“Bah!” Magnus threw up his hands in exasperation. “Typical of Manlings to blame Dwarves.” he said, as he carefully unpacked a pungent tobacco and stuffed it into a large clay pipe. “One of you misplaces a babe, and it’s the Dwarves done the stealing. Tart-of-a-daughter for an heir of some lord with an overly complicated title goes missing with her lover? Someone is sure the kidnapper had a beard, and now the lady is locked in the deepest of dungeons. AND WHEN THEY FIND HER WITH A PRINCE?! Oh Thank Duradin! She was rescued!”
Magnus paused and stared at the guardsman with a glare of steel.
“I say nothing makes people see eye to eye better than a war-axe to the shins.”
“The overworlders have grown freakishly tall, and large without the Gifts of the Rock, and great medicants and Rune-Priests from across the Empire have studied time and again why they seem to suffer from a nearly species-wide case of tromm grobkaz (beard blight..). Answers have not been forthright, and any upstanding Khazukan should remember to treat the overworlders with kindness for their obvious shortcomings. They can’t seem to help themselves.”
-The Overworld Explained, by Aof Bar Dawazbak
Dwarves are far shorter than most individuals from the other races. They’ve always seemed perfectly suited to living in the spaces below the mountains and the earth. They are gifted with great strength and resilience, their bodies moving seamlessly into the realm of manual labour. They are solidly built, with a heavy frame, broad chests, thick fingered hands, and tough skins. They can carry heavy loads, and work long hours without tiring.
They live long complex lives that always run into the centuries unless cut short by accident or illness. On rare occasions, Dwarves have been known to live past a millennium. Dwarven beards grow continuously throughout their lives, and in most Dwarven cultures, it would be absolutely absurd to conceive of a reason where major cuts or extensive trims would be necessary.
Dwarves associate age with the length of their beards, and Dwarves revere experience. Meaning that a Dwarven beard may be the single-most valuable object in the life of a Dwarf. This has meant that Dwarves customarily sport elaborate braid-work, and items to adorn or protect beards or braids are often receive impressive attention from talented Dwarven craftsmen. Some of the greatest metalwork ever to have taken place in this plane was done only to adorn Dwarven beards.
Dwarven females do not have beards, instead, they maintain long flowing locks of hair, which they wear braided. The hair braids of a Dwarven females hold just as much importance as the beards of Dwarven males. This is the only meaningful difference between Dwarven males and females.
Dwarves do not only get wiser from the experiences they live through during their lives, but Dwarves also grow stronger with age. The opposite of humans. There does seem to be a point in the life of all Dwarves where they enter a state of rapid decline, always a few short years before the Dwarf dies of old age.
When a Dwarf dies of old age, and in certain other particular instances, his or her body calcifies, becoming as a statue. Because of the revered nature of ancestors in the Dwarven conception of the world, the bodies of Dwarven kings, heroes, or better still the Founders of the Empire, can and often are revered as holy relics.
“Shoveling coal into a red-hot forge, the smell of liquid minerals, taking in the darkness, and driving away the damp with the scalding heat of the blowers..
It’s good to be home.”
-The overheard conversations at the communal forge
In terms of mental ability, Dwarfs are determined, confident in the values and virtues of their civilization, and often openly mock the achievements of other races as beneath their own. Dwarven philosophy, and therefore society, is upheld by three personal values common to all Dwarves: experience, skill, and wealth. The older, the more gifted, and the more wealthy a Dwarf is, the higher he is most likely to be in the eyes of Dwarven society. The oldest Dwarves are called Longbeards or Greybeards, depending on where one is in the Dwarven world. These Dwarves are highly respected.
