The gnomes of Thunder Rift are mostly enslaved by goblinoids, and do not have functioning governments of their own. Among the gnome slaves, there exists an informal division between three factions; collaborators, resisters, and non-resisters. An individual gnome may move among these three groups over the course of his life.
A small number of free gnomes live in the low hills south of Wizardspire, not far from the Brichtwood. These free gnomes have no government because their numbers are too low to require one.
Some few gnomes live as common citizens in Melinir or as guests among the dwarves of Hearthhome.
Outside Thunder Rift, many gnomish communities are ruled by hereditary lairds, the ‘rulers of rock and rill’ who govern mining and water rights in the hilly gnome-lands. A few communities are governed by councils of scholars and artisans.
Gnomes believe in a creator god, much as do many other peoples. Three main sects exist within a shared gnomish religious tradition; Lapidarians, Gearsmiths, and Phantasians.
The conservative Lapidarian sect teaches that the Creator is a divine jeweler, who fashioned the celestial jewels –sun, moon, and stars- from stones he dug out of the deep earth. The Lapidarians greatly honor master jewelers. These gnomes keep relic tools used by the ‘old masters’ inside jeweled reliquary boxes. Divination by watching the light reflected off faceted stones, or by use of a prism, plays a role in Lapidarian religious rites and daily life.
The new-fangled Gearsmiths see god as a careful builder who made the universe to function like a clock. The Gearmsiths see engineering and invention as a divine gift. Master tinkers and their inventions are objects of veneration.
The gnostic Phantasians conceive of god as a trickster and illusionist. To a Phantasian, the world is a layered illusion on top of a spiritual inner reality. Phantasians see the study of illusion magic as a sacred calling. Master illusionists are often seen as guru-like figures of special wisdom. Death is ultimately just another illusion, so Phantasians sometimes pray for the intervention of dead illusionists.
Most gnomes are not madcap technologists, but the race does show an inclination towards clever artifices and cunning design.
Pickman the Sage (of Melinir) has theorized that this technological edge developed because gnomes are often short on labor force, always small in individual size, and not often skilled at magic other than illusions. Given all those factors, labor saving devices and technological fixes for problems are arguably more attractive and more needful for gnomes than for some other races.
A minority of gnomes show an uncanny talent for building machines. These inventors tend to be eccentric even by gnomish standards. Their devices are often wonky one-offs, difficult to copy. Oddly enough, the weirder gadgets seem to work best for gnomes (especially the ones who built or designed them in the first place) and tend to break down when used by non-gnomes. *
Examples of gnomish technology at the bleeding edge include mechanical gnomes, self-propelled wagons, diving bells, and other odd devices.
*Gearsmiths may explain this phenomenon in religious terms.