Posted by: Sean | October 14, 2008

Theme Week Gnome: On Another Planet

First off, some administration stuff: Jess wishes to apologise for not posting of late, but she’s a stupid thug-running jerk stupidhead been very busy with university, and her internet has not been working as well as she would like. She has apparently gotten her internet working once more, mostly, and will be posting soon.

Bah. She’s lucky she’s even still got a job here. I had to feed her the idea for her last theme week post, and our rules clearly state that if you don’t post at least once on the week’s theme, you’re out. Blogatelle should have had her fired. I’m sorry, but she’s just not one of my favourite people.

Unlike gnomes. (I am the sultan of segue.)

See, I couldn’t wait for this theme week, because gnomes are one of my favourite races out there. Sorry, gnome punters, but I won’t be ragging on the little guys. I actually think they’re pretty awesome. Not only are they great rogues (where their size makes them incredibly hard to see while stealthed) and possibly the best mages in the game (+5% intelligence, baby!) but they’re also the most fun race to role-play out there, especially comedically. Why? Because even moreso than the draenei, they seem to be from another planet. They run at right angles to everyone else’s logic. They’re strange people. They’re cloudcuckoolanders.

This is not to imply they’re stupid. Far from it, as the +5% suggests, gnomes are for the most part very intelligent. But their thought processes seem to run at steep angles to that of all other races, occasionally intersecting at best. Consider some of the facts I posted yesterday; the gnomes are liable to talk back to leaders and be horribly confused when others are shocked by this. They get puzzled when doors aren’t automatic. (“But the technology’s been available for years!”) They have different standards of privacy and propriety.

And if we’re willing to get speculative, the differences may be even greater. Consider: The main reason our base-ten system of counting have likely developed is because we have ten fingers. Gnomes have eight fingers. Do they count in octagonal? (“Here you are, fifteen orc skulls.” “This is only thirteen.” “I think I can count, thank you very much.”)

And furthermore, if you think about the various NPC gnomes you meet during the game, how many of them seem logical and normal? While the ‘crazy guy/sane guy’ relationship can be seen with a lot of them, but weird and dangerous behaviour is their stock in trade.

All of this makes comedic role-playing with gnomes a delight, because you can behave in bizarre ways without sacrificing their essential character. People expect them to act in odd ways, but switching gears and become serious doesn’t seem out of place either.

So, how can you role-play this well? A lot of it is practice, but a few techniques can help.

  • Never apologise, be serious. This is one of the key rules of a cloudcuckoolander – You’re not wrong. Your job as a character is to convince everyone else that maybe, just maybe, you understand the world better than anyone else. So never apologise for your weird takes. And treat every last one of them with absolute seriousness. Insist that others don’t understand, not you.
  • Plan ahead, lead other characters to your set pieces. Try to always be thinking two steps ahead of everyone else. Do not ‘live in the moment’ as a role-player, but instead think of a few weird moments you want to try and work in, and then do your best to subtly lead the role-play to them. This lets you properly set up your weirdness so that it seems to somehow follow a bizarre logic. As an actual-play example: Last night, while playing my gnome, one of my guild-mates asked about helping me out with an experiment. At that point, immediately, I’d gotten the idea to create the ‘crazy guy/sane guy’ dynamic going, and in order to make it a bit weirder, I was going to be unusually personal in my approach to the debate. So I planned: I explained the Socratic method, and asked if he would take on the role of the critic, shooting down her ideas. With that, the trap was set. I put forward one silly suggestion, and waited for him to shoot it down. Sure enough, he did… and my gnome began screaming abuse, accused him of poor research, and finally demanded an ethics board.
  • Shift tone and mood wildly. In the midst of her rant, however, my gnome stopped, reassured her guild-mate that he was doing his job beautifully, and then shifted right back into her rant. The contrast only highlighted the oddness of the entire event.

This is really only one approach, a very temperamental and moody one, perfect for inventors. But I could think of others; a gnomish mystic (now THERE’S a concept waiting to go) might have a bizarre explanation for just about everything, and be unflappable in their opinions about these theories. (This concept has shades of Luna Lovegood.) A gnomish politician might refuse to ever admit he is wrong, and if called on this, explain, “Son, that’s what bein’ a leader is all about! If you admitted you were ever wrong, you couldn’t lead, right? Not that I’ve ever been wrong.”

Perhaps this is the essential rule: Develop a rule of weirdness, a logic that leads to bizarre places. And never betray it.


  1. Yes, gnomes are for sure the “go to” race for playing the strange & weird. They definitely are the cloudcuckoolanders of Azeroth. And that term, is something you introduced me to and I am glad you did, as I see now that some of my characters are such and knowing what a cloudcuckoolanders is exactly, has now helped me develop them even more.

    “a gnomish mystic”

    Boy, would that be a boat load of RP fun. And the correlation with Luna Lovegood is definitely spot on, though I say a gnome like that may make Luna look perfectly sane if not “run of the mill” normal lol.

    All great tips too! 🙂

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