Another case of "common knowledge" being dead wrong...
Repeat a myth enough times and too many buy into it. If you are playing a melee class, yeah, a gnome might well be a crappy dwarf depending on the build. Another group says a gnome's a crappy halfling - make up your minds myth-makers! It's neither in 3.5 (and though you say 3e in the above quote - DDO is 3.5, and gnomes were changed in 3.5 from 3). I agree that I prefer the historical illusionist (specialist wizard) favored class and focus over the bard, but it's not without some precedence (think of as a blending of illusionist/rogue or cleric/rogue or cleric/illusionist).
Originally Posted by Failedlegend
Base Dwarf Vs Base Gnome 3.5 PnP Differences
+2 Con, -2 Cha (bad for bards!) -Ability- +2 Con, -2 Str (good for casting bards, slightly better for arcanes)
Med (no changes - good for melee) - Size- Small (+1 AC, +1 To Hit, +4 Hide; good for non-melee)
Darkvision, Stability (+4 Ability Checks) -Not Used in DDO- Low-Light
+2 Search/Appraise/Craft (Stonework - not used in DDO) -Skills- +2 Craft (Alchemy), +2 Listen
Dwarven Waraxe (good for melee) -Bonus Martial Weapon- Gnome Hooked Hammers (eh...)
+1 To Hit Orcs, +4 AC vs Giants -Racial Combat-+1 To Hit Kobolds/Goblinoids, +4 AC vs Giants
Poison and Spell Saves +2 (good for melee) -Saves- Illusion Saves +2 (more caster oriented)
n/a (wanna be caster only for the Con bonus) - Casting- +1 Illusion DC's (very nice in certain spells)
n/a (again, caster wanna be) -Spell-Like Abilities- Speak w/ Animals, Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Prestidigitation
Fighter (combat based in keeping with above) -Favored Class- Bard (skilled arcane, in keeping with above)
Ahem... same could be done as above for halfling/gnome comparisons - though instead sharing the "con" bonus, in this case they share the small size bonuses (but again, halflings just are not catering to arcane casting in DnD). Now, the older PnP forest gnome would be closer to halfings and elves than to dwarves. The base rock gnome is more kin to dwarves.
Also, some things that make it into DDO enhancements (and in PnP in things like Prestige Classes, Feats, and Racial Substitution Levels in optional books) - often these are things as a NOD to niches in prior versions. Let's just look at Prestige Classes (and the related Racial Substitution Levels)...
Dwarf Prestiges (non-attributed are from Races of Stone):
Dwarven Defender (base DMG, exceptionally cool dwarf fighter type)
Battlesmith (making your own armor/weapons)
Deepwarden (underground ranger type)
Runesmith (a dwarf-ly arcane!)
Dungeon Delver (a Complete Adventurer nod to dwarven rogues, though not race restricted)
Ollam (a Complete Adventurer nod to dwarven clerics)
Battle Trickster (a Complete Scoundrel nod to dwarven fighter/rogues, though not race restricted)
Dark Hunter (a Complete Warrior nod to dwarven fighter/rogues, though not race restricted)
Warpriest (a Complete Divine nod to dwarven fighter/clerics, though not race restricted)
Dwarven Paragon (an Unearthed Arcana nod to dwarven fighter/rogues)
Dwarf Racial Sub Levels (from Races of Stone):
Cleric, Fighter, Sorcerer (dunno what drugs devs were on for this last one)
Of particular note and power in the above list for Dwarves are the Dwarven Defender and Dwarven Cleric (Racial Sub).
Gnome Prestiges (non-attributed are from Races of Stone):
Arcane Trickster (base DMG and not restricted to gnomes, but has illusionist/rogue written all over it)
Blade Bravo (fencing fighter or rogue)
Divine Prankster (rogue combined with cleric or bard)
Shadowcraft Mage (illusion specialty)
Maester (a Complete Adventurer nod to magical crafting gnomes)
Uncanny Trickster (a Complete Scoundrel nod to gnome fighter/rogues, though not race restricted)
Gnome Giant-Slayer (a Complete Warrior nod to gnome fighters or rogues)
Effigy Master (a Complete Arcane tribute to gnome illusionist crafters, though not race restricted)
Gnome Paragon (an Unearthed Arcana nod to gnome illusionists)
Gnome Racial Sub Levels (from Races of Stone):
Bard, Illusionist (i.e., Wizard Specialist), Ranger
Of particular note and power in the above list for Gnomes are the Arcane Trickster and the Gnome Illusionist (Racial Sub). In the Eberron setting, gnome artificers are pretty cliche (as is gnome tinkerers in Dragonlance) and I'm not as familiar with the PnP version, but I couldn't find anything that significantly changed the above stuff.
Now lets finally end this myth about gnomes being dwarf or halfling wanna-be's - they are in their own class (or race specializing in their own different classes)!