January 25, 2017

The Dwarves of Ghem

Ghem isn't labeled on the Minaria map, so no XP bonus for entering their territory. Each of the clans has a labeled fortress though, so characters can get 500xp for their first visit inside each of those. I wanted to use published modules (or free stuff from rpg blogs and such) to populate the labeled hexes on the map, but I seem to have a severe shortage of dwarf strongholds so no maps yet. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has ideas. So far I'm mostly just borrowing stuff from the Dwarf Fortress computer game, and adding in my own variety of weirdness. Special thanks to Jeff for some much needed inspiration about non-human clan relations. I steal from his blog endlessly.

Anyhow, this is what I have so far...
GHEM - Ghem is the kingdom of the Dwarves, it’s legendary lost capital was founded ages ago deep in the darkness of the underworld. The Dwarves now dwell near the surface in scattered mining colonies around Minaria. Each of the seven clans prefers to tend to their own business, but will rally to each other’s aid if called. Sadly though, the dwarves suffer due to a web of feuds and rivalries that prevent them from ever truly uniting together. Two of the clans each claim that their fortress is the new capitol of Ghem, and honestly it just gets worse from there. It has been said that the dwarves never forget, and never forgive. Despite their faults, the dwarves are given at least grudging respect by the other kingdoms. Dwarven craftsmanship is unsurpassed, and their airships help to facilitate trade throughout Minaria.

The Kingdom of Ghem is made up of those seven scattered areas of light green

The Loss of Dwarven History 

Ghem's legendary capital was lost ages ago, back when the Ancients waged a war of genocide against both dwarves and elves. Zion was hidden deep in the bowels of the world, but even this great stronghold was eventually overrun by the Ancients' war machines and mutant monsters. There are none now living who remember how to find it.  After the fall of Zion the resistance was broken. The remaining dwarves and elves scattered and hid throughout the underdark, hunted relentlessly for generations.

Then, one day, the Ancients suddenly ascended from the world and the reinforcements of hunter droids and mutant horrors abruptly stopped. Some of the survivors eventually returned to the surface, but found that it was now overrun by humans and the other slave races created to serve the whims of the ancient ones. Those first encounters were fraught with anger and retribution. Hundreds of years of guerrilla warfare followed, but eventually these hostilities subsided and the dwarves and elves now live in relative peace with humanity; though some tensions certainly remain.

The dwarven population has never truly recovered.

Today, Ghem is comprised of seven clans of mountain dwarves who dwell in scattered territories around Minaria. Each clan has their own customs and laws, especially now that the kingship is contested. One of the only Laws of Ghem that is still universal is the ban on the sale or gift of dwarven military technology to outsiders, because of the worry that airships and repeating crossbows might someday be used against dwarfkind.

Dwarven society is rather strict and steeped in tradition. Dwarves who break their oaths or defy the clan chiefs risk banishment, and no clan would welcome such a dishonorable dwarf. Any child born to a clanless dwarf is then also clanless, and so their numbers grow. These are sometimes called "Hill Dwarves", and they are the ones who are sometimes found living and working within human communities. Most adventuring dwarves are hill dwarves. There are rumors that an eighth clan (or more?) never returned to the surface world. They remained in the deep darkness below and have grown twisted and strange over time, but most dwarves refuse to speak of such things.

English:Dwarven Translator

"Which clan are you from?"
1. Knuckles' Folk - the McStabby Clan (I couldn't think of a good one that started with A)
2. B)ogbeard
3. C)oalfist
4. D)oomhammer
5. E)lectrumeye
6. F)rorefoot
7. G)ristlegut
8. H)ill Dwarf (clan-less)

The feuds are between the clans who are near each other alphabetically.   The McStabby Clan is the alphabetical oddball, feuding with the Bogbeards and the Gristleguts.  Oh, and all the clans treat the clanless hill dwarves like untrustworthy bags of crap.  It's possible that a clanless dwarf might distinguish themselves in such a way as to be accepted back into a clan, but this is so rare that any such tale would have to be the stuff of legend.

The McStabby Clan - Alzak

Deep in the Barriorr mountains stands the fortress Alzak, ancestral home to the legendary dwarf hero, Knuckles McStabby. The clan who lives there all claim to be his descendants, and are known as Knuckles' Folk or the McStabby Clan. Alzak is an imposing fortress, bristling with various armaments and hidden traps, but most impressive of all is the glowing moat of lava constantly being replenished and pumped up from the depths.

