Dwarves of Brevoy

As dwarves continue to be a minor focus of my Stolen Lands game, I thought it was about time, I documented my thoughts on them. I have ‘known’ this in brad detail since the game started, but now it is time for a bit more detail and to update Dwarf progress during the years my players have been adventuring and building their new land.

Clan Golka

Like many Dwarf Clans, The Golka are made up of many smaller clans and families.  However, like all Dwarves, the majority of those smaller families have the overall welfare of the Dwarf ‘nation’ as a priority, and cooperate together under the leadership of Clan Golka.  When the great mines and holdings in western Brevoy were lost, the dwarves started reorganizing.  It was slow, but what is fifteen or twenty years out of a dwarf’s lifetime? 

While the dwarves don’t yet appear to have a grand plan, the basic plan seems to be based around a number of different communities.  Perhaps learning a lesson and going with the  ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket‘ philosophy or, perhaps, there just wasn’t a strong enough leader.  So far four main initiatives have had some success.

Brunderton is a majority Dwarf town, and has grown significantly over the last few years.  Little more than a mining village when House Rogarvia disappeared and the Great Mine was lost, Brunderton has become the new Dwarf-Home in Brevoy.  Under the leadership of their mayor, Ralin al Golka, Brunderton has grown from a small mining settlement into a sizeable town.  Compared to some places, development has been slow – BUT it is financially stable  (based on the output of no less that thee mines!) , well managed and capable of growth.  While the town and the mines are all controlled by Dwarves, and dwarves are a large proportion of the population – Ralin al Golka hasn’t shied away from building links with human run businesses and settlements, and has arranged a series of loans (financed from across the Dwarf Diaspora)  to help smaller clans and groups to get established.

Restov is home to a large community of dwarves, led by Darain al Golka., it now holds the second largest population of dwarves, after Brunderton, in the whole of Brevoy.  Most are found in Dwarf Town, as it is commonly known, a whole district of Dwarves dedicated to making weapons and armour.  There aren’t just weapons-smiths and armourers, of course, there is all the supporting infrastructure of an ex-pat community as well.  There are blacksmiths, whitesmiths, leather workers, cooks, tailors, woodworkers and even dwarven entertainers.  The whole gamut of dwarfdom can be found there, somewhere.  Like Brunderton, Dwarf society in Restov is financially stable, and is represented on the City Council (by Darain al Golka).  It is a recognized, and important, part of the City of Restov, especially now the Aldori influence has been reduced.  Ironically, much of the growth in Brunderton was financed by the Dwarves of Restov – while the Dwarven Brotherhood and Clan Golka is important –  the Restov Dwarf community would collapse without a good supply of iron and steel.  Anyway, Mutual Aid is a tenet of Dwarf culture.

Greyhaven, Toval Golka ( son of the old Chieftain of the Golka)  has organized the dwarves of Greyhaven into a coherent body.  They aren’t anywhere near as influential as they were –  but they are still a significant part in the  mining and forging businesses of Greyhaven.  The biggest problem, for both House Garess and Clan Golka, is that the source of ores from the Great Mines has been lost.  In the old days, the Golka were House Garess’ most important Allies.  Now, while still bound to an Alliance contract, their influence is greatly reduced.

Tusk has something similar, although The Golka never had much influence in Tusk anyway, and there were no senior members of the Golka in residence.  It fell to an elderly Cleric by the name of Strude Stigmar to bring the Dwarves of Tusk together in a mutual support group, and build up a resilience in his community.  Strude doesn’t have a big congregation, but then there aren’t all that many dwarves in Tusk.  Most of them work in smithies or masons – and many of those are employees of other (human) houses.  However, they have a mutual support society, based around Strude’s Great Shrine.  They are all aware that the main temple of Torag, situated by the Great Mine, has been lost, and they support the establishment of new religious buildings across the region.  Stude has encouraged his flock to help finance a loan to fund the religious expansion in Ironkeep.

Clan Golka

The Great Clan of the Brevic Dwarves takes its name from one of their earliest leaders,  Golka the Miner.  He was an early leader of the Great Mine, who negotiated the alliance arrangements with the Garess.  Both the Great Clan and his direct decedents took his name for their own.  Even now, decedents bearing his name are trained for leadership and command.  Sooner, or later, one of them will rise to assume the title of Chieftain, in behalf of their family.

Toval Golka ( son of the lost Chieftain of the Golka) has organized the dwarves of Greyhaven into a coherent body.    In Dwarf terms, he is quite young, and hasn’t truly been tested – and while his initiatives in Greyhaven are laudable.  They haven’t been a great success ….

