Posted by: Sean | October 17, 2008

Theme Week Gnome: The Gnome Play File


Welcome back to the play file. As always, we hope in these posts to map out the stereotypical reactions each race is likely to have to each other race, as well as to the classes.

The gnomes are, at heart, a race of scholars. They may be engineers or sorcerers, historians or futurists, but the race as a whole is defined by a curiosity that keeps them in search of learning and knowledge. This must come through in their relationships, all of them.

The Alliance

Draenei: The gnomes are all about discovering the new. It’s why they are. If something new exists, they want to map it, research it, measure it and define it. Well, the draenei are something new. And what a new thing they are! Draenei technology is wonderous and sleek, a completely different model to the steampunk designs the gnomes themselves pioneered. Their magic is one of the pillars of their society. Frankly, it’s a small miracle that the Exodar isn’t flooded with gnomes, each measuring parts of the ship, experimentally breaking small devices to see what stops running, and asking the draenei interminable numbers of questions. Above all other races, the draenei are most likely to make gnomes act like gnomes: To bring out their nosiness, their agog inquisitiveness and awe. Individually, though, gnomes probably wish that draenei would be a little more forthcoming. While they seem polite enough, they’re a little reserved, and most gnomes are going to wonder why they seem so secretive and uncomfortable with simple questions. (Slightly more contemplative gnomes, by contrast, will question the wisdom of asking this many questions to people who’ve only just learned the language.)

Now, your tentacles. I’m putting together a number of hypotheses about them and why you have them. My first theory was that they were a breeding mechanism, but that’s just lazy biologism – We always think that if we can’t see an immediate use for it, hee hee. Now I’m beginning to think that they’re actually a gnome detection system of some kind; because whenever a gnome gets close to you they begin twitching… ooh, like now! See, look how they’re agitating back and forth, it’s like a cat flicking his tail. Anyhow, why do you think draenei might come equipped with gnome detectors?

Dwarves: The dwarves have been the gnomes first and closest allies, and the gnomes have been highly valued by the dwarves for their technological prowess. The second war was won in part on gnomish technology, and the human/dwarf alliance made heavy use of gnomish-influenced technology in the third war, too. This is a role that tends to suit most gnomes; they’re a paternal species at heart. But one has to wonder how many gnomes are beginning to feel taken for granted. When the Third War broke out and the gnomes didn’t come to the frontline, the general response seems to have been, “Where are they?” than, “Oh god, what’s happened to them?” (Which surely should have been a consideration.) And, as Fegari’s player has observed, Gnomeregan has been exclusively a concern of the gnomes, it seems, for years now. Shouldn’t the dwarves be helping? While most gnomes believe that the dwarves are good and loyal friends, one has to wonder if some grumbling is setting in. Are there gnomish agitators, looking to leave Ironforge and find a new place to build a second Gnomeregan? None seem to have emerged in game yet, but it’s a sensible question to ask.

Oh, no no no. I always welcome a dwarf to my workshop. Their unique brand of engineering has been an inspiration to us, absolutely. I’ll need your expertise and ingenuity to complete this project! Now, hold that pipe down firm on the table. Of course that’s what I need you to do. I can’t hold it down and operate the blowtorch from over here, right?

Humans: The interesting thing about the humans is that they’ve accepted the gnomes as a people into their Alliance for two major wars now, even before the Warcraft setting, yet they don’t ever seem to have accepted their technology. Think about Ironforge. Even leaving aside Tinker Town, you can see gnomish influence in their siege engines. Their war quarter has gnomish inspired biplanes taking off at regular intervals. Guns are the favoured weapon of dwarvish hunters. But humans? Even the dwarvish part of town is fairly low-technology. Meanwhile they devote a whole town square to the Holy Light. While gnomes like the company of humans, most gnomes probably see humans as a bit superstitious and backwards.

Look, we don’t have time to argue on this. My patented Healatron™ medical apparatus represents the best chance of saving this man’s life! So what if you’ve prayed a million times for healing before and it’s always worked. Unless you can put forward a good mechanism for how it works, it’s still just speculation! Oh, pish posh.

