid
First appearance Dungeons & Dragons: Monsters & Treasure (1974).

Gnomes, known as "noniz" in the Flan tongue, are one of the primary civilized races of the Flanaess.


Gnomes are able to conceive no more than once every 5-10 years. Gnomish children are raised at home for 20 years before being sent to school.

Gnomes trade with elves, halflings, and dwarves more often than humans due to some mutual distrust, but some human communities are perfectly friendly with gnomes and trade them clothing, food, and spices in exchange for worked metals, gems, and ores. They will trade for salt and raw steel.

Gnomes live closely with burrowing animals such as badgers, wolverines, and weasels. Very young gnomes are paired with such animals, which they bond very closely to and learn the languages of. Svirfneblin sometimes dwell with moles, shrews, bats, or giant rats instead. Gnomish companion animals are never caged: they are allies, not pets.

Gnomes hate and are hated by both goblins and kobolds, but kobolds are their most despised enemy.


Rock gnomes normally dwell in shallow cave complexes close to the surface. Gnome villages can be hard to find, as they blend with nature and even artificial structures are often constructed to resemble trees, rocks, or hills. Though naturally a hill-dwelling folk, orcish and goblinoid threats have driven many gnomes into the plains of human-dominated lands where they seek help to re-establish their old heartlands. Many, too, co-exist with elves in the woodlands; where the elves are active in working with human interests, so are the gnomes. Hill gnomes often share living space with dwarves, and are a brave, tough folk who are loyal to their neighbors and fight side by side with them.

While they are not particularly fond of water, gnomes are more willing than dwarves are to live in such areas, and gnomes have even been reported dwelling in bubbles of air in undersea caverns. Gnomes have also been reported in the arctic and in places with mild volcanic activity.

Gnomish populations by nation

Other gnomish populations

A council of Kron Hills gnomes, as depicted in The Adventure Begins (1998).

Typical physical characteristics

Gnomes average about three and a half feet in height and weigh about 80 pounds. They do not tan, but their skin typically ranges from tan to brown to gray-brown to nearly black, and they normally have gray or white hair, though adolescents have the same range of hair color as humans. Their eyes are usually blue, though shades of green and even yellow or brown can occur. Males are capable of growing beards, but females are not except perhaps in extreme cases. Gnomes are tough and resistant to many poisons and spells. They can consume as much alcohol as dwarves can; while excessive alcohol tends to make dwarves more belligerent, it makes gnomes euphoric and playful.

Gnomes have good eyesight, including infravision/darkvision up to 60'.

Next to elves, gnomes are the longest-lived of demihuman races. Gnomes can live up to 750 years.


Gnomes are usually neutral good (called lawful good in first and second edition AD&D, though oriented toward the neutral-leaning Twin Paradises, and Lawful or Neutral in Basic D&D). Gnomes who go bad can go very bad indeed, however, and the percentage of evil gnomes is greater than the percentages of evil halflings, dwarves, or elves, not counting evil subraces like the duergar or drow. Evil gnomes let their senses of humor turn deadly, their pranks homicidal in intent. There is little room for stupidity among the intellect-focused gnomes, and envy can frequently lead to the murderous hate typified by the gnomish god Urdlen. A large portion of evil gnomes are actually unusually intelligent, however, and allow their spite to go the other way, letting their contempt for their less intelligent kin turn them toward foul acts, using their wit to prey on those more gullible than themselves or to manipulate politics from the shadows.


Gnomes have an intricate society based on their love of all kinds of arts, pranks, and their long lives. Gnomes love indulgence, and they make most celebrations on a grander scale. They are freer in their courtship rites than dwarves, with some courtships lasting centuries. Gnome weddings last for a week, even though gnomes don't view love the same way humans do. If love begins to go wrong between a couple they may break up, believing it was a prank by Garl Glittergold. Their society is based on art; all gnomes must take up some form of art (whether music, painting, cooking, building, or any other form that is considered creative) by the time they come of age.

Gnomish communities are loosely knit and prone to friendly competition. Typical gnome jobs include jewelry making, mining, metalworking, toymaking, a minor amount of farming (which they are typically poor at), spellcraft (expecially illusions), bardcraft, alchemy, brewing, hunting, and the military. Many gnomes are merchants, and they have mastered the art of currency exchange. Merchant lords are the unofficial nobility of gnome society, forming the cornerstone of the local economy and sometimes taking part in politics as well. Their less industrious relatives often amuse themselves with illusions, pranks, and elaborate balls. The middle class supports the merchant class, often desiring the things the lords have greatly. Countering the merchant lords and middle class are the artisans, adventurers, and rebels, who work outside of mainstream society or actively work against it. The rebel class is a peculiarly gnomish tradition, accepted patiently by other gnomes as a matter of long tradition, even though the rebels seek to bring an end to all traditions. Some of the greatest gnomish philosophers were rebels at some point.


