Lots of Holidays are happening on the surface right now. Brewfest of course. The Dark irons are using some auxiliary tunnels from Gnomeregan as a staging area to attack Brewfest. At first I was hesitant to allow them to launch an attack directly from here, because we are so close to Ironforge, and direct conflict would be messy. But then I found out they let Mekkatorque be the guest of honor! I’ll do ANYTHING to spoil his party!
Let’s be honest for a second. Gnome fans are a vocal minority. Gnomes are the least popular race in the game (second to goblins), BUT those fans are very invested in the lore seemingly more than any other. This might be because gnomes are one of the least developed races in the game, and so we are starving for lore, or it could be that there is something about gnomes that really resonates with their fans. A ‘relatable’ feeling that really gets gnome fans especially engrossed in their story. What could that relatable thing be?
Appearance: At the surface level, some people relate to gnomes physically. Either they see an aspect of their own physicality in gnomes, or they are attracted to them. Besides the obvious (their height), gnomes are built very differently from other races. Representing lots of body types is good. Gnomes aren’t the super skinny like a lot of female characters are in fantasy art. Mostly gnomes seem to be considered cute, but I’ve also heard them described as, “plump in all the right places.”
Intelligence: All the lore descriptions of gnomes generously professes their genius. Some people would rather be smart than strong. Outwitting your opponent instead of trying to beat them through attrition. I think this might be the strongest aspect of gnomes and the reason most people are drawn to them. I see a lot of Draenei fans also like gnomes , and intelligence is the strongest link between the two races. They don’t have that over the top muscular build that most races in Warcraft have either. Gnomes diminutive stature implies that they have non-physical edge to keep up with the larger races of Azeroth.
Care-free: Gnomes in Warcraft have a tragic backstory, but individually, they don’t seem to be dark or brooding. There are a lot of sad stories in Warcraft, and sometimes you want a break from that. Gnomes are often light hearted and upbeat. They laugh a lot and don’t take themselves too seriously. (Which is good because no one else seems to take them too seriously either.) It’s nice to keep things upbeat. There is a lot to appreciate about the dark and sad moments, but you don’t always want to ‘live’ there. I think this is one of the reasons reclaiming Gnomeregan is such a big deal. Gnome players would like to see this aspect of the lore brought more in line with gnomish personality.
Underdogs: Who doesn’t enjoy an underdog? Gnomes start at a level of disadvantage that few other race in Azeroth currently endure. Their home is a toxic wasteland, their closest allies in Ironforge rescinded sanctuary and exiled them AGAIN. Their first major attempt to reclaim their homeland after 10 years failed. If you like having the odds stacked against you then gnome is the way to go.
Outsiders: It’s possible that the hate they get from other players drives a certain kind of person towards gnomes. Loners that don’t like to socialize as much, or people that feel personally ostracized for one reason or another and relate to that. Even the occasional agitator who enjoys annoying others, and rolls a gnome to gank horde and make them rage at getting killed by a pipsqueak.
Agnostic: In fantasy, there are tons of religions, and for the most part they all tend to be true in most regards. Gnomes on the other hand, did not believe in anything. Despite the powers flexed by priests, druids, shamans, and paladins. Gnome remain agnostic in their belief. It’s something that you rarely see in a fantasy setting. Atheists are a minority in most places, and so seeing some representation is unexpected and refreshing. When they added priests, they managed to not abandon this aspect of the race. I have a lot of respect for that.
Gnomes seem to be filling a lot of niches that are traditionally ignored in fantasy and that’s great, I love it. Transgender dragon? Bring it on. Gnomeregan can be a home for anybody!
Back at Gamescom2017, Ion Hazzikostas, @WatcherDev was answering questions on twitter. One of which was, “Isn’t now the best chance to add animations using the staves for caster classes (at least optionally)? That would be so great.” -@AlexCC94
The answer from Ion was, “Spells in Warcraft have historically been conjured, not channeled through weapons.”
I’m going to show my age and point out that weapons were used for caster animation in Warcraft 3 and they looked cool.
Uhhh… ok, maybe not that troll one in the middle… but the others look good! Most of them are even just weapon swings with a particle effect. It would seem like something like that might be easy to accomplish with cosmetic glyphs or transmog options.
Weapons could be used to denote a difference in what is happening, such as casting a spell vs channeling a spell. You could make any number of arguments for when weapons would and would not be best utilized in casting animations, but I think all it boils down to casters wanting to see their weapons used in any kind of way other than a stat stick that never moves from their back/hip.
No matter how epic and awesome looking your weapon is, it is diminished if you literally never use it.
Here we are at last. We’ve talked about drawing cards, buffing and debuffing, and a how intelligent gnomes are. Now we’re going to talk about the odd gnomes out. The cards that feature gnomes, but where the mechanics are not prevalent enough to imply a common theme.
Let’s start with Leper Gnomes. Leper gnomes in hearthstone do direct damage to the enemy hero. This sets them apart from goblins, that do lots of damage, but tend to do it randomly, or have some form of blowback. Thermaplugg does not directly do damage to the enemy hero, but he summons the basic leper gnomes that do.