Night Elves: Mind you, if the gnomes think the humans are a little backwards, they think the night elves are insane, surely. Declaring magic evil? No advanced technology whatsoever? How do they live? The gnomes and the night elves really are at complete and utter odds with each other. So naturally, of course, the gnomes are freaking fascinated by them. The humans are kind of dull by this point, they’ve been studied, found a titch superstitious but otherwise fairly boring. But the gnomes can’t even get a handle on why the night elves are the way they are. While they’ve been around each other long enough to get past the relentless questioning the draenei are undergoing, the night elves are probably the target of a massive ‘education’ campaign. (You can actually see this in the Stonetalon Mountains, where there’s a one-gnome crusade to bring the light of science and magic to the elves.) In many ways, the gnomes and the night elves remind me of the whole ‘red state/blue state’ argument of American politics; both sides are so convinced of their rightness that they can’t even begin to see why the other side thinks they way they do.

No no no. No! You’re wrong, wrong, and besides which discourteous. There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing bad about it, and summoned food is perfectly nutritious! This is the way of the future! Cooking is for the past. I don’t care if you’ve had that recipe in your family for the last five thousand years. I just replicated it with a spell. You have to admit that’s impressive. Why don’t you admit that’s impressive?

The Horde

Blood Elves: The gnomes are probably a touch confused by the sindor’ei. Having joined the Alliance just before the Second War and then having skipped the Third, they were there to fight alongside the high elves exactly once. At the time, they seemed to be perfectly normal. Their priests were top-notch, the preferred priests on the battlefield. Their mages were incredibly powerful. And yet, having come out of Gnomeregan, they’re informed that the blood elves are now part of the horde. The gnomes no doubt believe them (and once they’ve faced one on the battlefield, they’ll believe it even more) but they likely remain kind of baffled by the whole affair.

No, no. It’s not that I distrust you. The night elves are our firm allies. It’s just… when we arrived, we went to war, and the high elves were our allies. Then, there was a war, and the night elves were our allies then. So, if we have another war, which elves become our allies next, is all?

Orcs & Trolls: Being inquisitive sorts, the gnomes are more likely than a few other Alliance races to distinguish between orcs and trolls, but historically they’re more or less on a similar ground, and the difference in their relationships is mostly academic. Trolls, in particular, probably are described in angry, ugly tones by more than a few gnomes, the family of gnomes who died in the second war to them. And while a very few gnomes might have some more interest in the orcs (those few being the gnomes fascinated by the draenei and whom know of their shared history), the main thing the gnomes likely have to contribute to a discussion of orcs is battle tactics.

Alright, listen up people! We have bare minutes to prepare our strategy, and our extensive studies on the matter have revealed that while a percentage of orcs are skilled with long range attacks, the majority of them (sixty-two point eight percent) favour close combat. We therefore are going to make a strategic retreat of approximately fifty miles per day of combat, peppering their numbers with gunfire, until they’re of minimal size (forty percent that of our own) and we can engage directly. What? They have trolls with them? Oh, rats. Let me find my backup plan. I knew I had it here somewhere. Give me a moment.

Tauren: The intriguing thing about the gnomes and the tauren is that until World of Warcraft, the two races had never known about each other. Seriously. The gnomes sat out the Third War. The tauren didn’t enter the scene until then. There is, ergo, no history of acrimony between the shortest and the tallest of races. It therefore seems unlikely that there’s really much strong blood between the two; sure, they’re enemies and all, but this is purely a matter of coincidence.

Sigh. What? Oh, nothing. I was just wondering what it would be like to see the world from that high up. Hold on. I’m fetching a ladder.

Undead (Forsaken): Which wins out: Disgust or curiosity? We all know the answer for that with the gnomes, and ergo it follows that frankly the gnomes aren’t going to hate the forsaken so much as be unbelievably intrigued by them. How do they walk about despite being dead? How do they speak if they don’t breath? How do they speak if they don’t have a lower jaw? Like the tauren, there’s no history behind the undead and the gnomes, and gnomes just don’t squick enough to be naturally repulsed by the undead. I can completely imagine a gnome sneaking around following an undead rather than killing it, taking notes. And I’m certain that a more medically oriented gnome would love to conduct an autopsy on one. (Which may or may not involve ‘killing’ it first. They’re already dead, after all.)