Gnomes have their own pantheon, known as the Lords of the Golden Hills, led by Garl Glittergold. These deities include:

The gnome dieties Baervan Wildwanderer, Flandal Steelskin, and Segojan Earthcaller, as depicted in Best of Dragon Vol. III.

Other deities popular among gnomes are Ehlonna, Fortubo, Jascar, Obad-hai, and Ulaa. Evil gnomes who don't revere Urdlen have been known to worship Pyremius, Erythnul, or Roykyn.

Many gnomes are very secular, seeing their deities and myths in as close friends and mentors rather than as all-powerful beings, and many see them in more of an allegorical than literal sense. There is a strong tradition of skepticism in gnomish culture. Most gnomish communities have at least a chapel or shrine to the gods, though only cities have full-fledged temples. The clergy remains an important element in gnomish life, though, acting as councilors, mediators, and judges in non-criminal matters. Gnomes are not, as a rule, superstitious; their analytical minds will naturally seek to discover the source of their problems rather than simply accept what they are told.

Most gnomes lack a creation myth, believing instead in a steady-state cosmos with no beginning or end. However, some gnomes believe that Garl Glittergold created their race from gems he discovered in a cave.


The gnomish language has a simple structure and fluid tones. Most gnomes have a truly daunting vocabulary, however, with extremely fine degrees of distinction in, for example, kinds of love or shades of green. Their language is thus ideal for academic, artistic, and engineering pursuits, and it is widely used in academic circles even among other races. Many sages of many races consider Gnome to be a "scholar's language."

Gnome utilizes a version of the Dwarven alphabet, and gnomish writings and literature covers a staggering variety of topics.

Gnomes use both a first and a family name, and always hang some extra tag on it, whether this is the family home, the place where they work, or whatever seems most important to them at the time (so Grimmri Fischer might be "Grimmri Fischer the Jester," "Grimmri Fischer of the Highfolk," or "Grimmri Fischer, Locksmith of Greyhawk").

Subraces and related creatures

Gnomish subraces

The gnomes of Oerth have been further divided into various subraces:

  • Steinneblin, or rock gnomes: The standard gnome subrace of Third Edition, rock gnomes live in burrows beneath rolling, wooded hills. Friends to animals, rock gnomes have a racial ability that allows them to speak with burrowing animals.
  • Svirfneblin, or deep gnomes: Svirfneblin dwell in cities deep underground. They are more dangerous than the common rock gnome.
  • Forstneblin, or forest gnomes: Smaller than rock gnomes, forest gnomes are a shy, secretive folk, living deep in wooded areas. They are more likely to be druids than illusionists or alchemists.

Related species

Gnomes are also said to be kin to a few other non-gnome creatures:

  • Dwarves: Long regarded as cousins to gnomes, the two races often find themselves as allies.
  • Jermlaines: Tiny, evil, subterranean fey, jermalines were created by gnomish spellcasters in approximately -1800 CY.
  • Spriggans: These evil gnomelike fey have the ability to swell to gigantic proportions. They usually worship the gnomish god of evil, Urdlen.
  • Xvarts: In the 4th edition Monster Manual 3, xvarts are said to be gnomes corrupted by fomorians and hags.


The rock gnomes of the World of Greyhawk setting originated in the far northern forests. Originally they were trappers and reindeer herders, but they first migrated south centuries before the Twin Cataclysms. Clever and canny, they've suffered abuses from a number of nefarious overlords: first Keraptis, then the Vecna-possessed Gnomelord of Blemu, then Azalin, and finally the orcs and goblinoids of the Bone March.

Rock gnomish migrants settled among the dwarves, elves, and halflings already inhabiting the Flanaess, quickly adapting their language, magic, technology, and culture to their own.

The svirfneblin have a different history unknown to the people of the surface world. It was probably the svirfneblin priests of Pyremius who created the jermlaines in approximately -1800 CY.

An unknown race of gnomes battled the warriors of Caerdiralor from approximately -4358 to -4217 CY.


  • Conforti, Steven, ed. Living Greyhawk Official Listing of Deities for Use in the Campaign, version 2.0. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2005. Available online:[1]
  • Jacobs, James. "Study and Jest: The Secret Live of Gnomes." Dragon #291. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2002.
  • Mearls, Mike, Greg Bilsland, and Robert J. Schwalb. Monster Manual 3. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2010.
  • Niles, Douglas. The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
  • Stephens, Owen K.C. "By Any Other Name: Gnomes and Halflings." Dragon #262. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1999.