[I originally wrote this for the official forums, but the post length limit is frustratingly small, even on the new forums. I hope it will find a good home here instead!]
Table of Contents
I. About this guide
II. Why roleplay a gnome?
III. Gnome history
IV. Gnome names
V. Gnome culture and personality
VI. Techniques for gnome roleplay
- The mind of a gnome
- Gnome culture and society
- Gnome technology
VII. Gnomes and other races
- The art of techno-babble
- Interacting with other characters
IX. The finer points of gnome roleplay
- Gnome attire
- Common pitfalls
- Advice from the gnome community
- Sample character concepts
- Miscellaneous helpful facts
- Useful links
I. About this guide
Hello everyone, and welcome to Zappie’s Guide to Roleplaying Gnomes. I’m Zappie, a gnome mage and the leader of GnomeTech on Emerald Dream. I’ve been involved in gnome roleplay for five years now; in that time, I’ve seen some truly excellent characters and stories, and some sub-optimal ones. I’ve found that gnomes often come up short in the Warcraft roleplaying community. Many gnome roleplayers struggle to be taken seriously, and some players simply don’t understand gnomes very well. I hope that this guide will help you to discover the joys and challenges of gnome roleplay.
My first guide to roleplaying gnomes was written about four years ago, and has since been adapted as WoWWiki’s How to Roleplay a Gnome. Because that guide is so woefully out of date and incomplete, I decided to start over from scratch. In this new version, I hope to give players an in-depth look at the gnome race, with practical tips and examples for developing gnome characters. This guide focuses primarily on in-game roleplay, since I don’t have much experience on the forums. Keep in mind that my interpretations of gnome roleplay are my own opinions, and other players may disagree.
The information in this guide is drawn from official Warcraft lore, game characters and quests, the RPG books, my own personal observations, and the experiences of other gnome roleplayers who have generously offered their feedback. I’d like to thank all the brilliant gnomish minds that contributed to this guide.
II. Why roleplay a gnome?
It has sometimes been said that gnomes are the easiest race to roleplay. In many ways that’s true: there’s very little lore to master, and simple stereotypes can take you far. Indeed, gnomes are a good choice for beginners who don’t know all the intricacies of the epic Warcraft story or who haven’t roleplayed much before. But to play a gnome well requires exceptional creativity, instinct, and intellect. Not everyone can roleplay gnomes to their full potential. Those who excel at it can create the most delightful and memorable characters in the game.
Though gnomes are the smallest race in stature, they’re unmatched in personality. A good gnome character might be overlooked at first, but will quickly become the center of attention, filling any room with joy and laughter. Gnomes are masters of the eccentric and absurd, and produce humor like no other race can. But they’re not just for comic relief: gnomes can be brave and loyal, ruthless and self-destructive, and intensely, almost recklessly passionate. Balancing the humorous with the serious, and the real with the absurd, is what makes gnome roleplay challenging, rewarding, and fun.
Gnomes are a race apart. They see the world through goggles of reason and logic, yet they burst with emotion and excitement. They maintain a childlike curiosity even as they live much longer than other mortal races. Their advanced technology and mastery of magic make them formidable enemies, but they’re a peaceful people, eager to forgive grudges and make new friends. They use their exceptional skill to seek knowledge, and only occasionally power. As a people they have endured unthinkable tragedy, but still look toward the future with unshakable optimism. It’s easy to forget that these happy, adorable inventors are refugees struggling to rebuild their shattered lives and find a new place in the world.
Gnomes have a strong stereotype, but they’re also the most flexible race to roleplay. The most unusual, eccentric, and creative characters work perfectly as gnomes. You can play a brainy warrior, an altruistic warlock, or an outgoing and friendly death knight. You can be a mad scientist, a secret agent, an ace pilot, an absentminded professor, or a deranged megalomaniac. There are virtually no wrong gnome characters, except perhaps a boring gnome. Gnome roleplay is about nerdiness, creativity, wit, and humor. At the end of the day, they’re just plain fun!
III. Gnome history
A note on dates: In this guide, I’ll denote dates relative to the First War (Warcraft: Orcs & Humans). Thus, the First War was in year 0, and the Wrath of the Lich King is year 27.
Like their allies the dwarves, gnomes are descended from Titan creations. The mechagnomes, robotic servants of the Titan guardian and master inventor Mimir (aka Mimiron), protect the Temple of Invention in the Storm Peaks. The data archives watched over by the mechagnomes are associated with the Titan Norgannon, master of knowledge and of magic. Just like the Earthen and Vrykul, the mechagnomes were afflicted by the so-called Curse of the Flesh, and evolved into the fleshy gnomes we know today.
Gnomes have only recently discovered the secrets of their past. As gnome adventurers traveled to Northrend with their allies to fight the Lich King, they discovered the mechagnomes and studied their technology. The typical gnome in Azeroth might never have heard of mechagnomes, and many gnomes refuse to believe that they are descended from robots. Gnome heroes who explored the Storm Peaks and ventured into Ulduar saw Titan technology first hand, and may even have fought against Mimiron. You’ll have to decide how much your gnome knows about this newly discovered history, and how much of it he or she believes.
Gnomes, Dwarves, and the Second War
Little is known about the history of gnomes in the thousands of years between their creation and their “discovery” by the dwarves. For as long as they can remember, gnomes have lived in Khaz Modan. Historical records reveal that there was a gnome, Indus, present at the Council of Tirisfal almost three thousand years ago. Another gnome, Erbag, was a member of the Order of Tirisfal when it empowered Aegwynn eight hundred years ago. The dwarves came to Khaz Modan and founded their great city of Ironforge over two thousand years ago, but it wasn’t until two hundred years ago that they first encountered the gnomes. It was around this time that the gnomes built their magnificent underground city of Gnomeregan, just a short mechanostrider ride away from the dwarven capital.
The two races have been close allies ever since. The gnomes helped the dwarves to develop new technologies, including their beloved rifles. In year 6, the gnomes and dwarves joined with the humans in the Second War against the orcs. The gnomes built submarines and flying machines, helping the Alliance to defeat the orcs and their goblin partners. Every adult gnome alive today was alive during the Second War, and many fought in it.
