Gnomes aren’t interested in empires, kingdoms, peasants, conquest, or land-based taxation systems. They prefer tinkering and over-engineered systems with tiny, complex, fiddly bits to far-flung borders and enormous grand scale armies crushing their enemies before them (although crushing enemies is fun, they freely admit). And besides, the Gnomish population is small, pastoral, village-focused, close-knit, and occasionally, when someone gets a little ambitious, prone to explosions.
The Gnomish villages nestle in a network of rolling green valleys filled trees and lakes cushioned between soaring mountains. The mountains provide sturdy defense against the external threat of nosy neighbors, invading armies, external threats, and the annoying outside world. The passes are too skinny to march a regiment but safe enough to allow wagons to pass. Thus goods flow in, goods flow out, and the Gnomes hide behind natural walls.
It’s a good life.
Sometimes the Gnomes see a little local excitement: a dragon moves into one of the mountain caves, a lich burrows into an abandoned dungeon, blood-drinking trolls take over the nearby hills, or some King wants their rich lands. And Gnomes are small and squishy. A horde of Gnomes might take down a dragon with the right combination of magic, gadgets, explosives, carefully choreographed military expeditions, and high intensity pyrotechnics. Thankfully, the gnomes have an easier solution.
They become the #1 retirement Murder Hobo destination.
- Quiet: check.
- Bars: check.
- No Kings to call them out of retirement: check.
- Easily compartmentalized adventures when bored: check.
- Fishing: check.
- More bars: check.
If you want to defend your lands while not bothering to raise an army, settling 20th level heroes with all their equipment and giving them fabulous interest rates on mortgages is a fine solution.
And the Murder Hobos came. They moved in, they settled down, they spent their gold hordes, and they bought kitschy stuff from Gnomish shops. It worked. It completely worked.
Seriously. No problems. None.
Except, maybe, the one.
Running the Place
No one is quite sure where the word “caucus”* comes from. Some gnomes claim it derives from the Elvish word kaukolos for ‘the crusty, nasty bit of beer swirling on the bottom of a mostly drained stein.’ Others claim it comes from the Dwarvish cawcaaugh meaning ‘room where people sit and argue and give the drunkest one all the responsibility.’
The Gnomes are a democratically-minded people. They’re not into right of Kings and heredity and all that. They’re open, communal, and Republican.
Also, no Gnome wants responsibility. The last thing any Gnome wants is ultimate civic responsibility. But, someone has to fix the roads, keep the bars open late but not too late, get the wagons over the mountain passes, and raise the Murder Hobos in times of great peril to fend off the occasional dragon. And the responsibility, in Gnomish minds, should fall to the least productive of their kind; that person isn’t building anything productive anyway. They should get out and lead.
But, no one should dictate who should lead. The people (preferably Gnomes) should choose from among a small selection of lazy, unproductive Gnomes in well-tailored coats and excellent hair. The should have their proper say as Citizens of the Valley. Thus, elections! Also, elections are over-complex, loud, insane, and big fun.
The original Gnomish caucus consisted of ten to fifteen politically connected Gnomes (no one is quite certain the number as secret cabals rarely take good minutes) meeting in the back room of Tom Dawes’s Spectacular Food and Beer Emporium one day every four years. The gnomes drank, smoked cigars, and discussed the local politics. Who married whom. Who owned who money. Who wanted what bridge built. Where the Murder Hobos settled this week. Who had a good line of credit over the mountains to lay hands on good metal parts. Then they figured out the least productive but most politically connected Gnomes of their community, picked two, and declare them the official Candidates for Electoral Office.
Pomp and circumstance exploded. Banners flew. Marching bands played. Candidates gave speeches. People argued in bars. Retired high level bards on high-priced retainers did retired high level bard things. Fireworks exploded – either on a schedule or off. The people voted. Some Gnome became High Mayor.
This system clicked along for decades. No problems. Everyone was happy.
It was all fine and good until Roderick the Golden, a 20th level retired Paladin who fought the battle against the previous year’s red dragon menace, declared he wanted to run for Office as High Mayor of the Valley.
Thus began the Great Political Shouting Match. Roderick was a retired Murder Hobo. He couldn’t possibly run for Gnomish office. And he wasn’t signed off by the caucus process. And he wasn’t even a Gnome!
The Gnomes were appalled.
Roderick the Golden fought back. He called the meeting at Tom Dawes’s “King Caucus.” He got out his bard friends and started a campaign of bardic magic-backed mind-altering persuasion. A few Gnomes in a smoke-filled back room wasn’t a democratic way to pick leaders! Weren’t all the people of the Valley citizens? The retired Murder Hobos paid valley taxes. Didn’t they have a right to participate in the process of picking their leaders? Nevermind Gnomes didn’t care about their leaders. That was beside the point. All citizens of the Valley have a moral right to choose their potential leaders as part of the process!
One Murder Hobo!
The back room gnomes said, have it your way. But, you have to follow our highly confusing rules for the nominating contest which we just made up.
Roderick the Golden consented.
Many good people died in the First Live Gnomish Caucus.
