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Similarities and Differences between Gnomes and Halflings?

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Hello all. I eventually want to get together a group of friends and play Fantasy Hero with them. I'd like to play one of the small folk, because I like the idea of the "tiny but mighty" sort of character, so I like the gnomes and halflings. But seeing all the different versions of fantasy RPGs like D&D, Pathfinder, and so on, can you all please tell me a concise and consistent comparison between gnomes and halflings? What they are more or less like, their pastimes and combat tactics, and their boons and banes. I'd like to have info encompassing many different versions of other fantasy RPGs to give me a solid idea. Any help? Thanks. :)

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There are a few settings that come to mind:

Gnomes tend to be closer to the Dwarfs and Dwarfen stuff.
In D&D they dig Deeper and are better suited for mining life (Darkvision). They are know to be tinkerers as well. As well as often Cooks with good nose and Illusion Mages:

https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Gnome#content

 

Warcraft Gnomes are similarily known to be Tinkerers and live closer to dwarfs
http://wowwiki.wikia.com/wiki/Gnome


The Looking for Group Gnomes are equally tinkerers (that setting is reminiscent of World of Warcraft, however).

 

Halflings tend to be closer to the Elves. They are better suited to live aboveground:
Better Agility. Really good a Stealth. Possibly the Elven bonus sight.

https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/Halfling#content

Warhammer Halflings share the Thivery part:

http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Ratling

 

Shadowrun has both Halfling and Gnome as a localised Subtype of Dwarf, but only the Gnomes are a canon subtype:
http://shadowrun.wikia.com/wiki/Halfling
http://shadowrun.wikia.com/wiki/Gnomes

And interstingly Shadowrun Gnomes are again Tinkerers, this time by nessesity (needing drones to work in the world).

 

Apparently Gnome comes from Folklore:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnome
"The word comes from Renaissance Latin gnomus, which first appears in the Liber de Nymphis, Sylvanis, Pygmaeis, Salamandris, et Gigantibus etc. by Paracelsus, published posthumously in Nysa in 1566 (and again in the Johannes Huser edition of 1589–1591 from an autograph by Paracelsus).

The term may be an original invention of Paracelsus, possibly deriving the term from Latin gēnomos (itself representing a Greek γη-νομος, literally "earth-dweller"). In this case, the omission of the ē is, as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) calls it, a blunder. Paracelsus uses Gnomi as a synonym of Pygmæi and classifies them as earth elementals. He describes them as two spans high, very reluctant to interact with humans, and able to move through solid earth as easily as humans move through air.[3][4]

The chthonic, or earth-dwelling, spirit has precedents in numerous ancient and medieval mythologies, often guarding mines and precious underground treasures, notably in the Germanic dwarfs and the Greek Chalybes, Telchines or Dactyls.[2]"

 

While Halfling is pretty much a Scottisch/Tolkien/D&D Invention:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halfling
"
Originally, halfling comes from the Scots word hauflin, meaning an awkward rustic teenager, who is neither man nor boy, and so half of both. Another word for halfling is hobbledehoy or hobby. This usage of the word pre-dates both The Hobbit and Dungeons & Dragons.[4] The German surname Helbling has a similar origin. "

 

 

So if you have both Gnomes and Halflings:
The Tinkerer role definitley goes to the Gnomes.
The miner role goes to the Gnomes. Being underground is part of their Etymology.
While the thief role definitely goes to the Halfling.

Cooking and healthy eating can go to Halfling (Warhammer, Tolkien) or Gnomes (D&D). Just pick who has less.
If you got Elves or Dwarves together with Halflings and Gnomes, put the Halflings closer to Elves and the Gnomes closer to Dwarf, but not exclusively to them. They are kind of a middle thing between those extremes and average Humans.

