The Book of Smallfolk

smallfolk cover


Smallfolk! Indeed! The very word men use to refer to their peasants they also use to refer to us. Insulting, but perhaps in a way appropriate. We do seem to avoid their eyes often, as a delicious Ninfite olive might hide amongst the leaves of an otherwise bland Stonemark meal of cabbage. We are, after all, quite small. The records of men don’t even record our presence until sometime in the 5th Age. We lived, then, in the Greensward and fought off the advances of evil giants, crazed Skinchangers, and worse.

We gnomes have a kinship with dwarves. We are most certainly related! Ancient eddas speak of gnomes engaging in trade with dwarf-folk, and even intermarrying (though the offspring are never half-way between the races; they are either gnomes or dwarves; the same pairing will always produce a gnome or a dwarf as it did before, never BOTH). Some of the halflings are more like dwarves, some more like elves, and some more like themselves.

But we are all different from the tallfolk. Read on, you tallfolk, for it is for you that I have written this.

-Hamish Letterfriend

Back to the Table of Contents.

The Greensward

The Greensward: legend, above all, to be sure. We smallfolk recount it as truth, however, that it existed in this world. They were the fairfields, the mayfields, and from them have been drawn the dawning times of our races. Halflings, tis said, are the children of Leesha Roseheart. She looked upon the Middle World and saw the men who walked it. She decided to make a secret place, protected from the depredations of the world, and there to make creatures in the image of man. These were the halflings.

The gnomes came after; Eiri the Earthfather and Helden the Stonemother saw that Leesha was lonesome, and so they sought to give her company. Their child, Topaz Firegem, was the first of the gnomes, of my folk. He laughed and cavorted into Leesha’s heart; the halflings are their children as are we gnomes. The halflings favor their mother, and the gnomes their father. Or that is one way the story is told.

It is said that the Greensward was protected from all ills and made a secret fastness for the crafting of fine but homely things and the growing of grains. Of course, even then Leesha’s wildness could not be contained and many halflings set out beyond the edge of the Sward. The most famous of these heroes were Beryl Ironfoot the gnome and his companion Machnanen the Giantslayer. It is the saga of these two which ends in the coming of the Giants to the Sward and the end of the era of peace.

When the borders of the Greensward were breached by the giants many of our kind, the smallfolk, died. Those who did not were scattered by the violence, spreading to the rest of the world. The Sward was taken away from this world, drawn to Ærgard by the Roseheart. No halfling or gnome can ever return to the Greensward in this lifetime; there is no place for it in this fallen world.

For that reason, the Greensward is often the setting of the semi-religious stories told to us by our priests. It is the place where Leesha walked among us with her husband, before her wanderlust caused her to forsake him and before the gnolls and the giants did terrible slaughters to our people. The Greensward is, in a word, paradise.

Back to the Table of Contents.

Halfling Subraces

The halflings are cousin to us gnomes, and as smallfolk we all tend to stick together. Most halflings are from the harvoet breed; that is, they exhibit the most halfling-like of all traits. They are the quintessential halflings! But, there are two other breeds of that folk and we may trace their genealogy back to the Greensward based on where they lived. For, unlike the gnomes, the halflings mostly kept to the lowland plains and fields and farmed. The halflings are consummate farmers, and most desire nothing more than to live a peaceful life unless they are moved by the great wanderlusts of Leesha Roseheart; but it is we gnomes who suffer from those the most, for we build the wagons and ferries while halflings only occasionally venture off into the wild.

Halflings enjoy most of all a good drink, a warm fire, a cozy bedroom. Like the forest gnomes, they have a tendency to make heavy use of natural features of the land to build their homes. For this reason, the first dwarves who stumbled upon us thought that we were related to the filthy goblin-creatures, who also dwell in hills! But our dwelling places are much more pleasant than those of the goblin-folk.

Back to the Table of Contents.

The Harvoet

GAME STATISTICS: These are baseline halflings; sterk and talsam blood can grant infravision, etc.

