Learn all about the curious and secretive Svirfneblin
Also known as Svirfneblin, Deep Gnomes are gnomes that live, well, deep underground in the recesses of the Underdark. The Underdark is a terrifying place home to all sorts of nasty creatures from murderous drow to demons that have found a portal into the material plane. Deep Gnomes on the other hand, are not terrifying creatures (though not necessarily a push over either). They have managed to survive though by being masters of stealth as well as developing a natural affinity with the stone and earth around them. This means the the Svirfneblin tend to be master miners and craftsmen too.
Deep Gnomes were originally introduced as a playable race in D&D 5e in the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion, were republished in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and have since been updated in Monsters of the Multiverse. Our guide below focuses on the version of the race found in Monsters of the Multiverse and tells you everything you need to know to play as one of these stealthy characters.
What are Deep Gnomes?
Svirfneblin are a subspecies of Gnome similar to the Forest and Rock Gnomes of the surface, however, Deep Gnomes have been intensely affected by their environment, living primarily in the hazardous depths of the Underdark.
Deep Gnome appearance
Like the Duergar and Drow, Deep Gnomes have developed dark skin from centuries living underground typically having brown or grey skin and dark grey eyes. Like other Gnomes, they stand about 3-3.5ft tall and weigh about 40-45 pounds. Unlike other Gnomes, males tend to be bald and beardless though females do tend to have hair on their heads.
Deep Gnome personality
Most Gnomes are intrinsically curious but for Deep Gnomes, much of that curiosity has been removed from them through centuries of conditioning. A curious nature in the Underdark typically leads to a short life. This doesn’t mean that Deep Gnomes don’t have a curious streak at all and within the right, safe circumstances, can show almost equally curiosity to their surface cousins.
Because of the dangers of the Underdark, Deep Gnomes have developed a strong ability to work stealthily, through practice, biology and magic. The Svirfneblin are not the toughest creatures in the Underdark so survive by not being noticed and utilising technology and magic to keep themselves safe. Thankfully, the harshness of the Underdark has not made the Svirfneblin cruel like the Drow and Duergar, even if it has taken their zeal for life.
The constant threat of danger has also fostered in them a far more serious outlook on life than surface dwelling Gnomes. Svirfneblin are rarely frivolous and instead, work hard and master their crafts (which often involve magic or stonecraft).
Deep Gnome names
Svirfneblin love names and often have dozens of them. When born, they’ll be given a name by parents, clan elders and other relatives. Deep Gnomes will also accumulate nicknames over time, but many of the names a Deep Gnome receives won’t always stick around and they’ll tend to pick a few favourites that persist. Other races struggle with this lackadaisical approach to naming conventions and most Svirfneblin have worked out to stick with 3 names when dealing with other races; a personal name, a clan name and a nickname.
Male Deep Gnome names: Alston, Alvyn, Boddynock, Brocc, Burgell, Dimble, Eldon, Erky, Fonkin, Frug, Gerbo, Gimble, Glim, Jebeddo, Kellen, Namfoodle, Orryn, Roondar, Seebo, Sindri, Warryn, Wrenn, Zook
Female Deep Gnome names: Bimpnottin, Breena, Caramip, Carlin, Donella, Duvamil, Ella, Ellyjobell, Ellywick, Lilli, Loopmottin, Lorilla, Mardnab, Nissa, Nyx, Oda, Orla, Roywyn, Shamil, Tana, Waywocket, Zanna
Deep Gnome Clan Names: Beren, Daergel, Folkor, Garrick, Nackle, Murnig, Ningel, Raulnor, Scheppen, Timbers, Turen
How to play as a Deep Gnome
Cautious, careful and stoic are typical traits of Deep Gnomes. You’ll rarely want to confront a threat head on and will typically negotiation and stealth above other methods. Most Svirfneblin that do leave their homes though, do so because their gnomish curiosity simply can’t be contained and are willing to accept the risks of the outside world. You may find your character also possess this intense curiosity, even if life has taught them to temper this with caution.
Svirfneblin Features in 5e
|Ability Scores||+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores|
|Lifespan||About 500 years|
|Languages||Common and 1 other|
|Traits||Darkvision, Gift of the Svirfneblin, Gnomish Magic Resistance, Svirfneblin Camouflage|
|Book found in||Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, Elemental Evil Player’s Companion|
If you want to play as a Deep Gnome, your character will have the following traits and abilities:
Darkvision – You can see in dim light for 120 feet as if it is bright light and in darkness as if it is dim light though you can only discern colours as shades of grey in such light.
Gift of the Svirfneblin – At third level, you can cast disguise self and at 5th level, nondetection without needing to use material components. These spells can only be cast once per long rest without using a spell slot. Your spellcasting ability for these spells is intelligence, wisdom or charisma (whichever you choose).
Gnomish Magic Resistance – You have advantage on intelligence, wisdom and charisma saving throws against spells.
Svirfneblin Camouflage – You have advantage on stealth checks a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. You regain all uses of this ability when you complete a long rest.
Which classes work well for Deep Gnomes?
Deep gnomes are naturally stealthy creatures meaning they play well for classes that require the use of stealth. They also have great magic resistance. This is becoming less useful as monster stat blocks become less about spells and more about abilities, but still one of the more useful resistances.
Best classes for Deep Gnomes
With the above in mind, the best classes for a Deep Gnome are:
Bards and rogues get a lot of skill proficiencies and as long as you ensure one of those is in stealth, you become nearly impossible to detect, especially at high levels. As natural scouts, you’ll likely want your ranger proficient in stealth too. Add to this spells around stealth like disguise self and non-detection and you become the ideal scout and infiltrator.
It’s worth noting too that bards and rangers are spellcasters (as is the arcane trickster rogue) so these spells can be used multiple times in a day if required.
While most classes work reasonably well for Deep Gnomes, it’s also worth calling out barbarians that typically have a decent dexterity and no armour allowing them to specialise in stealth in the absence of stealthier characters. This means a Deep Gnome can be a reasonably good fit for a barbarian too.
Worst classes for Deep Gnomes
No class is a terrible choice for a deep gnome as things like darkvision, camouflage, magic resistance and disguise self are often useful for any class. Where these things become less useful is for classes that can already do some of these things and gain little extra benefit from having them. This primarily affects the artificer and the wizard. The wizard especially because you rarely want to be sending them into danger on a stealth mission and they can do everything a deep gnome can do with their own spells. Artificers that want to be infiltrators will likely take the armourer subclass and use the infiltrator armour which makes the deep gnome’s camouflage redundant.