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Deep gnomes (aka Svirfneblin) are a subrace of gnomes featured in the Forgotten Realms series. While their surface cousins are known for their boundless optimism and cheerful mischief, the svirfneblin are serious and suspicious creatures. They survive in the Underdark by maintaining wariness of others and working hard to keep their underground society secret.
Although gnomes in general lack any kind of cohesive history, deep gnomes bring this cultural idiosyncrasy to its greatest extremes. Deep gnomes lack not only a tradition of keeping records or writing biographies, but they also have never developed a calendar or a method by which to track the passing of time as the drow have. To a deep gnome the very concept of day or night is foreign, having never seen the light of the sun or the stars of a night sky.
In fact, so deep-rooted is this cultural lack of time-keeping, either of the past, present, or future, that among outsiders the history of the deep gnomes amounts to little more than the story of Blingdenstone, the only deep gnome settlement known of prevalently among non-svirneblin. Blingdenstone, founded in -690 DR by clans fleeing the phaerimms beneath Netheril, grew to prominence in large part thanks to its vicinity to the infamous drow city of Menzoberranzan and the less infamous, but equally strong, duergar fortress Gracklstugh. In spite of the presence of these two mighty cities, Blingdenstone survived for over two millennia, supported by the rich mining industry that thrived on Blingdenstone's rich veins of arandur and other exotic minerals.
Blingdenstone would, however, like so many deep gnome cities, come to ruin in the end. The way in which this occurred is peculiar, however. In the Year of the Wanderer, the ruler of Blingdenston, King Schnicktick welcomed into his city the fugitive Drizzt Do'Urden, a fugitive of Menzoberranzan's harsh justice. Drizzt stayed for only a short while but his route would later be tracked twenty years later by a vengeful army from Menzoberranzan during their invasion of Mithral Hall in the Year of Shadows. Realizing the danger to them the deep gnomes abandoned their homes and sought refuge in the darkness. After the drow passed their city largely unharmed a group of deep gnome wardens led by Belwar Dissengulp convinced King Schnicktick to lend his aid to Mithral Hall's defense.
The resulting victory at the Battle of Keeper's Dale saved Mithral Hall but it would cost the deep gnomes their home. Twelve years later, in Marpenoth, the matron mothers of Menzoberranzan launched a full-scale assault on Blingdenstone. The deep gnomes' defenses were no match for the drow army, aided and supported by demons summoned from the Abyss. Thousands perished in the siege and thousands more were enslaved by the vengeful drow. Those that escaped made their way to Mithral Hall and Silverymoon, where they were welcomed, eventually settling throughout the neighboring area.
Deep gnomes are wiry and lean with a body as hard as a slab of rock. Males are completely bald and beardless, while the females sport hair. Ranging from 3' to 3'6" (107 cm) in height and weighing between 40 and 45 lbs (20.4 kg), the deep gnomes are small enough to give them a size advantage when battling larger opponents. Deep gnome complexions are sometimes described as "gnarled" and, like drow and duergar, are commonly dark in hue, with most deep gnomes demonstrating brown or gray skin, with dark gray eyes, as well as gray hair if female. Deep gnomes do not live quite as long as their kin, with a life expectancy just under two centuries. Due to this and a number of cultural affectations, deep gnome children are considered adults at roughly twenty years of age.
eep gnome are better adapted for underground living than either rock gnomes or forest gnomes, with darkvision to help them see where there is no light. Similarly, deep gnomes have a dwarven-like affinity for stone and innately understand it on a level few other races can appreciate. Deep gnomes also lack most gnomes' predilection for cantrip like abilities but can instead blind other beings, obscure their own presence, or shapeshift. Deep gnomes also have a great deal of resistance to magic of any kind, and can go undetected as if they were using the nondetection spell, alongside their natural affinity for avoiding danger or hiding.
Deep gnome culture is largely defined by the environment in which they live. Deep gnome cities are usually centered in a single large cavern, surrounded by an interlocking set of tunnels and other caverns into which the city spreads. These cities are usually large, but not particularly so, often around one thousand gnomes in number. Frequently cut off from all outside contact, even from other deep gnome cities, the inhabitants of these communities may never venture out of their havens, instead crowding together for protection. Population density is extremely high and most families share a single, small room for their living space, with children living with their parents until they themselves marry and have children.
