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    Dwarves of the Flanaess
    Posted on Wed, November 12, 2003 by Trickster
    Scottenkainen writes "The Dwarves of Oerth have been often neglected in canon, so one is left wondering just what they have to offer a campaign. Wonder no more! Herein lies a close examination of the culture of one of the Flanaess' most interesting people."

    Dwarves of the Flanaess
    by Scott Casper
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    The dwarves are an ancient race, having dwelt in the Flanaess at least as long as elves and men (Flannae, in the latter case). Dwarves (or Dwur, as the Flannae call them) believe their race was created on the forge of Moradin, dwarven god of smiths. Dwarven ancestry touches many other races in the distant past, including man, elf, troll, kobold, and gnome. In most of these cases, the two races did not part on amicable terms. Compared to the others, gnomes are closest kin -- a recent offshoot of dwarf, splitting off less than 4,000 years ago.

    The dwarven inability to wield arcane magic, in a magical universe, has permanently colored their worldview. Unlike most civilized races, dwarves do not believe in the alchemical model of a four-element universe. Rather, they believe there are 30 elements. The 15 known elements are all mineral-based -- adamantite, antimony, arsenic, bismuth, coal, copper, gold, iron, lead, mercury, mithral, platinum, silver, sulfur, and tin. They believe the 15 unknown elements would be enough to account for the alchemical notions of air, fire, and water, but dwarven science cannot yet discern them. Though dwarves are not fearful of arcane magic as barbarians are, they do not trust it. Unlike divine magic that comes from a known source, arcane magic is inherently suspicious, possibly supplied by demons or the like for some dark ends.

    Moradin once was head of the Dwarven Pantheon, but he has since taken a lesser role in the lives of his people, content instead to toil endlessly at his celestial forge. Legends say he toils to build dreadful weapons that will be wielded by the other gods at the end of the world. In the meanwhile, the pantheon is ruled by Nomarun, god of peace and welfare, chief guardian of the dwarven race. Ruling beside him as his queen is Ulaa Edolar, the Oerth goddess who birthed the hills and mountains. Their vizier is Itidin, the aged god of time. Under them are the four divine princes -- Clanggedin Draversil, god of battle and honor; Dumathoin, god of stone and metal; Ingathoin, god of law and justice; and Vergadain, god of commerce and wealth. Their cousins round out the pantheon -- Adzaa Maruar, goddess of construction and craftsmanship; Arondonar, goddess of ethics; Berronar, goddess of home and clan; and Solekar, goddess of lakes, rivers, and wells.

    Dwarven society recognizes nine social classes. Because they are a good and just people, there is less distinction between "haves" and "have-nots" as other races suffer. The poorest and least desirable (their name translates to "sulfur dwarves") are forced into a life of great toil and dangerous labor by virtue of being criminals, debtors, or their close kin. Yet even this lot has the grudging admiration of their betters, for they work the mines around which dwarven life runs. Above them are the "mercury dwarves," who work as farmers and herders. Some of this work is done underground, but larger communities rely on members of this class to toil on the hot, bright surface world. The "coal dwarves" are menial laborers, such as tavernworkers, street cleaners, torchbearers, and so on. Textile work is included in this category. The three lower classes tend to belong to small clans or no clans at all. They are limited in terms of owning property and money (forbidden from having platinum, gems, or jewelry), and travel (no further than 10, 20, and 40 miles respectively from their homes).

    The next three classes enjoy more freedom, both of opportunity and resources. The "lead dwarves" are craftsmen of the most mundane wares. Laws limit how much aesthetics can go into their work, which must be practical. The "tin dwarves" enjoy a moderate amount of creativity. Bronzework is most often practiced at this level. The "iron dwarves" are responsible for mundane arms and armor. They are discouraged from making anything flashy or decorative. The middle classes may all live in clans up to three generations large. They may own property within their community. Dwarven real estate laws refer only to the underground specifically, but all land directly above is considered included. Most dwarves find these claims difficult to defend to surface races, except in remote regions like mountain ranges. Lead, tin, and iron dwarves are discouraged from owning jewelry. They are expected to join guilds, are legally answerable to those guilds, and must have guild permission to travel.

