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Author Topic: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?  (Read 3621 times)

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Offline valadaar

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Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« on: September 28, 2012, 08:34:04 PM »
Do not get me wrong, but should we stick with the Norse/Tolkienesque dwarves?

How far can we change dwarves before they become something else? And not something silly like cannabilistic halflings? 

Even beards are not a given - there were beardless dwarves in Dark Sun. 

So, what do you think makes a dwarf a dwarf? And not just a human with a growth problem?
   
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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2012, 10:36:53 PM »
Things that make a dwarf a dwarf

Personally stoic, unmoved by flights of fantasy or whims. Elves and humans are twits, and orcs and goblins are bundles of impulses with no control. A dwarf isn't moved to quickly shed tears, or display wanton emotion. He may weep, but he weeps for his slain brothers, not for fallen trees, or because someone hurt his feelings. He may be moved to rage, but such things grow slowly and are vast and deep and powerful.

Dwarves are also builders and makers, creating things with their hands, with their minds. They can certainly use magic, or clerical magic, but a dwarf is best when working with his hands, be it cutting stone, making a watch, cutting jewels, things great and small. They are disciplined, industrious, organized.

Dwarves are also about self denial. There is a reason that so much fantasy attempts to assert female dwarves and they just don't work. Dwarves are masculine in the extreme. They are soldiers, buildiers, workers among workers. They are not lovers, they are not Lotharios or Casanovas. When they are family men, they are the aloof stern father. They are demanding and strong, proud and bound by honor.

Beards, axes, and all of the rock vikings is just window dressing


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Offline MysticMoon

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2013, 01:17:29 PM »
I have pondered this myself a time or two, but not deeply enough to write up anything detailed (yet.) I do have a few thoughts to share; hopefully they come out more coherent than they are in my mind...

Why can't we have a fully fleshed out Dwarven race? Some may be stoic warriors or craftsmen, stern and solid as the rock they live under. Others may be inquisitive, wanting to explore deeper into the mountains or visit the surface world more frequently. What about the lazy son who refuses to learn the family trade? Or the trickster who gets a kick out of playing pranks on the more serious sorts? The outer world may have a preconceived idea of the Dwarven mindset, but all the better to shock the players when they come across the moon-eyed mystical Dwarf who talks in riddles, refuses to do physical work, has his head in the clouds, and wants to learn about abstract concepts, like cosmology.

Having an average height and weight does not have to mean that they all have the same build (standard deviation, anyone?). Maybe one family is known for being of a more slender build (but still short) while another is known for being exceptionally tall (for Dwarves, that is.)

I think that there is a lot of potential for material here that is rarely mined (yuk yuk.) Living underground and being of a certain size will certainly impact their psychology to a degree, but why make them all clones of each other?

Maybe another way to say this is that you can have a Dwarven culture that appears consistent on the macro level but begins to break down on the micro level.

The idea of having one race = one stereotype seems more and more dated to me the older I get.
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Offline Shadoweagle

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2013, 02:55:34 PM »
Its not a great secret that I hate dwarves. I really dislike the fact that they're all cocky, Scottish, drunkards obsessed with four things: fighting, drinking, eating and being obnoxious. I might do a " remaking the dwarves" sub one day so I can mold them into something I prefer.
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2013, 03:22:48 PM »
Please, read the dwarven guild material and see if the images contained in those imaginings of dwarves fits the sterotypes of dwarves you have come to loath or seek to challenge. I'd be curious to know what yinz think.

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2013, 03:48:44 PM »
Its not a great secret that I hate dwarves. I really dislike the fact that they're all cocky, Scottish, drunkards obsessed with four things: fighting, drinking, eating and being obnoxious. I might do a " remaking the dwarves" sub one day so I can mold them into something I prefer.

In the mid 90's I ran into a group of Australians. One of the first things I was told was, "Don't judge us by Crocodile Dundee and our soap operas." I've never seen an Australian soap opera but I'll admit that Crocodile Dundee was my only reference point at the time.