Transformation! I was surprised there were not more gnomes that did this because Tinkmaster Overspark is such an iconic gnome in Hearthstone. The theme of transformation seems to have shifted to Shaman. Since Gnomes can’t be shamans, it makes sense that this would not be something they continued.
Healing! Only a couple gnomes heal. In World of Warcraft, gnomes did not have a healing class for a long time. Seeing healing being under represented as a mechanic makes some sense. It would be interesting to see some first aid themed gnomes that heal, perhaps a Surgeon General “Doc” Cogspin someday.
And the rest! These final gnomes don’t have any kind of special condition that make them thematically consistent with gnomes. Hearthstone is a very random game. The only structure they stick to is based on class not race. Honestly, it surprised to see how strong some of the trends have been.
There are a few cards I want to single out in this last section:
The Knife Juggler. He is SUCH a Goblin. Deals damage to Random Enemies? Total Goblin. If he was a rogue exclusive card I could understand it. Class over race for balance, but he’s not. He is a neutral card.
Sergeant Sally is walking that same line with her AOE damage. I almost shoehorned her with the lepers because she does a straight forward damage to non-random targets.
Mind Control Tech is another I am surprised we don’t see more of. All three of those cards have long convoluted conditions about when and how their abilities work, so maybe that is another theme, or maybe not.
And that is it! we have covered every gnome minion card in the game as of “Knight of the Frozen Throne” After doing this I was surprised by something that Hearthstone is famous for but is larging missing from the gnome kit: Randomness. Not to say their is no randomness in gnome cards, but it less than in a lot of other aspects of the game. Frankly I’m almost relieved. Gnomes have a reputation for devices that malfunction and backfire. It’s part of why people don’t take them more seriously and I’m glad to see it largely ignored here. Gnomes in Hearthstone are reliable, the way it should be! (Let gobins own the ‘blowing themselves up’ shtick .)
With gnome story so light in Warcraft, we are challenged to look for the details we can tease out in other places. It can be a fun and unique challenge. The more I do it, the more I enjoy it. If you are interested in more I also have a post about inferred gnome lore from Warcraft 2.
This again? Yes! I gave you a break, after Part 1 and Part 2 were back to back, but now we are back and scrapping the bottom of the barrel like never before! This week I’m hitting three themes at once! Summoning, Versatility and Resource Manipulation!.
Plenty of gnomes summon other minions. This was started by Mekkatorque and the Dragonling Mechanic. What’s really interesting to me about these is that most of them are NOT engineering devices. It started what way, but Arcanosmith and Rattling Rascal are summoning magical minions. Blingaton brings weapons, and Thermaplugg summons gnomes. So what does this tell us about gnomes? I think that this is a representation of strategic thinking from gnomes. Having multiple units on the board increases your play options, and generally forces your opponent to spend more resources to clear the board. Below are the 6 gnome cards that bring another card to play field with them.
The second trait is Versatility. These gnomes have multiple basic abilities. Charge, Taunt, Stealth, Lifesteal, Poisonous, Spell Damage and more! This stacking of abilities plays into the concept of gnomes as strategists. Having multiple abilities give these gnome a wider variety of scenarios that they are useful in.
The first sets of abilities we talked in parts 1 and 2 were about playing into the engineering specialization that gnomes are well known for. These set don’t do that, they harken to the raw intelligence of them. It’s not played up as much, but I am really happy to see it portrayed here.
Last of these we have 4 card that modify Mana Costs. These clearly reflect the gnome racial ability Expansive Mind. Like the cards above, they reflect the intellectual prowess of gnomes. These are even more pure in their representation, because none of them call back to some form of engineering. They are all mages that use their genius to maximize efficiency. … Except Millhouse. GET IT TOGETHER MANASTORM!
Sing Sweet Blightingale
“I’m not waiting one more minute.” Arthas had very little patient for Sylvanas. Obviously she new that and was testing them. He and Kel’thuzad had been sitting in the reception area for almost half an hour, but Kel’thuzad was not about to let a tantrum ruin his plans.
“Have you forgotten your own immortality? This wait is nothing to us.” Arthas was unmoved and stood to storm out. As he did, the door cracked open and the head of Nathanos Blightcaller leaned in. “The Dark Lady will see you now.”
Kel had intended to go in first but Arthas marched in ahead of him. Sylvanas was not at her desk, she was standing at the window looking out over the ruins of Lordaeron.
“How are your ruins?” Arthas quipped before anyone else could make a proper greeting.
Sylvanas looked back over her shoulder with a scowl on her face. “Ruins are a classic Arthas. They were good enough to build your career on. Where would you be if it wasn’t for this.” She motioned to the crumbling buildings outside the window. “But certainly you didn’t come here to take shots at your own legacy. What do you want.” She walked back to her desk and sat down eyes narrowed. No attempt made to hide the disgust on her face.
“We’ve come to put the band back together for a reunion tour. No new songs, we all continue to work on our side projects, just on the road performing for our adoring fans.” Kel had seen an opening and cut Arthas off. talking as fast as he could and still seem natural.
