Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thoughts about Gnomes

I like Gnomes.

I like the concept of a diminutive race with a beard and a silly hat that has magical abilities.  It has a pedigree greater then Hobbits or Kobolds and as long as Fairies.

However, when I was listening to an episode of Ken and Rob talk about stuff, they said an off hand comment about how Gnomes were redundant.

Metagamer's Anonymous followed it up with a similar response.

I thought it was time to flesh out the concept

I guess my question to anybody using Gnomes as either a pc or npc is to decide what sort of Gnome you wish to use.  Too often they are created as skinny dwarves or short elves, but they encapsulate a lot more concepts and ideas.


History of Gnomes

Medieval Gnomes

The word originally comes from Renaissance Latin gnomus, which first appears in the works of 16th century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus,

It is possible it was derived from the term from Latin gēnomos (itself representing a Greek γη-νομος, literally "earth-dweller").

Auroieus Phillipus Theostrasus Bombastus von Hohenheim. better known as Paracelsus
"The type of gnome most frequently seen is the brownie, or elf, a mischievous and grotesque little creature from twelve to eighteen inches high, usually dressed in green or russet brown. Most of them appear as very aged, often with long white beards, and their figures are inclined to rotundity. They can be seen scampering out of holes in the stumps of trees and sometimes they vanish by actually dissolving into the tree itself." Paracelsus

Gnomes may be malicious or tricky when their trust is not earned, but loyal and nurturing if they are not in some manner betrayed. Their association with the direction North causes them to be, at times, despondent and melancholy.

The Garden Gnome

The garden gnome is called “Gartenzwerg” in German, which translates to “garden dwarf.”

Most people are familiar with  gnomes, not from literature, but as ornaments that appear on your lawn.

Garden statuary has been common in Europe at least since the Renaissance.  Among the figures depicted were gobbi (Italian for dwarfs or hunchbacks). In particular, Jacques Callot produced 21 designs for gobbi, engraved and printed in 1616.

Small gnome statues began appearing in Europe in the early 1600s, but the garden or lawn gnomes as we know them appeared in Germany in the mid- to late 1800s. The gnome was used because local myths suggested that underground gnomes came alive at night to work in the garden and protect the gardens from evil sorcery.

Garden gnomes were first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1847 by Sir Charles Isham, 10th Baronet, when he brought 21 terracotta figures back from a trip to Germany and placed them as ornaments in the garden.

While not gaming material, I will argue that this image is the default of gnomes in popular culture and has affected gaming to some degree.

From Dungeons and Dragons

The gnome first appeared in the original 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons (and thus gaming as a whole), and in its second supplement, Blackmoor (1975).
"Gnomes are an open and trusting people whose lives revolve around their work. While kind to each other and their patrons, gnomes are easily annoyed by individuals who needlessly  distract  them from their precious work.  You can see they really were skinny dwarves at this stage of development.  The only major change was the fact that gnomes were nomadic, in effect, wandering journeymen.  The thirst of knowledge, rather then gold, fueled their wanderlust."

This was the archetype until the fiend folio was released, where the Svirfneblin, or deep gnome was added to the equation.  It went back to their elemental roots and created an "under-race", to go with the drow and duragar of the elves and dwarves respectively.  It became a viable character in 1st edition adnd unearthed arcana where it proved fairly popular (and when combined with the dart rules before 3e, absolutely terrifying)

The next great archetype of gnomes was the Tinker Gnome. They are an overly inquisitive and curious race,that often leads into danger or trouble. They're always trying to tinker with the way things work or function. They will tinker with magical or mechanical devices just to see if there's a way to make them better or just to see how they work. Tinker gnomes have been known to put so much of their time and energy into research & development of new mechanical devices or new magics that they lose track of all time.  Unfortunately, Dragonlance was known as the land of annoying races, and is responsible for some of the most irritating qualities of Gnomes when they are considered distinct.

The 2e complete books of Gnomes and Halflings added the forest gnome to the mix.  This is a throwback concept to early interpretations in literature and various media at the time.  They went back to sneaky forest folk that often acted as animal guardians that sneaked really well.

Of particular of note is Zilargo is the Gnome civilisation in Eberron, the world created by dungeons and dragons for 3rd edition. The Zil are a people that thirst for knowledge. Everything from the smallest bit of gossip to the biggest of state secrets is ambrosia to a gnome of Zilargo. As a result it is a place of a communal secret police that is ingrained into their culture.

4e gnomes are funny when compared to their ill.  They were not in the 4e phb which is the first time they weren't in one.  In fact this was a common joke as shown by the following flash video.

They were defined in the monster manual with the following block of text

“Gnomes are sly tricksters who excel at avoiding notice as they move between the Feywild and the world, driven by curiosity and wanderlust. When they are noticed, they tend to use humor to deflect attention and hide their true thoughts.”

When they finally arrived as a viable pc, they were in the player's handbook 2 as they thematically fit the book better (it was the primal power source book).  In it they were defined as less mechanically inclined and more likely to be the sneaky folk. They are more fey then genius and a lot of there racial powers emphasized their mastery of illusions.

