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Greyhawk creature
Alignment Neutral (good tendencies)
Type Humanoid
First appearance

The svirfneblin, or deep gnomes, are a gnomish subrace found in the Underdark.


The deep gnomes have close ties to earth elementals, which they have the ability to summon. The two races give each other mutual aid against their enemies, which include the genie slavers known as the dao.

Svirfneblin are bitterly opposed to the drow, who they compete with for food, living space, and gems, and the two races enjoy tormenting one another. Svirfneblin force their drow prisoners to slaughter spiders, which the dark elven worshippers of Lolth consider sacred. The drow are even crueler to the deep gnomes that come under their control.

The svirfneblin fight another bitter feud with the duergar, who they also compete with for living space and food. The duergar, who often worship Abbathor, also covet svirfneblin gems.

Svirfneblin are also often raided by the kuo-toa.

Svirfneblin feed mostly on fungi that the females of their species raise in subterranean farms. Female svirfneblin also raise small herds of subterranean cattle called rothe, and raise fish in shallow lakes. Svirfneblin cuisine is heavily salted, and unpalatable to the typical surface-dweller.

There is also a svirfneblin drink known as Gogondy, which is deep red in hue and kept in bottles of wrought iron. Humans who have drank of it have been known to sleep for decades or died with horrified looks frozen on their faces. The svirfneblin, for their part, prize Gogondy as much as rubies.


Svirfneblin live underground, usually in the Underdark. Many dwell beneath the Hellfurnace Mountains. At least one kingdom, ruled by Gnarly Gnelly, lies beneath the Crystalmist Mountains. Svirfneblins live in larger cities than rock gnomes, often boasting more than a thousand residents. They are complex places composed of many layers of caverns, tunnels, and buildings connected by spiral staircases and narrow tunnels. The central part of a svirfneblin city will typically contain a single vast cavern with tall stone buildings and narrow streets. Often large stalagmites are excavated and claimed by high-ranking citizens. Their greatest communities aren't on the Prime Material Plane at all, though, but on the Elemental Plane of Earth. There, they have extraordinarily vast cities that rival those of the dao.

Typical physical characteristics

Svirfneblin closely resemble their rock gnome cousins; they are slightly thinner than rock gnomes, though just as strong. Male svirfneblin have little or no hair, while females have thin, stringy hair typically worn no longer than shoulder length. Their skin is the color of rock, typically gray or brown. Their eyes are always some shade of gray. They are stunted and gnarled creatures averaging three to three-and-a-half feet in height.

Svirfneblin typically live about 250 years, much less than the longer-lived rock and forest gnomes.


Svirfneblin are usually of neutral alignment. They have good tendencies, however.


Svirfneblin society is strictly divided along gender lines. The males are miners and soldiers, and female adventurers are frowned upon. Female svirfneblin seldom leave their communities, and concentrate on agriculture, cooking, fishing, and child-rearing. Other races seldom come into contact with female svirfneblin. Both sexes wear nondescript clothing designed to help them blend into the surrounding stone.

Svirfneblin communities are ruled by both a king and a queen; each monarch rules over their corresponding community. They are independently selected and not usually married to one another. They are chosen, as gnomish rulers generally are, by a contest of talent, wit, and prankstership.

Miners are the most valued common workers; the career is divided into specialists called choppers, scounts, and haulers, though all svirfneblin miners can fill other roles in a pinch. About ten percent of the workforce is involved in processing and finishing gemstones; these include polishers, smelters, smiths, and carvers.

Illusionists and earth elementalists have high status among the deep gnomes, and many are thieves and thief-acrobats. Svirfneblin make heavy use of traps and tricks to defend their homes. Svirfneblin also hold their assassins in high regard, higher than rock gnomes hold such a grim profession. Assassins do much of the fighting against other races, and they are known for the "gallows humor" of their jokes and pranks.

Svirfneblin, like the rock gnomes who dwell closer to the surface, have a passionate love of precious gems and are renowned for their craftsmanship with this material. They value rubies the most, and rubies are the symbol of their race. Svirfneblin kings and queens often include rubies in their clowns, thrones, and sceptres. Like rock gnomes, they are known for their prankish sense of humor, which often takes the form of malicious attacks or counterattacks on their racial enemies. A svirfneblin who defiles a shrine to a hated deity such as Lolth is counted a hero among his people.


Svirfneblin worship the same pantheon as rock gnomes. Most svirfneblin venerate Calladuran Smoothhands primarily, and also the patron deity of all gnomes, Garl Glittergold. Many give at least token offerings to Gaerdal Ironhand. Deep gnome priests of Segojan Earthcaller work closely with the other clergies and have an important secondary role in their society. They emphasize Segojan's interest in the earth. Urdlen is popular as a cautionary figure, and there are many deep gnome myths about how Urdlen snares the unwary. In the past, some svirfneblin have been known to worship Pyremius.

Svirfneblin clerics are very active in their communities, acting as judges and doling out punishments to criminals. Clerics also act as ambassadors and negotiators.

Festivals and celebrations are as common among the svirfneblin as in other gnomish sub-races, which is very common. The dates they are celebrated on is for the most part arbitrary, not tied to celestial events or the cycle of the seasons as those of surface gnome communities often are. They may honor historical events.


Deep gnomes speak their own dialect of Gnomish that other gnomish subraces are able to understand 60% of the time. Most svirfneblin also speak Undercommon and a fair amount of the Kuo-toa and Drow Elvish languages. They can also communicate with any creature from the Elemental Plane of Earth via a language consisting solely of vibrations. Each pitch carries a different message.


Contrary to many other racial varieties who were forced to retreat to the Underdark due to some violent conflict in the past (like the drow elves), the deep gnomes were led underground peacefully by their patron god, Callarduran Smoothhands, in order to get closer to the gems buried there.

A group of gnomes, most likely svirfneblin given the region (the Hellfurnace Mountains) and time, escaped from slavery by the Suel to create the jermlaine race.

Creative origins

The name svirfneblin originates in Scandinavian folklore. Presumbably, the element -neblin derives from Old Norse niflinn 'the mist' from nifl 'mist', and is cognate with the German element nibl- in Niblungen, literally 'the children of the mist'.


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