Age of Worms
- Dwarves are slaves to dwarven protocol. Because they believe that they are the “true” dwarves, those who are free of the oppression of Ironhall adhere to the “old ways” with incredible, single-minded zeal. In dwarven society there are rules for everything, and these rules are not to be bent or broken. The rules are not codified anywhere, but are passed on by society as a whole. No explanation is given, no reasoning required, these rules just ARE. “This is the way we have always done it.” This is why dwarves appear stubborn and almost brash in their decision making; the right course of action is already known by the Dwarf, why would any one question it? Dwarves don’t have long discussions about things because that is a waste of time, everyone knows what to do in a given situation. The fact that the other races do not have this huge base of knowledge to base their decision making from is such an ingrained trait of Free Dwarves that they have great trouble relating to other races in this regard.
- There are exceptions to the rule structure, however. Because they are a race of refugees (itself the greatest breach of tradition in dwarven history) Free Dwarves appreciate the need to deal with heartbreak, anguish, joy and great emotion. Thus it is that most of the exceptions to tradition amongst the Free Dwarves occur while drinking. If a Dwarf is drinking or drunk, or even simply in a tavern, these rules can be put aside and dwarves are allowed to speak and act freely. This is where the dwarves get their reputation as a rowdy, heavy drinking race.
- An example of Free Dwarf customs: when you approach a door, there are three options: if you approach a friend, knock and walk in. If a stranger, knock and wait a few moments before entering. If an enemy, knock the door down. All door openings fall within these three options, it’s just a matter of which option to follow. It doesn’t matter if its the royal chambers of a King, or the front door of an inn. It may look like impatience or like “barging in”, but it’s the way that dwarves think.
- Dwarves have a thoroughly literal sense of time which borders upon the sacrosanct. To them it is more fundamental and pervasive an element than water, air, fire, or earth, and is thus deserving of the highest reverence. All things can be divided into the physical elements, but only time pervades everything, always. While a dwarf will calmly wait years or even decades for an event to occur at an unknown time, they typically have no patience whatsoever for tardiness. If a time has been given and not honored, violation of that promise is a serious offense both to the waiting party and, in a sense, to time itself. Time is a gift, a currency which can only be misspent if it is not spent at all. To wait is a kind of reverent meditation, but to wait in vain is akin to sacrilege. This, coupled with the knowledge every dwarf has of the “right thing” to do is why most dwarves appear to rush headlong into decisions. In the dwarf’s mind, they have a very few choices of appropriate action, and once the decision has been made as to the correct action the action must be taken immediately. To know what to do and not move towards it borders on sacrilege. “The river of time is always flowing.”
- Though no explicitly religious philosophies follow from this sacred sense of time, the mystical respect for its passage engenders an affinity for time pieces. Even the most ascetic of dwarves will establish an unmarked sundial by which to follow time’s march, and those more acclimated to civilization may have collections of clocks and watches of all types.
- Rule breakers are corrected and persistent rule breakers are shunned. It is the responsibility of every Free Dwarf to work together to make sure that everyone follows the rules. This also applies to customs and traditions passed down from generation to generation. Especially among Free Dwarves living in racially dwarven communities, the peer pressure that can be brought to bear to influence the decisions and actions of community members is incredible. Each Free Dwarf knows that they are the keepers of the traditions, lore and customs of the dwarven people; it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the next generation knows what it means to be a true dwarf. “The nail that sticks up, gets hammered down.”
- Denied the ancient halls and tunnels of their lost home, dwarven communities are universally built from as much stone as the local environment can possible handle. Likewise, if the area can support underground living space, the engineering and ingenuity of the Free Dwarves make it so, echoing as best they can the splendor lost to the Iron Crown. Unlike the elven races, who live in lands that are constantly in flux with the seasons, stone does not change. It is fixed, and is a slate by which one reveals one’s effect. It does not have the personality like an elf might speak of a tree. To dwarves, stone is a canvas, waiting for an artist.
