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Gnomes first evolved in the Fertile Crescent, and as such, had an abundance of food most other humanoid races did not enjoy. Without the need to compete for food, gnomes formed larger social groups faster, and developed non-violent problem-solving to a complexity other races would not achieve for many generations. This focus on communication and diplomacy led to a focus on the group over the individual, and to this day, a gnome will generally seek to do whatever needs to be done to support the group.
The Greater GoodEdit
The gnomish focus on the good of the larger group is often difficult for other races to comprehend. It goes beyond a cultural tradition or taught morality, it is an innate biological facet of gnome psychology. While a human might pursue mechanical engineering because of a personal interest and talent, a gnome would assess that the community needed someone to design and build bridges, then determine whether or not its personal abilities could meet that need, and study mechanical engineering if it was so. Some gnomes are able to incorporate non-gnomes into their concept of "the group," and these gnomes work excellently alongside humans and others in a variety of roles, so long as height and muscle are not requirements.
The other races initially viewed gnomes as easy targets for conquest, but they underestimated the resolve of the smaller folk. A gnome fights with no concept of personal honor or glory, and is willing to sacrifice itself if it judges that this would best serve the larger community (though they do not waste their lives lightly). Gnomes in war have one simple task, and that is to do whatever it takes to protect their group, regardless of what that act might be. Given their relative lack of physical strength to the other races, and the fact that they are often numerically inferior in a conflict, "whatever it takes to protect the group" has also given gnomes a reputation as some of the most vicious ambush and guerilla fighters in the world.
Today, gnomes tend to live in small communities ranging from the purely agrarian to semi-industrial, or simply integrate into human societies. Gnomes did not cross the Bering Strait on the land bridge, and so any gnomes living in the Americas came over after 1492, meaning that a higher proportion of American gnomes are those that work well with other races compared to their native range.