DnD 5e – The Gnome Handbook
Last Updated: June 20, 2021
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Gnomes have changed a lot throughout the history of Dungeons and Dragons. At times they’ve been monsters. At times they’ve been fey. In general DnD has always had trouble pinning down gnomes thematically in a way that distinguishes them from halflings, but I think 5th edition may have done the best job of any prior edition. Gnomes have subraces which are very disting from one another, and their traits offer some unique an interesting options.
The Gnome’s biggest challenge is their ability score increases. All gnomes share an Intelligence increase which predisposes them to being artificers and wizard, but generally you’ll only have one or two viable subraces for any other class. Gnomes are generally a niche option that works well in specific builds, but the Gnome simply doesn’t have the right ability score increases to fill a broad range of character options.
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- Green: Good options. Useful often.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Classes (Default Rules)
This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
Gnomes get the crucial Intelligence increase as a core gnome racial trait, so any subrace works fine. Rock Gnome fits thematically because of the Tinker trait, but you don’t need it to succeed.
No Strength increase.
No Charisma increase. A Dexterity increase is available to the Forest Gnome, but that’s not enough to make the Bard tempting.
No Wisdom increase.
No Wisdom increase. Forest gnomes seem like they would make a natural Druid, but the ability scores don’t work and Speak With Small Beasts is more amusing than useful.
The Fighter is your best bet for a front-line melee gnome. Deep Gnome and Forest Gnome both get Dexterity increases, and between a Dextery increase and Intelligence increase the Eldritch Knight is an obvious choice.
Forest gnomes get the crucial Dexterity increase that you need to make the Monk work, but you don’t get much else.
You can argue that Dexterity is enough to make a paladin work, but on its own that’s not going to be especially effective.
The Deep Gnome and the Forest Gnome both provide Dexterity increases, which is crucial for the Ranger. Unfortunately, the Ranger benefits very little from the Gnome’s other traits.
The Deep Gnome and the Forest Gnome both make great rogues of any kind, but Arcane Trickster is a natural fit thanks to the Intelligence increase and the Forest Gnome gives you Minor Illusion so you can get a taste of magic before you hit level 3.
Mark of Scribing offers a Charisma increase, plus some additional spellcasting options. Wizard is typically a better option due the Gnome’s base Intelligence increase, but a +1 Charisma increase is technically the only thing that the Sorcerer absolutely needs.
Mark of Scribing offers a Charisma increase, plus some additional spellcasting options. Wizard is typically a better option due the Gnome’s base Intelligence increase, but a +1 Charisma increase is technically the only thing that the Warlock absolutely needs.
An intelligence increase as a core racial trait means that any gnome subrace can make an excellent wizard.
A great defensive option, especially for frail classes like the Wizard. If you use this early in an enemy’s turn, they might be forced to make attacks against you while you’re invisible, potentially causing them to miss. You can then spend your turn to get somewhere safe.
Only useful if you’re extremely worried about being grappled.
Dragonmarks are detailed in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Gnomes treat dragonmarks like a subrace, adding its traits to the core gnome traits.
Mark of Scribing
A Charisma increase and an Intelligence increase are unusual to find on the same race (Tieflings are notably the only other race with the same increases), and granting a Charisma increase doesn’t do anything to broaden the Gnome’s appeal beyond classes that depend on casting spells. Sorcerer and Warlock become viable options for the Gnome, but the Paladin is a bad option without a Strength or Dexterity increase.
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D&D 5th Edition
Gnome TraitsYour gnome character has certain Characteristicsin Commonwith all other Gnomes.
Ability Score Increase: Your Intelligencescore increases by 2.
Age: Gnomesmature at the same rate Humansdo, and most are expected to settle down into an adult life by around age 40. They can live 350 to almost 500 years.
Alignment: Gnomesare most often good. Those who tend toward law are sages, engineers, researchers, scholars, investigators, or inventors. Those who tend toward chaos are minstrels, tricksters, wanderers, or fanciful jewelers. Gnomesare good-hearted, and even the tricksters among them are more playful than Vicious.
Size: Gnomesare between 3 and 4 feet tall and average about 40 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Darkvision: Accustomed to life Underground, you have superior vision in dark and dim Conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in Darknessas if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in Darkness, only Shades of Gray.
Gnome Cunning: You have advantage on all Intelligence, Wisdom, and CharismaSaving Throwsagainst magic.