- The dwarven affinity for stone affects their culture immensely. When working with stone while mining, tunneling, or carving, dwarves quickly learn that there are no second chances. Barring divine intervention, a mistake in craftmanship is not easily correctable if it is correctable at all. This translates into a dwarf’s mentality; they plan and think carefully about any undertaking that can have lasting consequences, for just as the masterwork of stonecarving will last forever, mistakes are a part of your history forever as well. Likewise, forgiveness is a treasured bond among dwarves, and not one they will accept easily. Just as each dwarf is responsible for keeping the traditions and history of Old Ironhall alive, the triumphs and mistakes of the past weigh heavy on all Free Dwarves. The stereotypical dwarven dourness stems from each failure they measure, for each failure is a permanent fixture in their history, as much as a fault is in the bedrock – once made, it cannot be unmade, and it’s effects are their for all to see.
- This attitude also surfaces in how dwarves form their bonds of family. In working with stone and metal, dwarves are known as tireless forgers of crafts of superior quality. It cannot be helped that upon raising their own, they take to the task much like a blacksmith forging an artful axe. Their mates are selected for their best qualities, as the raw materials one would use. Time is of the utmost importance, as true art in the realm of stone and iron blossoms slowly, for the right mixtures to settle. Their children and friends are reflections of these labors of love.
- Each act and maneuver is planned ahead of time. This may seem contradictory to the seemingly brash nature of the dwarves, but it is not. Once the action is chosen, planning the best way to accomplish it honors Ghorn by ensuring success. In many cases while it is true that Dwarves are slaves to tradition, this is not for a love of tradition itself, but instead for a known pattern of actions and lessons. Creative-minded dwarves may stave off old methods of doing things, but their own eccentric methods are still no more impulsive or sudden. It only seems that way to outsiders who do not understand the dwarven character. Artists, inventors, preachers, heretics, and schemers all take great diligence in their actions, and no idea regardless of how new and controversial has not be been considered, reconsidered, tested, leveled, measured, checked, and referenced many times before being instituted. In political maneuverings especially, dwarves are notorious for thinking far ahead of their adversaries, and that foresight and cunning wedded with ingenuity is a frightening weapon. Dwarves may choose an action quickly, but carrying out that action is always done with planning and forethought in order to accomplish the perfection that all dwarves seek.
- Once a dwarf has determined that his course of action is righteous, it is almost impossible to dissuade him. Because he knows of the traditions and lessons of the past, once his mind is made up from the choices in front of him, he does not waver. To members of other races, this seems like either unbreakable courage or mindless obstinacy (usually depending on whether they agree with the dwarf or not). But to a dwarf, there is simply no other choice. To be a dwarf is to be right. Always. Changing your mind means admitting that you were previously, in a profound sense, on the side of evil (even if only in a small way or for a short time) and there can be no excuse for that to a dwarf. Running away from a battle, even if the fight is obviously hopeless, is not just cowardly. It’s an admission that your cause might not have been just, which is as bad as if you’d been fighting on the other side (because if your side is in the wrong, the enemy must be in the right, by definition). Retreat is treason under dwarven law. This is not to say, however, that a dwarf will not tactically withdraw from a fight. Dwarves are some of the most canny and cunning fighters ever created by the gods after all. What the dwarven mindset towards retreat means is that if you ever see a dwarf disengage from a fight you had better plan on fighting him again, because even as he disappears from your sight, he is planning how to come back and finish you off. And he will probably be bringing his family with him. Tales abound of a dwarf bested in combat (especially by trickery or deceit) who disengages from the unfair contest and spends a decade planning the utterly flawless battle plan that annihilates the foe in the end.
- Dwarves are both most loyal and steadfast allies imaginable and some of the most terrifying foes possible. Members of other races are often horrified by the extreme hatred shown by dwarves towards their enemies. To a dwarf, the world is divided into friends and enemies, and a dwarf’s enemies are, in his eyes, uniformly evil and deserving of no pity or respite. A dwarf might be friendly, good-humoured and generous of spirit to his companions, but that same dwarf is utterly ruthless to those he sees as enemies. Dwarves don’t spare non-combatants or even the children of those they consider enemies, and any prisoners they take are brutally interrogated before being executed. Dwarves are not actually sadistic, in that they don’t gain any pleasure from slaughtering their foes. They merely view wholesale extermination as the only possible way to deal with enemies.