Denizens of the mountain halls, dwarves are a stout but proud race renowned for their hardy constitutions as well as their skill with steel. Although they tend to come across as surly to surface-dwellers, their ties to the other civilized races of Orn run as ancient and deep as the mountains themselves.
Dwarf characters must wear long, prosthetic beards.
Dwarves are noted among other races as being especially rude and stand-offish. In truth, Dwarven culture places high value on blunt honesty. On top of that, many Dwarves are accustomed to living in close, even cramped, quarters where such insensitivity is more often taken for being at ease with one's companions. In a way, then, rudeness is often a Dwarf's way of being friendly, although not always.
Dwarves are also known for their dedication to craftsmanship. Dwarven-made armor and weapons in particular are prized by many for the high quality and durability imparted by their meticulous creators.
Dwarves admire the follow traits and encourage them in their young:
Honesty. Most non-Dwarves would describe the Dwarven race as gruff, rude, and tactless. But the Dwarves themselves would claim that they merely speak with purest honesty. Dwarves have never found much profit in diplomacy, and in the constant close confines of their underground Clanholds direct communication is essential for safety and good family relationships.
Tenacity. Dwarves never, ever, ever give up. They may stop a project and start over again, but they will keep on working until they produce a final result that satisfies them. This persistence carries over into all aspects of Dwarven life, as the graves of a thousand Dwarvish foes will attest.
Self-sufficiency. Dwarves are long-lived and hardy. This translates into a wide range of skills and life experience to draw upon. Dwarves rarely find themselves at a loss in a crisis. Dwarves do not panic and can be counted upon to provide level-headed, if somewhat brusquely delivered, suggestions.
Expertise. No task, no matter how mundane, is unimportant. It is for this reason that Dwarves are such exceptional craftsmen. Since everyone has a job to do and the Dwarves are so long-lived, Dwarves will spend extra time to create something that is both functional and beautiful. Function is foremost to the Dwarves, but they also value beautiful work and craftsmanship. When a Dwarf forges a blade, he labors long and hard to complete the project sometimes melting down the project and starting it anew for a minor imperfection, perceived or real; a pretty blade with a dull edge and poor balance is a waste of materials. A Dwarf will not declare a project fully complete until he has satisfied his own inner perfectionist.
No race is perfect. These are some of the more common Dwarven flaws.
Clannish. Dwarves are very loyal to their own kind, prizing their own culture and requirements before all other concerns. This can make them seem insular and prejudiced to non-Dwarves. The not undeserved Dwarven antipathy to Uordeq is the most severe manifestation of this trait.
Rude. Dwarves are infamous for their lack of tact. While many surface dwellers consider the impact of their words and actions upon others, the same cannot be said of the Dwarves. Walking in on someone who is changing clothes may seem uncivilized in most surface cultures, but to the Dwarves it is considered perfectly acceptable. The tight quarters in Clanholds do not leave much personal space, which means that a Dwarf’s entire extended family will live in the same dwelling. Personal space is simply not a concept that a Dwarf can grasp. By the same token, a gruff answer to a question is not due to a lack of manners so much as it is to retain the one form of privacy that a Dwarf prizes, which are his own thoughts and feelings.
Judgemental. Dwarves are convinced of the superiority of their claims and the strength of their virtues. This can cause them to judge others harshly. It is very difficult to regain the good regard of a dwarf once it is lost.
"Espidrel toiled long and hard making the world, only to find it imperfect when he was done. His wife suggested that he create beings to inhabit the world, and so he did; only to find them wanting. He was dissatisfied with them so he placed them on the surface, allowing these new races to make their way by the light of the sun and moon as well as they may. Greatly dismayed, he pondered if he should just take his creation and put it back in the forge to melt it down and begin anew. It is at this time his wife intervened once again and suggested that he make a race in his own image to please him; a race that was industrious and hard-working as he was. Espidrel once again went to his forge and it was the Dwarves that he created. He placed them in under the surface of Orn to serve as the “heart” of this new world.”
