The Book of Dwarves



Dwarves have been a mystery to the outside world for many centuries; it is thus with the greatest delight that I have published this monograph from my studies amongst that people. I have lived with the dwarves for nearly thirty years; since the death of my master I have made it my duty to record the doings of these folk, for I have always been interested in the arts by which they are able to take ordinary-seeming things like steel and make of it some manner of magic.

They are not like us; they are not simply men with long beards and short tempers. They have tendencies and personalities that are quite different from men and are, in many ways, quite strange. I hope to open the world of dwarves here to those who do not understand it.

-Davon d’Arle

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The Creation

The dwarves were made out of stone and iron during the early Second Age. The first of the dwarves were the male dwarves; Baldr was the very first, the Son of Stone as he was called. These first dwarves were carved from stone and given bones of iron and, even in their first hours, had long luxurious beards. It is uncommon amongst dwarves (though not unheard of) for dwarven men to go without wearing beards, which they begin to grow at the age of 11 or 12.

When Eiri the Earthfather had finished carving the first dwarves, the Stonemother made the women, for she and Eiri were the first of the Æsir (which we men call Aeliö, or Gods) to be engaged together. The first woman dwarf was Helga, who was made with long braids; so it is the custom of dwarven women to wear their hair in one or two long braids at times.

This is how they were made, and they were given the breath of life in the deep halls of the underground which Eiri carved for them. Those first halls, made by the loving hand of Eiri himself, became the heart of his temple. But Baldr delved to the surface, and the others followed, and there in the sunlight was carved the great hall that became the Hall of Kings in later years.

In that time too, Eiri the Earthfather made the very first weapon of the dwarves and gave it to Baldr: the Axe of Woe. And he made the Evercrown, which Baldr wore, and so too gave he the Hammer of Eternities to him for safekeeping. The Axe was one of Woe, for all the dwarven kings were bound to carry it, and a great doom was laid upon it. It was said then by Eiri that dwarves must not seek to become king, for the burden is heavy and the duties are many.

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While there are many social subdivisions amongst the dwarven people (for example, Tol or “tool” dwarves who live in the Arinnfal and are considered to be the artisanal class as opposed to Askir or “spear” dwarves who live in the colonies) there are broader overreaching divisions amongst this people. They consider themselves to be divided into four kinds or peoples. These are the Iron, Green, Blue, and Deep dwarves also known as Grey, Hill, Sea, and Dark dwarves.

The Iron and the Green dwarves are the most similar in culture and build. The only major differences between them can be found inherent in the dwarven concept of Tol and Askir dwarves. Blue dwarves are somewhat like their mountainous cousins, but different in temperament and coloring, thus affording them the status of a “people.” Lastly, the Deep (or Dark) dwarves are the most sundered and distinct from the rest of Dwarf-kind.

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Iron Dwarves

Iron dwarves live in the deep mountains and generally prefer to be underground. The average iron dwarf settlement is called a Folkhall (or just a hall) and is delved into the earth itself. The strongest concentration of iron dwarves is in the Arinnfal, particularly in the mountains that comprise the spine of that ancient dwarvish kingdom.

Iron dwarves generally have dark hair; brown ranging to black is the norm for this people. They are called iron dwarves because it is said that of all the dwarves they have the most iron in their bones, and are the most inflexible. Baldr-king Son of Stone was said to be the first iron dwarf.

While all dwarves are stubborn, iron dwarves are more so than the others. They tend to put great stock in the ancient books and stone-carved slates of days gone by. Iron dwarves are not likely to interpret things in a liberal or charitable fashion; they are not cruel, but they are very set in their ways. They will mourn for the outcome of a custom that seems evil, but it takes great deliberation for them to determine the time has come for a change.

Yet, for all their stiffness of neck, iron dwarves are also the least likely to go to war. They believe that life is to be lived to hone one’s skill until it is impeccably practiced. They see no joy in warfare (though there may be glory in it) and do not seek it unless they believe that custom demands it or that there is no other way. Almost all iron dwarves prefer to be working on their craftsmanship rather than fighting, and for this reason there are no standing iron dwarven armies, or even guards in their cities. When the time comes for war or strife they pick up weapons and leave their workshops and smithies, and when it ends they are just as glad to put down their weapons and return home.

Iron dwarves also have a strong sense of pride, like all dwarves, that is easily bruised. To mock the accomplishments of their people (particularly their smiths, for all dwarves are proud of their smithcraft) is a grave insult. While such a thing is not likely to cause a dwarf to do battle, they will become closeted and secret (even more so than usual).

All dwarves are secretive; iron dwarves are more so. They treasure the craft secrets handed down through familial and clan lines, and never reveal them to outsiders. They call outsiders gestr, which can have many different meanings. For green dwarves the word usually implies “travelers” or “guests” (hence the Varan word guest) but for iron dwarves there is the connotation of something unsavory about gestr.

Perhaps they do have some right to these behaviors: their home was drowned in the cataclysm at the end of the Eighth Age, and they are still the most masterful of all smiths and metalcrafters in the world. Without the gift of magic they find the power to craft magical swords, axes, hammers, armors, and lamps. Their handicraft is undeniably the best beneath the earth; no mine is as sound as an iron dwarven mine, nor no stonework as well tended.

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Green Dwarves

When one thinks of the “warlike dwarves,” it is the green (or hill) dwarf one thinks of. These are colonists from the old dwarven kingdoms that have adapted to live outside of mountains and above the earth. While iron dwarf settlements may be ringtowns with houses above the earth, these have a great many tunnels beneath them, and often strong places carved into the stone. However, hill dwarves do not simply make do with above ground buildings; they relish them. Centuries of fighting against overwhelming odds, of self-sufficient strongholds on the surface of the earth, has taught them many things.

First and foremost, there is no skill that hill dwarves value so much as that of warfare. Hill dwarven settlements are often under attack, and many devote themselves wholly to the task of killing and defense. Hill dwarves relish the construction of elaborate fortifications, but not in the same way as iron dwarves. Iron dwarves build to keep themselves safe, to make vast defenses that no army can sunder or overcome. Hill dwarves build fortresses to project their power, not holds and halls to keep their people.

