What’s different about these gnomes?

1 – Gnomes are what happens when you leave magic items unattended for long periods of time; they absorb information from around them, grow and become sentient, then sprout a pair of legs and wander off into the countryside to go live up a tree or down in a cave. To that end, it’s quite hard to keep hold of large quantities of magic items – if you don’t want your favourite axe to turn into a gnome, keep it by your side and take good care of it. Gnomes don’t have any particular universal physical traits, aside from their diminutive stature – they look a bit like the item they grew out of.

2 – They’re swamp witches; they live in wet ground and hang out with toads. Some of them marry the toads; others ride them as mounts, leaping stickily through the mud, grabbing people with long tongues and dragging them under the filthy water to drown. Careful examination of the toads has proven that they are the kind that secrete hallucinogenic grease, and may well be dominating the gnomes with some sort of innate mind-control spell.

3 – They’re all the avatars of deities. When they visit earth, gods assume the ideal form; turns out it’s gnomes. Weird.

4 – They build cities in strange places where life shouldn’t be able to survive: the frozen north, deep beneath the sea, in lava-spewing volcanoes, in mid-air, that sort of thing. They’re fiercely isolationist. Diplomats emerge once every few months to trade with the outside world; you hear tell that each gnomish city is a brutal totalitarian state devoted to keeping the outside out and the inside in.

5 – You remember how gran always said you were to eat your vegetables so you’ll grow up big and strong? She wasn’t wrong. If you don’t get a varied diet as a child, you’ll never grow past four feet tall, and you’ll become a gnome. Most gnomes live in the ghettos, marginalised for their stature; a few reach positions of responsibility or power, but it’s a rarity.

6 – They’re machines, but: they’re made of flesh, just like you and me. They’re part of some vast, complex, world-spanning computational engine designed to solve the problem of eternal life – the machine operates on a scale that neither we nor the gnomes can really comprehend. This explains why they like machines so much, why they seem a bit weird to outsiders, and why they snore in binary.

7 – A gnome is born every time someone swears at a piece of broken machinery; mechanics have a wide variety of replacement profanities to hand so they don’t end up having to take care of (or “take care of”) a small gaggle of gnomes that they’ve created.

8 – They’re beastmasters. They have an innate knack of getting animals to do what they want; gnomes will generally ride the biggest creature they can find and get it to eat the second biggest creature they can find for dinner. They’re absurdly good at it, too – elephant dressage is a popular gnomish sport in the flatlands.

9 – They can never set foot on land. Well, they can, but they instantly start to sprout roots and, within a minute or two, become horrid little tree-statues. As such, gnomes live their lives as sailors, pirates, river-traders or trees.

10 – Gnomes happen organically when you store too many books next to each other; they coalesce out of dust mites and torn pages until, before you know it, you’ve got twenty of the little buggers running around the stacks. They steal books and then hurl them into the river, laughing the whole time; no-one’s quite sure why. Seeing as they’re comprised out of knowledge, they know some weird things that they shouldn’t know, so you might be able to get something useful out of them. Or they’ll just piss on you and run away, one or the other.


Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

What’s weird about these elves?

1. They’re feral, like all elves are until the age of 100 or so. Up until that point they dwell in the forests in caves, or improvised lean-tos; they hunt with their nails and teeth, leaping out of trees and tearing the throats out of deer. At the end of their first century, they undergo a sort of awakening and become the book-reading, spell-casting, dress-wearing elves you’re used to, staggering away from their latest kill and naked, stinking cave-mate in abject horror.

2. They’re plants. They photosynthesise, which is why you never see them eat, and instead they sleep with their feet buried in soft earth. (They extend little roots down there to suck up moisture and nutrients; it’s gross.)

3. They were created by True Elves many years ago (hundreds? Thousands?) and, even though their towering and alien makers have died, the elves continue to function. They are complex machines of stolen bone and ultrafine metal wires, kept taught and wound up nightly to power their bodies; they cannot breed, but they can make inferior copies of themselves in turn, and those copies can do the same, and so on; like worn-out photocopies, badly-sculpted and malfunctioning elves populate the poorer places of the world.

4. They come from painted worlds; in works of fine art, occasionally an elf will appear in the background, and slowly move forward in the frame, and then one day they’ll emerge. (This destroys the painting, or rather, turns it into an elf, so collectors are generally against it.) They seem to be able to find each other once they emerge, and they’ve formed a culture.

5. There’s only three of them. When one dies, another one is born. Or: arrives. Anyway, there are minimum three and maximum three elves at any one time, and they all work in concert.

6. They only exist in moonlight. Or they’re only visible in moonlight, which makes more sense, but they tell you they don’t exist if the moon isn’t shining on them. There are various folk stories about moon elves stalking unwelcome hunters through the forests, only visible as strobing images.

