Deep in the subterranean city of Ulng, armies of dwarves clash against hordes of aberrant monstrosities. Axes swinging, shields ringing with every strike, the Hai hold back the corruption.
High in the mountains of Arkend stands a citadel, a domed city of stone; placid against the blue sky, as smoke billows from its central opening. Hammers ring on anvils night and day, and can be heard from miles away.
On the riverbanks of the deserts of Wiresh, or the jade palaces of Xiangur, here too, are the dwarves. They long ago sojourned across the globe in their magical arks of stone, travelling as far as men and halflings, and are found anywhere these races make their homes.
From the mines of Ulng in Kharkon, bathed in powerful Terran energies, where multicolored gemstones grow from the walls, to the vimanas of Hajir, or the grand pyramids in the great marshes of Wiresh, the dwarves are found everywhere.
The Hai see themselves as guardians of civilization, and see their wealth as a birthright. Who can argue with them, as it was they who restored the world's civilizations at the beginning of this Age. Why they did this when they could have set themselves up as masters of the world instead, no one knows. The Dwarves alone, except perhaps for Hrum Vaat, were able to retain their culture across Ages. This is because of their vaults of gragel, an impossibly hard mineral that resists the effects of the Fugue. These vaults are an open secret, but it is believed that they only exist in Kharkon, where there is enough gragel to create them. The Dwarves did suffer the Fugue, but they were able to store records and magical items that allowed them to recover their history, and select parts of the histories of the other empires. Though they retain the stories of their origin and an admittedly biased world history, even they don't know how many Ages there have been.
In a long-lost Age, the dwarves were created by the Mother spirit (who they call "Old Grandmother") of Thraxis to fight an incursion of Fey brought on by the Empress. They fought the Fey back to the island empire of Ynnidon, and themselves mostly retreated to Kharkon, to make room for the Mother's other creations. At some point they lost the Mother's favor, or perhaps she lost theirs, and they began to worship her sons and daughters in the form of the Gejjurik Pantheon.
On Thraxis, evil goblinoids are rare, so in their place the dwarves fight against giants and Fey. The only fey that they accept among their kind are gnomes, and only grudgingly. Individual dwarves may put their hatred aside and befriend a giant or fey creature, but on the whole, these attitudes hold.
Clay Dwarf (Kanin)
The Clay Dwarves abandoned their people in their time of need. When it seemed like Ynnidon would overrun Kharkon, the Clay Dwarves overcame their ingrained fear of water and built massive Arks capable of bearing them to any land in the world. When the ships were complete, various clans set out in different directions in what has been called the first Dwarven Diaspora. With this action, they sealed their fate as Oathbreakers, and Kharkon has never forgotten their treachery, even after the passage of many Ages. They are no longer called "Hai" by their own kind, and are instead called Kanin; or "Clay". Clay Dwarves are seen as untrustworthy, honorless, and deceptive by other dwarves, though members of other races don't often recognize these traits in them.
Now, they live everywhere in the world, among other races, adopting many of their host empire's cultural mores, such as clothing and diet, while retaining their natural dwarven attitudes, such as a love for crafting and treasure. Unlike other dwarves, they are just as likely to worship their host empire's gods as their ancestral dwarven deities. There is a growing faction among the Clay Dwarves across the world (called The Ingress) which seeks to return to Kharkon, whether the other dwarves would accept them or not. Some among them are even willing to overthrow the rulers of that land and take it back by force. Clay Dwarves receive the benefits outlined under "Hill Dwarf" in the PHB, and are able to take any Nexus paths that are not restricted by race.
Axiomatic or Terran and the choice of any other one. This choice determines your Nexus Paths.
Kanin resemble and are mechanically identical to the Hill Dwarves in the PHB.
Any two from the Signatures that you promote.
Flayed Dwarf (Garhai)
Garhai are honorable but violent. In a fight, they show no mercy, unless their foe is obviously weaker than them. Flayed Dwarves promote the Fierce Signature. Some among them are able to alter their blood by imbibing toxic fungi and subterranean plants that allow them to injure anything that makes them bleed or enter altered states of consciousness in battle that differ from a barbarian's rage.
Flayed Dwarves are known as fine craftsmen of weapons and armor. Their artificers can also create magical gemstone tattoos (serving as wondrous items), which they rarely give to outsiders. They prefer to leave mining to the Stonecutters, and prefer to lead by example in military excursions. They fear nothing, but prefer to strategize before wading blindly into battle, unlike the Storm Dwarves. Their role in Kharkon is to serve as military leaders, or at least within well-regimented troops of specialists.
