In the second edition, gnomes received further background. According to The Complete Book of Gnomes and Halflings , gnomes have an intricate society based on their love of all kinds of arts, pranks, and their long lives. Their society is based on art; all gnomes must take up some form of art whether music, painting, cooking, building, or any other form that is considered creative by the time they come of age.
Gnomes are naturally friendly, highly social and fun loving people. They are respected by Elves for their communion with nature and knowledge of arcane magic, admired by Halflings for their humor, and sought out by Dwarves for their gemcutting skills.
Mothers give birth at home and the birthing chamber is open only to the father and a favored professional, like an herbalist, midwife or physician. They alone will assist the mother. The first and last names are given at the time of birth by the parents. However, gnome births are cause for a family gathering.
Beyond the birthing chamber, a cleric and numerous friends and relations gather to await the newborn’s arrival. Many names will be given to the child this day. Any member of the community can offer a name.
Additional names are given throughout a gnome’s lifetime. They are usually descriptive of the person but can also be given in playful jest. Gnomes have exceptionally long names by the standards of other races. For this reason, gnomes will choose a name with which they prefer to be identified. Often this name is chosen for its ridiculousness or difficulty in pronunciation.
Prior to the birth of a child, gnome parents select what they believe will be an appropriate childhood pet. The pet, itself a newborn, is given to the child at birth. This bonds them for the life of the pet.
Gnome babies learn to speak the language of their birth pet in much the same way as twins are said to share a special language. However, this bond does not survive childhood. As a gnome child ages and gains mastery of the gnome language, communication on this empathetic level becomes exhausting. Adult gnomes can communicate with such an animal for only a few minutes a day.
The death of a birth pet is a rite of passage for gnome children. This is usually a gnome child's first experience with death.
In the eyes of a gnome, animals are people too. The close relationship gnomes have with nature rivals that of the elves. Gnomes befriend their animal neighbors and often invite them to live indoors in exchange for service. Cages, leashes or restrains of any kind are barbaric and distasteful.
Gnomes can perform dancing lights, ghost sound and prestidigitation. These skills are taught in early childhood and play a large role in both childhood and adult games. Gnome children are competitive in the use of these powers. Practical jokes are perceived as contests of wit and skill.
The scholars cap bears great significance in gnome society. The color and size of a gnome’s hat signify his place in society. Commoners wear short red felt caps while the highly educated often wear hats more than half their own height.
Children entering their first year of school are given short pointy caps in the color of their school. As they progress in education, the short hat is exchanged for a taller one. This continues through the education process. Gnomes can identify the school an education level of others by their hat. Wearing an inappropriate hat is grounds for expulsion from school. Gnomes rarely go hatless as this is seen as an untrustworthy and deceptive practice.
Gnomes believe that pushing a child into a particular interest or vocation may be damaging to the child’s nature causing unhappy or introverted children. Gnomes are encouraged to explore all of their interests as they come. Gnomes are blessed with ever expanding imaginations. They seek to improve their world without bringing it harm through the use of mechanical inventions and alchemy. Gnome homes and villages are often littered with peculiar new creations and unfinished projects.
At the age of 30, gnome children begin school. Their studies continue for 9 years divided into three main sections. The first 3 years focus on the general studies of alchemy, history, mathematics, reading and writing. Grades 4 through 6 focus on the specialization the gnome child has chosen, and the last three years are comprised of largely independent study.
Upon completion of schooling, gnomes are required to offer a Final Showing. The project may consist of whatever the student believes best demonstrates their knowledge and skill in their chosen course of study. 9 mentors in the appropriate field will judge this Final Showing. All nine must judge the Final Showing project positively for the gnome to qualify for a Certification test.
Certification is a stressful 6-hour long process. Graduating students again face the 9 mentors from their Final Showing alone. This time, the mentors will pose numerous questions designed to test the limits of their knowledge.
Gnome weddings last for a week as gnomes love indulgence and they make all celebrations on the grandest possible scale. Gnomes take a traditional approach to love and marriage. Relationships last as long as both partners desire it so and no longer. If love begins to go wrong between a couple they may break up, believing it was a prank by Garl Glittergold. In cases where one partner has broken the bond prior to the other’s realization of it, the injured party may become hostile forcing one party to relocate to a new village. Such occurrences are rare and usually involve a mentally unhealthy partner. Gnomes are in touch with their emotions and tend to be honest with their feelings.
Gnomes are known the world over for their superior gemcutting skills. A rock is not a rock, nor a stone a simple stone. They are living parts of the earth with their own life essence. Gnomes get to know a gem before deciding to bring out its inner beauty. Particularly spectacular gems may go uncut for many years before a worthy cutter may be found.
The burgomaster is the current leader of the gnome village. The honor of burgomaster is bestowed by acquiesce on an annual basis to the wittiest amongst the villagers. Candidates campaign through competition. Each candidate seeks to prove their worthiness by improving the lives of the villagers. The competition concludes when the last competitor withdraws in favor of the new burgomaster. As gnomes are a just and learned people, the election process lasts about a week despite a lack of imposed time limit.
The burgomaster works with a council of 9 community leaders who run the village. Each council member has a specific area of responsibility and serves for 3 years.
Gnome communities are small and close knit. A sane gnome would never consider trespassing on another beyond the usual practical joke. Gnome criminals are considered insane and are treated by alchemists, clerics and magicians until cured.
Throughout D&D history, spellcaster gnomes were either illusionists or had illusionist as their favored class . However, in Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5, gnomes' favored class has been changed to bard, as the favored class of "illusionist" was a subset of the wizard class. The wizard favored class was also already used by elves. In D&D v.3.5, gnomes are inventors and alchemists who love pranks and excel at engineering. The tinker gnomes of Dragonlance are mechanically skilled, though their devices are quite prone to backfiring. It has been suggested that gnomes be given the Eberron class artificer as a favored class, due to their technical aptitude.