The harvoet halflings are those that were descended from the first sister-warriors made by the Roseheart, Cwenburh and Merewyn. Incidentally, Cwenburh and Merewyn are two of the most storied members of halfling myth. Their history began with the rapid conquest of the Greensward; after nearly one hundred years of wandering, Cwenburh and Peridot Iron-cap were told of a place where the smallfolk could settle and be in peace by their scouts. The entire mass of gnomes and halflings crossed the rivers into the Greensward, which was inhabited almost entirely by gnolls.

After the brief and furious war to take the Sward, Merewyn and her royal entourage had been slain and Cwenburh no longer desired the royal title of Queen. The smallfolk were left leaderless, but at the same time settlements began to spring up. The harvoet are descended from the settlements in the central sward, those that became the farmers and herdsmen of the Greensward.

Harvoet have farming in their blood; they are the shortest of the halfling races and the most friendly. It is rare that a harvoet will feel the pull of the Roseheart’s wanderlust, but when he does that is a formidable foe indeed.

Back to the Table of Contents.

The Sterk

GAME STATISTICS: Sterk halflings receive the benefits of being a Stout as per the PHB.

The sterk lived amongst the rock gnomes in the Greensward, which eventually led to trade with dwarves and other races of the mountains. Their main settlement was at a place called the sterk, thus the name of their ancestry.

Sterk tend to be more canny with stone than other halflings, and most would prefer mining or quarrying to farming. Like the talsam, full-blooded sterk are very rare; these two sub-groups of halflings interbred with the general population of halflings after the withdrawal of the Greensward.

Back to the Table of Contents.

The Talsam

GAME STATISTICS: Talsam halflings receive the benefits of being a Tallfellow as per the PHB.

The talsam settled in Talsam Forest, the southernmost portion of the Greensward. There they lived amongst my people, the forest gnomes, for centuries. As a group we traded with elves and (as halflings are ever an impressionable people) they grew more to resemble the elves that we interacted with. It is possible, and has been posited by some scholars of the smallfolk, that sterk and talsam once intermarried with dwarves and elves specifically, but I find that highly unlikely; more likely is that they intermarried with rock and forest gnomes.

Back to the Table of Contents.

Gnomish Subraces

Back to the Table of Contents.

Forest Gnomes

GAME STATISTICS: Forest gnomes receive the following modifications to their scores: +1 dex, +1 intelligence, -1 strength, -1 wisdom. They have 60’ infravision like their cousins, the rock gnomes, and share the rock gnomish resistance to magic. They may pass without trace through any wooded region without leaving any sign of their passage. They may hide in the woods like halflings. Forest gnomes also gain the AC bonus when attacked by L or larger sized creatures, as per the PHB.

Back to the Table of Contents.

Rock Gnomes

GAME STATISTICS: Rock gnomes receive the following modifications to their scores: +1 intelligence, -1 wisdom. They receive the NWP endurance for free, and are granted a +2 bonus to any time it must be rolled. They are otherwise identical to gnomes as presented in the PHB.

Rock gnomes live in tightly knit communities much like the forest gnomes. However, unlike their sylvan cousins, they are frequently nomadic. Rock gnomes developed a distinctive type of wagon many centuries ago and they use it to this day. This gnomish wagon is a telltale sign of their presence in any given region. Traveling rock gnomes often work as tinkers (tin smiths), blacksmiths, and masons wherever they are itinerating.

When not traveling, rock gnomes tend to live beneath hills or within large stones. They have an exceedingly powerful work ethic which surpasses even that of the dwarves. Rock gnomes will work until they collapse, pushing themselves far past the limit of exertion normal races consider acceptable. While they may enjoy life as much as forest gnomes do, you’d be hard pressed to tell it: they smile rarely, and tell jokes even less.

Back to the Table of Contents.

The Book of Smallfolk

Abridged History of the 10th Age Idabrius