Author: Rhenn Anthony Taguiam


Meta Description: Gnomes in Dungeons & Dragons 5e usually have a knack for invention and innovation. However, in this D&D 5e guide, we'll explore how Gnomes become more than just the average tinkerer.


Gnomes have a reputation of being some of the craftiest, jolliest, and most hilarious race in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Most parties have a wild and fun time when there’s a Gnome always getting themselves and the party in trouble and their presence always adds a lighthearted atmosphere to most adventures. If you’re interested in making a character with a penchant for exploration, invention, and plain ‘ol adventuring, Gnomes might be perfect for your D&D 5e adventure. Moreover, you don’t necessarily have to stick to stereotypical jolly Gnomes, as there’s a ton of ways to make your Gnome character one of the most interesting characters in your party.


As this quick guide will share, you’ll get to know the close-knit communities and the traditions that bind a Gnome’s society together. And this guide will show that Gnomes might be jolly little creatures, but they can be one of the bravest, nimblest, and most skillful adventurers you can add to your party. 

Basics: The Traits

Gnomes are a part of the Small humanoid races, and as such enjoy some benefits (and a bit of judgment) due to their height. Regardless, Gnomes compensate for their lack of verticality with their sheer inventiveness and intelligence, often being featured as part of the more technologically advanced races in most D&D 5e settings. Here are some additional benefits:


  • Ability Score Increase: INT + 2
  • Age: Gnomes reach adulthood by 40 years old, but they can live for up to about 350 to 500.
  • Size and Speed: Small (3 to 4ft, average of 40lbs), 25ft walking speed.
  • Alignment: Most Gnomes lean towards being Good, with even a lot of "evil" Gnomes tend to be more mischievous instead of savage. Moreover, Gnomes lean towards the more Chaotic side of things thanks to their inquisitive and curious nature - with much of them becoming inventors, scholars, researchers, and investigators.
  • Racial Features: Most Gnomes have these racial features:
    • Darkvision, which allows Gnomes to see dim light up to 60ft away as though it's bright light. Moreover, they can see in darkness as though it's in dim light, albeit only in gray instead of in color.
    • Gnome Cunning, which gives Gnomes an Advantage to all CHA and WIS Saving Throws against magical effects.
    • Languages, of which Gnomes read, speak, and write Gnomish and Common. The Gnomish language makes use of the Dwarvish script. In most campaign settings, it's Gnomish that's used in technical papers and manuals.

Gnome Subraces

Players may also choose to play a Rock Gnome, known for their natural curiosity and fortitude. The gain these additional benefits:

  • Ability Score Increase: CON + 1
  • Artificer's Lore, where Rock Gnomes can add twice their Proficiency Bonus to INT (History) check related to technological devices, alchemical objects, or magic items.
  • Tinker, where Rock Gnomes gain a proficiency with artisan's tools (tinker's tools). They can spend materials worth 10gp and an hour to make up to three clockwork devices that have simple but helpful functions.


Alternatively, players can also create a Deep Gnome. Unlike usual Gnomes, Deep Gnomes have come to believe that safety is found by avoiding making enemies and complicated relationships with others, and as such are known to be quick of thought and quick of foot. Here are some of their traits:

  • Ability Score Increase: DEX + 1
  • Superior Darkvision, wherein their existing Darkvision will now have a radius of 120ft.
  • Stone Camouflage, which gives them advantage on DEX (Stealth) checks when hiding underground or rocky terrain.
  • Extra Language, which enables them to write, read, and speak Under Common.

Gnomes: The Best Classes To Build

The inventive nature of the Gnome makes them lean towards classes and professions relying on their intellect and understanding of their specializations. As such, a lot of Gnomes end up becoming students and masters of the arcane arts. However, players don't necessarily have to rely on the Gnome's Intelligence to make a mark in an adventure.