The Second Live Gnomish Caucus
Four years later, and the Gnomes are making a second go of this everyone-participates-in-the-caucus thing. Gnomes don’t like things simple. The thought of a few weeks of public campaigning from potential political suitors and then a secret ballot vote to narrow down the contest to a few popular candidates doesn’t make any sense and, frankly, isn’t particularly neighborly. It’s too… fair and simple.
The rules the gnomes built go something like this:
- Everyone, gnomes and Murder Hobos alike, shows up Tom Dawes Beer and Food Emporium or the analogous bar with adequate room for chairs, tables, and overt food-based bribes at an appointed time.
- Party managers registers and counts participants. It’s important that party managers maintain a good head count. A bad head count throws off the process.
- Everyone mills and talks and is all neighborly.
- Potential voters get subjected to an hour of electioneering, bribing (food, drink, gears, parts, although actual explosives as bribes have since been banned after the First Live Caucus), cajoling, more bribing, lectures, and peer pressure.
- Voters take up the offers of bribes and drink. Heavily. The food disappears.
- Once the hour ends, election managers make voters stand in designated groups showing their support for candidates. Everyone must pick a group – thus those who cannot decide must leave themselves open to “persuasion.”
Voters and candidate supporters now do the following:
- Argue loudly.
- Use bard song.
- Offer escalatingly more ridiculous bribes.
- Get into fist fights and break chairs.
- Physically grab voters and carry them to various “support corners.”
- Throw now-empty beer steins at those with opposing political views.
- Activate forbidden gnomish gadgets to perform: command, silent image, major image, zone of truth, deafness, darkness, hold person, magic mouth, mirror image, suggestion, clairvoyance, blink, modify memory,or, best of all, fear.
However, participants may not (learned lessons from the first caucus):
- Bring in magic weaponry. NO STABBING.
- Cast attack magic spells. Especially chain lightning. Seriously, no chain lightning.
- Have we mentioned no attack magic spells.
- We’re serious about the no attack spells thing.
- Cut it out with the attack spells. Put down the bat guano. And no, no overt dominate person spells either.
- Murder the “undecideds” to “even out the groups.”
- Open dimensional doors to Planes to summon God Avatars for their “persuasive endorsements.” Leave that for the campaign itself.
- Summon Elder Gods.
- Set off any explosives. Period. Put the explosives back in the bag.
- Invade the caucuses with an army of Gnomish steam-powered mecha and mow down other supporter’s candidates with magic-infused repeating super rifles. Mecha must wait outside in the bar parking lot.
Any breaches of these policies will result in anti-magic fields, invocations from peace Gods, mass arrests and ejection from the caucus process. Although those ejected still retain their right to vote in the general.
After 30 minutes, if the building still stands, election managers count voters in each candidate support group. The election managers disband any group holding less than 15% of the total voters. Those candidates are out of the running.
Pause for arrests, anti-magic fields, dispel magic, wish spells and raise or ressurect various voters.
Give another 30 minutes for those disbanded to either join with an existing group, collect together to support an under-supported candidate, or leave. Leaving is honestly the safest choice. During the First Gnomish Causus, the supporters of Elfric the Unlucky, a retired Warlock, exited the Light Engraver Inn once Elfric’s support collapsed but not before cursing the remaining voters and the beer kegs. Several voters are still purple.
Election managers – those still alive – count voters in various groups. They then apportion delegates based on total support. For example, the candidates are Roderick the Golden, Engineer Breeza and the Gnomish Black Sorceress Supreme. Out of 200 supporters, 5 were gravely injured (yet had their support counted in proximity to various candidate groups from where they lay on the floor bleeding), 6 exited after their candidate’s support collapsed, and 85 were in various states of bandage. The election managers counted 194 voters giving their full support.
- 97 supported Roderick
- 54 supported Breeza
- 46 supported the Black Sorceress
Election managers calculate 50%, 27.8% and and 23.7% percent of the vote respectively. In a winner take all system, Roderick would win this precinct and go on to become the candidate. But Gnomes don’t like it simple. They built a second round of this system. Instead, they proportion 8 delegates – a number picked out of a hat – and give 4 delegates to Roderick, 2 to Breeza and 2 to the Black Sorceress. Then the delegates meet the week after at the remains of Tom Dawes’ bar to repeat the process and fight it out until only two candidates remain. Above rules apply.
And then, and only then, will the Gnomes participate in full representative Democracy and do the pomp and circumstance and campaign and voting thing.
In the end, only 37 people died in the Second Live Gnomish Caucus. The Gnomes considered this an overall success – and it produced valuable analytical data to boot. Roderick the Golden, having failed in the First Caucus, prevailed in the Second and became the Murder Hobo’s Candidate. He was narrowly defeated by the Black Sorceress in an epic battle of Good vs. Evil on the campaign trail – a fight involving no less than the summoning of demons, epic loans from the Transmuter Bankers, collectable hats, and a full no-holds-barred dance off.
Then, once in office, the Black Sorceress fixed the bridge over Garland’s River and issued 15 new fishing licenses in her first year. A success and triumph, the Gnomes said, of their system.
* It actually comes from the Deep Elven word for “two dudes yelling super loud about nothing on spider chat.”
** Clearly immigration policy is a major gnomish electoral issue.
Image Credit: Art by Jaydot Sloane of Vanity Games – http://www.patreon.com/VanityGames