RoM is dedicated to ferreting out the traditions and bringing the original tales and folklore back to medieval-based fantasy roleplay. Dwarfs are drawn from the iron-age Nordic sagas of ancient and powerful spirits called dvergar, from the tales compiled later as the oral traditions were eventually composed and put down in writing. Because the composition and recording of the oral traditions took place during the Christianization of Europe, however, we end up with two very different traditions.
The first concept of dwarfs is based on the historic roots, the myths and folktales of the dvergar found in the historic Norse sagas. The dvergar differ from the modern notion or conception commonly encountered among fans of the genré in a number of ways. The most notable aspect for which this is true is their appearance. The original dwarfs (dvergar) are uniform in coloration but most notably they are NOT diminutive. This is discussed at length under “Physical Aspects”.
The second concept of dwarfs, one that is very vibrant and alive in the minds of modern fans of the genré today, is based on an image of diminutive but thick and tough physical presence, stipulating they are a race of miners, coupled also with amusing tropes concerning drinking, rambunctiousness and fighting, and also especially greed, accompanied by a perception of them being plain if not actually ugly and figures of fun for comic relief.
That vision originated with the bigoted pens of the religious chroniclers that feared the pagan Germanic cultures from which the tales of dwarfs (dvergar) came. And it grew and persisted because history is written by the victors.
Thus, with the tremendous popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, his depictions of “dwarves”, in accordance with later post-Christian tradition, have by far become the default in most peoples’ minds, especially medieval fantasy roleplayers’. It was Tolkein who coined the variation of “dwarves” as the plural form, instead of the original “dwarfs”. In the ‘30’s Snow White was accompanied by the Seven Dwarfs, NOT the Seven Dwarves, and the adjectival form used here is the traditional “dwarfish”, not “dwarven”.
This is why those spellings are used in RoM.
For the sake of familiarity regarding the current popular conception on the one hand and for the sake of the foreign-ness to the hobby of the historic folkloric concept, both are offered and even a means of incorporating both are provided here for the GM’s consideration.
The common physical template most modern folk are familiar with forms the basis of the dwarfs to be played as PC’s, providing the standard for the rules by which they are created in Character Generation, while the second is provided as an alternative the GM might favor for its uniqueness, either instead of the popular form, or perhaps to be the taller Faerie cousins of the diminutive mortal dwarfs, so the PC dwarfs know the roots and origins of their people, and so they know what to expect should they ever meet their kin.
Here the GM has a decision to make between the two traditions. The standards used throughout the steps of character generation is based on the common familiar and popular view of the dwarfs’ physical appearance that permeates the modern world and the RPG hobby in particular BUT, at the end of the Physical Description passage in this race descriptions, a different set of statistics are offered based on the description provided in the sagas, as quoted. In addition, the dvergar/dwarfs of the sagas are uniformly deathly pale of complexion and both black-haired and black-eyed. These are details the GM can easily choose to retain or discard, at his own discretion without it impacting Character Generation to any appreciable extent.
So to avoid stepping on the GM’s toes or cramp his style in creating a place and context for the dwarfs in his game world, the following description of the dvergar/dwarfs is drawn first from the historic sources, and then some slight embroidery provided to give it further life and cultural context as an example to the GM and for the players’ sakes, a springboard from which to start in creating more of the details to be unique to the GM’s own world.
In the Prose Edda, the homes of dvergar/dwarfs are equated with those of the Svartalfar (black elfs). These terms are one and the same.
Loki .. svarði þess, at hann skal fá af Svartálfum, at þeir skulu gera af gulli Sifju hadd þann, er svá skal vaxa sem annat hár. Eftir þat, fór Loki til þeira dverga, er heita Ívaldasynir, ok gerðu þeir haddinn.
Loki .. swore this, that he will travel to the Svartálfar, so that they will make Sif ladyhair of gold, which would grow as [her] other hair. After that, Loki traveled to those Dvergar who are called the Sons of Ívaldi, and they made the ladyhair.
In this passage, Loki swears an oath to visit the Svartalfar with the intent of acquiring golden hair for Sif (Thor’s wife) by their making, and then is described as receiving this golden hair from the dvergar. This strongly implies that they are one and the same (although this can also be interpreted to mean that Loki set out to receive the hair from one source and actually received it from another). However:
Þá sendi Alföðr þann, er Skírnir er nefndr, sendimaðr Freys, ofan í Svartálfaheim til dverga nökkurra ok lét gera fjötur þann, er Gleipnir heitir.
Then the Allfather [Óðinn] sent that one who is named Skírnir, the messenger of Freyr, from-above into Svartálfaheimar to some dvergar, and caused to be made that bondage which is called Gleipnir.
In both occurrences, author Snorri Sturluson connects the term Svartálfar (in Svartálfaheimar, “Black elf-home”) to the name of the place where the dvergar live: ‘Loki will travel to [the place of] the Svartálfar’, and Óðinn ‘sent Skírnir from above into Svartálfaheimar’.
The ultimate origins for this race lies in the poem Völsupá (roughly, “The Wizard’s Vision”) from the Poetic Edda. It describes the dvergar/dwarfs as being the product of the blood of Brimir and the bones of Bláinn (both names for the primordial giant Ymir, embodiment of Chaos), after Odin, Villi and Ve slew him. The dwarfs are further described by the Prose Edda as having been creatures similar to maggots in festering flesh discovered within the body of the giant Ymir after he had been slain, before they were raised up and gifted with reason by the gods. Despite the use of different words, these two statements are not really at odds. One merely provides a greater level of detail than the other.
The dvergar are magickal folk in the same manner as their cousins the ljos alfar, but having the magick of the Smith god discussed in the GM’s notes on pantheons of gods. They began as artisans of divine power in the same tradition as the giants and cyclops’ of Greek myth, after the fashion of Hephæstus and the cyclops’, the gods of the Norse dvergar (dwarfs), the Æsir, rely on the dwarfs for the magickal items they craft.
In the Beginning of Days, the borders between the nine Spheres into which all that is Spirit and all that is Flesh were divided were still amorphous, without defined boundaries, each flowing back and forth into one another. Gradually they separated, matter precipitating out of Spirit and the Mind of the All-Father. The world as it is now known was created by the gods in the place where Fire meets Ice, and was adrift between Spirit and the Flesh of the Mortal Coil for untold ages.
The many races of Spirit became accustomed to being able to shift from Spirit to Flesh and back again at will, so thin was the barrier between worlds, mingling freely and largely unknown with those of Flesh. This was simply the way of things.
Fire was brought to heel under the reign of Leo, among the Races of Man in the world of Flesh, the veriest medium by which matter of the world of Flesh was returned to Spirit.
Spirit and Flesh dwelt side by side through the reign of Taurus, under the rule of Bronze, and the Races of Men flourished.
But in the Age of Ares, the power of iron was discovered and did grow, inimical to creatures of Spirit.
The Races of Men prospered and grew so that they overwhelmed their homelands and set forth in great waves, migrating ever outwards, flooding the world. Bringing with them their iron, and later steel, they gradually pinned the mortal world in place, chasing Spirit away into the incontinent mists, into the gray light of dawn and dusk.
The majority of the Spirit creatures were not prepared for the harshness that the Mortal Coil took on under the rule of poisonous iron and retreated completely into Spirit.
As time passed, especially as the power of the Light grew and spread to rival the scattered traditions of many gods, of gods almost without number, Spirit and Flesh drew further apart from one another. The threshold between Spirit and Flesh grew more distinct, more sharply defined. It took on characteristics of its own, becoming a border region between them in its own right that came to be known as “Færie”. Rules for passing between the worlds made themselves known. Many of the spirits refused to surrender entirely their right and ability to walk in the world of Flesh and made their stand on this borderland. These spirit folk gradually grew into solitary habits, haunting lonely places on the Mortal World, far from the habitations of human folk. These places were commonly dangerous in some way – sheer cliffs, in or by deep and/or swift waters, marshes and unstable boglands. As time passed, such beings were seen in the Mortal world more and more rarely, and eventually never in any numbers even in those remote environs.
