Dwarves have been a focus recently, partly because I have been working with the Dwarf Finance spreadsheets for The Stolen Land game, partly because of my recent interest in mines and partly because dwarf culture have become relevant in long-term planning for my next game setting.
This post concentrates on the Dwarves of The Stolen Lands game, their general philosophies and how that translates into long term plans. These dwarves recently (in Dwarven terms) lost their minehold, their leader and most of their population in a catastrophic earthquake – a sure sign that they had lost the blessings of Torag. This led to a Dwarven diaspora as they spread across the land.
So how does a Dwarven community cope with the traumatic loss of its greatest minehold, its leader and most of its population? By falling back on the basic principles and philosophies of Dwarvish society. Dwarves (or at least their society) in my world are fairly traditional D&D Dwarves As a group they are generally Lawful Good and build underground strongholds that are based on mining, working metals, collecting gemstones or quarrying stone – and they serve as the go-betweens for the surface and underground worlds. If you want top quality marble – you probably speak to a dwarf, if you want good quality weapons you should buy them from a dwarf hold, the same holds true for gems, armour and just about anything else that consists of worked metal or stone, or comes from underground. There are, of course, small Dwarf communities in all sorts of other settings, and it doesn’t affect PC choices – but it is the basic position that underpins NPC dwarf society.
Dwarf society, in D&D/Pathfinder is LG – So combining Lawful and Good from my last post, it should be based around these principles.
- Government – A cohesive central government where everyone works together with the same (or similar) sets of ideals. It might be a Lord, a council or some other structure. The town operates in ways that support the whole community. There are good public facilities (wells, town dump, public baths) and support structures (hospital, alms houses, schools) for those who need them.
- Business – Businesses are regulated, and there may be guilds controlling who can (and can’t) work or trade in the town.
- Social Structure – People know their place and how to behave. That doesn’t mean there is no social mobility – you just have to follow the rules and do well, then you will rise up the social pyramid. Not following the rules, means you slide down the pyramid instead. Residents are expected to be supportive of their neighbours (although some element of competition is good) and those who rise up the social pyramid are generally successful financial and have a strong social conscience.
- Laws and Punishments – are well established, the population understand the laws and punishments are consistent. They are proportionate, and probably not lethal. They may, however, include exile, social or business restrictions, jail time and (in the most extreme circumstances) judicial execution.
Applying it …
In the case of the Dwarven Diaspora in The Stolen Lands game, there isn’t a defined government – so we have to consider leadership instead. Leadership is provided by Clan Golka, the family of the old Clan Lord, and they have representation in each of the four main Dwarf Enclaves, the most significant being Ralin Golka in Brundeston, who spread the message that The Great Clan is still in existence, and that dwarven Culture should persist.
They take management roles when they can and act as enablers when they can’t. Ralin is Mayor of Brundeston, the town marketed as the new hope for Dwarf society. Darain al Golka, Ralin’s Cousin, id the leader of Dwarf Town in Restov and serves of the City’s overall council. Toran Golka (son of the Old Lord) remains in Greyhaven and provides the communication channels that keep that widely spread community in touch with each other. Poran al Golka (another cousin) acts as a focus for the dwarves of New Steven.
Dwarf society is heavily rooted in their religion, racial history and the ‘comforts’ that dwarves associate with ‘home’
The Church of Torag, under the leadership of Dunan al Golka, has done its part. While there is, currently, no formal presence in Grey Haven, they have representation in Restov and New Stetven and an Abbey in Brundeston. They have even facilitated the development of churches in the Colonies, with a strong presence in New Dawn and a lesser presence in Ringbridge.
Clan Lorson have also been instrumental in helping dwarves, wherever they are, recognise that they are still a part of Dwarf society. Traditionally, they have been responsible for education and dwarven lore. They maintain Dwarf Schools in all four principal areas, and make sure that they cover Dwarf heritage and behaviour as they educate young dwarves, and they have libraries, specializing in Dwarf literature, in both Brundeston and Greyhaven. Since the Diaspora started, Clan Lorson have started opening shops selling ‘Dwarf Comforts’, stocking such favourites as Keep-All, Nubbe paste and Dwarf Sausage – which they believe will reminds Dwarves of their racial heritage. They also sell specialist Dwarf weapons and Armour (those with Dwarven in the name), so that adventuring dwarves look the part, and are constantly reminded of who they are.
Clan Devale are also important, their breweries ship dwarf Stout around the world, and their inns and taverns have a ‘Dwarf’ theme, with traditional Oompah and Brass Bands providing entertainment.
All of this is possible because of the core tenets of Dwarf culture and religion – and the interpretation of events by the priests who now lead the church of Torag in Brevoy.
