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From left: A dwarf merchant, warrior, miner.

Yeah, like a short human... pretty much... Or a tall hobbit.

The Khazad

While most races use the word “Dwarf,” to refer to dwarves, it is not the name they use among themselves. In their native tongue, Khuzdul, the dwarves refer to themselves as Khazad, or “those of the stone.” The name “Dwarf” actually comes from the elves. It is, as expected, a reference the dwarves’ stature, which the elves consider short. The name has since been taken up by other races, including those shorter than the dwarves, as a common moniker. While it is not what they call themselves, most dwarves care little for what other races do, and so they rarely bother to correct them. In fact, it is not uncommon for dwarves who interact with other races to use the term “Dwarf” for themselves when speaking those other races languages.


Most dwarves have two names. The first is a given name which their parents bestow upon them at the time of their birth. They carry this name throughout their whole life. The second name, is the name of their clan. For the most part dwarves are referred to by their first name only. It is only in the most formal of settings, such as rights of passage, legal affairs, and similar situations that both names are used. Dwarves never call each other by their clan name alone, they always use either their first name or both names.


Khuzdul is the language of the dwarves. It is a harsh sounding, guttural language that outsiders often claimed sounds like grunting. Dwarves generally only speak Khuzdul when they are with other dwarves, and rarely allow outsiders to learn the language.

Khuzdul is written in runes. These runes are ancient, dating back to the earliest days of the dwarves. The dwarves used these runes for everyday writing, but they also use them to place enchantments on everything from their weapons to their stronghold gates. Such enchantments are one of the only ways dwarves can access magic. Many of these enchantments require you to be able to read the runes in order to access their magic. Because of this, dwarves carefully guard the knowledge of how to read their runes, and almost never teach outsiders to do so.


Dwarves, as the name implies, tend to be short and rather stocky. They have tough skin, and thick, strong bones, which make them rather difficult to injure. This is often believed to be a remnant of the period in their past when they were made of stone. They are also rather resistant to most forms of poison and many diseases, and are less affected by heat and cold than many races.

Dwarves do not reproducer like many other races. While dwarves do have genitals and can have sex in conventional ways, they do not produce children that way. When dwarven parents want to make a baby, they start by crafting one out of stone. The kind of stone can vary, and there are many old wives tales about what stone is best to use, and how your choice can effect your Childs future. When the carving is complete, the parents take it to the midwives guild where they preform an ancient and very secret ritual to awaken the child. This turns the stone into flesh, and creates a "newborn" dwarf infant. From here, dwarves age an grow like any other race. Dwarves do age more slowly then many races, taking about fifty years to reach physical maturity, and often living to be four to five hundred years old if injury or disease doesn’t take them.


It is a common misconception among other races that all dwarves are male. This is not the case. This misconception largely comes from the fact that all dwarves, regardless of sex or gender, can and often do grow a beard. This does not mean that all dwarves have beards. Like any race they may choose to style their facial hair in any manner they like, and while most dwarves prefer to have some amount of hair on their face, a small few do shave for either personal or practical reasons. Those who do choose to grow a beard take great pride in them, and take great pains to keep them well maintained even in the most difficult circumstances.

Tattoos of Metal

When a dwarf comes of age, it is customary for them to get a series of tattoos on their face, known as Valung Ingdras (veins of steel). The exact design is up to the individual, and is usually a representation of their personality, identity, family, or goals in life. Because of this, no two dwarves have the same tattoos.

Dwarven skin is rather thick, and very tough. Too tough in fact, for ink to be placed under it easily. Because of this, Dwarves don’t make tattoos the way most races do. Instead of placing ink under the skin, they instead carve the symbols they want into the skin, and then poor liquid metal into the cuts. Once the metal cools and the skin heals this forms a metallic pattern in their skin that can last a lifetime. The most common metal for this is silver, however other metals such as bronze or gold can also be used. As with most dwarven aesthetics, these tattoos are made up of geometric shapes with hard lines and angles. Curved lines or flowing, organic patterns are extremely rare.

The Paragons

A Paragon is a dwarf who, during their life, created a great work, something so important that it was decided that they deserved to be recognized through all time for it. This could be anything from forging a legendary sword, to building walls that held back an orcish horde, to discovering how to make a particularly flavorful kind of mead. It is the goal of every dwarf to achieve such status, and thus it is expected that every dwarf will choose and attempt to perfect a certain craft during their life. Few Dwarves actually achieve the status of paragon, but those who do are immortalized by their clans and strongholds. Most Strongholds have a hall of Paragons near its center, where they display statues of their greatest members throughout their history.

