Thursday, January 19, 2023

Gnomes, Halflings, and World Building

I've been going back and forth between stoutlings/halflings/hobbits and gnomes for Hack'D & Slash'D. The first edition had halfings, because ... you know. But as I've thought about it, I've hewed towards swapping them out for gnomes in the next edition; here's why:

- While I like halflings, I've always personally had more of an interest in playing gnomes. Gnomes, to mhy mind (for some reason) are more curious, clever, and adventurous. They're also (again, to my mind- because neither of them actually EXISTS) more flexible in terms of character options; I only ever really see halflings in the roles of rogues - and maybe heroes... but the whole point of heroes in this game is that they are big and strong - and halflings are neither. I have a hard time seeing a mage or warden or cleric coming from the quaint villages of halflings, insofar as I imagine them. Maybe my mind is too small. By contrast, I see gnomes as more likely to become enamored of traps and machinery and the challenges of being a rogue, the path of arcane magic, a holy calling, or even a harkening to nature. I don't see them as heroes, either, but I don't really see elves as heroes either. Maybe heroes would be only allowed for humans (but then where does the archetypal dwarf fighter come from? I would have to reconcile that still).

- I've tended to play and write characters who are gnomes. I have one 'stoutling' character that I truly liked (Pax, the last survivor of his home village), but that's only because he's a tragic, sad, angry 'anti-hobbit' who hates himself. That's not very useful as a game foundation. Conversely, I've created several gnome characters I've liked playing, most notably my character of Mim/Mimsby, who I have written several unpublished stories with (and a few I've shared). Halflings are little humans who think and act like easy-going humans. Gnomes have their own thing going on that makes them different.

- Gnomes are innately magical. They are from the magical world. Tolkien used hobbits are the emissaries from the 'normal world' (albeit in a fantasy realm) who cross over into the special world. Their prespectives and backgrounds provide a contrast by which to measure the fantastic that's around them. I don't know that a fantasy game needs that same level of contrast (or it would even work). Heck, I'm not sure it could even be pulled off today at all - we already know and expect the fantastic in our fantasy stories, and it's getting harder to impress us. This game is about 'special folk' called to a special purpose in a dark and dangerous world. The whole point of the hobbits was that they were common folk who did special things. 

So, gnomes it is. Now, I need to go back to mythology and see how I can somehow make this game's gnomes interesting enough so that they aren't just standard fantasy game gnomes who use illusions and blow things up.

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