The stereotypical dwarf is very set in his ways. He drinks beer by the gallon, graws red meat off of the bone and wears a viking styled hat with a full rank of horns on it. He is clad in enough armor to plate a WWII Sherman tank, and carries a battleaxe, or a warhammer. And invariably, the words beard, axe, battle, hammer, war, or slayer appear somewhere in his name.
The Tribe of the Beaver
In my travels across this great continent of ours, one of the more bizarre things I have encountered has been the tribe. Quite contrary to my understanding of the dwarves and their culture, these seem to be almost an entirely different race. Metal is all but unknown to these short and amazingly light hearted folk.
The Tribe of the Beaver was once part of the Mountain dwelling clans of dwarves, but they diverged many centuries ago. Rather than soldier on, defending their mountain creches of gold and steel against the seemingly endless swarm of goblins, ogres, trolls and even dragons, the tribe chose to abandon that path. A few of the storytellers remember a variation of this story, and remember it as the Exodus from the Mountain.
The Exodus tale speaks of bondage to the Precious, a term they use to describe things that most adventurers desire; gold, jewels, magic arms and armor. The tales speak of the Precious taking on a dwarven form, demanding homage, and requiring constant protection from those outsiders who desired to take from the dwarves their treasure. The Exodus was opposed by many dwarves, and only a few made the trip.
Unlike their mountainous cousins, the tribe of the Beaver has only waxed in strength in the years since their departure. No longer dwelling under stone and breathing stale smoke infused air, these dwarves are clear of complexion and lack the ruddy and rugose skin often associated with their kin. They are also a happy people who spend most of their days living along the rivers and estuaries of the Lower Great Woses. With no treasure to speak of, even the ogres are content to leave the dwarves alone.
Life among the Tribe is a pastoral one, with the most common activities being fishing or swimming in the river, or working on the quonset lodges that the tribe occupies. Thses lodges are very sturdy, with wood and mud walls that can be as much as 10 feet thick in places. Many are also built on the water, or rise up from it, requiring visitors to swim to enter. Considering the ogre’s absolute love for running water, the dwarves are well protected by their moats.
The second most common activity is the making of baskets and wicker goods. Baskets range from small and artistic designs to show the skill of the weaver, to the large and practical wicker backpacks used by the hunters to carry back swamp deer and other food. much of the furniture used in a lodge is made of wickerwork reinforced with wooden members. There are neither nails or glue used in this style of construction. Dwarven wickerware regularly shows up in the general market of Soixane, where the ochre and woad painted dwarves trade their handiwork for flour, and textiles.
Games and entertainment come in the form of dancing, music, the telling of epic tales, and the consumption of liquor. since grain grows poorly in the swamplands, most of the dwarves have figured out ways of cooking and distilling the cane grass into a honey colored liquor that most people know as rum. The buck-ogre rum distilled by the ogres is a variation on this skill that the ogres have picked up on their own, and unlike the tribe, are more than willing to sell and trade it.
Dwarves in the Mist
Though no longer dealing in iron and plate, the forms of war have not been lost on the dwarves. Their weapons are bone and horn, spears and bows. But now there is a strong element of stealth and surprise to their fighting. Enemies are stalked and slain with arrows, or are hacked to death when least expecting it. The tribe places no glory in war or warriors, but accepts the necessity of warfare if only to preserve themselves from their less than friendly neighbors.
One in the Bush - A band of PCs exploring the wastes of the Great Woses could very well encounter a band of Beaver tribe dwarves, hijinks and hilarity could ensue as the PCs interact with the half-naked dwarves who are friendly with rum. Beaver-dwarves could make excellent swamp guides.
Two in the Hand - The PCs, most likely a dwarf heavy compliment could encounter the Beaver tribe, and there could be animosity between the two. The Mtn dwarves seeing the Beaver tribe as cowards and self inflicted primitives, while the tribe could look upon their steel-cled breathern as still in the thrall of the demon of greed they named the Precious.
A Question of Ethics - The tribe knows the location of its cache of Mountain gear, a literal heap of dwarven made arms and armor, a treasure trove they consider to be tainted with evil. The PCs could profit from gaining and potentially selling this windfall of weaponry, but what if the tribe is more right than they know, and the gear is indeed possessed of evil?