For work, along with military wages from the Empire, they tend to craft fine magical weapons and armor, or sell potions and poisons with strange properties. Flayed Dwarves are mostly found in Kharkon, but occasionally may be found in other parts of the world.
From a young age, flayed dwarves are allowed to show no weakness, and their rites of passage involve a weeks-long “tempering,” in which the dwarven youth goes into isolation, carving his body with runes and deep mystical furrows, subsisting on whole grain and water. A hallucinogenic fungus called “thukarukh” or “breaker of the spine of thought” is consumed and applied to the wounds, ensuring gruesome scarification and producing hellish waking nightmares. A pinch of precious gem dust is then applied to the open wounds, creating a sparkling tattoo when healed. This latter part of the ritual follows many Garhai for the rest of their lives, with new tattoos being built upon any fresh wounds that resemble significant dwarven runes or symbols. The saga of a flayed dwarf’s greatest battles can often be read upon his hide. In their declining years, many a flayed dwarf finally breaks, as the psychic walls they have built up over the centuries crumble. They become the objects of pity or scorn, as the younger dwarves struggle with respect for their elders and disdain for the weakness they show. In extreme cases a disruptive elder may be banished or leave by his or her own free will, seeking one last adventure or a measure of peace.
The Garhai are grim, but there is depth to their personae. Beneath the stoic exterior lies a maelstrom of emotion. The flayed ones can sometimes find themselves feeling natural emotions such as compassion, love, or even fear, and wondering if they are they are the only ones of their kind to feel this way. Such feelings are quickly stifled and dismissed as momentary weakness. The flayed dwarves’ truest feelings are often expressed in their art, which extends past scarification, and can include etchings, mosaics, sculpture, or any other craft. The flayed dwarves do not sing or make music in any way. Young dwarves are scolded if they attempt such, and learn an aversion for these types of self-expression. They may, however, be moved by the music of others, but would never let on.
A Flayed Dwarf is willing to go to any lengths to prove his honor. When slighted, a Garhai will challenge an enemy to a duel. If the opponent refuses the duel, the Garhai takes it as a victory and will express this fact to anyone who cares to hear.
Flayed dwarves are much more stout than other dwarves, with muscular limbs of equal thickness, ribbed with veins and crossed with glittering scar tissue.
Unmixed flayed dwarf societies are extremely rigid and militaristic, even oppressive. Duty is of utmost importance, and banishment or even corporal punishment is applied to those who routinely shirk them. Like the stonecutters, the Garhai have a very acute focus on schedules, and everyone is expected to be in their place at the right time. Society operates very efficiently, with a minimum of bureaucracy. Everyone is ranked according to their value and tenure in society, and the highest ranked citizen available makes any required decisions.
Flayed dwarves prefer to leave farming, smithing and other labor to the stonecutters, trading protection and acquired goods for these things, but when they must do these things for themselves they go about the labor with a sullen efficiency, taking no joy in the work. Though they are capable in any of these pursuits, they quietly resent having to perform them. This is why these tasks are reserved for disciplining young troops.
Flayed Dwarves carry themselves with what seems like an air of superiority. This is somewhat false, as they give the same respect that they expect to others, but only after those others have proven themselves. They usually have no trouble gaining respect from other dwarves, but often find that their apparent arrogance grates on other races. They always speak with authority, and rarely ask questions when a statement will do. They do not get along well with nonlawful beings, with the exception of the Kharak. They treat everyone as either an ally, or an enemy. Elves are largely hated, and humanity’s role shifts as treaties are made and broken. Their general attitude is one of mistrust towards outsiders, until proven otherwise.
Villages, towns and cities ruled by the Garhai have an ornate beauty to them; bold colored gemstones highlight the finely engraved stonework. None dare to steal these decorative stones, for punishment is swift and final.
The typical flayed dwarven hold is located partially on the surface, and partially underground. They favor monolithic and foreboding architecture, designed to send the message that the Garhai are not to be trifled with. Their buildings sprawl, and lie low to the ground. Towers and domes are usually very broad, sometimes broader than they are tall.
Often there will be a skeleton of a giant, dragon, or collossus displayed in a dramatic pose in the center of the hold.
Garhai worship the Gejjurik Pantheon. They favor Kroshletch, the Veteran.