Languages: You can speak, read, and write Commonand Gnomish. The Gnomishlanguage, which uses the Dwarvishscript, is renowned for its technical treatises and its catalogs of knowledge about the natural world.
Rock GnomeAs a Rock Gnome, you have a natural inventiveness and hardiness beyond that of other Gnomes.
Ability Score Increase: Your Constitutionscore increases by 1.
Artificer’s Lore: Whenever you make an Intelligence(History) check related to magic items, alchemical Objects, or technological devices, you can add twice your Proficiency Bonus, instead of any Proficiency Bonusyou normally apply.
Tinker: You have proficiency with artisan’s tools (tinker’s tools). Using those tools, you can spend 1 hour and 10 gp worth of materials to Constructa Tiny clockwork device (AC 5, 1 hp). The device ceases to function after 24 hours (unless you spend 1 hour repairing it to keep the device functioning), or when you use your action to dismantle it; at that time, you can reclaim the materials used to create it. You can have up to three such devices active at a time. When you create a device, choose one of the following options:
Clockwork Toy: This toy is a clockwork animal, monster, or person, such as a frog, mouse, bird, Dragon, or Soldier. When placed on the ground, the toy moves 5 feet across the ground on each of your turns in a random direction. It makes Noises as appropriate to the creature it represents.
Fire Starter: The device produces a miniature flame, which you can use to light a Candle, torch, or campfire. Using the device requires your action.
Music Box: When opened, this music box plays a single song at a moderate volume. The box stops playing when it reaches the song’s end or when it is closed.
Gnome (Dungeons & Dragons)
In the Dungeons & Dragonsfantasyrole-playing game, gnomes are one of the core races available for play as player characters. Some speculate that they are closely related to dwarves; however, gnomes are more tolerant of other races and of magic, and are skilled with illusions. Gnomes are small humanoids, standing 3–3.5 feet (91–107 cm) tall.
Dungeons & Dragons
The gnome first appeared in the original 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and in its second supplement, Blackmoor (1975).
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition
The gnome appeared as a player character race in the original Player's Handbook (1978). The gnome also appeared in the original Monster Manual (1977). A new gnomish subrace, the deep gnome (svirfneblin), was presented as a character race in the original Unearthed Arcana (1985). Another gnome subrace, the tinker gnome (minoi), focused on building mechanical devices, was presented in Dragonlance Adventures. The humorous Solo Quest adventure Gnomes-100, Dragons-0 featured these gnomes in their resistance against the dragon army of Takhisis.
Gnomes were originally introduced to Dungeons & Dragons as a new alternative to dwarves, elves, and halflings. They were developed from mythology from a number of different sources, originally being a bearded, short race similar to halflings and dwarves. The gnome's niche in play was made magical, to separate it from the more warrior-like dwarf and the more rogue-like halfling.
Dungeons & Dragons (Basic/BECMI)
The gnome appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set as a "monster". The gnome appeared as a player character class in Top Ballista (1989).
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition
The gnome appeared as a character race in the second edition Player's Handbook (1989). The gnome also appeared in the Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989). Four gnomish races – forest, rock, tinker, and deep (svirfneblin) – were detailed as player character races in The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings (1993).
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition
The gnome appeared as a character race in the third edition Player's Handbook (2000), and in the 3.5 revised Player's Handbook. Gnomes were detailed for the Forgotten Realms setting in Races of Faerûn (2003). Gnomes were one of the races detailed in Races of Stone (2004).
Throughout D&D history, up to and including the third edition Player's Handbook, spellcaster gnomes were either illusionists or had illusionist as their favored class. However, in Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5, gnomes' favored class has been changed to bard, as the favored class of "illusionist" was a subset of the wizard class. The wizard favored class was also already used by elves. In D&D v.3.5, gnomes are inventors and alchemists who love pranks and excel at engineering. The tinker gnomes of Dragonlance are mechanically skilled, though their devices are quite prone to backfiring. It has been suggested that gnomes be given the Eberron class artificer as a favored class, due to their technical aptitude.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition
Gnomes appeared in 4th edition as a player character race in Player's Handbook 2 (2009). The gnome appeared in the Monster Manual (2008).
Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition
The gnome was included as a player race in the 5th edition Player's Handbook (2014). Two subraces were introduced with it: the forest gnome and the rock gnome. The Player's Handbook connects the rock gnomes to the tinker gnomes of the Dragonlance setting.
