Dwarves, sometimes called the Stout Folk and Deep Folk, were a natural humanoid race common throughout parts of Toril as well as Abeir. Dwarves were a tough, tradition-abiding folk known for their strong martial traditions and beautiful craftsmanship.
Dwarves were a short race, as their name implied, standing from 4'3"–4'9" (1.3–1.45 meters) on average, with gold dwarves a bit shorter. What dwarves lacked in height they made up for in bulk; they were, on average, about as heavy as humans. A dwarf could weigh anywhere from about 160–220 lbs (73–100 kg). Dwarven males were a bit taller and heavier than their female counterparts. Like humans, dwarves had a wide variety of skin, eye, and hair colors, typically pale among shield dwarves and deeply tanned or brown amongst gold dwarves. Hazel eyes were common throughout the race, with blue eyes more common amongst shield dwarves and brown or green eyes found amongst the gold dwarves.
Male dwarves were often bald and grew thick facial hair, which was sometimes used to display social status. Unusually for humanoids, both sexes naturally grew ample facial hair, though the majority of shield dwarf females shaved their beards off. This hair was often dark in hue, though among shield dwarves blond or red hair was just as common. Gold dwarves took the care of facial hair to an extreme, carefully oiling and grooming it, with some adding perfume and ornamentations.
Dwarves were a long-lived race, though not so much as elves, and reached physical maturity somewhat later than humans. A dwarf was traditionally considered an adult once he or she reached age fifty. Dwarves aged much like humans but over a longer period of time, remaining vigorous well past 150 years. Most dwarves lived to see their bicentennial and a few lived to be over 400. A dwarf was considered to be young until they reached the age of 50.
Whether or not the dwarven claim that they'd been carved from the world's stone was true, dwarves shared many qualities considered similar to the stone they lived with. Strong, hardy, and dependable, dwarves were polite, particularly to elders, and possessed a wisdom beyond that of many other races. Dwarves valued their traditions, regardless of the subrace they came from, and looked for inspiration from ancestral heroes. Dwarves were also known for their stubborn nature and cynicism, traits widespread amongst the dwarves but which contributed to and were commonly offset by their bravery and tenacity.
Dwarven friendship was hard to earn, but was strong once won. Naturally dour and suspicious, the stout folk were slow to trust others, specifically those outside their family, suspecting the worst of an individual until the outsider had proved their good will many times. Once this trust was gained, dwarves held their friends to it and viewed betrayals, even minor ones, with a vicious propensity for vengeance. A common gnomish oath, remarking on this dwarven sense of justice, was "If I'm lying, may I cross a dwarf."
For dwarves, loyalty was more than a word and they felt that it should be both valued and rewarded. Dwarves believed it a gift and mark of respect to stand beside a friend in combat, and an even deeper one to protect that ally from harm. Many dwarven tales subsequently revolved around the sacrifice of dwarves for their friends and family. Just as dwarves were known for their dependability as friends and allies, dwarves also harbored grudges far longer than many other races. This might be on an individual basis between a dwarf and one who had wronged them, or against entire races, even if warfare with the enemy had long since ceased.
Dwarves were careful and deliberate, with a more serious disposition than other races, who they sometimes viewed as flighty or reckless. A dwarf did all things with care and a stubborn resolve, with brash or cowardly behavior unusual for them. However, dwarves did succumb easily to wrath or greed, which were their most common vices.
Dwarves who left their homeland to become adventurers did so for a number of reasons. In part, a dwarf might be motivated by simple avarice, given the dwarven love of beautiful things. As often, however, a dwarf might be motivated by a drive to do what was right for others (particularly their clan) or a love of excitement because, as settled as dwarves were, they rarely tired of thrills. But even these wayward dwarves retained the spirit of their brethren, hoping that their accomplishments abroad could bring honor to themselves, their clan, or both. Given that successful dwarven adventurers were likely to recover rare items or defeat enemies of the dwarven people during such challenges, this was a hope not entirely without merit.
Dwarves were unusually tough for humanoids, in more ways than one. Dwarven stomachs, for instance, were resistant to virtually all poisons and it took less effort for a dwarf to get back on their feet than other races. Dwarves also had dense bodies and were difficult to push around as a result, as well as having the capacity to bear loads that other races might find hindering with little ill effect. Dwarves also had a sense about them that few races did, with a preternatural awareness of their surroundings useful for a subterranean race as well as good judgment all-around in general.
