Groundbreaking – Treeshakers of Walnut Grove

“What’s the difference between gnomes and goblins?” he asks the room. “The smell?” somebody replies. “Their gullets!” somebody chuckles. “Ok, what do they have in common?” he rephrases. “They are small!” somebody shouts. “They are both industrious”, he says exasperatedly.

Randal here, taking a look at what happens when you take gnomes, goblins, mundane farm life, and let it marinate for decades. Let’s dive right in.

The History. Decades ago, in lands far away, the gnomish Treeshaker Clan was rich and popular. They were the talk of the town. Their relationship and bond with earth elementals in the region gave them respect and power. For reasons simple and unworthy of repeating, they had a love of walnuts that bordered on addiction, and so they kept groves of walnut trees near they homes and holdings, and used their control of earth to cause the ground to shake so that the trees would release their prize. Paradoxically, they were known as the Treeshaker Clan before this practice began, but it is also why they are known by this name. Gnomes. During an incursion by goblinoid tribes trying to win a bet, their most talented went to war. While many of them were lost in a needless war, and they were able to keep the tribes from destroying their lands, the survivors returned home to an even more confusing issue. The war had been the last straw for a tribe of goblins also known as Treeshakers. The goblins, however they gained their name by their use of air magic to shake the branches of trees to distract foes before attacking. They saw a kinship with the Treeshaker gnomes and snuck out to return the injured to their homes as a peace offering in hopes that they could stay with them. When the other tribes heard about this desertion, they rallied and razed the lands, forcing the gnomes and goblins to flee for good.

The Merge. Being chased and hunted together can really form bonds, and so the Treeshakers became one big family. Months they traveled by caravan, trading walnuts for supplies as needed. Both gnomes and goblins became more skilled at mechanical engineering as they modified and enhanced their wagons as they broke down on the road. Eventually, they realized that they all had a similar zest for life and fun and experience, and with some tutelage from the gnomes, the goblins were able to keep themselves in check around the other, more civilized peoples. The gnomes, found the goblins’ zany antics just the thing to keep them on their toes, while they began to adapt some of the random junk builds that seemed to appear in the hands of goblin builders.

The Groves. Eventually, they came to the farmlands of southern Marathis’ Cradle. The sought out a nice area for growing walnuts, ensured that they had enough space that they wouldn’t have frequent issues from neighbors complaining about the goblins, set about planting, and named the land Walnut Grove. After a few short months, they had everything ready to begin summoning elementals to help coax the trees to grow quickly. It was then that they had a run in with the druids of the cradle. While they could summon and speak with elementals, none would work with them until they had gained permission from the druids. The farmlands was already a terraforming experiment on a grand scale, one that the druids allowed only if done by hand and respect of the land and animals it contained. Using elementals to speed up plant growth certainly got their attention, and they sternly warned the Treeshaker clans that the native land and animals wouldn’t be used in such a way. And so, they were forced to await nature to take its course, and until the trees were of age, they began taking on jobs and projects (mostly of the construction/tinker sort) to earn enough wages to feed themselves.

The Treeshakers. While they couldn’t work with local elementals, the elders did bring a couple bonded elementals with them. It wasn’t going to be enough for the number of trees that were planted, and so they looked for alternatives. While the gnomes enjoyed building contraptions, they always seemed to use refined materials, even if using them for unintended purposes. They were amazed, once again, at how the goblins could take discarded pieces and parts and combine them to provide something of higher quality. Wanting to be ready for their trees to produce, the best and brightest gnomes and goblins teamed up to build the best treeshaking devices in the event that they couldn’t reach a deal with the elementals. Surprising nobody, they managed to create a device that could walk to a tree, attach itself, and vibrate to drop any loose nuts. Surprising even themselves, the devices proved useful during the halfling ankheg wars; mostly as deterrents to keep the halflings from causing any trouble on their lands. Over the decades, the devices evolved, became more refined, and were more efficient. As they lost their talent with elements, their talent with machinery grew.

The Legends. One particularly industrious duo (a gnome with a bonded earth elemental and a goblin with a bonded air elemental) created a special war machine that traded out the tree grabbing arms for mallets and the shaking mechanism for a swiveling crossbow turret. They became adventurers for hire, but mostly just to pay for new inventions. To this day, songs about the Glory of Ganzeer and Grug are sung in the taverns of the farmlands. It is rumored that the leader of the gnomes can take the form of an earth elemental and the leader of the goblins can take the form of an air elemental. While there is no substantial evidence to the rumors, Treeshakers from both sides affirm and embellish the stories.

I had not intended to include the goblins in this bit of world building. I was basing Walnut Grove on a very similar idea I used in my own home campaign a couple decades ago. One that I never got a chance to flesh out. Recently, with 2e playtest, I have been joking about half-gnome, half-goblin ancestries and after playing a goblin inventor I couldn’t help but include goblins in this iteration of Walnut Grove. And no, I have never played WoW before …

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Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him endless ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, gaming, or playing with his kids, Randal is likely working on improving Sage (his Discord bot for immersive play-by-post gaming that you can see in action on Know Direction's Discord in the Know Direction Societous PFS channels) over at!