The deep gnome (svirfneblin) is also referenced in the Player's Handbook, and is fully detailed in the 5th edition Monster Manual (2014). The Elemental Evil Player's Companion (2015) presents the deep gnome as a player race.
Gnomes in Dungeons & Dragons have been further divided into various subraces:
- Rock gnomes are the standard gnome subrace of Third Edition. They live in burrows beneath rolling, wooded hills.
- Tinker gnomes are the common gnomes of the Dragonlancecampaign setting. In that fictional universe, they dwell in the Mount Nevermind in the world of Krynn.
- Svirfneblin, or deep gnomes, dwell in cities deep underground. They are more dangerous than the common rock gnome.
- Forest gnomes are smaller than rock gnomes. They are a shy, secretive folk, living deep in wooded areas. Friends to animals, forest gnomes have a racial ability that allows them to speak with small animals.
- River gnomes are graceful and quick. They live in homes dug into the side of riverbanks and speak with river dwelling animals in place of burrowing mammals. They are non-magical but gain +1 to initiative and are proficient swimmers.
- Arcane gnomes are city dwellers. They generally keep to a small community within a larger city. Arcane gnomes are focused on the pursuit of knowledge making their populace, in large part, over-eager inventors or wizards.
- Chaos gnomes are the most flamboyant gnomes. Brightly colored and rare, they are strongly inclined towards chaos, as their name suggests.
- Whisper gnomes lack the jovial outlook of other gnome races. Sly and suspicious, they are creatures of stealth.
- Ice gnomes dwell in the region of Frostfell in the Eberroncampaign setting
- Fire gnomes live on Bytopia, on the Outer Planes, where they help Flandal Steelskin, the Gnomish god of metal and crafting, in his work.
- Sky gnomes appear in the Creature Crucible - PC2 - Top Ballista published in 1989. They are cunning engineers living in the flying city Serraine above the World of Mystara.
In the Forgotten Realmscampaign setting, gnomes are also known as the "Forgotten Folk".
Gnome society had changed greatly over the different editions of Dungeons & Dragons. In the first edition, they were portrayed as intensely curious and intellectual, keeping in theme with their spell-casting niche, with an interest in gemstones. They typically lived in hills, and acted as intermediaries between dwarves, elves, and halflings.
In the second edition, gnomes received further background. According to The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings, gnomes have an intricate society based on their love of all kinds of arts, pranks, and their long lives. Their society is based on art; all gnomes must take up some form of art whether music, painting, cooking, building, or any other form that is considered creative by the time they come of age.
Gnomes are naturally friendly, highly social and fun loving people. They are respected by elves for their communion with nature and knowledge of arcane magic, admired by halflings for their humor, and sought out by dwarves for their gemcutting skills.
Garl Glittergold was created by James M. Ward and first appeared in the "Nonhuman Deities" chapter of the original Deities and Demigods (1980) as the god of gnomes.Roger E. Moore detailed several additional gnomish gods in his article "The Gods of the Gnomes" in Dragon #61 (May 1982), including: Baervan Wildwanderer, god of adventure and thieves; Urdlen ("The Crawler Below"), god of evil; Segojan Earthcaller, god of earth and nature; and Flandal Steelskin, god of metalworking; these four newer gods also appeared in the original Unearthed Arcana (1985).
All five of these deities were detailed for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition in the book Monster Mythology (1992) by Carl Sargent, including details about their priesthoods; this book also introduced additional gods including: Baravar Cloakshadow, god of illusions, protection, and deception; Gaerdal Ironhand, god of protection, vigilance, and combat; and Nebelun (The Meddler), god of inventions and good luck. All of these gods also received a very detailed description for their roles in the Forgotten Realms in Demihuman Deities (1998).
- ^ ab
- ^Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)
- ^Arneson, Dave. Blackmoor (TSR, 1975)
- ^Gygax, Gary (1978). Players Handbook. TSR. ISBN .
- ^Ewalt, David M. (2013). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. New York: Scribner. p. 146. ISBN .
- ^Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
- ^Unearthed Arcana, by Gary Gygax, published 1985, ISBN 978-0-88038-084-3
- ^Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 95, 362. ISBN .
- ^"Q&A with Gary Gygax - Page 18". www.enworld.org. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
- ^Tresca, Michael J. (November 2010). The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games. McFarland. pp. 35–36. ISBN .