Many dwarves were difficult to like and lacked the charm of many other smaller races, such as halflings or gnomes, though this was not a trait common to all dwarves and some possessed a great deal of charismatic power. Furthermore, dwarves were not entirely unsocial and more than a few had a natural knack for bartering or judging the value of an offer, something that sat well with their legendary crafting abilities.
Dwarves could see in the dark, out to about 60 feet (18 meters). Many dwarves had an affinity for the caverns in which they lived, possessing a knack for recognizing unusual patterns in stonework that could seem almost supernatural at times.
Dwarves highly valued the ties between family members and friends, weaving tightly knit clans. Dwarves particularly respected elders, from whom they expected sound leadership and the wisdom of experience, as well as ancestral heroes or clan founders. This idea carried on to relations with other races and dwarves were deferential even to the elders of another, non-dwarven race.
Likewise, dwarves, perhaps moreso than most other races, turned to their gods for guidance and protection. Non-evil dwarves looked to the divine for comfort and inspiration, while the wicked looked to their divine overlords for methods through which to obtain power over others. Individual dwarves might be faithless, but the race as a whole, regardless of subrace, had a strong inclination for religion and almost every community maintained at least one temple or ancestral shrine.
Most dwarven societies were divided into clans built along family ties and political allegiances. These clans were usually led by hereditary rulers, often monarchs of a sort and descended from the founder of the clan. Dwarves strongly valued loyalty to these rulers and to the clan as a whole and even objective dwarves tended to side primarily with their kin over other races or communities.
These clan structures promoted a tradition of inbreeding. This was so excessive that it was considered one of the reasons for the dwarves' low birth rate.
Most dwarven clans focused on one or two kinds of crafting, such as blacksmithing, jewelry, engineering, or masonry. Dwarves strove to avoid overspecialization by sending some of their youths to other clans to serve as apprentices, which also helped to foster racial unity. Because of their longevity, these apprenticeships might last decades.
Most dwarves preferred living in underground cities near the surface and above the Underdark, built around mines that provided much of their livelihood. Carved into stone, these cities might take centuries to complete but were practically ageless once finished. Though dwarves were typically a martial race by nature, these cities had civilian populations that made up about one fourth of the total population and which were made up primarily of the young, the elderly, or a few regular adults. Females typically composed as large a portion of the military as male dwarves did.
In their own homelands, dwarves continuously carved out new living space, mining the mountains' riches as they did so. Dwarves in general stuck to these locales, disliking travel, particularly along waterways, but those who lived in human lands could make themselves quite comfortable. Most who did made a living as mercenaries, smiths, or artisans of various kinds. Dwarves were eagerly sought after as warriors, their reputation for courage and loyalty making them excellent choices for bodyguards.
Dwarfves were firm believers in the righteousness of their own ways, yet were surprisingly tolerant of the cultures of others, much of which was due to their natural introversion. Polite dwarves normally declined to speak their minds about others regardless of their true feelings; behavior considered "good enough" was left alone and not considered their business. Certain violent behavior might prompt more direct forms of response, but for the most part dwarves would live and let live. They got along passably well with most other races, their pragmatism and sense of honor serving diplomacy well, and few reasonable societies could not come to some level of agreement of them.
However, most dwarves commonly believed that true friendships could only be forged over long periods of time and a common saying was that "the difference between an acquaintance and a friend is about a hundred years", meaning that few members of the shorter-lived races ever forged strong bonds with dwarves. There were exceptions, however, and some of the strongest friendships were those between a dwarf and a human whose grandparents and parents were also on good terms with the dwarf.
Dwarves and gnomes had a history of cordial relations, mutually seeing each other as family, however distant. One dwarven myth proposed that the gnomes were once dwarves and Garl Glittergold a long-forgotten dwarven deity of magic known as Garal, who turned his devoted into gnomes. Dwarves held the outlooks the two had in common in strong regard, looking at gnomish culture with affectionate bemusement and gnomes often felt that dwarves had a grounding in the greater truths of the world that they themselves lacked. However, long-term contact between the two would likely cause irritation, for while they envied the dwarves, gnomes were unwilling to stick to their lifestyle. Dwarf strongholds were always open to gnomes, but few dwarves were comfortable enough with gnome ways to stay for long in their settlements.
Similarly to gnomes, dwarves had a fondness for halflings comparable to an older brother's concern for a smaller, more awkward sibling. Dwarves prized the halfling talent for fitting in and lending a hand, while halflings admired the strong family ties and industriousness (as well as the nose for profit) of the dwarves. However, dwarves were usually stodgy and somewhat provincial in contrast to the more adventurous halflings. Furthermore, halflings, who did not hold martial prowess as important, saw dwarves as too war-like. Some dwarves mistook their disinterest for inability and could prove patronizing, yet halflings quietly dismissed this overbearing and somewhat arrogant attitude as part of dwarvish nature. Dwarves remained blissfully pleased with their relations besides vague concern and diplomatic offers of military aid.
