Committee Chair, the Most High Galvin StoneGuard, surveyed the spread of the plains from atop his vantage point on the high ledge of the Agatean Cathedral, the largest and most ornate of all the cavern-cathedrals. Behind him workers labored away, using giant lasers powered by massive molten-salt batteries to etch the new and improved elephant motif into the high rock walls. In another month he would be able to show off the alterations to the full committee. Between that and the record food exports his post was sure to be secured for another 5 years.

The Gnomes who settled the world of Beta Arconis saw potential where most saw an unlivable wasteland. At that time, the planet was a mass of large, salty seas; wide, dry plains; and a meandering expanse of extensive mountain ranges. Add to that a hot climate and most colonists found themselves looking elsewhere.

Being a hardworking lot, the Gnomes set to work, successfully turning the world of Beta Arconis into a highly lucrative producer of foodstuffs through skilled and educated agronomists. It is said that Beta Arconis feeds half the worlds of the Haflan cluster. They are mostly self-sufficient and have no difficulty trading for the materials and equipment that they are unable to produce themselves.

Taming Beta Arconis

Fish

 Waves lapped at the shore and against the side of the fishing boat as it was released from its moorings and began to head out to sea. Gretta PebbleMasher held tightly onto the tiny fist of her youngest as the two of them watched the diminutive but sturdy shape of Himmok PebbleMasher walk the deck of the receding ship. The grim but determined crew of the Sea Rock IV would be gone for the next several weeks catching as much as they could on this hostile new world.

In the meantime, Gretta would go back to the ramshackle village beyond the coast and get to work processing the previous sea harvest. It was a smelly, disgusting job, but it needed to be done if they were ever to make a life for themselves on this new world.

'Well, let us be off my little Pebble,' Gretta said to the boy as he fiddled with his hand-carved elephant figurine. 'Someday your father will be able to leave that untrustworthy sea behind and work the fields like a proper Gnome.'

The first of the settlers of Beta Arconis had it quite rough. The only life on the planet at that time was marine. Gnomes are not at all fond of large bodies of water or seafood, but they made a go of it all the same. While they ate very little of what they caught (mostly sticking to the reptile variety for themselves) they managed a fledgling fishing industry, the export of which managed to finance future efforts at taming Beta Arconis.

The fishing industry was happily abandoned once the land became fertile. A mix of outcasts and opportunists from other races have since settled in the abandoned fishing towns and taken up the fishing trade once again. They are barely tolerated by the Gnomes who view the lot of them all as untrustworthy misfits. From the Gnomish perspective, anyone willing to make a living from the sea must have no other options in life.

Water

 The early days of construction were heady days. Everyone involved could feel that they were part of something great, each Gnome doing his or her part to build something much larger than themselves. Like the stories of old, when Gnomes first befriended the elephant, hard work and commitment from every Gnome would give them the tools to have power over a world so much bigger than themselves.

First came the solar power, then the water purifiers. Just a few at first, looking like shiny farms of glass and metal wired to wide, squat buildings. But how grand it was to see the great cisterns fill up and to stop the rationing of fresh water! The adults and children laughed and played, tossing cupfuls of the liquid at each other. In time this became the tradition of wishing good times on a newly wedded couple by dousing them with small pitchers.

The world of Beta Arconis does not lack for water but the vast majority of it is highly saline. To solve this problem, the Gnomes set about producing clean water through reverse osmosis on a massive scale. Power for this was at first supplied by direct generation of electricity via solar panels. As they began building up large stores of salt, however, they turned to solar collectors, directing the heat of the sun to melt giant tanks of the salt. The salt would hold the heat, driving turbines night and day, providing a nearly endless supply of power. In time they perfected related technologies and now are the largest single producer of molten-salt batteries.