- ^"Q&A with Gary Gygax - Page 180". www.enworld.org. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
- ^Cook, David (1989). Player's Handbook. TSR. ISBN .
- ^Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
- ^Niles, Douglas. The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings (TSR, 1993)
- ^Boyd, Eric L.; Matt Forbeck; and James Jacobs. Races of Faerûn. Wizards of the Coast, 2003
- ^ abGygax, Gary (1978). Player's Handbook. TSR. ISBN .
- ^Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
- ^ abPlayer's Handbook. Wizards of the Coast. 2014.
- ^Monster Manual. Wizards of the Coast. 2014.
- ^"Elemental Evil Player's Companion". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
- ^"Gnome :: d20srd.org". www.d20srd.org. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
- ^Dragon Magazine #291 By James Jacobs
- ^ abNoonan, David (August 2004). Races of Stone. Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast.
- ^Niles, Douglas. The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings (TSR, 1993)
- ^Ward, James and Robert Kuntz. Deities and Demigods (TSR, 1980)
- ^Moore, Roger E. "The Gods of the Gnomes." Dragon #61. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1982
- ^Gygax, Gary. Unearthed Arcana (TSR, 1985)
- ^Sargent, Carl. Monster Mythology (TSR, 1992)
- ^Boyd, Eric L.Demihuman Deities (TSR, 1998)
D&D: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Gnomes
By Gabrielle Marie Huston
The original gnomes from D&D's roots have changed significantly over the years — here are the facts you never knew about them.
Dungeons and Dragons has influenced countless franchises in a variety of mediums since its release in 1974. Its character class and racial selections have essentially been standard fare for RPGs of all stripes ever since. Among the most diminutive (in stature, obviously, and not importance) of those races would be the gnomes.
RELATED: 25 Ridiculously Strong Dungeons And Dragons Items That Are Impossible To Find (And Where To Find Them)
The original gnomes from the first iteration of D&D have gone through revisions and changes over the years — not to mention the backstory and history they're received — so there are lots of nuggets of wisdom for players who don't have hours to read D&D lore. These are a few of the best.
10 Some Gnomes Work As Tutors For Humans
Ever since the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons, it's been noted that gnomes are highly valued by humans as tutors and teachers. Not many gnomes choose to settle in human-populated regions, but those who do can almost always find work. Their cheerful, mischievous disposition means that they are perfectly suited to keep their (often young) pupils engaged through a lesson. Since gnomes live for so long, they can end up teaching two, three, or even four generations of a single family over the years.
9 Gnomes Have Lots Of Names
The gnomes are said to love names. As a result, it's not unusual to meet a gnome with six or more. At birth, they get a different name from their mother, father, aunt(s), uncle(s), and clan elder. And that's just to start! After that, they begin to accrue nicknames or accomplishments over their life that stick to their ever-growing full name. When interacting with other gnomes, they love to introduce themselves with every name — but they've learned that this habit bothers humans, so with them, gnomes just stick to three.
8 They Live To 500, But Mature At A Human Rate
A gnome's estimated lifespan depends on its subrace. Your average gnome lives at least 350 years. Occasionally. they can grow as old as 500. These gnomes are considered to be fully mature at the age of 40. Deep gnomes are short-lived by comparison, and only live 200 to 250 years at most. Thus, they're considered to be fully matured at the younger age of 25.
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It's noted that gnomes of all types generally mature at the same rate as humans. This seems to imply that a 30-year-old human and a 30-year-old gnome would be at the same level of intelligence, and the difference is purely a social thing. A 30-year-old human would be considered a full adult, whereas that might not be the case for a gnome.
7 Unlike Other Long-Living Races, They Show Their Age
Elves, along with many other long-lived races, are often described as having a youthful appearance even when they age into their first century and beyond. This is not the case with gnomes. Though they might not go grey as early as humans do, gnomes certainly show wrinkles, grey hairs, and other signs of age as they get on in years. The maturation of a gnome also sets them apart from other long-lived races, since a 100-year-old elf might be considered young and inexperienced, but a gnome of the same age is a full adult.
6 They've Never Created An Empire Or Started A War
The lore for Dungeons and Dragons makes it clear that just about every other race has formed some kind of centralized government, built cities, and gone to war with their neighbors over land or power — except for the gnomes. Gnomes are unconcerned with forming a particular society, especially because of their nomadic nature. They'd rather go where their impulses take them than be held down by a community. Of course, gnomes do occasionally form small groups, clans, tribes, or whatever else they might call themselves, but they don't usually take these very seriously or actively antagonize their neighbors.