More than any other race, humans were capable of dwarven behavior, readily absorbing their virtues and able to value them almost equally. They looked up to the tradition, honor, conviction, and family values central to them, and admired dwarven martial skill and stonecraft. The two races had always been cordial neighbors at the very least, and when humans modeled their societies after dwarves, it was a source of pride and joy. However, humans were so morally and ethically flexible that they could also be almost elf-like, seeming flighty to their slow-paced ways. What all human nations shared was a short memory, and human adaptability was countered in their minds by cultural inconsistency. Still, if dwarves were good at anything, it was finding potential hidden below the surface, and so even in the darkest times, they never gave up on humanity.
Dwarven and elven relations were infamously volatile, their vastly disparate perspectives on the relationship between the individual and society resulting in countless misunderstandings and feuds. While dwarves subjugated the individual in favor of the group, elves did the opposite, and while both ways of life worked for their respective races, it made it hard for the two to agree on specific plans. Dwarves were both frustrated and amused by their apparent flightiness, lack of family focus, and irresponsibility of a race that, given their long lives and magic power, should be some of the most responsible of all. The emotional elves usually saw the naturally reserved dwarves as too dour, foolishly failing to express themselves and their opinions. Dwarves and elves were both basically good however, and so agreed on the most important issues; like squabbling siblings, they jumped to the others' defense against outside forces despite their threats, shouts, and insults.
Though primitive to their eyes, dwarves regarded goliaths as kindred spirits, followers of Moradin's ways even if not consciously aware of it. Dwarves perceived them as gentle giants and felt affection for their distant friends, leading them to make the extra effort of frequently visiting their villages for trade. For their part, goliaths held dwarves in high regard; most couldn't make their jewelry or metal crafts and held in high esteem those that could, wishing that they had a similar aptitude for weapon-crafting. They would eagerly trade furs and meat for dwarven (and gnomish) wonders, and some of the bravest of their numbers would traverse mountain caves to trade with dwarven communities.
Dwarves did not forgive past wrongs easily and the entire race had more or less declared war on goblins and orcs as a whole, wiping them out where they found them. Many dwarves viewed these races as a foul infestation of their mountain homes and felt it was their duty to purge them. Likewise, many dwarves viewed drow and grimlocks with a similar hatred and few dwarves had forgotten their ancestral hatred of the giants who'd once enslaved them.
As competitors for underground resources, dwarves and kobolds frequently fought over subterranean claims. The anti-social sentiments and persecution complex of the kobolds made diplomacy difficult, and while the two didn't always attack each other, neither side needed much provocation to start fighting. Not helping their relations was how dwarves frequently allied with or fought for gnomes against kobold tribes. However, if the two ended up working together due to circumstance, they could discover a common work ethic able to form the foundation of respectful friendships.
Dwarves had few set opinions on half-elves, each being a reflection of whatever culture they were raised in. Perhaps more than that of elves or humans, the half-elf mindset was acceptable with that of the dwarf, combining the relative order of humanity with the long view provided by elven blood. Wise dwarves knew half-elves to be acceptable intermediaries when dwarves and elves desperately needed to cooperate, while half-elves also appreciated the dwarven understanding of the long view and lack of sheer pretention sometimes displayed by elves. However, half-elves could just as easily combine elven frivolity with human hubris, and their wanderlust was difficult for dwarves to understand. Half-elves generally saw dwarves as inflexible and unyielding, unable to understand their inability to negotiate and try new things.
Given the racial enmity between dwarves and orcs and the importance dwarves placed on lineage, it was easy to understand their temptation to hold distrust and resent half-orcs. Half-orcs meanwhile thought dwarves would be funny if not so dangerous, for despite their capacity for drinking and raucousness they were serious, judgmental, task-oriented, and strict. However, half-orcs held respect for the strength and martial prowess, and further admired dwarven skill with stone and honesty while sharing an appreciation for simple pleasures. Dwarves were predisposed to letting those so inclined prove themselves, and the two could be surprisingly staunch companions, to the point that less traditional clans would adopt particularly worthy half-orcs, demonstrating the possibility for even the oldest grudges to be wiped clean.
In regards to their distant cousins the azers, duergar, and galeb duhr, dwarven opinions varied. Many viewed their distant relations with sympathy for their prior enslavement. On the other hand, duergar and dwarves had long been enemies, though trade between them was a possibility.