Hill dwarves are rude and sometimes brash, having little of the dourness or quietness of their iron cousins. They laugh easily and quickly, and they frequently speak their mind no matter the situation. They are looked down upon by the iron dwarves as uncouth, but in truth they are simply fit for a more aggressive world.

Hill dwarves tend towards red and blond hair, and the hill dwarves often claim Ivaldi the hero as their progenitor, the Second Son of Stone.

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Blue Dwarves

The blue dwarves or sea dwarves claim descent from the Third Son of Stone, Dalnr Foamfinder. Before the destruction of Harnholme their numbers were concentrated in the natural caverns and inlets of the Stonebays. The dwarven sailor-hero Olfar Olfarsson was a blue dwarf, who sailed to the roof of the world in search of the ends of the earth. Blue dwarves typify the exploratory nature of their god the Earthfather.

Blue dwarves tend to have dark hair, a deep black that is almost blue. They cut their beards short universally, as there is little use to long braids or plaits at sea. Sea dwarves often enjoy fishing and trawling for clams, which is an activity they still do to this day. In the Arinnfal the blue dwarves live near the water, though there are small blue dwarf towns throughout the North.

Blue dwarves are filled with a wanderlust that does not manifest in the same way as iron dwarves desire to found colonies; whereas iron dwarves are methodical and are almost quartermasterly, blue dwarves relish the journey more than the discovery itself and often set out with few or badly laid plans. They are an eager people, intimately acquainted with the sea.

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Deep Dwarves

The deep dwarves are a pale people that live below the earth. They are often called dvergrinn ne∂as by the other dwarves. These are the dwarves beneath; they have delved into the underworlds and lost contact with surface folk. They generally eat fungus or mos and work in secret subterrain forges. Contact with the deep dwarves is quite rare, even amongst their cousins, the iron dwarves.

Deep dwarves are rare, and legend has it that they fled from the upper world during the Dwarf-Giant war of the Third Age. Whether or not this is true, no scholar can say, having so little work done on these people. Iron dwarves will shake their heads and clip their tones when speaking of the deep dwarves.

Deep or under dwarves are pale gray of skin and generally have sandy to white hair. They are mysterious and withdrawn, often speaking little to outsiders or even one another. A reclusive people, they may attack travelers as soon as speak with them to preserve their quietness.

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Lost Dwarves

Lost dwarves are a dwarven ethnicity that are related to the deep dwarves but who have delved even deeper. Lost dwarves never interact with outsiders, preferring to simply attack without parlay or even speaking. Iron dwarven scholars have theories regarding the lost dwarves; some say that they dug all the way to Nullä and disturbed the tombs of the oldest ancestors at the base of the world and are now cursed. Others say that they were sundered from the surface and from other underground kin but lost their sense of self and their connection to the god of the earth, Eiri.

Lost dwarves appear as pale white creatures with little or no hair on their head (though they cultivate long white beards) and burning red eyes that throw angry forge-like light into the darkness. Their very appearance heralds horror, and all manner of other dwarves despise them and consider them to be corrupted madmen.

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Life as a Dwarf

Each subset of the dwarven people lead a radically different lifestyle. However, each type of dwarven people (save possibly the lost dwarves) structures their lives around the familial-organization of the clan. More can be found below.

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Religion for dwarves, much as it is for men, is something for the clergy to attend to. Dwarves do not worry about religion on a day-to-day basis, but rather simply hold their collection of beliefs and pray when necessary. Every dwarf, for example, is gracious to the earth (leaving messy piles of dirt when digging is considered the height of green dwarvish irreligiousness by iron dwarves) and believes in the presence and power of the Earthfather and other gods. However, prayers are offered only when appropriate (before starting a new venture or mine, etc.)

Saga and edda recitation are a common factor in dwarvish religion, and many pious dwarves gather on a monthly occasion to recite tales or sagas in the dwarven temples. These are usually overseen by a local cleric, but generally considered to be the province of the dwarven people. Serious religious business (praying for a new king, blessing a mineshaft, erecting an altar) is left to the clergy.

Dwarven holy texts are generally not prescriptions but rather important aphorisms that have been handed down in what are known as Kandar, or groupings of phrases that form one of the great Eddas. Therefore, dwarvish religion is inherently narrative, being based around the ancient story-telling skald-priests of the early dwarven days. Poetry is still sometimes offered up as a holy exploit, to be added to a hall or fortresses’ stock of records and holy scrolls.

Much as dwarven folk-halls are organized into clans, so too is their religious life. Every clan sponsors temples within their clan-halls. These are for the private use of the clan. Large folk-halls and colonies may have an cross-clan main temple dedicated to Eri—for example, every folk-hall in the Arinnfal has a great Temple beneath the mountains. The priestly caste is composed of members of many different clans, and those who are dedicated to the dwarven priesthood rarely return to serve a temple visited by members of their own clan. The greatest honor, of course, is to serve one of the great Temples: these are always bustling with activity as the center of communal life within a folk-hall.

Within a Great Temple outlanders (gestr) may come to pray. Members of different clans may also meet here and discuss serious matters, unlike the beer-hall atmosphere of the central hall where no clan-lords hold sway. The great Temples are also often surrounded by workshops and forges, grouped (of course) by clan into small clusters.

In smaller settlements no Great Temple is needed, as they are usually dominated by one or two clans who can easily share a small temple in the center of the settlement. Great Temples are known in Orthr as Mikillorg and lesser temples are Smalorg. (compare with Michelstadt – literally “Large Town” in Weylic and Smalwood compound of the Orthr smal and Weylic wood).

Unlike mannish worship, the dwarves do not divide their faithful into inner and outer cults, but rather simply into the priesthood and the laity. While the under-mountain is sacred to dwarves (and thus rarely are non-dwarven gestr allowed within) it is not unknown for mendicants of the major dwarven gods to be allowed access to the mikillorg in order to give their devotions (most often this is devotion to Eiri, the Earthfather).