5e Gnomes feel like they are trying their darmdest to fill in the roles of previous editions.  Honestly, I think it's exasperating the issue of not defining them yet again, but there's a lot you can do with it because of the breadth.  However, the 5e PHB art of the small folk is simply horrendous which might deter future pcs.


World of Warcraft

World of warcraft took the tinker gnome aspect from dragonlance, and played it much straighter, abet with tons of humor.  As a result, they (and goblins) are responsible for much of the innovation of that world.  They have been forced into exile when Gnomeregan was destroyed.  The Trogg invasion of their homeland still occurs to this day.


Pathfinder Gnomes  

The First World, from which the gnomish race originally hails, is a land of wild imaginations and impossibility, where the Eldest of that plane have the power to reshape reality on a whim. Even though our own world has magic and other fantastical wonders, it is nevertheless based on a physical reality that is constant and unchanging. Because of their heritage, gnomes have difficulty coping with and accepting this reality, and must therefore constantly strive to innovate, dream, and take in new experiences.

As a result, Gnomes of Pathfinder have to keep themselves from being bored as they will die.


Key Features

A buddy of mine said to reduce the gnome concept to it's absolute base.  After some thought, I've been able to reduce it to the following:
1. Brilliant.  Gnomes know things. Whether they are simply clever or masters of magic and technology, the fact is Gnomes are, as a rule, brilliant at learning.  Whether they are competent with the material is another matter entirely.
2. Short.  Gnomes are shorter then even Halflings.  In fact Gnomes have appeared in the literature as small as mouse sized.
3. Sneaky.  Gnomes are sneaky bastards.  Whether it's with word play or the ability to creep in and out of houses undetected, the fact is taking a gnome at face value is a risky proposition, even if they are on your side.
4. Their Nose.  They usually end up with a nose that is much larger then the rest of their face when compared to humans.  This also gives them a keen sense of smell when compared to other races.

Base Culture: The more I look at the literature of Gnomes that existed before gaming, they seem to be a personification of the German Volk (German for peasant).  This shows in their attire, their architecture, their association with animals and like peasants, they are unknowable.  This gives you a base to build your character as you see fit.



As seen by the historical check, there are a number of archetypes for gnomes that are different drastically:

1. creepy sneaky people that steal valuables and children.
2. elementals tied to the planet earth.
3. mad geniuses of magic and technology.
4. lovable tricksters and rogues.
5. the forgotten folk, who are the fey you don't see.
6. homicidal psychotics that have infected your garden.

Near Species 

There are number of species from various that are close enough to gnomes to be enveloped by them

Leperchaun: In many ways the traditional Leperchaun fits the gaming gnome archetype closer then traditional Gnome folklore. They are tricksters, and often away from house and home.  Heck, we even used it as a build for our st. Patrick's Day special in 2015.

Redcap: A red cap or redcap, also known as a powrie or dunter, is a type of malevolent, murderous dwarf, goblin, elf or fairy found in Border Folklore. It is super easy to just use this to reinterpret this as a evil gnome and would also explain the red caps that seem to be favored by Gnomes.

Smurfs: Smurfs seem to fill the same niche in literature as the standard gnomes.  It should be relatively easy to take one of their storylines and tweak it to be used by gnomes.


Examples of Gnomes

David the Gnome, Dungeon Master (Dungeons and Dragons animated cartoon), Geblin Mekkatorque (World of Warcraft), Gnomes of Zurich, Mechazod (World of Warcraft), Jan Jansen (Forgotten Realms) Rumplestilskin (Brother's Grimm), The Nomes of Oz (Ozma of Oz/Return to Oz), The Gnomes from Three Hearts and Three Lions, Tinker Gnomes (Dragonlance), Underpant Gnomes (South Park)



Gnome Folklore

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack

Our Gnomes Are Weirder

Ken and Rob talk about stuff

Metagamers Anonymous - entire episode

Silly gnome names

The History and Mythology of Garden Gnomes

garden gnome - wikipedia


Gnome D&D

Wow gnomes

Gnome, Tinker (3.5e Race),_Tinker_(3.5e_Race)

Pathfinder Gnomes

Eberon Gnomes


Gnomes: Written by Wil Huygen, 1977 Edition, (New Edition) Publisher: Harry N. Abrams [Hardcover] Hardcover – May 16 1977, ISBN 9026949588

PHBR9 The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings (2e), Wizards of the Coast; 2nd edition (March 9, 1993), ISBN-13: 978-1560765738

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Gotham - Season 02 - A Perspective.

I decided to do a marathon of Gotham recently.

I came to the conclusion it is theatre sports the show.

The acting is surprisingly good, but the storytelling is very disjointed.

It is vastly improved from season 1, but it's honestly trying to be game of thrones with better ethics.

The Good

Penguin:  The Penguin's actor continues to excel, but he was used as a theatre sports tool.  While it made sense in the storyline, it felt like we were getting a "penguin for all occasions."
It's amazing how much we sympathised with the Penguin despite he is pretty much a horrible, abet organised monster.