Flayed dwarves tend to be named by adjectives that describe them at birth, or circumstances that their parents wish them to live under. Garhai last names come from the race’s spiritual sacraments, or phrases from popular myths or legends.
Male Names: Gidreg (Centered), Kifeer (Wisdom), Dowdrik (Burning-Rain), Henger (Hunger), Kolmol (Merciless), Bivved (Bled)
Female Names: Jolna (Grief), Patolki (Milk-wine), Inmag(Fortified), Jil (Scorn), Pidre (Strongblood), Findra (Wonder)
Surnames: Hikrel (Sight-of-‘Hik’), Geneded (Keeper-of-Gem-Blood), Olnimem (Bringer-of-Terror-Dreams), Maal (Deathbringer), Milgur (Keeper-of-Steel), Zengerin (Arrow-in-its-Back), Trosthithek (Wisdom-from-Pain), Thukarukh (Breaker-of-the-Spine-of-Thought)
Flayed dwarves are great party leaders, and usually fail in positions of subordinance to other races. They adventure to discover the mysteries of battle, and to master their fears. Treasure is a badge of honor, desired more for the prestige it represents than any monetary value.
Flayed dwarf outposts are found all over Kharkon, the underworld, and small pockets across the world in other places that have been reached though subterranean migration.
Flayed Dwarves receive the benefits outlined under "Mountain Dwarf" in the PHB.
Alignment: Garhai are most often Lawful.
Signatures: Fierce and the choice of Deranged or Axiomatic. This choice determines your Nexus Paths.
Nexus Paths: Garhai are able to take the Flayed Dwarf (Fierce, Deranged, and Axiomatic) Nexus paths.
Stonecutter Dwarf (Davrinhai)
The Stonecutter Dwarves are the laborers of their communities. Though most are found in Kharkon, like the Clay Dwarves, they are also found in great numbers across the world.
Close to the earth at all times, they promote the Terran signature. Their enclaves tend to have rich mines that replenish themselves before they are depleted. Stonecutter Dwarves live to work, whether that be mining or crafting. They gather into work crews even when they are performing other tasks, such as worship or learning.
Some Stonecutters become infused by the Terran energies that they promote, and gain the abilities to soften or shape stone with their bare hands, or even to travel through stone itself.
Davrinhai are solemn and worrying folk. While they inherited an advanced form of natural dwarven endurance, they also inherited an advanced form of dwarven fatalism. Davrinhai are always prepared for the worst, but hope, if only secretly, for the best. The constant recurrence of The Canticle has only proven what these folk have always believed; the day will come when there is nothing left to mine, and the Stonecutters will fade away. Davrinhai do not know what to do with themselves if they cannot work. For this reason, many races have enslaved the Davrinhai over the eons.
Stonecutter dwarves are sturdy, thick-limbed beings, with rocky, cracked skin. They are encased in any of the most prominent minerals in the place of their birth. They are often entirely bald, but when they grow hair or beards, this too is encased in stone, as if carved in one piece. Their eyes are entirely shielded by their mineral casing, and stonecutters resemble nothing so much as stout animate statues. They wear loose-fitting minimalist clothing, fitted with metal clasps. They often wear headdresses.
Work isn’t the only thing stonecutters do, but they frame all of their other activities around it. A stonecutter society is divided into work crews. These crews are tightly bound social units, serving as military units during conflicts, and extended families during peace. Members of a society may be members of several crews, moving between them throughout their highly structured days, for different purposes. There are temple crews that assemble to worship while they work, crews where young students are given lessons, and social crews for dwarves seeking mates.
Young stonecutters are put to work as soon as they can walk, joining their parents’ work crew until they move out on their own (around the age of 30), receiving training on the job, and usually taking one of their parents’ trades, in addition to the mining and building responsibilities that all Davrinhai have. Those that can use their Mason’s Touch and other abilities as much as they can for one day, and when there is no more productive building or mining work for them to do that day, they perform their trade for another 10 hours or so, and finally retire to their homes or a gathering place. Even here, they work, doing chores or performing favors for others.
Their society is surprisingly egalitarian for one based on labor. Everyone has their place, and none are better or worse than the others. All citizens are valued, and no one wants for anything, even if they cannot work because of injury or infirmity. Unneeded wealth is voluntarily spread around for the greater good, but no one begrudges the wealthy, and each aspires to see his labor bring his family prosperity. The rich toil with everyone else, but they may be able to hire and outfit their own crew with the finest tools to make their work more efficient. Upon their death, Stonecutters sink into the stone, and become one with it. It is believed that the hardest workers become precious minerals that will enrich future generations.
