Did I have to spell check that multiple times? Maybe so… maybe so.
Today we’re looking at something a little interesting: Svirfneblin, or as they’re more commonly known, Deep Gnomes.
Considering that these small creatures are also a playable race there’s quite a bit about them to cover. Let’s start with the stats.
The numbers: Deep Gnomes have a very average +0 WIS mod with CHA being their lower stat at a -1. They also get a +1 INT and a +2 to STR and DEX.
They’re one of the few small races and, when it comes to running them as NPCs, have a fairly decent AC of 15 and a pool of 3d6+6 hit points. Unfortunately a size small does mean that these folk have a limited movement of 20ft.
Compared to other gnomes, Svirfneblin possess a superior Darkvision of 120ft as well as a pretty good Stealth (+4). Unlike their cousins, however, most Deep Gnomes don’t have proficiency in Common but favor Gnomish, Terran, and Undercommon instead.
Another thing that they have in common with other gnome subraces is their Gnome Cunning. On top of that Svirfneblin also have access to a couple of very handy spells through their Innate Spellcasting; Deep Gnomes are able to cast Nondetection, Blidnesss/Deafness, Blur, and Disguise self innately, which couples perfectly with their unique Stone Camouflage feature.
Deep Gnomes tend to favor War Picks are their melee weapon and poison darts for a little bit of extra range.
Svirfneblin have a CR of 1/2.
In terms of their appearance, Svirfneblin share their small stature with their cousins… and then not much else. Like many of the Underdark dwelling races their skin tends towards darker shades. Svirfneblin are also commonly described as ‘gnarled’ and wire thin.
Life as a Deep Gnome is full of dangers and constantly hanging by a thread. There are many a creature in the Underdark that preys upon these small folk. As such they have learned to rely on their use of illusion magic to avoid detection and keep their communities hidden.
Perhaps also because of their environment, Deep Gnomes tend to be extremely suspicious of other races and often come across as surly or overly serious.
Compared to other subraces of gnomes, Svirfneblin have a slightly shorter life span of around 250 years. Most of them live out their lives in the working to provide for their communities and never even explore the outside world. Those who do explore beyond their communities are usually prospectors or illusionists hoping to further their skills.
Like many of the Underdark races, Deep Gnomes have an inclination for mining. They are avid tunnel explorers and rely heavily on their Stealth to keep alive.
Svirfneblin communities are usually on the smaller side of things but they do elect monarchy to help look over their citizens. Houses are typically carved out of the cavernous stone itself and food tends to be impossible to stomach for any outsiders unfortunate enough to try it.
While incorporating these creatures in campaigns such as Out of the Abyss where the Underdark is the most prominent setting might be extremely easy, this might prove a bit more challenging for other settings.
The way I see it we have two choices here: one, we bring our intrepid party of adventurers into the underground or, two; we force our Svirfneblin outside of their homes so that they might cross paths with our players.
There is definitely more than enough threats in the Underdark that would make the first option worth the trip. When it comes to encountering Deep Gnomes as potential foes, it shouldn’t be too hard with their natural mistrust of outsiders.
Given the habitat of these creatures as well as their affinity for stealth in this environment, combat encounters within their territory should be very interesting and I definitely suggest taking advantage of that Stone Camouflage and high stealth. Make sure you play your Deep Gnome as smart and sneaky as they truly are.
If we instead chose the latter option we need to do a little bit more brainstorming to figure out why our Deep Gnome would abandon their home and act so adversely towards our players to cause violence.
Perhaps a new mining incursion from above has caved in their town and the now homeless Svirfneblin are seeking retribution. Maybe their city was raided my any of the dangerous creatures that lurk in the Underdark and now the gnomes are in a very tense state. Either of these could prove an interesting adventure for your players to work through as well as an in for further Underdark exploration.