I hated how they fridged both parents because  One of the greatest what if's of this series we never got Paul Ruebin and Carol Kane on stage at the same time, because both were fantastic and I'd love to have watched them feed on each other.

He and Butch with the Rocket Launcher pretty much stole the entire series.

As sacrilegious as it might be, I would have had him disappear for a season after he got cured, and only show up twice.  1. with butch and the rocket launcher and 2. when fish mooney showed up later.

Riddler:  It broke my heart to see him fall down (because I think he really loved her), but he's now officially a full fledged supervillain.  It's kind of fascinating how, unlike penguin, he really is insane and it makes his actions all the more heartbreaking.  His saving of Penguin showed serious chemistry between both characters, and his scene with Catwoman in the ventilation shaft was brilliant.  I'm getting a serious vibe that Penguin, Riddle and Catwoman are most likely going to be one faction in the next season which will ultimately lead to the foundation of the rogues gallery when they decide to do batman (most likely after the series ends).

Catwoman:  I like where she is.  She's the most sociable of the characters able to cross the hero/villain line unlike just about anybody else.  I also love how they kept her as a thief with a heart of gold. She really is in a difficult position overall.

Captain Nathaniel Barnes:  I think this character was fantastic, but truth be told, I could watch Michael Chiklis read the phonebook.  He is, quite honestly, the last good cop in gotham that hasn't been corrupted in some fashion, which makes his contrast with Gordon all the more telling.  In many ways, he played the role, Harvey Dent and/or Jim Gordon should have played.  The white knight fighting againt an overwhelming force.  I hope he survived and will be back next season.

Harvey Bullock:  He was, along with Penguin, the main draw last season.  His abrasive but well meaning style still rocks, but I disliked him being sidelined somewhat.  Still, I'm looking forward to his new authority as police commissioner, a role he really doesn't want, but has help reduce his corruption significantly.

Getting There

Barbera Keane:  The fact she's being listed here should say a lot about her improvement as a character.  In season 1, I hated her character as a self righteous twit.  However, as a psychotic villain, she seems to have come into her own.  I'm still not sure where they are leading with it, but I look forward to the ride.

Hugo Strange:  This strange hybrid of Fu Manchu and William Shatner really grew on me.  I like how he's using Arkham to make monsters and will be responsible for why the freaks beat the mob.
He chewed the scenery like cardboard, but he was a good catalyst of things to come.

Victor Fries:  My favourite version of Fries  will always be the DCAU version and it always broke my heart when they made him a loathsome monster in the reboot. However, in gotham, it sort of works, and it's kind of funny how he was the catalyst for the era of freaks.  In many ways, his arc is how all of gotham's story arcs should have happened: 3 parts focus, with small consequences.

Firefly:  I felt for her hard in her own arc, and she's a living embodiment of why Catwoman doesn't trust adults.  After her Resurrection, she's even worse with the delusions of a goddess.  I'm not sure if her arc is done, but I kind of want more.

Leslie Thompkins:  It's annoying she had to be cut out part way during the season, but overall I liked the character.  I just wish she was more then "Gordon's woman."

The Meh

Alfred:  he's the closest to getting there or the good as you can get without actually being there. Sean Pertwee does a great job, but he really is the beta lead in this show, which means he doesn't get the girl, and gets beat up a lot.  If he wasn't so lovable, I'd probably be angry with his portrayal.

Lucius Fox:  Not a bad character per say, but he comes off as "that black friend" and a civilian rather then a main character.

Jerome:  I know a lot of people liked him as Joker Junior, and while he didn't irritate me, I thought he took away valuable screen time from other, more interesting characters.  I cheered when he died, and grew dismayed when he came back from the dead.

Jim Gordon:  He's better then last season, but I find him the least interesting character in this series made all the worse because he's a focal character.  I kind of want a season where Jim isn't there, just to see how bad it would go.

Young Bruce Wayne:  He managed to dig himself out of the bad character with a few solid scenes, but honestly, he annoys me on screen.  I'd rather have him, spend the rest of the series in europe. :p

Theo Galavan:  This character makes sense and annoys me at the same time.  Despite being a horrible monster in the name of revenge for the 1st part, he's technically in the right.  There is a council of families that have messed up Gotham and made it what it is today.  However, his methods are bonkers without being entertaining.  While it was kind of fun seeing him become Azrael in the 2nd act.  But honestly, he kinda felt like a waste of limited time.

Fish Mooney:  I can take or leave the character, and while her return made many rage, I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt ,as she is most likely to be the driver for the next season.

The Bad

I think ultimately this series has too many characters so it's becoming a muddled mass that is difficult to follow.  they almost need to cull the cast to get better storytelling.

What I want.

Honestly, I'm not sure.  I think it was more enjoyable as I caught up after the season was over and while I'd love to see most of the people listed under the good and getting there, I might do something similar for the next season as it seemed to have less stewing time to point out it's flaws.