There is evidence that in previous Ages they were not well respected by other dwarves, but in this Age, they are prized for the great wealth that they bring to the Empire. Among other races, they are prized for the same reason, and also their utility to an adventuring party. For their part they are usually humble and rarely take advantage of their favored status.
They favor underground realms, and are generally slightly phobic of open spaces. If they must dwell out in the open for some reason, their homes are set into the ground, with little more than their roofs extending above the surface. They never use mortar in their constructions. In tectonically active regions, they favor fitted stonework which has the ability to disperse vibration, but otherwise their buildings are entirely seamless, as if carved from a single block of stone.
One day is much the same as the last in the subterranean realms, and that is how the Davrinhai like it. Most are content to work long, repetitive hours every day until they lay their head upon their stone pillows and pass into the earth one final time. Some special few see that life can be more than endless and often meaningless toil, and seek out a life of greater excitement as heroes. Even fewer rebel completely, and seek only self-gratification, becoming villains or ne’er-do-wells.
Davrinhai worship Andrak and Hoene above all others, though, as with all Kharkonoi dwarves, the entire Gejjurik pantheon is revered.
Stonecutter naming conventions do not favor the fierce gutturals and violent appellations of other dwarves. Instead, a stonecutter is named after tools, ores, or his family trade.
Male Names: Tobb (mallet), Benjur (rust), Denjur (dust), Gatch (mushroom), Vaidel (chisel), Wid (wedge).
Female Names: Dastra (luminescence), Kaster (priestess), Kress (rope), Regana (pick), Towtiss (cave moss).
Surnames: Eifer (rubble comber), Gatcher (mushroom farmer), Hang (outcropping), Thegger (ratcatcher), Zaiz (smith).
A rare few stonecutters who have taken the Stonecutter Nexus Path decide that the simple and predictable life within the mines and quarries is not for them. They apply their supernatural abilities to a life of adventure, becoming master thieves, able to break into many places that others are barred from. Others use these same abilities to become skilled artificers. They rarely seek treasure for its own sake, unless said treasure has some sort of utility. They are fascinated by wondrous items.
Davrinhai have large enclaves in Wiresh in Kenabu, where they build trapped tombs for royalty, in Pattayamu, Hajir, where they build vast vimanas for the Empire, and all across Zeikrusia where they serve as grand artificers to the Dragons.
Stonecutter Dwarves receive the benefits outlined under "Hill Dwarf" in the PHB.
Alignment: Usually Lawful Good.
Signatures: Terran, and the choice of Axiomatic or Shielded. This choice determines your Nexus Paths.
Nexus Paths: Davrinhai are able to take the Stonecutter (Terran, Axiomatic, and Shielded) Nexus paths.
Storm Dwarves (Kharakhai)
The storm dwarves are a barely civilized people. They wander the lands, never staying in one place for very long. They are wild and hedonistic, enjoying all aspects of life. They often serve in volunteer armies when the Flayed Dwarves make the call to war, but are too chaotic to serve full time in the military. Their wanderlust brings anywhere they can travel on foot. They are found in great numbers all across Kharkon, Brekas, and Zeikrusia but there is no specific concentration of them anywhere.
The Kharak are a passionate and violent people. They live life in broad strokes, reveling in the more overt pleasures of existence. They love the heat of battle more than anything, but they make the most of peacetime. Wild and uncouth, the Kharak are considered dangerous by other dwarves, and have been called Gej-Garneg, or “earthquakes given form” in the dwarven tongue. Though technically a derogatory statement, the storm dwarves wear this name with pride.They are fairly easy to get along with, but the true respect of the Kharak is not given lightly, and is only bestowed upon those who are considered formidable enough to warrant it.
Anyone in a leadership position can be questioned or even challenged, and the storm dwarf feels that it is the leader’s duty to constantly prove his worth. For this reason, Storm Dwarves can seem duplicitous, since the agreements of the past have little bearing on the present. This is a widely known trait of the Storm Dwarves, and most who would deal with them tolerate it. Individuality is prized above all else. Lifelong friendships and family ties are less important than personal freedom. The only exception to this categorical denial of responsibility of the Kharak is when it comes to their children. Children are the greatest treasure of the Kharak, and are treated with otherwise uncharacteristic gentleness.
Storm Dwarves become marginally uncomfortable when they must be underground for long periods of time, and prefer the open sky.
