The Gnomish Federation
The gnomes were once a sort of merchant class, acting as intermediaries between the dwarfs and the surface races. Nearly seven hundred years ago, a small band of dwarfs felt cheated by this arrangement — or perhaps a particular deal gone sour — and decided to cut out the middleman. Though they failed to rally much support among the dwarven dynasties, they became all the more obsessed. They captured ettins and created a mass breeding program for the two-headed giants, training them to despise gnomes and them pointing them towards gnomish settlements. Several gnome towns were wiped out before the gnomes figured out what was happening and found an effective way to fight back. They used illusions and compulsion magic to control the ettins themselves.
It didn’t take long for gnomes to take control of the ettin breeding program and perfect their training and control of the giants. They use a mix of conditioning and illusion. Each head is deafened to the other and actually hears their gnomish controllers. The gnomes didn’t realize that the radical dwarven merchants were a tiny minority — or choose to ignore this fact, depending on who you ask — and began a campaign of heavily taxing and regulating trade with the dwarven kingdoms, which had grown dependent upon human and elvin food and goods. Attempts to break the blockade were brutally crushed. One entire dwarven capital city – Ogurlandi – was eradicated and become a gnomish forward operating base under the Gnomish name Seher.
Two major events kept the gnomes from completely conquering the dwarves. First, the humans became Illumians and Mongrelfolk. The Illumians could counter the gnomish illlusions that had kept the humans complacent. Also, the dwarves made new tunnels to the surface within Illumian territory. The wars ended , trade at reasonable rates resumed, but the gnomes never showed the slightest remorse and never returned the dwarven city they conquered, a constant source of bitterness from the dwarves. Tensions between dwarves and gnomes remain high.
The gnomes are once more a civilization based on trade and view most other races and trading partners, though they also remain a military force to be reckoned with. The gnomes had hoped to become the ruling power of the region, and their hopes were foiled, at least for now. Rumor holds that there is a constant level of unacknowledged spy-craft, political manipulation, meddling, and sabotage of the gnomes by the Illumians that is all that really prevent the gnomes from growing strong enough to break away from their outwardly declared allies. Current talks are underway to give dominion of areas in the Eastern lands to the gnomes in exchange for their help civilizing those dangerous places.
The Gnomish Pantheon has experienced some upheaval as a result in the change in gnomish culture. Baravar Cloakshadow is now a greater diety and the head of the pantheon. Gaerdal Ironhand is now true neutral and a full deity. Garl Glittergold is now seen as a kindly grandfather figure, the patron god of children. Flandul steelskin and Segojan Earthcaller are unchanged.
Gnome adventures are most often wizards, beguilers, clerics, duskblades, and rogues. The most prestigious wizards and beguilers become ettin-riders.