The mountainous region of Esgoloth is arguably the harshest climate in Asydia. The coldest temperatures of all the lands are seen here, and bitter winds and fierce blizzards drive this cold to the very bone. Ferocious beasts stalk the land and it is rumored vengeful spirits wander the wastes, both preying on those ill-suited to survive in Esgoloth. On top of this, countless steam vents, geysers and hot-springs pockmark the land, suggesting at the violent molten earth which wars with itself deep below the surface.
In spite of all the challenges presented by Esgoloth's climate, not one, but two forms of sentient life have thrived within Esgoloth. One of these are the White-orcs. The other, are the Esgol Dwarves.
The Esgol Dwarves are a hardy people who live a somewhat nomadic life on the surface of Esgoloth. They average at 4 feet in height and are very hairy (including body hair). Their hair and beards - usually white, black or a mottled mix of both - are grown to great lengths to help ward off the cold, and they take to wearing thick fur clothing, including fur cloaks and hoods, made from the native wildlife of Esgoloth.
Unique to other races in Asydia, the Esgol dwarves do not band together and create large towns and cities - rather, they make communes as small as a couple dozen dwarves, and rarely more than two hundred around hot springs, geysers and steam vents, depending on the size of these sources of warmth. When the population swells through births or other circumstances, some families are made to leave the commune, travelling the frozen wastes to find another hotspot where they may start a new community. Visitors are usually welcome within communes, but permanent residents are rarely allowed, as any given hotspot may only accommodate so many people at once.
A large reason as to why the Esgol dwarves do not create cities is that much if Esgoloth is a rolling, mountainous tundra and wood is scarce. The amount of wood required to heat and maintain cities is simply too much. In the communes, they may cut back their use of wood by warming themselves near the vents or hot springs for hours a day. Some dwarves have even managed create elaborate natural funnels from the vents to their homes, to warm them, and Massive steam tents are often made around these hotspots, which is where many dwarves spend much of their free time.
Lifestyle and hierarchy
There are few universal leaders in the Esgol Dwarf society; the first family to lay claim to a Hotspot is considered the leader of that community. The patron or matron of that family is referred to as the Master or Mistress of The Steam (usually just shortened to 'Master' or 'Mistress') and has the only say in what happens within his commune, but that power does not carry over to any other commune. If they were to travel to another commune they would merely be treated as guests. The only true power or leadership in the Esgol community is the power of Fame. Famous and well known people - especially warriors, hunters and killers of White-Orcs are treated with great respect, and feasts and celebrations are often thrown for such people if they pass through a commune.
There are no real shops, taverns or inns in an Esgol Dwarf community, but a family is always willing to take on a traveler for a day or two - in fact, extra rooms and beds and seats at the table are made for their homes with this in mind.
The average Esgol dwarf spends several hours of their day hunting; males and females alike. Entire families usually go on dawn treks to hunt for fresh meat. If their trip is especially prosperous, the may bury the extra meat outside their homes in the snow to enjoy over the next few days, but if other families are less lucky with their hunt, the community will share their spoils.
Much of the rest of the say will be spent in steam tents, where they drink fiery spirits, smoke strong tobacco and herbs and spend the day philosophising with one another. They say the spirits fire their core and the tabac warms their icy hearts. Because they spend much of their days debating philosophies and odd thoughts, the Esgol Dwarves are considered a detached, somewhat aloof race, always with their minds on something other than their surroundings.
Most dwarves inhale the vapors of the steam vents strongly within these tents, even putting herbs over the vents to create a curious aroma. They say the steam makes them think 'deep thoughts', and due to this odd practice the Dwarves are colloquially referred to as 'Steam-Eaters' by outsiders.
A possible reason behind these 'deep thoughts' may be that the volcanic fumes expunged from these vents are somewhat poisonous and addle their brains. Nevertheless, the Dwarves all seem healthy and long-lived; some surviving up to four centuries of age.
As a past-time, the Esgol Dwarves love to create things and their workmanship is first rate. The problem is the lack of materials; the land is barren of wood and the any mine which grows large enough to produce ore is inevitably overrun by White-Orcs, unless it is well hidden. Thus, they carve things out of stone, creating small figurines and models, as well as polished stone axes and hammers. Creating things is a remnant of the life the dwarves lived so long ago.
Centuries ago when they used to live in great mountain and subterranean strongholds, the Esgol Dwarves had a deity: Rivval, the elemental goddess of the tumultuous earth, fire and iron. Now, along with their ancient homes, their deity has been stolen; adopted by the White-Orcs. For many years, the dwarves were godless, some even adopting the beliefs of neighboring lands; faiths such as the One-God of Ralkhara, the pantheon of Sen-Rab and even the desert god Axtrami were taken up.