 

Edit: Looking at D&D again, it seems as if Tolkien Hobbit was split into Gnome and Halfling. There are many similarties: Eating healthy, walking barfoot, hairy feet. Gnomes are good at Illusion Magic (like the one Ring), while Halflings are good Thieves (like Bilbo). That gave them some leverage to put more of the Classical Gnome features into the Gnome.

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Based entirely off the fuzzy amalgamation of fiction, gaming, and mythology in my head, I would classify gnomes as small underground elves with facial hair, and halflings as non-magical, highly agile dwarves without facial hair.  To break down the distinctions further:

 

Elves: High magic, agility; low strength, facial hair

Dwarves: High strength, facial hair; low agility, magic

Gnomes: High magic, facial hair; low size, strength, agility

'Flings: High agility; low magic, size, facial hair

 

This proves that facial hair is a critical consideration when balancing races for game purposes.

 

 

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Yes, I consider gnomes largely a "fifth wheel" of Fantasy races.

 

Unless you go by Paracelsus, who called his earth elemental spirits "gnomes." The others were sylphs (air), undines (water) and salamanders (fire).

 

Huh. I'm rather tempted now to try writing up all four as PC-capable races with elemental powers. Can't imagine what campaign it would be, though.

 

I've grudgingly allowed something close to "official" D&D gnomes into my upcoming 5th ed campaign, because I'm trying to use more of the official material than in my 3e campaign. But I've made gnomes a subrace of halflings who are interbred with celestial spirits (chiefly those of Mercury, for the magical aptitude -- sorry, WotC, I still can't force myself to use alignment-based Outer Planes), the way tieflings are partly descended from fiends.

 

A bit off track, there. I'll stop now.

 

Dean Shomshak

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The Turakian Age, Hero Games' setting book for a Tolkien-esque, D&D-ish world, includes most of the familiar races, classes, and tropes from similar settings, including Halflings and Gnomes, with Hero character templates (for 5E). However, in this setting Gnomes were originally the product of mating between Halflings and Dwarves who were able to breed true and so developed into their own separate race. In their attributes they essentially split the difference between their two parent species. From TA p. 42:

 

"Gnomes usually take mostly after their dwarven parent, with craggy faces (especially as they age) and beards, and they often live underground. They prefer hilly or forested regions (or, better still, hilly forests), where they expand natural cave formations or dig their own halls and chambers. They also share the Dwarves' love for the crafts of the hand, and sometimes their greed as well.

 

On the other hand, like Halflings, Gnomes usually have pleasant dispositions; they appreciate the value of a good jest, a clever turn of phrase, or the comradeship of a friend. They enjoy good food and drink, and have a reputation as skilled brewers and distillers.

 

Gnomes can enter just about any profession, and mingle freely with other races. Gnomish warriors favor short swords, daggers, and similar weapons appropriate to their size; they lack the strength to make good use of the weapons Dwarves favor. Gnomes' dexterity and size allows many of them to become skilled, stealthy rogues. Compared to Dwarves or Halflings, Gnomes have a talent for magic; spell-casters occur much more commonly among Gnomes than among the other Short Folk. Alchemy, Earth and Fire Magic, Sorcery, and Thaumaturgy are all Arts they excel at."

 

TA's description of Halflings on p. 44 elaborates on their description above, but notes they're the smallest, weakest, and on average least adventurous, of the Short Folk. As a PC a Gnome would have nearly all the character-stat benefits of a Halfling, plus some of the abilities of a Dwarf, with lesser Halfling drawbacks (and thus a slightly more expensive template cost). They also share most of the positive Halfling personality traits. Between the two races as written, the Gnome would seem the superior choice to fill the kind of roles for an adventuring PC that a Halfling could, with more possibilities besides.

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12 hours ago, DShomshak said:

The others were sylphs (air), undines (water) and salamanders (fire).

That is intersting. Species 8472 in Star Trek Online was called "the Undine". I had no idea it and Gnomes were bothers to Sylphs and Salamanders.

