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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.