Creatures of a Darker nature such as goblins withdrew almost entirely into Færie, although war bands of perhaps as many as a dozen can sometimes be found roaming desolate places that still carry the vibration of unspoiled Spirit and Nature. The trolls, creatures of Darkness, earth and stone in the same manner as the dvergar but grown from the dwindled blood of giants, abandoned the world of Flesh almost completely as well, only seen there singly now or in pairs, perhaps as many as a handful, but so many is an extreme rarity. There in Færie, these Darker creatures of Spirit continue to strive against and bedevil their ancient enemies, the elfs and dwarfs, and that enmity is traditionally carried over whenever their kin meet again in the Mortal World.
The more predatory races of Færie still dream of the days when they hunted with impunity the beasts and even the Races of Man in the world of Flesh. Even among the elfin and dvergar courts in Færie there are partisans that are determined to test the mortals at every turn, to make sure not only that their hold remains secure, still, but also that they remain worthy of their ascendancy. In the days when the Fey ruled, Spirit flowed seamlessly into Flesh and back again. Most hold no real hope of those days returning, but their memories are long, and those memories are still too fresh in their minds.
Should the hold of the burgeoning mortal Races of Man ever falter, the Fey Folk are always ready to ride back from out of the pages of legends.
This is the age during which the hosts of the dvergar became divided. Those that retreated to Færie retained the ancient name of the dvergar, while those that remained in the hardening Mortal World completed their descent into matter and lost most of the attributes they had known while a part of the world of Spirit. These became known as the dwarfs.
The greatest single aspect on which dvergar and the dwarfs familiar to the bulk of TFRPG gamers differ for the purposes of the game lies in their physical appearance, especially their size (Stature). While the cognates of Dvergr, Dwarf, and Zwerg are derived from the Proto-Germanic “Dwergaz”, meaning “small, tiny” compared to something larger, the Prose Edda plainly states that dvergar have a human body. If no difference in scale was evident in that comparison, they must necessarily be the same in shape and also scale in size:
Dvergar … höfðu manns líki ok búa þó í jörðu ok í steinum.
“Dvergar … had the body of a human, although [they] live in earth and in stones.”
In this example, the dvergar seem only to differ from humans in the fact that they lived underground. Despite numerous references to the dvergar in the Poetic and Prose Eddas, there is no evidence of unusual (small) size. In the Poetic Edda, the mythic poem Völuspá mentions in the 12th line/stave the important dvergar named Reginn.
The heroic poem Reginsmál describes Reginn as being a dvergar, especially with regard to his ‘size’ (vöxt),:
Reginn .. var hverjum manni hagari – ok dvergr of vöxt! Hann var vitr, grimmr, ok fjölkunnigr.
Reginn the son of Hreiðmarr … was the most skillful of men – and a Dvergr of size! He was wise, cruel, and versed in magic.
The Norse traditions says Reginn is a dvergar. As such, it is assumed he falls within the acknowledged parameters of the size (Stature) of a dvergar. The earliest Norse illustrations of Reginn depict his size (Stature) being the same as a human. While he was of human Stature, he is remarkable for being a “Dvergar of size!” This emphasizes his powerful physique as a smith, however.
“There is no evidence that the dvergar were originally envisaged as particularly small, not before the [later medieval] sagas, are they described as short”.
Lexikon der Germanischen Mythologie
It is only under the influence of Christendom that dwarfs were cast as beings of small size, and often also demeaned as being ugly and/or misshapen. The monastic scribes of the ilk of great Gildas can never be said to have been impartial in the histories they recorded. The ostensibly impartial and dispassionate (ideal) standards of the modern day historian were nowhere in evidence until the past couple centuries, and even so historians are still prone to favor their own pet theories and agendas in the interpretations of events.
The concept of the dvergar clearly shifted during the medieval period, when the grip Christendom had become solid and strong and the “civilized” and “educated” folk of the period had grown too sophisticated for such “childish superstitions”.
The German “Thidrekssaga” (c. 1200) contains the earliest reference to dwarfs being small in size. It mentions the German dwarf Alberich, identified with Alfrek, introducing the German concept of dwarfs as small. In the tales of the 13th to 15th centuries, dwarfs are often used to play a humorous role. From their original greedy, covetous behavior, suspicious of the gods they often served and whether they would treat fairly with them for the treasures they created, they became the often pathetic and foolish literary figures now known in common western literature, so often misshapen, or even ugly. From this point onward folktales included small-sized dvergar multiplied, their meaning completely transformed from that present in the original sources.
The poem Alvíssmál, from the Poetic Edda, relates a tale of Thor, furious on discovering that his daughter was promised in marriage to a dvergar named Alvís (literally ‘all wise’, undoubtedly referring to the magickal knowledge of his kind), mocked the dvergar, but it ONLY for his extraordinarily pale white skin, NOT for being ugly and/or misshapen as they were later protrayed.
Hvat er þat fira?!
Hví ertu svá fölr um nasar?
Vartu í nótt með ná?
Þursa líki / þykki mér á þér vera!
Ert-at-tu til brúðar borinn.
“What [kind of] fellow is this?!
Why are you so pale about the nose?
Were you [spending time] with the dead in the night?
To me, [I] think you to be the body of an ogre (Þurs)!
You were not born for [my daughter to be your] bride.”
For the purposes of RoM, those of the dvergar that remained in Færie retained the original form they knew from Spirit, the appearance and nature of the original Svart Alfar just described, equal to any human in height, but somewhat broader and thicker.
However, as the tie to the realm of Spirit of the dvergar that chose life in the harsher Mortal World waned, their bodies gradually settled into true mortal forms, becoming far denser and more compact that those they had enjoyed in Spirit. They became the dwarfs as known through the mortal world now: short and thick in a way that redefines the term “stocky.” Generally they stand between chest and shoulder high and almost twice as broad next to the average human, and weigh rather more.
Aside from this difference in Stature and the inherent magickal properties that the dvergar of Færie posses that the dwarfs of the Mortal World lost over time, there is also a distinct cosmetic difference in their appearance.
In the above-quoted tale, Thor’s question of why Álviss is SO “pale about the nose” points up the fact that all dvergar have night-black hair and sport thick, bushy beards. In the midst of that blackness, Alviss’ white nose stood out in stark contrast. In Old Norse, this nick-name, svartr (‘black’) refers to hair color and/or eye color, and the dvergar are often called ‘black’, especially in the use of the title svartálfar (‘black elfs’).
Heimskringla 3 describes a king Eysteinn in Sweden, as a ‘black man and dark-colored’ (svartr maðr ok døkklitaðr), meaning he had both had black hair and had a relatively darker complexion in comparison with other Swedes. He does NOT have black skin, however.
To describe black skin, the term ‘blue’ (blár) is used in Old Norse, in the sense of dark blue-black. The phrase ‘blue-black human’ (blámaðr) is used to refer to the various peoples of Africa, which the Norse called ‘Blue-black Land’ (Bláland). The Old Norse ‘blár’ was also used to describe the color of bruised flesh. A common expression is ‘blue-black and bloodied’ (blár ok blóðugr), referring to serious bruising. Likewise, ‘blue-black’ can describe the dark skin of a corpse. As the blood flow stops, gravity pulls the blood from the upper regions, causing it to pool in the lower areas. Thus a corpse can be described as either ‘pale’ or as ‘blue-black’ (blár).
