Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Gnome as Consolation

I've been thinking about adding a race/class to my Old School Players system that's a consolation for rolling no exceptional, 13+ ability scores. My recent thoughts about magical dabbling and random spellcasting gave rise to this: the Gnome.

Illus. by Arthur Rackham
Gnomes are small, furtive, hairless folk, the descendants of Earth who failed to choose Good (as the dwarves did) or Evil (as the kobolds did). Long ago, they were employed by the great sorcerers of the day as helpers, which may explain why they retain some tradition of magic.

A player may choose the gnome character class only if none of the character's initially rolled ability scores are 13 or greater.

Gnomes' hit die is 1d6, no bonus. They are small, with a maximum move of 9. They have +1 to attack with missile weapons. They have starting equipment as a rogue.

1    Attack +0, Skill points 4, Magic points 1, Mind save 15, Speed save 13, Body save 11, Spell (level 1, see below)
2    Skill points 5, Speed save 12, Magic points 2
3    Attack +1, Skill points 6, Mind save 14, Magic points 3, Spell (level 2)
4    Skill points 7, Body save 10, Speed save 11, Magic points 4
5    Attack +2, Skill points 8, Mind save 13, Magic points 5, Spell (level 3)
6    Skill points 9, Body save 9, Speed save 10, Magic points 6
7    Attack +3, Skill points 10, Mind save 12, Magic points 7, Spell (level 4)

Beyond level 7, gnomes follow the same progression except they do not learn new spells.

Gnomes start with a known magical spell at level 1 that is chosen randomly, or at will if they have 1 or more ability scores at 7 or below*; multiple low scores beyond the first give extra 1st level spells known, rolled at random. To cast a spell, a gnome spends Magic points equal to the spell's level, and rolls d20 adding Intelligence + caster level x2 - spell level x2; a result of 20 or more is a success, otherwise the Magic points are spent without effect. A natural 1 is a critical failure, with negative effects determined by the DM; a natural 20 is a critical success (gnomes occasionally get some random insight from their half-witted approach to magic) and gives some bonus effect; a natural 13 is a mishap, and the gnome ends up successfully casting a different random spell of that level.

The concept of the gnome is to blend a slightly less competent version of the rogue with a dabbler's knack for spellcasting, which is always going to be rather random due to low ability scores. It's not meant to be "balanced" with the other classes but to provide a reason to play a set of mediocre stats in a fun and unique way.

* Think of it this way: their low ability score meant they spent time studying magic instead of doing other things growing up. Yes, this even applies to intelligence ... studying lots of spells instead of taking time to study them well.


  1. I totally love this solution for low stats. I plan on stealing it, but not for Gnomes. ;)

  2. Interesting 'solution' for unlucky players. I'll have to think about this idea some more. Thanks!

  3. Brilliant! Thank you sir.

    I don't know if I'll use your gnome, but I will definitely be making one or two "low stat only" species.

  4. I absolutely love this. Fantastic! Thanks for sharing. Now my juices are really flowing. PS: I think that someone created a class called "The Adventurer" that could only be entered into if your stats were sub-par. I bought it at RPGnow for a buck or two -- another cool consolation prize...

  5. I really like this idea of "consolation prize" for not having very good stats. :)

  6. Aye, I might steal this as well. Really cool.

  7. I'm totally stealing this concept as well