Water fits, as in this time they had decent shapechanging powers.

 

Edit: And of course water also fits because they are from "Fluidic Space"

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Halflings (Hobbits) are the most like humans if all the demihumans. They can be both Reincarnated & Resurrected. Tend to be over weight. Lives w/in civilized lands. Very predictable. Good at throwing things. Stealthy. A new race not known by all other races. Hairy feet. Cooking is a big deal.

 

Gnomes (Smurfs) live in the wilderness. They are elemental. Wise. Great illusionists & tricksters. The smallest of the demihumans. Biggest noses. Gemcutting is a big deal. Talking to animals is huge. I think they might only Reincarnate. 

 

The souls/spirits of both halflings & gnomes often go to Bitopia (the Twin Paradises) when they die -- a celestial outer plane between the Seven Heavens (LG) & Elysium (NG). 

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I guess it depends on the world you're talking about.  For example, neither are player races in my fantasy world -- there are no "hobbits" at all and gnomes are tiny earth elemental creatures.  D&D has both but aside from their size, there's no similarity at all.  Tolkien didn't have gnomes so there wasn't any to compare to.

 

It comes down to the gaming world, what the GM/originator thinks, and how they are portrayed.

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I will try to make a better structured summary:

 We have culturally historical information on the Gnome. The first Documentation is from Paracelsus 1566, however it might have been based on older Mythological ideas like (germanic) Dwarfs and 3 Greek entities: Chalybes (real life Smith culture), Telchines(Metalworkers. Raised Poseidon) and Dactyls(Metalworkers and Healing Magicians; worked for Hephaestus). They were geenrally considred "earth Spirits" or "earth Elementals", similar to Sylphs (Air), Undine (Water), Salamanders (Fire). Living underground is a common trait.

 

Halfling has some precedence in Scotish Mythology, but seems largely a "legally disticnt" spelling for Hobbit invented by the D&D makers. And Hobbit in Tolkiens meaning was pretty much invented by Tolkien. So for Halfling/Hobbit is pretty much something that Tolkien invented. There are some other uses, they usually focus on the "half" part: half-grown, half-elf.
So for Halfling you only have sources since Tolkien and many sources on this mean "half-blood" or something else focussed on the "half" part.

 

The only source I could find having both Halflings and Gnomes was D&D, wich pretty much invented the Halflings as "legally distinct from Hobbit".

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On ‎11‎/‎2‎/‎2017 at 7:33 PM, DShomshak said:

Yes, I consider gnomes largely a "fifth wheel" of Fantasy races.

 

 

 

Dean Shomshak

 

But it's fun to play Gnomes!

 

(To the tune of "Sunny Came Home")

 

It's fun to play Gnomes raiding crypts and tombs

It's fun to play Gnomes raiding kitchens

I opened a book with some fun new rules

It's fun to play Gnomes, they're bewitchin'!

 

They're about so high and I don't know why

Nothing else is quite the same;

I close my eyes and fly out of my mind

Into the game

 

Grab the dice and hit the dungeon

Little legs just keep on trudgin'

We're not Dwarven, we're not Elven,

Gnomes are goin', dungeon delvin'

 

They're about so high and I don't know why

But they won't grow any higher;

I know they're small and that they're not tall, but still

I find much to admire.

 

 

1 hour ago, Christopher said:

I will try to make a better structured summary:

 We have culturally historical information on the Gnome. The first Documentation is from Paracelsus 1566, however it might have been based on older Mythological ideas like (germanic) Dwarfs and 3 Greek entities: Chalybes (real life Smith culture), Telchines(Metalworkers. Raised Poseidon) and Dactyls(Metalworkers and Healing Magicians; worked for Hephaestus). They were geenrally considred "earth Spirits" or "earth Elementals", similar to Sylphs (Air), Undine (Water), Salamanders (Fire). Living underground is a common trait.