In the Prose Edda, Gylfaginning 33 describes Hel, the Norse deity of death, as having half her face pale and the other half ‘blue-black’, like a corpse. It is further used in phrases where the term ‘blue’ seems to mean ‘jet black’: ‘raven blue-black’ (hrafnblár), ‘blue-black as Hel’ (blár sem hel), ‘coal blue-black’ (kolblár), and so on. In Old Norse, this word ‘blue’ often stands for the color ‘black’, perhaps derived from a medieval woad-based dark bluish fabric dye that was not quite black (modern “navy blue”), but whose color sometimes by extension signified it.
The Dvergatal mentions the personal name of a dvergar, ‘The Blue One’ (Bláinn), which is also a name attributed to the primordial giant Ýmir, whom Óðinn and his two brothers killed, and from whose corpse the world was fashioned. In both cases, the black side of the corpse, where the blood has settled after death, is called ‘blue-black’.
Compare other names of dvergar whose names refer to their corpse-like appearance, like “Dead-like” (Dáinn), “Corpse” (Nár) and “Corpse-like” (Náinn), or “One Who Treads on [Grave] Mounds” (Haugspori).
The dvergar are uniformly jet black of hair, thick, bushy and luxuriant in growth, the men bearing equally dense beards and brows. Their eyes are uniformly dark as jet.
In agreement with most cultures of the period of the game, Norse culture traditionally valued ‘milk white’ skin, BUT the deathly pallor of the dvergar is too much, it is deemed to be so marked that it is unhealthy.
In Alvíssmál, Thor accuses Alvis of actually being a corpse, who spends time “with the dead.” The dvergar are SO deathly pale, however, because they must dwell underground while the sun shines, being interred in passage tombs buried under high mounds, sealed away from the light of the sun. Indeed, the sun is referred to as “The Game of Dvalinn”, for its rays are deadly to Dvalinn’s kin. The dvergar who are abroad every morning must dodge its rays in order to survive, ‘lest they be turned to stone.
Within a generation of coming into the mortal world of Flesh, the Regna Mythica, and accepting it as their true home, the sun lost its deadly effect upon the dwarfs, where the dvergar of Færie continue to be vulnerable to it.
Once acclimated, the complexion of the dwarfs of the Mortal World took on a ruddy earthen tone. That of their children starts out as soft, smooth alabaster in tawny creams and beige tones. With age this grows into deeper, neutral earthen tones with a somewhat coarser texture. The closer a dwarf gets to maturity (middle age) the more his skin will take on the etched look of worn, weather-beaten stone, especially about the hands, feet, and face. The typical conception of the rough-cut, weather-beaten, crag-featured dwarf occurs almost universally, by the time the dwarf reaches roughly 150 years of age. For those with above average CND it takes longer, but for those with below average CND it happens more quickly.
Dwarfish hair is typically abundant and luxuriant in its growth, so that even the men’s eyebrows need periodic shearing to maintain clear line of sight. The females suffer no such trouble, but they do generally have markedly strong eyebrows (of the Brooke Shields sort), which those that have the means may keep fashionably shaped. The men’s hairlines creep back over time in the same manner as that of humans, but takes a long time to occur, so a dramatic “widow’s peak” is relatively common, or a clear, high square forehead, and while true male pattern baldness is somewhat more common that among humans, it takes a great deal longer to make itself evident.
Facial hair growing constantly thick and luxuriant among the dwarfish men, it is common custom to simply wear full bushy beards, the length and fullness even taken by some as being marks of prestige. The length and fullness of the beard is taken as a symbol of masculine potency. This also has the added benefit of saving them from shaving two or three times a day. This usually leads many of the less fastidious to braid their beards as commonly depicted, to take up some of the length, and then tucking them into their belts, as sometimes also depicted in popular fantasy art.
The lady dwarfs are fond of braiding their hair in intricate plaits, to dress and bind them with great imagination, according to the prevailing fashion of the period of the game. Only children and young girls wear their hair unbound, and only children run about with their hair uncovered.
The colors of dwarfish hair and eyes might be as widely varied as that seen among humans, or limited according to the GM’s conception (GM’s discretion).
Rather than their being immortal of body like the dvergar (and the alfar), the dwarfs of the Mortal World are subject to all the cares and woes of the mortal born, like all of its Races of Men. While they are longer lived than humans, all dwarfs must, in time, give up the ghost and pass into Spirit.
Dwarf characters have an average life expectancy of 300 years. Those with above average CND can expect a longer life, barring any unforeseen injuries and/or accidents, or a shorter span for those with below average CND.
In regards to coming up with names for dwarfish characters, a unique resource has been passed down to the modern era in the Dvergatal from the Völsupá, a recounting of the ancestry of the dvergar called Lofarr:
Nýi and Niði, Norðri and Suðri, Austri and Vestri, Alþjófr, Dvalinn, Bífurr, Báfurr, Bömburr, Nóri, Án and Ánarr, Ái, Mjöðvitnir, Veigr and Gandalfr, Vindalfr, Þráinn, Þekkr and Þorinn, Þrór, Litr and Vitr, Nár and Nýráðr, Reginn and Ráðsviðr — now I have told the list of Dvergar right.
Fili, Kili, Fundinn, Náli, Hepti, Víli, Hanarr, Svíorr, Nár and Náinn, Nípingr, Dáinn, Billingr, Brúni, Bíldr and Búri, Frár, Hornbori, Frægr and Lóni, Aurvangr, Jari, Eikinskjaldi.
To tell the talk, the Dvergar in the generation of Dvalinn were a race of [conquering] lions up to [the generation] of Lofarr. They sought settlements from the halls of stone [to] Aurvangr (‘plot of mud’) to Jöruvöllr. There was Draupnir and Dolgþrasir, Hár, Haugspori, Hlévangr, Glóinn, [Dóri, Óri, Dúfr, Andvari,] Skirvir, Virvir, Skáfiðr, Ái, Álfr and Yngvi, Eikinskjaldi, Fjalarr and Frosti, Finnr and Ginnarr. So remember while the eras [of humans] live, the list of the long descent [of the ancestors] of Lofarr
the Dvargatal, from the Völsupá
Look carefully and you will find many of the names author Tolkien used in his great works, including that of his great gray wizard.
The divine (Spirit) implications, the ultimate origins of the dvergar (and alfar) as nature spirits or even deities in the distant past, are evident in the personal names quoted for a number of them: Norðri (North) and Suðri (South), Austri (East) and Vestri (West) support the four cardinal compass points; Nýi and Niði govern the waxing and waning lunar phases; the four stags grazing on Yggdrasil’s branches: Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr (“Downey Ears” or “Brown Ears”) and Durathrór (“Door-Stubborn”). Some of the “lesser norns” that shape the lives of men in Norse cosmology are called “Daughters of Dvalinn”. The frequent death imagery in their names (‘The Dead One’, Dáinn, and ‘The Corpse’, Náinn) connotes both the importance of sacred ancestors as well as recalling the significance of sleep and magickal trances, altered states of consciousness, as well as hearkening back to the nature of the realms of Færie as the borderland between the Mortal world and Spirit, embodiment of the stages of consciousness between Life as we know it and the mystery that is Death.
Many of the dvergar/dwarf names contain the syllable “álf”, from “Álfar” (‘elfs’), Álfr, Gandálfr, Vindálfr. Although a distinction is drawn between the races of elfs and dwarfs in the Norse texts, the “álf” element in dwarfish names seems to actually serve as some sort of title, in the sense they are addressed or spoken of as a source of good luck, or even as guardians or even local deities. Several names mentioned in the Dvergatal reflect this use and state of being: Álfr, Gandálfr, and Vindálfr. In Hrafnagaldur Óðins, dvergar are referred to directly as Álfar, as one would use a title such as “Lord”.
