Red Box Workshop: The Gnome PC


Gnomes are diminutive demi-humans akin to dwarves and halflings, with the former’s affinity for the earth and the latter’s joie de vivre. Though most shy away from humans, they are gregarious among their own kind and prone to tricks and games. Their curiosity often gets the better of them, leading them from their safe woodland burrows to a life of adventure.

The prime requisites for a gnome are Intelligence and Dexterity. A gnome character whose Intelligence or Dexterity score is 13 or higher will receive a 5% bonus to earned experience. Gnomes whose Intelligence and Dexterity scores are 13 or greater will receive a bonus of 10% to earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Gnomes use four-sided dice (d4) to determine their hit points. They may advance to a maximum of 8th level of experience. Gnomes may use any type of weapon that has been “cut down” to their size. Thus, they cannot use a two-handed sword or long bow, but may use a sword or short bow. They may wear nothing more protective than leather armor, and cannot use a shield. Gnomes must have a minimum score of 9 in Dexterity.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Gnomes live in underground caves and burrows, and have infravision (heat-sensing sight) which allows them to see 60 feet in the dark. A gnome’s deft fingers allow the use of the thief skills of open locks, find or remove traps and pick pockets. In addition, their innate magic grants them limited spell use (see MAGIC, below). All gnomes speak Common, Gnomish and the alignment language or dialect of the character, and the languages of dwarves, goblins and kobolds.

MAGIC: Gnomish magic is innate. Gnomes do not need spell books, nor do they prepare spells as do clerics, elves and magic-users. Instead, a gnome knows a number of spells of each level equal to the number of spells he may cast per day, and he may cast each spell he knows once per day. A gnome may cast a number of spells per day equal to a wizard one level lower. When a gnome gains a level, he rolls randomly to see what new spell(s) he discovers. The DM is encouraged to adjust the spell selection as desired; for example, the DM in a Holmes Blue Book or AD&D game might replace the darkness spell with dancing lights.

Exempli gratia: Twiggledim is a second level gnome. He casts spells as a first level magic user, and so he knows a single spell, randomly rolled: hold portal. Upon reaching third level, he can cast two spells per day instead of one, so he rolls on the list of first level spells to obtain a new spell. He rolls a four: light! Now he can cast hold portal once per day and light once per day.

First Level Spells:
1) Darkness
2) Detect Magic
3) Hold Portal
4) Light
5) Ventriloquism
6) Player chooses any first level spell on this list

Second Level Spells:
1) Detect Invisible
2) Invisibility
3) Knock
4) Mirror Image
5) Speak with Animals (from the cleric spell list)
6) Player chooses any second level spell on this list

Third Level Spells:
1) Fly
2) Growth of Animal (from the cleric spell list)
3) Invisibility 10′ radius
4) Phantasmal Force
5) Water Breathing
6) Player chooses any third level spell on this list

Fourth Level Spells:
1) Confusion
2) Dimension Door
3) Growth of Plants
4) Hallucinatory Terrain
5) Massmorph
6) Player chooses any fourth level spell on this list

SAVING THROWS: As thieves.


ADVANCEMENT: As per the magic-user advancement table.

12 Responses to “Red Box Workshop: The Gnome PC”

  1. March 26, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Awesome! I love stuff that comes out of actual play, even if it makes me sad to have missed the session in which our gnomes moved into the spotlight.

  2. 2 James_Nostack
    March 26, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    I still kinda think using the M-U’s advancement table is a little harsh. These buggers can see in the dark, have Open Locks (only up to Level 8) and Find Traps (only up to Level 8) (I have never seen anyone use Pick Pockets in play, so I’m discounting it completely), have bad combat values, and cast many of the least-desired spells in the game at Lvl -1.

    They ooze flavor! Definitely ooze flavor! But that’s an awfully steep climb. I think Fighter XP or even Cleric XP might be a better progression.

