Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain
Note: this article contains all the relevant information a player should wish — certainly more than members of other races of Middle-earth would know.
The article itself has deep roots. It originated as a ‘Race’ piece in the style of D&D 3.5. It was then repurposed for use in HarnMaster, with the DWARF RACIAL TRAITS section quantifying their characteristics in that system.
It is now repurposed for use in FATE RPG (the ‘Legends of Anglerre’ system). Whilst this handles game stats with a broader brush, all the flavour is just as relevant as in more explicit systems — and can be exploited even more evocatively.
Dwarves are known for their skill in warfare, their ability to withstand physical punishment and resist domination, their knowledge of the earth’s secrets and their capacity for hard work. Their mines and mansions, carved out from the insides of mountains, are renowned for the marvellous treasures that lie hoarded deep within.
Personality: Dwarves are slow to laugh or jest and suspicious of strangers. They place great value on gold, gems, jewellery and things made by craft, delight in profit through trade, and have been known to succumb to greed. They fight neither recklessly nor timidly but with tenacious aggression, trusting in the protection of armour. Their sense of justice is strong but can turn into a thirst for revenge, and the dwarves’ oaths of vengeance upon their enemies are passed down to their offspring until fulfilled.
Physical description: Dwarves stand 4½ to 5 feet tall, but they are broad and compact and their flesh is more solid and enduring than that of other races, so they are on average almost as heavy as Men. Dwarf men are slightly taller and heavier than dwarf women, but both sport beards and the sexes are indistinguishable to members of other races – though dwarf-women, who comprise less than a third of the race, are rarely seen outside the protection of their mansions. Dwarves’ hair and beards may be of any colour from blond or red, through browns to jet black, some even being blue, and with grey and white not uncommon. They never go bald, and they take great pride in careful grooming of their beards. They favour practical durable clothes, and wear heavy boots and rainproof hoods when they travel abroad. Dwarves are considered young until close to the age of 30, after which they harden and quickly take on the appearance of age (by mannish standards). From 40 all dwarves look much alike in age, until they reach what is regarded as old age, after which the final decline lasts not much more than ten years. Marriage and parenthood tend to occur around the age of 90-100, and dwarves’ families are small (with dwarflings usually born about a decade apart) despite their long years of marriage. Upbringing is harsh, to ensure that dwarves grow up tough, hardy, unyielding) but devotion between the generations is extremely fierce.
Dwarves of different ‘breeds’ vary in their longevity. Durin’s race were originally long-lived but they became less so during the Third Age, averaging about 250 years, which they seldom fell far short of (unless they met a violent death), and could occasionally far exceed (up to 300). Between the ages of 40 and 240 most dwarves’ capacity for toil and for fighting is equally great.
Relations: Dwarves get along passably with Men, their history having featured jealousy and mistrust in some times and places, and great mutually profitable alliances in others. The Shire lies on the ancient dwarf road between the Blue and the Misty Mountains, and the hobbits and dwarves get on reasonably despite their differences in outlook. Dwarves consider elves fickle and flighty, and worthy of grudging respect only for their implacable enmity against the forces of Darkness. The heydays in which they exchanged goods and shared their lore with one another are overshadowed by the Dwarves’ destruction of the ancient Elf-kingdom of Doriath and the closing the West-gate of Moria against the Elves in the Second Age.
Alignment: Dwarves are usually lawful and they tend toward good, the ruthlessness of dwarven vengeance notwithstanding. Though some dwarves of the eastern Houses must at times have fallen under the Shadow, and dwarves were in the forces of Sauron at the Battle of Dagorlad, dwarves are not evil by nature, and few have ever served the Enemy of free will.
Dwarven Lands: The Seven Houses of the Dwarves each held a Kingdom in a mountainous portion of the North of Middle-earth, but their strength is concentrated in their mansions deep below the mountains, where they mine gems and metals and ply their crafts in secret. Trusted members of other races are welcome in these mansions, though there remain areas into which they are forbidden to go. Dwarves prefer not to engage in menial pursuits like growing food, agriculture and husbandry if they can avoid it, and trade such necessities from their neighbours in exchange for craft items and their services as smiths and builders.
Religion: Whilst Elves and Men were the Children of Ilúvatar, the Dwarves were created by Aulë, the crafter of the Valar. Though made in secret, and having little love for the natural living things of Yavanna, they were accepted by Ilúvatar and given life, becoming his ‘adopted children’, placed deep beneath stone and given to awake in Middle-earth after the coming of the Firstborn, the Elves. Aulë, or Mahal, gave them their language, Khuzdul, and taught them of his crafts. But their religion, like their language and even their true names, remain a secret which the Dwarves have never revealed to any other.
Language: Khuzdul, the language which Mahal gave to the dwarves, has been kept secret and unchanged throughout the Ages by every dwarven house in Middle earth. They speak it only amongst themselves, however, within the guarded inner places of their mansions. At all other times they speak an ‘outer’ language, usually that of the neighbouring land and the folk with whom they trade, though they are not gifted with tongues and never lose their dwarven accents. Since Doriath the Dwarves have always shunned the tongues of the Elves and refused to write with their tengwar characters.