There is some cross-over between the dvergar (svartalfar) and the alfar (ljos alfar). There were points of contact between Dvergar and Álfar. The dvergar called Dáinn taught the sacred runes to the family of the Álfar. (Hávamál 142)
The names Álviss (“all-wise”), Fjolsvi∂r, Ra∂svi∂r all suggest wisdom and great learning, where Volundr was titled álfa ljó∂i (“lord of elfs”) or visi álfa (“prince of elfs”), and Glóinn meaning “glowing-like” (meaning color[ful]).
On the other hand, Hlévargr, Hljó∂ólfr, Hle∂ólfr convey destructive, treacherous, tricky influences or traits: Fjálar (“deceiver”); Althjófr (“all-thief”).
With a few changes in spelling, here are the names above recapped in list form, to be more easily seen:
Ái Án Anar Althjófr
Aurvang Auvargr Bifurr Báfurr
Bömburr Dolgthrasir Dóri Draupnir
Dvalinn Eikenskjaldi Fili Finnar
Fræg Frarr Frosti Fundin
Gálarr Gandalfr Ginnar Glóinn
Hanar Hár Haugspori Heptifili
Hléthjófr Hlévang Hornbori Jari
Kili Lit Lofarr Lóni
Mjóthvitnir Náli Nóri Níping
Nyráth Óri Ráthsvith Reginn
Skafith Skirvir Svíur Thekk
Thorinn Thráinn Thrór Vindalfr
Virvir Vit Yngvi
This list should be pillaged, modified, used as inspiration or completely ignored by player and GM alike as the spirit moves.
The dvergar of Faerie can see clearly in total darkness as well as the mortal races can see in the light of day, while that of their mortal dwarf cousins is more closely akin to the light-enhancing vision of an owl. The mortal dwarfs are fond of the light of the candles and lamps they manufacture to illuminate their subterranean kingdoms, and the ruddy twilight that rules where it cannot quite reach. Their eyes have adapted over the Ages they have spent living by such light, so often little more than tenuous.
Dwarfs can see up to (AWA) feet in lighting conditions equal to the tenuous light of starlight, only incurring an AV penalty to skills and/or abilities that require the character’s unhindered vision at a rate of 1 point per foot beyond that distance.
In lighting conditions equal to the pale light shed by up to a 1/2-moon (waxing or waning, regardless), the dwarf character can see up to (AWA) yards, only incurring an AV penalty of 1 point per yard to skills and/or abilities that require the character’s unhindered vision beyond that distance.
In lighting conditions equal to the pale light shed by the moon from 1/2 to full (waxing or waning, regardless), the dwarf character can see up to (AWA) rods, only incurring an AV penalty at a rate of 1 point per rod beyond that distance to activities that require the character’s unhindered vision beyond that distance.
The distances a dwarf can to see in areas lit by fire light or magick are extended by (AWA) feet beyond that allowed humans.
In the same vein, the sun’s rays can blind a mortal dwarf fairly handily.
Wherever Glare penalties apply due to direct sunlight, the penalty are increased by (AWA att. mod.).
All mortal-born dwarfs also have a time-sense tied to the turning of the seasons, the tide of life that flows through the earth, regardless of whether they are below or above ground. They also are able to sense the approximate depth they are beneath the surface when underground, and have an innate sense of direction even in the dark. These abilities may be consulted with a simple AWA check, or the GM may check for the character in passive cases when he may become aware of a noteworthy change, especially if it is sudden.
In addition, having lived underground for ages where the average temperature is c. 50-60°, dwarfs are completely unaffected by temperatures up to (CND)° warmer or cooler than that average. Temperatures above this range are treated as if they are (AWA – 13)° warmer for the purposes of determining heat exhaustion and sunburn (as applicable), and temperatures below that range are treated as if they are (AWA – 13)° colder in regards to determining hypothermia and frostbite (as applicable).
The Dvergar Legacy:
To even begin to understand the mind and heart of a dwarf, one must understand the traditions and history of the dvergar from whom he is descended, the road his people have travelled. Since all of the dwarfs of the Mortal World are descended from the dvergar of Færie, proudly tracing their bloodlines back through them to the dawn of time, understanding somewhat of the dvergar experience, history lifestyle and character helps player and GM alike to understand the foundation from which the dwarfish point of view grew.
One of the most potent facts that the dvergar have always had to contend with is their Otherness. The Vanir and Æsir gods and the álfar feast together and take counsel, while the dvergar are passed over, never invited to participate. So they may groan in their stones at such treatment, but nonetheless they remain aloof to this day from the struggles between the Æsir and the giants, independent of their cousins the álfar who traditionally side with the Æsir. The dwarfs of the mortal world, too, still carry some of this sense of Otherness.
The wealth of the earth and their skill and secret knowledge provided the dvergar with things much coveted by those who, on occasional, were able to gain power over them. Unfortunately, it was not uncommon for the gods to seek something for nothing from them.
After the sons of Ivaldi made Sif’s hair, Frey’s ship, Skidbladnir, and Odin’s spear, Gungnir, Loki challenged Ivaldi’s rivals, the brothers Brokk and Sindri, wagering his own head that they could not surpass those treasures. Brokk and Sindri rose to the challenge to create Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, Odin’s ring, Draupnir and Frey’s golden boar, Gullinbursti, winning the wager.
When it comes to a debt of blood, any perceived greed pales, at least when it was the head of a god on the block, and especially when the head was Loki’s, whose tricks they suffered repeatedly. Offered a payment of gold for Loki’s head when he lost the challenge, the dvergar refused. Loki tricked them again and fled, pointing up again their inability to effectively deal with social settings, to navigate social situations.
On another occasion, King Svafrlami met two of the great dvergar, Dvalinn and Durinn themselves, when out hunting and held them at swordpoint. They pleaded for their lives, which the king granted on condition they make him a sword with a hilt of gold, one that would always strike true, would never rust, and would cleave through stone and iron as easily as cloth. They paid him with Tyrfingr. Once in his hands they revealed the price of their work, the curse – it must drink a life every time it is unsheathed, and must be the cause of three evil acts as well as being destined to be the cause of the king’s own death. In the same spirit as Andvari, extorting magickal artifacts from the dvergar is a risky undertaking.
Álviss visited Thor above ground, but at night. Thor used his cleverness at words, with the rhetoric and oration so valued by the Norse cultures and their highly prized skalds, to keep the dvergar engaged and heedless of the time. At the conclusion of the poem, dawn breaks killing Álviss, thus eliminating him as a suitor for his daughter’s hand. Despite his secret knowledge and his magick, or maybe even because of it, Alvis simply was not deemed fit to marry the daughter of Thor.
While Thor seems cruel to purposefully seek the creature’s death, it is doubtless he found the dvergar’s subterranean life and deathly vulnerability to the sun not only unsuitable in a husband for his daughter, it was repulsive, to be avoided at all costs. Thor and his daughter were both creatures born to walk in the light of the sun.
The dvergar are creatures of earth and Spirit, of hidden knowledge and magick, dwelling in darkness. They continue as ever, the fey masters of the rocks and earth, living behind doors of stone. In the first segment of the Heimskringla, in Ynglinga saga, is the story of King Sweig∂ir, in which the doorways into the underground mountain kingdoms of the dvergar are seen as doors between worlds, between Flesh and Spirit. The same is feared regarding the doors of the kingdoms of the mortal dwarfs, so seldom do any of the other Races of Man get to pass through them.
A Little History:
The Dvergar & The Gods
According to the Prose Edda, there once was a dvergar named Ótr could change into any form, but commonly preferred to spend his days in the shape of an otter, greedily eating fish. Loki, Odin and Hœnir accidently killed the dvergar Ótr, son of Hreidmar (cunning and avaricious King of the Dwarfs, who once captured three gods in the unbreakable chains he forged). Hreidmar demanded Ótr’s wergild in accordance with the law, as was his right. Ótr’s skin had to be filled with yellow gold, and then covered over again with red gold.
