OSR: Class: Surly Gnome

Elf Wizards are the elfiest elves. All elves are beautiful, graceful, and charming, but elf wizards have special tools that let them be... more elfy.

Gnomes... well, gnomes have a different thing going on.

I didn't define the races in my campaign. Every time someone rolled up a slugling or a ratling or whatever, I asked them about their race. What they looked like. Who they hated. What they did for fun. That's how I ended up with these gnomes.

They say that in happier times gnomes made shoes for poor cobblers and brought back lost sheep. These days, anyone who lets a gnome into a shoe-shop overnight is going to wake up to no shoes, no valuables, and no furniture, and the gnomes will eat any sheep they can get.

Gnomes are from The Borders, a troublesome region between Around Here and Foreign Parts. Nobody's sure who owns it, but invading armies pass through on a regular basis to try and find out. The entire region is lawless. In this chaotic environment, there are only two ways to survive. If you are rich and powerful and secure you can build a stone fortress and fill it with armed soldiers. Anyone with a castle can rule ten miles in any direction, but castles are constantly being built, demolished, and stolen. For everyone else, there's no point in ostentatious displays. Life is too short and uncertain. Houses are built from sod and stone and sticks. Tear them down and they can be rebuilt in a few hours. Wealth is a liability; improving the land invites invasion and slaughter.

Cessford Castle, near Whitton, Scotland

Gnomes thrive because:
1. They'll fight anyone who isn't a gnome.
2. They'll fight gnomes too, actually.
3. Lower building material costs (the really big ones are 2' high, 3' with the hat).
4. Magic.

Most people don't think of their digestive tract as magical, but it is. Gnomes have magic that's just slightly more obvious than producing acid elementals from nothing. It's part of their souls and structure. If a gnome holds its breath, closes its eyes, and stands still, it turns invisible. This immensely useful in evading pursuit, justice, and boring social engagements.

They are a fractious, squabbling, disreputable bunch. Most races are extremely diverse; there aren't enough gnomes to have fully differentiated cultures. The vast majority live in the Borders, just as their ancestors did, and fight the same feuds in the same hills and valleys. They wear good sturdy boots and a protective layer of grease, crumbs, and dirt. A gnome who kills someone earns the right to wear a red pointy hat. The vast majority of male gnomes wear the bloodkaps; about two thirds of female gnomes do as well. The Borders are a violent place where few niceties from civilized lands are observed. Gnome names are elaborate, like "Twofinks Springwhistle", but can sometimes be a bit crude, like "Longshanks Shitbritches" or "Bisbick Blistercrotch". Gnomes don't mix well in polite society.

And that's it, really. Gnomes can be Fighters or Wizards or any other class. There might even be gnomes in Foreign Parts (perish the thought!)

But every so often, a gnome comes along who is the gnomiest gnome to ever roam the loam.
Competitors, Jakub Rozalski

Class: Surly Gnome

Prerequisite: you must be a Gnome. You cannot choose Template A from this class unless you have Template A from another class (so, effectively, you can't enter this class until you are 2nd level).

A: Brawler, Feck Off!
B: Powerful Hat
C: Gnome Rage, Truculence.


Your unarmed attacks deal 1d4+Strength Bonus damage. For the purposes of grappling and shoving combat maneuvers, your Strength is increased by 2.

Feck Off!
If you pass a Save vs Fear, you may immediately make an attack against whatever caused you to Save. You can use a weapon, a spell, a thrown object, your fists, etc. You cannot draw a weapon or prepare an item before attacking; it must be immediate.

Powerful Hat
Once per day, you can remove your red felt cap and use it to negate an incoming ranged attack. The target must be you, an adjacent ally, or the area you are standing in. The arrow, spell, flying rock, etc. vanishes into your hat. Write down everything your hat eats. When you die, it will all come spraying back out.

Gnome Rage
You gain +1 attack per round if you are attacking with a dagger or your bare fists. Other suitably close-and-personal weapons may be acceptable.


You are immune to any spells or effects that would alter your natural disposition, goals, or views, from charm spells to total perspective vortices.

Mechanical Notes on the Surly Gnome

The cubed-squared law gives you a bonus to fighting things. You're not that great at it, and unarmed fighting is still dangerous as hell, but you come from a culture where you brawl with your siblings before you can walk. It's a hardscrabble life. You're not an honorable fighter; you'll take any advantage, use any handhold, and stab any exposed flesh you can see. Your hat gives you a defensive bonus, but mostly, this class is just flavour and a few bonuses to leaping onto a table and punching someone in the throat.


  1. Can you make up a Doozer class?


  2. Any Nac Mac Feegle inspiration here?

    1. A little, but they're both drawn from the same well.