Hammer and Tongs: The Forging of Metal and Other Good Works is the principle holy text of Torag. Among other things …
- It tells of the creation myths of the dwarves and the destinies they have forged, as well as the Quest for Sky and the simple need for community that binds dwarves together.
- The oldest copy includes a historical account of when the community was founded, as well as which families or clans were involved in the founding, in addition to other notable historical events.
Under the leadership of Dunan al Golka, the Abbot of Brundeston, the church says that the earthquake that destroyed the original holding was a sign from Torag that the Great Clan had done something wrong, probably their reliance on the Humans of Greyhaven. It wasn’t the fault of the humans, but of the dwarves themselves. Now they must become independent and more self-reliant. The diaspora and the building of a strong, distributed Dwarf society, is a holy task that should be the focus of all Dwarves associated with Clan Golka – and that everyone should work hard to make it happen.
The Dwarves form strong bonds with their local allies, and support them properly, their culture demands that. House Aeris, House Solanus and House Lebeda-Ondari can be sure of their allies, but they also have other responsibilities that are important to them. They are supportive of Dwarves generally and support their great clan, The Golka, spirituality, politically and economically, and they have a mire direct responsibility for other members of their own name clan.
Note: Clan Golka, is named after the Founder of the original (now lost) minehold, and is a two-fold entity. At one level, it is a Great-Clan that consists of all the smaller Name-Clans that were based there and made their names there. At a second level, it is a Name-Clan for the direct decedents of the original founder.
The Golka don’t have a formal homeland, although they do claim Brundeston as their own, and control a significant district in Restov. In both of those places there are restrictions on non-dwarf businesses. All the businesses in Dwarf Town, Restov are owned and controlled by Dwarves, many of them by significant dwarf clans. The Devales even own an inn, just outside Dwarf town, that caters to dwarves and humans alike. In Brundeston, non-dwarf businesses are restricted in what they can build, and primarily provide merchant or human-focused service. All the Human businesses are outside the town walls.
Within Dwarf society, businesses are normally Clan based – with family groups passing skills down from one generation to the next. But many clans were decimated by the loss of the minehold, and many of the remaining dwarves call on their ancestral history to facilitate moves between clans – bringing new skills with them. At the moment, there are opportunities for ambitious clans and their leaders, as the whole community restructures itself to deal with the issue.
A number of traditional Name-Clans that have survived the great loss and continue to develop in their traditional fields, while other (smaller) Name-Clans are growing in importance as they fill the gaps created by the diaspora.
The traditional Name-Clans who have been a driving force behind the Diaspora include
- Clan Golka who specialize in leadership, mining and metalwork.
- Clane Devale – brewers and publicans
- Clan Ironheart – security and military specialists
- Clan Rokser – quarrymen and stone specialists
- Clan Lorson – education and dwarf lore
The smaller clans that are growing to help fill the gaps
- Clan Hafgrey – mining
- Clan Pandoon – smithing
- Clan Silverhammer – quarries, stone and jewellery
- Clan Stigmar – specialize in spreading Torag’s word and facilitate the diaspora.
A few individuals, such as Gandred of Ringbridge are also profiting, and building a personal position – although many of those will (at some point) become associated with a clan as well. After all, that is the Dwarf way.
There are few specific laws that are not based on traditional Dwarf law. In Brundeston there are some simple zoning laws, Dwarves inside, others outside the walls, and restrictions on what outsiders can build. In Restov, the dwarves have managed to negotiate an ‘exclusivity’ deal for Dwarf Town, but have retained the right for Dwarves to build outside the area – although city planning restrictions still apply.
In other areas, Dwarves are expected to be Law Abiding Citizens, and follow locals laws.
Laws in Brundeston are based on traditional values – No theft, murder, assault etc. – with fair trials that try to get to the root of the case and proportionate punishments, although they are made public. In many cases, judicial punishment is supplements by social and peer disapproval, which (for a dwarf) can be more difficult than the actual punishment.
Perhaps the most important part of traditional law, is that contracts are binding, and may last for generations. A dwarf or a clan that breaks their contracts (without good reason) is often treated as a pariah, until they have made amends. This may, in part, be the reason for name-clans adherence to the great-clan of the Golka – as long term generational contracts are adhered to.
The dwarven ideal of community wellbeing is important as well. Dwarves will always negotiate for a good deal, but they won’t be cut-throat in their dealings – contracts should benefit both parties, if they are to survive.
Ironically, that isn’t the end of it. The next stage will be to develop a mire general model that can be used to describe Dwarf Mineholds in my new setting. But that doesn’t need to happen for a while. Right now, I can get on with planning for this week’s TT game session.