The Æsir sent Loki to find gold to pay it.
Loki knew of a dwarf named Andvari (“careful one”) that once lived underneath a waterfall and had the power to change himself into a fish (a pike) at will. Andvari had made a powerful magical ring capable of producing gold, called Andvarinaut (“Andvari’s Gift”), which provided him a great treasure. Loki used a net provided by the goddess Ran to catch Andvari while he was in the form of a pike and forced him to give up all his gold and the ring, Andvarinaut, as well, on threat of death. Andvari hid in his rock afterwards and cursed the stolen gold; “No man will enjoy my riches”.
When Ótr’s skin was filled and covered by Loki (with Andvari’s horde), Hreidmar remarked that one whisker could yet be seen, pushing for more. Andvarinaut was the only gold Loki had left on him, so he used it to hide that whisker. Free of the curse then, he revealed it. Hreidmar complained that they did not give in kindness and reparation, but the wergild could not be denied, as it had been paid according to the letter of the agreement. Hreidmar seemed unconcerned by the curse afterwards, however.
Ótr’s had two brothers, Fafnir and Reginn. Fafnir and Reginn asked their father for a share of the wergild treasure, but Hreidmar refused them. Fafnir attacked Hreidmar while he slept and killed him. Hreidmar’s spirit then appeared to his daughters and demanded they avenge his murder, but Lynghei∂ refused to take vengeance on her brother, while Lofnhei∂ made no reply at all. Reginn approached Fafnir for his inheritance from their father and Fafnir refused him, just as their father had the both of them. Reginn sought counsel with Lynghei∂, who recommended good will and soft words. Reginn ignored her advice and stewed, seeking some means to wreak vengeance.
Some time later, Lofnhei∂’s grandson Sigur∂ (Siegfried) was fostered with Reginn, who taught him well and then sent him off to avenge the theft of his inheritance by killing Reginn’s brother, Fafnir, who had become a dragon in his greed, to guard and keep the horde for his own.
Ever the magickal craftsman-Smith dvergar, Reginn crafted the sword Gram for Sigur∂ to wield, and then hid and watched Fafnir die, a coward in the end. He planned to kill his foster-son afterwards, but Sigur∂ discovered the plot and killed Reginn, instead. Sigur∂ gave the treasure and Andvarinaut to Brynhildr (Brünnehilde) to obtain a marriage with her.
After the deaths of Brynhild and Sigurd, Sigurd’s companion Gunnar left Andvari’s gold in a cave. Years later, Andvari discovered the cave and his lost gold, but his ring was forever lost. Recovering Andvari’s ring sounds like a great basis for an adventure!
Where might it have gone?
The story on which Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle) tells is a liberal adaptation of this tale.
The tale of Ótr’s death and weregild, above, is evocative of the nature of the relationship between the dvergar and the Norse gods, and their general character and magick, which could be more than a little dark and dangerous, even in the hands of the gods. The dvergar and the dwarfs after them stand apart and aloof from both the gods and the other Races of Man alike, long ago driven to be a people apart. When they have been so badly used, their motive for doing so is no mystery.
The Otherness of the dvergar has been handed down to the dwarfs as a common and rather unendearing streak of hard-headedness that can make them unyielding as the very stone from which they were born.
Thrust into the role of the quintessential outsiders, dvergar and dwarfs alike often convey an impression of being deeply suspicious and possessive in nature. Indeed, the dvergar have never been shy about defying the established rules of the society of gods or men, and the dwarfs have neither care nor even more than a modicum of respect for the niceties of social conventions, sacred or secular, of any people but their own among the Races of Man. Neither ever participated in the constant and reciprocal giving of gifts that bound the communities around them together. This has always been construed as miserly greed, even avarice and acquisitiveness, separating them from those around them. In the eyes of others, the dvergar give no gifts, but offer only cold commerce, fair trade, always conducted with a cool pragmatism and dour practicality, their eyes fixed ever on the value of things.
These aspects of character live on in the hearts of the dwarfs of the mortal world, as well, affecting their dealings with the other Races of Man, but commonly to a milder extent. It takes much to break through it, but fair and just dealings can go a long way towards keeping things at least civil, if not actually cordial. In the same vein, they seem also quick to remember favors granted and reluctant to incur debts of any kind from others, even among their own kind, unless they can be paid in coin.
“Money is the cheapest way to pay.”
A clean, cold transaction wherever possible.
This axiom is applied to all dealings outside of their own people, whether business or social, and is the primary resort in all contracts drawn up with all the other Races of Men.
At one in the same time, this is the source of and gives the lie to the dwarfish reputation for greed, their renowned avarice and love of money.
The other races see little of the dwarfish folk except for the purposes of commerce, or in battle, seldom to socialize. The dwarfs would actually rather part with their hard coin than anything else, and would rather have gold from others than feel like they had taken something of what they would consider real value, and thereby feel some further sense of indebtedness or obligation of honor or heart to them.
On the other hand, their centuries in the Mortal World among the other Races of Man have made the dwarfs a little shy of the more dangerous inclinations of their fey cousins. For the ancient dvergar, even breaking the laws of guest and host, considered most sacred in the Mortal World, is not going too far. The dvergar invited the god Kvasir to a feast, but killed him after his arrival, responding with murder where not only by custom but by sacred law they should have offered hospitality – food, drink and even gifts. From Kvasir’s godly blood Fjálar (“deceiver”) and Gálarr brewed the magickal “Mead of Poetry” that conferred the highly esteemed skills and knowledge of a master skald (fili/bard) – also called “The Drink of Dvalinn”. Was it greed, or perhaps repaying an old debt to the gods?
In another instance, the giant Gílling and his wife were invited and then also killed. Gods, giants or men, dvergar treat all outsiders the same. Súttung captured Fjálar and Gálarr in vengeance for his father and mother, and threatened the dvergar with their own deaths. Only the magick mead brewed from Kvasir’s blood was sufficient to buy their lives and freedom from Súttung’s burning rage. These are extremes that the mortal dwarfs would be highly unlikely to commit, though – unless driven to them.
In the sagas, the dvergar play diverse roles: tricksome, even murderous, brewers of the Mead of Poetry – reluctant providers of magnificent magickal artifacts, in some instances even seeking sexual favors from goddesses. Their past is checkered with acts as diverse as those of any other population, however, and any hardness or danger associated with dealing with them in the past had largely to do with the character of those with whom they dealt, along with an inevitable dash of the capricious character of Nature itself. Their mortal dwarf cousins are equally diverse in character and by nature more mellow and less mercurial.
Despite the long ages they have now spent in the Mortal World, the dwarfs are still haunted by their ancient purpose and past, much concerned with the bones of the Mortal World, the secrets of the rocks, the metals, the gems and all other things that can be found under the earth. Having been spawned of the earth itself, the dvergar see all the things of the earth, its riches, buried treasures, its magick and other secrets, as belonging to them.
Fortunately, down the Ages, the attitude of the mortal dwarfs has mellowed in this regard into more of a theoretical right. It might be argued with the other Races of Man, but they understand the wisdom inherent in picking and choosing those battles with care.
Alongside the cares this brings, they still feel the burning need to pursue all the ancient crafts their people invented, as well, and especially those that depend upon fire to execute. With some 300 years to devote to achieving mastery, many dwarf men lose themselves in any number of the arts and crafts.
As miners, architects and builders, artificers and mechanicians, and craftsmen in general, dwarfs are rivaled only by the elfs, and then only in some areas. The clever devices of the dwarfish artificers and mechanicians are wondrous beyond compare.