The McStabbys are the most volatile of the dwarf clans. They are famous for being moody and aggressive. The other clans have long suspected that Knuckles' Folk are all prone to fits of paranoia and madness. The McStabbys are known to be overly prepared and suspicious (even by dwarf standards), but also bold and fearless. They seem willing to take unnecessary risks and leave their fate to chance so long as it might help their clan.  Most of them have red hair which they keep in a tall mohawk.

Feud #1 - McStabby vs. Gristlegut
"They said that they could find Zion if we combined our collected lore, but it was a lie! They were just tricking us into letting their historians look though our sacred texts. Now they're telling everyone that Knuckles McStabby wasn't real! They've always been jealous of our noble forefather, and now they want to wipe away his memory! This insult will not stand!"

Feud #2 - McStabby vs. Bogbeard
"When the Bogbeards lost their home at Winter Rest, we were the only ones gracious enough to invite the lot of 'em to stay with us.  For over a decade we set 'em up with plenty of food and nice hard beds down in our mines for rather reasonable rates, but all those ingrates did was complain the whole time.  Then one of those doofuses pulled the wrong lever and flooded the lower mines with magma. We told 'em all to get the hell out before they ruined our home too.  Cheap, smelly bastards still haven't paid the rent money they owe us."

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
Aws Noir
The Shunned Vale
Walled City of Adeese - Shucassam
Port Lork - Hothior

Bogbeard Clan - The Gathering

The Bogbeards were driven from their home at Winter Rest by the forces of Zorn.  They lost many soldiers, sacred texts, and much of their wealth. They traveled as scattered refuges for a while, until they were invited to live in Alzak by the McStabbys. When relations there soured, they set out wandering once more. The clan has coalesced at last at The Gathering, a collection of substandard caves on the north end of the Worn Downs (which isn't even a proper mountain range anymore, but it's best not to mention that to them).

The Bogbeards pride themselves on having the most elaborately styled and spiky beards of all the clans thanks to their continued use of the traditional recipe for Old Sage Fuzzworthy's Beard Balm, which is mostly rancid butter and curdled bat's milk.  If you can withstand the smell long enough to have a conversation with them, you'll find that they are a friendly and jovial people (though there is always a certain sadness in their eyes).  They definitely aren't embarrassed about the smell, and are quick to make jokes whenever someone mentions it. "That's the price of beauty, love!" and similar comments are said with a smile and a wink.  They will absolutely resist any attempt to wash the stuff out of their hair.

Feud #2 - Bogbeard vs. McStabby
"Oh sure, they invited us in with open arms.  Then they started demanding rent money that they knew we didn't have.  They basically forced us into indentured servitude down in their mines in order to pay the debt.  Can you believe it?  They used us as slaves and then expected us to pay them rent for the privilege! That wasn't even the worst of it. Those crazy bastards don't have any safety regulations at all, and they work with MAGMA! We warned them about the unsafe working conditions constantly, but when the magma flood happened they blamed it on us.  They can take their generosity and shove it!"

Feud #3 - Bogbeard vs. Coalfist
"We pleaded with the Coalfists to come help us defend Winter Home, but those good for nothings wouldn't lift a finger to help.  You notice how Zorn never attacks their home? Those backstabbers have probably got some kind of backdoor alliance with the gobos. Those Coalfists would have gotten us all killed if the Electrumeyes hadn't of been there to cover our retreat."

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
Aws Noir
Mines of Rosengg
Fortress Marzarbol - Pon

Coalfist Clan - The Crag

The Crag is a fortress built within a massive plateau that was split by some titanic force in the ancient past. The entrances are dug into the cliff sides of these split canyons. Some of these cave mouths are joined by bridges that span the gap, while others have landing docks for the airships. The tops and sides of the plateau are riddled with traps and secret hatches. The bottom of the canyons are often slick and wet.  Some of the smaller caves in the cliff walls can be used by the dwarves to shoot bursts of water or steam as defense against aerial attacks.

The Coalfists are a hardy bunch with dark hair and skin, though it is hard to tell how much of that might be soot and grime.  They live precarious lives, not only because of the cliffs, but also due to their location between the goblin armies of Zorn and the undead armies of the Black Hand.  It is an open secret (and the Coalfists greatest shame) that they have sullied themselves by signing tentative treaties with both of these groups and they are continually forced to pay tributes in exchange for peace.

Feud #3 - Coalfist vs. Bogbeard
"They refused to uphold their end of the Treaty of Blackanvil and support our troops during Goblin War VII.  It's their fault that we signed those treaties with Zorn and had to start paying tributes.  Then afterward those Bogbeards expected us to rush over and save Winter Rest? Saving them was a fool's errand that would have cost us our home as well."