Dwarven religion, while focused on the primary gods of the dwarves, also has a heavy focus on the worship of ancestors. Dwarves believe that when the body dies the ancestor-spirit does not leave it right away, but rather inhabits it for several years. During this time it is customary to construct a stone vault to inter the remains of the ancestor. Alternately, the ancestor may be placed within the confines of a special reliquary designed to watch over some important place; many dwarf halls, for example, have ancestor-wardens watching over their gateways and entrances.

Dwarves also believe that ancestor-spirits may move from their bodies to any likeness of them, and thus statues of the ancestors are quite important. Indeed, there are legends of ancestor-statues coming to life with the breath of the ancestor-spirit in times of great strife and crisis. To this end, dwarves also believe they can leave the afterlife (in the Mountain of Eiri) at any time to return and “see with eyes of stone,” which has been taken to mean that ancestor clan-spirits can look through the eyes of any statue of them in existence.

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Dwarven clans form the core social organization for all the dwarven people. They are not purely family-aligned; rather, clan formation was originally based on living quarters. That is, clans are composed of many family groups that are unrelated but live in one location.

In iron dwarven hall-cities, where clan-relations first began, clan membership is based upon the district of the city (known as a hall) they live in. It is, for the iron dwarves, a separate type of citizenship distinct from simply belonging to a city.

Green dwarven clan-membership is narrower still. Green dwarven families group together for mutual defense and found fortress-towns that stand against the wild. All members of a single fortress-town are considered to be one clan, regardless of relation or occupation. If a new fortress-town is founded, many dwarves from different clans will arrive to form the core of a new clan.

Blue dwarves base their clans around shipyards and queues. Every blue dwarven family with access to the same set of shipyards and piers are part of one single clan. This form of clan-membership integrates the most easily with the iron dwarvish, and blue dwarves often choose aitrocs in the Arinnfal.

Deep dwarven clan-membership is somewhat mysterious, but iron dwarf scholarship has revealed that deep dwarves determine clan membership by forge-distance; each deep dwarven settlement is based around a series of central forges, and those dwarves who live near one forge make up a single clan.

Clan membership for all dwarves also forms the basis of dwarven law and justice. The more ancient clans originated back in Harnholme. There are clans that have been founded more recently (the Rumthaus for example, were founded in the Ninth Age). Dwarven clans are founded when a group of dwarves agrees to sever ties with one of the more ancient clans from which they derive kinship. Of course, clan-ties are not strictly familial. Clans encompass dwarves who live together, work together, and classically share a quarter of one of the large dwarven mountain-cities known as Halls (halr in ordric).

These clans provide justice, law, and support for the dwarves that belong to them. Dwarven justice is most often arbitrated by an Aetroc, or Clan-judge. Clan-halls (aethalr) compose the different districts of the Tolhalr (dwarf-halls) or rather the large dwarven cities.

Clans themselves are composed of many different families, none of which are related by blood (as dwarves are under a strict taboo not to marry within their own clan). These families generally share a craft, though it is not NECESSARY that they do. There are ever a few families in the clan that are considered noble or high-born, and these produce the clan-judges, clan-princes, and clan elders as well as the clan’s own caste of priests who do not leave it (unlike lowborn priests, who must go and serve another clan when they are ordained).

In many clans there is a dedicated core of warriors who do not participate in the crafts of the hall. They are viewed as a necessary evil by iron dwarves, and as the glorious pinnacle of achievement by green dwarves. The clan elders (known as thanes) may also form part of these war-parties as seasoned fighters. The clan warriors are always few (never more than 1/10th the total clan and generally less than that) and are the heart of any army that is drafted from clan-militia.

Nobility among the dwarves is decided not by family-membership but rather by clan membership. The founding clans of a tolhal are considered to be the noble clans. These dwarves may become Hall-Kings and the Thanes of a noble clan are considered the highest of the nobility.

Election of the Clan Prince and Hall King is a difficult process that requires the input of many members of clan society. In essence, the Clan Prince may be chosen from amongst any living member of a clan; when the old prince dies, every member of the clan over the age of forty is entitled to cast a lot in the great Voting Pot. Normal clansdwarves have one vote. Thanes of the previous prince receive ten votes each. Priests receive five votes each and high priests of the clan receive twenty votes.

In the case of the election of a Hall-King, it is much like the deciding of a clan prince amongst the noble clan sponsoring the King. However, non clan members may vote in this election if they are members of the Hearthguard (who generally vote as their Gaethaff tells them) or are members of the clergy of the tolhal (who generally vote as their high cleric votes). Thus, Hall Kings must woo votes from those blocs.

It is traditional for each noble clan to sponsor a single candidate for Hall King. However, it is not unheard of for a clan to be so divided that they sponsor TWO candidates or more.

Clans (alphabetically)

Cornung, iron dwarven royal clan

Bjarmyrk, iron dwarven vale clan, ( Bracstone Height)

Harnmr, iron dwarven Mountain Smiths

Ísleifur, green dwarven Claulan clan (Fallborg)

Gersteinn, green dwarven Vale clan (Hammer Gully)

Rumthaus, iron dwarven clan

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Dwarven loyalties are an interesting if complex subject. Truly, they differ depending on the type of dwarven society one is examining. Clan-ties, for example, are tightest amongst green dwarves, while racial solidarity is far more important to iron dwarves and blue dwarves tend to side with those they consider their close friends before clan or race.

To facilitate ease of discussion, this section will be divided into subrace. First, we shall examine

Iron Dwarves

As the origin of all dwarven society can be traced to the iron dwarvish homeland of Harnholme, there is a tendency to assume that all dwarves think like iron dwarves. However, in the matter of loyalty, iron dwarves are generally more far-sighted than their kinfolk. While all dwarves technically follow the increasing (almost feudal) loyalty-chain of family→clan→clan prince→hall→kingdom→dwarvish people, iron dwarves tend to have STRONGER ties to the latter half of that equation than most other dwarves. While family is important to iron dwarves, it pales in importance to the clan. Iron dwarves strongly identify with the folkhall of their origin, but will put kingdom before hall; likewise, the decision to place the good of the race of iron dwarves before the good of an individual hall, family, or clan is generally one that comes easiest to iron dwarves.