“Side Projects!? I run an entire label now. I’m trying to promote over half a dozen bands right now. I don’t have time to run all over Azeroth trying to recapture YOUR good old days.”
“You’ve got the passion Sylvanas. You’re a performer at heart. I know you do a joint track with every new artist you sign.” Kel’thuzad implored her.
“It’s called branding. I’m busting my ass building recognition. I have REAL responsibilities. I have no time for a nostalgia tour with a couple asshole I can BARELY stand to be in the same room with!” She’d stood up now, hands slammed down on the desk.
He has known that this would be difficult, but she was being more resistant than he had expected. “Sylvanas, I know you’ve got a lot going on here, but we’ve so much history, so much more in common. Who outside this room understands the burden of our…”
“YOU DARE SPEAK TO ME ABOUT BURDEN!” She screamed. Arthas and Kel’thuzad both put their hands up in front of their faces. She finished her words, but the screaming did not let up, it intensified. The two Scourge lords were pushed backwards out of the room by the percussive force of her banshee wail. Nathanos closed the door behind them.
Failure. Everything up to this point had gone exactly as he had planned. Kel’thuzad was sure that he could agree Sylvanas to at least consider the idea, that he could buy more time to convince her, and get her truly back on board. It was apparent now her resentment had spent all these years festering and had bloated in to an unsurmountable obstacle. Lost in thought, suddenly he was snapped back to reality as Arthas hand clapped down on his shoulder. He looked up annoyed that Arthas had been so openly hostile when they first went in, souring their chances. Kel’s eyes narrowed. “We needed our lead female singer.”
“I told you Sylvanas would never be on board Kel. I’ve made some other arrangements for our female lead.”
“Oh?” Kel was cautious and curious.
“Yea,” Arthas smirked. “Two birds with one stone, a female lead singer, and a replacement Dreadlord.”
Kel’thuzad emerged from the death gate, Arthas and Anub’arak close behind. “Gentlemen, welcome to Darkshire.”
“Dar’ksheer?” Anub’arak try to pronounce the word.
“Dark-Shire” Arthas corrected him. “A boondock thousands of miles away from any undead of note, they are not even Scourge. What are we doing here Kel?”
“We are escaping the mainstream, looking for a fresh face with a new perspective. No offence, you are both royalty, and it’s always hurt our image with the common ghoul. We’re going to need a more down to earth ‘everyman’ to broaden our fan base.”
They could hear the music coming from the hole in the wall they were approaching. It was literally a hole in the wall of a partially collapsed Alliance barracks. Arthas felt strange as they walked in. No one recognized them. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been able to go anywhere without a entourage of ghouls to fight off acolytes desperate for autographs. Here no one bothered giving much more than a second glance. Anub’arak was getting some strange looks, but rather than being mobbed, the crowd was giving them space.
“This place is a little dated isn’t it?” Arthas was clearly displeased. “The ‘ruins’ look is a little last decade.”
“Ignore the decor, Arthas, listen to the music.” as they approached Kel motioned towards the stage. There were a couple ghouls playing guitar, an armored skeleton on keyboard, an abomination on drums, and a banshee singing lead. It was a cover of one of their songs.
“Pitiful” Anub’arak finally said. “These creatures do not match our talents.”
“Agreed” Arthas added. “That keyboard solo was garbage. He can not replace Mal’ganis.”
“We aren’t here for the keyboardist.” Kel’thuzad replied. He then turned to face Anub’arak, “You spin now yes? You’re no longer drumming.”
“Yes. I enjoy it more than the sticks.” Anub’arak responded. He turned to look at the abomination at the drum kit. “I would like to continue with my current set up, but out old songs require a drummer, and I will not stand for to our beats be mangled by an abomination. It will not be able to keep up with…” as the Crypt lord spoke the band paused, and the Abomination launched into an epic drum solo. It was tight and fast, a masterful execution that got the nerubian to change his tune, “How is such a thing possible?’
Kel’thuzad explained, “You see Stitches up there is not like the mass produced abominations we have up north. He’s all hand crafted and painstakingly imbued with the most perverse mixture of love and loathing you’ll ever find. His creator and manager, Abercrombie, is over there, left of the stage. The rest of the band has a separate manager, but Abercrombie keeps a tight leash on his unique creation. He’s the one we will have to negotiate with.”
“Very well” Arthas strolled up to Abercrombie at the side of the stage and leaned in. “We like your drummer, we want to offer him a place with our band.”
The old hermit twisted his face up. “I get a full manager’s cut. Anywhere he goes I go. He doesn’t do anything without my say so.”
“Very well” Arthas casually pulled out Frostmorne and plunged it into the old man’s heart. The music stopped dead, and the room fell silent save of the screeching sound of the man’s soul being pulled into Frostmorne. Arthas pulled the sword out and pointed it at Stitches. “You. I have the soul of you master and creator bound to me. You will do as I bid. I am your manager now.”
“Cool” said Stitches. “What we do?”