The most basic of Dwarven social units is the clan. It forms the basis for the life of a Dwarf as it often sets a path for all of the Dwarves in that clan to follow. Clans have certain responsibilities with regard to the running, maintenance, and protection of their holds. A clan with a high number of smiths, and a high degree of skill in smiting, might be required to hand over a number of weapons, or armor. Requirement might be too strong a word, no enforcement is required for the Dwarven clans to feel a need to contribute. Dwarves don’t boast of their family accomplishments nearly as much as they boast about their accomplishments as a race. In fact, outright boasting about the superiority of ones clan is seen as distasteful, a bit impolite, and lacking in tact. Rather, a Dwarf seeks to maintain a record of his family achievements, they proclaim the greatness of their clan through deeds. So, contributing to the maintenance of the walls, manning a certain part of the agates, arming the guards, policing a quarter, and all other manner of task becomes a means to protect family honour. A Dwarf clan is an extended family that can all trace its ancestry back to a founding ancestor. The social ranking of a Dwarf often starts with the social ranking of his clan. Disgraced clans being at the bottom, lower still than clans that have no Clanhold, and instead wander around the empire and it’s cities.
Often times, these Dwarf clans aren’t originally from the place they are currently living in, for they might have lost their homeland to an invading enemy force. Yet although their lands have been lost, each of these clans has never given up the hope of one day reclaiming their homeland and building it anew. The ancestors of these clan are highly honored, and part of this honor involves singing their sagas and maintaining their tombs and relics. Each clan is lead by the clan head also known as a thane. Some clans have their own identity sporting personal banners, sigils, and warcry. After thousands of years of warfare, many clans have been wiped out or driven far from their homelands, their original holds lost or destroyed. In this way, surviving strongholds now house not just their founders, but also Dwarfs from many different clans. These displaced clans pledge fealty to a new king, swearing oaths to fight for their adopted stronghold. However, no matter where a clan re-settles, or how long they remain with a new hold, they maintain a strong sense o f their unique identity and harbour hopes of one day reclaiming their ancestral homes.
In some cases, this leads to fights, duels, assassinations, and dirty tricks between clans. Oftentimes, a clan with similar responsibilities to another gets it in its head that it can accomplish a task better than the competing clan. This is particularly frequent when a clan is resettling. It usually starts with the two or more clans competing in the performance of a task, one clan gives more or better axes to the militia, so another clan sees their honour attacked so they give even more, even better axes, the Dwarves call this a Kazakgaz, a Work-War. If one clan doesn’t buckle, a Kazakgaz invariably leads to bloodletting. In severe cases, the ruling council, king, or the priesthood will have to intervene to stop the bloodshed.
Dwarves seek to protect their wealth at all costs, often sealing away their valuables in vaults. A Dwarfs wealth always goes to his family or clan when they die. This ensures that the memory of the dead will always be honored, it secures the money for desperate times in the history of a clan, and it ensures that a clan maintains its position. Dwarves often measure their personal security by how far off the ground they are when seated upon their treasure hoard.
Dwarves also organize their society further with the help of guilds, which are groupings of clans with similar skills and crafts to protect. This means that clans can hold on to particular ways of making a certain sword, or piece of armour while learning to make another part of a weapon or armour better. The guilding system allows for greater, common endeavours to be undertaken that clans alone could not accomplish while protecting their own craft.
Of course, none of the guild system would be possible if it weren’t for the rigid and unyielding conceptualization of honour held on to by the vast majority of Dwarves. Dwarves maintain great books in which the various oaths, promises, treason, and slights are held for posterity. Dwarven grudges are a matter of great importance, and Dwarves will always seek to right a wrong done to his clan, guild, in rare cases, stronghold, or in even rarer cases, race.
The primary reason why Dwarves have not expanded in the overworld is tied to their superstitious, and traditionalist nature. It is a common belief among Dwarves that a Dwarf spending too much time without a roof of stone over their heads will go insane, or worse, float off into the sky. For that reason, Dwarves who leave their holds for the overworld will be seen as extremely adventurous, free-spirited, and completely mad individuals by other Dwarves. Dwarven merchants will often be seen hiring escorts, or using modes of transport that allows them to keep a canopy of stone elevated above their heads at all times.