 

Halfling has some precedence in Scotish Mythology, but seems largely a "legally disticnt" spelling for Hobbit invented by the D&D makers. And Hobbit in Tolkiens meaning was pretty much invented by Tolkien. So for Halfling/Hobbit is pretty much something that Tolkien invented. There are some other uses, they usually focus on the "half" part: half-grown, half-elf.
So for Halfling you only have sources since Tolkien and many sources on this mean "half-blood" or something else focussed on the "half" part.

 

The only source I could find having both Halflings and Gnomes was D&D, wich pretty much invented the Halflings as "legally distinct from Hobbit".

 

 

Hobbit: Don't call me a Halfling! I'm not half of anything!

Human: My height

Hobbit: I'm not half your height! You're twice MY height!

 

I have always thought a group of people calling themselves "Halfling" seemed about as likely as for Humans to go around calling themselves "Twicers" because they're twice as tall as some people.

 

Actually, we do have at least one use of the word "Hobbit" prior to Tolkien, in the 19th century "Denham Tracts" but it's not very informative, just listing them among numerous other types of "Faerie creatures." However, it is pretty obviously a diminutive of "Hob" as in "Hobgoblin" and we DO have more information about Hobs, including references to living in holes. There's even a charm to cure a coughing child that involves calling on the "Hobhole Hob."

 

Personally, I don't understand confusing Hobbits and Gnomes. I could understand confusing Gnomes and Dwarves; "Gnomes are very similar to Dwarves, whom they resemble" as I remember reading in the basic boxed set of D&D that introduced them not as player character options but as something to be encountered.

 

Lucius Alexander

 

I can understand confusing a palindromedary and a backandforthtrian

 

 

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Lucius said:

I have always thought a group of people calling themselves "Halfling" seemed about as likely as for Humans to go around calling themselves "Twicers" because they're twice as tall as some people.

That is what the people inventing "Gay" and "Nigger" as a insult thought too. Look where we are now.

Halflings are a often overlooked Minority group (pun fully intended), so it would not be odd for them to "take" a former insult as their world.

 

Also there are enough ways to put a positive spin on the "half the size" part. Terry Pratchet small species have a distinct advantage from needing much less space to rent. While having "normal amounts of agression, that are just more concentrated". Fun, coolness, genius - all stuff more awesome in a smaler package.

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3 hours ago, Lucius said:

I have always thought a group of people calling themselves "Halfling" seemed about as likely as for Humans to go around calling themselves "Twicers" because they're twice as tall as some people.

 

At least in the Turakian Age setting the name is justifiable. The Halfling race was largely displaced from their original home territories by migrating Men, who took the best land for themselves. The Halflings weren't strong enough to resist, and many were killed (which led to a cultural predilection for stealth and concealment). For the most part they now live among communities of Men and are subject to their rulers. There are a few places with larger concentrations of Halflings, but none are truly autonomous. So the humanocentric name is implicitly something the majority applied to them. (The D&D game world of Mystara gave the race a name they call themselves, "Hin.")

 

One other interesting note from TA: the kingdom of Khrisulia is a hilly/mountainous region first settled by hardy, independent-minded people. Their population includes a high percentage of Halflings, who are more rugged and outdoorsy than most of their kind. They refer to themselves as, "Mountain Halflings." I always thought this would be a particularly good place for an adventurous Halfling to have come from.

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Checking Wikipedia reminds me that L. Frank Baum had the nomes (he dropped the silent 'g') as a subterranean race in the Oz books. The Nome King Reggedo (or sometimes Roquat) was an ongoing villain.

 

Gnomes were also used in fairy stories as subterranean, often ugly, counterparts of the airy, beautiful fairies. Overall though, the literary background seems a bit scant.