--Dwarven creation story
Dwarves were created at Orn's birth (a period known as the Dawning) along with most of the other civilized races of the world. They were crafted out of stone by the Ageless One called Espidrel, the Mason of the Mountains. The ancient fathers of the Dwarven race came to life in a cavern deep within the heart of the infant world. This cavern, called Mason's Deep, is at the very center of the oldest Dwarven city on Orn, Dwarroholm. Mason's Deep was once lined with gems and outcroppings of the many beautiful and useful metals to be found on Orn. At the center of the cavern is a volcanic vent that served as the First Forge and is still in use today on very special occasions. The oldest Dwarves, filled with their progenitor's dreams of creation, set to work crafting the bounty of Mason's Deep into the tools of the First Dwarves.
And the First Dwarves began to delve. They cut tunnels out from Mason's Deep, connecting to other caves and discovering more subterranean wonders. And wherever they dug, they built, first strengthening and then beautifying, their underground halls. The Dwarves encountered and sensed the kinship of the Gnomes, securing them as allies in the dark places. They also encountered the savage Goblins, and quickly overmastered the creatures, for the Dwarves were the rightful heirs of Espidrel and the depths of Orn were their domain. The Dwarves also grew in number, forcing more and more expansion until they finally broke forth into the Sunlit Lands. By this time the Dwarves were a mighty people, masters of the dark places. And the brightness of the Sun did not dismay them. They ventured forth into the Lands of Light, encountering Elves and men and other creatures.
The Dwarves formed alliances where they could, defended themselves when they had to and always, always kept digging and building. Their kingdoms, like those of many other peoples, were disrupted and weakened by the cataclysm of the Shattering. Their beloved patron, Espidrel, faded from Orn along with many of the other Ageless Ones. But the heart and the works of Dwarfdom remain strong. For it is the nature of Dwarves to endure, unto the ending of the world.
All Dwarf clans can trace their ancestry back to one of the twelve First Dwarves. The names of the First Dwarves are the names of the current Dwarf clans. The greatest disgrace a Dwarf can experience is to be disavowed by his clan and stripped of his clan name.
Fireforge Fireforge is known as the Tamer. He devised the first forge in Mason's Deep and discovered the secrets of heating metal. His clan is known for their cast metalwork, and the most prized tools in a dwarf smith's workshop are often of Fireforge manufacture.
Rockbiter Rockbiter is known as the Delver. She was the first to begin excavating the ore and gems left for the Dwarves by Espidrel. The talent for finding a likely seam of ore lives in the Rockbiter clan today.
Forgesplitter Forgesplitter is known as the Breaker. He was the one who discovered the hidden flaws in Mason's Deep that allowed the Dwarves to begin their expansion outward. He was also possessed of a keen eye for quality in craftsmanship. It is thanks to the influence of Forgesplitter that Dwarves are willing to re-start a project from the beginning rather than try to restore a flawed item. His clan are known for their discerning eye and make excellent traders.
Soulaxe Soulaxe is known as the Preserver. Under her influence the First Dwarves learned to be cautious and canny in their excavations, and to shore up their tunnels as they went. Her concern for safety and sound construction is carried on in her clan, many of whom serve as mine supervisors for other clans.
Ironspur Ironspur is known as the Explorer. He was always at the forefront of the growing tunnels. He had an uncanny knack for direction and his skills in cavern exploration have never been equaled. A streak of wanderlust runs through his clan and many of them serve on the caravans that travel back and forth to the surface of Orn.
Ironheart Ironheart is known as the Talker. She heard the voices of the stone and the fire and spoke to them. She was the first Dwarven shaman, and placated the spirits the Dwarves disrupted with their work. The talent for Theurgy and Shamanism are strong in her line.
Grandhelm Grandhelm is known as the Planner. He was the first to develop and share a vision for the Dwarven race. He devised the Dwarven language Durnamn as a way to record his thoughts for others to see. His writings still line parts of the cavern of Mason's Deep. His vision lives on in his clan, many of whom are skilled bards and storytellers.