There existed several dwarven subraces, the best known including:
- Arctic dwarves
- Squat and hardy dwarves from the isolated northern reaches of Faerûn.
- Gold dwarves (Hill Dwarves)
- Strong and muscular dwarves with tanned skin from the south, largely in the Great Rift area.
- Gray dwarves
- Duergar were dwarves, separated by generations of divergence and slavery under the illithids.
- Shield dwarves (Mountain Dwarves)
- Tall dwarves, by comparison, who populated the northern reaches of west and central Faerûn.
- Stocky and muscular dwarves living in the Underdark.
- Wild dwarves
- Primitive dark-skinned dwarves primarily from the jungles of Chult.
Like many races, the exact origins of the dwarves were lost in myth and legend. While many non-dwarven scholars believed that dwarves were not native to Abeir-Toril or its successor worlds, most dwarves believed that their ancestors came from the heart of the planet itself, given life by Moradin after being made by the All-Father's hammer in the Soulforge. These legends held that the dwarves fought their way to the surface world, overcoming the dangers they faced below through strength of arms and skill.
The first known dwarven settlements on Abeir-Toril originated from the mountains of Yehimal. These dwarves settled underneath the junction between the three continents of Faerûn, Kara-Tur, and Zakhara, and migrated in all directions from there, spreading across the face of all the planet, except for those who migrated northwards and came to rest in the mountains of Novularond, becoming the ancestors of the arctic dwarves. Those who turned westward to what would eventually become the continent of Faerûn settled in what was later Semphar. The dwarves then migrated westward from there, founding many settlements. The first great kingdom of the dwarves was Bhaerynden, beneath the Shaar.
The dwarves in Bhaerynden prospered for centuries but gradually began to endure schisms and fractures, which drove the dwarves apart. The first of these schisms occurred twelve millennia ago[as of when?] when Taark Shanat, the so-called "Crusader", led a westward migration from the caverns of Bhaerynden. The descendants of these dwarves would eventually become the shield dwarves and forged the vast empire of Shanatar. The god Dumathoin created the urdunnir, who moved deeper into the earth and faded from common knowledge.
Some time after this, Bhaerynden fell to the drow shortly after their Descent following the Crown Wars, and these southern dwarves were driven into exile, ending the ancient kingdom. Their descendants became known as the gold dwarves and would return millennia later with the collapse of Bhaerynden into the Great Rift, forming a new kingdom. Another dwarven subrace emerged from some of these southern dwarves, who fled to Chult and embraced the ways of the jungle, becoming the wild dwarves.
The last dwarven lineage formed from the shield dwarves of Clan Duergar. These hapless dwarves who lived beneath the Shining Plains were in time captured and enslaved by the illithids, becoming the separate but related race known as the duergar. Over the ages, the twisting of illithid psionics caused the duergar to grow more and more distant from their kin.
Over the centuries, dwarves entered into a long decline and most of the ancient kingdoms that once stood had fallen by the 15th century DR. The shield dwarves saw parts of the North overrun and conquered by the orcs of Many Arrows while to the south the gold dwarves were largely driven from their underground kingdom in the Great Rift towards the surface world. In spite of this, the dwarves remained a proud and hardy people, unshaken by the pitfalls that had befallen them.
The most significant event in recent history for the dwarven peoples was the Thunder Blessing of 1306 DR, in which, after centuries of demographic decline, a sudden boom in fertility occurred, resulting in the births of many twins amongst the dwarves. The Blessing was widely believed to have been the work of Moradin, possibly as the culmination of a quest by a dwarven heroine or as part of some grander plan of the All-Father. One of the consequences of this sudden boon was, other than a demographic resurgence that helped bring the dwarves out of their decline, was a sudden shift in culture. The so-called thunder children were radical in comparison with their parents and during their lifetimes over the Era of Upheaval, dwarves took a more active role in the world and abandoned some of their oldest traditions, such as the ancient fear of magic and the arcane.
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- Roger E. Moore (February 1982). “The Dwarven Point of View”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #58 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 24–27.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the following links do not necessarily represent the views of the editors of this wiki, nor does any lore presented necessarily adhere to established canon.
Dwarf article at the Dark Sun Wiki, a wiki for the Dark Sun campaign setting. Dwarf article at the Dragonlance Wiki, a wiki for the Dragonlance campaign setting. Dwarf article at the Eberron Wiki, a wiki for the Eberron campaign setting. Dwarf article at the Spelljammer Wiki, a wiki for the Spelljammer campaign setting.
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