 

Largely thanks to Tolkien, elves, dwarves and halflings/hobbits/whatevers are firmly placed in the Generic Fantasy Warehouse. Gnomes are not. (Wikipedia tells me that at one point the Big T used "gnomes" as another name for the Noldor elves, but that got dropped by the time LotR reached publication.) All three of these Fantasy standards had abundant folklore precedent, though, which Tolkien drew upon. (As Lucious mentions, "hobbit" is just one of the very many names in the Denham Tracts list, but legends of people or humanoid spirits distinguished chiefly by their small size are extremely widespread.)

 

So I have to ask: Why bother with gnomes at all? Especially for Fantasy Hero? Unless you are specifically trying to make a campaign as D&D-like as possible for the convenience of players who expect this, gnomes aren't much more necessary a feature than, I don't know, dragonborn or tieflings.

 

And none of the races invented for D&D impress me very much. No slur intended against Gary Gygax or anyone else who worked on the game; they just aren't Tolkien.

 

If you want gnomes for whatever reason, I recommend doing as Tolkien did: Read up on the legends and create your own version from scratch. It will probably be better than anything you try to crib from another game.

 

 

Dean Shomshak

 

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For me in Fantasy games, I really can’t see using Halflings or Gnomes But again, that’s just me. I did toy with the idea of gnomes being a slang word that dwarves use for dwarves that behave more like other folk.

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Going back to the D&D Mystara gnomes for a moment, one thing that sets them apart is that they're gadgeteers. They're known for making a wide variety of techno-magical devices with something of a steampunk motif. This is different from dwarves, who are skilled craftsmen but whose enchanted artifacts are stylistically pre-industrial. Part and parcel of that is that Mystara gnomes are often played for whimsy.

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On 11/2/2017 at 3:45 PM, DancingBagel said:

Hello all. I eventually want to get together a group of friends and play Fantasy Hero with them. I'd like to play one of the small folk, because I like the idea of the "tiny but mighty" sort of character, so I like the gnomes and halflings. But seeing all the different versions of fantasy RPGs like D&D, Pathfinder, and so on, can you all please tell me a concise and consistent comparison between gnomes and halflings? What they are more or less like, their pastimes and combat tactics, and their boons and banes. I'd like to have info encompassing many different versions of other fantasy RPGs to give me a solid idea. Any help? Thanks. :)

 

There's a surprising amount more dark meat on Gnomes compared to a Halfling.

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In Pathfinder, Gnomes were once fey (they magically became "Humanoids" over the centuries so Paizo wouldn't have to rewrite Charm Person). It emphasizes the Illusion and Trickster elements of Gnomes from 2nd edition D&D. They also have wild anime hair colors because a short-folk with a green and red stripped locks of hair needed to be a thing. For fun I once ran a short Pathfinder campaign in a demi-plane called Bag (it was in a Bag of Holding) which was populated mostly by Gnomes, and worshiped "The Great Gnome" who created Bag.

 

Halflings are pretty much just short, agile, humans. in Pathfinder's core campaign setting they've been used as slaves by humanity for centuries in some places.

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You might also remember that JRRT wrote The Hobbit as a bedtime story for his kids. LOTR was written after that because people wanted a sequel to Hobbit. As I remember from his bio, he was quite apologetic to his publisher as LOTR was more of a sequel to Silmarillian than Hobbit. And Silmarillian hadn't even been published; it was just a pile of notes he started putting together whilst recovering in the hospital during WWI.

 

So my personal guess is that the hobbits were created to help his kids identify with the characters in the book. 

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13 hours ago, JohnBear said:

You might also remember that JRRT wrote The Hobbit as a bedtime story for his kids. LOTR was written after that because people wanted a sequel to Hobbit. As I remember from his bio, he was quite apologetic to his publisher as LOTR was more of a sequel to Silmarillian than Hobbit. And Silmarillian hadn't even been published; it was just a pile of notes he started putting together whilst recovering in the hospital during WWI.

 

So my personal guess is that the hobbits were created to help his kids identify with the characters in the book. 

 

Weird fat hairy-footed kids.

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