The dwarves of the Lonely Mountain speak the Common Speech or the same Northern dialect of it as the folk of Dale and Esgaroth.
They write using a runic system called the Angerthas Erebor, “the long rune-rows of the Lonely Mountain”, commonly called dwarf-runes.
Most dwarves also learn a gesture-code which they call Iglishmêk, with which they can exchange simple communications so subtly that onlookers may not even realise that anything is being conveyed.
Names: Like their language, dwarves never use their true ‘inner’ names anywhere that other folk might hear them, not even using them in inscriptions or upon their tombs. Instead they go by ‘outer names’ either borrowed from the language of their neighbours or retained and reused from days gone by.
Male Names: Dwalin, Náin, Dáin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Thorin, Thráin, Thrór, Óin, Dóri, Nóri and Óri. Hári, Kvasir, Góri, Tóki, Freki, Skeggi, Haki, Snorri, Meginn, Baugi, Buri, Gylfi, Skari, Kragi, Froti, Alvis, Agni, Nár, Vigg, Vigdís, Fræg, Lofar, Andvari. Clan names are not used, but dwarves are often identified by a patronymic such as Gimli Glóin’s son or Balin son of Fundin, or with an epithet like Oakenshield, Ironfoot, Stonehelm etc.
Female Names: Dís, the sister of Thorin and mother of Fili and Kili, is the only female name known to non-dwarves.
Adventurers: A dwarf adventurer may be motivated by hatred of goblins, trolls or dragons, by vengeance or oaths on his own part or inherited from his forefathers, or especially by rumour of gold or other hoarded treasures. As long as his accomplishments bring honour and wealth to his House, his deeds earn him respect and status. Defeating the foes of the Dwarves and reclaiming lost items or lore of dwarven craftsmanship are sure ways of improving one’s standing in dwarven society.
DWARF RACIAL TRAITS
● +2 STA, Dwarves are stout and tough.
● –2 VOI: Dwarves tend to be gruff and reserved and their voices are unlovely to the ears of other races.
● –2 EYE (Aging only): Dwarves tend towards short-sightedness, especially when no longer young.
(Bilbo’s eyes were sharper than those of any of the dwarves, incl. Balin the lookout, and Fili and Kili the youngsters.
THORIN: “My eyes don’t see as well as they used a hundred years ago.”)
Also, whilst they may be more accustomed than others to operating in dark conditions, there is no evidence for the dwarves of Middle-earth to see in the dark.
● Dwarf [(d20) base movement speed is 20 feet. However, dwarves can move at this speed even when wearing medium or heavy armour or when carrying a medium or heavy load (unlike other creatures, whose speed is reduced in such circumstances).]
● Caving/Dungeoneering +2 SB: Any conscious dwarf, has a constant sense of his depth and direction underground, relative to the exit(s) to the surface.
● Fire-starting: Dwarves are the pre-eminent masters of fire and receive +2 to Survival checks for attempts to start or control a fire.
● -2 SB on Swimming: Dwarves’ solid composition makes them relatively unbuoyant.
● [+2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison]: Dwarves are hardy, and resistant to toxins and intoxication.
● [+2 racial bonus on saving throws against spells and spell-like effects]: Dwarves have an innate resistance to spells and any other form of ‘magic’.
● Suspicious: Aulë made the dwarves very resistant to other wills. Dwarves receive a +10 racial bonus on Intrigue checks to detect deception, but –10 for recognising goodwill.
● +1 Success Level on checks concerning disease: Dwarves are singularly immune from diseases such as affect Men and Hobbits.
● +2 SB racial bonus on Trading. “For buying and selling and exchange were their delight, and the winning of wealth thereby”. (This should tend to offset their low VOI scores.) +10 racial bonus to evaluation rolls related to stone, metal or jewellery.
● +2 SB racial bonus on craft skills involving stone or metal. This also affects ‘search checks’, which are figured from the sense used and the knowledge of whatever is being inspected A dwarf should be given a check as if he were actively searching for it whenever he merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework — fake stone, traps, new construction or unsafe stone surfaces etc.
● –2 SB racial penalty on Animal Handling and Ride checks: Dwarves do not keep any animals, even dogs, though they may make use of ponies and other beasts of burden in some circumstances. (This does not extend to communication with Great Ravens, with whom they are often on good terms.)
● +2 SB racial bonus with Axes. ‘Militia’ style Axe-training is open to all Dwarves.
● Obsessive craftsmanship: Dwarves may spend one Option Point at character creation to improve one craft skill a second time, for an OML of SB × (Normal Max +1).
● Any Dwarf should be considered to have had the opportunity to open the Caving/Dungeoneering, Architecture, Engineering, Metalworking, Stoneworking or Weaponcrafting skills, whatever their primary career.
● Ties of Fate: Dwarves have a limited stock of 1d3 Spirit Points, and can use them only when standing on or surrounded by stone or rock, the element of Mahal. (Gimli with good rock under his feet at Helm’s Deep.)
● Languages: All Seven Houses of the Dwarves speak Khuzdul. Most speak other languages, often Westron, but never lose their guttural dwarven accent. Dwarves may also learn the Iglishmêk gesture-code of their home community.