The Third War and the Fall of Gnomeregan
Fourteen years later, war broke out once more, but this time, the gnomes were nowhere to be found. Sometime around the year 20, Dun Morogh was infested by the savage humanoids known as troggs, and Gnomeregan was overrun. With their allies preparing for war, the gnomes made their last stand alone. High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque, on the advice of his traitorous friend Mekgineer Sicco Thermaplugg, ordered the irradiation of the city. The toxic gas didn’t kill the troggs, but it did destroy or mutate many of the gnome defenders. With the city in ruins, the surviving gnomes fled to the safety of Ironforge, and the deranged and now-deformed Thermaplugg declared himself ruler of Gnomeregan.
The destruction of Gnomeregan happened five years before the launch of World of Warcraft. Every gnome character alive today was alive when Gnomeregan was destroyed. Many beginners make the mistake of claiming their characters were born around or after the fall of the city. Unless your character is a gnome child (see the section on ages, below), he or she will vividly remember the disaster. According to different official sources of lore, either 50% or 80% of the gnome population was wiped out (80 is the more recent figure, from the official website). Nearly every race in World of Warcraft has endured hardship, but the tragedy of Gnomeregan was uniquely terrible. Your character almost certainly lost friends and family in the disaster; worse, those loved ones may have been transformed into the mutant monsters known as leper gnomes!
For the last decade, the gnomes have been working tirelessly to reclaim their city. The High Tinker has been sending adventurers to the city for years, but it remains infested. With the recent fall of the Lich King, Mekkatorque launched a full-scale assault on the city, called Operation: Gnomeregan. While the city was not reclaimed, the gnomes have established a settlement on the surface and are rescuing survivors from their ruined capital.
To see how your character fits into the larger history of gnomekind, it’s important to understand gnome ages. Here’s a timeline of a typical gnome’s life:
Though they’re often portrayed as childlike, gnomes are one of the longest-lived mortal races. They live much longer than humans, goblins, tauren, trolls, and orcs, though not quite as long as dwarves. The curious gnomes use their long lives to learn and master knowledge; they tend to look down on the younger races as naïve and unintelligent. An older gnome will be more knowledgeable and experienced than a younger gnome, and possibly also more patronizing.Code:Adulthood 40 Middle Age 100 Old Age 150 Lifespan 200 (or occasionally much longer)
A typical gnome character in World of Warcraft is probably between thirty and one hundred fifty years old, though he or she could be much older. A new character who’s fifty years old today would have been a young adolescent when the Dark Portal opened, an older adolescent during the Second War, and a young adult when Gnomeregan was destroyed. When crafting your character’s history, keep in mind that all the major events in gnome history happened within much less than a generation.
IV. Gnome names
Your character’s name is important for making first impressions and giving hints about his or her personality. Fortunately, gnome names are some of the most fun to make. They’re also the one race for which almost anything goes. Gnomes often have strange and exotic names, so virtually anything you pick will fit perfectly. There is only one rule that has no known exceptions: all gnome names are funny. That said, there are a few patterns that most gnome names follow. The statistics given below are based on my own informal, unscientific survey of about one hundred gnome NPC names.
The most interesting part of a gnome’s name is the surname. Gnome children use their parents’ name until their 30s, and then they choose a new name that reflects their particular expertise or accomplishments. (Strangely and perhaps inconsistently, many gnome NPCs come in sibling pairs and share last names – e.g. the Brassbolts brothers from the Mirage Raceway.) Therefore, you should pick a surname based on your character’s primary interests. Such a name not only follows gnome lore, but also gives other players clues about your character.
Most gnome surnames, like those of elves, dwarves, orcs, and trolls, are compounds of two short words. About 90% of the NPC names I catalogued follow this pattern. The component words typically either relate to technology (sprocket, gear, torque) or represent sound effects (bang, blast, fizz). They tend to have sharp, hard sounds rather than the soft, flowing sounds typical of night elves; say “Fizzletorque” and “Whisperwind” out loud to hear the difference! Nature words are very rare, but might be appropriate for a biologist or herbalist (e.g. Spackle Thornberry; oddly, he’s a warlock trainer).
Here’s the breakdown of the various compound forms. The many names that fit in multiple categories (like Whistlesteam) were counted twice.
26% Noun-noun: Whistlesteam, Springblade, Gearspanner, Rustsprocket
18% Noun-verb: Berryfizz, Geardawdle, Featherwhistle, Geargrind
16% Adjective-noun: Swiftgear, Longberry, Fullthrottle, Brightbolt
14% Verb-noun: Wobblesprocket, Knockhammer, Fizzlegear, Togglevolt
9% Nonsense words: Mixilpixil, Fizzwizzle, Baubbletump, Nurribit
Verb-verb, preposition-noun, adverb-verb, and other forms are rare. For names with verbs, they only rarely have an “er” ending (Cogspinner, Corpseseeker). The eight most popular component words for the NPCs I counted, in order of prevalence, are:
Gnome first names are harder to describe statistically. They tend to be short; only a few are more than two syllables. They tend to have sharp, abrupt sounds, heavy on k’s and z’s (Tink, Burbik, Deek, Spark, Wizbang). Some names have –le or –y/-ie endings (Herble, Fimble, Razzle, Trixie, Tally, Rillie). The names suggested by the WoW RPG books are quite different from the in-game NPC names, and have guttural, earthy sounds (Grobnick, Hagin, Snoonose, Beggra, Sorassa, Gamash). There are few overarching patterns with gnome first names; the best I can find is that they tend to be cute or funny sounding. Here’s a list of some more NPC first names to help you get started.
Male: Abner, Bingus, Clopper, Fimble, Flickin, Gaxim, Klockmort, Namdo, Pithwick, Sraaz, Tickin
Female: Bink, Bossi, Crafty, Dannie, Jalinda, Jemma, Jinky, Prynne, Sassa, Sprite, Tilli
Remember, gnomes have the most freedom of any race to use strange names. Take advantage of the opportunity to come up with funny, silly, clever, and punny names that will delight other players.
V. Gnome culture and personality
In this section, I’ll make general observations about how gnomes tend to think and act. It’s important to remember that nothing about gnomes is set in stone, or even cast in triple-forged elementium. For every trait I mention, there will be a great gnome character with the opposite trait. That said, there are important things that most gnomes have in common.