5 Their Homes Are Like Rabbits'
Gnomes live in burrows, particularly in hilly, slightly wooded land where they can stretch their legs and get some sunshine (though they live underground like dwarves, they get outside much more often). These houses are small, and you might trip over them or walk right past unless you knew what to look for — they hide them purposefully.
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People who visit have likened these little burrows to the kinds dug by rabbits, foxes, badgers, and other similar creatures. The hospitality of gnomes is outstanding, but so is their silent treatment if you irk them.
4 They Travel Because Of Their Natural Curiosity
Gnomes feel that humans are silly to waste so much time doing nothing and that elves are too stuck up to enjoy everything that life has to offer. Gnomes ache to see everything, try anything, and explore as far and wide as they can manage. This disposition leads to gnomes occasionally seeming constantly energetic, fast-talking, and exhausting to the other races. Gnomes love to smile and laugh; they toss aside anything that makes them unhappy without a second thought and they adore telling jokes and riddles.
3 Over The Editions, Gnomes Have Become Less Adept At Magic And More Adept At Engineering and Tinkering
In the original D&D and some of the earliest content that followed it, gnomes were said to be adept magicians, especially when it came to illusion magic (a powerful skill for hiding one's burrow). However, ever since, their descriptions and abilities have been adapted to portray gnomes as tinkerers, engineers, and craftsmen rather than spell-casters. At least their small size lends itself to sneaky tasks they might need to take on in a party. Perhaps the people behind the decision felt that too many of the races in D&D were centered around magic, or they were influenced by World of Warcraft's steampunk gnome aesthetic. It's hard to say for sure.
2 They Were Created From Gems
Gnomish history tells fans a little more about how they came into being. It holds that gnomes were created in -24,500 DR by the god Garl Glittergold out of gemstones. More specifically, they were gemstones hidden in caverns deep below a hefty mountain called Netheril.
RELATED: Dungeons And Dragons: 15 Most Powerful Gods, Ranked
This origin story has influenced gnomish spirituality in the modern day. Gnomes believe that their gods began life as gems, too. They also say that diamonds became the rock gnomes, rubies became the deep gnomes, and emeralds became the forest gnomes.
1 They Used To Be Slaves To Kobolds
Soon after their creation, gnomes were enslaved by Kobolds, a small, aggressive species distantly related to dragons. Gnomish lore tells how one of their gods, Garl Glittergold, saved them from slavery by destroying the mountain and crushing their Kobold masters. Unfortunately, many gnomes were also enslaved again. The stories say that most of these slaves were able to escape. Since gnomes have not created empires, nor fought terrible wars with other races, the stories of slavery are almost all that is known about their history in the world.
NEXT: Dungeons And Dragons: 10 Things Player Characters Can Do In Their Free Time
Whitley Bay, Jarrow, South Shields, Newcastle, Gateshead - where's the love in gaming?
Read NextAbout The Author
Gabrielle "Belle" Huston is a writer and long-time gamer based in Ottawa, Canada. Reach her on Twitter (@TheYavril) or by email ([email protected]). She's played video games for at least as long as she could write, and vice versa! As a current undergraduate student of journalism, she's seldom away from her computer. Belle uses what little free time she has to play Guild Wars 2 with her partner, work toward that 5-star rating in Animal Crossing, and wonder when the new Dragon Age instalment is coming out.
Out of all of the races in Dungeons & Dragons 5E, the gnome might be the most quirky. These fey-born fellas have a ton of personality and energy, all in a little body. They adore color and nature, and are always keeping themselves busy. Every single one of them find something to do with their lives, from adventuring to tinkering to making plans. If that sounds like a fun character design, or you’re interested in a highly intelligent and motivated race, then this might be the right place for you! Check out our Gnome 5E guide to make the most out of your little bundle of joyful energy!
Gnome 5E Lore
Gnomes are one of the starting races offered in Dungeons & Dragons 5E. Introduced in the Player’s Handbook, they may be one of the most specialized (and fun) starting races a new player can choose. Gnomes are long-lasting people, living between 3 to 5 centuries, but this is far too short for most gnomes. Their fey brethren can live a lot longer, and almost all Gnomes enjoy all aspects of life. So, each of them try to make the most out of it however they can, since there’s so much to do in the world! Gnomish adventurers want to see as much of the world as they can, and experience as many things as possible, before their centuries are up.
