The Tapestry Chronicles
“This is the hammer your grandelder used to forge the thane’s axe, the axe his son still carries.
“This is the hammer your great grandfather used when he held court among the Order of Smiths and dispensed justice.
“This is the hammer your grandfather used as a forge-priest, shaping gold into the rings and jewelry presented before the human king.
“This is the hammer your father used to build the new walls that are even now protecting the entire clan from our countless enemies.
“This is your hammer now, my son.”
People of the Stone
Thick and hardy, dwarves stand around four and a half to five feet tall, but they are broad chested and dense with muscles, so they often weigh as much as a full grown human or ork. They have long arms with giant hands that can crush stones, and large, black eyes adapted to seeing in the eternal blackness of their underworld homes. Dwarven skin tones are typically light brown, deep tan, or even red-tinged, and their hair is typically black, brown, or grey, with the occasional redhead among them.
The only real physical difference between male and female dwarves are the beards. The men grow long, lustrous beards that are their pride and joy, and spend much time grooming them. A dwarf’s age is measured in braids: for each year of his life, he weaves a new braid into his beard. The particular styles, patterns and ornamentation of braids are indicative of a dwarf’s clan, such that anyone with familiarity can tell a Shieldbreaker from a Thunderhelm at a glance.
Solid and sturdy, a dwarf often lives twice as long as a human, and can expect to see around 150 years before returning to the rocks. Even elder dwarves don’t lose their industrious drive, often working their forge until the day they die.
Once, the dwarven kingdom stretched from one end of Erendahl to another. Their strongholds lined the mighty peaks of the Teeth of the Maker, and their caverns tunneled deep and far into the earth. Their armies were vast and unstoppable.
That time is long past. Now, the ancient strongholds are dark, overrun with greenskins like an infestation, or with even worse horrors from deep within the Underdark. And the once powerful dwarven army that kept all their enemies at bay? Decimated, over Ages of fighting. A curious thing happened to the dwarves, inexplicable to their sages: they stopped having children.
It wasn’t that they became infertile, but a dwarven woman was considered lucky if she were to have one child live and grow to maturity in her long lifetime. Perhaps it was due to some curse or fell magic unearthed by the dwarves’ constant digging. Perhaps it was simply a quirk of evolution. But this, combined with the simple fact that many dwarves would rather spend their time at the forge or in the mines or at battle and many of the new generations of dwarven children could be counted on one hand.
Even warriors born and bred could ill afford to sustain their armies without fresh blood in the ranks, especially in the face of the greenskins, who spawned litter after litter, season after season. And so the dwarves began to cut their losses; first among the outlying strongholds, destroying what they could not salvage, ruining them rather than let their enemies steal what they had not worked for. Inevitably, despite making them pay dearly for every inch taken, the dwarves lost ground, until only one stronghold still stood: Stormwalk.
Stormwalk is still there today, having withstood the test of time and the turn of the Ages, and while many generations of dwarves have lived and died within its halls, still their numbers dwindle. The dwarves never speak of this, never acknowledge they are a dying race. They do not rest.
Although dwarves gained much from their encounter with humanity, the one thing they admire men for most is the invention of beer. If for no other reason, dwarves admire men for that invention, and for that reason, every man deserves a little respect. Not much, but a little.
Dwarves love beer. No, that isn’t right. Let me say that again. DWARVES LOVE BEER. They drink it and drink it and drink it. And because of their unique anatomy, they never need to get up from the table. They can keep on drinking, all night long. And it takes a lot of beer to get a dwarf drunk. Usually, when a tavern keeper sees a group of dwarves come in, he just rolls over a barrel, plugs in a spout, and lets them go at it.
For dwarves, drinking is an opportunity to tell stories, sing songs, start rollicking brawls that engulf everyone nearby, and otherwise be completely irresponsible. In other words, they stop acting like the grumpy, bullying, boorish curmudgeons they usually are. They get loud. They get friendly. And, they get violent.