This is not to say that all iron dwarves are one way, but their society tends to placing as much emphasis on the dwarven ethnic-nation as possible, particularly since the loss of the heartland of Harnholme. For this reason, iron dwarves almost never start illegal colonies (settlements without a Colony Stone, see below) and are generally accepting of authority that derives from a legitimate source. Age, wisdom, and experience are the three most important sources of authority to an iron dwarf.

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Green Dwarves

Green dwarves will almost always place the clan above all other concerns. Green dwarves are generally outsiders in any kingdom in which they settle. Those who live in mixed race cities tend to live in discreet sections alongside their clanmates. Green dwarvish loyalty rarely extends beyond the clan level in the traditional hierarchy of dwarvish values. One important reason for this is that green dwarves do not generally live in mixed-clan settlements. A single clan IS a fortress or stronghold. For a green dwarf, the pattern of loyalty would generally approximate family/friends→clan/fortress→clan prince with the items of increasing devotion being farther to the right.

The green dwarves believe authority springs from one source and one source alone: battle-wisdom. Battle-wisdom includes a mix of bravery, cunning, bloodthirstiness, generosity, and experience. It is, in essence, what makes a good warrior good at fighting and leading dwarves into battle. Clan-princes are ideally paragons of the battle-wise, exemplifying the greatest skills of their clan.

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Blue Dwarves

Blue dwarven loyalty generally follows the pattern of iron dwarves, as the two tend to live together. However, for blue dwarves, friendship (sometimes outside of race) is a far more important aspect than family and can rival clan loyalties. Blue dwarves value the adventuring spirit and the explorer’s urge more than skill at mining or war and will eagerly ally themselves with many that other races might deem as foolhardy.

Indeed, blue dwarves view adventuring companions in somewhat the same light as iron dwarves view other dwarves.

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Deep and Lost Dwarves

Not enough is known about these dwarf-kin to make an assessment of their loyalty structure.

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Dwarves do not share a singular all encompassing worldview any more than men or elves do. The best we can do is to approximate the general worldview of each subrace of dwarves while keeping in mind that no two dwarves share precisely the same notion of the world.

Iron Dwarves

The iron dwarves view the world in terms of layers of gestr, or outsideness. The least gestr of all people are dwarves from the same clan. Since clans are related to living arrangements, this means that those dwarves who live nearby to one are not (or are the least) gestr. From there, the next closest are those who live in the same folkhall, followed by all other iron dwarves, other dwarves in general, and then other races.

When iron dwarves look at the world, it is as an encroaching thing; the world is something to be kept at bay. Iron dwarves are secretive, and disdain sharing their intimate secrets (which may range from something as simple as family life to something as secretive as the forging techniques of clan metalsmiths) with gestr. This has only been exaggerated since the drowning of Harnholme beneath the sea.

For an iron dwarf, gestr must be kept at arm’s length. They should not be privy to the secret world of the mountain-folk for many reasons; the first and foremost is, of course, the pride with which iron dwarves guard the formula of magical weapon production. The rest are more complex, an intermingled intermeshed series of reasons that include pride as well as a strong mistrust of the outside world.

The above-ground world can more or less take care of itself as far as iron dwarves are concerned. The only use they see for the above-ground world is for trading, farming, and colonization. The first can be accomplished rather simply, since no metalcraft, stonework, or feat of architectural engineering can rival that of the iron dwarves. More on trade can be seen below, under crafts.

Iron dwarves are also great colonizers, and have founded many official colonies of the Harnholme. In order to be considered an official colony, a group of dwarves who settle an area (and found a new clan) must be granted a Colony Stone from the Ríkonung of the Arinnfal. This Stone comes in the form of a gold-plated tablet usually displayed in a place of prominence and proclaims that the Hall Prince (halkonung) of the folkhall is a loyal subject of the high king.

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Green Dwarves

Green dwarves are similar in many ways to their iron cousins. Where they differ is in where and how they draw the lines between people who are outsiders and precisely how they act towards them. Of course, green dwarves also see war and fighting differently from the iron dwarves. Whereas the iron dwarves will go to war with a heavy heart to win glory, green dwarves relish the opportunity to win honor and grace in the eyes of the gods by slaughtering the enemies of the dwarven people.

This makes the green dwarves eager to fight and go to war, and generally makes them a boisterous and rowdy bunch. They are more open with strangers, and are generally eager to accept people who they think of as gestr into their midst; perhaps because they consider everyone who is not a member of their clan (and thus their stronghold) is a gestr.

While iron dwarves keep the world at a distance, green dwarves wade into it with axe and sword drawn. They are eager to step into the problems of the above-ground world and do not, themselves, tend to live below the earth. They see all problems as an opportunity to prove themselves to one another and to their gods.

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Blue Dwarves

Blue dwarves see the world as a network of possible adventure and explorative possibilities. They love and embrace the unknown and fling themselves into it with wild abandon. They make connections much more easily than the other subraces with those outside their race. They will eagerly sign on to crews of adventuring companies in order to see the world. Some have even hinted that blue dwarves may have something of the halfling in them, as the wanderlust in their souls is so great as to rival that famous and poetic need-for-journey.

Of course, most blue dwarves express this need by taking to the sea for a few years before returning home to work and live in their clan-towns.

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Deep Dwarves

The deep dwarven worldview is easily summed up as even more suspicious than that of the iron dwarves. They have a deep and abiding distrust for the outside world to the point of lending them an almost xenophobic air. They are extremely defensive and hostile to outsiders who pass within their sphere of influence. Deep dwarves keep to themselves and live far underground. They see no reason to interact with other subterraine races (other than certain gnomes) in any capacity other than war. They never interact with surfacers in any capacity other than to hurry them on their way.

From time to time, it is possible that deep dwarves require something from outsiders. In those brief moments it appears to be permissible to trade with them. They generally only allow other dwarves to descend to their cities, when they do.