Ralin al Golka, Mayor of Brunderton, is nephew of the lost Chieftain, and has led the growth of his town.  It has grown from a small mining settlement into a significant town with trading links to both Restov and New Steven.  It is successful, financially strong, and  is fast becoming the new Dwarf-Home of Brevoy.

Darain al Golka, leader of the Restov Dwarves, nephew of the lost Chieftain, and City Councillor in Restov.

Gandred al Gorka, a young, and very distant, relative of the Lost-Chieftain.  He spent some of his youth in Brunderton, completed his apprenticeship in Restov and oversees a Forge-Shrine in Ringbridge.

The sub-clans

These family groups are all a part of Clan Golka.   They recognize that dwarves who bear the Golka name are the leaders of the Great Clan, and follow the principles that the overall wellbeing of the Dwarf people and the Great Clan is incredibly important.  However, so is the welfare of a dwarf’s immediate family members, and the extended family’s status within the Great Clan.  While, to outsiders, dwarves appear to have a solid and monolithic political structure based on mutual aid and support, there is a lot of (very polite) manoeuvring that goes on inside the Great Clan.

Clan Stigmar

A small clan, shattered by the loss of the Great Mine, the majority of Clan Golka, and many of their members – the Stigmars have struggled to carve out a place for themselves.  Traditionally, the more suitable members of the family have gone into the church, while others have worked for the military or in general roles. Now, they have found a way to start bringing their disparate family together again, raise their status and provide a family base.  (Note:  This is a DM based clan)

Strude Stigmar – Elder of the Church of Torag in Tusk.  Has arranged a loan from the dwarves of Tusk to fund the expansion of the Church in Ironkeep.

Lutz Stigmar – Elder of the Church of Torag in Midmarch/Tusk.  He trained at the temple to Torag in Brunderton, and nephew of Strude, The Elder Priest of Tusk.  Using a loan from the Church of Torag (underwritten by Brunderton) to establish Torag as the primary deity in House Aeris holdings.  Lutz is the leader of Clan Stigmar in Midmarch and has an Alliance contract House Aeris.

Findal Stigmar – Leader of a group of Dwarf Prospectors – and one of the beneficiaries of the loan arrangement between Clan Stigma and the Dwarf Diaspora.  Findal, and his team, have been working for Brunderton Mining –  but have taken this opportunity to set up on their own.

Clan Silverhammer

Named after an exceptionally talented whitesmith, the clan leaders have pursued the family tradition of working with fine metals and have a reputation for top quality jewellery and fine art pieces.  Many others follow the more traditional affinity with stone, and are noted for their larger civic and military constructions.   (This is a PC affiliated clan, which has to meet the PC’s expectations)

Hargrym Silverhammer – Leader of the Silverhammers in Midmarch and associate of House Medveyed-Solanus.  He is a skilled stonemason, merchant and negotiator.

The Bouldershoulders

Not really a clan in the Traditional sense, the Bouldershoulders are a ‘new family’ of dwarves who lost many of their family members when the great mine was lost.  They were all part of extensive (and unsuccessful) search parties in the aftermath of the disaster.  They took their name from the number of times that they cleared large rocks during their search. (This is a PC affiliated group, which has to meet the PC’s expectations)

Valgard Bouldershoulder – he is a skilled miner and armourer.  He oversees the mining complex at Ironkeep in Midmarch.

Dwarves

For a couple of reasons I have been thinking about Dwarves today.  Not only are they becoming relevant in my Stolen Land game, but I adopted a ‘Dwarf’ in a different game, as well.  I like to add some personal elements to posts I make on behalf of characters, both PCs and NPCs, so I thought I had better jot down some notes about their culture.

I have written all sorts of things on Dwarves previously, they seem to cropped up quite regularly, so little (if any) of this will be new – just a bringing together of the best ideas that I have had over the years.

Overview

Dwarves, traditionally, are a fairly self-interested race, and often don’t mingle easily with the other races.  That said, there is a long tradition of Dwarves moving to human lands, often to provide services that are related to metal or stone.  However, they often ‘stick together’, almost as if they are members of an ex-pat society, rather than an integral part of the local community. At the most extreme, Dwarves can be xenophobic, and actively discourage mixing with other races.

However, as a race, Dwarves normally have an LG alignment.  They follow the rule of their elders and have a tendency to help other people out.  That feeling is strongest for other Dwarves, and many Dwarves feel a strong moral obligation to look out for other Dwarves when they can.  The ‘obligation’ is still there when it comes to other races, but isn’t as strong – unless the others are personal friends or there is a contract or alliance in place.

Food & Drink

Mainstream Dwarf societies are often associated with mining and metal work, and ‘Cultural’ food is firmly rooted underground.  Often there isn’t a good supply of fresh food and grain, and much of their food is imported in trade for ore, metal or worked metal goods – which leads to some ‘delicacies’ that might not be found in human cultures.

