The Gnome race was created by the god Reorx in the Age of Twilight, as the humans he had taught so much (including the forging of steel), began to ridicule him for being short and more interested in the creation of things than actually using them, while the humans saw them merely as sources of income and wealth. He made them Tinker Gnomes (or Gnomes for short), forever cursed to invent things that rarely worked as intended.
The average gnome is not very tall, slender, tends to have a large, pointed nose, and lives for two things: His/Her inventions and The LifeQuest.
A LifeQuest is the most sacred of traditions in Gnome society, supreme even to the Committee. The situation is the same with most Gnome families, with few, rare exceptions. The LifeQuest is designed to have a great impact on their society, hence the difficulties (if it's not difficult — how can you tell it from a mere accidental invention?) of the labor involved.