The defining characteristic of Gnomes is their desire to learn.
They are typically about 3 feet tall, very curious, and can live to about 60 years old. Male Gnomes do grow facial hair. Female Gnomes can grow mustaches, although it is not typically fashionable for them to do so.
Gnomes revel in secrets, although they are lousy at keeping them. To them, secrets and knowledge are the most valuable currency, but when they are excited about something, they will usually drop hints and teases until they give it away.
The other thing that Gnomes really love is food; specifically the variety and quality of their food. Gnomish cuisine is famous for its quality, and because of their small size and therefore appetites, they can use exotic and expensive ingredients (because they only need to buy small amounts of it). They also love alcohol; good alcohol is worth more than gold to them. Alcohol affects them normally (unlike their Dwarven relatives).
Gnomes dabble with other intoxicants and hallucinogens. Magic mushrooms are strongly associated with Gnomes.
Gnomes are also known for having weird potions. This is mostly stereotyping, due to a popular series of stories involving a Gnomish alchemist (as a supporting character), who always has just the right potion for a situation; this varies from the mundane (healing potion), to the ridiculous (shark repellant).
There are two other famous stories involving Gnomes; in one they are basically Santa's elves (depending on who is telling the story, they may be happy working for him, or may be his slaves), and the in the other they are evil creatures that kidnap children.
The combination of their loves of food and secrets means that recipies are one of the most exchanged secrets among Gnomes.
Because of their size and nature, they are sometimes employed as spies. They typically do not last long, as they will often give themselves away. This means that a savvy employer will replace them before they know enough to give away anything important.
Gnomes, being small and not inclined to combat, are often treated badly. They are frequently abused or enslaved, occasionally kept as a stand-in for a lost child, or put to work doing industrial tasks. They do not typically earn any sort of title (as they make lousy knights), and are often just looked down upon by other races.
In order to be in a good place in society, Gnomes have learned to adapt. They tend to form tight-knit communities in cities, travel in groups, and carry knives. They typically distrust strangers, and are generally cowardly in unfamiliar situations, and so prefer to have strength of numbers wherever possible.
Gnomes often form gangs, initially to defend themselves, but they often just evolve into normal gangs given a few generations. Note that Gnomish gangs tend to be big fish in small ponds; against more cutthroat gangs in big cities, they don't usually cut it.
Knives carry some cultural significance to Gnomes, most notably, a marriage ritual among Gnomes is for spouses to exchange knives. This is mostly symbolic, but losing your spouse's knife is a big faux-pas. Losing knives in general is embarassing for a Gnome, though this doesn't extend to having them stolen from you or getting mugged, which is just unfortunate.
Gnomes in general get along well with Dwarves, Halflings, and Children. Dwarves tend to stick up for them, and their curious and intellectual nature makes them good compliments to the Dwarves. Gnomes are often employed by Dwarves to help figure out problems, or brainstorm solutions that they could not otherwise come up with.
Gnomes (being half-Dwarf) can be called on to continue a Line, although it does not fit their nature, and so it is often said that only a Dwarf can continue a line, and Gnomes are happy to let them.
Gnomes give birth normally, but have a short gestation period, only about 5 months. Twins are seen as being lucky; all Gnomish deities are twins, who usually represent opposites.
There are a few different places you might find Gnomes:
- Gnomish Villages – these generally are backed by a Gnomish Mage or gang. They do well for themselves, as much as any other village.
- As a minority in cities – typically downtrodden, but communities of Gnomes have been known to do well in some places.
- In Dwarven towns – they fit in well with Dwarves, and they generally do not have to worry about themselves among Dwarves, so are free to pursue their own interests.
- In the wild – these are often referred to as feral Gnomes; they live in the wild, and forage for food, or make mushroom patches in remote forests. They are masters of hiding, as the world is full of dangers. They typically only speak Gnomish
- As travellers: Gnomes tend to travel in groups, or with other groups of travellers. A lone Gnome is either a madman, an outcast, or a Mage powerful enough to fend for himself.
Another point about Gnomes is that they love games. Their natural curiosity lends itself well to learning rules, figuring out interactions, and devising strategies. Most Gnomish communities have a handful of locally developed games, in addition to the ones found throughout the realm. Being the creator of a local, popular game makes you a local celebrity; expect gossip about possible rule changes and what you are planning to create next (Gnomes love even the possibility of secrets!).