Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Races: Dwarves

“ ‘Course you’ve never seen anything like it. Pure griefsteel’s been folded into that blade, and the handle’s orc ivory wrapped in silver and bronze- a deal at 90 thrones. Outlandish, you say? Tell you what, twig- I’ll shave off an empty for every goblin skull you bring me. It’s a deal. Now don’t make me sell this to you for anything more’n half price...”

Stonewise Morunsun, a merchant about to make a killing

Dwarves were originally a race of gruff miners and determined warriors known for their weapon craft and expansionist attitude, which was only kept in check by the incessant civil wars between the many clans that made up the dwarven civilization. Eager for plunder, as a people they were rivals primarily with humans for resources, since they rarely ventured into the Yggdrasil. However, they got along famously with the nomadic halflings (which many believe is because they had no lands to conquer) and considered the reclusive and arcane gnomes kin despite their own distaste for magic.

When the Divine War broke out, the dwarves were initially neutral, being of staunch faith and firmly believing the gods invincible to any mortal threat. They paid the price for their piety when a skirmish between a clutch of dragons and a god resulted in the destruction of one of their great mountain-halls. The few survivors related the horror of seeing their home torn asunder and watching the lifeblood of their clan leak out from the broken rock like molten lava. Out of that tragedy, the dwarven clans put together a massive army called the Blood of the Mountain in honor of the fallen, and marched to battle as one people. They took to the front lines against the armies the dragons had amassed with zeal. Although they decimated their orc and goblinoid foes, they simply could not contend with the raw power of the dragons and took great losses.

When the dragons finally won their war, they turned their claws to the dwarves’ gnome charges, who had incurred the wrath of the dragons with their magical prowess. Despite a lack of numbers, the dwarves defended the gnomes as best they could. They failed in the end, and the race of the gnomes went into extinction. Bloodied, disheartened and twice defeated, they retreated to the seat of what remained of their empire and began a centuries-long period of mourning. It was during this time that dwarven society began to change.

The clan system, which had been temporarily set aside during wartime, was now completely discarded. Far too much blood had been spilt and subsequently mingled to return to such a society. Instead, they adopted the idea of the Oneclan, which stressed that all dwarves were related in some way (with marriage occurring exclusively between extremely distant cousins). They became more likely to work and refine the precious metals and gems they mined instead of simply hoarding them. They tempered their gruffness with gregariousness, their determination with patience, and their arrogance with confidence- for the most part.

This period of mourning ended only recently, and mainly at the behest of the halflings, who grew weary of being their go-between in dealing with other peoples. Dwarves have emerged from their self-imposed exile with a taste for trade, and a burning desire to avenge their fallen and rebuild their kingdom. To this end, they will do business with almost anyone, save perhaps for anyone known to have positive dealings with dragons, and elves of any stripe, who simply “aren’t good for business”. They are stoically neutral toward half-breeds, giving individual members of the reviled Third Races the chance to prove themselves before judging them. However, should a stranger prove to be an enemy, a wronged dwarf can be quick to violence and single minded in pursuing vengeance, as the goblins and other subterranean members of the First Races have discovered.

Naming Conventions:
In youth, a dwarf goes by their clan name (which have been retained even though the system is no longer in use) and their family name, with the suffix –sun (for men) or –dottir (for women) added. Nicknames, occasionally unflattering to non-dwarven ears, are used to provide individual identity. When a dwarf has become adult in the eyes of their people, they then choose a personal name, only known to immediate family. Traditionally, a dwarf has to marry someone who successfully guesses his or her personal name, although chance has very little to do with it in practice. Dwarves who are courting drop hints or craft riddles as to the nature of their personal name, while dwarves who are less amorous may be surprised to find out that a mischievous aunt “accidentally” let the name slip around a member of the opposite sex they deemed suitable.

Dwarves favor shades of neutrality for the flexibility (or unpredictability, if chaotic neutral) it gives them in business dealings, but lean towards good in times of crisis.

Dwarves are a short, stocky people, averaging about 4.5 to 5 ft. in height, and their hair varies in color from honey-gold to earthy reddish-brown to black as a starless night. Regardless of their original color, a dwarf’s hair turns to steel gray overnight when they enter middle age- an important moment in a dwarf’s life. Eye color is dark, but the unusual colors of stone grey and blood red appear about once a generation and are considered good and bad omens respectively. Dwarven males grow their beards long, but keep them well manicured, while females grow equally long and luxurious sideburns.

Class: Their preferred class is fighter- ages ago dwarves bought the retreat to their empire on the bodies of their brave warriors who turned aside orc and goblin spears; today dwarves who traverse the land as merchants rely on their battle prowess as much as their financial acumen. Those who mourn the passing of their gnome cousins study the way of the wizard, while those with dubious bloodlines may be sorcerers. Dwarven rangers are almost universally reavers, and are ruthless in their hunt for the First Races, dedicated to giving the gnomes the company in the afterlife. Dwarven merchants and caravan masters are usually rogues. Dwarven barbarians are often little more than the bloodthirsty warriors they appear to be at first glance, but they can also be those rare individuals with strong bloodlines who wish to return to the old ways in the times before the Divine War when the dwarves were a race of conquerors- and usually have the aforementioned red eyes. Dwarven paladins, in contrast, have grey eyes more often than not and their abilities make it easy for them to become respected pillars of the Oneclan. Dwarven bards tell tales of clans long gone to keep their memories alive. The piety of the dwarven people seems to have died along with the gods, so clerics are a rarity, as are druids. Dwarven monks exist in even smaller numbers.

Dwarven Racial Traits:
As in the Dwarves entry in the Player’s Handbook, except as follows:

Dwarves are on the threshold of founding a new empire, one based on trade as much as on warfare. Dwarven characters increase their bonus to Appraise and Craft checks on items made out of stone or metal to +4 and enjoy a +2 bonus on Appraise checks to items made out of other materials.

Dwarves are preternaturally tough. They gain an extra hit point whenever they gain a level, and add their Constitution modifier to any hit points recovered whenever they heal through non-magical means.

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