The deep gnomes are the closest thing the gnome family has to "black sheep." Many surface dwellers count the deep gnomes along with their evil neighbors, the Drow and Duergar, believing them to be little more than dark reflections of the friendly rock gnomes with whom they are more familiar. In fact, the svirfneblin are just as good-hearted as their sunnier kin. However, after centuries of dealing with the everyday perils of living in the Underdark, they have become understandably distrustful of outsiders.
Compared to their better-known kin, the rock gnomes, the deep gnomes are as gray and lifeless as the subterranean caverns in which they choose to make their homes. They keep to themselves out of fear of outsiders – a fear born from numerous poor experiences with such people. To a deep gnome, the only people you can trust are other deep gnomes from your village, and preferably from your family. All others are best avoided.
With strangers, most deep gnomes are sullen, reserved, and suspicious, almost to a fault. However, when they are alone with their own kind, they are friendly and respectful to each other. Few people from outside a svirfneblin community have ever seen this more pleasant side of the deep gnomes. For their part, the deep gnomes would be horrified to find themselves observed by outsiders, and they find such a person staring at them – or even looking directly at them – quite rude.
Deep gnomes are gnarled and callused folk, with little fat at all on their wiry bodies. Their skin is the color of the rocks among which they live, almost as if they sprung directly from the stones themselves. They have dark gray eyes, tending toward black. Their hair is of a similar color, although it's only seen on the woman, as the men are entirely bald and beardless.
Dour and cynical, deep gnomes are resigned to their lot in life. They spend their days scratching out a living in the subterranean passages near their home. The males mostly mine for precious gems, while the females – who are rarely seen outside their villages – gather food, care for the children, and keep house. Few aspire to do anything other than live out their lives quietly focusing on doing their jobs the best that they can.
The svirfneblin literally have little or no light in their lives. To avoid detection by others in the Underdark, they often refuse to use fire for cooking or warmth whenever possible. Instead, they rely on their darkvision whenever possible, seeing the world only in black and white. The deep gnomes live and work in the eternal darkness out of their overwhelming love for gems. Most males spend almost their entire lives trying to chip precious stones out of the earth. They favor rubies most of all.
Outsiders often think of deep gnomes as irredeemably sullen and suspicious. While there is some basis for this, these are the outward results of survival techniques that these gnomes have had to adopt to endure their harsh and unforgiving environment. Sounds of any kind – especially voices – travel in strange ways in the Underdark, and they have a tendency to attract visitors. In the experience of most deep gnomes, such outsiders have only the worst of intentions, so when a svirfneblin encounters a stranger who is actually friendly, she normally is too suspicious to even consider responding in a like manner. She may eventually warm to a svirfneblin from another town, but even that can take time.
While deep gnomes adventurers are rare, some deep gnomes succumb to gnomish curiosity about the world outside the caverns and mine shafts of their daily lives. This is especially true for those deep gnomes illusionists who crave to learn more about the nature of their chosen school of magic, but who lack for instruction in the insular villages in which they live. Svirfneblin prospectors are also occasionally encountered in the Underdark far from their homes, questing for promising new veins to mine for their beloved rubies.
Svirfneblin are rarely found outside their own society. When this does happen, it's usually a lone prospector, a solitary illusionist, or a group of warriors who have sturck out from their town for one reason or another. Typically deep gnomes only leave their home out of a deep and abiding curiosity about the outside world, a burning desire to find more rubies, or the need to find help for dealing with some creature or event the svirfneblin don't feel they can handle on their own. Svirfneblin adventurers are most commonly fighters, rangers, rogues, or wizards (particularly illusionists). Naturally stealthy, they find that the skills honed in surviving the dangers of the Underdark also serve an adventuring ranger or rogue well.
Deep gnome communities are subterranean settlements deep beneath the surface of Toril. The central part of the city is usually set in a single large cavern with all sorts of other caverns, rooms, and even buildings attached to the main section by a complex system of narrow corridors and spiraling staircases. When a town is first settled, the top-ranking members in the svirfneblin clan usually grab the largest stalagmites in the cavern and carve homes out of them. Most people, however, must carve their homes out of the cavern floor or walls.
