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Pathfinder Companion: Gnomes of Golarion (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 6 ratings)
Pathfinder Companion: Gnomes of Golarion (PFRPG)
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Know Your Gnomes!

Exiled from the mysterious fey realm of the First World, gnomes are fundamentally alien to Golarion. Endlessly excitable, gnomes amuse and terrify other races with their strange obsessions and unconventional methods. Their childlike wonder—and sometimes innocent cruelty—are two sides of the same coin, and every coin the gnomes have is spent in pursuit of adventure, whether they like it or not. For the gnomes have a dark secret: should they ever stop seeking out new experiences, they fall prey to the Bleaching, a wasting disease that slowly sucks away their hold on the world, leaving them nothing but bones and dust.

    Inside this Pathfinder Companion, you’ll find the following:
  • Details on the gnomes of Golarion—how they live, who they worship, their relations with other races, their strange obsessions, and more.
  • History and folklore of the gnome race.
  • Map and descriptions of the major gnome settlements.
  • New traits designed exclusively for gnome characters.
  • Rules for the Wonderseekers, a new faction dedicated to fending off the Bleaching.
  • Statistics for the Bleaching, as well as for those strange creatures known as bleachlings.
  • Bizarre new gnome weapons, spells, and feats.

By Colin McComb, Steven Schend, Sean K Reynolds, Owen KC Stephens, Mark Moreland, Jeff Quick, and Hal Maclean

Each bimonthly 32-page Pathfinder Companion contains several player-focused articles exploring the volume’s theme as well as short articles with innovative new rules for social, magic, religious, and combat-focused characters, as well as a persona section detailing helpful NPCs and traits to better anchor the player to the campaign.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-223-4

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Player Companion Subscription.

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Product Reviews (6)
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****½ (based on 6 ratings)

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Interesting and Original Portrayal of Gnomes

*****

Gnomes of Golarion is a 32-page entry in the Pathfinder Player Companion line of books. The subject matter, obviously, is gnomes; what this book does quite well is explain how gnomes in the official campaign setting of Golarion are different than standard "D&D" gnomes. Gnomes in Golarion are exiles from another plane of existence, the First World, and their presence on Golarion comes with a price: The Bleaching. The Bleaching is a sort of wasting-disease that affects gnomes if they fall prey to the status quo and stop seeking out new experiences and wonders. Thus, the Bleaching ties in perfectly to a game that's about adventurers, and gives gnome characters a natural reason to travel, encounter dangers, and be curious: they have to do something to stave off the Bleaching! I really like the concept, and although I haven't played a gnome character in Golarion, I certainly have an interest in doing so.

I really like the front cover's artwork, as it's brighter and just a tad more "cartoony" than normal Paizo art which fits gnomes quite well. The inside front cover is a helpful summary of gnome racial traits, favored deities and regions, and naming conventions. All of this can be found scattered in other books, but it's helpful to have it collected in one place. The inside back-cover is a map of major gnome settlements in the Inner Sea Region, descriptions of which we'll find inside the book. Gnomes of Golarion is divided into nine separate sections.

Section 1 is ten pages long and titled simply "Gnomes of Golarion." The first couple of pages give a "fluff" or "flavour" explanation for the mechanical racial traits of gnomes, which perhaps isn't strictly necessary but better for players than "just because." The first real meat in this section is the description of the gnomes as exiles from the First World, the curse of the Bleaching, and how the race eventually discovered a way to stave it off. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, it's really good. The rest of the section delves into other aspects of gnome culture and society: birth and death, clothing, their fondness for pranks and jokes (where some of the unfortunate hatred of gnomes by gamers comes from), and their skill at invention (I quite liked the description of gnomes as being quite skilled inventors whose devices work quite well; it's just that the devices do things that other races find absurd, and gnomes are easily distracted and unlikely to repeat their inventions for broader distribution). The section ends with a couple of paragraph each on two varieties of gnomes shunned by their mainstream kin: spriggans (feral gnomes) and svirfneblin (subterranean gnomes). Readers interested in this last bit will get only a tease, and will need to seek out other Pathfinder books for more information.

Section 2, "The Wonderseekers" (two pages long), introduces a new organisation whose goal is to seek out gnomes who appear to be falling prey to the the Bleaching and get them active by awakening their sense of wonder. The group thus sponsors new adventuring parties, makes travel and exploration magic available at quite reasonable prices, etc. The Wonderseekers are presented as an option to use as a Faction under the Faction Guide, and contains some information tied to that subsystem. I haven't ever played with Factions, and can't really comment on the idea. The section introduces a new feat, Master of Wonders, which has membership in the Wonderseekers as a prerequisite: it allows gnomes to reroll a result on a rod of wonders and take the second roll. Overall, I like the concept of The Wonderseekers and could see them as a good way to get a gnome PC or (perish the thought!) an all-gnome party started in a campaign. Imagine gnomes whose lives have become dull and routine being pushed (or dragged) out of their humdrum existence by The Wonderseekers into a life of adventure!