Because of this, the bright and happy lifestyle experienced by most gnomes can be jarring to unfamiliar races. Gnomish communities are called burrows, where they live almost underground. Their homes are well-placed in nature, and hidden by some illusions. If a gnome doesn’t want you to find their home, you’re not likely to find it!
If a gnome travels, they are likely to be taken in by almost all friendly races, since they’re so useful as builders, gemcutters, and even tutors! Gnomes make for the most fun teachers that a rich family can ask for, and a gnome – with personal freedom – will work for a family for generations.
Gnomes are creatures that love names, and understand that every single person has a different perspective of them. A gnome that is comfortable with a party might name every party member differently, and ask that every party member do the same to them. They do have a traditional name, but find that taking only a single name that everyone uses to be a bit stiff. Out of all of the races, expect a gnome’s name to change a lot over time!
Not all gnomes need to be happy-go-lucky; some are miners or guarded, and gnomes aren’t immune to corruption. Even so, if you want your gnome to be authentic, it’s useful to think about where they come from.
All gnomes, regardless of their archetype, receive a few benefits that are fairly unique to them.
- +2 Intelligence. An extremely rare stat to have! Intelligence isn’t too handy outside of saving throws and some knowledge-based ability checks. In order to make good use of this, you’d need to have a class that benefits from Intelligence.
- Small Size. Gnomes are Small, which won’t come up too often. It does mean that your Gnome is going to have trouble with Heavy weapons, which stinks. However, most DMs will allow smaller races to sneak into smaller areas more effectively, or have easier access to cover. Try to use this size to your advantage!
- 25 ft. Speed. Ouch! That’s slower than average, by an entire 5 feet. That means that the rest of your party will be 5 feet faster than you in a footrace, which can leave you in the dust. It also means it’ll be harder for you to reposition during combat – a huge drag, no matter what role you are.
- Darkvision. Being able to see in the dark without any sort of torch is very useful. Not needing a torch means that you don’t reveal yourself to enemies, and can stay stealthed from non-Darkvision opponents for much longer. You may still need some torches in case you need to deal with color-based puzzles, but these will be few and far between.
- Gnome Cunning. An absolutely absurd benefit! Spells can be crippling to anybody in any party, so the ability to have permanent advantage against spellcasting is extremely useful. For example, imagine that you’re fighting a Necromancer and it uses Hold Person against you. You have two chances to avoid the paralysis instead of one! That can be life-saving!
- Languages. You get two, Common and Gnomish. That’s nice, but Gnomish isn’t overly popular (unless you’re doing a Gnome-based campaign!).
There are three gnome subraces in 5E; four if you count Dragonmarks.
Deep Gnomes live underground and are slightly less energetic than your typical Gnome. They still are bound with joy, but tend to be hardier and more muscular than gnomes. They also tend to stay hidden whenever they can.
- +1 Dexterity. Great skill boost; Dexterity is good for a lot of skill checks, AC, and the damage-dealing spells of most classes.
- Superior Darkvision. Rather than 60 feet of Darkvision, you get 120 feet. This won’t come up too often, but tends to be good if you’re delving in caves. You’re much more likely to get the jump on things, since you out-range Darkvision!
- Stone Camouflage. You’re more stealthy in rocky terrain. Comes up more often than you think, but still not often enough to make this consistent.
Forest Gnomes are your typical fey gnome. They have an inherent connection to nature, and thus love animals. They tend to have the highest energy of all gnomes, though are slightly less disciplined as a result.
- +1 Dexterity. Again, awesome skill. Dexterity is a pretty great stat in 5E, for defense and offense alike.
- Natural Illusionist. A free cantrip (Minor Illusion) is always wonderful, though illusions have their limits in 5E. Still, a great way to entertain others, and can occasionally get you out of tight situations if you’re creative enough.
- Speak with Small Beasts. You can communicate simple ideas with small animals. This can be okay for problem solving, and even more useful for finding a cute mascot for your party!
Rock Gnomes are the other typical gnome race. They tend to be a bit more controlled than Forest gnomes, and thus are slightly more likely to be the Gnomish tutor that might be seen in Gnome towns.
- +1 Constitution. Every +1 to Constitution gets you closer to more health! Constitution is a great stat for every class in the game, but is strictly defensive.