  3. 3 Bargle
    March 26, 2010 at 11:53 pm


    I hope you post that over in one of the sub forums at dragonsfoot.org

    on the subject of xp chart. Mu is quite generous considering the elf costs 5k to reach 2nd level. I would make it 4k to level. Demi humans are supposed to cost more than humans. Give the gnome d6 hit points and the same fighting ability as the halfling and youre good.

  4. 4 Chris Newman
    March 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    i think i know what race my pc will be after Chrystos bites the dust!

  5. March 27, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    My two cents: M-U progression is about right. They’re basically a M-U/Thief missing a few skills and the Big Guns of D&D M-Us (ie Sleep, Charm, Fireball, etc).

  6. 6 James
    March 28, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Cr0m, that’s exactly right! However, I think that what they’re giving up (the best MU spells, and the “goofy” ones at a level behind) isn’t counterbalanced by giving them 2.5 Thief skills plus Infravision.

    On consideration, I think the MU XP progression is appropriate, but they should have the Saves of Dwarf or Halfling. And maayyyyyybe the Halfling’s attack progression, simply because the Saves decrement every 3 levels and it would be symmetrical to have the THAC0 decrement at the same pace. I think with those changes it would be a reasonably attractive class.

  7. March 29, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Thanks to everyone for the helpful comments!

    I see the value in improving the gnome’s saving throw progression. I think the elf’s saving throws make more sense than halfling/dwarf, however, for a magically oriented multi-class demihuman. Improved fighting ability doesn’t suit the concept, but I think the halfling’s bonus to AC against large enemies is a good fit. I think these changes will mesh well with the class as written.

  8. 8 James_Nostack
    March 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Yeah, I think that would hit the spot.

  9. March 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    On further consideration, I notice that the monster stat block for the gnome in the Red Box rules says that gnomes use the dwarf’s saving throw table (who knew that Red Box monsters used the PCs’ saving throw tables?). The by-the-book gnome is more of a fighty type than this variant, with no ability to use spells. Nonetheless, it provides strong support for giving the gnome the dwarf’s saving throws.

  10. 10 Lord Bodacious
    March 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Snickwick just got a UP-GRAAADE. Well played ye Holmescrafters.

  11. 11 Lord Bodacious
    April 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Okay, so a couple of thoughts/extensions here – might get a bit campaign specific with some of the houserules, but what the hell, it’s Friday.

    1. Can Gnomes use magic items like a Magic User? I would say generally yes, assuming it’s not something excessively complex (i.e. requiring additional rituals, knowledge or spellcraft). So most wands would be a go, most scrolls a no, and more fiddly items would require some DM adjucation and/or .

    2. Using Dyson’s 2d6 Thievin’ Rules- Do gnomes get a favored skill? I’d figure not, but may as well consider any Gnomish implications to these rules. (http://redbox.wikidot.com/thief-skills)

    3. Would a gnome have any opportunity to research/carouse spells similar to an MU? Obviously it wouldn’t add to current spells – but possibly a modification to existing spells, or an influence on spells gained next level?

    4. Movement and damage – do gnomes take a hit to either because of their littleness? i.e. does a gnomish short sword do less damage than a big’un? How about a warhammer? crossbow? I would assume this is ruled similar to Halflings, but not sure if there is any call on this by RAW.

    Anyway, just love the class.

  12. April 3, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Good questions!

    1) That’s tricky, as there are lots of ways to handle this. I’m thinking that gnomes use magic-user items the way a 10th level thief uses magic-user scrolls: with a 10% chance of a backfire of some sort.

    2) Since we’re stacking a house rule on top of a house rule, I don’t see any need to make a general ruling. For my own game, allowing a favored skill seems reasonable and generous, especially given that you’ll always be a level behind a proper thief.

    3) Nope, gnomes can’t research new spells. Carousing ‘tweaks’ to existing spells could be fun, though, especially when I think about what might happen if you fail your carousing save!

    4) It’s ruled in the exact same way as halflings.

    And of course I’m glad to hear of your affection for the gnome! I’m sure he loves you too.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

March 2010

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