In the last several centuries however, a new god has broken through the ice and settled within the hearts of the Dwarves. Sirael (Sigh-rail), maiden of frozen spirits, Mistress of Rime and keeper of the Mysteries has touched the dwarves through their dreams. She is a harsh goddess; holding dominion over the ghosts and wraiths of the land, and holds no love for Rivval, who abandoned the Dwarves when they were cast out of their homes. Her influence seems to grow the worse the weather is; many a dwarf insists they have seen visions of her when they slumber, whilst blizzards consume the land outside.
It has been noted and is of interest that Sirael appears to have some small similarities to the god of the Ouzquin Dremorix, Axtrami; in that she has dominion over dreams and appears to grow in influence as more people believe in her.
The Great Exile
The Esgol Dwarves are an ancient race, and they were not always the nomadic folk they are now. It is said that countless centuries ago, the Esgoloth Dwarves lived in great mountain strongholds and subterranean cities. Deep within the earth where magma keeps the temperature warm the Dwarves dug massive bastions. Filled with life and laughter, the dwarves of these deep mines and strongholds would dig ores and gems from the rock and create beautiful objects from them. It was an age of marvels and the dwarves prospered.
In that age, the savage White-Orcs lived in tribes throughout Esgoloth. Life was hard for them, and to make matters worse, their tribes constantly skirmished with one another. Many times, tribes of White-Orcs would come to the great doors of the dwarven strongholds, begging for shelter and mercy from the harsh cold of Esgoloth, and always the dwarves turned them away; secretly they were intimidated by the orc's violent ways and were fearful that the violence would carry to the dwarves if they gave them sanctuary, so always the Orcs were spurned at the door, sent to die in the wilderness.
For centuries, this was the way of life in Esgoloth, until one day an Orcish child was born. Asdu was his name, and was a fierce warrior and great leader. He had seen his family starve and freeze to death after being turned away by the dwarves and was hateful of them, and so as an adult he schemed and plotted. Asdu brought together all the warring tribes though Esgoloth. He solved their petty squabbles and combined the tribes into a fearsome army, which he then set forth onto the great dwarven strongholds. The dwarves had grown fat and complacent in their safeholds; uncaring of the happenings on the surface, and as such they were unprepared for the onslaught. The White-Orcs laid siege on their homes, and infiltrated their mines and strongholds through the great chimneys and abandoned shafts. The take-over was swift and brutal, and over 80% of the dwarven population was slain. The remainder were thrown to the wild, exiled from their great homes and sent to live or die in the snow and ice.
The dwarves survived as nomads, taking from the land and seeking shelter around the hotspots of the land as they do today. They lie in their small communities, stubbornly denying that what they lost was so great, yet secretly yearning to return to their hearths of old. The communities are too small and divided to fight back; perhaps one day a child will be born that will unite the dwarves as Asdu united the orcs, that they may reclaim their long lost homes. But until then they live their lives within the communities, inhaling their steam and drinking their spirits, and tell tales of how their ancestors used to make marvels unrivaled, out of raw ore and gemstones.
- The White-Orcs have taken over the role of the dwarves; they are filled with life and laughter, though they have retained their savage and dangerous nature. They dig ore and gems out of the ground and send them on caravans to trade and sell to neighboring regions.
- The White-Orcs and Esgol Dwarves hate each other. White-Orcs often send raiding parties out to Dwarven communities, and likewise, the Dwarves take any opportunity they can to lay waste to any caravans the White-Orcs send out from their strongholds. This is especially true, because the Dwarves covet the ore and gems which are so often in these caravans highly.
- The White-Orcs are determined that the Dwarves do not get a foot-hold underground again. Any mines that the Dwarves make are quickly invaded by Orcs - unless they are sufficiently hidden.
- An Esgol Blacksmith is said to create weapons and armor of fantastic quality, if people would but bring him the materials to work with and some gold (or a good bottle of spirits).
- The party has arrived, weary, at a Dwarven Community. The dwarves have heard of their reputation, and a great feast is soon planned in their honor!
- The party has been traveling through the snowlands for days, and a blizzard has struck them! They journey blindly through the freezing wind, directionless as they look for shelter. Finally, they come across a tiny village and bang on the door. The sound of several latches unlocking precedes the face of a kindly old dwarf, who welcomes them into the safety and comfort of his home while the blizzard abates.
- A renegade group of Esgol Dwarves are planning to attack a White-Orc caravan, but they need the parties help! A share of the spoils is the reward.
- A Dwarven community has grown too large and one of the families has offered to leave town and find a new hotspot. They ask the PC's to travel with them to find their new home.
- Major Plot: The Dwarves have reached a point where they desire their strongholds back! The PC's must aid the dwarves in many ways to gather the community, build an army, infiltrate strongholds, and then form a defense so that this cannot happen to the dwarves again!
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? Responses (11)-11
It's a great sub, but these aren't dwarves. They could just as easily be replaced with human barbarians, there's nothing there to mark them as dwarves, though I liked the speckled beards.
But that part about lazy dwarfs being caught unprepared, that was darn well near blasphemy right there. :p But an interesting role-reversal though.
