Heroes of the New Day
Gnomes and halflings are clearly cut from the same cloth. Various stories tell of their once unified race, though these stories are so wildly contradictory that no one can be sure which is which. What is known is that both races are short, both have pointed ears, and both tend to speak fast. Gnomes are slightly more dwarven in build than halflings, though dwarves have been very clear throughout history that they are not related to the trickster gnomes.
For their part, gnomes are tied to fey magic… but not in the way that Eladrin are. With gnomes, it’s more of a tie to any magic that prompts imagination. Sure, there’s lots of that in the feywild, but a gnome might just as likely be seen creating shadow puppets with nethermancy while conjuring flames to create dramatic backlighting.
If gnomes have a flaw, it’s their love of intricacy. In industrial areas, gnomes are known to take up hobbies like watch repair and tool creation. However, it’s just as likely that you’ll run into a gnome in the city who’s tried to create a ride-in street-sweeper/lantern-lighter with working onboard clock. Such concoctions are often known to end in spectacular failures. But some gnomes do get it right. There is a very successful guild of gnomish artificers in Waterdeep. There are many wizardly gnomes who try to layer magics together in new and interesting weaves of spellwork. There’s even a legend of the first gnome adventurer, who subverted traps in the largest of dungeons not for the treasure, but for the reward of knowing that he COULD (sort of like a trap version of a computer hacker). Gnomes are not crippled by their need to create detailed inventions… but it’s very easy to get a gnome quite excited with talk of an impossible plan or other “unsolvable” problem.
Gnomes also have a reputation as “tricksters”. The best gnomish pranks are near legendary, taking years of planning and involving way more effort than any member of any other race would deem necessary. But most gnomes view the planning of a great project (be it a spell, a machine, or a prank) as a sacred task, so terms like “too long” and “over-budget” don’t often have any meaning to a gnome in a planning stage.
For more on why gnomes are awesome, check out Ed Greenwood’s thoughts on gnomes in his Forgotten Realms.