Dwarves, from the Gazetteer of the Speaking Lands

I missed a week (or two), but this week’s entry is Dwarves!  These cantankerous crafters and traders are a mainstay of fantasy settings, and I like to think I gave them a whole bunch of worldbuilding (read: systemic trauma) that explains why they are the way they are so often portrayed.

Check em out!


Short, stocky, and bearded, dwarves are an insular people of crafters and traders. Dwarven culture is fiercely territorial; outsiders are rarely allowed into their private domestic spaces.

While dwarves are strongly associated with the Kharzan mountain range and its underground kingdom, they can be found throughout Outland and the Toriel Highlands, as well. It is uncertain which of these is the original dwarven homeland, as the oldest histories of each include mention of dwarves. Even the Gennishar Archive is uncertain as to where the dwarven people first arose. Most dwarven communities are subterranean, but a few cities such as Xansillispe and Caer Larionad host bustling above-ground dwarven quarters.

Dwarves leave home to trade, to search for materials only found above ground, to seek out knowledge, and occasionally to war. While above ground, dwarves tend to pursue their goals fervently, eager to return home. Most other peoples encounter dwarves in these contexts, and therefore have a somewhat limited view of dwarven nature. Stories abound of dwarves riding up on perfect rotaller steeds, making a host of demands, and leaving a wake of savagely-bargained coin in their wake.

Dwarven communities value strict discipline and deference to authority; elders and especially craftmastersare held in high esteem as repositories of wisdom and technical knowledge. That said, dwarven politics tend towards scheming, conspiracies, and sabotage. Whoever is in charge enjoys tremendous public deference while simultaneously defending against constant subterfuges against their authority. Among the dwarves, leadership roles change hands often, and rarely amicably.

The home is often seen as the only respite from dwarven politics, a haven maintained by a loving spouse and dutiful children. Dwarven marriages are almost always monogamous; both divorce and remarriage are nearly unheard of. One half of the marriage interacts with the outside world through craft, trade, and politics while the other sees to the home. Outside of Kharzan, these roles are largely determined by gender, with men in public life and women at home. Under the mountain, marriage roles are increasingly determined by individual preferences rather than gender.

Dwarven culture is insular—domestic spouses and their children literally never see non-dwarves in their daily lives—which often metastasizes into outright xenophobia. Dwarven culture organizes the world into a strict racial hierarchy: there are noble and reliable dwarves, hapless and gullibe gorben (outsiders of nearly any of the speaking peoples), and villainous sylvans (mostly elves but occasionally other historical Lorathan allies, as well). The legendary enmity between dwarves and elves originated in wars between Kharzan and Loratha, but it has spread to dwarven communities that were never involved in those conflicts. It is a rare dwarf who does not hold elves in disdain as everything a dwarf is not: delicate, hidebound, and obsessed with preserving nature rather than building something of use. The only thing worse than elves are humsken, or half-dwarves, who are routinely killed by exposure as infants.

Most dwarves worship the Great Maker, a distant creator deity, and his pantheon of saints. Each saint has a history and a provenance over which they are responsible, and prayers to the appropriate saint beseech them for guidance, wisdom, or divine assistance. The priesthood of the Great Maker primarily teach the many stories of the saints, in addition to performing marriage and funeral rites. The body is never present at dwarven funerals; after death it is considered nothing more than meat and is dropped into the fungal pits to feed future generations.

We’ve only got three entries referenced by this week’s entry to pick from for next week’s entry.  Shall it be the other fantasy mainstay, elves?  Or Loratha, the homeland of said elves?  Or those icky humans?  Tell me what tickles your interest!

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