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The Kobold Press Tome of Heroes is full of player options for any 5E D&D game. Several subraces in the book have sidebars describing their place in Midgard. However, some do not!
One subrace missing a Midgard description is the shoal gnomes. These amphibious gnomes live in temperate or warm coastal waters, often near coral reefs.
They’ve never appeared in any Midgard product . . . but where could you find shoal gnomes if you wanted them in your Midgard game?
Shoal Gnomes in Midgard
Gnomes are something of a rarity in Midgard, and the sea-dwelling shoal gnomes are no exception. While it is possible to find a small settlement of shoal gnomes nearly anywhere along the coastline, from the waters off Konigsheim to the silt-laden estuary of the river Nuria, the highest populations of shoal gnomes in Midgard cluster in two places.
Ghosts of the Lost Arbonesse
These gnomes make their homes among the stump forests on the sea floor, haunting an already-haunted sunken forest. These shoal gnomes tend to be more reserved than their other kin, mainly associating with the aquatic elves that also inhabit the Lost Arbonesse.
Their aloof manner, and the rare sight of them flitting among the dead trees under the sea, give them the nickname, “Ghosts of the Lost Arbonesse.”
Shoal gnomes of this region tend toward hair in shades of brown, allowing them to blend in with the dead forest. Their skin tone runs a gamut from fawn to a tawny orange-brown.
The spots of color typical of most shoal gnomes are predominantly red and pink, with some yellow, running in spirals along their legs, arms, and shoulders. Eye color is evenly split between brown and green, but lighter shades, like sea foam and amber.
Facts about the Lost Arbonesse Shoal Gnomes
- With the encroachment of sahuagin into the Lost Arbonesse from deeper waters, the aquatic elves and the shoal gnomes ally out of necessity. They combine their strengths to protect their respective communities from the depredations of the sea devils.
- While shoal gnomes typically form bonds with sea turtles or dolphins, the gnomes of the Lost Arbonesse have a fondness for eels. Moray eels often accompany the shoal gnomes when hunting, and are used in combat against the sahuagin as a foil for the shark companions of those foes.
- They sometimes settle near remnants of elven cities, fallen to ruin in the cataclysm that pulled the Lost Arbonesse beneath the waves. Even aquatic elves avoid such places, as restless spirits and ghosts of the former inhabitants haunt them. Mystics among the shoal gnomes attempt to contact spirits, to set the poor souls to rest. It has become a more frequent to see one or more shoal gnomes ashore, traveling into the Arbonesse or Dornig on missions for the spirits, carrying messages or returning lost relics to surviving descendants to help finish unsettled business.
Reef Dominions of the Middle Sea
The largest shoal gnome population in Midgard is in the southern portion of the Mharoti Empire, within the reefs among the waters of Marea and the Islands. Some of these reef settlements were designed as artificial add-ons to existing reefs, the coral grown on frameworks built by the gnomes. Such a process can take decades, and older generations look on with pride as younger gnomes inhabit chambers and halls that took a good portion of their lives to complete.
As Marea is a province of the Dragon Empire, and its waters are Imperial territory, the gnomes are technically citizens of the Empire. However, Yiraz Azah, ruler of Marea and the Islands, allows the shoal gnomes leeway in exchange for their help on behalf of the Empire.
Each settlement and its surroundings, known as a domain, is responsible for marking reefs with buoys, to enable safe passage for Mharoti ships. They are also to report suspicious ship traffic in or near their domain. Some domains loyally carry out such duties. Others pay lip service to the Empire while doing the bare minimum to remain in the good graces of Yiraz.
Facts about the Reef Dominions of the Middle Sea
- The Great Dolphin Races are an annual cultural event that grew into a regional spectacle. Now the races draw spectators from across Marea and even further into the Empire. Shoal gnome competitors enter with a dolphin companion, whom they guide during the race while holding on to the dolphin’s dorsal fin. The main race starts in the bay of Eraklion, runs around the north side of the island, and finishes on the opposite side of the island, a total distance of nearly 45 miles. The winner receives a magical spear from Yiraz Azah herself, who acts as emcee during the race. This spear remains with the winner until the following year’s race, when it is passed to the new winner. The current champion is Delfinni Asafygo, a ranger, and her dolphin companion Tachys, who have won for three years running.
- Kepli Ashar, a shoal gnome dominion in the waters off the shore of Sunny Pteros, has its own temple to Nethus. Made of living coral, this cathedral was the work of centuries of careful nurture. It serves as a place of worship for sea-dwelling folk, and a pilgrimage site for those faithful among the air-breathing races who survive underwater by some form of magic. Quietly, this temple also serves as a cell of rebellion. The clergy act as spies, noting mercantile and naval travels in the vicinity and reporting movements, via sending to Triolan corsairs.
Get into Midgard with the Midgard Worldbook! This acclaimed campaign setting is rich and deep, with a decade of support from Kobold Press. Want a more focused start? Try the Zobeck Clockwork City Collector’s Edition! This detailed sourcebook gives players plenty of room to run, and includes adventures within the Clockwork City itself!