- Artificer’s Lore. If only this was Arcana! History tends to be harder to justify rolling for these items, unless they are legendary or something. You might get away with alchemy or technology consistently, however, so that’s nice! You’ll also tend to be good at checking for curses.
- Tinker. Really fun, really hard to use. Great for entertaining peasants or kids, but it’s hard to get into situations where throwing a little clockwork frog into a hallway is going to help you. If you’re creative, this could actually be fun to play with, but will rarely come up.
Mark of Scribing (Eberron: Rising from the Last War)
Gnomes gain access to the Mark of Scribing, which enchants them with the abilities of diplomacy. Talk with your DM before accepting this subclass, since it might be hard to justify in all campaign settings. Dragonmarks are pretty specific to Eberron, after all!
- +1 Charisma. Really hard to use, if you also want to utilize the +2 to Intelligence. Charisma is alright for saving throws, at least.
- Gifted Scribe. Really specific. History checks are fairly rare, and calligrapher’s supplies are basically only for forging passports and such.
- Scribe’s Insight. Three good spells, especially for the early game. Magic Mouth isn’t too useful, but can make for some fun moments.
- Spells of the Mark. A handful of alright spells, though having Sending and Dream on the same spell list might be a bit overkill. Make sure you aren’t overdoing it with the messaging effects!
The Gnome is in a pretty unique situation… Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. +2 Intelligence kind of pins it between two classes, if you want to build optimally.
Good Classes for Gnomes
All four Gnome subclasses make absolutely absurd Artificers and Wizards. Both of these classes rely highly on Intelligence for spellcasting. Gnomes, being one of the few races that can get a +2 to Intelligence, make them really good for these casters.
If that wasn’t enough, your Darkvision makes it so you won’t have to worry about being the torchbearer. That means you’ll be safe from showing enemies where you are, a good safety measure for these classes. If you’re a Svirfneblin, your extended Darkvision will allow you to snipe enemies with strong magic before they can even begin to notice you.
Artificer and Wizard are pretty great at avoiding magic due to their saving throw proficiencies. However, having advantage on the saving throws is critical, especially for Wizard. Say, for instance, your entire party is subject to a spell that paralyzes them. Because of your advantage, you’re extremely likely to succeed on the save. Then, you can Dispel Magic to save your party from their imminent doom. That’s really good!
The only real problem with being a Gnome Artificer/Wizard involves your movement speed. Waddling away from danger at 25 ft per round is going to be an issue early on. If you want to be a Gnome Caster, make sure you’re either using your Artificer’s armor effectively, or have a good frontline to protect you. Otherwise, you might find it hard to keep yourself safe during early levels.
Once you get to Fly or other movement-based spells, your 25 foot speed will never be an issue again. Look forward to that!
These aren’t the only two classes that gnomes can be, of course! Deep and Forest gnomes can use that +1 Dexterity on Fighters and Rogues, for instance. They may want to consider Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster if they take that path, but then they can use their Gnome Cunning on magic without proficiency in mental saving throws. That might be a bit of a hail-mary strat, but it’s certainly better than nothing! These two classes suffer a bit more from the speed penalty, but a sneaky Deep gnome can just sneak up before the fight begins and be in a good position. With enough strategy, it shouldn’t be too bad!
Bad Classes for Gnomes
While I hate to be the kind of guy to say “don’t be a class that doesn’t have Intelligence reliance”… Gnomes really benefit a lot from Intelligence-based classes.
Their size is an issue for any class reliant on Heavy weapons. Gnomish Barbarians suffer greatly from the Small size, since Heavy Weapons are so useful for barbs. You’ll need to use two melee weapons, and Barbarians aren’t the best at two-weapon fighting. Gnomish Rangers are similarly threatened by their inability to use Longbows effectively, limiting their Ranged builds. You can still go melee, but rangers tend to be better suited to ranged combat, and a shortbow hardly counts as ranged combat. Gnome Paladins suffer a similar fate, though for a different reason; the 25 ft movement speed is a problem for Gnome paladins, since it limits how quickly you can get to the frontline and deal damage. The lack of a good Strength bonus hurts a bunch too. Monk can be effective, since some gnomes get a Dexterity bonus, but you’ll get your butt kicked early on since your Wisdom won’t be too high.
Without any method of boosting their Wisdom, Gnome Druids are going to be less effective than other races; besides, you can get a bit of druidic flavor with Forest Gnome! Gnomish Clerics are in a similar boat, though if your party needs a cleric and you desperately want to be a gnome… Then I guess there are worse races out there? There are much better ones, though.