Since their arrival in the human kingdoms, dwarves have come to associate drinking with storytelling. And the better the beer, the better the story. It is a common phrase heard around a dwarven table: “There are stories in this cup. Let me go fishing for them.”
To human ears, dwarven storytelling sounds a lot like bragging. Many humans see this activity as petty one upmanship. Simple drunken boasting. But for the dwarves, the ability to tell a great story about yourself is seen as a noble skills.
It is a delicate matter, however. A dwarf who only stands up to say “How great am I!” is boorish. He must make a story of the incident, making himself the center of a great and terrible tale. He must have moments of foolishness where others got the better of him and moments of weakness where he failed to accomplish his goal. Th e story does not have to be entirely true, but it must be mostly true. Dwarves care little about “truth” in stories. They want entertainment. Besides, everyone knows what really happened. “Let Horndun Dugal tell his story!”
The order in which stories are told — around a campfire or in a tavern — depends on the “respect” a story has. Typically, an older dwarf will shout out for another to tell a story. After that, another dwarf shouts out for another story to be told. Nobody stands up to tell their own story: they must be asked. And going out of order is bad form: worthy of a punch (at least). Taking too long to tell a story is also worthy of some abuse: usually heckling. “Has he died yet?” is a common dwarven heckle for a story that has gone on too long. Stories must be told in their proper order: from least respected to most respected.
Violence as a Lifestyle
Dwarves are tough. Throw a punch at a dwarf’s jaw and he’ll laugh at you. Head butt him and he’ll laugh louder. Try anything else, and you’ve got yourself a fight.
Dwarves seem to have a casual relationship with violence. Everywhere you go, they seem to be fighting with each other. But, like watching dogs scrapping, the fight starts suddenly and ends suddenly. But unlike dogs, after the fight, the two grasp each other like long lost friends, laugh, and drink more beer.
Fighting in dwarven culture is a bit like watching young siblings playing a punching game. Neither has any intent of hurting the other one, but there they are, throwing blows, head butts and kicking each other in the shins. They know they can’t hurt each other, and so, fighting for dwarves is all good fun. A bonding experience. Dwarves show affection through violence. If you give a dwarf a compliment, he’ll probably hit you in the shoulder, kick your shin or — if he really respects you — give you a direct shot to the chin. The harsher the violence, the greater the show of respect. The greatest sign of respect is a head butt, the next is a punch to the jaw.
The first human scholar to study dwarven fighting wrote this: “I have noticed a particular ritual among them. I was in a tavern, watching a pack of them drinking and telling stories. When one story was done, one of them with a thick beard hit the storyteller straight in the jaw. The storyteller looked at him and threw his head against the other’s nose. Then, the one with the beard smiled and the fight was on.”
One punch means nothing: a recognition of respect. But, if the punch is returned, it means, “I’m willing to fight, if you are.” At that point, the dwarf who threw the first punch has the choice to start the fight or not. It is not considered an act of cowardice or disgrace or dishonor to not fight: merely a choice. If the fight starts, no other dwarf will get involved until the fight is over. Fights last for a few moments to a few minutes. The dwarves fight until one gains a clear advantage, and then, the fight is over. Again, there is no shame in “losing” a fight. In fact, some dwarves break away before an advantage can be seen by others. This shows further respect for his friend.
Of course, dwarves also use violence to show when they’re annoyed. The difference is fairly noticeable: if a dwarf tries to scalp you with his bare hands, he’s annoyed. Best leave him alone.
We Do Not Rest
There is a word in dwarven that has many meanings and cannot be completely translated into the human tongue, yet is central to their beings: wirruhenicht. The best attempt so far is: “We do not rest.”
Dwarves do not tire. Dwarves work. They’re always working, always making, always crafting, always always always. Dwarves do not get bored. In fact, it has been noted that dwarves who are kept from keeping their hands busy complain even more than usual. Almost as if a secret pain inflicts their blood.
