Monday, June 26, 2017

On Gnomes and Titans

Recently, an old high school buddy of mine got inspired to go back and re-read some of the older rulesets of D&D, in part because of my gushing review of the Swords & Wizardry Legion stuff I was able to get my grubby mitts on.

He and I have a weird appreciation for gnomes as a PC race. When 4th Edition came out, there was a Youtube video explaining why tieflings were now PCs instead of gnomes. Ironically, it just cemented everything we like about gnomes. We both are infected with the old-school mind-set that if you can survive a dungeon with a pathetic excuse for a PC it says a lot about your skill as a player. Therefore, we understood this video as a challenge:

So, my friend decides he is going to make a 1e AD&D gnome character and consequently forwards me this quote:
"When being attacked by gnolls, bugbears, ogres, trolls, ogre magi, giants AND/OR TITANS (emphasis mine), gnome characters subtract 4 from their opponents' "to hit" dice rolls because of the gnomes' small size AND THEIR COMBAT SKILL AGAINST THESE MUCH BIGGER CREATURES (mine, again).
He also challenged me to figure out why a gnome would have combat skills against titans.

This rule is actually a remnant from Chainmail:
DWARVES (and Gnomes)…Although they are no threat to the larger creatures, Trolls, Ogres, and Giants find them hard to catch because of their small size, so count only one-half normal kills when Dwarves and Gnomes fight with them…
So, although gnomes are ineffectual at doing any damage to these types of creatures, from a tactical point of view, they do serve as a great way of slowing them down long enough to get stronger units in place to take the larger creatures out.

This rule is not found in OD&D, probably because it was assumed because the combat system used by OD&D was Chainmail. The d20 system everyone is familiar with today was the alternate combat system. As a consequence, this is not found in either Holmes or Moldvay but does find itself back in 1e AD&D with “Titan” added to the list of examples of creatures that have a hard time hitting dwarves and gnomes; however, 1e AD&D also adds that very curious phrase about combat skill…

If one takes a look at the Titan in the 1e AD&D Monster Manual, three intriguing aspects jump out:

  1. Titans primarily live on other planes, but do occasionally visit the Prime Material Plane especially to mingle with Storm Giants.
  2. Titans can use Invisibility at will and have access to a number of spells from both the magic-user and cleric spell lists.
  3. Titans who use Protection from Evil get double the bonus against Lawful Evil creatures.

This paints a picture of a creature type that existed before there was a distinction between Arcane and Divine magic, who does not see other planes as their natural home, spent time specifically fighting Lawful Evil creatures but lost due to the fact the the Prime Material Plane is no longer their normal habitat.

There are two groups of creatures that immediately suggest themselves when one thinks of Lawful Evil: Humanoids and Devils. Only one of those groups lives on the Prime Material Plane.

I am now going to go down a path that necessitates an understanding of my reading of the relationship between various humanoids and Dwarves. You can find that post here.

The ancient being(s) that twisted elves and dwarves into various humanoids did so in an ongoing battle with Titans on the Prime Material Plane. In response, the Titans developed more powerful protection spells against the humanoids which made up the bulk of the armies they were fighting against. In response, the ancient(s) enslaved the dwarves to use as fodder against the titans and further twisted the dwarves into gnomes. Dwarves and gnomes are resistant to magic and gnomes are bread specifically to deal with illusionist magics (to fight invisible titans). Due to the fact that the protective magics of the titans were designed to fight Lawful Evil humanoids, when they came upon dwarves and gnomes, they were caught by surprise and underestimated the danger of their foes. As a consequence, the titans were driven off the prime material plane.

Thus, dwarves and gnomes have combat skills against titans because they were specifically bred to fight against them by the ancient(s) who twisted elves and dwarves in the first place.

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