Stoneshield Stoneshield is known as the Defender. As his siblings pushed out from Mason's Deep, he remained behind to begin building the city of Dwarroholm with his children. The Stoneshield clan maintains Dwarroholm to this day and are masons and architects of surpassing skill.
Gobl'nsmasha Gobl'nsmasha is known as the Smasher. He was the first to pick up a tool and make it a weapon in defense of Dwarfkind. To this day, his clan favors heavy hammers in battle over the more traditional axe. Gobl'nsmasha fighters are renowned for their resilience and skill. More than one battle has turned in the Dwarves' favor upon the arrival of a Gobl'nsmasha strike squad.
Forgeholme Forgeholme is known as the Founder. She was the first Dwarf mother to give birth. She is considered the mother of all Dwarfkind, and cities in several places have been named in her honor. Forgeholme Dwarves have a larger proportion of females than most clans. These lovely Dwarves are widely sought after as mates.
Anvilsmiter Anvilsmiter is known as the Maker. He was the First Dwarves' chief smith and his skills at the forge are continued in his offspring. True Anvilsmiter weapons are indeed capable of cleaving an iron anvil in twain.
Earthbreaker Earthbreaker is known as the Provider. He was the first to discover food in the underground places and share it with his brethren. His clan are accomplished mushroom farmers and the practice of beer brewing originated with this clan.
All Dwarves can follow their lineage back to one of these forebearers. Clan names are passed down from a father to his children. Dwarves can be "adopted" into another clan (usually by marriage), and add a second clan name to their own, but their true bloodlines are carefully recorded in the Clanhold's record books. Dwarven genealogy is a complex subject and most non-Dwarves find it tedious and difficult to follow.
Some Dwarven families, especially those who trade regularly with surface dwellers, have begun the practice of going by a "family" name that applies more specifically to a single line of fathers and sons. An example might be a Dwarf who calls himself Grod Thragson. He is a Dwarf named Grod who is the son of a Dwarf named Thrag. These Dwarves tend to keep their clan names private amongst the family so as not to confuse outsiders who might wonder why a male Dwarf is married to a female Dwarf and they were both named "Ironspur" and yet are not siblings.
Dwarves view other Dwarves as kin, period. True there are rivalries between clans, but even the most bitter clan rivalries are put aside when Dwarves are threatened by outside forces. Dwarves view their heritage as their life, and elderly Dwarves are treated with great respect. If the elderly are the honored wardens of the past, the young are the protectors of the future of the clan.
Most traditional Dwarves live in an underground complex of caves and tunnels called a Clanhold. Clanhold membership is generally comprised of an extended family group. The leader of a Clanhold is usually the oldest member of the clan who is still in active work, but he or she is advised by all the adult members of the clan.
Like any large family, Dwarfkind has its internal tensions centered around the allocation of space and access to resources, but they are rapidly tossed aside should an external threat appear. Dwarves are tenacious in battle, often pursuing foes all the way back to their own home caverns and collapsing them in revenge. Most intelligent underground dwellers have long ago learned to leave the settlements of the Dwarves alone. Indeed, until the relatively recent arrival of the Uordeq, even an abandoned Dwarven Clanhold could be counted upon as a safe haven for a weary or harried explorer in the deep places.
Dwarves in their Clanholds are not allowed to charge another dwarf in good standing for goods and services, but this long standing tradition is usually only still practiced below ground. The hierarchy to a Dwarf is self, family, clan, and race. Dishonor to any of these is a great disgrace.
Dwarves trade with men and elves, exchanging precious metals, gems, armor, tools and weapons for furs, food and lumber. Dwarves are canny bargainers who cut a sharp deal, and the caravans which travel between the depths and the surface world are well guarded indeed. Dwarves appreciate the value of their labor and expect recompense for their skills and time.
