Clever illusionists and sly practical jokers. Brilliant burglars and easygoing farmers.
Now The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings reveals the secrets of these two popular races - their culture, beliefs, and subraces (including two new subraces), as well as 28 new character kits, from the gnome Goblinsticker to the halfling Forestwalker.
If you enjoy playing gnome or halfling characters, or if you're a DM interested in creating an all-gnome or all-halfling campaign, this is the book for you!
The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings (1993), by Douglas Niles, is the only one of the 2nd edition AD&D race books that combined two races into one. A cynic might say it was to boost the presumable weak sales for a gnome-only book; an inveterate punster might mention that the book would be too short otherwise. <ahem>
It was a good choice to combine them; the separation leaves 50 pages for gnomes and 70 pages for halflings, allowing expansion and discussion of both races while keeping discussions focused. The book's theme is "how do the small races survive in a hostile world?" and it answers that question well.
Gnomebody Gnomes the Twouble I've Seen. When you're typically described as "like a dwarf, but different," you know you need some love. The gnome section discusses what makes gnomes unique. The myths and gods of the gnomes are explained using mythology and parables to illustrate gnomish philosophy. I've always had a soft spot for Urdlen, the hideous white mole of greed, so it's nice to see him detailed alongside Garl Glittergold and the four lesser gods of the pantheon. Gnomish culture is also discussed at length later in the book, showing what drives the race to excel.
The chapter on gnomish subraces introduces the rock gnome and provides rules for playing them alongside svirfneblin (deep gnomes), tinker gnomes, and the traditional forest gnome. It's tricky treating the tinker gnome seriously, but Niles manages to do so in a way that makes them intriguing. I'm surprised to see how much flavor text and loving attention to detail each subrace receives. That's a sharp difference from more recent D&D editions, and it's welcome here.
Character kits are broken down by class, and there's little of the power inflation seen in some other books in this series. There's the breachgnome and goblinsticker (fighter), the mouseburglar and tumbler (thief), the imagemaker and vanisher (illusionist), the buffoon and stalker (multiclass), and the rocktender and treetender (priest). Mechanical advantages are balanced by mechanical penalties, some of them brutally restrictive; the rocktender, for instance, can't cast spells unless in direct contact with unhewn rock.
The gnome section finishes up with a brief look at a gnomish village, a handy source for an adventure setting if you need gnomish homelands quickly during a game.
Don't Call Them Hobbits. Halfling haven't particularly suffered from a paucity of information about them, but they've always struggled a bit to separate Tolkien lore from D&D lore. Using the same conceit from earlier in the book - i.e., handed-down tales about archetypical heroes and gods - the halfling section lays out halfling philosophies, values, and deities. The three subraces of halflings are detailed, as are polar halflings, kender, and the cannibalistic halflings of Athas. (They'd take exception to that, since they only eat other races, not their own, but you know what I mean.)
Kits include the archer, forestwalker, homesteader, mercenary, sheriff, squire, and tunnelrat (fighter); the bandit, bilker, burglar, smuggler, and urchin (thief); the healer, leaftender, and oracle (priest); and the cartographer, trader, and traveler (multi-class). Not all special benefits are balanced by mechanical hindrances, leading to a bit of power inflation in a few cases.
The halfling village of Lindendale is laid out in a surprising amount of detail, making me suspect that Niles spent more time on the halflings than on the gnomes (or that someone was recycling some old game material). The book finishes with several pages of adventure suggestions for gnome and halfling adventures.
Solid and Doughty. This is a well-designed supplement that delivers exactly what was intended. It lacks the near-mythical "wait, elves can now shoot bows with their feet?" balance problems of certain other books in this series, and it delivers a tremendous amount of value to anyone playing a halfling or gnome as a AD&D hero.
About the Creators. Douglas Niles is a fantasy author and game designer, one of the creators of the Dragonlance world and the author of dozens of novels. His first adventure was the now-classic N1: "Against the Cult of the Reptile God." Nowadays he writes fantasy and historical fiction full-time.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.