Storm dwarves are the same general size and build as the Mountain Dwarves in the PHB. Their irises are gray or black like a storm cloud, and usually have green, blue or red streaks that radiate like lightning from the pupil. In some members, these glow and flicker unsettlingly when the dwarf is enraged. They are grizzled, with skin reddened by the elements. Males wear wild beards, and all have thick, wiry hair, which can stand nearly straight out from their heads. Though chaotic, they care for their appearances. They often dye their hair in unusual colors, shave their heads, or otherwise modify their appearances. Those accoutrements that make them seem fiercer are preferred. Many have piercings all over their bodies, sometimes with bells or chimes strung from them.
Some Storm Dwarves are infused with the forces of chaos itself, and exhibit strange mutations, such as extra limbs, sensory organs, or even animal parts. Such Kharakhai are somewhat favored among their kind and are known as Arak-Gul, or "The Sanctified" as these augmentations are inevitably beneficial.
Storm Dwarves are a wild people, with a society broken down into clans named after aspects of nature, such as geographical features, weather, and animals. Each clan usually has some specialty that is unusual for a dwarf, such as riding horses, using riverboats, using bows. These clans are usually civil to each other, though they do war from time to time.
Once a year, these clans meet for an informal clan moot (always in a different location) where they trade with each other and discuss any threats to the surface that the Empire has left to them to handle. They may form a temporary army to address surface threats, then disperse back into the wilderness. When called upon by the Lord Overseer or the Soveriegn to fight a larger scale war, they gladly join ranks, forgetting any previous enmity they might have had with the other clans until the threat has been dealt with.
Kharak are patriotic to the extreme. Generally, they do not hate or dislike any of the civilized races as a whole, except for the denizens of Hrum Vaat. Nonetheless, those deemed enemies of the dwarves are gladly warred upon. They secretly fear the elves somewhat, and hate giantkind with a passion. They are amused by the Stonecutter dwarves, and often harass them, but tend to defer to the flayed dwarves, who they respect. They can become lifelong friends with members of any race, even fey, as long as that person proves their worth, and is willing to keep proving it.
Storm dwarves are generally too unfocussed to build great cities. Instead, they either wander the surface lands as nomads, or build small frontier settlements which are easily abandoned when the mood strikes. Many of these settlements are constructed of wood, and a “town burning” before moving on to new territory is the cause of celebration. The typical Storm Dwarven settlement has a lifespan of about five years. Kharak may choose to live among other dwarven civilizations, until they are thrown out for the disruptions they tend to cause after long periods of boredom, especially during the long, hard winters of the region. Bands of Storm Dwarves rove the land, picking up and exchanging members and dropping off others at the whim of individuals.
Storm dwarves usually worship the gods of the dwarves, but they don’t put much work into it. They have been known to pick up syncretic worship of foreign gods, or like the Thull, nature spirits. They are irreverent, no matter which gods they worship. They are cavalier in the face of divine might, but may be cowed by extreme shows of power. They are rarely powerful clerics, for these reasons.
Storm Dwarf Names are chosen for their fearsome qualities, and are meant to intimidate.
Male Names: Enger (Rage), Chasolm (Pit), Mikrah (Shattered), Gelvel (Warhammer), Blevned (Bleeding), Kinter (Spine)
Female Names: Bastra (Beasty), Olimee (Flame-Eyes), Kess (Rended), Dundra (Thunder), Lililk (Festering), Numnu (Wickedness)
Surnames: Storm Dwarves are more irreverent than most dwarves, and thus do not often take last names.
Storm Dwarves adventure to keep themselves entertained, and to revel in the glory of battle. They are reckless, fearless, and, unless they have a strong lawful influence in the party to rein them in, often short-lived. They know the need for stealth at times, but prolonged periods of quiet will grate on them. Those who adventure with them for long learn that their value to a mission depends upon how straightforward it is.
Kharakhai have wandered as far south as Northern Brekas, and as far east as Zeikrusia. Even so, they are a patriotic people. No matter how far they wander, however, they are always there when Kharkon calls on them for aid. They wander because they have little use for borders.
Storm Dwarves receive the benefits outlined under "Mountain Dwarf" in the PHB.
Alignment: Kharakhai are almost always chaotic.
Signatures: Any two of Anarchic, Deranged, or Charged. This choice determines your Nexus Paths.
Nexus Paths: Kharakhai are able to take the Storm Dwarf (Anarchic, Deranged, or Charged) Nexus paths.