The mind of a gnome
There is perhaps only one non-negotiable personality trait universal to all gnome characters: gnomes are driven by a deep-seated, unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Gnomish curiosity is the core of their being, quite literally hard-wired by their mechagnome ancestry. As the descendants of the Titanic guardians of knowledge and invention, gnomes see the world as a puzzle to be solved. They live for exploration and discovery. Gnomes can’t even comprehend the idea that anything is unknowable – which is perhaps why so few of them are religious.
Gnomes are brilliant, the most intelligent mortal race by far. They excel with logical reasoning, and can solve a technical problem in the time it takes the duller races to understand the question. A gnome will feel comfortable dealing with military tactics, business strategy, mystery solving, researching factual questions of all kinds, and anything that involves designing or building something. But gnomes are not wired for politics, diplomacy, or poetry. Though gnomes are smart, they are not wise, and their optimistic outlook makes them more likely to take risks. Your character might be rash, unwilling to think things through before making a decision. He might say or do things without considering the feelings of others.
Though gnomes are friendly and outgoing, they often have difficulty interacting with other races. Their minds function so differently that they sometimes simply can’t understand each other. When playing your gnome, have your character occasionally misinterpret what other players say.
“The Light infuses all beings that are strong in faith.” “Does Light infusion hurt? Do you actually light up, like a flashlight? I’d love to document the process!”
A phrase often used to describe the gnome personality is “childlike innocence.” In fact, gnomes are neither childlike nor innocent: they live more than twice as long as humans, and have witnessed tragedy that would shatter lesser spirits. But gnomes have an unshakable optimism and faith in progress that not even the death or horrific mutation of 80% of their people can take away. Gnomes focus on the problems of the present and the promise of the future, and prefer not to dwell on the past. It’s this remarkable, possibly naïve optimism that gives gnomes strength and courage that can surprise the other races.
It might seem like gnomes are boring little parcels of sunshine and happiness. In fact, the eccentric gnomes are particularly vulnerable to instability, insanity, and chaos. Sicco Thermaplugg, the traitor who doomed Gnomeregan, sought personal power at the expense of his race. Gnomes have been known to join the Twilight’s Hammer cult, and many gnome warlocks happily work with the Burning Legion. The gnome mind is heavily unbalanced, focused on reason and discovery to the exclusion of all else. So they are often led to a very peculiar worldview that makes sense only to themselves. I doubt that many gnomes are intrinsically evil; they just follow a dangerous line of thinking to its natural conclusion. They are so confident in their abilities that they can become reckless, willing to use any means to achieve progress. When their carefully constructed plans don’t work out, gnomes might become frustrated and angry.
Gnome culture and society
There’s not much lore about gnome social customs and cultural heritage, but there are some things we know or can infer. Gnome society is democratic: the High Tinker is an elected official who serves for a few years at a time. Gnomes value intelligence, competence, and skill; they have little use for nobility or excessive pomp and circumstance. Gnomes don’t pay much attention to ancestry, and don’t even keep their family names past childhood.
Gnome families are large and fluid. They organize into huge bustling households of extended family members. Gnomes do marry, and at least one has married a human. There’s not much information about gnome dating, but their /flirt pickup lines suggest that gnomes approach romance with the same pragmatic and analytical manner as they do engineering: "I don't feel the 1 to 10 scale is fine enough to capture subtle details of compatibility. I'd prefer a 12 dimensional compatibility scale with additional parameters for mechanical aptitude and torque."
As social creatures, gnomes seem to be based on Tolkien’s hobbits, right down to the lavish parties with fireworks. According to the RPG books, gnomes exchange gifts (probably homemade) all the time, will always welcome guests into their homes, and love to throw elaborate parties for any occasion. They are quite sociable, and love to talk about anything and everything, especially their own work. Gnomes don’t seem to drink as much as dwarves – Wizbang Cranktoggle is a notable exception – but a gnome will eat things that even the iron-stomached dwarves wouldn’t go near. Gnomes apply their creativity and inventiveness to their food, so your character would think nothing of offering guests deep-fried thresher eyes, kodo brain kabobs, mushroom slushies, or coconut-moonberry casserole.
The rational gnomes aren’t particularly inclined toward religious practice. They have little use for divine truth, since they’re quite good at seeking truth in their laboratories and workshops. But contrary to popular belief, gnomes are not atheists. They’re perfectly happy to acknowledge the existence of divine beings – they just don’t see the point in worshiping them. While most gnomes just ignore religious practice, it’s quite possible for a gnome to follow the Light, or any other tradition. In fact, it would be shocking if a curious gnome hasn’t entered a seminary just to see what all the fuss is about. When your character is talking to priests and paladins, try discussing the Light in scientific terms. “Is the energy density of a naaru greater or less than the specific arcanocapacity of holy water?”
Technology is central to gnomish society. In a sense, technology is their society. Even if your character isn’t an engineer by trade, engineering is part of his or her heritage. It’s rather difficult to define exactly what gnome technology is. Let’s start by defining what it isn’t. Gnome technology is not modern technology. There are no laptops, cell phones, or cars. But there are punchcard readers, electrical devices, intelligent robots, radios, motorcycles, submarines, lasers, and airplanes.
Gnome technology is distinct from goblin technology. Goblins are obsessed with explosives, and tend to make simple, practical, marketable devices. Gnomes use explosives too, but they also like to experiment with advanced cutting-edge technology. Gnomes appreciate technology for its own sake, and don’t mind if it isn’t practical or profitable. Most goblin contraptions are powered by combustible fuels and basic motors, while gnomes use steam, electricity, pneumatics, and magic. Gnomes prepare detailed schematics and calculations before they start building. Often a gnomish tinker will spend more time designing a device than constructing it. Many gnomish designs are too expensive or impractical to ever be implemented, and never make it past the design phase.
