Friday, July 25, 2014

1st Adventures: Development Log #4 - Dwarfs

Previously, I wrote up my thoughts and ideas around the simplicity of B/X race-as-class philosophy vs. the variety of race-class selection in AD&D and later versions. With 1st Adventures, I'm trying to walk a middle road of presenting demi-human races with their own special limited selection of classes. Here are the ideas I'm working on for my Dwarfs.


When an outsider considers the Dwarf race, they often stereotype them as solemn, serious and dour. This is an unfair portrayal of a race whose lives are filled with as much joy and jocularity as any of their taller peers, as long as it is in the right circumstance. This stereotype appears to originate from their focused work ethic and concern for safety in their labors.

What the other races don't seem to understand is that life underground is a dangerous business. Building vast and grand settlements, plumbing the earth for its riches, and encountering the strange life (or unlife) in the depths is an often deadly pursuit. The mishap of one miner may result in the deaths of dozens, if not hundreds. This makes them take any non-leisure pursuit with the utmost gravity and care whether they are underground or out in the larger world.

However, when a Dwarf is "off-duty", their amusement during downtime can sometimes lead to chaos. Dwarfs take joy in the challenge of "friendly" combat. A brawl can often be the result of drunken (or even sober) posturing between different clans. However, the drawing of a weapon during these brawls is a strict cultural taboo. A Dwarf proves his might through wrestling and fisticuffs alone. That taboo does not necessarily extend to foes of other races, but a "friendly" brawl will almost never involve weapons unless the non-Dwarf foe draws first... then the metaphorical gloves come off. One is probably better off taking a beating from a Dwarf than drawing a weapon on one. After a unarmed brawl, the winner is more likely to buy you a drink for your efforts. After an armed brawl with a Dwarf, you will be lucky to keep your head.

To be fair, most celebrations do not end in violence. Dwarfs are very devoted to family and clan. Feast days are filled with calmer festivities with family and friends. Laughter and song is more likely than fisticuffs, but that does not preclude the occasional wrestling matches or other contests of strength and endurance. A Dwarf tavern will often have a sawdust ring or small sandpit for those who wish to challenge another in a less bloody contest. One such event consists solely of attempting to push one's opponent outside of the boundary of the ring.

Dwarfs often lead a complex and fascinating life that is not always understood by those who view it from the outside. Only those who live alongside Dwarfs for an extended period get a true glimpse of their devotion, honor and loyalty.

The Sentinel

The deep mines of Dwarfs can be a dangerous place. In delving the deep earth, Dwarf clans often encounter dangerous working conditions and threatening species. When attached to a clan, a Sentinel’s duties include not only to defend the mine workers and architects from perilous beasts and humanoid foes, but also to ensure that the safety of the workers from the mundane dangers of hewing the living earth.

Many sentinels will happily serve a clan for most of their days, but there are a number who long to “get out of the deep” after their term of service is complete, for even the most devoted Dwarf can feel the force of the depths upon their shoulders after years in service. These few often find themselves out in the human world, making their way as a weapon master training troops or a man-at-arms guarding the nobility.

Those Sentinels who tire of the military life are often found utilizing their skills as a construction foreman or engineer. Compared to the exacting science of deep mining, minor wood and stonework construction is practically a vacation for these tradesmen. Human kingdoms often hire these talented architects for their more ambitious castle or cathedral projects.

The Earthshaper

For those few outsider who get a rare glimpse the wondrous vaulted architecture of a Dwarf settlement, the first thought from an outsider is that they are glimpsing magic of uncommon nature and quality. They would be correct. Earthshapers are the Master Architects of the Dwarf clans. At a young age, any Dwarfling with an affinity for elemental magic is chosen for training by the Elders. Should the talent run true, they are apprenticed to a master and taught the ritual secrets of manipulating Earth, Fire and, to a lesser extent, Water.. Similar to Sentinals, their training requires a time of service to the clan.

Once completed, though, the Earthshaper is left to their own devices. They may continue their studies working for the various clans, or strike out into the wider world to study the mysteries of human magic. Earthshaper rituals are almost never shared with outsiders, but what little is known is that their magic is rune based and often involves intricate rituals to shape the Dwarfen vaults. Earthshapers in human society rarely hire out their talents to just anyone, and when they do, it is generally for a steep fee. Even so, one occasionally finds Earthshapers working directly for a former Sentinal who might hire them for on a particularly tricky piece of engineering. Earthshapers would rarely work directly with a human employer and seek to keep the Sentinel as the go-between.

Earthshapers who have befriended human mages for the sharing of knowledge are sometimes found in adventuring groups using the experience to hone their elemental ability. It is rumored that master blacksmiths working in human lands may actually be Earthshapers incognito, utilizing their innate magic abilities to help them craft weapons and armor of superior quality.

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