The gnomes of Golarion are a wounded race. Originally denizens of a strange and alien realm that exists “behind” the reality of this world—a realm known as the First World—the gnome race still bears the trauma of its ancient migration from a realm of impossibilities to a realm firmly rooted in reality. As a result, every gnome constantly seeks new and exciting experiences on a regular basis, for a gnome who grows bored with reality runs the risk of succumbing to a dreadful malady known as the Bleaching. This need for constant new experiences, paired with their unconventional ethics, has caused the race to be perceived as fickle and chaotic, but also as innovative, daring, and radically progressive. The first records of otherworldly gnome trailblazers scouting the land date back to some point within the Age of Anguish, but to this day, the reason for the race’s exodus from the First World remains a mystery, even to the gnomes.
The vibrant First World was a place of wonders for the gnomes. Their ageless life and never-ending pranks were sources of continuous delight. Uprooted from this ancestral home, gnomes never healed from the spiritual wound the separation caused, resulting in an affliction known as the Bleaching. When born, a young gnome’s skin, hair, and eyes are vibrant in color, and they remain that way during her first years. From adulthood on, these features are subject to radical change depending on the individual’s experiences. Those gnomes who exist in an unchanging environment see their colors fade and their sanity wither, while those with a knack for the new remain lively and vibrant. The Bleaching generally doesn’t strike younger gnomes, but as gnomes age it becomes more and more of a worry. As the Bleaching progresses, the gnome’s mind decays and she slips further into madness and dementia. In most cases, the Bleaching ends in death— but in rare instances a gnome can survive the Bleaching. These pallid creatures are known as bleachlings.
Gnomes tend toward eccentric pursuits and are attracted to objects that help to “anchor” them to Golarion and delay the Bleaching. Besides collecting stories and friends, they favor mechanical gadgets, riddles, flamboyant outfits, nicknames, perfumes, and other distinct items.
Throughout their lives, most gnomes have many intimate relationships, but they rarely engage in long-lasting ties. Lifetime bonding or marriage is extremely rare. Usually, a gnome family is loosely organized (if organized at all), and the vigorous children are taught the ways of life by the community until they are grown enough to learn from their own experiences.
Male gnome names are often unnecessarily long, multisyllabic, and intentionally difficult to pronounce. Female names reverse the male conventions, being simple and short, although many females claim their names are actually short for something.
At about 3 feet in height, gnomes are slighter and taller than halflings. Their ears are human- like, but their highly mutable facial muscles allow for disturbing grins and their oversized eyes emphasize their often disproportionate expressions of emotion. With skin, hair, and eyes of varying, often vibrant colors, gnomes look the most alien and out of place of all of Golarion’s common races.