Somewhere, there's a group of Dwarves saying, "We're not all obnoxious, drunken bastards!"
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Offline Gossamer

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2013, 02:02:50 PM »
I think the stereotype thing is something inevitable. Personally I try to break it up no matter what member of a race I'm portraying, but think about creating a new humanoid. What can be done that hasn't allready been made a thousand times? No matter how hard you try, you're going to end up with some variety of elves/dwarves or what have you. In order to create something unique, you're going to have to move away from what makes humans human. And such creatures don't make for good playable characters. Even if you give them insect like properties, there's still going to be some ultimately human aspects, such as legs and arms(yes, not exclusively a human trait but y'know what I mean), a language and an introspective mind, it doesn't matter if you give them a tail or tentacles. And if you change dwarves too much, why bother calling them dwarves in the first place?
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Offline MysticMoon

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2013, 04:19:25 PM »
Why are stereotypes inevitable? The Citadel has tons of examples of writers pushing the limits on various fantasy elements. In fact, this is the place where I finally learned to look beyond the Tolkienesque elements. My view has been greatly expanded because of it.
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Offline Murometz

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2013, 04:22:43 PM »
Well said, Myst.

Few people realize that the only reason this thread even exists is because val was just getting his Dwarven Guild requisite out of the way  :P
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Offline Gossamer

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2013, 04:51:14 PM »
First of all, did you even read the whole post or did you reply after the first sentence? Do you know what dwarves and elves are? They essentially embody certain human ideals and characteristics, hence they are stereotypes. It doesn't stop anyone from making exceptions from the rule every now and again, but as a whole, if dwarves and elves were just as diverse as humans, then what would be the point of having them in the first place, other than the aesthetics. And I wasn't necessarily talking about strict Tolkien/high fantasy rules either.

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2013, 05:18:27 PM »
First of all, did you even read the whole post or did you reply after the first sentence?

No, I read the whole thing. I was going to write a point by point rebuttal, but I realized that I could condense it down to pointing at the site in general.

They essentially embody certain human ideals and characteristics, hence they are stereotypes. It doesn't stop anyone from making exceptions from the rule every now and again, but as a whole, if dwarves and elves were just as diverse as humans, then what would be the point of having them in the first place, other than the aesthetics.

I partially disagree. Races in fantasy and sci-fi are often used to depict an extreme example of human characteristics but I don't think that's the only way to use them. In fact, I find myself more amused or irritated by that approach the older I get. It seems like a lazy and outdated way of thinking. One of the reasons I didn't respond in more detail was that any real world example I tried to come up with would likely end up Godwinning the topic.

There are a lot more shades of grey between "human ideals and characteristics" and "completely alien." I thought Steven Brust did an excellent job toeing that line with his Draegarans in the Vlad Taltos novels. A race that lives so much longer than humans is going to think differently. Beings that spend most of their lives underground are going to see things in a different way than surface dwellers. Those are the kinds of things that I see making a Dwarf a Dwarf and an Elf an Elf. There's a lot of room beyond that that doesn't have to involve stereotypes.

As I said in an earlier post, these are things that have been on my mind for some time and at some point I hope to explore them through subs. Put my words where my mouth is, so to speak.
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2013, 09:20:14 PM »
Let me see if I got Gossamer's point.   He was saying that dwarves and elves specificly are hyperbolic portrayls of human qualities.  Thus to call to something a dwarf is to reference this hyperbolic portrayal.  If you aren't going to employ this archetype than why use the term dwarf at all.  Muro and I had a talk about this one night, if you going to stretch the archetype than don't call them dwarves. To be fair I was for stretching the archetype and muro was saying if you are going to stretch it then "don't call them orcs".  (We were talking about Orcs.) Thus I think Muro would agree that there is archetype you need to adhere in order to call them dwarves, at least in his dwarven guild.  How tightly you adhere to that is up to Muro.

I am a fan of the way you are approaching things Mys. Moon, these other life forms may be seen as thought experiments.  How would a race behave if they live for 1000s of years or live a life never seeing the sun?