Section 3, "Gnome Traits" (two pages long), describes several new background traits in the following categories: Combat (x3), Magic (x3), Social (x4). All are restricted to gnomes. The traits definitely fall on the average- to low- spectrum in terms of mechanical advantage to gnome PCs and they don't really do a lot that's exciting (usually a minor skill boost here or there, with the best perhaps being one that raises a PC's caster level for illusion spells). But, they're all flavoured well and clearly show ways for players to use the traits as role-playing opportunities. No complaints here.

Section 4, "Gnome Settlements" (six pages) covers, with two to three paragraphs each, several notable gnome towns in the Inner Sea. I think this amount of attention is probably just right for a Player Companion, as it gives PCs enough information to pick one of these places as a "hometown" for their character. The entries focus on what's distinct or interesting about each location, which keeps the section from becoming a dry gazetteer. The following settlements are included: Brastlewark, Finderplain, Gogpodda, Irrere, Sovvox, Kalsgard, Omesta, Quantium, Thom, Tiven's Reed, Whistledown, Umok, Wispil, and Yavipho. I imagine it's hard for a writer to come up with interesting descriptions of so many different cities that all fit into the overall picture of gnome culture, so this is a job well done.

Section 5, "Gnome Weapons" (two pages) introduces about a half-dozen new weapons and a couple of shields. The idea here is solid, and one of the weapons is hilarious and fits the "gnome invention" concept perfectly: the Ripsaw Glaive which is basically a chainsaw! There is a problem here in that one of the weapons, the Flickmace, receives an entry on the weapons table but doesn't receive any description; normally, that wouldn't be such a big deal, but it is for the Flickmace because it's a small-size weapon that has reach, which makes it an intriguing option for Medium-sized PCs who want a one-handed reach option. Paizo's policy of not publishing errata or clarifications for the Player's Companion line is unfortunate here. In addition, another weapon, the Switchscythe, has a confusing and probably erroneous description in relation to how it can be disguised as a quarterstaff.

Section 6, "Faith" (two pages) contains short descriptions of commonly-worshipped deities and the reasons why gnomes venerate them. Instead of a new clerical spell, like one might expect, this section contains a mechanical description of the Bleaching as a curse whose onset is middle-age and has a frequency of 1/year. I think it might have been better to keep the Bleaching as a purely discretionary "fluff" concept instead of attempting to quantify it and remove its mystery. But this is Pathfinder, and if it doesn't have numbers a lot of readers won't pay attention to it, so I understand the decision.

Section 7, "Magic" (two pages) starts with an attempt to give a coherent reason why gnomes have the seemingly-unrelated grab bag of innate spell-like abilities they start with. I'm not sure it's successful, but I appreciate the attempt. Next, there are three new feats (all limited to gnomes) Effortless Trickery allows for spellcasters to concentrate on illusions as a swift action, and would be a no-brainer for dedicated specialists. Extra Gnome Magic adds to the number of times per day a gnome can use their innate spell-like abilities; I would consider this a waste of something as powerful as a feat. Threatening Illusion is a cool metamagic feat that allows illusions to threaten squares for the purposes of flanking if an enemy fails a will save; I could imagine a lot of uses for this one. Finally, there's an odd new spell: Illusory Poison, which creates just what the name implies. I'm not sure if it would be worth it, since the target receives a Will save and then Fort saves.

Section 8, "'Persona" (two pages) introduces two new gnome NPCs. I've talked a lot in the past about how weird it is to see NPCs in a Player Companion, and Paizo long-ago stopped doing it. Still, I have to admit that the two NPCs here are great: one of them intentionally loses a magical coin to interesting-looking people so she can challenge herself to steal it back, while the other is a Don Quixote-like gnome who, if it had been possible at the time, should have been statted out as a cavalier rather than a fighter.

Section 9, "Social" (two pages) concludes the book with nine (!) new feats that offer gnomes various tricks when using the Bluff skill. Most of them probably aren't worth it, as they require a standard or full-round action to Bluff an enemy so that the PC gains, on the next round, a relatively small mechanical advantage to something else. They have great flavour, but are probably more for the "RP above stats" devotees. One feat, Babble-Peddler, has been known to create some problems in game play by allowing gnomes to get away with some stunning thefts quite easily since they'll have maxed-out their Bluff skill and most NPCs haven't done the same with Sense Motive.

