One of the announcements prior to the launch of 4e which generated the most uproar was the announcement that they would be leaving Gnomes out of the PHB and putting them in the Monster Manual instead. While there are plenty of people who are either indifferent or actively despise the Gnome there are also people who are passionate Gnome-lovers. Regardless of where you stand the Gnome has been with the game for a long time and many folks (including me) were more than a tad miffed to hear that the Gnome had been replaced by the laughable upstart races of Eladrin, Dragonborn (WTF!), and Tiefling.
While I still think this was a lame move, the edge of my complaint has been substantially blunted by the inclusion at the back of the Monster Manual of the four best pages in the whole damn core rulebook set – a variety of “monsters” done up in brief format as playable character races eliminating the loathsome Level Adjustment typical of such hacks in 3e. Since the flavor text in the PHB is such crap anyway (play an elf if you want to sling gobs of arrows!) these mini stat blocks are basically the exact same content as the official player character races in the PHB. In other words – play a Gnome if you bloody want to (I intend to!).
In fact, I actually like how they’ve done Gnomes in this edition. Previous editions of Gnomes always had a variety of silly little powers that basically never came up in gameplay and served almost no purpose. Remember how 3e had a hard time figuring out which class Gnomes should favor (illusionist? That’s not even a class!). Basically Gnomes were suffering from an identity crisis. This is not true at all in 4e where Gnomes are sneaky little buggers with an awesome flavorful power “Fade Away” which allows them to become invisible if they ever take damage. It’s a delicious little power that would compliment a Fey Pact Warlock very well. With a plethora of ways to be concealed or invisible, to teleport and to blind targets such a character would be all kinds of broken. Enjoy the expression of disappointment on your DM’s face when he realizes he can’t find or hit your character with any of his monsters!
Frankly, I hope 4e continues the trend established by those 4 delicious little pages and releases a slew of playable races in such a simple intuitive format. Since WoTC has clearly abandoned any attempt to provide deep and interesting fluff we can just embrace the fluid mechanics and make up our own fluff to cover the deficiencies. Gnomes are back baby!