Thursday, October 10, 2013


Pathfinder’s deep gnomes…*puts on sunglasses*…have gone off the deep end.

In most editions of the world’s oldest role-playing game (that’s “D&D” to those of you who don’t speak Paizo), svirfneblin were about the only good-hearted creatures in the Underdark.  Amid all the duergar, drow, derros, troglodytes, grimlocks, mind flayers, beholders, etc., etc., deep gnomes were the one race a good-aligned surface party could count on for aid.

Not in Pathfinder.

Svirfneblin as the Bestiary presents them are far less benevolent.  Subterranean humanoids only a step removed from their fey roots, deep gnomes live apart from the world around them—stoic, distant, almost affectless beings for the most part, who nevertheless sometimes erupt in dark outbursts.  And you better hope your party doesn’t contain any dwarves or nagaji.  Against what they perceive as their duergar and troglodyte enemies, svirfneblin shoot blindness spells and crossbow bolts first and ask questions later.

In other words, PCs encountering svirfneblin shouldn’t expect Fraggle Rock.  They shouldn’t even expect Labyrinth…unless we’re talking Pan’s Labyrinth.  Deep gnomes in most Pathfinder worlds are dark and unpredictable, and aid from them should not be taken for granted.

Lost underground, a party of adventurers find themselves rescued by svirfneblin—but their dwarf party member is dragged off in chains.  Rescuing him will involve freeing him from bondage, commandeering mining carts for the getaway, and surviving a desperate race by rail while being pursued by svirfneblin alchemists throwing bombs (see the Advanced Race Guide).

Shocker lizards have infested the crystal farms where svirfneblin grow their jolting dart crystals (see the Advanced Race Guide).  They hire surface adventurers to clean the lizards out.  But eventually the gnomes’ paranoia gets the better of them, and they sell out the party to mad-eyed cave pixies looking for sport for their next hunt.

The Secret City is an underground realm that mirrors the human city of Torus above.  Peopled by svirfneblin and wayangs, it is a place of weeping flowstone, glittering crystals, and inky shadows.  It is also a city of captives—the Cityfolk steal human children from Torus and leave half-fey and fetchling changelings in their beds.  The gnomes trade the stolen youth to the land of Feyholme in return for deathless champions to help them ward off drow, duergar, and troglodyte incursions.

Pathfinder Bestiary 261

I picture Torus as some kind of ring city.  Just sayin’.

In case you couldn’t tell from the above, the Advanced Race Guide is your source for more on svirfneblin, especially svirfneblin PCs.

I need to do a big mail/comment dump soon, but for now I’ll just comment on filbypott’s note about the 4e succubus: Really?  Succubi are devils in 4e?  I guess that makes a certain kind of logic…but it robs demons of their seductresses (and devils have enough dominatrices already.)  Plus, I wonder what that means for erinyes and handmaiden devils…

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