Catacombs Books, $7.95, ISBN 0-88038-503-0
It’s embarrassing to admit this, but the gnomes – and gully dwarves – are the most adorable things ever about the Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Tanis Half-Elven is an interminable whiner, Sturm Brightblade is a bore, Kitiara uth Matar is all talk but no action, Caramon Majere is an idiot, Raistlin Majere was cool until he became the overexposed poster boy for everything Krynn, Tasslehoff Burrfoot was funny until he just wouldn’t quit… the list goes on, really.
So, unsurprisingly, Gnomes-100, Dragons-0 is ridiculously fun and hilarious as it takes you right into the heart of Mount Nevermind, the home of the hyperactive gnomes.
You play Rye, a lad in Sancrist who has just graduated from apprentice to baker. Unfortunately, your job hunting isn’t going so well as most bakeries currently are not hiring, thanks to a tax currently imposed on all bakeries for each baker in their employ.
Your ears perk up when you overhear a gnome in an inn – it always starts in an inn when you’re in Krynn, heh – talking about something big being cooked in Mount Nevermind. You soon learn that there seems to be a massive baking project taking place there, and they will be more than happy to share with you their baking secrets if you will lead them in this project. Believing that these secrets will make you the best baker in all of Krynn, you sign the dotted line at once.
Oops, you soon learn that this big thing that is being cooked is a war. Yes, the gnomes are gearing up for the war on a dragon army fast approaching Mount Nevermind, and it looks like you, a baker, is now their new general of war…
Gameplay-wise, this one boasts a standard set of rules that should be familiar to long-time gamebook enthusiasts. You roll a die, the usual. There are also a few intricate rules that require some thorough reading of the rules section. Don’t worry – all this may sound stressful, but it actually isn’t. In fact, this campaign is actually very lenient.
In fact, the leniency of the campaign can be both a positive and a negative here. The positive is that, if you are unscrupulous enough, heh, you’d realize that there are some very obvious exploitable elements here that can actually allow your baker character to gain so many combat, health, and skill bonuses that, after a while, turns you into an invulnerable slayer of everything that moves. This seems to be some kind of design loophole that has slipped through the cracks during playtesting, if this campaign was even playtested. Factor in some special items that cushion you through most of the mistakes you may have, and this is when the negative comes up – if you are not enamored of the setting and the story, this campaign will become very simple, and thus, very boring to work your way through.
Speaking of the setting, Mount Nevermind is detailed with loving intricacy here. You will have the opportunity to explore several levels of Mount Nevermind, each with its own unique eccentric features. And that’s where the fun really comes from. While this campaign never descends into the wacky levels of, say, JH Brennan’s gamebooks, it is full of humor. The gnomes are as adorable as ever, and the setting brings out the chuckles as well. Best of all, this campaign is worth a few runs in order to experience the whole thing.
Of course, if you have an aversion to the gnomes of Krynn (they can be polarizing, after all) and if you prefer your campaigns to be on the more sober side, this one may not be to your tastes. But if you just want to let loose and have fun, and are willing to overlook some every obvious design flaws, come join the party in Mount Nevermind.