Gnome technology is also different from draenei, ethereal, and blood elf technology. While those devices tend to be sleek, pretty, and nearly magical, gnomes focus more on utility than design. On gnomish technology, you’ll see exposed gears, unpainted metal, and exhaust pipes. It doesn’t look as crudely thrown together as goblin devices, but there is a mechanical rather than a space-age artistic motif. Gnomish contraptions also tend to be unnecessarily complicated. One fun gnome storyline is to go to great lengths to build an elaborate device to perform a simple task. “Well, it took three years and countless tragic injuries, but at long last my Picklematic High-Speed Jar Opener is complete!”
Gnome engineer characters can sometimes run into problems with deus ex machina solutions. (“Blinky pulls out her Gnometronic Scourge Pummeler 300 to distract the army of zombies while she escapes on her Elementium Fusion Jetpack”) If your character has the perfect device for every situation, it will get old fast. To bring in wacky technology without feeling like you’re cheating, take advantage of gnomish engineering’s high failure rate. Grab that perfect gadget, but then have it backfire on your character. It’s fine to bend the rules for the sake of fun, but be sure you’re not annoying your fellow roleplayers.
Gnomish devices, like gnomes, tend to have funny names. When naming your device, it’s a good idea for the name to at least somewhat relate to what it actually does. The in-game gadgets created by engineers usually have sensible, descriptive names, while the ones that appear in quests are more nonsensical. Here are some examples.
Realistic names: Hyperspeed Accelerators, Visage Liquification Goggles, Voice Amplification Modulator, Overcharged Capacitor
Nonsensical names: Essential Artificial, Gyrodrillmatic Excavationator, Nitromirglyceronium, Zephyrium Capacitorium
VI. Techniques for gnome roleplay
The art of techno-babble
Dialogue is the heart of roleplaying interaction. Each race has a distinctive manner of speech, and gnomes are no different. Unfortunately, clever gnome speech is quite difficult, and to truly master it, one needs a fairly sophisticated vocabulary, at least some technical background, and even a bit of poetic instinct. Few players truly excel at it, but those who do are a delight to listen to. There are three levels of gnome speech your character might use: basic, matter-of-fact English; mild brainy rambling; and full-blown techno-babble.
At the first level, used by most NPCs most of the time, gnomes speak quite clearly and simply. They may use moderately big words or address technical topics, but no one would have trouble following them. Stick to simple declaratory and avoid flowery or poetic language.
The second level is more distinctively gnomish, and not too difficult to use. The goal is to sound brainy and slightly incoherent. One easy but effective technique is to write an ordinary English sentence and just replace small words with big ones and simple phrases with complex ones. Make sure that you’re using the words correctly. Misusing big words can suggest to other players that you don’t know what you’re doing. If you don’t have a great technical vocabulary, just stick with simple, grammatically correct English.
Finally, there’s the subtle art of techno-babble. At this stage, you’ll pump out an endless stream of nonsense jargon. To get started, think of a nerdy, awkward friend of yours answering a question about physics. He’ll probably ramble on excitedly and not make much sense to you. Use run-on sentences and complex grammatical structure, and throw in liberal helpings of technical-sounding words. It should be clear that your character knows a great deal about whatever she’s discussing, and (perhaps wrongly) expects the listener to understand it too.
Now, gnome technology is part of a fantasy world, so what you talk about doesn’t have to be real science. Feel free to make things up. But wherever possible, the words you use should make sense; don’t just throw random terms together. Your speech should give other players clues about what you’re describing. That way, other gnomes can pretend to understand you perfectly. For example, if my gnome talks about an “arcanomechanical ley fluxometer”, a knowledgeable player could infer that I’m talking about a mechanical device that responds to magic in some way, and which is used to measure the magical energy from ley lines in the environment. The clues hidden in techno-babble can separate great gnome roleplayers from merely good ones. The best gnome players I’ve encountered will even throw in alliteration, rhyme, and literary or pop culture references. If you can’t pull that off, don’t worry – keep it simple and you’ll be fine.
Remember, not all gnomes talk the same way. Very few gnomes will speak in techno-babble all the time. Some of the best gnomish one-liners are blunt statements of fact, or amusing tautologies. How your gnome communicates will depend on age, background, education, and social competence. You’ll have to decide how your character speaks.
Racial dialects are best learned by example. Here are some in-game samples of gnome speech:
“I like large posteriors and I cannot prevaricate.” – Gnome male /silly. It’s a pop culture reference, modified to use unnecessarily big words.
“At this time, I think you should purchase me an alcoholic beverage and engage in diminutive conversation with me in the hopes of establishing a rapport.” – Gnome female /flirt. Here, a simple and casual statement is presented in a very formal, analytical way. Note the big words and the excessive length of the sentence.
“It once aided me and my associates with its countless gizmos and limitless store of information, but its positronic brain has polarized. Now it's negatronic... and Techbot's behaviors are reversed.” – Tinkmaster Overspark, Save Techbot’s Brain! This is an example of fairly mild techno-babble. It’s a bit rambling, but everything makes perfect sense: positive and negative are two opposite polarities, and reversing them switches Techbot from good to evil.
“I used a simple Stalthwargon mechanism to make sure the wire conductivity is optimal and the flow of the Nitroglyceronium between the differential fluid is better than average. … I've ensured a strong signal by routing copper and silver wires with a Melthusian antenae array within the casing of the box.” – Covert Ops Plans. This is one of the few in-game examples of heavy techno-babble. It’s clearly nonsense, but it could be a perfectly meaningful sentence. The author is describing remotely controlled dynamite.
Interacting with other characters
So, you’ve crafted the perfect character, figured out her name, age, history, motivations, flaws, and speech style. Now what? To be successful, that character has to go out and interact with other characters. She has to create relationships, conflicts, and compelling stories. That can sometimes be a challenge for gnome roleplayers. A character that’s too introverted to make friends, too friendly to start drama, or too dull for delightful intrigue is a plausible character that fits perfectly with the lore – but it won’t be much fun to play.
One way to start action and adventure is to take a relatively innocent statement or observation, misinterpret it, and blow it completely out of proportion. For example, if a dwarf casually remarks that he’s so hungry he could eat a tauren, your gnome might take him at his word and start discussing tauren burger recipes with her chef friends. Before you know it, she’s leading a band of adventurers wielding grills to invade Thunder Bluff.