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Dwarves are known for their devotion to craftsmanship. Whether they be iron, green, blue, or deep dwarves, they are all similarly proud of their skill and secret techniques. Where each subrace differs is simply in what crafts they choose to take pride and excel. For example, iron dwarves are devoted to mining, architecture, stonecraft, metalsmithing, and engineering in general. Green dwarves are devoted rather to the craftsmanship of weapons and armor, to the construction of fortresses and towers, and the clever use of tactics. Blue dwarves devote their attentions entirely to the sea in all their efforts, and deep dwarves are known to build mining devices and underground equipment that surpasses even the ingenuity of their iron cousins.

In each case, dwarves are quite secretive about their techniques, the iron and deep dwarves being the most secretive of all their peoples. These processes and well-preserved secrets are passed down from the master to their apprentices and are told to no one else, so that if all the master smiths of the Arinnfal were struck dead overnight their skill could hardly be replicated even after a hundred years of experimentation.

Prying into craft secrets is an insult and one grave enough that an iron dwarf will also consider it a challenge answerable by immediate violence (for which he will be justified by the aetrocs and the hereditary collections of dwarvish law). Only blue dwarves do not consider this violation to be worth punishment, and they have been known to share their oceanic advances under the correct circumstances (for example, the invention of the removable mast owes completely to blue dwarven ingenuity).

One of the most well-kept dwarven craft-secrets is the making of extremely pure iron. Since large iron plate-armor requires a high grade of refined ore, the result of the great dwarven blast furnaces in the Arinnfal is in extremely high demand. Indeed, when one sees a suit of plate-armor, it was invariably forged using dwarven steel. The one exception to this may be elvish plate-armor which is made from hardened elfsteel mixed with sindabrias.

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Dwarven humor is one of the factors that tends to put them at a distance with other races. All dwarves share a similar sardonic and very dry sense of wit that includes insults and statements that would appear on the surface to be enough to start a feud worthy of rivers of blood. In fact, when two old friends have not seen each other for a long time, it is a standing custom for them to insult each other as badly as they can for several minutes before breaking out into laughter.

Dwarven humor can be considered quite cruel in human circles, and thus dwarves are often thought of as humorless by other races. Of course, the same goes for the dwarves themselves, who find the humor of others generally to be childish puns instead of lasting and cutting remarks about the failings of one of the parties (or even a third party). For this reason, dwarves generally refrain from joking with outsiders.

That being said, dwarves who have spent time in the world (such as in a dwarvish ghetto or adventuring or even trading) understand mannish humor and will engage in it, though many prefer their own blunter style even still.

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Wealth is a major element in dwarven society. Dwarves value gold above all other metals for its pliability and its natural luster. They also love gemstones, which they view as the bounty of the earth much as fruits are the bounty of a tree. Individual Dwarves generally divide their wealth, mentally, into two categories: crafted and uncrafted. Things which are taken from the earth are naturally beautiful, and can be considered so without any polishing or alteration.

All natural or “raw” material has a beauty to dwarves. Particularly beautiful items might not be able to be improved on by dwarven hands; these are simply placed into settings for admiration and embellishment. However, most things CAN be significantly improved by work; gems can be polished, gold can be expertly folded and crafted into new shapes and forms.

Thus, wealth may be prized both for its natural beauty and again for the skill at which it was made into a craft. Things which have been poorly crafted are an insult to the natural beauty of the material they have been made out of and are thus an insult to the earth, nature, and Eiri Earthfather himself.

While dwarves tend to hoard their wealth, they generally do not do this with unworked objects unless they are extremely beautiful naturally. Coins made by other races are considered a base work of art or craftsmanship and thus are generally melted down to be recast as dwarven coin (which are made using the same types of secretive techniques handed down in all dwarven crafts). Thus, wearing wealth is a dwarven tradition and most dwarves who are rich would prefer to have their riches transformed into rings, belts, broaches, and so forth.

Great respect is afforded to the show of wealth, but more for the production of the object. A wealthy clan-prince is indeed a formidable sight, but he would never dare intimate that he was more important than the craftsman who made the rings he wears.

Of course, this display of wealth is only acceptable within dwarven society. Whenever the wider world is present, dwarves are eager to keep their fabulously stocked treasuries secret. Over the centuries they have been attacked, beaten, enslaved, and slain for their treasures by every other people. Dwarves traveling on the road will never wear jewelry. Treasuries are a secret and private affair, kept concealed from gestr at all costs.

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Dwarves are a strongly lawful people; their ancient kings dictated the terms of dwarven life, and this has been expanded on by the work of the aetroc or clan-judges. Huge volumes have been written on interpretations of ancient rulings, and every aetroc records their own rulings during their lifetime. This has led to an almost oppressive weight of clan-precedent, general law, and the decisions of dwarven Princes and Kings.

Dwarves who would seek to overturn the ancient order are generally very secretive about it. Those who express dissatisfaction in a public setting are considered uncouth at best and downright troublemakers at worst. Troubles are best spoken of in private with the thanes of one’s own clan so they may be resolved without making them public. This does not mean, however, all dwarves are unthinking automatons who simply follow the cultural norms that have been set out before them.

Dwarves are also fiercely different, though gestr may never discover this fact as dwarves generally bear a stolid and uncomplaining outer face. They will never speak ill of their family or their clan unless they are amongst the closest of friends or are exiles. Dwarves who are dissatisfied with their thanes, clan-princes, and hall-princes may strike their clan-names and set out to found a new folkhall (though this practice is also undertaken when dwarves experience a vision, or simply grow restless as well and is not, then, seen as a negative occurrence).

A dwarf generally considers his personal preferences and pursuits simply no business of an outsider. This is, of course, less true of the blue and green dwarves. These two people are more vocal in general (green being the louder of the two) and eager to express their dissatisfaction loudly and bluntly. This is one of the many reasons iron dwarves find their cousins so uncouth.