Both male and female Dwarves grow beards although some clans, especially the Fireforge, prefer to wear their beards short so as to not burn them off as they work. A well kept beard of any length is a Dwarf's pride and crowning glory. A Dwarf who has committed a heinous crime against his people will often have his beard cut short, singed off or even pulled out. A Dwarf who has lost or damaged his beard through accident or illness may wear a mask over his face until it is restored. whatever the cause, a beardless Dwarf is a sad and angry creature.
Young Dwarves come into the world amidst great family celebration. Due to the tight living quarters in most Clanholds, a Dwarf woman's pregnancy is already a community event, so too is the birth. The addition is toasted with Dwarven holy water by all the clan.
The whole clan also participates in raising the young, with a large portion of the education of the young falling in the hands of the elders who no longer toil in tunnel, mine, and forge. In this way the parents can continue to work at their crafts, while the young are left with the elders to learn of their ancestry and develop basic skills. This practice also ensures that the Dwarves perpetuate much the same culture as they have had for ages.
When a young Dwarf grows strong enough to work he is brought in to mine and forge and taught the ways of the clan. He begins with basic tasks and learns under the watchful eye of parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Dwarves with an independent streak are sometimes loaned to other Clanholds during this time, but most Dwarves not in trading families do not leave the clanhold until they are at least 50 years old. By this time the young Dwarf's beard is long enough to be comely and he is ready to be presented to Dwarven society. Young Dwarves serve as milita and guards and take supplies and messages between Clanholds. During this time, they also usually meet a compatible Dwarf of the opposite sex and begin the slow courting of their kind.
Dwarven affection is expressed by beautifully crafted and personal gifts. A young Dwarven swain may work for several years on a golden torc for his beloved's neck. A lovesick young maiden may enamel her beloved's initials onto a mithril hauberk. The exchange of such tokens and endearments between the lovers is accompanied by serious negotiation between the families. Some promising romances have been squashed in the early days because the young couple were too closely related, although this has become less of a concern in these latter ages. Both families still consult their books of genealogy before consenting to the match. Agreements are reached and eventually the young couple settles down in whichever Clanhold is most suitable for them and their skills.
Dwarven weddings are joyous affairs and many gifts are exchanged between the families. Often the two families work together to carve out and equip a dwelling for the newlyweds.
Dwarves have been known to find love outside of their own kind. If the beloved is a gnome, they are usually welcomed into the family. But a Dwarf in love with one of the surface races is in for a difficult time. Non-Dwarves quickly find the dark and close atmosphere of the Clanholds to be unbearably oppressive. Even starting with the best of intentions, most love matches require the Dwarf to dwell with his spouse on the surface, cutting himself off from the heart of Dwarfkind.
When the time eventually comes, Dwarves consider death a new beginning for Dwarfkind. Legends hold that when a Dwarf dies, he is taken to the sacred forge and smelted down to create a new Dwarf. It is for this reason that upon death of a Dwarf, the clan holds a large party to tell of the deeds of the deceased, while drinking holy water for up to three days before returning to work. This expression of honor is paramount to Dwarven society as right actions in a Dwarf's life will serve as an inspiration to the life of another dwarf. Just as a piece of iron is re-smelted in the forge, so is the Dwarven soul reborn. If one's soul-ore is inferior, then the reborn dwarf will be inferior as well. No Dwarf would ever want to bring this burden to his own kind, so he strives to live a life of purpose and rectitude.
Dwarves and Ale
It is common knowledge that Dwarves are lovers of ale, and some of the finest brewers of ale in all the world. What is not as commonly known is that Dwarves consider the consumption of ale to be part of their connection to the Immortals. Ale, as it is pure due to the method of its crafting, is holy water to the Dwarves, and their Theurges brew it in every Crafthold and underground city. Ale in the vat is prayed over for days on end. To a dwarf, the quality of the ale is a measure of the spirit of the Theurge, which is why they are so critical of ale that isn’t dwarven-made.
It is also notable that many Dwarves carry their own personal mug, which seems to be full at all times. Most clans give a young Dwarf his own personal mug when he prepares to venture forth into the world.