With respect, i defy your opinion that these are not dwarves. These are my take on dwarves, created for my world of Asydia; they are the only dwarves in that land and this is simply how they are. The fact that they don't conform with stereotypical mountain dwelling drunkards doesn't mean they are not dwarves, and if they did, why would i bother making them, since that has been done to death and has no sense of originality.
there are many parallels with generic dwarves and Esgol Dwarves:
* They are both short, stocky, strong and favour beards (Though the Esgol dwarves grow them for warmth)
* They both indulge in alcohol almost religiously (not beer swillinf, but spirit drinking)
* They both live(d) in mountain strongholds and mined; the Esgol dwarves are merely victims of the harshness of the land and have been ousted.
* They both have(had) an affinity for elemental earth (they once worshipped a goddess who was a definition of the elements under Esgoloth)
* They both love to craft and create wonderful things (materials are simply lacking for the Esgol dwarves)
* They are both highly ritualistic in what they do (The Esgol dwarves have simply pit that to a mental outlet instead of physical, with philosophizing.)
* They both share a hatred for Orcs (The only Orcs in Asydia are the White-Orcs)
Just because these dwarves got complacent and were overrun doesn't make them any less dwarves. Tell me; were the classic Tolkien Fantasy dwarves lazy when they let goblins overrun the Mines of Morior? (I'm not sure of the details there, but im pretty sure they let goblins take over the whole place.)
furthermore; if these Esgol Dwarves can be replaced with human barbarians, so can any other dwarf. What's stopping humans from digging mines, growing beards and swilling beer?
These are dwarves who lost their ways and their homes. Beneath their cheery and friendly exterior lies a deep, wilting sorrow at the loss of their life. They are Dwarves who have seen their glory days, and watched it crumble before their eyes. It was never my intention to create standard dwarves (Because honestly, I don't like dwarves a whole lot the way they typically are; i wanted to make my own version.)
so again, with respect, i defy your assertion that the Esgol Dwarves are not dwarves. Though if you still feel that way, there is nothing more i can say :p
I wasn't referring to the lack of stereotypical dwarven traits, but rather the lack of values that I would dub as dwarven. It simply didn't feel dwarven to me. And I still stand by that if you take every instance of the word dwarf in this sub and replace it with the name of a barbarian tribe, noone would point to this and say, oh hey they seem like dwarfs. It's all fine and good to create your own version of something, but like I've said before, there comes a point where you simply have gone so far from the original that you might as well use something else instead. Instead of hammering in screws, use a screwdriver. Respectfully.
Boy, I really got you riled up huh. =)
PS. knowman, I've never played Dark Sun, so I wouldn't know.
Haha, didn't mean to sound stand-offish; I just felt they were plenty dwarfish (and still do) and wanted to state my case, but you're definitely entitled to your thoughts on them, so we shall agree to disagree!
I thought this was a great twist on typical dwarven lore. It seems like the idea could be inserted into most fantasy campaigns given the off-the-beaten track of the Esgol, or it seems like a great basis for a campaign in itself!
Gossamer, do you feel the same way about how Elves and especially Halflings are portrayed in Dark Sun? I've always thought the feral hobbits was a neat twist on how a race might evolve if exposed to extreme circumstances, and saw this submission as a similar take.
Not saying you're wrong, just curious about your perspective.
They feel Dwarven to me. I can kind of understand Gossamer's 'Dwarven values' point, as you seem to switch the roles of orcs and dwarves here (Dwarves afraid of Orcs? lord have mercy! :)), but to me that seems kind of refreshing actually. I like the fact that the Orcs have taken over the underground, leaving these poor bearded souls to eke out their lives in icy tundra.
These are dwarves plopped into a new and harsh environment. And so their lifestyles, habits, and even values, evolve over time based on this. It works for me.
I really like the 'breathing in of herb-infused steam' idea, as this rings true. You will often find eucalyptus and other pungent herbs infused into the steam in many Eastern European saunas.
I can clearly see the images in my mind of these rhyme-encrusted dwarves, inhaling their steam, drinking their spirits, and hauling their meager goods in sleds of walrus tusks, lashed together...its a nice visual. Hey wait, these are Russians! :P
One question I have is...Where do they get all this tobacco from? I would imagine the frozen tundra isn't a great spot for growing the crop. Is this one of the few commodities they trade for?
Aah, the tobacco! Damn you and your incessant need for logic! :p
I haven't thought that part out yet. So we will say either they cultivate their own, hardy strain which grows around hot springs where it's warmer, or they trade it for stone-worked goods, furs and leathers and meat. I'm leaning towards them growing their own though - a tough, bitter strain which the Esgol Dwarves love, but outsiders may find too powerful for their tastes.
My reaction to the question (good catch, Murometz) was 'clearly it's a strain of lichen that grows next to the hot springs.'
I like these dwarves - and it is very well detailed. Good stuff here ShadowEagle!