Their love for knowledge and the secrets of all crafts is a fiery secret love and the burning pride of dwarfkind. What they leave behind for their brothers when the pass is often considered their greatest legacy, jealously guarded, reserved for dwarfkind alone – in the same manner they brought the dvergar legacy into the world of Flesh.
The heights of dwarfish skills in all the various arts and crafts, a large component of the great legacy of the dvergar, radiates a love of beauty wrought of cunning hand and secret knowledge, revealing it to be a soul-moving magick running through their very hearts and souls. For most of the great masters, in the fullness of time, it becomes magick in earnest, equal to the arts of the magickal Great Smiths, which is the legacy of the dvergar from whom they are descended. This tradition and the Færie blood of their forbears is why the attributes of the dwarfs lean towards magick in a similar manner to those of the elfs, and for similar reasons.
These are the real reasons why dwarfs charge heavy coin for their goods, why they are so often seen as greedy and grasping, but also why all other peoples value their goods so highly they are willing to meet those prices.
Having been the eternal Outsiders, dwarfs have no tolerance for those who would debate them when their customs, laws or folkways fall at odds. Better the other Races of Man let sleeping dogs lie where the dwarfs are concerned.
When all serious matters are done with and put aside for the day, however, the dwarfs really know how to cut loose and blow off some steam! As a people, from the greatest to the least among them, they love their beer and ale even more than the dunladdin who are famous for their cups. Indeed, this is where the dwarfs really see eye to eye with the dunladdin. Even though the dwarfish upper-crust like to break out their best vintage of a good wine to celebrate important toasts and other special occasions, they are just as ready to roll out a few great barrels of good beer and ale when they are celebrating in earnest, especially when doing so in great numbers.
Though they love a rousing dance tune as well as any other at a revel, as well as a rollicking bawdy tune. Dwarfs are known for their great love of slapstick humor, but they are very mindful of propriety. On the whole, though few would guess, dwarfs have a propensity to be tough little romantics, loving a good ballad or love song. Not ones to reveal their tender hearts, they shun displays of vulnerability except in intimate settings with those who are the closest to them, and that is almost never with any outside of their own race.
“All the treasures of the earth cannot buy back a single lost moment.”
This is not an aspect of the dwarfish people that very many of the other Races of Man have ever witnessed. It is no more common knowledge than is the Rune Tongue of their people that they retain solely for their own use.
Within the saga called Völuspá, in the Dvergatal passage, the dvergar are divided into three tribes or clans, the first led by Mótsognir their first ruler, the second by Durinn, and the last by Dvalinn (“Slow/Sleeping One”). Dvalinn is the one to whom ALL dwarfs ultimately trace their lineage, however. Indeed, the female dwarfs are referred to as “The Daughters of Dvalinn”, in the same manner as women might be called “The Daughters of Eve.”
Each of the three original clans branched out as they grew and prospered, throwing off subsidiary colonies to eventually become kingdoms in their own right, and those that chose to remain in the Mortal World continued to do so. The bloodlines of the three clans are still traced among the dwarfs of the Mortal World. Through the dvergar, the dwarfs proudly trace their lineage back to the very dawn of the world, as do the elfs through the alfar.
Never having departed from the earth by which they came into the world, the mortal dwarfs dwell still within its bosom, in scattered kingdoms beneath great mountains, where they commonly stumble across gates, doorways and passages to the fey realms still ruled by their cousins. The great dwarfish cities are hewn from the very hearts of the mountains which are their homes, dug deep down into their roots. The wilder, higher, and rougher and more remote the mountains the better they like them. The high passes through the most daunting mountain chains are usually where the roads to their remote citadel-cities begin. Even where timber is plenteous on the mountain slopes, the dwarfs prefer to build in stone. Their great soaring halls arch overhead, lined with massive pillars marching high and far with un paralleled precision as far as the eye can see. Walls and ceilings soar and glitter with bright cut gemstones, broad swaths of mosaic glowing with rainbow hues, gilding gleaming in the light of candle and lantern. Avenue after vaulted avenue joins these wondrous halls filled with shops and cathedrals, public baths, markets, plazas, private homes and estates, all illuminated by great crystal-paned oil lamps intricately wrought with great beauty, bathing all public areas in a golden, late-afternoon, autumnal radiance. The social classes of the various areas of the dwarfish kingdom-cities are readily visible by the level of light that shines on each neighborhood, the poorer reaches lying in perpetual twilight. The good lamp fuel used in the public areas is not cheap, and while the poor must make do with simple candles and rushlights, their wealthier brothers make sure they are never left in the dark.
In the great indoor dwarfish kingdoms, gates and doors are the rule, most being secured by locks of one sort or another, and only those authorized can carry keys allowing them to pass here and there. Thus, keys are a symbol of great status, just as they are among human folk. They represent the freedom to travel through the various avenues and halls of the kingdom, from lowest to highest, even to leave the kingdom itself at certain times when the gates may be otherwise kept closed.
The key to a city or kingdom among the dwarfs is no hollow symbolic honor as in the modern world, but one reserved for the greatest of heroes and benefactors of dwarfkind. Such a key truly does open all doors in the city/realm. Keys are a favorite toy of dwarfish babes, and the freedom to trip through the kingdom is the one reason why children are never without at least one chaperone, and that one always with the biggest ring of keys – of the greatest social standing and freedom of the kingdom – they can command at any given time.
The city-kingdoms under the mountains are ruled by the warrior-nobles, among whom many of the dwarf women are proudly counted, all of whom guard their homes fiercely, These independent kingdoms under the mountains function in much the same manner the great city-states of Italy did in the period of the game through the Renaissance.
While the nobility serve as the natural counselors for their kings, forming the most powerful segment of the Great Council, they are supplemented in those duties by these merchant and craft-guild families. The government functionaries serving the government of the kings under the mountains are generally drawn from the clerks (clerics) of the dwarfish faith (such as it is) in the same way they were historically among the humans, and also from among the powerful merchant and craft-guild families. The merchant families have the same economic strength to bring to bear in steering the course of policy in their kingdoms seen in the great merchant families of Italy in the period of the game, and the greatest of the craft guilds stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
Indeed, the craftsmen and merchants are much stronger and better defined than their counterparts in the societies of the other Races of Man. Education is required for the proper maintenance of their businesses, and so is looked on as just another commodity for sale, and a service commodity at that. Their universities, their guilds of student-scholars, are dominated by the students, curriculum dictated according to their needs, on the Italian model for universities rather than the guilds of magister-scholars found especially among the humans, corresponding to those found in northern Europe and particularly England in the period of the game.
The prevalent feudal social forms and concepts grew out of the practices of the oldest of peoples and cultures in existence, those of the dwarfs and elfs, disseminated over time as the peoples of the other Races of Man settled in and developed around them, first by the dunladdin and then by the humans. In the case of the humans, there was a need to distill and reinforce certain aspects of it to suit their own nature, but their doing so made it much more oppressive than the forms practiced by dwarf and elf and among the older cultures.
In the feudal system, land is wealth and therefore power, and with the wealth to bankroll the expensive weapons and armor and mercenary warriors needed for defense and to enforce the will of the strongest. Military might is right and claims the right to rule. This is mitigated by certain circumstances among the dwarfs, and substantially mitigated in the case of the elfs, however.
Dwarfs are not lords of the surface earth, at least not in the same manner that the surface lords of the low-lying lands are. Dwarfs don’t carve up great swaths of land. In the first place, carving up the soil of the world the gods created simply for the purpose of making it produce their needs, the very earth from which their people were physically were born, smacks of irreligion.
What little traditional farming they might do must be carried out in fields confined to areas of relatively flat ground to the floors of the high valleys, which might be cleared of forest for that purpose – very limited in availability. Otherwise they are forced to make a massive investment in labor building a system of terraced fields up the mountain sides sufficient in extent for their needs (providing the slopes are not too rough and sheer) and, to cap it off, being generally limited by elevation to a significantly shorter growing season and fewer hours of direct sunlight due to the surrounding mountains, which the sun might not rise above until 11 or noon or later, depending on how tall they are.