Each clan has its own specific brew. The recipes are highly guarded secrets and are only passed down to a very few members of the clan at a time. The Earthbreaker clan is known to brew a special, almost magical, ale once every 100 years. There is always enough for every dwarf in every clanhold to drink at least one mug and as the barrels are transported out of Grey Caverns, the oldest Earthbreaker Clanhold, errant and wandering Dwarves across Orn make their way back to their ancestral homes to drink it. One of the most savage battles of the recent age was sparked when a large party of Uordeq raiders attacked a caravan transporting Earthbreaker Century Brew. All the Dwarves within a hundred miles descended upon the raiders and slew them to the last man.
Dwarves tend to relate well to other long-lived races such as Elves and Empyreans, despite their distrust of magic. They are fond of Gnomes in particular, who they treat as cousins if not outright kin. They tend to be wary of Fairies, however, whose flighty nature conflicts with the Dwarves' more structured mindset. And they harbor a deep-seated hatred of Uordeq, who they see as thieves and murderers.
Dwarves and Urodeq
Ask a Dwarf to describe the Urodeq and the words “trickster”, “thief”, and “murderer” will spring instantly to his lips. Since the recent (to Dwarves) emergence of the underground dwellers, they have been thrown into competition for territory and resources many times. Urodeq are seen as a threat not just because of their proximity and desire for living space, but because their very nature opposes what Dwarves are. Blunt, straightforward Dwarves are utterly dismayed at being attacked an enemy who sneaks about using poison and treachery to expand and grow their territory. An extremely tolerant dwarf regards Uordeq with disdain and suspicion, most are perfectly willing to employ immediate violence, especially beneath the surface when their territories are overlapping. The general Dwarven attitude is that the only tolerable Urodeq is a dead Urodeq.
Since the Dawning the dwarves have revered Espidrel, the Mason of the Mountains. He was their progenitor and patron. His loss in the Shattering was deeply felt by his most beloved children. But the dwarves are nothing if not resilient. They have come to revere the Ascendant Immortals and continue to keep the memory of the Great Mason alive in their hearts and tales.
Since the Shattering, dwarven craftfolk follow the Immortal Imphalios, the Ascendant of Innovation. Imphalios was a living construct who threw off the influence of his evil lich creator to stand with the Company of Seven. Dwarves admire him for his valor and skill as a craftsman.
Dwarves also revere Githal, the patron of military matters and tactics. He has a strong following among militaristic Dwarves and those who stand against the Uordeq.
Dwarven healers take inspiration from Istensia and more than a few Dwarves are Lightbringers in her service. Some Dwarven followers of the Radiant Maiden have adapted her symbol to be an open forge door, glowing yellow within and wreathed in orange flame.
Etejeril, as the patron of the Uordeq, draws particular animosity from Dwarfkind and his followers of any race are viewed as threats to be eliminated.
Kragg the Forge Father is a combination of two beings: the Ageless One known as Espidrel the Mason of the Mountains, and a mortal shaman named Kegger Ironspur. Kragg is counted among the first Chosen, ascending mere hours after the immortal Avaren. As such, he has few long-standing relationships. He maintains an alliance with Githal and Imphalios, both of whom are often revered by dwarves. He likewise harbors a deep hatred for any immortal favored by the uordeq, such as Etejeril, Secronus, and Tenaebrus.
Due to their hardy constitutions, strict work ethic, and steadfast loyalty, Dwarves are well suited to the life of an adventurer. In an adventuring party, Dwarves are most often at the forefront of every engagement, acting as a solid bulwart to protect their companions. And while a Dwarf's trust is not easy to earn, it is said that once it has been given, one cannot hope to have a more stalwart ally.
"Moonbeards" - A pair of Dwarves in the dreamy early stages of love.
"Sandstone" - Expletive describing something that is weak or lacks a good foundation.
"By the Beards of the First Dwarves" - A solemn oath
"Tough as the handle of my grandfather's hammer" - Extremely tough
"Holy Water" - Dwarven ale
"Hoots, Urdek" - Derrogatory term, and spelling, for the Uordeq
"Flux and fire" - A fairly ripe expletive