Would the two of you agree that these types of thought experiments are the basis of serious speculative fiction? 

Gossamer, might you have equal diversity without equal over lap in characterstics? The bell curves for both human and dwarven behaviors may have exclusive extremes.

Why aren't you guys nicer to each other? It is just dwarves! 

Offline MysticMoon

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2013, 09:32:17 PM »
I think you hit it on the head, Axle. We are having a discussion based on different definitions. Obviously I'm more of the opinion that stretching the archetype still lets them be Dwarves, Elves, or whatever.

BTW, I see a big difference between a stereotype and an archetype. A stereotype, to me, is a cookie cutter figure. All Dwarves are humorless smiths who love beer. An archetype is more of a blueprint; it defines a general type but allows for more diversity in expression.

Why aren't you guys nicer to each other? It is just dwarves! 

But Dwarves is serious business!  ;)

I don't think anyone's being mean here. It's a lively discussion, certainly, but I think it's a good one. I'm in no way offended and I hope Gossamer feels the same.
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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2013, 10:52:23 PM »
I just want to say, this thread is now the longest "Guild"-inspired thread in the Forums. So not only do we have the most members of any Guild, now we claim this distinction as well.

Necromancers, suck it. Dwarves, yeah!
« Last Edit: March 15, 2013, 10:54:11 PM by Murometz »
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Offline Murometz

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2013, 11:01:52 PM »
Quote
Would the two of you agree that these types of thought experiments are the basis of serious speculative fiction? 

Yes and no. These "thoughts"----how does a 1000 yr lifespan race think, what happens if they never see the sun, etc---have been percolating for years. They have been addressed actually, I think, over the years as well (including in speculative fiction). Yes, we are humans and can only know the human condition at the end of the day, but c'mon, we've all imagined or written, or incorporated in a game, many qualities that reflect these "thoughts", and we've all come up with "cool" explanations, reasons, etc on how that could work with our orcs and dwarves. Take Gene Roddenberry for example...

I am very f****** tempted to write a long rant-like thesis on dwarves here, as they pertain to this thread, but I will hold off.

« Last Edit: March 15, 2013, 11:06:36 PM by Murometz »
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2013, 11:07:20 PM »

Yes and no. These "thoughts"----how does a 1000 yr lifespan race think, what happens if they never see the sun, etc---have been percolating for years. They have been addressed actually, I think, over the years as well (including in speculative fiction). Yes, we are humans and can only know the human condition at the end of the day, but c'mon, we've all imagined or written, or incorporated in a game, many qualities that reflect those "thoughts", and we've all come up with "cool" explanations, reasons, etc on how that could work with our orcs and dwarves.

you been drinking?

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2013, 11:10:28 PM »
If he has, he'd better get something out for the Drunken Writers Guild.
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2013, 11:11:34 PM »
Wait!, I am sorry that was unclear and potentially dismissive of your thoughts and ideas as opposed to expansive or considerate,  let me rephrase


Have you been "drinking"?

Offline Murometz

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2013, 11:14:05 PM »
Quote
you been drinking?

Quote
Have you been "drinking"?

d**n it!  :P
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Offline Gossamer

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2013, 05:40:50 AM »
Absolutely, no hard feelings on this end. But I think this is a case of arguing the same point differently but thinking the other doesn't agree. Now that you've elaborated, I see your point and I agree. Archetype is a better name for it. But, how far away can we move from the trope and still call them dwarves, that's the question. I agree that living below the ground is one aspect, but dwarves aren't the only ones living below ground, drow for instance don't exactly share the same cultural values as dwarves do. Granted that this is mostly due to background and circumstances, but there are similarities depending on which setting you use. Dwarves were said to have been enslaved by giants. And I believe the drow were also enslaved at some point, or one could argue that they are enslaved by Lolth. Yet they're showing mostly different values. I'm sure one could invent reasons as to why this is the case, but too much diversity and they break the mold and everything just turns into a big puddle of same same.
 
