Gnomes from every part of Panzoasia tend to have deeply tanned complexions, with blue, green, or gray eyes. Male Gnomes have gray or white hair from birth, while Gnomish women (or Gnomides) have the same range of hair colors possible for Humans. Gnomes of both sexes stand about 3 feet in height. Male Gnomes typically have pot bellies, while female Gnomes tend to be pleasingly zaftig. A Gnome’s face is generally roundish, with the eyes, ears, and nose much larger in proportion than those of a human. Their lips are full and expressive, while their eyes are wide and round.
A Gnome considers their hat to be the most important article of clothing. A Gnomish hat can range from fanciful to bizarre in design – and can be almost as tall as its wearer! It is common for a Gnome to place objects under, or in, their hat. Gnomish hats of a practical nature include the large pincushions and baskets worn as headgear by many female Gnomes at home, and the Lantern Hat often worn by Gnomish adventurers. Gnomes considers themselves “exposed” if their heads are uncovered – and removing one’s hat is an expression of the strongest emotion. Although stereotypically associated with Gnomes, pointed hats without brims haven’t been fashionable since before the Reign of the Monsters.
Beyond their outrageous hats, Gnomes tend to dress in the most colorful and whimsical version of the local clothing. As footwear they prefer clogs, which are often fancifully decorated. Gnomes are also noted for their love of striped patterns. Among Gnome of the Ultimate West, formal wear always includes tassels and small bells sewn into the garments.
The Gnomish sense of humor is legendary, and they tend to make jokes even on serious occasions – particularly funerals. Unfortunately, since Gnomes are also more prone to actual insanity than any other People, it can be hard to discern whether a Gnomes strange behavior should be cause for laughter, or genuine concern. Among Gnomes, it is said that one must sometimes act crazy, to avoid going crazy.
Before the Invasions, the Gnomish people built and lived inside artificial earth mounds called Hollow Hills, or Tumuli. After the Invasions, they survived by hiding their homes behind magical illusions. They burrowed deeper, and formed a close alliance with the Saganic Gnomes of the Chthon. Traditionalist Gnomes continue to live inside Hollow Hills, but in modern times those places are far more open to the larger world.
Despite the small stature of the inhabitants within, the burrows inside a Hollow Hill are always at least 6 feet to the ceiling. While Gnomes say that it is so even Humans feel welcome, the actual reason is to accommodate the tallest possible hats!
A respected Gnome is buried directly within the ground inside a barrow, without a coffin, and never with any valuable objects. A wicked Gnome, however, will be buried in an elaborate “dungeon” filled with tricks and puzzles intend to entertain their restless minds, and treasures to sate their undying greed. The tunnels will feature elaborate death-traps to keep out tomb robbers. When Gnomish engineers started to be employed by human wizards to create subterranean treasure vaults, they naturally relied upon such tombs as models.
About 60% of Gnomes are Good, and approximately 30% are Neutral. Lawful and Chaotic Gnomes represent just under 5% of the population each. Only about 1% of Gnomes are truly Evil.
Gnomes of the Ultimate West love fruitcake (which they sometimes call call “gemcake”) above all other foods. They regard it as the symbol of a life well-lived – enduring, very sweet, a little boozy, a little nutty, and filled with jewels! Western Gnomes will even bake fruitcakes in the shape of hats, periodically breaking off pieces for the occasional snack.
The favorite pastimes of Gnomes across Panzoasia are various forms of bowling, and other lawn sports.
Gnomes employ a special breed of four-horned sheep as their primary mounts and beasts of burden. Rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, badgers, and hedgehogs are the most popular animal companions among Gnomes, and such animals will roam freely within the burrows of every Hollow Hill. Cats, however, are generally hated and despised by Gnomes.
To a traveler from our Earth, the Western Gnomish language sounds vaguely like Dutch; Southern Gnomish seems to somewhat resemble ancient Aramaic; Eastern Gnomish is oddly evocative of Malay; and Northern Gnomish mildly suggests Finnish. Gnomes from one End of the Earth often have names typical of another, however. Each Gnomish language is written with its own alphabet.
Gnomish communities have always been governed democratically. A Traditional Hollow Hill is led by an elected Mayor, advised by a council of Elders. Traditionally, several Hollow Hills would be joined together in a “Commonwealth” headed by an elected Chancellor. Nowadays, in countries other than Auddisland, Chancellor is just a ceremonial position – and Hollow Hills function like any other communities within their respective nations.
Wherever they dwell with other Peoples, Gnomes predominate in the intellectual trades. They often become bureaucrats, sages, jewelers, bankers, engineers, local merchants, and toymakers. As everyone knows, the best gemcutters are Gnomish, but it is the hatter who holds a special place of honor among their tradesmen.