"In a hole in the ground there lived a...hill gnome."
Hill gnomes are closer to gnomes of old (a race that no longer exists in its original form) than fey gnomes, having remained in the world instead of venturing into exotic far-off lands. They retain their insistence on following the old ways, and as such are rarely seen as adventurers. Most humanoids have only heard of hill gnomes as a kind and chubby race who live underground, but have never actually met any. There are exceptions to every rule, however.
Hill gnomes are my take on what hobbits should be like in D&D. Halflings started out as being D&D's hobbit without actually using the word hobbit, but over the years they have become very separate from their origins; halflings are sneaky, charismatic, and lithe, and while it probably wouldn't be too hard to find a hobbit with those qualities, they were known for their relaxed nature, endurance, and stout stature. If you've been following this blog, you may also remember my lightbringer gnomes; those are technically fey gnomes (my name for the ones in the Player's Handbook 2), but they are more similar to their ancestor gnomes than most fey gnomes are. Hill gnomes are a little closer than them, so they share many similarities.
Just like fey elves, wood elves, and dark elves all descend from one race of elves, hill gnomes and fey gnomes are cousins who have become drastically different. They are about the same height, but hill gnomes look more like the statuettes old ladies would have in their gardens: plump and cheery rather than thin and shifty-eyed.
Two factors play an enormous role in hill gnome culture: food and music. Hill gnomes can eat almost anything; they grow vegetables in gardens above their homes, but they also enjoy consuming the fungus and insects that can be found underneath where they live. Between meals (which happen very often), most hill gnomes like to get together to sing, dance, tell stories, and eat and drink some more. Despite this lax life, they are not gluttonous. In fact, an old hill gnome is often a font of great wisdom. Hill gnomes retain the beliefs of their ancestors; they desire to see the world living in harmony, and would be the first to forgive former evildoers of their crimes.
When a hill gnome willingly becomes an adventurer, it is usually for one of two reasons. The first reason is that the hill gnome wants to spread peace throughout the world; the other is that the hill gnome rejects the complacency of his or her kind and wants to have an effect on the world, whether for good or bad. Sometimes a hill gnome is forced into a life of adventure when his or her underground village is destroyed or he or she is banished.
Most hill gnome adventurers are clerics, and there are also many hill gnome clerics who don't adventure. A hill gnome who discovers arcane magic will usually combine that with their love for music and become a bard who sings of the wisdom of the hill gnomes. A particularly brave hill gnome might become a paladin, fighting more often with holy radiance than weapons. Hill gnomes also make excellent invokers, since they are so adherent to their beliefs. Some hill gnome colonies worship the primal spirits instead of the gods of good, and in them one can find many shamans and druids. When a hill gnome develops psionic powers, he or she will often become an ardent, due to their close link with emotions, but hill gnome battleminds are surprisingly effective, if rare.
Average Height: 3' 4'' - 3' 8''
Average Weight: 65 - 80 lb.
Ability Scores: +2 Wisdom; +2 Constitution or +2 Charisma
Speed: 5 squares
Languages: Common, Gnomish
Skill Bonuses: +2 Heal, +2 Insight
Small: As a Small creature, you have restrictions in combat. You cannot use a two-handed weapon unless it has the small property. When you use a versatile weapon such as a longsword, you must use it two-handed but you don't gain the normal +1 damage for using it in that manner.
Group Insight: You grant non-hill gnome allies within 10 squares of you a +1 racial bonus to Insight checks.
Second Breakfast: When you spend a healing surge during a short rest to regain hit points, you regain 2 additional hit points per healing surge. The additional hit points increase to 4 at 11th level and 6 at 21st level.
Unassuming: You gain a +2 racial bonus to all defenses against melee attacks while you are adjacent to a Medium or larger ally.
Soothing Touch: You gain the soothing touch power.
Soothing Touch - Gnome Racial Utility
Your hands glow dimly, and a small wound on you or an ally heals itself with a touch.
Minor Action - Melee touch
Target: You or one ally
Requirement: The target must be bloodied.
Effect: The target uses his or her second wind without taking an action. The target does not gain the defense bonus normally granted by second wind. If the target doesn't have second wind (such as if the target is not a Player Character), then it regains hit points equal to one-fourth of its maximum hit points.