They are often great husbandmen, keeping flocks of sheep and goats, and also cattle for milk and meat. While horses are too large for them and less practical around their native mountains, they are connoisseurs of mules, asses, donkeys, hinnies and ponies. Although their ponies are not swift enough to course after prey, like the great steeds enjoyed by the humans and elfs, so the primary means of hunting are bow hunting (see forest law “par force” and “stable stand”), taking down boars and other large prey with spears or bows and all manner of hounds, with supporting staff driving the beasts to where they lie in wait is of great importance for sustenance as well as for sport among the wealthy and noble. Hawking is VERY popular among the nobility, as well.
Although they prefer soft, even dim or romantic lighting, the dwarfs are known for bringing the greenery of the surface world into their homes in great gardens of potted herbs, the more easily cultivated vegetables, and even the hardier decorative flowers, where the setting allows light and water to be easily accessed and facilities constructed, their adaptations of the concept even rivaling the great Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Mushrooms of various sorts are cultivated within their walls to satisfy a number of dietary and industrial needs. They keep orchards amid the forest-grown mountain slopes and, weather permitting, they also send out foraging parties on the slopes and into the foothills of their mountains to reap Nature’s bounty for their needs.
Driven to be self-sufficient, they do as much as they can for their own maintenance but, for the sake of variety especially in diet and décor, they know the value the other races place upon their handicrafts and trade goods and barter for that of which they feel a lack.
Together, the commoner working classes make ALL life under the mountain possible for the dwarfs. They pump air to the forges and also circulate fresh air for all the residents, sweep the great flues that pull the smoke from forge and hearth, and make ways for the waters underground to flow away from their habitations for the safety and comfort. Their miners and architects are THE most prestigious among the crafts, even above the smiths
Because of the remoteness of their chosen habitat the relations between dwarfs and the other races are largely only formal, commercial or diplomatic. On that basis, they have been known to set up small enclaves of emissaries of their own people called “ghettos” in the merchant quarters of scattered great mercantile towns. The streets, squares, and courts of these ghettos are always arcaded, pillared and vaulted over “to keep out the weather,” of course, but really more to provide them with some of the safely enclosed feel of their cozy homes in the mountains far away, to help keep them from getting quite so homesick.
One would think their isolated locations would leave the dwarfs backward and provincial, but their possession of secret knowledge of the earth and all of the arts and crafts makes even the lowest classes among them rather sophisticated and progressive in regards to formulating and discovering and also implementing new processes and methods for all crafts and industry. In this practice, however, they are ever mindful that no dwarf should be denied the opportunity to pursue to drive they all share to express the secret knowledge of the arts and crafts their dvergar forbears bequeathed to them.
Like the dvergar before them, the mortal dwarfs aren’t generally given to social pursuits or interests in socializing with any of the other Races of Man, but instead keep to their own company and follow a deeply ingrained tradition of devoting themselves to cultivating mastery of the skills of hand, garnering great wisdom and the secret knowledge of the earth and the Arts of every craft, including especially the magick for which they are renowned.
Nonetheless, the dwarfish kingdoms commonly stand as the visible roots for the local the languages, styles and folkways that make up the cultural identities of the realms that border and surround them, their influence having been assimilated over time into the cultures of any other races that settled around them.
Dwarfs tend to be far more egalitarian than the feudal societies among whom they are commonly nestled in their mountain homes, another point on which they stand as Outsiders. It also contributes to the general feeling among their people that a respectful distance is necessary as a matter of safety.
Fences make for the best neighbors, or in the dwarfs’ case, mountains.
As a people driven to keep their own company, family means everything to the dwarfs, but it is defined in the broader ancient sense of blood and kin. This bond of blood and family trickled outward and down from them to all the Races of Man who came after and settled within their sphere of influence, becoming a foundation stone for all ancient civilizations.
Dwarfish communities are comprised of close family groups but extended along ties of blood and also marriage anywhere from 3 to 5 generations. Among the nobility, 5 generations is the standard acknowledged. Their societies are structured in a manner very much the same as that practiced by their elfin cousins in this way, the ljos alfar, also bequeathed to the Celtic tribes among the other Races of Men. But the elfs are more communal, among whom the importance of any individual is limited, where the dwarfs tend to stronger personalities and acknowledge the rights and importance of the individual to a much greater degree. Furthermore, dwarfish kingdoms and communities keep in very close and regular contact with one another, despite the often great distances between them.
Unlike the practice of Primo Geniture followed in the period of the game, which makes the male bloodline of primary importance and female line only secondary, bloodlines on the female side are just as important as those of the male side among the dwarfs. The social structure of the ancient Celtic tribes reflected these attitudes and practices. But this changed with the passing of ages, especially among the humanfolk, until it is considered a curious and even ridiculous practice by the standards of the current medieval society, a remarkable and unfathomable curiosity in the minds of liberal scholars. In the opinions of some conservative theologians and those of the conservative feudal baronage under the faith of the Light, such egalitarian attitudes are likely to also be considered dangerous, even to the point of sedition. Thus, the dwarfs’ sense of Otherness brought with them from their dvergar forbears continues to be reinforced.
As stated, the dwarfs are slow to change, however. It may well be that the societal standards are a remnant of the Bronze Age and the Celtic cultures called “pagan” by those of the Light. That means as many as eight different standards under which a marriage could be negotiated, and a completely different view of so-called “illegitimacy”. Indeed, such a concept may not even exist. Children might always be considered a blessing. All dwarfish children would be treated the same, raised by their mothers or by another branch of the mother’s family, of her choosing.
Only the mother’s bloodline can be attested with any certainty in the case of a dwarfling born of a woman unwilling to reveal the identity of the father, so that likely has primacy, except where the father’s bloodline can be certified by magickal means, too prohibitively expensive for the common classes to resort to. This is equivalent in cost to obtaining a charter from Chancery, possibly running as much as a 1£., or more. On the other hand, if the mother were to contract a marriage for children, the father might legally claim her child as his own blood, especially to insure that he has an heir to follow him if he has need.
The members of the families and clans treat all members of the other clans according to what has gone before in their relationship, whether the specific family they are dealing with was involved or not. Being tied to a clan, the family is painted with its colors for better or worse, sharing the responsibility for its deeds. To be granted different treatment an individual must distinguish himself and prove more than once that he deserves better (or worse). The old medieval saying of “Thrice makes a custom” directly impacts this process when it takes place. When there is a falling-out between clans, the divisions can be very deep, and like all other relationships in a medieval society, very personal, taking multiple generations to heal again.
Old age is accepted gracefully among the dwarfs, on the whole, and those who achieve it are highly respected. Unlike humans, a dwarf might even exaggerate his age a bit to impress or get a little extra consideration or measure of respect. Women are just as prone to boast of their age or similarly pad the number for the same reasons.
Being so long lived, dwarfs are well aware of the great storehouse of knowledge one can garner in some 300 years.
Many a dwarf craftsman lives in the fear that their art may suffer from some elderly brother in the craft going to his deathbed with his secrets because his younger colleagues offended him with their “brash new ideas” and lack of respect for their elders and their knowledge, the secrets they have uncovered in their lifetime.
Dwarfs are just as fiercely and fervently religious as the rest of the people of the ancient world and the medieval period of the gameworld that followed, but only in their own peculiar way and faith. While they have reason to be grateful for the gifts they received when the gods found them and lifted them up, the dvergar have little love or trust for the gods due to their experiences with them. They believe that gods are to be propitiated, their attention diverted from the people of the Mortal World and their cares, but the spirits that inhabit the very substance of the Mortal World, in the rocks, the trees, the waters, the common beasts, all are to be sought out and venerated for remaining to attend to the world and its needs and those of the Races of Man.
