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Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Charactersby Shannon
Well, I did it: I went aggregated all the rules I could find about gnomes in both Top Ballista and the Rules Cyclopedia into a spreadsheet for ease of comparison and reference.
There are many interesting things which emerge and important things to note about my choices:
Philosophy & Methods
- I use the rules for demihumans to have thirty-six levels (I know many despise these rules and deem them dysfunctional!).
- I strived to keep the rules for gnomes from the Cyclopedia and Top Ballista distinct; my next work will be an effort, like AxesnOrcs', to reconcile all this information into what I reckon to be the best approach integrating all available rules.
- I approached the gnome under the Cyclopedia as what I call a conventional gnome (these are also the gnomes who are not skygnomes as those gnomes are described in Top Ballista): these are the gnomes who live underground, hang out with dwarves a good deal, etc.; they are the more conventional gnomes of the entry for gnomes as a monster and have a greater affinity to subterranean doings and less affinity for whacky machinery than the skygnomes.
- The gnomes of Cyclopedia have, presumably, the same prime requisites as halflings (dexterity and strength), whereas gnomes in Top Ballista have only one prime requisite (dexterity); similarly, the Cyclopedia would dictate that gnomes (like halflings) must have a minimum score of 9 in both dexterity and constitution, whereas Top Ballista requires only a minimum of 8 in dexterity and 6 in constitution.
- The Cyclopedia grants halflings infravision to sixty feet, but it's own entry for gnomes as monsters grants gnomes infravision to ninety feet, as does Top Ballista; given their subterranean roots, I reckon this is a case where the strict adherence to treating gnomes as halflings in almost all respects is an oversight by the Cyclopedia (the theme recurs for a few similar such details). I reckon all gnomes under either system should have infravision to ninety feet. Escpially since, as with similar details, it's not some grand enhancement to their powers.
- The gnomes of Cyclopedia are significantly weaker than those of Top Ballista; they've a maximum of 81 hit point (as opposed to 120!). By way of comparison, at thirty-sixth level clerics can have a maximum of 108, fighters 153, magic-suers 90, and thieves 117 hit points; thus, the Cyclopedia's gnomes are frailer than magic-users, whereas Top Ballista's gnomes are about as robust as thieves.
- The Cyclopedia's gnomes (perhaps paradoxically, given their hit points) are a tougher offensively than Top Ballista's gnomes. They gain the fighting options to parry, smash, and disarm, as well as multiple attacks, at higher levels just as dwarves do. I base this idea on the Cyclopedia's statement that gnomes "have the attacks and saving throws of dwarves" (Top Ballista states that gnomes save as dwarves, but makes no such statement about attacks, so presumably gnomes under that system use the more generic attack rolls of monsters with the concomitant hit dice. Certainly, adding the fighting options and multiple attacks to the other powers and higher hit points of Top Ballista's gnomes would make them potent indeed!
- The Cyclopedia's gnomes and Top Ballista's gnomes both save as dwarves; it's not explicitly stated in either case, but I reckon we should assume this means gnomes under either system should also gain the special resistance to halve and quarter damage from spells at higher levels.
- Unlike dwarves and elves, halflings gain no additional languages by dint of their race under the Cyclopedia – not even halfling(or hin, Lalor – however you want to slice that one; it can be a rabbit hole of its own, I know...). Construing the Cyclopedia's admonition in its optional rules for gnomes that they are treated like halflings in all ways save the few delimited exceptions, this would mean gnomes likewise suffer, but that would seem a silly way to construe matters, since the Cyclopedia itself gives gnomes (in their entry as monsters) additional languages. These languages match those explicitly granted to gnomes in Top Ballista: kobold, goblin, dwarvish, and gnomish. Top Ballista also grants gnomes knowledge of the halfling language and an ability to communicate with burrowing creatures (the latter for conventional gnomes only, not for skygnomes). It's probably not a big deal to allow all gnomes the more generous abilities with languages seen in Top Ballista; that approach seems the most sensible and unlikely to make gnomes unduly powerful.
- Like halflings, the Cyclopedia's gnomes gain a bonus (+1) with missile weapons, a bonus to armour class (-2) against foes larger than humans, and a bonus (+1) to individual initiative. Top Ballista's gnomes gain only a (slightly lesser) bonus to armour class (-1) against foes larger than humans. Are the superiour goodies from the Cyclopedia minor enough, like the languages from Top Ballista, that they can be granted to all gnomes under either system? I tend to think so.
- The biggest difference (besides the hit dice) is of course the many special powers of gnomes in Top Ballista: the powers to cast wall of Stone or Aerial Servant, and the bonuses to saving throws against earth-based or air-based attacks; the abilities to avoid falls, meddling, and the ability to make certain assessments about altitude, speed, and so on in flight seem relatively minor.
Presumably gnomes in either system can become wiccas or shamans (but not both!), and since the rules for this are easily added modularly, I don't bother much about them here. Note, though, that wiccas or shamans gain an additional prime requisite (intelligence or wisdom), which could perhaps lead to gnomes with three(!) prime requisites if we adopt both strength and dexterity as their prime requisites following the example of halflings in the Cyclopedia! In that case, I'd recommend a 5% bonus or penalty to experience points for any one – and a 10% bonus or penalty to experience points for any two or more – prime requisites outside the average, rather than any extrapolation to 15% modifiers for three extraordinary attributes, which begins to seem zany to me. The maths for multiple prime requisites are enough hassle as they stand....
Irondrake: I reckon by the book (i.e., according to the Cyclopedia) gnomes, like all demihumans, have basic ability with all weapons not precluded to them by their race and class (e.g., gnomes cannot of course wield lances or two-handed swords), but they gain one additional slot for mastery at levels four and eight, as well as another slot for every 200,000 experience points earned beyond maximum level. That last bit depends upon whether one permits gnomes to advance only to eight level (the limit for halflings) or to thirty-sixth. Under the first rubric, they'll be getting more slots for every 200,000 experience points gained after reaching eighth level; under the second rubric, strictly speaking, they get no more slots except for every 200,000 experience points gained after level thirty-six (their maximum level). Of course it can be argued they should get a new slot for every 200,000 experience points gained after reaching eighth level even if they are permitted to advance to thirty-sixth level, but I am inclined to follow the stingier interpretation, since permitting demihumans to advance to thirty-sixth level is already quite a boon for them.
Did you all fall asleep? I hope not. I'm hoping people have thoughts about this stuff; I am interested in which rules seem best, or how they might be combined optimally. What do people reckon about the substantial differences in experience points needed and hit points possible under the two systems? Should hit dice be 1d6 or 1d8? What about the bonuses to armour class, missile attacks, and melee against large foes? Should gnomes get the fighting options and multiple attacks? Can the special powers like casting Wall of Stone or Aerial Servant be given to gnomes under the Cyclopedia's system? What about saving throws? Should gnomes get the halved and quartered damage from spells available to dwarves, and the bonuses against either earth-based or air-based attacks and spells? Only some of these? Has any one made a similar comparative analysis using a limit of eighth level and attack ranks? Have you thoughts about weapon mastery?
Of course, the right answers are whatever one wants in one's own game, but friendly discussion and debate fosters otherwise overlooked aspects of differing approaches. For instance, why'd you decide to adopt the rules for thieves regarding equipment, Axesnorcs? (Top Ballista states that gnomes generally prefer leather armour for less restricted movement, but it permits an individual gnome any armour: chain mail may be worn without penalties, and bulkier armour, like plate mail, may be worn, but it imposes a -2 penalty to the gnome's dexterity.)