7. They aren’t born; they happen. All elves start off as beautiful, famous humans – as big as celebrities can get in fantasy worlds – and as more stories are written of their exploits, and portraits commissioned of their visages, the adoration poured upon them physically changes them. They grow taller, thinner, more cruel.

8. They’re all drunk, all the time. You wouldn’t really be able to tell unless you knew; but when an elf sobers up, their refined mannerisms and graceful movements become even more refined and graceful, turning them into alien creatures who are largely impossible to communicate with outside of a sort of high-pitched vibration they use instead of speech. They drink to bring themselves down to our level, which is kind of them, even if it doesn’t really work.

9. They’re hollow vessels for ghosts. Generally, an elf will be filled the spirit of an ancestor when they come of age so their elders can continue to advise on courtly happenings; when the body dies, the ghost takes over and carries on. That’s why elves live so long: most of them are already dead.

10. They eat gold. Or: anything that’s expensive, because they derive nutrition from value. Gold is the easiest way to do it, but it doesn’t taste of much, so when an elf wants to treat themselves they’ll eat gems, crowns, phylacteries, oil paintings, etc. They don’t pass solid waste; they just absorb everything they eat. (Wizards reckon this is out of reasons of politeness, and also because it could be quite painful to shit out a crown).


Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.

Header image by Angie Trenz on Flickr

WHAT’S UP WITH THESE KOBOLDS?

Header image by David Stanley on Flickr

1 – Their master, a proud red dragon, died several generations ago. Now, when they march to war, they swarm underneath her skeleton and tanned, leathery hide, and carry her to glory. Arrows bounce off her scales, and they lob alchemist’s fire out of her jaws. (The locals aren’t too smart, so they think it’s still the dragon.)

2 – They’re robbing a bank. Their dragon has grown fat and lazy, and is tasking them with breaking into nearby banks (or: magic shops, universities, merchant trading houses – anywhere with a surplus of gold) and stealing as much as they can carry, relying on their skills at digging underground and disarming defences. They rig the perimeter with traps first, in case they’re discovered.

3 – They’re selling information on dragons to the highest bidder – lair locations, weaknesses, favoured prey types, hidden tunnels, types of treasure, and so on. They’re part of a collective who fled their masters and are trying to get them killed off before they hunt them down and do the same to them.

4 – They’ve engaged in trench and tunnel warfare with the local gnomes, digging under the roots of ancient trees to undermine each other, and setting nasty traps in the dense underbrush. The war ground to a standstill a year or so ago, but the no-man’s land in the forest is a tangled mess primed to kill the first person who steps into it.

5 – They hollow people out and fill them full of traps to lure people in. Sometimes they use low-grade magic items technology to complete the ruse – some clockwork to make a corpse writhe back and forth, a music box in the throat to give out an injured moan or a cry for help. The really good ones can make them walk around a bit, too. (They have a sick sense of humour, often setting them up in lifelike positions and snickering in hiding until someone approaches and triggers the traps.)

6 – They’re the larval state of dragons. If they survive long enough, and gather a large enough hoard, they’ll burrow down inside it and emerge at the start of the next summer as a young dragonling. Problem is, dragons don’t like other dragons, so they have to hide, or hire help, else they’ll wind up dead.

7 – The dwarves chose to collapse the mines as they fled, leaving the kobolds trapped within. That was six hundred years ago, and kobolds breed fast and live short, cruel lives, and now the town has opened up the mines again. The kobolds – or, the feral, pallid, almost-blind descendants of them – are still there, and they don’t want to give up their new home.

8 – They’re walking into the centre of town, bold as brass, proclaiming the coming of a mighty and powerful dragon who demands tribute else she’ll burn the whole town to the ground. Their paperwork looks official enough, but they could be having you on. Then again, do you really want to risk it?

9 – They’re transporting a dragon egg – the child of their mistress – to a sacred spawning site deep in the frosty mountains (or a volcano, for a red dragon, or a forest cavern for a green dragon, etc.). Surely this place must contain vast riches!

10 – They offer themselves as guides to move through Tunnels, a slipshod and unstable dimension which can be reached through any underground passage that’s deep, old, and dark enough. But you don’t want to meet the horrible things that live there – great hungry worms made of writhing darkness – so tread lightly, and leave quickly.

Remnants is a series where Chris and Grant, the creative leads behind Rowan, Rook & Decard, create a fantasy world through the use of Dx tables. Because who has time to read a full setting book?

[REMNANTS] Once upon a time, when the dragon-kings ruled the aetherealms and the Witch-Queens fought grand duels over generations with arcana of unimaginable power, the worlds split apart. There was too much magic, and reality couldn’t bear the weight any longer. The otherworlds splintered apart like ships crashing against a shoreline; but the pieces remained, shards of reality, and they pierced the material realm. A thousand dimensions, all attached to various degrees, to the prime material: some forgotten, some overrun with new inhabitants, some spawning monstrous creatures into the world, and some ripe for plundering.