Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

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Shannon
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Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Shannon » Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:45 am

Top Ballista of course provides much detail about gnomes as player-characters, and I expect most of us use those rules, but the Rules Cyclopedia has a very minor notes on pp. 292 - 294 (blink and you'll miss them) in amongst comments about converting between Mentzerian Dungeons & Dragons and Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for gnomes. This very spartan template has gnomes advancing just as halflings do, but with the abilities to find traps and use infravision as dwarves do, as well as slightly different languages.

I'm curious if anyone has ever used these guidelines from the Cyclopedia for gnomes, and, if so, how they worked, how you reckon they compare to the more detailed options in Top Ballista, etc.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by firebee » Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:16 pm

I use the Gnome class from the Companion Expansion. The Gomes are basically Fighter-Illusionists similar to how the Elves are Fighter-Magic Users.
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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Irondrake » Sat Feb 09, 2019 12:39 am

I have not used the version presented in the Rules Cyclopedia, but I am currently using the version from PC2 Top Ballista. The only issue I had was trying to equate when the gnome would be eligible for weapon mastery training.

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by AxesnOrcs » Sat Feb 09, 2019 2:23 pm

Looks like my rewrite of the Top Ballista gnomes to B/X ended up pretty similar to the RC optional rules on conversion, front-loading abilities and using advancment from similar classes. In my case it was as halflings with equipment restrictions as thieves. As I specifically converted sky gnomes they had different abilities with similar chances for success to dwarven detect abilities.

Last time I ran I was using LotFP and the only folks who wanted to play things other than book classes were playing homebrew classes from the internet, so I've not had anyone play gnomes.

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Shannon » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:39 pm

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 .xlsx file for ease of comparison and reference. This effort is the first I've attempted to embed a hyperlink in this forum or to use Google Drive, so please forgive me if I fail! https://drive.google.com/open?id=1CsHb1 ... gQJlbCixFz

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.
Observed Trends
  • 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.)

Thanks to those taking time and interest in a lengthy comment!

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Robin » Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:47 pm

Shannon wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:39 pm
magic-suers 90
Great Work ;)
very interesting :geek:

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Gravesguardian » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:25 am

I've always treated gnomes more akin to dwarves then hin so I say keep the d8 hit dice and 90' infravision

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Shannon » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:26 am

Gravesguardian wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:25 am
I've always treated gnomes more akin to dwarves then hin so I say keep the d8 hit dice and 90' infravision
I agree gnomes are more dwarvish than anything, but ... even though they are so much smaller? I always reckon hit dice should reflect size to a large extent, absent very magical creatures of energy or some such. Hit dice should also, though, reflect the extent to which physical combat (vs. magic, stealth, and such) are the raison d'etre. Hence, sticking to humanoids (excluding giants) available as player-characters:
  • Wood imps, kobolds, leprechauns, sprites, fauns, magic-users, and thieves use d4 – the first five are small beings and the latter five are primarily spellcasters and sneaks, not inclined to have a go at melee (if they know what's good for them).
  • Pixies and brownies (d8) are small, but they are also meant to be physically martial.

  • Fighters, dwarves, lizard men, cay-men, gator men, kna, harpies, phanatons, kopru, merrow, chameleon men, shark-kin, tritons, orcs, trolls, ogres, gnolls, hobgoblins, and bugbears are large and equipped to mix it up in melee. Goblins and cay-men are an exceptions, being small (though mainly fighting sorts!) but using d8 (though with negative modifiers for goblins; likewise hobgoblins, bugbears, ogres, and trolls get positive modifiers.)

  • Halflings, mystics, elves, druids, and clerics split the difference (d6). Halflings are decent fighters but small, and the others rely as much on special abilities or magic as they do upon direct combat. Arguably, tritons might should be thus, being very similar to elves or clerics in combining spells and fighting prowess.
  • Sidhe sensibly get d4 if rogues, d8 if warriors.

  • The most glaring exceptions to this trend are woodrakes (sneaks), nagpa (spellcasters), dryads (spellcasters), and faenare (spellcasters) oddly, get d8 despite being not especially suited for melee. Likewise the small, not especially pugnacious nixies, tabi, and gremlins get d8.
Do you or others agree with this logical framework? If so, a question becomes "how suited to melee are gnomes?" (their size is pretty objectively fixed!). They are inarguably loser to halflings and such in size. Perhaps perversely, the Cyclopedia model makes gnomes better suited to melee but gives them lesser hit dice, whilst the Top Ballista treatment gives them more magical and special powers, and less potency in combat but more hit points.

I agree gnomes are temperamentally and intrinsically more dwarvish than they are like halflings, but I also think they are more like halflings in size (well, that's objectively indisputable) and in their lesser affinity for melee and greater reliance on special abilities. I guess I cannot help but think that – ironically! – if we make them the more martial sorts of the Cyclopedia it makes most sense to give them the d8 progression, whereas as emphasising their special powers as in Top Ballista makes them more suitable for the d6 progression. What's the case for making gnomes have d8 despite being small and (in Top Ballista at least) not primarily fighting sorts? Are they just to be added to the other oddballs (tabi, gremlins, and nixies)?

*Please note I use "spellcasters" and "sneaks" loosely and as a kind of shorthand to include spell-like powers and general reliance on stealth, wiles, missile combat, and such.

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Gravesguardian » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:40 am

If Hin were building Earthshakers like the Gnomes, I'ld say give Hin a d8 too. I've always thought w/ Gnomes being more mechical engineer-types, it helps explain the higher HD.

