Dwarves

Appearance

Dwarves tend to be somewhat shorter than Men with males averaging 172cm (5’8″) and females being a little taller at 178cm (5’10”). They tend to be heavier-set than Men aswell, although not disproportiantely so. Most Dwarves could pass for a short, stocky human if they wished.

Complexion is often pale or a light brown, with dark eyes deep-set under a low brow. They have high cheekbones and a long, aquiline nose. The mouth is wide and set with large, square teeth. Hair tends to be earthy shades of red, brown and black and the eyes are shades of grey, green and brown.

Beards are ubiquitous among males, with the exception of the Circle of Stone – Order adherents who remain clean shaven – and are worn in a variety of styles. Women do not grow beards but will refrain from cutting their hair, wearing braids and plaits of ever increasing complexity as they age. While there is no dogmatic tradition regarding beards or hair, there is a certain cultural significance to the extent of one’s whiskers or braids. Crudely, it is often seen as a guage of one’s virility and physical prowess.

Dwarven natural lifespan is around twice that of Man (roughly 150 years), but many are sustained by their close association with Creation spirits. It is not uncommon to hear of a Haven-bound Dwarf living for over 500 years. Adulthood is around 20 years old, around the time of physical maturity.

Antiquity

Prior to the Sundering the Dwarves maintained a flourishing trade empire that spanned the known world. Fleets of airships carrying Elven cargoes were a common sight in the skies, and every settlement had a landing Tower. Not only did they have a natural talent for trade, their marines and war-chanters were famed in battle – often hiring on as elite mercenary auxilia to the Elven houses.

Like the Elves, however, the Duer were the architects of their own doom. When the abuses of the Arch-Heretic became too much for them to bear, the Circle of Masons created a weapon that could overwhelm even Elven magic – the Dragons. Forged from pure elemental matter and invested with a gestalt of spirits, the Dragons were nigh unstoppable, leashed only by the control rods of the Master Masons. The ferocity of the dragons and Dwarven war-companies decimated the Over-Empire in the Great Intervention, freeing Man from slavery and putting the Duer centre stage as a new world power.

Their own weapon would be their undoing. The remaining Magisters of the Over-Empire worked tirelessly in the centuries that followed, eventually designing a ritual that would seek out and unravel the control rods of the Masons. As the world begain to break, and the resources of the Duer became stretched thin attemping to maintain their holdings, the Magisters struck. With their control rods broken the dragons became maddened, vengeful avatars of destruction.

The steads were ravaged in the carnage that ensued. The dragons spared none in their rampages, burning out and consuming entire settlements in a flash of flame and violence. Knowing that they could not stand against their creations, the Circles called for all Duer to retreat to Haven. The first and mightiest of the Dwarven citadels, Haven was proof against even dragon flame and would be the last bastion of dawarven kind. The remnants of the Duer fled north to Haven, in every kind of airship imaginable, but they were easy targets for dragon attack. Cutters and war-skiffs fought a desperate holding action in the skies above Haven, sacrificing themselves to protect the lumbering traders that carried the Dwarven refugees.

An enduring Dwarven legend tells of how, as the last warship plummeted earthwards in flames, the gates guards were horrified to see that one refugee vessel had yet to make it to safety. A cog, badly damaged and carrying the children of Rorikstead, limped slowly towards the gates even as a flight of dragons bore down on them. Knowing that they would not make it, the Circle of Masons ordered the gates closed. In that moment a golden hull intersected itself between the refugees and the dragons. A civilian barque – the Dawnbreaker, armed only with makeshift weapons and a meagre complement of marines – had surged out of the stead. The Dawnbreaker’s crew flew their ship in a skilful ballet, drawing the dragons away from Haven and buying enough time for the cog to reach safety. Even as the gates closed, the defenders cheered to see the Dawnbreaker disengage and flee from the dragon assault.

Now

Dwarven society has adapted, over the last three thousand years, to life within the confines of Haven. Their numbers are small, perhaps only 75,000 souls, but their culture is vibrant and colourful. Ties of kinship are extremely strong, but this is tempered by an individual’s membership in the various Circles that comprise Dwarven society.

Circles share similarities with a guild or fraternal lodge. Each Circle fills a specific role in society – there are Circles for farmers, builders, soldiers, artists, priests etcetera – and membership is fluid and dynamic. A Dwarf, throughout her lifetime, will move from Circle to Circle according to her abilities, interests and the needs of society, whilst retaining bonds of friendship and respect with the Circles she leaves.

Dwarven society is organic and dynamic. When there are problems to be solved, needs to be met, or where leadership is required, the individuals best suited to filling those roles will do so, intuitively sensing where they are best suited, until they are no longer required – at which time they will move into another role that suits them. Some dwarves will serve in many different capacities during their life, some will be best suited to filling a particular role. Because Dwarves define themselves by their relationships and bonds – as opposed to their profession, station, or wealth – they do not form power blocs, or have need of politics.

[Occam’s Note: I have a difficult time describing exactly how dwarven socirty operates without this turning into a 20 page thesis better suited for a political science or philosophy paper. I call them an “auto syncretic organic meritocracy”]

Two groups stand out as exceptions to the normal way of things in Duer society – the Circle of Stone and the Circle of Night, adherents of Order and Chaos, respectively. Membership in these Circles is viewed as odd by Dwarves but, since they fill a necessary niche, there is little animosity. The size of the Circles of Stone and Night does not vary appreciably – members retain their membership even when working in another Circle.

Currently the Dwarves are attempting to re-establish their trading network. Airships regularly ply the lanes between Haven and the rest of the known world, and their aid has been invaluable in restoring a semblance of peace in the Westmarch.

The Duer make war in a spectacular and savage fashion – skiffs swoop over the battlefield while Creation adepts begin hurling elemental blasts into the foe. Once the enemy are in disarray, battle-barges begin dropping groups of warriors on key points and the enemy’s flanks. These marines fight like a pack of wolves, bleeding and hounding the foe from all directions, with axe, fire and frost, until they rout.

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8 Responses to “Dwarves”

  1. Cogs start turning. Perhaps I might be a dwarf after all…

    D

  2. You liked that, huh? Which bit got your attention, out of interest?

  3. I must admit that I like playing dwarvish fighters. Unfortunately in recent times our fantasy GM’s have tended towards human only campaigns.

    Add to that the chance of having an airship and I think I am sold…

    D

  4. Giving it some further thought…

    I like the whole dwarvish sky raider theme. It sort of works with the norse flavour of standard dwarven history. I also like the structure to dwarven society. The whole “best person for the job” approach reminds me of an bee hive, which dove-tails into the creation theme.

    D

  5. Hi,

    Just noted that you had female dwarves, on average, 2″ taller than the males. Was this intentional?

    D

  6. Yes it was intentional.

  7. So are the dwarves a paternal or maternal society?

    D

  8. Neither and both. Because there isn’t really a family ‘head’, there is little need for any kind of lineage-based inheritance, nor do they trace their line through their ancestors – what came before is important only as a foundation for the present. The ‘estate’ belongs to the entire family, not the matriarch or patriarch.

    When two dwarves marry they will live with both families for a time. Sometimes they will remain with one or the other, other times they will establish their own kin-group.

    They key point, I think, is that their society is very fluid – even within the close ties of kinship and Circle.

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