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Dwarves consider outward expressions of anger and displeasure to be the height of rudeness. Yelling or shouting is tantamount to assault. For this reason, iron dwarves are often calm and withdrawn. If they become irritated or angry they will frown deeply, stroke their beards, fiddle with their braids. Green dwarves may finger their weapons. Blue dwarves will often stare at the horizon fixedly. Heated words are generally bitten back between the teeth or hissed.

Green dwarves show their exuberance most easily. They are a carefree people, happy in warmaking and building. They are free with their praise, often praising someone as a form of being friendly. Blue dwarves are somewhat more taciturn, though not as much as iron dwarves. Iron dwarves show their pleasure infrequently and without much fanfare. A simple word of praise such as “You’ve done a good job,” while looking over a new tool or construction is considered of great worth.

All dwarves hate being the butt of jokes. They are frequently thought of as dour or humorless. Green dwarves will eagerly engage in jesting (as long as there is no impugning of their prowess due to stature) but iron dwarves find most jokes to be immature and pointless. They do, however, appreciate a good jest that has been long in the offing and will smile faintly when it has been expertly performed.

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Other Races

Dwarves of varying backgrounds may view other races differently, but all dwarves are insular to one extent or another. Iron dwarves find members of other races to represent the ultimate alienness on the scale of what is gestr; Green dwarves are generally more trusting, but would not show someone of outsider heritage the fiddly defensive secrets of their fortress. Blue dwarves are the most accepting of other races, working alongside them frequently to operate sailing craft.

Iron Dwarves view on…

Men: Men are friends and allies to the iron dwarves, but are best kept at a distance. They have a tendency to waste good material in the construction of shoddy or unlovely objects, and they frequently violate the terms of decent society by shouting, pointing, and doing violence to one another. Dwarves view men as a strange peculiarity to be treated with some measure of respect but also to be given a wide berth.

Elves: Elves are perpetual children to the dwarves. Often mockingly calling dwarves “grandfather” or some other such term, elves are lighthearted, lusty, and emotional whereas iron dwarves are stolid and dour. Iron dwarves who work with elves are generally embarrassed by the behavior of their peers. They see the easy manner in which elves are moved to poesy or tears to indicate an essential child-like nature and perhaps a bankruptcy of true depth in their volatile souls. However, there is no denying that elvish craft is of a high caliber, and this goes a strong way to redeeming elves in iron dwarvish eyes.

Forest Gnomes: Forest gnomes are extremely irritating to the iron dwarves. Their fondness of lounging about and playing practical jokes and generally wasting time in idle pursuits is something that grates on the iron dwarvish nerve. However, iron dwarves do share some loves with gnomes and tend to regard the forest gnomes as something of an idiot cousin.

Rock Gnomes: Dwarves have just as hard a time understanding rock gnomes as they do forest gnomes. Rock gnomes work until they are physically incapable of working any longer, a fact which dwarves look upon as highly irresponsible. They admire the rock gnomish devotions to craft but wonder if they are not perhaps a bit touched.

Halflings: Iron dwarves consider halflings to be their worldly cousins in the same manner that they tend to think of gnomes. However, iron dwarves feel a deep sense of regret at the generally provincial and agricultural lifestyle chosen by most halflings. They have no tradition of fine crafts, and iron dwarves see this as wasted potential.

Orcs: Orcs despise craftsmanship and think of dwarves as weak old men and women who’s hold on the world has grown tenuous. Iron dwarves think of orcs as despicable creatures of mindless violence without any redeeming features and will give them no quarter in combat; iron dwarves will slaughter entire tribes of orcs if they can. The great orcish cities deep below the earth are ever the subject of conversation amongst the dwarven clan-nobles and great thanes, and wars are often planned that are never executed simply to express their disgust and hatred for these creatures.

Goblins: Goblins are capable of craftswork, and not bad work at that. However, they are a greedy grasping race that seeks to supplant the ancient and venerable strongholds of the dwarven peoples. For this reason, dwarves despise goblins and their kin; iron dwarves the most, for goblin craft is often turned to devious and unpleasant means in order to build weapons, a practice that iron dwarves find perverse and insane. Like orcs, iron dwarves will not hesitate to eradicate entire settlements of goblins to ensure that this noxious weed does not grow back.

Giants: There are good giants and evil giants, and a great rift divides them in the iron dwarven mind. In the early ages of the world they often worked closely with the giants. Before being dragged into the civil war of Ulhame, iron dwarves did not differentiate between the races of the giants and worked equally for all of their kin. Dwarves have long memories for treachery, however, and after the Dwarf-Giant Wars became more wary of the giants.

Dwarves now despise Fire Giants and only evil dwarves will work for them. Frost Giants are too stupid to be dealt with except as a dwarf might deal with a lesser even for the evil members of the race. In either instance, these giants almost always desire dwarfcraft for means of waging war, which the iron dwarves find despicable. Iron dwarves may be on good terms with Stone and Forest giants (though they may also go to war with them, this is generally on an individual political basis). They are always friendly to the races of Cloud and Storm giants from Cloudhame, whom they regard as their rare equals (or perhaps, and one may insert a small gasp here, their betters) in the matter of making things.

Wyrms: Dwarves despise dragons and wyrms of all kinds with a burning hate. Making nothing, hoarding good gold, destroying folk-halls for their treasure, stealing by stealth and force what is the right of hard work; these things describe the Wyrms. Dwarvish hatred of the Wyrm is endless and bottomless. Iron dwarves, upon becoming cognizant of a Wyrm in their area, will spend decades fashioning weapons designed to kill it and plotting plots to undo it. No folk-hall is safe from the ravages of the dragon — even the strongest halls may be taken by even a single of these beasts. For that reason, in addition to hate, iron dwarves actually, deep in their bones, fear the Wyrms. This is a fear verging on a kind of racial madness that may drive an iron dwarf into a frenzy of anger or battle-lust.

Trolls: Iron dwarves find trolls to be strange and unpleasant creatures. They are an evil breed, to be sure, but they are not particularly hateful or loathsome. The dwarves see the worship of Mother Night as an odd curiosity rather than something to be instantly stamped out. While the more dangerous trolls of the Undernight might inspire fear on an individual basis, the dwarves do not see them as natural enemies.