For gnome communities, deep gnome towns are large, usually comprising around one thousand people. However, these places are normally far more isolated than even the most remote surface gnome town. Most svirfneblin go their entire lives without ever traveling to another deep gnome town, much less actually seeing daylight. Because of the relatively crowded conditions in a deep gnome town, svirfneblin families typically crowd into a single, small room. Children often stay with the family until they are married, at which point they need to either find or make a new home for themselves.
Deep gnome children are treasured greatly. It's rare for a family to have more then six children in it, and most have less than four. Deep gnome mothers dote on their children during their childhood. Once the children reach adolescence, they are immediately put to work in apprenticeships for whatever kinds of jobs they expect to have in adulthood. Deep gnomes don't celebrate the transition to adulthood the way their sunlit kin do. Instead, they know they've reached adulthood when they start working at the job of a real adult in earnest.
The great majority of male svirfneblin work in their town's mining operations, extracting precious gems and metals from the earth. Most of the rest spend their time processing and finishing the raw materials the others split from the earth. B contrast, female svirfneblin spend their time gathering and preparing food, raising children, and keeping house. There is a strict division of labor along the gender lines, and it's rare to see it crossed: the female gnomes rule in the home and the males outside it. Most deep gnomes work until they literally drop dead at their jobs. There is no concept of retirement in deep gnome society. Those who are able must pull their own weight as best they can, since no deep gnome wishes to be a burden on her family or community.
In keeping with the svirfneblin concept of equal division of labor, every svirfneblin town is governed by both a king and a queen, each of whom holds the position for life. The king oversees the community's mining operations and is responsible for managing the place's defense. The queen ensures that the town has an adequate stock of both food and water, and she handles the town's daily affairs. Each is supreme in his or her sphere, though each usually advises the other. The two are rarely married (at least, not to each other). When either monarch dies, the other chooses a successor for the deceased monarch by deciding on a contest that can be entered by any eligible member of the community. Usually eligibility is based on gender and status. The winner of the contest becomes the next monarch.
The staples of the deep gnome diet are a number of different kinds of fungi found or even farmed in the Underdark. To this, they sometimes add blind fish or occasionally a deep rothe, goat, or sheep. Svirfneblin do not often cook their food, preferring instead to preserve it by means of salting. These foods are so salty that most outsiders cannot stomach them.
Besides water, svirfneblin drink a salty, intoxicating brew made of fermented fish parts, which is best described as an acquire taste. On special occasions, they drink a wine called Gogondy, said to contain powdered ruby (among other mysterious ingredients).
Svirfneblin have only two holidays universally celebrated by all deep gnome communities, both in honor of Callarduran Smoothhands, their favored god. The Festival of the Ruby celebrates the mythical time when Callarduran hid rubies and other gems in the earth for the deep gnomes to find; it is considered a lucky day for seeking and finding. The Festival of the Star celebrates the continued protection the Deep Brother provides to the svirfneblin. Deep gnomes mark the holy day by assembling on the shore of a subterranean lake or pool to watch small patches of a specially bred species of phosphorescent fungi in the cavern roof light up like stars, creating an illusion of the night sky reflected in the water below. This ceremony reaffirms the deep gnome's ancestral ties with the surface world, and reassures them that they have not been abandoned in the deep places of the world.
While the deep gnomes of Toril may not be particularly devout as a group, they do have a full pantheon of deities they share with the other gnomes. Svirfneblin clerics often move among both miners and mothers, keeping up community spirits. When they think the time is ripe, they declare a holiday festival in honor of whichever god they feel is appropriate.
Callarduran Smoothhands, the Master of Stone, is the most popular among deep gnomes, many of whom spend their entire adult lives working in their town's mines. Callarduran taught the svirfneblin to summon and befriend earth elementals. Many deep gnome craftsmen work Callarduran's star insignia into their jewlery and other handiwork. They are careful not to use this theme with a golden ring, however, reserving that privilege to the god himself.