But wirruhenicht means more than just a need for work. It is, for lack of a better word, a kind of racial pride. The dwarves know they are better than humans. They know they are better than the elves and gnomes and the greenskins. They know they are better than any of the races. This, they know. They are stronger. They are more clever. They are masters of art and craftsmanship. They are better. And they don’t tolerate being told otherwise.
Let someone make a better clock. Let him try.
Let someone tell a better story. Let him try.
Let someone dig as we have dug. Let him try.
Let someone walk until he drops. Let us see how far he goes.
It isn’t a matter of belief. For the dwarves, it is a matter of plain fact. Dwarves do not rest because they need no rest. Let that be said of the other Namegivers.
Hearts of Stone
Don’t be fooled by their gruff, impassive demeanor: the dwarves truly are a passionate people (get them drinking and you’ll see that firsthand). But there is an element of their psyche that does not allow them to become too attached to others, to not dwell on their fading people or glories lost to the past, unless they get caught up in the memories and lost in emotion. This is the herzenausfels: “the heart of stone.” Human scholars have called this phenomenon “dwarven melancholy.”
When a dwarf cannot indulge in his passions, his obsessions, when he dwells too long on the dwindling numbers of his race, he feels a deep sorrow reach into his heart. That sorrow is like a shadow, covering his emotions, enfolding his perceptions. He sees the world as a dark place, full of disappointments and failed ambitions. “Nothing matters. Nothing changes. All of my accomplishments amount to nothing. The world turns without me. Soon we will be nothing but a memory. Why do anything?”
And slowly, very slowly, the dwarf’s melancholy overcomes him. He sits down and does not move. Lost in his sorrow, he cannot move, not speaking or working or drinking or doing anything for days… even weeks. He sits, not responding to anything. Sitting in the rain, the snow, as still and silent as a rock.
Eventually, the dwarf recovers from his melancholy and gets back to work, oftentimes using this period of reflection as inspiration for his life’s magnum opus… or he doesn’t, and sits until he collapses and returns to the rocks.
This is why dwarves are so standoffish. It is why they do not make friends easily. It is why they are distant and blunt to the point of rudeness. The danger of friendship. The danger of emotion. The danger of melancholy. Best to be a rude dwarf. Best to live up to the stereotype. Because being distant is safer than being loved. Or loving.
Of course, some dwarves (only a handful) reject this philosophy. They embrace friendships whenever they can. “Sooner or later, I’m gonna become a rock,” a dwarf scribe once wrote. “Best to spend the time I have with friends.”
Dwarven Clan Names: Shieldbreaker, Goldenaxe, Thunderhelm, Hammerfall, Steelsworn, Rocktooth, Shakesbeard
As per the PHB, with the following subraces available:
Ring Dwarves are the most plentiful of the dwarven people, having avoided much of the warfare and destruction of the old dwarven kingdoms. They typically make their homes in lowland mountains and rugged foothills, and have made good trade relations with humans and gnomes.
Ability Score Increase Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Dwarven Toughness Your hit point maximum increases by 1, and it increases by 1 every time you gain a level.
The Crown Dwarves are the descendants of dwarven nobility in the past Ages, when their strongholds were many in number and mighty. They were the first dwarves to learn the secrets of steel. They tend to be far more reserved and standoffish to other races, only interacting with them out of necessity.
Ability Score Increase Your Strength score increases by 1.
Armor Mastery You are proficient in light and medium armor. Whenever you wear medium or heavy armor, you gain an additional +1 AC.
Some dwarves have lost contact with their clans, and have been raised in one lone family or even among other races. They are noticeably taller than other dwarves (often standing a little over 5 feet tall) and have a rollicking, fun loving nature completely contrary to their race’s usual grim demeanor. Other dwarves typically view them with contempt.
Ability Score Increase Your Strength score increases by 2.
Fleet of Foot Your base speed is 30 feet.