Deep gnomes rarely wander far beyond their hidden cities but when they do it is usually as bold prospectors, youthful illusionists, or exploring warriors. All deep gnomes who wander beyond their cities share the deep curiosity that allows them to overcome their hard-bred caution and shyness, although other motives such as economic drive or a desire to find aid to fight a threat the deep gnomes cannot conquer on their own may also play into their departure. Those deep gnomes who do become adventurers most frequently are fighters, rangers, rogues, or wizards, particularly of the illusionist variety. Although deep gnomes are well suited to the arcane arts like other gnomes, they are also particularly well suited to becoming rangers or rogues, adapted as they are to hiding and navigating the labyrinthine caverns of the Underdark. Deep gnomes who survive their adventures to grow in experience and power might, if particularly durable, become breachgnomes, elite warriors trained to defend the hidden deep gnome cities from enemy attack.
Art & LeisureEdit
As a whole deep gnomes are a hard-working and deeply sullen people, but even the hardest-hearted deep gnome requires time to relax and let off steam. Deep gnomes' intense dedication and ability to survive under harsh conditions often shows up in such activities. Deep gnome architecture, for instance, is shaped largely by the conditions deep gnomes live in, with the oldest homes often carved directly out of the surrounding rock, the highest-ranking members of any one clan usually inhabiting large stalagmites while the lower-classed inhabit the surrounding cavern floors or walls.
Deep gnome cuisine is also a reflection of their livelihood, with the common staples made up of a variety of exotic fungi found only in the Underdark. Other common foods include blind fish or occasionally a deep roast made of rothé, goat, or sheep. Perhaps because fire produces unwanted light and smoke, deep gnomes generally prefer to salt their food instead of cooking it, which makes most svirfneblin food practically inedible to outsiders. For drink, most deep gnomes drink a salty spirit made of fermented fish, which, like svirfneblin food, is an acquired taste. On occasion, deep gnomes might drink a more tolerable drink called Gogondy, said to contained powdered ruby and grant powerful visions to those who drink it.
Artistically, deep gnomes prefer to use lots of gemstones, which are relatively common in svirfneblin communities, mined out of the veins along which deep gnome cities are built and deep gnomes are some of the best jewelers in the Underdark. Deep gnomes have also turned their cultivation of mushrooms for food into a wider industry, developing fungi not only for food but for textiles and wood as well. For their defense, deep gnomes most often design weapons that can be used for non-violent tools as well, with svirfneblin largely favoring the use of light picks, darts, or crossbows. Deep gnomes also often use specialized items as defensive weapons, such as poison darts, caltrops, or flash grenades.
Deep gnomes do not generally keep pets, though a few keep small blind fish in a bowl. However, deep gnomes have no particular aversion to animals and often cultivate herds of rothé, goats, or sheep somewhere on the edge of their towns, doing their best to keep the herds quiet and uninteresting to potential attackers. Deep gnomes have also been known to grow fond of small animals such as moles, shrews, bats, dire rats, or cavvekans, although these could be more accurately called animal acquaintances than actual pets.
Like other gnomes, deep gnomes prefer the use of illusion to other schools of magic. However, while this is simply a cultural preference among rock gnomes, it is a method of survival for deep gnomes. In addition to knowing the relatively simple invisibility spell, most gnome illusionists are familiar with a great wealth of ancient and forgotten lore, recovered from the ancient ruins that scatter the Underdark. Deep gnomes rarely understand this knowledge fully, but that hardly matters, and they are willing to use it in anyway they can. Deep gnome wizards who aren't illusionists are frequently diviners, using their spells to locate and find materials essential to survival. Most magic items forged by deep gnomes are disguised as jewelry, which is relatively common among the svirfneblin.
ike their surface cousins, deep gnomes worship the gnome pantheon. Although deep gnomes are not particularly devout, clerics and other religious figures serve an important role in svirfneblin society as guardians of the public morale, keeping spirits up in spite of hardships. Unlike other gnomes, deep gnomes do not feel a particularly strong bond to Garl Glittergold, who some svirfneblin feel as abandoned them for the more cheery rock gnomes and forest gnomes. Deep gnomes feel closer by far to Segojan Earthcaller, particularly by deep gnomes who keep pets, are rangers, or who otherwise work with domesticated animals. Deep gnomes fear Urdlen, however, who they believe attacks particularly greedy svirfneblin, luring them with precious jewels. These fears may reflect, as much any divine intervention, the very real unknown dangers that lurk in the Underdark and while deep gnomes fear Urdlen, they respect him for reminding them to stay alert.