Although he is the patriarch of the gnome pantheon, few deep gnomes are drawn to the faith of Garl Glittergold. Garl's bright and sunny nature simply does not seem relevant to most svirfneblin. Some svirfneblin even feel that Garl had abandoned them in favor of their more cheery kin. Deep gnomes feel closer to Segojan Earthcaller, beloved by those deep gnomes (typically female) who keep pets or work with their few domesticated animals. The rare deep gnome ranger usually finds this god's way with nature to his taste as well.
No gnomes really care for Urlden, but he particularly frightens the svirfneblin. Tales of Urdlen's habit of attacking especially greedy deep gnomes just as they are about to grasp the most valuable gem ever seen are commonly told to young deep gnomes to keep them in line. Such parables also illustrate the number of quick and senseless deaths that await deep gnomes throughout the Underdark. Only constant vigilance against such threats does any good an, for encouraging them to always be alert, Urdlen has earned the deep gnomes' respect.
Relations with Other Races
Insular and suspicious, deep gnomes do not get along well with any other races. If forced to pick with whom they would rather keep company (outside other deep gnomes or no one at all), most deep gnomes would chose to associate with forest gnomes, and then rock gnomes. Beyond that, they might not mind gold dwarves or shield dwarves, or the occasional elf.
Svirfneblin do not have much feeling about any of the other standard character races, other than a general aversion to all of them. However, they have a deep and abiding hatred for drow and duergar. These two races, with whom the deep gnomes share the Underdark, have long been a thorn in the side of a people who would much rather just be left alone. Also, the evil tendencies of these races have led many surface dwellers to think that all who live in the Underdark are unrepentantly evil, a prejudice that frequently causes deep gnomes grief when they first encounter an ignorant intruder from the surface.
Creating New Character On Arelith
- +2 Con, -2 Str
- Favored class: Wizard
- Small Stature
- +1 size modifier to attack rolls.
- +1 size modifier to AC.
- +4 size bonus to hide checks.
- Hardiness vs. Illusions: +2 racial bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting spells.
- Offensive Training vs. Reptilians: +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against reptilian humanoids.
- Offensive Training vs. Goblinoids: +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears).
- Defensive Training vs. Giants: +4 dodge bonus to AC against giants.
- Skill Affinity (Listen): +2 racial bonus to listen checks.
- Skill Affinity (Concentration): +2 racial bonus to concentration checks.
- Spell Focus (Illusion): Gnomes add +2 difficulty class to any Illusion spells they cast. This counts as the feat so characters are able to select Greater Spell Focus (Illusion) at first level.
- Low-light Vision: Allows them to see better than normal in the dark.
- Favoured Class: Wizard
Svirfneblin believe that their survival depends on avoiding entanglements with other races, so they strongly favor neutral alignments. While they rarely wish others ill, neither are they especially willing to take risks on behalf of others.
- Retains all base racial abilities, except the stats change
- STR -2, DEX +2, WIS +2, CHA -4
- Hide +2
- Saving Throw Bonus (Universal) +2
- +1 AC (untyped)
- Spell-Like Abilities: 1/day Invisibility
- Spell Resistance: 11+level (Capped at 32)
- Skin: Mottled gray, brownish gray or dun-coloured. Colour of rocks among which they live.
- Eyes: Dark grey eyes, tending toward black
- Hair. Men are entirely bald and beardless. Females have hairs of the same colour as their eyes.
Adulthood: 20 years
Few live over 160 years, the lifespan is 250 years.
- Bonus language:
- Starting city: Andunor OR Brogendenstein
- Light-Sensitive Race, They are the oldest of the Underdark dwelling races, and as such have evolved to dwell exclusively in that world. While they may travel on the surface they are expected to role-play extreme trepidation about such an unfamilar environment. In bright daylight they suffer extreme physical discomfort, and will find their senses impaired by the experience.