During their lives, Paragons are treated as heroes by their clan and stronghold. However, once they die they take on another role all together. While dwarves acknowledge the existence of many gods, and are free to follow any that they choose, most do not. Instead, most dwarves direct their worship toward the long dead paragons of their clan or stronghold. When a dwarf requires guidance, aid, or inspiration, they will often turn to one paragon or another. For example, a dwarf struggling to properly articulate a suit of armor may pray to or leave an offering at the statue of a paragon known for being a great armor smith, or a dwarf looking to write an epic poem to commemorate a great battle might seek guidance from a paragon known for being a great lore master.

There is no full account of all the paragons that have been named. For the most part, each Stronghold will have their own set of great Paragons unique to them. However, there are some few Dwarves who are so great they are considered "universal" Paragons, acknowledged by every Stronghold. These dwarves are mostly heroes of legend or founders of great Strongholds and Clans.

The Stronghold

The Stronghold is the basic unit of dwarven society. A stronghold his usually a hollowed-out mountain that contains a dwarven city, mines, and various crafting areas within it, though a well-fortified valley or deep cave can also do. Most strongholds have only one or two entrances, and these entrances are well guarded by thick walls, sturdy gates, and various runic spells. Outsiders are rarely allowed inside dwarven strongholds and when they are, they are closely watched. Most Dwarves live their entire lives within their stronghold, and look poorly on any who chose to leave for any reason.


The clan is the basic unit of dwarven family. Each dwarf is born into two clans, one for each parent, however when they reach fifty years of age, and are legally an adult, they must choose which clan to join as an adult member. While this is largely a personal choice, it is one that most dwarves take seriously. Once a dwarf chooses a clan, they stay part of it throughout their life.

The Castes

Interior of a dwarven merchant shop.

Before everything else, dwarves are craftspeople, and as such, their society is based around great crafting guilds known as Castes. Each dwarf is a member of one caste, which they chose when they reach their one hundredth birthday. This caste represents their job, their work, their life. Once chosen, a caste cannot be changed without great effort and much scorn, for abandoning your caste means admitting you are bad at the job you chose to do. The choice of a caste is thus a very important decision, and most dwarves will spend the fifty years between when they become adults and their hundredth birthday trying out different tasks to see which suits them best.

There are seven castes in dwarven society, which group the main tasks that each stronghold needs to survive. The Castes are all considered equal, as each one is equally important to the survival of the stronghold as a whole. Most Castes do have an internal ranking system, though this is usually set up based on the skill of the individual, not the task they perform. The castes, and their descriptions, are as follows:

• The Smithing Caste (Durum Ingdras “those who shape steel”): This caste contains all professions that work raw metal into finished products. Dwarves in this caste may make anything from simple tools like nails and hammers, to intricate suits of armor and finely crafted swords, to delicate silver necklaces and gem encrusted rings.

• The Mason Caste (Durum Khuzdalin “those who shape stone”): This caste contains all the professions that turn raw stone into finished masonry. Dwarves of this caste may make anything from simple bricks to build homes, to grand statues of paragons, to the very walls that defend a stronghold from attack. This caste also contains the midwives guild, which helps dwarven couples awaken their stone children.

Dwarves at work.

• The Mining Caste (Baldgrum Klundra “those who dig mines”): This caste is the caste responsible for collecting the raw stone and ore that the first two castes use in their craft. It is the mining caste that is responsible for digging deep into the earth to find great riches and sturdy stone that the dwarves are so well known for. The mining caste is often the largest caste in most strongholds.

• The Scribe Caste (Kaldrum Tolingdran “those who keep lore”): This caste contains all the professions that work with words or runes instead of physical material. Members of this caste are responsible for keeping track of the lore, history, and laws of each stronghold. They are also the only caste who knows the secrets to inscribing magical runes into steel and stone. This caste also contains most forms of entertainers, such as singers, musicians, and dancers.

• The Provisioner Caste (Gretrum Darturun “those who brew beer”): This caste contains all the professions involved in creating and preparing food and drink. The members of this caste are primarily responsible for growing, preparing, and cooking the food for the rest of the stronghold. It is also here that you find brewers, some of the most respected craftspeople of dwarven society.

• The Weaver Caste (Durum Caltorgat “those who shape cloth”): This caste contains all the professions responsible for creating cloth and turning it into useful goods. The members of this caste are responsible for producing, dyeing, and sewing everything from clothes to bed sheets to the billows of forges. They are also the caste responsible for tanning leather for boots, tools, and armor.

• The Woodcutter Caste (Durum Frenthar “those who shape trees”): This caste contains all the professions responsible for collecting wood and making it into crafts. This caste produces everything from chairs and tables, to the handles of hammers and axes, to shields, and even great siege weapons.

