Many centuries have passed since the golden age of the dwarves. Their mightiest strongholds, delved into misty and snow-capped mountains, have long since fallen into shadow’s hands. The magnificent walls now lie in rubble, shattered by giants’ boulders and invaders’ siege engines. Where once dwarf miners tunneled through rock and toiled at the forges, now orcs and goblins roam. The fabulous riches for which they are famed have been plundered by enemies from below. And yet, the dwarves remain. They remember their ancient glories and they crave vengeance against the enemies who brought them low. The world knows dwarves for their skill in battle, their ability to withstand physical and magical punishment, and their knowledge of the earth’s secrets. They are renowned for their hard work as well as their ability to quaff large quantities of ale. Their ancient and mysterious kingdoms, carved into the hearts of mountains, are famed for their marvelous treasures.
Tenacious to a Fault
A dwarf fights neither recklessly nor timidly, but with measured courage and tenacity. Their sense of justice is strong, but at its worst it can become a thirst for vengeance. Dwarves highly value gold, gems, jewelry, and art objects made with these precious materials, but their love of such things can easily turn to covetousness. Dwarven artwork is never superfluous and always has a practical purpose. The bas reliefs of their ancestral vaults tell epic stories, depicting grand heroes and massive battles. Dwarven craftsmen love engraving pickaxes and crafting golden chalices inlaid with glimmering rubies. Dwarven artwork is not always beautiful, but it is always useful, not unlike the dwarves themselves.
Short and Stout
Dwarves stand only 4 to 4-1/2 feet tall, but they are so broad and compact that a dwarf, on average, weighs almost as much as a human. Male dwarves are slightly taller and noticeably heavier than females, but both sexes grow thick and luxurious facial hair. Male dwarves often adorn their beards with gold and silver jewelry if they can afford it, while females typically weave their hair into thick braids or style them into fetching pin curls. Dwarves’ skin is typically deep tan or light brown, and their eyes are dark. Their hair is usually black, gray, or brown, and worn long. Dwarves favor simple styles for their hair, beards, and clothes. A dwarf is considered to be adult at about age forty and can live to be around 400 years old.
Slow to Trust
Dwarves are slow to laugh or jest and suspicious of strangers, but they are generous to those few who earn their trust. They like to say, “The difference between an acquaintance and a friend is about a hundred years.” Humans, with their short life spans, have a hard time forging truly strong bonds with dwarves: The best such friendship is often between a dwarf and a human whose parents and grandparents he or she liked. Dwarves do not trust the mysterious Dragonborn, whose connection to gold-hoarding dragons unnerves them, but the Dragonborn have such a love of sparring and drinking, many dwarves unperturbed by their draconic heritage find an immediate camaraderie with them. The mountain dwarves of Aurvandil enjoy the company and cooking of lightfoot halflings, while the hill dwarves of Nibeline find the shire-dwelling stout halflings (“hobbits”) to be unimaginative, plain, and unbearably dull. They fail to appreciate elves’ subtlety and art, regarding such folk as unpredictable, fickle, and flighty. All the same, through the ages the dwarves and elves have found many a common cause against goblins, gnolls and predatory orcs. Through many such joint campaigns, the elves have earned the dwarves’ grudging respect. Dwarves mistrust orcs in general, and the feeling is mutual, but they both respect the other’s physical power. Still, most dwarves are fair-minded, and they grant individuals the opportunity to prove themselves.
Clans and Kingdoms
Although their mightiest and most glorious kingdoms have fallen, smaller dwarven vaults survive deep beneath the stony mountain peaks. There, the dwarves mine gems and precious metals and forge items of wonder. Whatever wealth the dwarves can’t find in their mountains, they gain through trade. They dislike boats, so enterprising humans and halflings frequently handle trade in dwarven goods along water routes. Trustworthy members of other races are welcome in dwarf settlements, though some areas are off limits even to them. The chief unit of dwarven society is the clan, and dwarves highly value social standing. Even dwarves who live far from their own kingdoms cherish their clan identities and affiliations, and recognize related dwarves. To be clanless is the worst fate that can befall a dwarf. Dwarves in other lands are typically renowned blacksmiths, armorers, jewelers, and artisans; some are mercenaries. Dwarf bodyguards are sought out for their courage and loyalty, and they are well rewarded for their service.
Hill Dwarves are native to the hills and valleys of modern-day western Grandévere. The earth there is rich in mundane metals and the dwarves who mine and smelt them are renowned as the finest weaponsmiths in the kingdom. They harbor a deep resentment for the goblins, who enslaved them in imperial times. Though no dwarves alive today experienced the tyranny of the Du’un Empire, dwarves are known to inherit both grudges and friendships from the parents and are slow to forgive. Their homeland of Nibeline was restored and incorporated into the kingdom of Grandévere by the crusader Andvari the Cunning. Hill dwarves are commonplace in the cities of western Grandévere, and those who do not make a name for themselves as smiths earn renowned as loyal knights or keen treasure hunters. Their unrelenting nature makes them excellent fighters.
Mountain Dwarves hail from the towering Barrier Peaks, like the high elves and the lightfoot halflings. They only emerged from their ancestral vaults within the last thirty years. The mountain dwarves are, in their own quiet way, overjoyed that the Du’un Empire’s tyranny is no more. They reveal little of why they have returned from their self-imposed exile, but some say it is because they finally ran out of mead. It is impossible to ascertain whether or not these dwarves are being sarcastic. They guard the secret routes to their ancestral halls with jealous secrecy, revealing the paths and secret entrances to none but their closest companions. The few mountain dwarves that live aboveground in the Peaks are known for their fine jewelry and impeccable craftsmanship, but they are masterful blacksmiths as well. These dwarves do not worship any crusader, but instead worship their dwarven ancestors, who they believe have become one with the earth and the stone. Common oaths include swearing by an ancestor’s beard or weapon, or swearing by the stones themselves. Their mastery of heavy armor and religious zeal makes them excellent paladins.
The text of this page has primarily been derived from the D&D Next playtesting packet, with some alterations, for enjoyment purposes only.