Looking to build relationships? Real-life advice books advocate asking lots of questions. Fortunately, the inquisitive gnomes are full of them. Have your gnome interrogate the other character about their history, interests, adventures, and problems. He’ll probably offer them advice, and talk about his own projects. Before you know it, the two characters have learned about and formed opinions about each other. “Wow, you’re a hunter? What kind of rifle do you use? Does it have a gnomish scope? I used to work in the scope industry you know. Now I’ve moved on to ray guns. Have you ever tried a tranquilizing ray to tame an animal? What kind of pet do you have anyway? Really, they have how many claws?”
If you want to stir up conflict with non-gnome characters, an easy solution is to make condescending comments about their intelligence. Your well-meaning but socially oblivious character might offend someone without meaning to. “Wow, that’s a very big cannon you have there. I’m sure it will do a great job protecting the harbor! In a few years, I bet you humans will develop a big tower that can shine light out over the sea.”
Gnomes are great at introducing humor to almost any situation. One of my favorite techniques is to wait until some of the more melodramatic races (they tend to be the taller ones!) get into a tense situation. Then, your gnome tries to contribute with an innocent factual observation that completely misses the tone and cuts the tension. For example:
Human: “I should never have joined your band of traitors and thieves. I’d rather plunge this rusted blade into my cold, barren heart than spend another moment in your vile company!”
Gnome: “Actually, that’s your spleen! My anatomical textbooks might be out of date, but last I checked, the human heart rests about three centimeters to the left of where you’re pointing.”
Be careful with this trick, though – other players might be annoyed if you break their momentum.
I am personally a fan of humorous, eccentric, and nonsensical storylines. But many gnome roleplayers have trouble being taken seriously. In that case, you may want to tone down the humor and focus on some of the other qualities of gnomes. If another character is having an emotional crisis, your character can try to console her with reasoned argument. If there’s a violent conflict, your gnome can contribute high-tech weapons to turn the tide of battle. If there’s a murder mystery, your character might attempt to solve it with impeccable deductive logic.
VII. Gnomes and other races
Gnomes are friendly and peaceful by nature. When they encounter new peoples, they’d rather invite them over for dinner than conquer them. When your gnome character meets members of another race for the first time, his or her first reaction will probably be to question them incessantly about their history, culture, biology, and technology. Other races may find them strange and perhaps even annoying, but it’s nearly impossible to hate a gnome.
[Part of this section is based on an excellent post by Sean at blogatelle. See the links section.]
Dwarves: The gnomes’ closest allies, the dwarves of Ironforge took them in after the destruction of Gnomeregan. The dwarves share the gnomes’ passion for engineering, though not their skill. Most of the more advanced dwarven technologies, like the steam tank and flying machines, come from gnomish inventors. Your gnome character will probably greet dwarves as familiar friends and respected partners. “Hey there, Steelhammer, have you seen my newest arcanite scope? It should improve your hunting rifle’s accuracy by at least 13.6%!”
Humans: The gnomes fight alongside the humans and follow their leadership in the Alliance, but they probably don’t respect the short-lived, technologically backward race very much. Gnomes don’t understand human religious practices, elaborate social decorum, or monarchical political structure. They tend to see humans as rash, ignorant, and superstitious. The friendly and helpful gnomes are happy to offer their guidance and wisdom to the primitive race – whether they want it or not. Your gnome character might be condescending toward humans, speaking to them as they would to an uneducated child. (By the way, that’s a great way to turn the tables on human roleplayers who treat gnomes like children!) “Why do they always bend forward in front of the human with the shiny hat? He must be a doctor inspecting them for head lice!”
Night elves: The gnomes and night elves are about as different as can be. The elves shun technology and despise magic, the two things that gnomes love most. The carefree and optimistic gnomes don’t see why the risk of a demonic invasion should stop them from experimenting with magic. Gnomes are even more puzzled by the elves than they are by humans, because they know that elves are smart and knowledgeable. Your gnome might approach night elves as stubborn reactionaries who need to be persuaded of the virtues of magic and technology. Your character might have trouble making friends with night elves, but if they do hit it off, it will make for a great story. “Wait, why would anyone want to live in trees that don’t have advanced pneumatic lifts?”
Draenei: The gnomes love discovering new things, and the draenei just landed in Azeroth. What’s more, they have a space ship filled with advanced technology and magic crystals! Gnomes are surely fascinated by the draenei and eager to make friends with them. The two races share mutual respect and admiration, but their cultures are fundamentally different. While the draenei devote themselves to the Light, gnomes would be more likely to hook a naaru up to a generator to power their lab equipment. When your gnome meets a draenei, his or her first reaction will probably be to ask hundreds of questions. “Those totems they stick in the ground must be long-range interstellar transmitters. Maybe their horns are too!”
Worgen: When worgen join the Alliance in Cataclysm, the gnomes will most likely want to study them.
Orcs and trolls: The gnomes remember fighting against the Horde in the second war. A troll might have killed you gnome’s cousin. And the gnomes have no sympathy for the goblin technology that the orcs rely on. Still, gnomes never hold a grudge for long, and your character probably has no particular motivation to fight the Horde, except perhaps to try out the latest model of death ray. “My name is Inky Motortorque. You killed my father. Prepare to slowly and painfully disintegrate into your constituent atoms!”
Tauren: The gnomes and tauren never came into contact before World of Warcraft. The gnomes have no particular conflict with the tauren beyond the ongoing war between their respective allies. Like the night elves, tauren revere nature and shun technology, so they probably wouldn’t get along very well with gnomes. “Besides, why would anything need to be that tall?”
Forsaken: The Forsaken are natural scientists, just like the gnomes. But while gnomes pursue knowledge for its own sake, the Forsaken use science as a means to an end – and that end often involves a dead gnome! Still, the average gnome would probably love to question an undead alchemist about the chemical composition of the plague, or how their skeletal bodies are held together.
Blood elves: The gnomes fought alongside the elves in the Second War, and share a passion for magical learning. The two races work side by side in the Kirin Tor. Of all the Horde races, gnomes are most likely to get along with the blood elves.