Green Dwarves: Iron dwarves see green dwarves as a man might view a profligate and wasteful younger brother. They are uncouth, rude, surface-dwellers who take unpleasant joy in the destruction of their enemies and allow for far too much freedom when dealing with outsiders. Of course, iron dwarves are able to rationalize most of these attitudes as being the fault of their natural enemies, the orcs and goblins. If the green dwarves weren’t constantly beset by surface dangers (and cut off from the undermountain homes by goblins and orcs making the roads unsafe) they would never have become the way they are now.

Blue Dwarves: Iron dwarves tend to find blue dwarves uncanny and strange. They smell too much of the sea and enjoy strange pleasures that the iron dwarves cannot account for. Most iron dwarves are unsteady enough on a river but to imagine that whole mutable shifting ocean beneath them is too much. Thus, blue dwarves are afforded a grudging respect for their “craft” (sailing, shipbuilding, etc.)

Deep Dwarves: Deep dwarves have become lost to the iron dwarves. They once formed part of a distant underempire of dwarven kin that ruled the evernight; even then, trade between the dwarves deep down below and the dwarves of the surface was infrequent and relations, while amiable, could become strained. Now, most iron dwarves feel that deep dwarves are too close akin to the Lost to be trusted completely. No deep dwarf is ever shown into a folkhall, and meetings are always held at specially prepared waystations away from iron dwarven society.

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Iron Dwarves.

Iron dwarves find war to be an unfortunate but necessary part of life. While they would much rather (generally speaking) live in untroubled peace, such a life has not been possible since the early ages of the world. Iron dwarves are forever beset on all sides by the threat of violence. Other races who wish to take from them their treasures frequently make attacks on iron dwarven folk-halls. The greatest threats to iron dwarven society, however, undoubtedly come from below.

Iron dwarves do not maintain standing armies but neither do they, like men, have a class of warrior-nobility. Rather, all dwarves are expected to know how to defend themselves and all clans field a number of clansdwarf-warriors in times of need; these are simple craftsmen who have been armed and armored by their clan to join in a war effort.

In large and important folk-halls, some kingly and princely clans may maintain a number of dwarves who’s sole contribution to the fortress is defense. These are known as the Hearthguard, and are generally comprised mostly of dwarven women. The Hearthguard exist in small halls and ringtowns, but are not divided by clan membership — rather, in those areas where a good portion of a clan cannot simply become Hearthguard (due to population issues), the Guard is drawn from the members of all clans equally. Hearthguard serve as city garrisons and often perform other duties as well, including patrolling the deep places of the mines, acting a military/adiministrative arm of the king (in effect, as sheriffs and reeves), and performing routine maintenance on the folk-hall’s many defenses.

When they go to war, dwarves often leave most of their women at home in the folk-hall. These dwarven women are expected to defend the fortress and the treasure to the death, and is as honorable and important a job as the men who march to war. It is all too often that a dwarven city will be emptied of its menfolk only to be attacked from below by lurking goblins or orcs.

While the dwarven mind would rather build things up than tear them down, dwarves do have a long history of constructing complex siege engines and mining campaigns to bring down city and castle walls. However, the real strengths of dwarven fighting lie in small-company tactics and narrow tunnel-battle.

The clan-prince is always expected to lead his clan to war, bringing with him the clan’s thanes as his personal guard on the field. Clan-thanes are easily recognizable in armor, for their helmets bear face-masks in stylized representation of their ancestors. The clan-prince himself never wears a face covering and may eschew a helm all-together. This is because dwarves have never really developed a system of heraldry; therefore, dwarven princes and kings fight bare-headed so their allies can see who they are, and see that they are still standing.

All dwarves also sing in battle. The great war-eddas are a time honored method of keeping time during marching, and the iron dwarves in particular are fond of singing dirges when the slaying begins in earnest. This may be related to the fact that they call warmaking “mournful work.” In this they could not be farther from the green dwarven temperament. Iron dwarves in general regret whatever circumstances made the current fighting necessary, whereas green dwarves relish the opportunity to prove their machismo and add to their heaping glory.

The most common iron dwarven tactic is to form a shield-wall, to lock limewood or steel shields together and march slowly forward until you break upon the enemy, stabbing with short blades below or above. For this reason, short swords, long knives, and even battle-axes are much preferred in dwarven fighting styles. Wealthier dwarves, particularly those from noble clans, may even have frightening helmets fashioned with faceplates to cover their own face in combat, for in the shield wall a dwarf’s face is about level with an enemy’s sword.

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Folkhalls and Ringtowns

Called Tolhalr in Orthr, these are the great dwarven cities where many clans live both above and beneath the hills.

Ringtowns, or hringbar, are the traditional iron dwarvish form of small settlement which does not rely on the presence of a mountainside. Ringtowns are generally populated by one to three clans numbering anywhere from 200 to 1,500 dwarves. Towns larger than that generally send off colonizers or explorers to site a tolhal. Ringtowns are characterized by several features (all of which are shared across all ringtowns in the north). The first and most identifying of these is the hringvegr or ring-wall. This is generally a perfectly round (or semicircular) wall of worked stone that stands between eight and fifteen feet in height. It surrounds a large area of anywhere between a fourth of a mile radius to an entire mile. These walls encompass all the fields of the ringtown as well as the town heart (the tolhaug).

The fields of a ringtown, beyond the wall, spread in a circle around a central hill or mound which is called the tolhaug in Orthr. These areas may be semi-wild lands of orchard, shepherds, pastures, or perhaps well-cultivated fields in ordered diffusion. Beyond them, at the heart of the ringtown, stands the folk-hill. This is where the stone manors of the dwarves are concentrated in their highest proportion and is considered to be the town proper.

The highest portion of the tolhaug is reserved for the smalorg or ring-town temple. This building has an above-ground presence, but is mostly an underground complex where the worship of the Earthfather can be conducted within the sacred ground.