    The remaining three classes, copper, silver and gold, represent the richest dwarves and the most successful craftsmen, which is often but not exclusively the same thing. "Copper dwarves" are expected to craft practical, yet ornamental items, incorporating a strong sense of aesthetics. "Silver dwarves" are expected to craft attractive things out of semi-precious metals. "Gold dwarves" are expected to craft beautiful things out of precious metals. The higher classes control the guild system and generally regulate society.

    Moving down in social class is often attributable to criminal activity, but could also be done voluntarily to work off debt, and occurs automatically if dwarves leave their clan to start a new one. Moving up in social class occurs gradually as the clan itself matures, but can also be rewarded for individual members with exceptional ability. Individual dwarves do not have social standing separate from their familes (at least in the same generation), so the actions of one affect many.

    On the dwarven calendar the current year is 6317 DA (duorminak abalar, or "reign of the Alabaster King"), making the dwarven calendar the oldest on Oerik. Dwarves are proud of their history, yet little of it is known by mankind. Much of this can be explained by the insular nature of dwarven society. Even those dwarves who travel the length and the breadth of the Flanaess seldom make idle chatter about life back home. Another factor is simply geography. Many dwarves prefer to live underground and thus have little contact with mankind. Only in the last few centuries have dwarves become more involved in aboveground affairs, mainly because of the rise of cities and the expansion of trade. Two things dwarves love are city life and commerce.

    Status quo is important to dwarves. What is important to dwarves today is important because it was centuries ago. Traditions tell a dwarf when to wake up in the morning, when and what to eat, and how to comb his beard. There are at least 300 beard styles, each with significance in dwarven culture. One of the distinct advantages of the rigidity of dwarven culture for non-dwarves is that the two dwarven languages have no dialects. All hill dwarves speak Makilhorem, as all mountain dwarves speak Brekuntorik.

    Community is highly valued by dwarves, often valued over the individual, so dwarves are known as staunch defenders when their communities are threatened. Dwarves have found themselves almost constantly thrust into this role throughout their history. Other races, particularly orcs and goblins, have long coveted the dwarves' mines and homes. The history of these wars is ancient, but largely unknown to non-dwarves because the battles have been fought underground or in remote mountain ranges. Every dwarf is taught enough history to hate orcs and goblinkind, and at the age of 30, every dwarf capable of holding a weapon receives grueling training in the fighting techniques most useful to counter orc, half-orc, goblin, and hobgoblin standard fighting techniques.

    The dwarves of the Flanaess have always been on the cutting edge of technological innovation. They were the first to use iron, then steel. Though clockworks were invented by humans, the dwarves have been quicker to adopt the technology to their society. Regulating their underground society by clocks has proven much less messy than the old custom of breeding shrieking fungi that go off at certain times of the day. They are already finding limited applications for steam as a power source, and have changed from burning wood to burning coal.

    When the Suel and Oerdians first pushed into the Flanaess, they found the dwarves already well-established in what are today known as the Iron Hills, the Rakers, the Lortmils, the Crystalmist Mountains, the Glorioles, the Abbor-Alz, and the Cairn Hills, in roughly that order of importance.