They are conflicted. Consequently, the dwarfs have very little sense of humor when it comes to sacred matters and the history handed down to them by the dvergar.
According to the Völsupá (“The Wizard’s Vision”), the homeland of the dvergar, or Svartalfheimr, stands on Ni∂avellir (the “nether plains”), and can be recognized by the gold-covered dwelling place or palace(s) of the dvergar Sindri’s kin, perhaps one palace for each of the three clans, with Dvalinn’s being the greatest, and additional palaces for the greatest among the clans, such as Sindri’s kin, as mentioned. This is one of the nine worlds in the Uttermost East. The Ni∂afjöll (the “nether fells”) are the great mountain chain of this underworld, rising high above the Ni∂avellir where stands the golden Halls of the Dvergar, Sindri’s people.
If they die in the Mortal World, dwarfish spirits pass into the Otherworld of Spirit the same as every other one of the mortal Races of Man, and they eventually make their way to the Golden Halls or Palaces of the Dvergar, beyond the Nether Fells, on the Nether Plains to which both the dvergar and the dwarfs of the Mortal World hearken.
But this is not the only avenue for the evolution of dwarfish consciousness. The dvergar kin and forbears of the mortal dwarfs still dwell in Færie, as they have for Ages untold. Those dwarfs that show themselves possessed of the traits that best exemplify their people, great wisdom, knowledge, cunning and craft, versed to a degree in those things for which their people are renowned, may be invited to return to the ranks of the fey dvergar once they have proven themselves.
If this should happen, the dwarf’s kin appear to take him away when it is time for the dwarf to depart and, once he has entered Færie, his mortal body gradually changes, being permeated by Spirit until he again resembles the dvergar from whom he is descended. It is unlikely that his mortal family will again recognize him after he acclimatizes to Færie, unless he reveals his original identity to them, or he bears or wears some significant symbol by which he can be identified.
In contrast to the creation myth related in the passage on the origins of the dvergar, there is also the tale of Durinn and Mo∂sognir, who are said to have made more of their own kind out of earth/clay and then breathed life into them (themselves, without the gods). This idea makes the sense of Otherness in them even stronger, and provides even stronger grounds for them to be resentful of the gods and of the way they have been treated by them, rather than thankful for their lives, and the way they have been used by the heroes of other Races of Man through the Ages, as well.
Which of the two tales is correct? Only the GM making use of this source material in his game world can say. It seems ripe for providing the basis for an ancient, bitter schism in the dwarfs’ religious traditions. Again, this has been made a part of the religious background, history and traditions of the dwarfish folk featured in the gazetteers for the Regna Mythica slated for later release.
Even after untold Ages, the dwarfs still continue to share a unifying faith (which the schism in dogma mentioned previously may never have been sufficiently strong or important enough to break) and also a language they keep entirely to themselves, in addition to speaking the tongue(s) of those cultures close by them, with whom they trade by necessity. Even if local dialects peculiar to the individual kingdoms have arisen, the original formalized cast of their language persists and is preserved for the sake of the unity of the people, especially for the purposes of professionals, scholars, scribes of government and the law, in a similar manner to the way High German is used to overcome difficulties in communication due to regional dialects across Germany.
This is known as the dwarfish Rune Tongue. The Hávamál mentions the dvergar Dvalinn as having brought this ancient runic writing to his people, which Dáinn then shared with the ljos álfar, the Light Elfs, the same runes that Odin received from his ordeal spent hanging on the World Tree, Yggdrasil, then shared with the gods.
Knowledge of this language is closely guarded. Most are unwilling to accept the responsibility for teaching the Rune Tongue to any not of their blood, for it is the same in the eyes of the dwarfish people as accepting the student into the teacher’s own family, as one of them. In these cases, the teacher becomes the sponsor of the student, responsible for him in the society of dwarfs. If one who has been so adopted should violate the trust implicit in granting them this knowledge, the one who taught him also stands to answer for the breach of trust when they get their hands on him.
Trustworthiness and integrity are watchwords that are considered hallmarks of anyone not of their blood with whom the dwarfs share any part or even a glimpse of their world.
The dwarfs are constantly aware of the specter of their forbears of Færie, who made of themselves consummate artisans of such divine power even the Æsir must rely on them for the magickal artifacts by which their godhood is expressed.
According to the Völuspá, the dvergar even carved the shapes of the first man, Ask, from the trunk of an ash, and the first woman, Embla, from that of an elm.
The Æsir found these likenesses and brought them to life afterwards:
- Then all the rulers – the awe-holy gods – went and took council on their judgment seats. [They asked], “Who of the Dvergar should shape the troops [of humans], out of the blood ofBrimirand out of the legs of Bláinn?”
- There wasMótsognirthe master of the word [being most reputable] of all the Dvergar. But Durinn was another. They, the Dvergar, constructed many human likenesses out of the earth, as Durinn said.
- Until therefore three Æsir came, potent and merciful, out of the generation from their house. [They] found [the likeness of the male human] Ask and [the likeness of the female human] Embla, on the land [with] little might and fateless.
- They owned no breath [of spirit]. They had no fury [of inspiration]. [Neither] warm-bloodedness nor voice nor good complexion. Óðinn gave breath [of spirit]. Hœnir gave fury [of inspiration]. Lóðurr gave warm-bloodedness and good complexion.
If the GM chooses to include this, it is likely to stand as a major and persistent, even perennial, bone of contention between humans and dwarfs, both religiously and politically. This is a part of the religious background, history and traditions of the dwarfish folk featured in the gazetteers for the Regna Mythica slated for later release.
Any dwarf character who is given a Merchant trade or any Craftsman trade, but especially the Smith-Artificer, Artificer/Mechanician (inventor, architect, siege engineer,mining engineer etc.) and/or Craftsman-Artisan, is granted Warden LoA to start play, and receives a 25% bonus to any SP’s gained towards its use during play.
The dvergar are seen in much the same place in the world as the Tuatha de Dannan and the elfs of the British Isles, who originated as gods whose abode was inside the “Hollow Hills”, but the powers and stature of the latter gradually waned as man’s knowledge and sophistication grew, and they had no fear of sunlight. This serves to reinforce the decision to use the name dvergar to signify those of this race that remained in the Færie realms, to help differentiate them from the PC dwarfs in the world of Flesh.
The dvergar consider the mortal dwarfs ‘cousins’, used in the rather more generic medieval fashion, which is at the same time closer and more amiable than its modern usage. While there is no bad blood between the dwarfs and the dvergar of Færie, the dvergar have little patience for being referred to as “dwarfs” by any of the other Races of Man.
If the GM doesn’t care for the use of the vulnerability to the rays of the sun as a point of distinction between dwarfs and the dvergar, he may decide to make all of dwarfkind conform to the original tales, including the vulnerability to sunlight – however, in the interests of making them more practical as PC’s, perhaps giving them all magick caps allowing them to trespass in the day, in the manner that some water fairies are traditionally able to survive indefinitely under water – or perhaps making that
On the other hand, the GM may choose to throw the original dvergar described here out entirely and keep only the modern concept, perhaps even reserving judgement on whether to give them cousins in Færie at all.
In view of the marriage story with Thor’s daughter, the GM may entertain the concept that the dvergar periodically take human brides. There is an ancient tradition of the denizens of Færie taking mortal brides (as discussed in the description of elfs), or mortal men taking brides of Færie, or simply the abducting of children and the substitution of a changeling, thus bolstering the bloodlines of the families in Færie. The possibility of a hybrid bloodline might be explored.
There are a number of points on which the GM can choose to customize his dwarfs for his own game world.
I am so grateful for the great information I was able to pull together from these websites in writing this race description: