Gnomes, Tinker's in the Dirt
Written by Giorg Kaern, Anthropologist
Small diminutive creatures that are most often found in caves and tunnels, gnomes are queer creatures that live in low light conditions but are adapted to handle bright lights. They do venture out above ground, but the majority of the civilization lies below the surface. They are one of the more advanced races, but also appear to be the least advance because of the nature of disrepair, mess and overall unsafe dangerous look of their creations, most resembling nothing more than scraps cobbled together from the discards of a blacksmith, tanner and miner, often held together with strips of cloth and dubious looking bots. Even knowing this is due mostly to their spontaneous and eccentric nature is little comfort to one who takes a ride on the rickety lift down into one of their many cities.
Gnomes are generally between one and two feet tall. They have skinny limbs, small bodies and large disproportionate heads. Their hands and feet are the same, possessing six digits that are double-jointed and can bend in different directions. Their digits also have three joints instead of the two that are common to most other species like humans. They have wide mouths, large soft noses and a pair of massive eyes. Their eyes have three membranes; a clear one that acts like protective goggles for water, smoke, dust, etc., and two darker ones that act as shades for bright lights. Their eye lids close sideways. They are often are dark skinned, in earthy colors.
Gnome culture is about building, mining and creating. They are ruled by the gnome that builds the most spectacular creation during the election. Aside from that, they is no real structure to the society. Every gnome builds for itself, grows its own food and takes care of its own mistakes. They switch feely between the pronouns it and he. Gnomes are all about making things, no matter how strange and useless it may seem.
Gnomes primarily live off funguses and subterranean mosses they scrape from rocks with their sharp front teeth. They also gain essential nutrients from rocks and earth so they each them too, using their flat tough back teeth. They are insectivores and eat the occasional fish. They are asexual, reproducing by laying eggs-like cocoons, or cocoon-like eggs, depending on how you view it. Their genetic code is prone to mutation and is the source of diversity within the population. They made eggs (called crusps) first by producing a mass of cells around their bodies, primarily their throats, over a period of a week or so then mixing the thick cell paste into dirt, iron and other minerals and forming a large ball. The ball hardens into a nigh impenetrable mass that can remain dormant for centuries. When the crusp maker dies or experiences near death, his death sends shocks over the telepathic link he maintains with his crusps and causes them to break open in a few hours. The new gnome if fully formed and has a portion of the memories of their maker.
They are one of the races that does not know true natural death, as long as the gnome in question has a crusp somewhere. The oldest known gnome died at 1467 years, 245 days, 5 hours and 32 minutes. He died when his magic hour glass, designed to reverse time, reversed him to a lump of cells (the cells eventually regrew, but he forgot everything about who he was and had mutations in his DNA, effectively making him a new person.) They are considerable stronger than they look, capable of lifting over ten times their own weight. Their bones are precipitates or iron and their cells can endlessly regenerate. A good ability to have considering half the population blows themselves up before breakfast, often to get breakfast.
Gnomes have an interesting relationship with magic. They cannot wield it themselves, but they can influence it and use to power their creations (like the golem fad they started a few centuries back.) Magic also makes them a bit (extremely) crazy and eccentric by the standards of other races, but that madness is what makes them so inventive and allows them to live. (A gnome actually experimented with that, placing some victims volunteers in a magic isolated room and seeing the results. They were dreadful bores and practically drones until their magic was returned.) Gnomes make some of the magic weapons and magic storage devices, often without even realizing or thinking about it.
(from "Guide to the Peoples")