I have another hypothesis about the zombies. No no, really, hear me out on this. They’re a repeating loop control spell. Really, really, c’mon, listen to me, this works. The undead are inherently magical. We know undead can be raised and controlled via a spell. If the spell got disrupted, it would reattach itself -– I’ve done the thaumic calculations on this – to the closest magical being.. which would be the undead itself. See? They’ve got a controlling spell on themselves, that’s how it all works … you never believe in my ideas! Why do you always hurt me like this?

Viewing the Classes

Death Knight: How are there gnomish death knights anyway? I know David Bowers already addressed this already, but it still doesn’t ring quite true to me – The gnomes were all shut away when the Lich King was doin’ his thing, so the only way I can explain it is to assume that the gnomish death knights must have been outside Gnomeregan when the gates got shut, or have become so since. In both cases, the paternalistic gnomes are likely to be surprisingly understanding. The horrors of being locked outside their homeland or the horrors of seeing their people obliterated could both explain their descent, so it’s unlikely that a gnome will hate someone for being a death knight, although the kind of people death knights are likely to be might make gnomes dislike them on their personality alone.
Druid: The whole shapechanging idea for druids comes from Celtic lore, where several Celtic heroes (though not actually celtic druids) were given the ability to become an animal so that they might see the world from another perspective. While it’s likely that gnomes will think that this idea is a wonderful one, in practice they may find it more frustrating than anything else. Gnomes do very well in seeing the world from their rationalistic worldview, but most are probably a little narrow minded in that they think their worldview is truly the best one there is. Rationally, it makes sense that more than one worldview will create a better understanding of the world, but they hate leaving their rationalistic ideas for animal instinct. As such, druids probably frustrate gnomes as a whole.
Hunter: In some ways, I’m surprised there aren’t any gnome hunters. I guess gnomes get more into laboratory work than field work. None-the-less, any gnome with an interest in biology and zoology is going to love hunters and try to hire them on a regular basis. (A hunter ‘research assistant’ could actually be a fun concept.)
Mage: The gnomes love magic even though it doesn’t operate on strict scientific guidelines, at least partly surely because it helps their science. (It’s kind of like how you can use imaginary numbers in mathematics even though they’re not actually real. Besides, how else are you going to freeze lab specimens in Azeroth?) In addition to this, they’re good at it, and gnomes like being good at things. However, since gnomes are fairly practically minded, it’s unlikely that they’re the foremost scholars of what magic is (they leave that research to the humans), although they’re probably some of the leading researchers into new magic and spells. Gnomes have a lot of respect for mages in general, though, since they have respect for any intellectual disciplines.
Paladin: Gnomes aren’t particularly atheistic. They’re just not very religious. Some of them follow the Holy Light, but the lack of religious classes among the gnomes says a lot. I think a lot of gnomes find religion very interesting on an academic level (since gods and religious beings provably exist) but the whole idea of worship seems… odd to them. Paladins are therefore probably very admired for their service, but they’re not likely seen as intellectual giants. Gnomes probably treat them a little condescendingly.
Priest: On the other hand, priests represent a difficulty for gnomes. They’re very clever and certainly can be persuasive despite worshipping a deity, which just seems odd. They probably especially admire the counselling work priests can do. I think the moment a gnome decides to try and create a priest without the worship, we will see the birth of psychoanalysis in Azeroth.
Rogue: A genuine, complete repeat of the dwarvish attitude. Gnomes likely see rogues as criminals, but at least (for Alliance rogues) criminals on their side. That said, if you were ever to find a treasure hunting, Indiana Jones-style rogue, he’d be a gnome.
Shaman: Like hunters, every gnome probably looks at a shaman and thinks: Research assistant. Here, it’s the powers of lightning that shamans seem able to wield that probably intrigues gnomes. Their religious elements are also a bit more sensible to gnomes; dealing with and controlling spirits makes sense to them – They can immediately see the benefit.
I wonder whether or not gnomes are a bit divided on warlocks. On one hand, it can’t be denied that at least some gnome warlocks see themselves as pariahs of the society. On the other hand, why don’t gnomes just see it as another line of inquiry? They suffered more from troggs than demons in their past, and gnomes rarely ascribe moral dilemmas to the pursuit of knowledge. While the game suggests that gnome warlocks aren’t any more accepted than any other, I think there’s a role-playing case to be made that many gnomes, at least, aren’t that down on warlocks. For a gnome, your actions toward other people matter more than your methods.
Warrior: Gnomes definitely have a lot of respect for the martial arts, and their warriors are probably some of the most hardened urban fighters you’ll ever find. They’re tiny, quick-witted, and they’ve been hardened from fighting the troggs in their homelands for months, most probably. Given the intellectual bent of gnomes, they’re probably some of the best strategists you’ll ever find, too. Do not mock a gnome warrior.