• The Casteless: While most dwarves are members of a caste, for one reason or another, a dwarf may choose not to join a caste when they reach their hundredth year. This is a rare decision, and one that is generally looked down upon by the dwarf’s clan. Such dwarves often leave their Strongholds to live among other races or dedicate themselves to defending their stronghold and work as guards.


Most Strongholds are self-governed. This government usually takes the form of a council of seven representatives, one from each caste. Each caste has their own method for electing their representative, and these methods can sometimes vary from stronghold to stronghold. This council is responsible for not only making the laws of each stronghold, but also for upholding them. They are not only the body that makes the law, but also act as the court system for each stronghold.


By their nature, dwarves are a peaceful race. They would much rather stay in their own mountain and practice their crafts than go off to war. However, when they do prepare for war, the Dwarves are a force to be reckoned with. When something threatens a stronghold, every able-bodied adult will rise up to defend it. While the dwarves have no dedicated warriors, every member of society is expected to be either proficient with one weapon, or have another skill that can be used against an attacking foe. It is fairly common for dwarves to use their craft in deciding how they will prepare for war. For example, an armor smith might train as heavy infantry, a scribe might study tactics, or a miner might become a sapper.

Dwarves and Magic

It is commonly believed among other races that dwarves lack magical abilities. This is not exactly true, however it is easy to see how that belief could have arisen. Most dwarves have no ability to use magic at all, and even those who have devoted centuries to its study struggle to work even the most simple of spells. It is unknown why this is. Most dwarves believe it is a holdover from their stone ancestors. That they are unable to cast magic, because, as creatures to born of the earth, they are less connected to it then creatures that have their origins in flesh. Whether this is true or not, it is well known that dwarves, in general, lack the ability to cast spells. And many of them are very distrustful of members of other races who can.

However, it is wrong to say that dwarves lack magic all together. While they cannot cast spells, they do have an extensive knowledge of how to work magic into the things that they craft. Among the highest ranks of each caste are skilled artificers who know the secrets of working magic into cloth, wood, stone, metal, ink, or even ale. Through enchanted runes, rituals, and the careful selection of only the best materials, these masters can bring out the best of the items they create, and weave powerful enchantments into their works the likes of which most races cannot equal. The secret to these techniques is a closely guarded secret. And only the most trustworthy and skilled of apprentices are allowed to study under these masters to learn these skills.

See also: Runesmith

Grudges and Grudgebearers

On the whole, dwarves are a fairly peaceful race. Given their pick, most would choose to be left alone to their work, and let the rest of the world deal with itself. However, when something greatly affects them, or greatly disrupts their work, dwarves do anger. And when their anger rises, it can be difficult, even impossible, to quell. Everyone has a breaking point, and while dwarves are on average harder to break then most, when they do, they break explosively.

A dwarf who has reached such a breaking point will often declare a grudge against the person or group that has risen their anger. A dwarf who declares a grudge is known as a grudgebearer, and will do everything in their power to make good on their grudge, no matter how long it takes. Most grudges are personal, but some can be held by clans, or even entire strongholds. Once a grudge has been declared, it can persist for centuries, if not millennia, with the children of the original grudgebearer taking up the mantle if their parent fails to complete it in their lifetime. This can often lead to persistent rivalries between individuals, clans, or strongholds. Grudges can also be declared against non-dwarves, and such grudges are part of why many shorter lived races see dwarves as grumpy and easy to anger. After all, a grudge that has lasted three dwarven generations, may have lasted ten or more on the human side. The exact nature of grudges varies. They can be anything from a rivalry between two craftspeople where each try to outdo the other, all the way up to centuries long wars between strongholds who have wronged each other in the past. Regardless of the size of the grudge, there is only one way that it can end, with the ruin of one or both parties. For the rival craftspeople that could mean the disgrace of one of them to the point where they could no longer work their craft. To the rival strongholds, that would likely mean the destruction of one or the other. Because they are so hard to end once started, declaring a grudge is a very big thing. It is not something one does in a fit of anger; it must be done in cool blood and with a clear head. Dwarves do not take grudges lightly.


As befitting of a race whose ancestors were once stone, Dwarves have stronger bones then most races. In particular, they have very hard skulls. Because of this, it is a common practice among dwarves to headbutt each other as a greeting. The force of the blow is largely dictated by how close the two are, with closer friends or family member hitting harder. In game, this can be represented by touching foreheads together. (IRL: PLEASE DO NOT ACTUALLY HEADBUTT PEOPLE. Your skull is not made of stone in real life.)

See also: Dwarf Lore

Known Dwarves:

Dwarf of Talinor

Dwarves, small but tough.
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