The Dwarves do not worship gods. They worship their ancestors. The Founders of the Dwarven Empire are worshiped by all Dwarves as they are old enough that all Dwarves can claim to be descended from them in some way.
They believe the Ancestors constantly watch over them and guide their way through life. The Dwarven race knows this concept as the Will of the Rock. They perceive the Ancestors as spirits inhabiting the stone walls of their strongholds, and their homes. They carve truly massive tombs in order to venerate particularly influent ancestors. These serve as both temple, and sometimes as a focus for the community.
Great Ancestor Gods
The First Dwarf. He was the first of the Dwarves to delve beneath the earth, widely believed by Dwarves to have invented the smelting of minerals, and the molding of stone. He is revered as the Ancestor that gave the Dwarves tools. Thorgrim is believed to be the god who delivers the gift of Kharazul, a legendary metal. Weapons and armours made from this metal can only be wielded by Dwarves. Any Dwarf responsible for delivering through incompetence, accident, or defeat items made of this metal to a non-Dwarf would be worse than an outcast, he would have reason to fear for his life.
At the time of the founding, when the hold of the Dwarves was tenuous, Thorgrim forged a thousand and one sets of armour, a thousand and one great hammers, and a thousand and one war-axes for the use of the young race. These weapons and armours were then enchanted by Moradin himself. These legendary pieces of equipment are some of the most precious artifacts of the Dwarven race.
Theft (at least, according to the Dwarves) of a single war-axe led the entire Dwarven race to attack the Northmarches. Thousands upon thousands of Humans and Dwarves died, the city of Gradtz was levelled, and the Dwarves lost a High-King. The conflcit is known as the War of the Axe.
Any great smithing family will invariably claim to be descendents of Thorgrim.
Thorek the Fearless was the first warrior of the Dwarven race. He personifies the courage, and stubborness of Dwarves (which Dwarves do not necessarily see as a bad thing..). All of the great warrior clans will claim to be descendants of Thorek.
Dwarven Berserkers are the only Dwarves permitted to wear the great runes of Thorek upon their skin. Dwarves who become Berserkers are the greatest warriors of the Dwarven race.
The brother of Thorgrim, and originator of the only form of magic practiced by the Dwarven race: Runecasting. Moradin is by far the most mystical of the Great Ancestors. The legends hold that he spent the period of the Founding exploring the deepest reaches of the underworld. Setting down the first markers for the foundation of the great Dwarven holds.
In his travels, he found a mythical cavern system that the Dwarves call the Glittering Caves. Whether this place is real of not, Moradin came back to his Dwarven brothers and sisters with the power of the Runes. Moradin does not die in Dwarven lore, rather he leaves the Dwarven realms behind after creating the greatest runes of the Dwarves and imparting them to the Dwarves. Some Dwarves believe he still lives, deep below the earth, in the heart of the Glittering Caves.
All Runecasters, Runesmiths, and the mystically inclined will claim to descend from Moradin.
The wife of Thorgrim, she is the goddess of the home, healing, brewing, and the inventor of the Dwarven language. She set forth the rules of maintenance that the Dwarves use for the communal upkeep of their strongholds. All of the families who work for the maintenance of the holds will claim to descend from Freydir.
Minor Ancestor Gods
Protector of the Dwarven dead.
The Dwarves have lost the majority of their great cities to decay, magic, goblinoids, dragons, and other creatures that gnaw at the roots of the mountains. The problem with the Dwarven race lays with the fact that the Dwarves suffer from political stagnation, and their reliance on tradition has meant a declining birth rate.
The Dwarves had constructed great roads between their cities under the ground that spanned the breadth and width of the world. The spaces now stand as shadows of what they used to be. Many of the remaining cities of the Dwarves have attempted to reclaim space at some point or another, with varying degrees of success.
In the last few decades, some speak of a Dwarven silver age. A great city, Karak Angor, has been reclaimed by the militant Dwarves of Ulmazzar. The old city is currently being repaired, and repopulated.