Preview: The Dwarves

Copyright Robert Defendi for Final Redoubt Press, Art by Kevin Wasden © 2007

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"Dwarves know how things are supposed to be"

The following text is a preview of the third Echoes of Heaven product from Final Redoubt Press. Called The Lost Kingdom of the Dwarves, it covers the nation of Uzarāg, as well as Dwarves and Orcs in general. This preview deals with Dwarven culture.

Dwarven Culture

The Dwarves have a more-or-less continuous culture that goes back twelve thousand years. Very little changes in Dwarven culture, even after centuries. The Dwarves treat their traditions like a secret society treats its most secret rites. If Dwarves decide that one must salute Kūlan before the first drink of every evening, then that's how it's going to be, and it would take a new Saint to change things.

Note: A great many statements in this section will appear as absolute fact. Everything applied to the race as a whole refers to the tendency among Dwarves. Dwarves are diverse, and while they may not be as diverse as other races, there are exceptions to every rule.

People

Dwarves are a relatively misunderstood people. The reason for this is that they don't understand outsiders, don't like their changing ways. Even the long-lived Elves are too ephemeral for Dwarves-it isn't about age. Dwarves know how things are supposed to be. It disturbs them deeply that other races can change their outlooks. They don't even care that Elves and Humans disagree with them, that's the nature of things. It's that they can't seem to make up their minds.

A
    portrait of a Dwarf

Most people think of Dwarves as dour, and that's not really true. Dwarves can be quite affable, but only with people they trust. It takes a lot for a member of another race to earn the trust of most Dwarves. Dwarves have survived as long as they have through mistrust. It's tradition.

It's easier for other Dwarves. They're perceived as more trustworthy.

Once you've earned the trust of a Dwarf, they are incredibly loyal. Most Dwarves live a life where the only new familial bonds they'll ever forge are with friends. They don't expect to marry, and so when they've chosen a friend, they protect them like they would a wife. Dwarves take betrayal very seriously. That's the reason Dwarves hate the Infernal so much. It's not about religion or dogma. The Infernal began with a third of the Host betraying God. The Dwarves stood up first among Mortals to fight because they will never, ever forgive.

Dwarves are known as great crafters, but this isn't exactly true either. Dwarves are artists. They don't believe in doing something in a workman fashion. They strive to find the perfection in everything, but this really comes out in their professions. If a Dwarf makes weapons, he tries to make the perfect weapon every time. This doesn't mean that he tries to make everything the absolute finest quality, but if he's making a hammer for a warrior, his hammer will be a step above in shape and look. It might not hit any harder than something he could dash out without thought, but there's an element of perfection there that he's brought to the fore.

Dwarves do this effortlessly, and so they don't take extra time to make their crafts. Still, there's always something a little special about the result.

In fact, this is the core belief of Dwarven society. Everything has a perfect shape, be it a weapon or a statue or a defensive stance. In each new incarnation, the artist learns something new about perfection. In every sword and every painting, even in wounds bound and stone smashed, a Dwarf receives one more glimpse of the face of God.

A Dwarf with a family often produces work inferior to one without, and this is as it should be. If a Dwarf were to have a wife and children and still spend more than twelve hours at work a day, how would he find the perfection in the most holy of tasks: building a life and love for his children? In fact, while a member of another race will seek out only bachelor Dwarves to make their crafts, most Dwarves will do just the opposite. In buying a slightly substandard belt, they have done their part in making that family unit stronger. A Dwarf with humble gear is far more noble to another Dwarf than one with equipment made only by perfect craftsmen. He understands what it means to be Dwarven. People think that being greedy means everything has to be fine. Dwarves know you can be greedy for the humble as well.

Most Dwarves strike a bargain in their selections. A warrior might buy his shield and his weapon hanger from a married Dwarf but his weapon from a bachelor. Few Dwarves go completely one way or another.

It usually puzzles outsiders that these obvious differences in Dwarven goods aren't reflected in the price, or if they are, the humbler work might cost more due to demand. They have no game effect. If a character wishes to buy a superior quality item, he can find ones made by both bachelor and married Dwarves. The bachelor-made items just look better.

This quest for perfection touches most aspects of Dwarven existence. They work for the perfect craft, they marry for the perfect family, they sweep for the perfect clean, and they live for the perfect death. A Dwarf can find his connection to God on hands and knees, picking up pieces of broken glass. Every action has the potential for perfection, and perfection and God are two words for the same thing.

Married Dwarves tend to refrain from drinking and partying to excess. This is the way that bachelor Dwarves explore the perfect friendship. Since this is the public face of the race, however, few outsiders know the difference. Even the married Dwarves will go to the tavern, but they will usually go home early to spend time with their families.

Dwarves rarely gripe about their loved-ones, be they friend or wife, behind their backs. To do so is to tear down what they've built.

Dwarves take honor very seriously. However, they don't see the same things as dishonorable as other races. You can insult a Dwarf all day and he'll probably think it's funny. He'll even insult you back. Insult someone he loves, however, and you'll get a fight. Insult them harshly, and it will be a fight to the death.

Dwarves have a strong sense of right and wrong. They feel like they've had their share of injustices, and they don't like the idea of evil in the world. Most Dwarves can't help themselves but get involved when they see someone in trouble, if only to point them in the direction of someone able to help.