Of all the Lords of the Golden Hills, deep gnomes feel the strong ties to Callarduran Smoothhands, the Master of Stone, who deep gnomes generally see as their protector and divine benefactor. According to svirfneblin myths, it was Callarduran who taught the deep gnomes to summon and befriend earth elementals and the deep gnomes honor him by carving his holy symbol into their art, with the exception of golden rings, which is seen as taboo. Only two holidays are commonly celebrated amongst deep gnomes, the rest created on a whim by local priests, and both are in honor of Callarduran. The first, the Festival of the Ruby, celebrates the myth that Callarduran hid the rubies of the world in the earth for the deep gnomes to find and is considered a day where searches rarely come up empty. The second holiday, the Festival of the Star, honors the Master of Stone as a continuing protector of the deep gnomes. As part of the festival rites, deep gnomes gather along the shores of subterranean lakes to watch small, phosphorescent fungi light up across the cavern ceilings in a visage similar to that of a night sky reflecting in the water. As much as this is in honor of Callarduran, whose symbol is a star, it is a constant reminder to the deep gnomes of their origins on the surface world and that they are not alone.
The harsh conditions of life in the Underdark shape gnome society in a number of unusual ways. Children are an extremely important part of deep gnome society, in part due to low birthrates - relative to the dangers of the Underdark - among the deep gnomes, who usually have fewer than four children and rarely more than six. Deep gnome mothers dote on their children obsessively, but not in such a way that inhibits their growth, and when they reach adolescence deep gnome children are immediately apprenticed to masters in whatever trade they are expected to take on. Adulthood is less defined amongst deep gnomes than among their kin, with maturity commonly agreed upon to be the time at which a deep gnome starts working full-time. Most male gnomes are miners or gemcutters, while females are the masters of the home, birthing and raising children while keeping the house tidy and meals prepared.
It's important to note that male and female deep gnomes are not considered unequal - rather males are masters outside of the home and females are masters within. This concept of equal labor for either sex carries on all the way to the top of svirfneblin society, with each city governed by a king and queen who rule as co-equals. The king is often the head of the community's mining operations an defenses, while the queen is tasked with ensuring that the community has enough food and water to survive, while also handling the day in and day out bureaucracy. Significantly, the king and queen are rarely married to one another, but instead come into their positions independently, elected for life upon the death of their predecessor. Regardless of gender, there is no true conception of retirement among deep gnomes, who work until they can physically work no more.
Deep gnomes are a surly and cynical people, who fatalistically expect little more from life than what they have. Keeping themselves to themselves, being cautious when contacting other races and eying strangers with suspicion, it is hard to befriend a deep gnome, even if one is another deep gnome, but when taking considerable effort to befriend a svirfneblin, one can find a loyal friend who will not easily misplace one's trust.
Sullen and hard-working, deep gnomes are wholly dedicated to any task they set themselves on, typically mining for males and housekeeping for females. Although outsiders find deep gnomes' overly serious attitude to make for sour company, those qualities make them tireless pursuers of excellence in their metalworkings and weapon forging. These attitudes are also justified in part by the harsh environs the deep gnomes inhabit, which require a degree of stoicism and quiet suffering in order to save the greatest number. Any sounds, including voices, can attract danger to deep gnome homes and for their own sakes deep gnomes have learned to keep a grim demeanor and low profile. Their seriousness and pessimism fades when admiring the gems which fascinate them so much.
Although far more serious than most gnomes, deep gnomes nonetheless exhibit the same insatiable curiosity and craftiness if put under the right circumstances. It is this trait, more than any other, which leads deep gnomes to abandon their cautious upbringing and explore the world around them. Some of these wandering deep gnomes turn upwards, investigating the surface world from which their ancestors came, particularly the case for deep gnome illusionists who hope to find further instruction in the Art that can be obtained in their reclusive homes. Others become prospectors, searching for new veins of gems or ore to mine.
Deep gnome relations with other races are colored by the impression of most surface-dwelling races that deep gnomes, like the duergar or drow, are a cruel and vindictive relative of their surface cousins. This is, in fact, untrue, and while often suspicious and sullen, deep gnomes are a largely agreeable people. Deep gnomes, for their part, are not particularly eager to correct outsiders of their error and for the most part would rather be left alone. As a rule, deep gnomes are deeply suspicious of all other races, though they hold a special enmity for the drow and the duergar, whose violent ways often interfere with the svirfneblin wish for isolation. Deep gnomes are most accepting of gloamings and slyths, since these folks rarely threaten them. They deal very cautiously with grimlocks and orogs since they have proven too willing to plunder weaker races like the deep gnomes.
If forced to deal with surface-dwellers, a deep gnome is most likely to find forest gnomes agreeable, who, like the deep gnomes and unlike the rock gnomes, are a reclusive, withdrawn folk. If compelled to seek out companions who are not gnomes, deep gnomes are open, if not friendly, towards gold dwarves, shield dwarves, and some of the Tel-quessir. Beyond that, deep gnomes have few opinions other than a general distrust.
While making a living by selling the gems, weapons and metalwork they so masterfully produce, they have to rely on dealing with only trusted merchants in neutral caves, trying to avoid danger altogether.
Trivia & NotesEdit
(To Be Added)