Keep All

Keep All is a mineral preservative.  While salty deposits can be found in mines, Keep All is a mineral common in most mines.  When ground to a fine powder and added to food, it helps preserve it, so that it will last for longer, and provide secure supplies for the Dwarf-Hold.   However, it gives the food a slightly tinny, tangy flavour.  Enough to be noticeable, but not enough to make the food unpalatable.  It is the Taste of Home, for many Dwarves.

Dwarf Sausage

A cold sausage, often made with mutton that has been preserved with Keep All.  Packed full of ground meat, the sausage could be a bit flavourless – except for the tinny tanginess of the keep all.  Dwarf folk-lore says it will last almost as long as the fabled Dwarf Bread, although that has never really been tested.

Dwarf Bread

Dwarf bread is not really bread at all, but more like a dense, unsweetened biscuit.  It can be eaten as it is, but it is dry and hard work – however, it can also be broken up and added to stews, where it dissolves works as a thickener.  Dissolved in water, it would probably make an excellent wallpaper paste –  but don’t tell the dwarves that.  It would normally last well anyway, but the small amounts of Keep All that is added to the recipe extends the shelf life of Dwarf Bread to a ridiculous extent, there are rumours that two hundred-year-old Dwarf Bread is still edible.  And still has that slightly tinny taste.

Dwarf Ale

Everyone knows Dwarf Ale, it’s heavy and as black as the deepest night, with a thick creamy head.  The ‘real stuff’ is rumoured to have some type of fungus in the recipe and, like all Dwarf food has a slightly tinny, tangy taste to it.

Pickled Mushrooms

Perhaps not mushrooms that many humans would recognize, but many underground dwarf-holds have caverns that are used as fungus farms.  They are dried and bottled in fresh water that has been laced with Keep All.  They rehydrate in the bottle to make flavoursome, tangy mushroom sections.

Nubbe Paste

A thick spread that looks and tastes a bit like peanut butter – although with that slight tang that dwarves love.  It is best when spread on Dwarf-Bread and is a staple in any Dwarf’s field rations.

Music & Dance

Dwarves are not particularly sophisticated in human terms, and tend to enjoy a good social gathering, that is suitable for all the family. 

Music

Many musicians play metal instruments.  While there are a few flutes,  many play instruments that would be considered part of the Brass family – such as trumpets, cornets, trombones and tubas.  Percussion is often in the form of large metal drums.  Music is inclusive and easy to listen to, often in the style of Oompah bands or military style marches.

Dancing

Dance is inclusive as well, there a few Polkas that everyone knows, as well as some Military two-step like dances –  to suit young and old alike.

Royal & Noble Titles

Today, I have been thinking about Royal and Noble Titles.  This is something that I have done previously, but have never really been convinced by what I came up with.  Now, thanks to all the extra time that Covid, combined with semi-retirement, has given me – I thought I would have another go.  Previously, I have looked generally at the titles and ranks, but this time I chose to use the Holy Roman Empire as my guide.

In the longer term, I think that I might need a hybrid monarchic system, that will add some flavour to my Stolen Lands game, but I also need a system that works with my campaign rules.  My Influence Rules have become incredibly complicated and there isn’t really a structure to use them in, my lower level, Aristocratic Titles work well enough, and I can get a basic definition of Baron – the title that links the top of the Aristocrats and bottom of the Noble tiers of titles.  But beyond that, it gets all woolly, and I am making stuff up for NPCs, and I would like to make get something a bit more consistent for when my PCs get to those levels – however, that won’t be for some time yet.

So far I have Laird, Lord-Dominus and Lord that work well as Aristocratic titles, while Baron works as the link between the Aristocracy and the Nobility.  These are supplemented by Governor and Viscount (both administrative titles in my game) that can be used to grant authority within a province.  While Baron is technically a Noble title, a baron is never an independent ruler with the right to impose their own laws and culture and (technically) they have to obey their overlord. I have been using Duke and Count in much the same way, but then I run into issues with palatine counties and duchies that have some elements of rulership – which starts to get complicated.  So, for this exercise, I am going to say that Counts are more powerful versions of barons (Great Barons, if you will) and have an overlord, while Dukes always rule palatine, or independent states.

This gives me Counts and Barons as hereditary nobles, and Governors as temporary or lifetime nobles.  Viscount becomes a temporary or lifetime promotion for a Baron, making them more influential.  That fixes my middle tier of titles, and leaves a way for PCs to progress through the system.