Goblins: It’s no secret that gnomes and goblins occasionally have slight differences of opinion. The two technologically oriented races are fierce rivals. The gnomes view goblin engineers as amateurs who blindly throw together technology that might prove useful or profitable, without really understanding the science behind it. Gnomish engineers use advanced technology that pushes the boundaries of the possible; goblin engineers just want a bigger bomb. Though most gnomes will have nothing good to say about goblins, the races are not at war. Gnomes are naturally peaceful, and will even reluctantly work with goblin technology if it proves useful; and goblins know that open conflict would harm their profit margins. It will be interesting to see how the gnomes react to goblins joining the Horde. Your character might take secret pleasure in lopping off a pair of pointy green ears on the battlefield.
Troggs: Gnomes don’t particularly care for troggs. Go figure.
Mages rely on their expansive intelligence to control and manipulate the energies of the world around them. Which race does that sound like? Gnomes have a natural affinity for magic, and they love to study its intricacies. Some might say that magic can’t be rationally explained – it’s magic, after all. A gnome mage would disagree! They approach magic as a science to be carefully studied, practiced, and mastered. As a gnome mage, your character will ramble endlessly about the minutiae of ley energy fields and arcane nexus foci. He or she will delight in poring over old tomes, and might be a member of the Kirin Tor.
A mage is a good choice for a gnome because they rely on sheer intellect, not on physical stature. Choose a mage if your gnome is particularly brainy and industrious. Here are some basic gnome mage characters you can start with:
- An academic theorist, poring over tomes and spouting arcane jargon about the arcane. “My calculations indicate that the crystals will discharge at a rate of 5.8 kilozaps per second.”
- A battle mage, focusing more on the applied practice of magic – that is, magic applied to the backside of an orc. “Size matters not… especially once my frostbolt hits you!”
- An eccentric conjurer, who delights in chaos and destruction. Possibly also a pyro. “I’m gonna light you up, sweet cheeks!” – Millhouse Manastorm, The Arcatraz
- A traveling magician, who goes from town to town delighting locals by turning them into turtles. Don’t forget a top hat and pet rabbit. “For my next trick, I’ll make that goblin merchant disappear!”
Ah, the gnome warlock. If you’ve ever wanted to play an evil genius bent on world domination, who just happens to have access to demonic magic and advanced technology, this is the class for you! The gnome warlock gives new meaning to insanity. Many gnome warlocks are paranoid, possibly driven over the edge by the trauma of Gnomeregan. But not all warlocks are evil; in fact, if any race could play a good warlock, it’s the gnomes. A warlock is essentially a mage lured to fel magic by the promise of greater knowledge or power. Most warlocks seek power, and power corrupts. A gnome is more likely to be drawn by knowledge, and to use his dark powers to learn, not to dominate. But whether they’re good or evil, all gnome warlocks are at least slightly unbalanced. Some of my favorite characters ever have been gnome warlocks.
Choose a warlock if your character is more eccentric than the average gnome. As a gnome warlock, you have tremendous flexibility in how you construct your character. Here is a very small sample of the most straightforward characters:
- A well-meaning mage ensnared by the lure of demonic magic. “The voices in my head say I could rule the world. But that would be too much paperwork!”
- An expert magical researcher specializing in demons. Almost certainly a bit cracked. “Noktip, stop it! I don’t want to play fetch with the soul stick right now.”
- A megalomaniac evil genius bent on world domination. “Yes… my master plan will soon come to – oww, watch where you’re walking!”
- A bitter, paranoid gnome who turns to the dark arts as an outlet for anger. “I’ll make you rue the day you learned the word ‘punt’.”
Gnomes are agile, sneaky, clever, and tiny – all perfect traits for a rogue. There are many possibilities for gnome rogues, some of them quite original and fun. As you develop your character, keep in mind that one common rogue stereotype, the brooding mysterious figure lurking in the shadows, doesn’t work that well for cheerful and outgoing gnomes. Nor are gnomes particularly inclined toward violent crime. A gnome rogue is calculating, methodical, and meticulous. They rely on stealth and instinct, not on brawn; they probably also make good use of gadgets.
Choose a rogue if your gnome is a careful, rational thinker who’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. There are a few classic interpretations of the rogue class that work particularly well for gnomes:
- A spy, collecting information behind enemy lines. “Day 53: I fear the trolls may soon breach my cover. If my luck holds, they won’t look for the spare tusk polish that used to be in this trunk.”
- A suave secret agent, complete with high-tech gadgets. “Then I leapt down from the air duct with my parachute cloak, planted the fake schematics, activated my rocket boots and cloaking device, and ran to the biplane waiting outside.”
- A pickpocket, in the venerable tradition of Bilbo Baggins. “Why don’t they ever carry GOBLIN effigies?”
- Member or leader of an organized crime syndicate. “Never ask me about my business, or you might find an adorable mechanical sheep on your front porch.”
Some players are stumped by the idea of a gnome warrior. After all, gnomes are small and not physically strong. But they make up for it in clever tactics and high-tech equipment. The High Tinker himself carries a gear-shaped shield. When you play a gnome warrior, remember that you are not a marauding vrykul warlord or a ferocious troll berserker. But you’re a hardened fighter nonetheless, and went toe-to-toe with bigger, meaner things than troggs in the depths of Gnomeregan. Gnomes have astonishing courage in the face of insurmountable odds. You will never doubt yourself, your people, or the promise of a better tomorrow, and you’ll fight for that promise to your dying breath.
Choose a warrior if your gnome is courageous, loyal, and kind. Warriors are a fairly generic class, but there are some interesting variations that fit gnomes well.
- A stalwart protector of the gnomish people. One of the last to flee Gnomeregan, holding off the troggs to let friends escape to safety. “Leave no gnome behind. For Gnomergan!”
- A military specialist, remarkably disciplined and skilled with tactics. “Your swing needs work, cadet. A sword with that moment of inertia should have a contact arc of at least 60 degrees.”
- A fearsome agile fighter, overwhelming larger and clumsier enemies with a flurry of steel. “They’ll never know what hit them!”
