Gnome Guide 5e

Published on September 3, 2020, Last modified on May 9th, 2022

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the gnome will be right for your 5e character build.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your gnome. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.

What are Gnomes in 5e?

Source: Player's Handbook

Gnomes are short and inquisitive creatures. Standing on average 3ft tall and weighing in at just over 40lbs, gnomes love to look at life from the technical side. Their inquisitive nature tends to drive them towards professions such as engineers, alchemists, tinkers, and inventors.

Gnome 5e Traits

Ability Score Increase: A +2 INT bonus is quite rare. This is perfect for a select few builds and useless for the rest.

Size: A Small size comes with some drawbacks, such as wielding certain weapons and grappling. On the other side, Small creatures are better at hiding and can more easily move around the battlefield.

Speed: 25ft walking speed is lower than the average and will limit your maneuverability on the battlefield.

Darkvision: Darkvision is always great, but its advantage can be ruined if your party members do not also have it.

Gnome Cunning: Advantage on Saving Throws from magical effects that target INT, WIS, and CHA is an amazing ability.

Gnome 5e Subraces


Deep gnomes excel in dark and rocky environments, but their traits don’t do anything outside of those.

Ability Score Increase: +1 DEX is a great way to boost AC.

Superior Darkvision: 120ft Darkvision will come in handy in places like dark caves.

Stone Camouflage: Again, this is a good ability but is limited in where it can be used as you need to be surrounded by rocky terrain.


Forest gnomes get a useful cantrip and DEX to help any build.

Ability Score Increase: +1 DEX is a great way to boost AC.

Natural Illusionist: Minor illusion is a great cantrip. While it may not be a huge damage dealer, it has a ton of utility.

Speak with Small Beasts: Fits right in with a ranger or druid, but typically isn’t that useful.

Mark of Scribing

Mark of Scribing gnomes are really only good for one thing – gleaning as much information as possible from the written and spoken word. In the right campaign they are extremely useful, but in a combat-oriented setting they don’t bring much to the table.

Ability Score Increase: Adding a CHA bonus to the gnome’s INT isn’t very helpful. Most casters typically rely on one and dump the other.

Gifted Scribe: In a game with lots of backstory and lore, History checks may come up quite frequently. Ability checks with Calligrapher’s Supplies are exceptionally rare.

Scribe’s Insight: Free casts of spells are always good, even if they are just ways to communicate. Not needing to burn a spell slot for something as simple as understanding a foreign language is handy.

Mark of Scribing Spells:

  • 1st level
    • Comprehend Languages: Been able to read and understand any language will have its uses at some point. Is it worth it to keep the spell stocked for your whole campaign? Probably not. Is it worth it to stock when you’re heading into ancient ruins? Probably.
    • Illusory Script: Much more of a DM, story-based spell than a player-focused one. Pick it up if you need to write a secret message that you can’t relay telepathically using message or sending.
  • 2nd level
    • Animal Messenger: This has a lot of caveats. If you have someone in your party with sending you will never need this.
    • Silence: Silence is a niche spell with a high ceiling. It can be used in stealth scenarios but it’s most powerful usage is if you can target a caster who won’t be able to cast spells requiring a verbal component. Of course, it’s only a 20ft radius so you will either need to be fighting in close quarters or will need to find a way to prevent the caster from moving.
  • 3rd level
    • Sending: Solid communication spell for at least one party member to have.
    • Tongues: Most of the time, it will be tough to justify a 3rd-level spell for the effect this produces. Of course, understanding a creature and allowing it to understand you could have the potential to stop a terrible situation unfolding. This is a spell that would be worthwhile to prepare for specific situations, but is too niche to consider stocking all the time.
  • 4th level
    • Arcane Eye: A great scouting tool and can be moved as an action, making it a worthy spell to pickup.
    • Divination: This is best used when you’re asking about a relatively straightforward event that will happening in the near future. As with most “message from a deity” spells, it relies heavily on your DM and is intentionally vague which can impact its usefulness.
  • 5th level
    • Dream: While it may not look like much, dream is an insanely powerful spell. First of all, it can target a creature no matter how far away they are, as long as you know the creature and the creature has to sleep. Second, you’re able to stay in that creature’s dream for up to 8 hours, which can allow a ton of time to communicate with the creature for long periods without being attacked. Last, and most importantly, you can negate the effects of a long rest AND do damage. This might not be an issue for a high level enemy with legendary resistances, but can definitely cause issues for less powerful foes. This spell is definitely a slow burn type of spell but can have massive ramifications in the long run.


Rock gnomes add a slight bit of survivability to the base gnome and a feature that works in tandem with the artificer’s Magical Tinkering.

Ability Score Increase: +1 CON is a great way to boost the lousy hit points of wizards and other casters.

Artificer’s Lore: Usually Arcana checks will be more beneficial for magical items than History, barring the fact that the item is legendary or similar. Situational.

Tinker: The clockwork devices can’t do much and they don’t last long without regular maintenance. However, when combined with the artificer’s Magical Tinkering the options for this subrace feature are nearly endless and loads of fun.

Which 5e Classes Work With Gnomes?

The best classes for gnomes are those that are looking for INT, like artificers and wizards. However, some of the subraces come with good ability scores and subrace features that make them viable for other classes.

Artificer: +2 INT is a great start for any artificer, along with Darkvision and Gnome Cunning.

Barbarian: Barbarians need STR to be effective.

Bard: INT is useless for a bard.

Cleric: Clerics need WIS to be effective.

Druid: Druids need WIS to be effective.

Fighter: Eldritch Knights can make use of the INT, though the other subclasses regard INT as a dump stat.

Monk: INT is useless for a monk.

Paladin: INT is useless for a paladin.

Ranger: INT is useless for a ranger.

Rogue: Darkvision is always wanted by rogues. The INT will only really be useful to an Arcane Trickster.

Sorcerer: Sorcerers need CHA to be effective, of which there is only one subrace.

Warlock: Warlocks need CHA to be effective, of which there is only one subrace.

Wizard: +2 INT is a great start for any wizard, along with Darkvision and Gnome Cunning.

Sources Used in This Guide

  • BR: Basic Rules
  • GotG: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
  • SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
  • ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  • EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
  • EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
  • FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
  • GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
  • MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
  • MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
  • MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
  • PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
  • PHB: Player's Handbook
  • SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
  • SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
  • TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
  • TTP: The Tortle Package
  • WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
  • VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
  • XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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