Overall, Gnomes of Golarion is a strong addition to the "races" line of Player Companion books. It's far more interesting and original than Dwarves of Golarion, for example, because it gives a clear reason why the race in Golarion is at least somewhat different than it's portrayed in generic fantasy settings. I quite liked the Bleaching concept. Too often, gaming sourcebooks provide a ton of dry historical or cultural exposition that is difficult or impossible to see manifest in actual gameplay. But, the "lived reality" of the Bleaching is an excellent motivator for gnome PCs. GMs also don't need to worry about the Player Companion creating any sort of power-creep; the mechanical advantages it provides are actually quite modest. So for players and GMs interested in gnomes, this book would be a great start.


Gnomes for everyone!

****( )

I ordered this book with very high expectations and very high hopes. And it mostly delivered. Since I started gaming gnomes have been my favorite race by far and I’ve really enjoyed the Pathfinder/Glorian spin to the little buggers. The physical quality of this supplement was nice. It is a nice, solid paperback with a glossy cover, and the artwork and fonts really pop and show personality. The flavor within, and it does contain fluff by the truckload, is all interesting and fun, and well worth the price alone. and the new spell is exciting, balanced, creative, and generally top notch. The sample NPCs are a couple of the best I’ve seen so far and there are a handful of traits which I would gladly allow in my games. Overall I find this book to be an excellent addition to my collection, but there were some minor details which, when added together, led to the loss of a star;

The new exotic weapon section, despite being one of my favorite sections of the book, contained a couple of errors. One of the weapons listed on the chart doesn’t have a description and as a gnomish weapon it can be difficult to discern how it is supposed to appear or function. There is also a weapon which has a fun description listed that isn’t on the weapon chart, so there is no way to guess its price and weight.

Another qualm I have with this companion is that there are several new feats, which while fun, have a couple of problems. One feat, for example, lists a ability that the opponent must save against, although it lists no way to calculate the DC. Through reading the other feats I believe that I’ve inferred the correct way, but having something so large missing is a bit annoying.

But even with the problems listed above I’d strongly suggest buying this supplement if you like to play gnome characters or if you intend to include them as part of a campaign. I’d even suggest purchasing it for some fun, light reading.


Gnomes to every garden... errrm...

*****

Here the Gnomes finally became a full race with believable identity. I find this book highly inspiring!


Actually makes Gnomes Playable! Miraculous!

****( )

I have always hated gnomes as a throwaway race with out much of a racial identity. Now, they are a cohesive, and vibrant variation, with a ton of potential! Check out my full review: Gnomes of Golarion


Annoying in a good way!

*****

Even more than the halflings, the gnomes have struggled to find a place in fantasy gaming. Big noses, illusions, inventions that fail disastrously, and talking to moles might make for good cartoon gags, but they don't exactly make for great heroes. Gnomes have never done anything that halflings or dwarves don't do better – at least nothing useful.

Until Pathfinder, that is. Gnomes are no longer annoying because they are pointless. Gnomes are annoying because that is how they stay alive and vibrant. A gnome that does not seek out new, exciting adventures can fall pray to bleaching. The Bleaching literally strips their color away and, eventually, their life. Gnomes have to regularly overturn their lives, and the lives of everyone around them, or they will slowly fade away.

The gnomes come from the fey First World. Were they migrants to Golarion? Escapees? Deportees? They don't remember and the fey aren't talking. Whatever their reason for leaving, the trip was one way. The gnomes are not a natural part of Golarion, but they are now a permanent part of it. Their otherworldly origin is an important part of their character. Gnomes make every attempt to fit in on Golarion, but they don't quite understand how mortal life works or how the races think.

All of the non-human player character races are literary descendant of fairies, or closely equivalent beings, from various European mythologies. Golarion gnomes gain some individuality and differentiate themselves from halflings and dwarves by reinstating this fey connection. Gnomes have always been more magical than the other two short races. This book gives a good explanation for that magic and gives the gnomes verisimilitude they haven't had before.

With the fey connection and the threat of bleaching, gnomes actually make sense as magic using practical jokers. Their high charisma helps them avoid some of the backlash they might otherwise receive for their behavior. More importantly, gnomish practical jokes are explicitly non-malicious. A gnome might play a practical joke on a paladin to bring his ego back down to earth, but he wouldn't do it out of cruelty. Annoying in a fun way – that's what the Gnomes of Golarion offers, as opposed to the annoying in an annoying way gnomes I've run into before at the gaming table.

If the book has any weakness, it's the sample characters. Upon reflection, I can see how they are whimsical and perfectly gnomish. The written descriptions, however, leave them seeming mostly... odd. One character gives away a magical copper coin away and then tracks it down and retrieves it by any means necessary. The other is Don Quixote-style knight who wears a tea kettle as a helmet and runs a constant monologue as he battles. They should seem a lot more silly and non-human than they do. They come off more as bad play actors than actual fey-touched gnomes.

But the sample characters are a small quibble. If you play gnomes, or wonder why anyone would play one, this is the book for you. No matter your game world, it will be a lot more colorful and interesting with these gnomes in it.


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