Tales of the Inner Sea
Gnomes and Halflings
The Little People
If you believe the origin stories told by the three major races, then the first inhabitants of the Inner Sea were the diminutive gnomish and halfling peoples, and their own myths concur. Surprisingly, those myths are largely shared between the two races and tell of a common origin. These myths say that their first ancestors were born of the earth itself, and slept there beneath the stars for an age until the goddess Amara lifted the sun from the inner sea and placed it in the sky. When struck by the light of dawn, the first people (as they call their common ancestors) began to awake. The first to awaken were the brothers Dromy and Dromo. Dromy looked upon the lands about him and fell in love with the beauty he saw there, while Dromo was filled with wonder and curiosity wishing to see everything, to understand how it worked, to know what lay beyond the horizon. Amara declared the two brothers to be the first kings, and split the first people between them, the followers of Dromy becoming the ancestors of the Halflings and the followers of Dromo becoming the ancestors of the Gnomes.
That these stories are told by halflings, who one associates with simple fairy tales and “folksy” wisdom, and who are generally more concerned with practical questions such as weather or the current year’s crop yield than in ancient history, surprises no one. Coming from the mouths of the intensely curious and occasionally obsessive gnomes, though, these stories are a bit shocking. A common origin between the two actually seems unlikely, given that couplings between them are almost always barren. What’s more, most other races who have studied them have come to the conclusion that halflings seem more closely related to humans and that gnomes seem to be a prime plane cousin to the native creatures of the feywild. One would expect such contradictions to give a gnome fits, particularly considering the fact that a race with ties to the feywild that predates the creation of the Firstborn Glades would call the common theory on the origin of the feywild itself into question. It’s possibly that the Gnomes have drawn further conclusions about their own background that they are, for some reason, keeping to themselves. However, they may just find themselves less interesting than the many and strange peoples that have arrived at their home from exotic locales.
Halflings Today: Small halfling comminities are scattered across all lands and environments in and around the Inner Sea region. Wherever they are found, they seem to be not just living in harmony with the land but to be a living expression of that land’s nature, from the relaxed, genial farmers of the eastern plains to the patient and preternaturally silent hunters of the forests the rugged herdsmen of the southern mountains and the fierce nomads of the western desert. (If you want to play a halfling, decide where you’re from first, then pick fleetfoot or stout as you think fits his or her home environment and color in the details with your other character choices)
Forest Gnomes Today: There is a primary division in gnomish society that springs from what draws their curiosity. Those who are driven by curiosity about the natural world live in small, rural, usually sylvan villages (PHB Forest Gnomes). Most of these are driven to travel, and can spend decades of their life searching out the natural wonders of the world, discovering new vistas, new plants and animals, even new lands, and getting themselves into as much trouble as they can find. Eventually, though, the call of their home village grows stronger than the wanderlust. They long to see their old friends and share stories, to tell of their travels and hear the travels of others. To the young forest gnome, wanderlust is a way of life. The mature, though, remember something they learned as a small child: that your feet can show you but one world, while storytelling, books and your own mind can show you wonders beyond counting. It’s also worth noting that, depending on where their travels took them, copies of travel logs of Forest Gnomes are often very valuable to naturalists.
Rock Gnomes Today: The second branch of the gnomish family, sometimes referred to as rock gnomes after the rugged hilly terrain that is the center of their culture, is just as driven by curiosity, but it is of a more abstract nature. They love engineering and philosophy, history and culture, mathematics and economics and pretty much anything else that would bore a forest gnome. The wealth of gnowledge – which was the original spelling, as our word for knowledge in the common trade tongue of the inner sea is borrowed from the gnomish word for themselves, which means “one who knows” – that they have accrued has made them invaluable assets to those in power, and they have worked their way into the operations of many of the Inner Sea kingdoms, most notably Etro, which is the Human empire of which their ancient home is a part. In a joint project with the human rulers of Etro, they have founded an Academy in the heart of that homeland called Seven Hills Academy, which has both contributed greatly to the power of Etro and grown into an institution of great renown that draws students from all over the Inner Sea and beyond. If you ever want to meet some of the most exotic travelers to the Inner Seas: Dragonborn, Naga, Aasimar, Gith, pretty much anything but a Tiefling (follow link to see why), simply travel to the Seven Hills Academy and sit in on one of the more popular lectures.