- A mecha-warrior, bristling with deadly high-tech weapons and armor. “Who needs a sword when you can have a laser-guided chainsaw?” (see for example Gnomeregan Bonechopper)
The gnome death knight has caused fierce debates and general outrage. How could something so small and cute be a warrior of death and disease? And besides, weren’t gnomes holed up in Gnomeregan when the Lich King was doing his thing? To the question of historical accuracy I say, don’t worry about it! Death Knight characters are recently raised trainees in Acherus. And while it’s true that the gnome personality seems at odds with the death knight motif, that makes them all the more fun and original.
A gnome might be driven to despair and anger by the trauma of seeing 80% of her race wiped out. Seeking answers, she falls for the Lich King’s promise of great and terrible power. Gnomes would surely succeed as death knights: they’re cunning, with a great affinity for magic, and fairly flexible morals. The curious, open-minded, and forward-thinking gnomes would be more likely than most other races to welcome death knights back into their culture, especially if they might be immune to radioactive fallout.
Choose a death knight if your character is a bit macabre. But a death knight needn’t be dark and brooding; a cheerful and upbeat gnome death knight would be quite endearing! Here are a few character ideas to get you thinking.
- An angry gnome driven off the deep end by the trauma of Gnomeregan, now seeking solace in the dark promise of the Scourge. “When the troggs came, I was afraid. Now I am fear itself.”
- A cold, calculating rationalist willing to pay any price to achieve his goals. “So what if I have to destroy a few settlements? By my calculations, there’s a 52% chance it works out for the greater good.”
- An expert necrologist, devoted to the academic study of undeath. “The N34-C strain of blight shows a statistically significant effect on degradation of the central nervous system.”
- A scourge engineer, specializing in the technology of undeath. “My necropneumatic plague spreaders are a vast improvement on outdated meat wagon technology!”
Since the release of the Cataclysm expansion, gnomes may now be priests, a class traditionally linked with deep spiritualism, devout religious practice, righteous preaching, and a general aversion to all things gnomish. There was endless speculation about how such a combination could be justified in lore, but the new Cataclysm quests make it clear: gnome priests are medics, enlisted to help cure the irradiated leper gnomes rescued from the depths of Gnomeregan. With their unique penchant for blowing themselves up, it’s only sensible that the gnomes would invest in medical technology. Gnome priests not only fit into gnome society, they’re vital to its survival.
Your gnome priest character probably isn’t concerned with prayers and deities so much as anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. A gnomish healer will spout medical jargon in much the same way a mage muses on the arcane. Choose a priest if your gnome is cool under pressure, quick on his feet, and willing to risk life and pneumatically enhanced limb for his friends. Here are some sample characters for priests.
- A general practitioner, offering treatment to all comers. “Hmm, looks like a standard case of Devouring Plague. Let me grab my X-Ray Specs.”
- A medical technician, using the latest healing technology to support the survivors of Gnomeregan and the soldiers who fight for them. “Call the medichopper! I need 50 CCs of concentrated Neutro-Taureum.”
- A psychoanalyst, using logic and a bit of shadow magic to delve into patients’ neuroses. “Sometimes a nether rocket is just a nether rocket.”
- If you prefer a religious character, consider a scholarly theologian. “Here is my 500-page abstract proving that the Holy Light predates the Earthmother with greater than 90% certainty.”
IX. The finer points of gnome roleplay
Gnomes spend a great deal of time underground, in mines and laboratories. The pragmatic gnomes are probably content with sturdy pair of overalls, and don’t pay attention to such superfluous things as fashion, right? WRONG! While overalls and goggles should be a staple of any tinker’s wardrobe, the fact is, gnomes love to dress up. And gnome roleplayers have fun dressing them up. The inventive gnomes love to try on the latest and greatest fashion trend, or create their own. Of course, a gnome’s idea of great fashion may not make sense to anyone else. Feel free to dress your gnome up in outlandish clothing that clashes painfully. Or maybe your perfectionist character won’t wear anything that doesn’t match his hair.
Aside from work clothes, in-game gnome models don’t look good in dark colors and earth tones. Elaborate patterns and adornments tend to be squished into an ugly blob on gnome characters. Look for bright, solid colors and pastels. Green, purple, pink, and silver tend to work well. If your gnome likes to look flashy (as mine does), head to Outland and pick up some exotic glowing outfits. While you’re there, score some fashion advice from Nickwinkle the Metro-Gnome at Toshley’s Station.
One of the perks of gnome roleplay is that our characters can look more adorable than every other race combined. As you adventure through Azeroth, look out for cute costumes. A gnome in a full suit of fishing gear will never fail to elicit an “awww”. Dress your stuffy old professor with a suit and monocle. Mages should definitely invest in a pointy hat. The Winter Veil suit was more or less made for gnomes. Zappie has an outfit that perfectly impersonates a Friendly Dalaran Wizard, while a friend of mine walks around the city dressed as a chef.
Of course, no gnome should ever be without a pair of goggles. Engineers can craft dozens of goggles, many of which also have nice stats. Non-engineers can also find goggles, the easiest being the new Authentic Jr. Engineer Goggles.
You should also have a pair of overalls handy:
- Blue Overalls (blue, from tailors)
- Mechbuilder's Overalls (green, requires engineering, from Gnomeregan)
Engineering-related weapons and frills:
- Arclight Spanner (wrench made by engineers)
- Shoni's Disarming Tool (offhand spanner, from Gnomeregan quest)
- Finkle's Lava Dredger (Molten Core) / Repurposed Lava Dredger (Heirloom) / Dirkee's Superstructure (Rare drop) – a big mace with spinning gears
- Gnomeregan Bonechopper (chainsaw-sword from Argent Tournament)
- Force Reactive Disk (engineer-only shield from Molten Core schematics)
- Gizlock's Hypertech Buckler (shield from Maraudon)
- Thermotastic Egg Timer (offhand dynamite stick, from Tanaris quest)
- Sawed-Off Hand Cannon (Alliance Vanguard rep) / Core Marksman Rifle (Molten Core schematic) – a classic high-tech gun
Finally, all gnomes must ride a mechanostrider. Organic mounts are dangerous and unreliable. Motorcycles, flying machines, and rockets are also acceptable.
I’ve been interacting with beginning gnome roleplayers for years now, and there are a few common mistakes to watch out for.
- Claiming your character was born after the destruction of Gnomeregan. The disaster happened less than a decade ago, and your character is almost certainly at least thirty.