In fact, more creative players can tap into the innate Intelligence of the Gnome to make them more tactically sound, despite being of other classes. The inventive nature of a Gnome might force them to innovate their fighting styles, weaponry, or even approach to battle. Here are some great Gnome classes:


  • Rogue: Halflings usually get type casted into Rogues, but the more inventive Gnomes might fit the bill as well. Thanks to their inventive nature, their Rogues may not necessarily be assassins or dexterous thieves. Rather, Gnome Rogues can leverage on their Intelligence to gain mastery over their many tools - relying more on infiltration, stealth, and espionage in order to get the information they need. The jolly, “nerdy” Gnome your party is talking to might be a Rogue out to steal information from the Baron or even the King.
    • Unlike other small races like the Halfling, Gnomes have an INT bonus - so it might sound strange why a Gnome Rogue is a recommended character for any player. Interestingly, players need to remember that Rogues aren’t just reliant on DEX, they’re also extremely witty and intelligent. A Deep Gnome’s DEX bonus might seem beneficial for a Rogue build, but a Gnome Rogue of the ordinary variety would do just fine.
    • Rogues have the same weapon proficiency as Bards. They specialize in wielding simple weapons, hand crossbows, and swords such as short swords, longswords, and rapiers. At first glance, this might seem they’re very DEX-reliant. However, the Gnome’s INT bonus does apply to other INT-based checks such as the Rogue’s Proficiency in INT (Investigation), something that can help them be more observant. A DEX-WIS-INT priority build would do wonders at the hands of a Gnome.
    • Roguish Archetypes such as the Arcane Trickster, Mastermind, or Inquisitive may actually take full advantage of the INT bonus of the Gnome, as they either rely on spells (for the Arcane Trickster) or the Rogue’s penchant for espionage.
  • Fighter: The Gnome’s natural Intelligence can complement the Strength of a Fighter, which can easily make them balanced warriors. Just because Gnomes tend to tinker with tools doesn’t mean they can’t fight with the many weapons they know - as, after all, the body itself is a tool their Fighting Style can interact with. A Gnome Fighter may very well be a Battle Master, or someone working from behind the scenes - always surveying the battlefield and directing their comrades into the best positions in a battle.
    • Despite the Fighter’s reliance on STR and CON, the Gnome can easily compensate for these setbacks every other level starting Level 4 with Ability Score Improvement (ASI). While this might motivate players to go for a straight Fighter build, the choice between an ASI and an extra Feat can make a Gnome Fighter very unique.
    • Interestingly, the versatility of a Fighter’s Fighting Style may even encourage low-STR Gnomes to take up the mantle of a Fighter. They can opt for the Archery style to fight with ranged weapons or boost their AC with Defense.
    • Thanks to Action Surge, Gnome Fighters can take advantage of their extra movement and attacks to debilitate enemy forces before they can even make significant damage to the party.
  • Wizard: Given the Gnome’s knack for studying and intellect, it makes sense for them to eventually take up the arcane arts. As Wizards require intense study and precise casting of spells, it makes sense for the inventive Gnome to excel in their chosen field. However, the Gnome’s itch for innovation and improvements may propel them to greater heights in their career, and the quest for a powerful spell book or magical artifact may encourage them to take up a life of adventure.
    • The Gnome’s natural INT bonus will greatly aid their quest in learning the arcane arts. Thanks to the Wizard’s INT-focused Proficiencies, the Gnome can have a slate of skill advantages on their side. Aside from the Gnome’s innate INT bonus, Wizards can choose two skills from INT (Arcana), INT (History), INT (Medicine), INT (Religion), INT (Medicine) and WIS (Insight).
    • Moreover, a Gnome Wizard isn’t always reliant on their spells alone. Thanks to their Proficiencies in light crossbows, quarterstaffs, slings, darts, and daggers, a Gnome can easily supplement their Wizard class with a DEX-based build.
    • Unlike other classes, Wizards don’t get a lot of Class Features as they benefit greatly from their arsenal of spells. Moreover, their Arcane Tradition also allows the Gnome to maximize their creativity and go all out with flavored or thematic spells of their choice.
  • Artificer: Gnome Artificers are usual images of Gnomes that we see whenever they get mentioned in any setting. Who better to build new gadgets and discover developments in science and technology than the jolly and inventive Gnomes, right? However, Artificer Gnomes don’t always have to be bookworms, academicians, or even honor students. In fact, more interesting Artificer Gnomes might want to go on an adventure to search for ancient relics or make money with an invention.
    • Gnomes fit two of the Artificer’s traits very well - Magical Tinkering and Infusions. With Magical Tinkering, Gnomes have the innate capability of “tinkering” with items to grant them special but simple functions. However, Infusions - depending on the Specialization of the Artificer - can grant special abilities to various items and objects. Moreover, a Gnome with a tech-based flavor can easily fit into any one of Artificer specializations - be it the melee-focused Battle Smith and Armorer, the ranged-based Artillerist, or the support Alchemist.
    • Players might feel afraid that their INT-bonus Gnome might be too weak as an Artificer. However, thanks to the Artificer’s Proficiencies with the heavy crossbow, hand crossbow, and simple weapons, a Gnome can easily have an INT-DEX build that can give them a considerable ranged combat edge.
  • Barbarian: A jolly and inventive Gnome, when angered, might be thrice as deadly as your local Bugbear. A Gnome Barbarian might be the last thing a party needs, but just because a Gnome lacks a few numbers on the vertical department doesn’t mean they can’t be deadly Barbarians. Moreover, what led a Gnome to become a Barbarian might be an entertaining story in itself. Additionally, their size advantages may even give them an edge when raging against larger opponents.
    • The INT bonus of Gnomes can give players a nice option of “removing” the stereotype that the burly and STR-based Barbarian is dumb. Moreover, if players create a Deep Gnome instead of the conventional Gnome, they’d be interested to note that their traits Stone Camouflage and the DEX bonus might do wonders for precision strikes and evasive moves.
    • Class features of the Barbarian may benefit from the Deep Gnome’s bonuses. For instance, the Unarmored Defense feature of the Barbarian grants it AC depending on its DEX, which can benefit greatly from the Deep Gnome’s DEX bonus.
    • Thanks to Primal Path, the Gnome Barbarian can modify what happens to their Rage with these specializations. Ancestral Guardian and Totem Warrior enhance their defensive options, while Battlerager and Berserker enhance their damage output and potential. These Paths make Barbarians versatile, capable of switching between tanking and damage roles as the situation changes.