Taboos in a hringbar are very relaxed. The marriage taboo is almost nonexistent, being replaced by a complex kin register maintained by the Thanes. Marriage inside the clan is acceptable as long as it is not a forbidden degree of kinship. Additionally, there are no noble clans in a hringbar; every clan has an equal share in voting and may all sponsor Thanes and Princes.

In hringbar were multiple clans share the same town, there will be only one Clan Prince, chosen by the voting of all the clans. This Prince, however, will be bound to choose Thanes in equal number from amongst each of the constituent clans to balance his power and serve the interests of their clans.

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The Deeps

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Character Creation

Dwarf Kits

Approved kits from the Complete Dwarf (TSR): All these kits are allowed save for clansdawrves, which has been replaced by the 10th Age Clansdwarf kit.


(warrior kit)

Regular clansdwarves are trained in the use of weapons in times of need and generally drafted to form a militia if war comes, but in times of peace are their own. They are therefore less skilled at fighting as individuals, though they are greatly skilled at their own fields.

Role: The clansdwarves make up the majority of dwarves within any dwarvish hall or fortress. However, they may also be found in cities of other races as well, living in small ghettos or clandestine communities. Clansdwarves generally wear weapons and armor of their own make.

Weapon Proficiencies: axe, hammer, light crossbow, heavy crossbow, mace, pick, polearms, short sword, spear.

Bonus NWPs: Clansdwarves gain two craft proficiency slots of their choice. Both must be spent on the same craft. They also receive History (Dwarven) and Endurance proficiencies.

Recommended Nonweapon Proficiencies: Appraising, Artistic Ability, and any related to their first craft.

Distinctive Appearance: The craft of a clansdwarf is readily apparent from his clothing. Each clan has a unique emblem or cut of cloth that distinguishes them from all other clans. This may be as obvious as a leather-working apron or as discrete as a small anvil badge.

Special Benefits: Clansdwarves gain a +3 reaction bonus when dealing with others of their clan. They gain a +2 reaction bonus when dealing with dwarves of other clans engaged in the same craft.

Clansdwarves are always sheltered and given aid within their own clan. Unless one is known to have injured members of his own clan, he will be fed and housed gladly.

Special Hindrances: A Clansdwarf is part of a tightly-knit society that never forgets either a misdemeanor or shoddy workmanship. He is expected to be scrupulously honest and professional in his dealings with others. Any dwarf who violates that trust becomes an outcast, no longer welcome at the hearths of his clan. News of bad behavior spreads quickly, and other dwarves, hearing of it, will react to him with a -3 penalty.

A Clansdwarf who becomes an outcast may again be accepted by his kin, but the process takes years. It is better to keep one’s nose clean and do the job than to provoke trouble.

Wealth Options: A Clansdwarf starts with the standard 5d4x10 gp.


(warrior kit)

The defenders of the dwarves are generally tunnel-fighters who have learned, through long acquaintance with the murderous bands of orcs, goblins, trolls, ogres, and other creatures of the mountains and hills, to stop-up tunnels with their very forms and to make an impenetrable shield-wall when the time comes.

Iron dwarf defenders are generally members of warrior-families or even entire warrior-clans; indeed, in some halls the Hall Prince or King’s own clan is dedicated entirely to the preservation of the hall, and many of their number are likely defenders.

Role: Tunnel fighting; generally dwarves trained in this art are members of the clan-princes immediate circle in iron dwarvish society, are mine-guards in green dwarvish society, or are members of the Forge Defenders in dvergr society.

Secondary Skills: Any craft skill, though armorer is the most appropriate.

Bonus NWPs: Endurance, Close-quarters fighting (Dex check to gain +2 to hit with bludgeoning/piercing weapons in small enclosed spaces).

Recommended NWPs: Too lazy right now.

Special Benefits: Defenders gain a free proficiency in weapon and shield fighting, as shields are quite useful in the underground. They also learn to use their surroundings to their advantage without too much lateral movement; a Defender may subtract one from their AC if they did not move during the previous turn and are in a confined space.

They gain an Attack of Opportunity on anyone trying to flank them; this means anyone entering a flanking square for any reason, regardless of movement rate.

In addition, defenders live off the work of other dwarves while they busy themselves to keep the fortress, hall, or forge-hold safe. For this reason they are put up by their clan and in their home town or city they are never turned out or abandoned unless they should do something so terrible that the clan disowns them.

Special Hindrances: Defenders suffer a +2 penalty to all initiative counts, as they are generally used to waiting to strike. This does not affect actions that have been held, so they may still roll to attack first.

Wealth Options: A Defender starts with two groups of money: 5d4x10gp and 1d4x10gp. The first pool must be spent on arms and armor. Any gold left over from buying arms and armor is lost.


(thief kit)

Role: While there are many architects and engineers amongst the dwarven people, this kit represents those who design traps and crypts.

Weapon Proficiencies: Engineers may be proficient in the light or heavy crossbow, shortbow, daggers, and shortswords.

Bonus NWPs: Locksmith, Engineer, Set Snares

Recommended NWPs:

Equipment: Engineers prefer leather armor and ranged weapons.

Special Benefits: +10% to open locks, +25% find/remove traps. Can make engineering and set snares checks to construct traps given the required material.

Special Hindrances: -15% climb walls, -10% move silently, -5% pick pockets

Wealth Options: 6d4x10gp


There is some equipment that is particular to dwarves and which non-dwarves simply will never own in their lives unless they are become dwarf-friends. There is also some equipment which happens to be more common in the dwarven fastnesses and is rarely seen outside.

Dwarven Lamp: The secret of making these lights is something highly prized and treasured, guarded by the few clans that know it to their graves. They are intricate metal-wrought lanterns which have no oil or wick but simply a clear diamond or warm topaz in their heart. The gem glows with astounding brightness, and never wears out, providing a luminance of 60’ in all directions.

Forgefire: This is essentially a more potent greek fire. It can be purchased from friendly dwarves at the cost of ~15 gold a flask. Dwarves who do not trust the buyer will not sell it. It is a special formula used in dwarven forges to start fires and keep them burning brighter.

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The Book of Dwarves

Abridged History of the 10th Age Idabrius