Monday, October 17, 2016

Player's Choice (Gnome Edition)

So you’ve taken a hard look at Dungeons and Dragons and decided that it’s time to make your first character for Dungeons & Dragons.  First off, welcome to the family.  You’ve taken your first steps into a world of shared storytelling and high adventure.  We’re going to take a look at the process for building your character and go over the options you have available in the Player’s Handbook (we use the 5th edition, as it’s the most recent, and we think it’s one of the most accessible systems we’ve seen in a long time.).  So grab your scratch paper, your pencil, and your character sheet as we explore the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons.


The first step you should really take when building a character is to think about what kind of a character you want to play.  Before you make any decisions or write anything down, you need to stop and think what you’re going to enjoy playing.  A secondary consideration would be what the party of adventurers you are going to be a member of needs.  You may desperately want to break out a brand new half elf warlock, but your party desperately needs a tanky fighter or a healing cleric.  You decide what you want to play, and what story you’re going to enjoy telling and playing.  Whichever character you decide to make, you’re going to have to make a few decisions.  Let’s take a look at the options for the first one of those decisions.


What Race is your character?

Your character’s race defines a lot of the basic physical and mental characteristics.  It more than anything else will be the first thing an observer uses to define you.  How many times have you read a passage that starts “And we saw the Dwarves standing there in their armor, beards immaculately groomed…” In a fantasy setting Race is a defining trait that gives other people a rough idea of what your character is, and how they can be expected to behave.  In Dungeons and Dragons, Race has a couple of other features that we’ll discuss.  

The Player’s Handbook offers nine racial choices for a new player to consider for their character.  Each one is distinct, and has several subraces to choose from.  When you select a Race, the offered selections of a subrace are offshoots of that main racial group.  It may change baseline racial features, add new options, or give different physical and mental characteristics.  The character creation process starts with choosing your race, so let’s go through the races and see what looks like fun to us.  


Not David, or any of his lawn kinsmen, the Gnomes of the Dungeons and Dragons Universe are a vibrant and energetic race, compared to the dour Dwarves and the serene Elves.  Gnomes are constantly in motion, exploring the world around them in search of the new, and the bright things in the world. 

Joyful Pranksters and artificers, Gnomes often cast a shadow and a presence much larger than their tiny bodies seem capable of.  They are an intelligent race, dedicated to exploration and craft.  Gnomish Adventurers combine their natural joy for exploration with a cunning intellect that no adventuring party should be without. 

Mechanically, in game, the Gnomes have the following benefits

Gnomes are extremely clever.  They get a +2 bonus to their Intelligence

Gnomes age about the same speed as humans.  The wanderings of the young are supposed to end around 40, but Gnomes live much longer than humans do, with their eldest members living to be almost 500.

Gnomes tend toward the Good alignment, but their lawfulness/chaotic are influenced as much by their chosen professions as their habits.  These will vary by gnome. 

Gnomes are small creatures, standing between 3 and 4 feet tall, and they weigh on average 40 pounds.  They are size category Small creatures.

Gnomes can move 25 feet per round.

Gnomes speak their native tongue, Gnomish and Common.

Gnomes have Darkvision, like other races we’ve talked about before.  They can see in Dim Light as if it were bright light within 60 feet, and treat regular darkness as regular Dim Light.  They can’t see in color with this visual ability. 

Gnome Cunning is a special ability that gives Gnomes advantage on all Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma saves against magic. 

Gnomes have two subraces to choose from, the Forest Gnome and the Rock Gnome. 

Forest Gnomes embrace the natural wonder of the world and live within its splendor.  Dwelling in ancient fey glens or within sylvan communities, the Forest Gnomes embrace the power of Illusion to protect themselves and their communities from the wider world. 

Mechanically, they have the following benefits.

Forest Gnomes are agile, adding +1 to their Dexterity scores.

Forest Gnomes are naturally adept with magical illusions.  They know the Minor Illusion Cantrip, using Intelligence as their primary spellcasting Stat. 

Forest Gnomes interact with small burrowing animals as per the Speak with Animals spell. 


Rock Gnomes are an inventive branch of the gnome tree.  Hardier than their small frames would suggest, Rock Gnomes are capable of tinkering small pieces of metal into woundrous items of mechanical joy and mayhem. 

Rock Gnomes have the following benefits, mechanically speaking:

Rock Gnomes are hardier than expected.  They add 1 to their Constitution Scores

Rock Gnomes have an ability called Artificer’s Lore.  Whenever they make an Intelligence (history ) Check for arcane, mechanical or alchemical items, they add double their proficiency bonus. 

Rock Gnomes also have the tinker ability, which lets them craft small technological items that can be helpful (read your PHB to figure out which ones).


So what character class combinations go well with these particularly entertaining creates?


Forest Gnome

Druid:  Forest gnome druids combine a tiny amount of arcane power with cultural interesting choices.  Forest Gnomes are allies with the fey and Sylvan, and a Forest Gnome Druid combines the best of both of these choices.  The thing to keep in mind with this character build is that you probably aren’t going to get a 17 wisdom for your druidic spellcasting.

Wizard:  Specifically utilizing the Illusionist arcane tradition, The Forest gnome combines the natural intelligence benefit of being a gnome with the natural arcane power of a wizard.  In this instance, the benefit of being able to talk to burrowing mammals is more of a situational benefit than anything else.  Remember, you have a dexterity bonus, so try to keep your AC high enough to not get hit. 

Ranger:  A Forest Gnome Ranger is banking on the ranged combat benefits of being a ranger, coupled with the intelligence and dexterity benefits of the Forest Gnome.  Minor Illusion can be used to set up all sorts of nature based tricks and traps, and this is probably the most militant Forest gnome build. 


Rock Gnome

Rogue:  While the Forest gnome benefits from a dexterity bonus, the Rock Gnome can be a much more effective rogue.  You’ve got a boost to your Constitution, so you can stay in the fight a little longer.  You’re probably going to want to take your expertise benefits in Rogue’s tools so you can remove traps more effectively.  See how often you can get your DM to give you your artificer’s lore on mechanical or magical traps (identifying them off course)

Wizard:  Unlike the Forest Gnome, the Rock Gnome is perfectly capable of following any of the arcane traditions.  These are unparalleled experts in arcane items and magical theory, so if you need a wizard who needs a booster seat for the bar, this could be the gnome you’re looking for. 

Bard:  Combining the Gnomish exuberance for life with just the right level of “I know tons of stuff about that” the Rock Gnome Bard can fulfill a similar role to the Rock Gnome Wizard.  The Difference between the two is that the Rock Gnome Bard is going to be much more capable of engaging enemies in melee combat (probably) than the wizard. 

And that’s our write up of Gnomish power.  We’re coming up on the end of this series, as we only have the Half-orcs, Half-Elves, and Tieflings left to review. 

Game on, Game Fans

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