To Tinker, To Invent: Interesting Character Backgrounds

When we hear “Gnomes,” we often think of small humanoids with glasses just about done fixing up their newest invention-atron. However, Gnomes don’t necessarily have to be stereotypical “smarty-pants.” These jolly humanoids might apply their tendency to tinker and innovate in other backgrounds - after all, “innovation” isn’t always something we apply to technology. Gnomes of all backgrounds and professions tend to add new spins to their respective tasks.


In the backgrounds below, we explore some backgrounds that can benefit greatly from the Gnome’s innate inventiveness and ingenuity: 


  • Criminal (Player’s Handbook): Despite the jolly Gnome’s appearance, they aren’t immune from committing crimes. Of course, whether the nature of these crimes are comical or serious are entirely up to the player. Regardless, a Gnome and his inventive nature might fit the profile of a master Criminal - and whether they do their heists for good or evil is completely up to you.
    • Tools: One type of thieves’ tools, gaming set.
    • Languages:
    • Proficiencies: DEX (Stealth), CHA (Deception)
  • Folk Hero (Player’s Handbook): It’s easy for the joyous Gnome to be inventive and innovative - and sometimes it’s these natural traits that open them up for acts of heroism - no matter how accidental it may be. A Gnome Folk Hero may be someone who saved their village from a threat or perhaps a general or an inventor that created something new for the benefit of the entire clan. Regardless of what this act may be, it’s enough to encourage the Gnome to start exploring the world.
    • Tools: A type of Artisan’s Tools, Vehicles (Land)
    • Languages: None
    • Proficiencies: WIS (Survival), WIS (Animal Handling)
  • Inheritor (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Money isn’t the only thing one can inherit. Despite the inventive nature of Gnomes, it’s very likely for things such as blueprints, ideas, inventions, or even other forms of artifacts and gizmos to be left for an apprentice or a child to inherit. And for a society that thrives in innovation, the first to introduce these inventions may become the stuff of legends.
    • Tools: A musical instrument or a gaming set.
    • Languages: Any one of your choice.
    • Proficiencies: WIS (Survival) and one from INT (Religion), INT (History), or INT (Arcana).
  • Outlander (Player’s Handbook): A Gnome Outlander may have a good grasp of how the outside world works - which may or may not be involved in the nature of their own isolation. They may have grown outside Gnome society, living in the wilds which, when combined with their unique inventiveness, might influence their unique take into the craft and art of tinkering.
    • Tools: One type of musical instrument.
    • Languages: Any one of your choice.
    • Proficiencies: WIS (Survival), STR (Athletics).
Earl Morris