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Shannon » Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:01 am

Gravesguardian wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:40 am
If Hin were building Earthshakers like the Gnomes, I'ld say give Hin a d8 too. I've always thought w/ Gnomes being more mechical engineer-types, it helps explain the higher HD.
Hmmm. So maybe, like sidhe, gnomes could follow two tracks, with the conventional gnomes (as I'm using that term) getting d6 and the skygnomes and others getting d8 for being "mechanically inclined?" I don't know, though, because while that follows from your logic, it actually makes things less balanced for games, since the mechanically inclined ones are also the ones with more special abilities but less fighting prowess. I guess I am hung up on the idea conventional, subterranean gnomes, being sturdier, should have both more hit points and better fighting prowess, while the mechanically inclined (skygnomes or builders of Earthshaker and such) would have less hit points and less fighting prowess. It balances play better, but it also seems natural: mining and digging in burrows would make one doughtier, I reckon, than building contraptions in a laboratory or workshop, which seems to me a more intellectual pursuit. All the mechanical engineers I know are not going to become boxing champions any time soon, you see what I mean? Whereas I would not want to get into a brawl with a typical miner. But maybe you are emphasising more the smelting and casting and hefting heavy machinery about? I do suppose working at forges makes for burliness. I guess I just envision gnomes as the sorts who would achieve anyhting like that via a convoluted system of pulleys, block, and tackle than by main strength (which would seem more the approach of, say, dwarves or fire giants in my imagination). Do others envision gnomes as tough toilers at smelting and forging and so on (as you do, if I understand you correctly), or as using technology to make that kind of work easier via mechanical advantage? It's a tough nut to crack and I had better shut up and hope more people chime in to offer the solutions I seek to ease my doubts. Thanks very much for your perspective!

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Irondrake » Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:43 am

Shannon wrote:
Sat Feb 09, 2019 11:39 pm

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.
Shannon,
Excellent work compiling all the information between the different versions of the gnome class! An impressive feat to be sure!

I pretty much stayed with the same weapon mastery rules for gnomes as for other demi-humans, even though gnomes from Top Ballista begin at NM level and not 1st level, so they technically have to advance 5 levels to get WM while a dwarf only has to advance 4 levels for a WM slot. I have gnomes able to attain a new weapon mastery training slot at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, etc, then every 300,000 XP after 36th level (I use 300,000 XP for new weapon mastery slots after 36th or maximum level for all character classes in my campaign; 200,000 seems to low to me). I had not thought about whether gnomes should get the magic resistance ability like dwarves do at higher levels, so I'm glad you brought it up. Gives me something to think about.

I do wish the gnome class from Top Ballista was built like the other demi-human classes with level limits and attack ranks, but I'll work with what is provided in that source book. I actually have a gnome NPC in my D&D campaign right now (he's 2nd level), and he works well with the other PC classes.

As for the version of the gnome class presented in the RC, I think the RC author, Aaron Allston, just worked up a quick version by likening them to halflings without giving the class a lot of serious thought. That's why I'm inclined to stick with (and slightly modify) the Top Ballista gnome class for my campaign.

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Gravesguardian » Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:53 pm

Shannon wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 3:01 am
Gravesguardian wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:40 am
If Hin were building Earthshakers like the Gnomes, I'ld say give Hin a d8 too. I've always thought w/ Gnomes being more mechical engineer-types, it helps explain the higher HD.
Hmmm. So maybe, like sidhe, gnomes could follow two tracks, with the conventional gnomes (as I'm using that term) getting d6 and the skygnomes and others getting d8 for being "mechanically inclined?" I don't know, though, because while that follows from your logic, it actually makes things less balanced for games, since the mechanically inclined ones are also the ones with more special abilities but less fighting prowess. I guess I am hung up on the idea conventional, subterranean gnomes, being sturdier, should have both more hit points and better fighting prowess, while the mechanically inclined (skygnomes or builders of Earthshaker and such) would have less hit points and less fighting prowess. It balances play better, but it also seems natural: mining and digging in burrows would make one doughtier, I reckon, than building contraptions in a laboratory or workshop, which seems to me a more intellectual pursuit. All the mechanical engineers I know are not going to become boxing champions any time soon, you see what I mean? Whereas I would not want to get into a brawl with a typical miner. But maybe you are emphasising more the smelting and casting and hefting heavy machinery about? I do suppose working at forges makes for burliness. I guess I just envision gnomes as the sorts who would achieve anyhting like that via a convoluted system of pulleys, block, and tackle than by main strength (which would seem more the approach of, say, dwarves or fire giants in my imagination). Do others envision gnomes as tough toilers at smelting and forging and so on (as you do, if I understand you correctly), or as using technology to make that kind of work easier via mechanical advantage? It's a tough nut to crack and I had better shut up and hope more people chime in to offer the solutions I seek to ease my doubts. Thanks very much for your perspective!
My quoted remark didn't take into account the Gnome habit of using various systems, like block and tackle, to make some work easier. If we use the Dwarves from Gaz.6 as our blueprint: Normal Dwarf = d8 HD, Dwarf-Cleric = d6 HD. That would give Normal (underground) Gnomes a d8 HD and Skygnomes & Spellcasting gnomes a d6 HD; which I think would work better.

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:26 pm

firebee wrote:
Fri Feb 08, 2019 9:16 pm
I use the Gnome class from the Companion Expansion. The Gomes are basically Fighter-Illusionists similar to how the Elves are Fighter-Magic Users.
Good suggestion. I haven't used this version of the gnome in play yet, but I like what I read.

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Re: Gnomes as (Mentzerian) Player-Characters

Post by Havard » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:30 pm

I have a quick and dirty version of the Gnome based on the Elf Class posted [urlhttps://blackmoor.mystara.net/forums/viewtopic.php?p=26461#p26461]here[/url].

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