Because of the Mark of Scribing, you could get away with being a Bard, Sorcerer, or Warlock, but there are much better alternatives; there are a ton of races with boosts to Charisma that aren’t as niche as the Dragonmark.
The big problem with a lot of these alternative class options is just how niche Intelligence is. Intelligence is not a popular saving throw, there aren’t a lot of skills that rely on it, and there are no other benefits.
The last nail in the coffin for most of these other options is just how strong Wizard is as an option. Wizards are a fantastic source of damage, crowd control, summoning… Since Gnomes have such high Intelligence, then why wouldn’t you want to be a Wizard instead of most of these other class options? And if you want to be a support caster like a Cleric or Bard, why not be the Artificer and be a support class that uses the Gnomes’ big brains?
The +2 to Intelligence is just too alluring. Gnomes can be other classes. But, Artificer and Wizard make the best use of the Gnomes’ bizarre and fun racial abilities, to the point where the other classes would just be imitation.
Conclusion – Gnome 5E Guide
Gnomes are hilarious, energetic, and extremely powerful creatures. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better Wizard race. The Gnome 5E will not only surprise you with it’s simple but strong racial benefits, but if you’re in the mood to joke around, you’ll never find a gnome character that you won’t grow to love.
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Gnome 5e Guide
What is this guide?
This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not Gnomes will be right for your character build.
The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your Gnomes. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.
- Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
- Redisn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
- Orangeis an OK option
- Greenis a good option
- Blueis a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
- Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized
Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update
Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.
What are Gnomes?
Gnomes are short and inquisitive creatures. Standing on average 3ft tall and weighing in at just over 40lbs, Gnomes love to look at life from the technical side. Their inquisitive nature tends to drive them towards professions such as engineers, alchemists, tinkers, and inventors.
Ability Score Increase: a +2 INT bonus is quite a rare one, only being shared by 2 other races. When just playing with the PHB, this bonus makes Gnomes far and away the best choice for Wizards.
Age: Gnomes mature by 40 and live to between 350 and 500 years.
Alignment: Gnomes tend to lean towards good.
Size: Gnomes are small creatures, between 3-4 feet tall and around 40lbs. Being a Small creature has benefits and consequences. Seeing as Wizards likely won’t have to wield heavy weapons and won’t get into shoving/grapple matches very often, being a small creature tends to favor classes that Gnomes like to play.
Speed: 25ft walking speed may not seem like much but can certainly get in the way of expeditious retreats.
Darkvision: 60ft Darkvision is a solid benefit.
Gnome Cunning: Advantage on Saving Throws from magical effects that target INT, WIS, and CHA is an amazing ability.
Languages: Common and Gnomish
Ability Score Increase: +1 DEX is a great way to boost AC.
Superior Darkvision: 120ft Darkvision will come in handy in certain environments.
Stone Camouflage: Again, this is a good ability but is limited in where it can be used.
Ability Score Increase: +1 DEX is a great way to boost AC.
Natural Illusionist: Minor Illusion is a great cantrip. While it may not be a huge damage dealer, it has a ton of utility.
Speak with Small Beasts: If you don’t have a Ranger or Druid, this is a great ability.
Ability Score Increase: +1 CON is a great way to boost the lousy HP of Wizards and other casters.
Artificer’s Lore: Usually Arcana checks will be more beneficial for magical items than history, barring the fact that the item is legendary or similar.
Tinker: The clockwork devices can’t do much and they don’t last long without regular maintenance.
Which Classes Work With Gnomes?
Artificers: Gnomes are a perfect Artificers class because of the +2 INT, all the other class features are just gravy.
Barbarian: No STR or CON for a Barbarian.
Bard: No CHA for a Bard.
Cleric: No WIS for a Cleric.
Druid: No WIS for Druids.
Fighter: No STR or CON for a Fighter.
Monk: The DEX bonuses are okay, but Monks are looking for +2 DEX to be optimal and the INT won’t be beneficial.
Paladin: No CHA, STR, or CON for Paladins.
Ranger: No DEX or WIS for Rangers.
Rogue: The DEX bonuses are okay, but Rogues are looking for +2 DEX to be optimal and the INT won’t be beneficial.
Sorcerer: No CHA for Sorcerers.
Warlock: No CHA for Warlocks.
Wizard: Gnomes are a perfect Wizards class because of the +2 INT, all the other class features are just gravy.