Demographics

There are far more Dwarven sons than daughters. Both sexes are allowed to do anything they want with their lives (though fighting females are all but nonexistent). As a general rule, though, the male of the species takes every risk but childbirth. There's a prodigious death rate among sons due to the dangers of the world and the Dwarven need to right them, but even after that, the ratio of sons to daughters is two to one. The birthrate places the ratio at something more like three to one.

Because of this, Dwarves are heavily lopsided toward the son, and while this gives the daughter tremendous power, they're content to exercise it in the home. Daughters still seek positions of power from time to time, but like the sons, when they marry, they like to direct their attention inward, on the family.

Most Dwarven families have a lot of children. Luckily, the Dwarven constitution makes for fewer deaths on the birthing bed. An average Dwarven family produces six or more children before the parents lose their fertility.

Names

Dwarven names involve a given first name and a clan name. Families are sometimes shown by using reoccurring syllables in following generations. For instance, if Kūlan had children, his firstborn male line might have all had names starting in Kūl- or ending in -an. Some generic example names are as follows:

Male: Aglin, Akhizdunab, Andūm, Azbul, Balān, Burāg, Buram, Dalan, Damīn, Dulān, Felan, Felin, Feluk, Galān, Galanzūr, Ganzu, Gibun, Gūl, Gūm, Gūn, Ibazūr, Irak, Irazadam, Izarāg, Kan, Khazan, Khuzdīm, Khuzud, Kibal, Maktharuzād, Minbirazād, Minbizarāg, Mizin, Mulig, Narāg, Nuram, Rāgul, Razud, Ruzundūl, Sharagūl, Sigan, Sigathūl, Sigul, Sigulād, Taram, Thalān, Tharbin, Thūl, Turag, Ukgal, Ulagandam, Unbirkūn, Undal, Urazād, Zagil, Zarak, Zaram, Ziruk, Zūram.

Female: Bina, Budala, Dabila, Gabula, Iruzigla, Khizaglanda, Mīn, Mind, Nala, Nagri, Nura, Shanu, Sharam, Sigla, Tara, Zada, Zaga.

For a last name, Dwarves take the name of their clan. The clans are named after different types of stone, and while a Dwarf doesn't alter his first name due to his culture, he will translate his clan name into the local language. For more information on clans, see page <<XX. >> Also, a Dwarven proxy takes the name of an ancestor as a title. See page <<XX>>.

Languages

Every Dwarf speaks Dwarvish in his own home unless doing so would be rude . . . when he has non-Dwarven guests, for instance. Dwarvish itself is one of the oldest languages in the Mortal Realm. It's a complex tongue, rigidly preserved, and has changed little through time.

In addition, most Dwarves know at least one other language. If they live in Dwarven lands it's typically either the Divine Tongue or a language most suitable for speaking with outsiders (the language of their nearest national neighbors, for instance.) If they live in the lands of another race, they learn the local language next.

After their second language, if Dwarves learn another, they tend to either pick up the Divine Tongue, if they haven't learned it already, or Maroldo, so they can speak with merchants.

Most Dwarves are literate.

The Spoken Word

Knowing the language is a far cry from actually speaking it. How the language is used is often more important than grammar and vocabulary.

Swearing

Dwarves love great explosive oaths. Their oaths very rarely involve the disgusting or sexual, however. Damnation and blasphemes are popular among Dwarves, as are the names of Dwarven heroes, usually named by body part. Weapons and artifacts of note are popular.

So a Dwarf might swear on God's name or the name of the Savior. He might bellow "Kūlan's beard!" or "Dumag's fist!" When levity is in order, "Khal's big toe!" "By the Fell Hammer!" or "Khal's hammer!" are also common.

Vows

Dwarves have several levels of vows, which is interesting because they take them all equally seriously. Instead of swearing on things of greater importance because the Dwarf intends to take the vow more to heart, Dwarves tend to take more important vows to show that they understand the seriousness of the promise. It's a sign of respect to the person accepting the vow.

The lowest level of Dwarven vows is a simple promise. Next, a Dwarf might swear on his spouse or children, barring that his parents. Next, the Dwarf will swear on his ancestors. The penultimate Dwarven vow and the one used for taking oaths of service is to swear on holy relics, either in person or in absentia. Finally, a Dwarf will swear on the Fell Hammer, the most serious of all Dwarven vows.

Ancestors

The dead are as important to a Dwarf as the living. Dwarven ancestors are worshiped almost as gods themselves, and a Dwarf knows every noteworthy ancestor in his line and can trace the lineage (maybe with the help of a book).

The Dwarven love of ancestors is actually the reason there are no Orders in their church. The love is so strong that were they to allow themselves to ally with any one saint, they would soon devolve into factions and eventually holy war. Dwarves know their limitations.

The Dwarven version of knighthood is called "proxy." In this state, a Dwarf accepts the name of an ancestor and acts as his proxy on earth. Only one Dwarf in a nation can be proxy for a given ancestor. Proxies are awarded to the noble but also to the accomplished. The lowest-born dwarf in the world can be proxy to Dumag. He simply has to be the best Dwarven craftsman in the kingdom. Proxies can be assigned for anything, from farming to poetry to discipline, but most are military, like a normal knighthood. See page <<XX>> for more details.

Dwarven Romanticism

Whereas Human romantic notions usually involve self-sacrifice, such as dying for a noble goal, Dwarves tend to romanticize feats of endurance. While dying for his people is a noble act to a Dwarf, it's expected. Instead, they place great store in enduring pain and hardship. To suffer in stoic silence is the height of Dwarven ambition.