    The Hegoldem-Dwur, or southern hill dwarves, are the most influential in the Flanaess. This is mostly due to their holding of the Principality of Ulek. Humans have long claimed that a human king bequeathed this land to the dwarves, but the dwarves claim older rights, bequeathed by the dwarven King of Ghem in the far west. The Principality is famous for its gemstones, but more greatly prizes its mithril mines. Along with the independent cities of the Wild Coast, the dwarves of Ulek recently drove back the orcish hordes of the Pomarj. In the Little Hills of the Yeomanry, the dwarves have a strong presence and control that kingdom's silver mines. The dwarves of the Abor-Alz are believed to control a great wealth from gold, silver, and gemstone mines, but they are the most reclusive of the southern hill dwarves and hoard much of what they have. The dwarves of the Iron Hills have dwindled in significance, their strength sapped by years of resisting the Great Kingdom as the lynchpin of the Iron League. They control the gem mining in the Headlands of Onnwal, and the gold mining of the Hollow and Hestmark Highlands that circle the County of Sunndi. They are hard pressed by the South Province of the Great Kingdom, but maintain good trade with Ulek and human kingdoms along the Azure Sea. The Hegolden-Dwur tend to have dark brown skin, black or grey hair, and average a little over four feet in height.

    The Toherntik-Dwur are the isolated mountain dwarves. These dwarves live as if under a state of siege, forgoing contact with most other races. The mountain dwarves of the Barrier Peaks truly are besieged by monsters, while the dwarves of the Glorioles have chosen to shut themselves off from the oppressive Great Kingdom rather than seek other allies as the hill dwarves in that region have done. This mentality of being "dead to the world" makes the dwarves both fatalistic and forlorn. The dwarves of the Crystalmist also consider themselves Toherntik, but they are not so cutoff from the outside world. The Crystalmist dwarves have maintained good trade with Sterich. The Toherntik-Dwur tend to have deeply-tanned skin, brown or grey hair, and average four and a half feet in height.

    The Turmistik-Dwur are the mountain dwarves of the northeastern ranges. They are the most militant of the dwarves. Perhaps someday they will end up like the Toherntik-Dwur, for these dwarves are equally besieged by monsterkind. However, the Turnistik-Dwur of the Rakers, the Griff, and the Corusk Mountains have never been isolated from each other, and draw on enormous strength from their numbers. They are known throughout the Flanaess as powerful fighters and dragonslayers. The Turmistik-Dwur tend to have lightly-tanned skin, brown hair, and average four and a half feet in height.

    Most other hill dwarves are called the Mentherim-Dwur, or 'half-human" dwarves. These dwarves have adapted most closely to human civilization, living in or near human cities. Though proud of their culture, they are considered exiles from pure dwarven society for they reject the caste system. They are flexible enough that they can ignore dwarven customs that would prove inconvenient when trading with other races. The Mentherim are disliked but not hated by their brethren, for all but the most stubborn of dwarves can see their value as "middle men." The Mentherim-Dwur tend to have dirt-brown skin; brown, black, or grey hair; and average four feet in height.
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    Re: Dwarves of the Flanaess (Score: 1)
    by Argon on Tue, November 18, 2003
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    Even though your article strays slightly from my view on dwarves. I enjoyed your collective spin on this race. Keep up the good work.

    Re: Dwarves of the Flanaess (Score: 1)
    by TwiceBorn on Sat, November 22, 2003
    (User Info | Send a Message)
    Hi Scott! I really enjoyed your article, which arguably may be one of the best about demi-human cultures to be found on this site (and one of my favourites on any topic, period!). Information about the dwarves of the Flanaess has been conspicuously absent from most "canon" sources. I like the way you tied beliefs and social classes to the essence of the dwarves themselves -- mining and metals. Your idea makes alot of sense! Likewise, the social stratification system is also consistent with the lawful tendencies of most dwarves... nice touch! I'm happy to add that your article was a timely one... I've just started to DM a new campaign (2nd ed. Players Option, set in CY 576... first time my friends and I have played a RPG in about 10 years!), and I immediately printed off your article and handed it to the "dwarf player." The other reason I liked your article is because it can be used with any edition of D&D/AD&D. Thanks for a high quality contribution to Canonfire... Is there any chance that you will contribute a detailed dwarven stronghold (ideally from the Stark Mounds!) at some point in the future (I simply don't have time to put one together!)? Keep up the good work!

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