Now comes the difficult bit of Emperors, Kings, Dukes, Princes, Electors, Landgraves, Margraves, Emirs, Maliks, Chieftains and many other titles for absolute or limited rulers.  Throw in the concept of Prince-Bishops, Patriarchs, Merchant-Princes and Free-Cities and it becomes really complicated!  Because it is a game system, and is supposed to reward PCs for becoming more powerful and influential, I want to include a number of different routes in to the upper echelons of power and influence, even if they don’t traditionally fit there.

For the time being, I am going to exclude Kings and Emperors as (for me) their roles are relatively clear. An Emperor (or Empress) rules an empire of states that were once independent and have (normally) been conquered.  Kings (or Queens) rule independent realms, unless they are conquered by an Emperor.  The others all have a limited forms of authority or independence, but for the sake of simplicity, I am going to use two ranks – Dukes and Fursten.

Dukes

Duke, in real life is a complicated title.  There are Palatine Dukes and Royal Dukes, Arch-Dukes, Grand Dukes, Honorary Dukes and a whole bunch of other titles that are translated as into English as Duke. So I am going to mash them all together for a nice straightforward definition.

A Duke is a hereditary noble who controls a fairly large area of land, and has a lot of autonomy in the way they rule.  In my game this represents the leaders of the Great Houses of Brevoy.  This, almost certainly, is not a realistic goal for any of my PCs.  I guess that the only ‘promotion’ to this level will be Jamandi Aldori, who currently holds the title of Countess.  I might well be wrong, but Duke is one of those pinnacle goals that will only be met, very occasionally.

Just as importantly, I am going to tie the title to the land.  Lose the title and you lose your rank of Duke.  You probably retain the title of Lord – But that is a big step down the Hierarchy.

Fursten

Fursten is much more interesting, it just means First, but as a title it is generally translated as Prince, in the sense of a Ruler of some sort.  While not all of these turtles would normally fit into this category, it means I can make it include:  Princes, Prince Bishops, Merchant Princes, Lord Mayors and Chieftains.

Prince-Fursten – generally referred to as Prince …  While, technically, all Fursten have the same standing, Princes always have precedence in formal gatherings.  A Prince is ruler of a territory that includes at least one city or at least ten developed (not Wilderness) hexes.  You don’t get an automatic promotion if you exceed those minimums – however, you might gain seniority among the other Prince-Fursten.

Prince-Spiritual – Prince-Spirituals always walk immediately behind the Prince-Fursten, while  the rest of the Fursten walks as an amalgamated group behind them.  This is a generic title, and the actual title might be Archbishop, Great Druid, Primate or something similar.   In the days of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince-Bishops ruled large estates, much like Abbots in the UK – for the game rules, this needs to be modified to having a strong presence across the region, rather than concentrated in one city. 

To account for the different types of faith in the game world this is defined in terms of BP (Build Point) costs of Religious Buildings.  An Arch-Bishop will have a cathedral, however a Great Druid might control a series of Holy Groves and  other small religious organisations, while  a Primate might control an abbey and a number of other monastic buildings.  Just as importantly, their control should spread over more than one noble estate.  (Duchy, Principality, County, Province or Free City) to represent the breadth of their influence.

Let’s say (provisionally) an investment of 60 BP (Religious Buildings), with developments in at least three noble holdings.   That should be achievable in less than 10 years, from the current position, for the Churches of Abadar and Pharasma that are currently operating out of Tusk.

Merchant-Prince – originally just a description, I intend to incorporate this into the hierarchical structure.  The ‘threshold’ needs to be the comparable with that of Prince-Bishop. Let’s say (provisionally) an investment of 60 BP (on Merchant Developments), spread over three noble holdings, which incorporates at least one Greater Trade Route.  Note:  A greater Trade Route requires two city bases.

Again, that should be easily achievable inside 10 years from the current position of both V&A shipping and DELEM trading.  Other Merchant Houses might take longer, but they aren’t a primary focus for PCs.

Lord Mayor – The Leader of a Free City, currently this would be the Lord Mayors of Tusk and Restov.  This is fairly well defined already – the rules for settlement size defines a city –  the Free bit is a political decision –  which may have to be negotiated.

Chieftain – The leader of a ‘People’ who are dispersed over a wide area.  This could be quite difficult to define in game, and is unlikely to be a PC goal.  Having said that, I once ran a character who was head of his family clan *shrug*.  The most likely example I can think of, in my Stolen Lands game, is a charismatic and powerful Dwarf pulling the Dwarven Diaspora together, under one political leader.

Again, let’s say 60bp of investment, in any area, whose owners/controllers pledge allegiance to the racial/family cause.


While that isn’t perfect, and the values might change, I think that gives me a system that allows PCs from any class to work out a way into the Senior Nobility. Prince-Fursten and Merchant Prince can be achieved by any class, and realistically any divine caster can achieve Prince-Spiritual status. It will take careful investment, and dedication – BUT it is within the grasp of any call.