Gossamer, might you have equal diversity without equal over lap in characterstics? The bell curves for both human and dwarven behaviors may have exclusive extremes.
I don't understand the question. Dumb it down for me.
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Offline Wulfhere

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #20 on: March 17, 2013, 01:48:02 AM »
Each author will have their own ideas about what is central to a race like the dwarves and what details are ancillary.  I see the dwarves' affinity for stone and subterranean living as a central aspect of their collective character.  They are creatures of earth and stone, part of the land's roots.

This viewpoint raises its own questions:
- How does a race think differently when its "natural habitat" is far below the surface?  Is the surface an alien realm to dwarves?

- Dwarves aren't known for ties to water:  They are almost elementals of stone, iron, and earth.  How does a subterrene race function below the water table?

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Offline Shadoweagle

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2013, 02:11:52 AM »
Hmmm, that gives me some thoughts for new races of dwarves. First; those living in/around underground rivers/pools, who are more attuned to water than stone, and second: Deep dwarves who are alien even to 'normal' dwarves. Albino and reptilian, with odd morals and outlandish features. perhaps reptile or bug-like. Anywho. I might actually write up some different take on dwarves at some stage to this effect.
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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2013, 05:43:47 AM »
Hmmm, that gives me some thoughts for new races of dwarves. First; those living in/around underground rivers/pools, who are more attuned to water than stone, and second: Deep dwarves who are alien even to 'normal' dwarves. Albino and reptilian, with odd morals and outlandish features. perhaps reptile or bug-like. Anywho. I might actually write up some different take on dwarves at some stage to this effect.

I'm sure you allready know this, but they've allready made deep dwarves; duergar. Of course with fantasy logic, their skin is black instead of white. Also, what you describe doesn't sound like dwarves at all anymore.
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Offline axlerowes

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2013, 11:39:54 AM »
Of course with fantasy logic, their skin is black instead of white. Also, what you describe doesn't sound like dwarves at all anymore.

I think this brings us back to the origins of the this thread. Why are the dwarves the way they are?  Were they created by a different god than other races?  Did they evolve into there current state? If they did evolve did they follow  a natural selection and genetic form of evolution?  Was their evolution Lamarkian?  Was it atomic chemistry or alchemical chemistry that guides their biological processes?   Can a large warm blooded race live underground without an energy source as abundant as the sun? So on and so forth...

I believe this is one the principle challenges presented by dwarven guild. We already know what dwarves are , they are what Muro says they are when he points to it (not exactly but you get my drift).  But there is a realized zeitgeist or jungian archetype for dwarves that allows them to be presented recognizably in popular settings such as warcraft, order of the stick, dwarf fortress, forgotten realms, spell jammer and so on.  The challenge, I believe is to either retro fit origin stories and explainations of dwarven behavior to this archetype or tweak the archetype to provide another arm to the dwarven identity that doesn't redefine the dwarven identity.  I think a well referenced  non fiction work that tracks dwarven evolution in literature, cultural memory, and mythology would be really interesting.

But, how far away can we move from the trope and still call them dwarves, that's the question. I agree that living below the ground is one aspect, but dwarves aren't the only ones living below ground, drow for instance don't exactly share the same cultural values as dwarves do. Granted that this is mostly due to background and circumstances, but there are similarities depending on which setting you use. Dwarves were said to have been enslaved by giants. And I believe the drow were also enslaved at some point, or one could argue that they are enslaved by Lolth. Yet they're showing mostly different values. I'm sure one could invent reasons as to why this is the case, but too much diversity and they break the mold and everything just turns into a big puddle of same same.

Thus, I see what you are saying.  But inventing the reasons "why this is the case" is where the action is at(as much as one can call backstory action....which at the citadel is very much) .  We are asking and answering questions without a concrete focus here.  I again say go out to the citadel content, take a dwarven post and tear it a part.

Offline Murometz

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Re: Dwarves. Must they be vertically challenged vikings?
« Reply #24 on: November 15, 2013, 07:04:12 PM »
I love this thread.

DWARVES RULE, YOU DON'T!! Join the Guild. Elves suck! Join the Guild. :hypno:
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