- Claiming your character destroyed Gnomeregan. Sorry, the lore is clear there: the invading troggs and Mekkatorque’s radioactive gas destroyed the city, not you.
- Focusing exclusively on your character’s size. There’s a great deal of fun to be had around height, but there’s so much more to the gnome race!
- Acting too naïve and childish. While gnomes can naïve in many ways, remember that they’re smart, knowledgeable, and experienced.
- Making your character too young. Adult gnomes are at least 40, and a typical character may well be 150. Your gnome is probably older than many of the characters he or she meets.
- Using antiquated English. World of Warcraft characters wouldn’t say “I smite thee, foul knave, for thou hast killest my father!” Maybe humans could get away with it. Unless you have a particularly unusual character, your gnome will never, ever talk like that.
- Relying too heavily on stereotypes. Gnomes have enormous flexibility, so don’t feel too constrained. I’ve even seen some effective gnome characters who aren’t smart!
- Intentionally avoiding gnome stereotypes. We all want to create an original character with depth. But having at least some stereotypical attributes helps other players know how to interact with your character. Start simple and add complexity later.
Advice from the gnome community
In preparing this guide, I surveyed dozens of roleplayers about their experience with gnomes. Here are some tips that they shared with me.
I love how with quality roleplaying, a gnome can step into the center of everything and all the other players will gravitate around you and your actions. We're unique because we're short, we're proud, and we don't have any problems with being thought of as short... We see others as the too-talls. – Fiffet, Ravenholdt
I love being a gnome because eccentricity is just part of the nature of their race. ... I love that gnomes can get so distracted with the minutiae of new ideas that they forget what they were talking about in the first place. – Sebeinne, Twisting Nether
Roleplaying with someone who's lighthearted is fun. Roleplaying with someone who's trying far too hard to be whimsical is not. – Wenzlowe, Wyrmrest Accord
When a Gnome establishes a topic of interest, be it swordsgnomeship, arcane arts, history or even on rare occasions philosophy and religion, they meticulously endeavor to learn everything they can about their preferential topic and simultaneously attempt to advance their field of research through careful modifications to previous assumptions and radical departures from the accepted paradigm. – Neon, Emerald Dream
You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a fireball than just a kind word alone. – Oscarvilly, Thorium Brotherhood
Evil genius gnomes are a dime a dozen, but they work because the evil is mixed with the eccentricity typical of the gnomish race. They're generally more funny than evil, which makes for a great gnome character. – Ignola, Emerald Dream
I've found the trick is to remember you're a person with a history and that while you can seem fun and cute... don't ever forget who you are. You're not a gag, you're a gnome. – Squittles, Kel’thuzad
My advice is to find a way to work the inevitable mocking that they'll get into their character development. "You think I'm cute!? Let's see how cute you think I am when I'm done breaking this (insert mob here)'s shins!!" – Dakoura, Moon Guard
You are not a samurai. You are not a juggernaut. There is no secret gnomish bushido code with blood and honor. You are a gnome -- your bark is loud and your bite is...well...that's up to you. You live in a world where you are not taken seriously and it is up to you hold your ground and fight alongside your allies with equal or greater bravery. Your physical stature is your greatest strength, they will never see you coming! FOR GNOMEREGAN! – Tinnik, Emerald Dream
Hit 'em in the ankles! If they're anything like Achilles, you'll win! – Elzabeth, Emerald Dream
Sample character concepts
Here are a few character ideas that don’t revolve around a particular class. Some of them are characters I’ve encountered, and others I’ve just made up. This list might help you start to think of a good idea for your character.
- A university professor
- A Mirage Raceway rocket car driver
- A flying machine pilot or mechanic
- A quirky traveling toy maker
- An investigative reporter, journalist, or news anchor
- A used mechanostrider salesman
- A wealthy businessgnome
- A fireworks artist
- A high-tech farmer
- A murloc trainer
- A sociologist
- A lawyer (sound boring? Imagine subpoenas with death rays!)
Miscellaneous helpful facts
- Tinker vs. Tinkerer: There are a few places in the game where “tinkerer” is used, but for the most part, “tinker” is the accepted form for both the verb and the noun. “That tinker and the other tinkers are tinkering in the tinkers’ workshop near Tinker Town.”
- There is a group called the Enlightened Assembly of Arcanology, Alchemy and Engineering Sciences that’s dedicated to spreading magic, technology, and alchemy throughout Azeroth. They seem to be the gnomish equivalent of radical evangelists – a juicy character concept!
- Gnomeregan is pronounced gnome-ruh-gon.
- Gnomish flying machines are called … gnomish flying machines. The word gyrocopter refers to the dwarf version from the Third War, when gnomish pilots were otherwise occupied.
- Gnomes have four fingers on each hand. That means they likely count in base 8, which would be very efficient for developing computer (or punchograph) technology.
- Gnomes seem to have an obsession with flightless birds – they ride mechanostriders and fight with mechanical chickens.
All the World’s a Stage: So you want to be a gnome (a good broad overview)
All the World’s a Stage: So you want to be an engineer (good engineering background)
Blogatelle: The Gnome Play File (great take on race relations, with clever gnome speech)
Blogatelle: In Defense of Gnome Role-Play (an eloquent argument for the power of gnome roleplay)
WoWWiki: Gnome (Still the best history of gnomes, but beware questionable lore!)
New: Gelbin Mekkatorque: Cut Short (A short story on the official site about the gnome leader and the battle for Gnomeregan. Good model for gnome story writing!)
At this point, you should have a good sense of what it means to roleplay a gnome. You know where gnomes come from, how they think, and how they act. You know all about techno-babble, cute outfits, and interacting with the bigger races. All that’s left now is to start crafting your character. I hope this guide has helped you get started with gnome roleplay, or at least convinced you pay more attention to the gnomes you roleplay with.
If you’ve found this guide helpful, I hope you’ll share it with others. We need more players out there roleplaying gnomes! Just please don’t copy my work without attribution. If you’d like to contact me, please stop by Emerald Dream to say hello. I and everyone at GnomeTech would love to hear from you. I can also be reached at MissZappie@gmail.com.