[Edit: Yes, it was pointed out to me that we’d forgotten warriors. How could I do that?]


  1. Regarding the kal’dorei and how antediluvian they must seem, twelve thousand years ago before the the Sundering they may have had quite a bit of technology. There’s further hints of kal’dorei technology in the Ironforge Library in the Hall of Explorers where there are artifacts that the dwarves there have guessed belong to the night elves due to their age. I always wondered how a gnome would react to find that the kal’dorei were significantly more advanced than them millennia ago and yet tossed all that away when the opportunity presented itself.

    That’s one way to make an uptight self-absorbed gnome’s head explode!

    As a tangent, we don’t know if they rejected technology 12,000 years ago, but I always surmised that it flourished under Queen Azshara and then was summarily discarded along with arcane magic around the time of the First Invasion. Hell, it’s part of the reason I used to justify why my kal’dorei priestess — who happens to be just shy of 12,000 years old — embraced engineering and laments about how absolutely ancient a lot of the plans are. Then again, she’s always looking for an excuse to complain.

    As always, awesome assessment! It’s always fun to imagine how others view the universe from this kind of perspective.

  2. “Frankly, it’s a small miracle that the Exodar isn’t flooded with gnomes, each measuring parts of the ship, experimentally breaking small devices to see what stops running, and asking the draenei interminable numbers of questions.”

    Yes, it is. But I think the only reason such has yet to happen is because their just too busy still reeling from the fall of Gnomeregan, planning to get it back and even being distracted with the dwarves finding about the titans since it may shed light on their own origins. But just give them time, soon the Exodar, will be known as a gnome central.

    “I can completely imagine a gnome sneaking around following an undead rather than killing it, taking notes. And I’m certain that a more medically oriented gnome would love to conduct an autopsy on one. (Which may or may not involve ‘killing’ it first. They’re already dead, after all.)”

    Oh my, the ideas I have now haha. I do wonder if the forsaken would volunteer to the gnomes pokes and prodding, since they could possibly finally find a cure for undeath.

    “In some ways, I’m surprised there aren’t any gnome hunters”

    Oh how I love to be a gnome hunter. It just don’t make sense, they are brilliant engineers and with those skills can make awesome guns, arrows, bullets and scopes yet they can’t be hunters. So what if the kick of the gun might send them flying backwards 20 feet or that most animals they want to tame, like to snack on them. They should be hunters, lets start a damn petition people. 😀

    “A hunter ‘research assistant’ could actually be a fun concept.”

    Damn, another great idea from you.

    @ Cynra
    Yes, I think there heads explode if they discovered the night elves have such technology and threw it all away for nature. Then another gnome come by, discern why the other gnomes head exploded, then have their own head explode as well lol.


    All in all, I loved this and I say your pretty much right with all your assertions except maybe for them feeling like their being taken for granted, as their such a care free & logical people, that they take most of such in stride where as say other races might be down right pissed. And oh my, the little blurbs this time were so enjoyable and hilarious, gnome detectors was just priceless.

    Great work! (And don’t let the fact I love gnomes dissuade from how great I said this was)

  3. Why no gnomish hunters? Same reason, I think, that the gnomish mount is the only racial mount that is not a beast. Put simply, gnomes don’t interact with animals very well at all. Animals are neither capable of intelligent conversation, nor do they lend themselves to being tinkered with. Then there’s the whole problem of being a handy bite size should food ever run out. And they don’t come with an off switch. (Even though in game terms they practically do.)

    I’m sure gnomish engineers have made attempts at devising a mechanical hunter pet, but so much of the art of being a hunter is embedded in channeling animal spirits, it seems unlikely any mechanical substitute will prove as effective.

  4. Gnomish hunters wouldn’t need to tame their companions — they’d build them!

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