Thursday, September 29, 2011

How I See Dwarves....

In a fantasy world, Dwarves and Elves are seen as staples, and I think that's as it should be.  Without common factors between different worlds, there would be no points to orient yourself on, and it would be easy to lose sight of what's really different and what scenery has been shifted...

Subtle variations on these common factors highlight the differences.  Exactly how magic works, if you've reskinned it, may be a key make-or-break point of your game, world or setting, as does putting your own interpretation on a standard race.

Of course, having no real elves or dwarves makes it necessary, as there are no (well, actually hundreds) of external references that one could use, and some of them don't really work.  Seriously.  One of my childhood playing friends, upon reaching University, would only play in games where he could use his Dark Sun elf.  Apparently it didn't work in all settings...  So some prompts for players (and GMs) to refer to, to keep the third wall of believability intact, is most definitely needed.

MY concept of dwarves comes from selective reading of some of the classics - LOTR, Dragonlance (gully dwarves, anyone?), D&D, AD&D, Dragon Magazine, Rolemaster & MERP, but mostly from a year or so playing Dwarf Fortress.  Also tried reading The Dwarves, but it didn't work for me...

Real Dwarves:

"You know what I found most offensive about that damn smelly dwarf fellow?" asked Jonash the Foolish of The Witch of Hildast Hill, while trying to enjoy an ale at the Manky Duck Tavern...

"What of Urist?" murmured the Sorceress, staring at the blank tavern wall, ignoring the foaming drink in front of her.

"That damn sense of humour he didn't have.  Like when Gorosh stumbled into that falling axe trap and was split in half.  He almost rolled off the cliff laughing.  And those disgusting dwarven stories.  His favourite one was of his brother getting both arms cut off and still managing to kill a troll with an axe in his $%^* MOUTH!!!"

"I'll miss having a solid warrior with a sharp axe, but being certain everyone can keep dinner down at night is a good swap" Kerama the Swift spoke firmly, while poking the cheese wheel.  He was certain it was poking back at him...

Dwarves are biased, racist, offensive and smelly, and don't like any non-dwarves.  Because if this, they have no real worries if they don't like him or her.  This may affect their relationships with other races, if they cared about it, but they don't.

To a dwarf, family, clan and holding are all important.  A dwarven baby is relatively uncommon, but not rare, and there will always be a dozen or so babies in a fortress of a thousand dwarves.  The baby is carried around with it's mother for the most part, being lodged with a trusted female relative or friend if something very dangerous is going to be attempted - fighting monsters, greeting trading humans, breaching the aquifer...
The baby grows into a child in full certainty of its place and position within its underground home, and the home is all that is needed.  It will have memorised stories of its ancestors, and will be able to list them 20 generations or more back, along with stories of their deeds and misdeeds, and the history of the Fortress. 

As they grow they gravitate to the workings of the Fortress that interest them the most - from the farmers and herders to the jewellers and metalsmiths - and generally, unless the need of the Fortress is for something else, apprentice with a master of that craft and begin to learn the industry of the Dwarves.

Dwarven industry is famous for its weapons and armour, and also its cunning and masterful stone, wood and bone crafts, and their masterwork pewter goods.  But to keep the fortress running smoothly, farmers, butchers, weavers, brewers, tanners, smelters and miners are all needed, to name but a few.  None of these crafts, except perhaps cheesemaking, is looked down upon, and even the skill-less haulers of the larger Fortresses are proud of the loads they can bear.

This means your average Fortress dwarf knows where they are, what they do and where they fit in.  Their world is small but fits perfectly, and all they have to worry about is how far to the booze pile.

Now, and I'm sure you've worked this out, your PCs are NEVER going to meet one of these well adjusted, useful, content dwarves, unless they speak fluent Dwarvish and can sneak undetected into a heavily guarded and trapped Fortress to mingle with insular and boring locals. No...

Imagine how well a nice little dwarf, designed for life as a cog in a big fortress, manages to adapt to life outside.  In the rain.  In the cold.  In the sunlight. With all these stupid non-dwarves.

If you said 'Badly", you'd be right. 

The dwarves that meet with and travel with the PCs are maladapted, insane, broken beings.  They may hum all night to sleep. They may require rum, or beer, or brandy, at all hours.  They might make totems from their enemies skulls, but not real, nice, completed totems using all the required tools.  Strange, rotting, staring totems that really worry others...  They have no place, no family, no bigger reason to live.

More in a later post, when hopefully I get into a few examples of adventuring dwarves, and all their strange, twisted ways...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Google + is EVIL

So, signed in as usual to make a post, and GOOGLE PLUS wouldn't let me into this blog. So had to DELETE it and tell google why. Shameful

Shame on you Google, and shame on Facebook as well for changing something that was useful to something that is not.

Why do internet companies treat us like brain damaged monkeys???

Anyway, a REAL RP post sometime soon, as we had a Dress Like a Pirate evening for work, to relieve the stress of yet another restructuring, and there are thoughts, ideas and stories coming...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kunili Part 3

Well, work is a bitch and I've got a month worth of meetings to finish off something of great importance, while we're being reorganised again...

So this will be a dump of what I scribbled about the rather staid City of Kunili, although there is intrigue, seduction and danger lurking beneath the surface, if you scratch the wrong (or right) place, and having a as-yet unwritten Megadungeon close must add to the frisson...

Kunili Rumours and Legends

1. On a full moon, the menhirs can send fated dreams to sleeping citizens, that give glimpses into both the past and future
2. Rumours abound of craftsmen helped by the fey, although these arrangements going wrong eventually seems certain, at least, according to the rumours.
3. Some residents are suspected of being constructs, made (and controlled?) by Sonistos.
4. Guildmaster Shadin is said to talk to his collection of stuffed monster heads, and sometimes they answer him.
5. There are said to be secret tunnels underlying the city, although the only offers to show one the rumoured entrance will be made to young women by shady rogues in dark taverns...
6. The barge that sank just downriver is said to have been carrying three casks of Sendish Firewine, from the famous vintage of 911, but a lobster of unusual size has occupied the wreck.
7. For a true fate reading, take a silver coin and a gem to the last house on Dock Row, the one that looks like it is abandoned.  Cut yourself, bleed onto the coin, and give these to the pale hand that will appear from the mists.  Enter the house, and in the darkness, one that is neither human nor fey, alive nor dead, will give you one true answer. Beware, however, as answers are as dangerous as blades here.
8. Cursed goods can be bought or sold on the black market in the City, although there are a hundred opinions on how to contact it, none of them correct.
9. Mounted Griffin Riders have been seen to the South, over the unknown and unexplored Rewaquot Forests, but not close enough to see any signs or heraldry.
10. Lord Brightwater has placed another bounty on the Blanco Bandits, although it has been at least 6 months since they last molested shipping, and their woodland hideout appeared empty to the rangers that passed it last new moon.
11. The Steel Whistle is a solid tavern, with good natured drinking and gambling kept within bounds by Slow Piotr the barkeep.  He does tend to get rather short-tempered and a little hairy during the full moon, though.
12. All the prisoners have been taken from the dungeon and are being used as labour to dig irrigation ditches to the east of the City.  Rumoured to be for either cotton or fruit trees, sponsored by the respective guilds.