Agriculture  

Jennan SlateHair squinted at the row of test tubes, searching for some sign of activity. The microbes within were, of course, too tiny for him to know whether any of them were having any direct impact on the organics within. In a week, he would be able to test each solution for the kind of efficiency needed to create real soil on the scale of an entire world. So far, the trickiest bit of work for his team had been matching up the correct combination of GMO microbes and organic matter from the plankton gathered up from the sea.

With a warm climate, large plains, and now a ready supply of water, the best Gnomish agronomists set to work building up the fertility of the soil. The first crops were meager and barely supplied enough food for the colonists. As the years passed, however, the inhabitants managed to turn progressively more of the land fertile to the point where they could not export the produce quickly enough.

Husbandry 

'Are you really going to serve elephant tonight, dear?' Hidda GraniteBreaker asked, eying her husband with a critical eye. 'You know Unda's new boyfriend is vegetarian!'

'Bah!' Bikken said, scowling at his wife. 'Vegetarian! Next you'll be telling me he's one of those silly sorts who go around saying our elephants are no longer real elephants, just because we stirred their genes around some! They've been good enough for me, and my father, and his father before that! If he's serious about Unda, he'll respect our traditions!'

Not content with just agriculture, some of the Gnomes branched off into other forms of food production. The most successful among the Gnomish population, by far, became the domestication and raising of elephants. They put their best scientists on a combination of modifying elephant DNA and special breeding programs in order to develop a variation that were 2/3s normal size and would mature in 6-7 years rather than 20. Unfortunately for them, elephant meat is not highly prized outside of Gnomish culture, and so it remains a mostly local phenomenon.

The elephant has always been a strong symbol for Gnomes; the animals figure prominently in folktales and most forms of art. Some controversy exists on whether or not eating elephants truly fits the Gnomish ideal of respect for the great animals, although it is firmly entrenched in the traditions of the Gnomes on Beta Arconis.

Dwellings

Much of the Gnomish population of Beta Arconis is rural and widely spread. There are small townships spread around the wide ranging fields, farms, and water/salt production plants. The lives of these Gnomes revolve around daily toil and maintenance.

The richest of the Gnomes live in the extensive mountain ranges, having carved out elaborate homes, businesses, universities, labs, and Cathedrals from the very rock. These are the businessgnomes, the ones who make the big decisions which impact the world at large. From export contracts to resource allocation and job availability, these Gnomes hold the lives of all others in their hands.

Governing Beta Arconis

Rather than a traditional government, Beta Arconis is run by a collection of committees, the members of which live in the mountains. Some committees oversee the production of water and salt. Others the building and maintenance of power plants and battery production. A few make decisions about crops. Still others are in charge of offworld contracts. The highest committee oversees the rest of the committees. Simply called The High Committee, its Chair is the most powerful and sought after position on all of Beta Arconis.

Gnomish culture revolves heavily around strong traditions and venerating the group over the individual. Gnomes feel a strong sense of pride when working together to accomplish tasks greater than their small statures would allow individually. Even the great committees are beholden to the same ethic; anyone perceived to be acting too strongly in their own self-interest will find themselves rapidly falling from grace. Likewise, Committee decisions have been known to be ignored when running counter to the traditions of the workforce.

Notes

Brought to you by the words chair, battery, elephant, osmosis, gnome, laser, and agronomy.

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Plot Hooks:

  • The PCs track a known criminal with a bounty on her head to Beta Arconis. She is hiding out in one of the numerous fishing villages. Good luck getting help from the insular Gnomes or the persecuted fishermen.
  • Now that Beta Arconis is no longer the inhospitable rock it once was, numerous other races are pushing to create their own settlements. The Gnomes are doing their best to block these attempts. The PCs may be hired by outsiders to help expedite the process or they may side with the Gnomes and help them defend their world.
  • Someone from offworld has been sabotaging operations on Beta Arconis: poisoning crops, setting fire to grain silos, blowing up machinery. Is it a rival provider of food commodities seeking to break the Gnomish hold on trade? A hate group? A lone maniac?