Sunday, March 14, 2010

Devil's in the Details: Dwarfs

Yes Dwarfs! Unlike halflings, dwarfs have proliferated in a wide variety of different media and mutated into something resembling drunken Scotsmen with ridiculously short legs played for comic relief. I've decided to go for a different tack that honours some elements of their maggots-in-the-body-of-the-world-giant mythological origins at the same time as mixing in some dung-age mediaeval grittiness. A little bit of itinerant Ashkenazim, a little bit of circus carney and a little bit of character from a Tom Waits song is how my Dwarfs are going to be.

Many Dwarfs (d20 Thrice)

1. Go about turbanned and veiled, refusing to reveal their face to anyone not of dwarfish descent.
2. Have harsh, gravelly voices.
3. Are (1d2) 1. as tall as humans, but tend to stoop 2. As short as halflings, with outsized heads, hands and feet.
4. Have eyes that (1d2) 1. glow like coals when they are angry 2. Are dead white.
5. Mistrust everyone to the extent that they require blood-oaths, pacts and documentation to ensure fidelity before embarking on any mutual endeavour.
6. Have deeply poetic souls.
7. Are feared and distrusted by animals as if there was something unnatural about them.
8. Become obsessed with a single topic such that they are prone to talking about it whether others are interested or not.
9. Go into decline when thwarted, muttering and rocking and dealing out savage beatings.
10. Have thin scraggly beards (if male) or thinning hair (if female).
11. Have gnarled, bony fists.
12. Act like sly street-hustlers.
13. Dress in the colourful garb of an itinerant street performer.
14. Bury hoards of gold an secret caches and never dig them up.
15. Are zealous ancestor-worshippers and must spend one day a week muttering prayers over old bones.
16. Are very gaunt, all bone and sinew.
17. Have the brand of a thief burnt into their face.
18. Never laugh or smile, leer strangely or snort instead.
19. Smell of (1d4) 1. Brimstone 2. Iron 3. Fresh Earth 4. Wet Dog.
20. Are albino.

Some Dwarfs (d16, 1d3 times)

1. Consider themselves to be a kind of elf.
2. Speak the language of the hills, enabling them to predict the weather with 70% accuracy.
3. Have strange taloned feet, which they go to great lengths to conceal.
4. Use a crutch, even if they don't need to.
5. Are terrified of fish, won't eat it, and will not ever go in the water when there are likely to be fish around.
6. Are able to, once per day, hone a weapon to sufficient sharpness that it will do +1 damage in one encounter.
7. Consider themselves related to wrens, beavers and newts and will fight to protect them as for close family members
8. Have secret names, knowing a dwarf's secret name allows one to force them to reveal the whereabouts of their gold.
9. Practice usury and are banned from other professions.
10. Seek to replace as many teeth as possible with gold ones.
11. Have an ancient warcry which they shout before battle.
12. Practice sky burial with their own people.
13. Smoke thick black cigarillos.
14. Speak with thick slavic accents.
15. Harbour body vermin, causing them to scratch incessantly.
16. Have a persecution complex.

Common Travelling Gear (d16 thrice)

1. Blunderbuss.
2. Bundle of goods for market (d6) 1. furs 2. pots and pans 3. documents revealing shady dealings of local notaries 4. stolen silverware 5. high-grade steel ingots 6.
3. Hefty tome chronicling the woes of the dwarfish people.
4. Accounts book, ledger, writing paraphernalia.
5. Phylactery containing ancestral bone relic.
6. Musical Instrument (1d4) 1. tin whistle 2. tabor 3. cittern 4. serpent
7. Phrygian cap.
8. Hazel dowsing rod.
9. Journeyman's tool Kit for (1d4) 1. masonry 2. carpentry 3. leather-working 4. Blacksmithing.
10. Vial of deadly poison (aconite).
11. Shapeless dun-coloured smock.
12. Falchion and Buckler.
13. Kettle Hat .
14. Collection of self-penned love-poems.
15. Thick, knotty shortbow
16. Pouch of uncut gems.

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