Feud #4 - Coalfist vs. Doomhammer
"Those bastards don't know when to keep their mouths shut. It's easy to talk big when you have hundreds of miles of desert protecting you, but we've got whole goblin armies camped outside our doors. We do what we have to in order to survive.  Calling us goblin kissers and zombie lovers is WAY out of line. They need to shut up, or we will shut them up!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Stone Face
Mines of Rosengg
Tower of Zards - The Black Hand (tribute)
The Pits - Zorn (tribute)

Doomhammer Clan - The Shunned Vale

Near the southern end of the Dry Mountains lies The Shunned Vale, so-named because it is home to a spiteful and miserable clan of dwarves named the Doomhammers.  No one is quite sure exactly where the entrance to their fortress is, and they like it that way. The small city of Jipols sits just 100 miles to the east of the vale, but the people there do their best to pretend that the dwarves of Doomhammer are much further away. Traders there like to tell the story of a man who was separated from his caravan during a sandstorm and was forced to wander the desert, slowly dying of thirst. He eventually saw a band of Doomhammers riding camels and rushed over to them, begging for a drink.  One of them spit in his face and said "You're welcome" before riding on.

The Doomhammers have a deep seated belief in dwarven superiority, and seek to elevate Ghem by pushing down everyone else. They won't trust anyone who isn't a dwarf, and dwarves with friendly ties to non-dwarves are also suspect.  It's rumored that the Doomhammers have built long underground roads that help them to avoid the blistering sun of the nearby deserts.  Their airships travel all over Minaria and make brief stops at friendly dwarven fortresses for repairs and supplies, but they rarely do any bulk trading.  Instead they raid and pillage their way across the lands and seas, and any non-dwarven groups are potential targets.

Feud #4 - Doomhammer vs. Coalfist
"These backstabbers have turned against their kin. The traitors are collaborating with the gobs of Zorn AND that necromancer called the Black Hand! They spend their days now kissing goblin ass and stroking bones.  Those aren't true dwarves anymore, and I'm not sure if they ever were."

Feud #5 - Doomhammer vs. Electrumeye
"These flower-picking peacemongers are gonna be the death of us. Those traitors are already collaborating with the elves of Neuth, and now they're looking to cut deals with the humans too. Their trying to take away our weapons and make us all kowtow to the elves. They can have our repeating crossbows when they pry them from our cold, dead hands!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Stone Face
Anywhere really

Electrumeye Clan - Aws Noir

The impressive fortress Aws Noir sits atop of the Spires of the Eternal, deep within the great forest Neuth. It is here that the Electrumeye clan consolidates their power and wealth.  They have the smallest standing army of all the clans.  Instead they exert their influence through trade and political deals.  When diplomacy fails they will use highly specialized strike teams to accomplish their goals.  These teams can drop down from airship at night to perform quick missions with surgical precision. By the time the enemy becomes aware of the strike, they are already gone.

The Electrumeyes are the most cosmopolitan of the dwarf clans.  They have a mutually beneficial alliance with the elves of Neuth and allow the elvish ambassadors to charter airships for diplomacy and trade within the human kingdoms. The Electrumeyes are both savvy and amicable.  They are working hard to make similar deals with many of the human kingdoms.

Feud #5 - Electrumeye vs. Doomhammer
"They expect us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the rest of the world doesn't matter. Well, guess what? It does. They're willful ignorance is not only an embarrassment, but absolutely dangerous. Dwarven prosperity depends upon trade and diplomacy, but these Doomhammer fanatics refuse to listen to reason and take every opportunity to undermine our diplomatic efforts. Now they've started raiding and pillaging our friends?! We need to take away their airships before they start a war. If they don't drop this rhetoric about dwarven superiority we might all end up on the wrong side of a vast human alliance."

Feud #6 - Electrumeye vs. Frorefoot
"They're stole our plans for the airships and shared them with the others clans.  We'd have a trade monopoly if it wasn't for them.  Those airships would have been useless without our airbladder designs.

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Gathering
Ider Bolis - Neuth
Castle Altarr - Immer
Anywhere that profit might be found

Frorefoot Clan - Mines of Rosengg

Far within the treacherous Mountians of Ice live the dwarves of clan Frorefoot. There are scattered mines and villages, but the Frorefoot leaders rule from the old Mines of Rosengg. The Mines of Rosengg run deep, for they've been producing precious metals and gemstones for generations. Queen Brynhilvieg Frorefoot now sits upon the throne here, and claims to rule over all of Ghem; though her rule is disputed.

It is an unfortunate tale.  Long ago, when the kind and elderly King Hrodolfr died, the clans all came together as was their custom to negotiate deals and make concessions until a majority of the clan chiefs could agree upon a new king.  Deals were struck, and it was agreed that Einarr Gristlegut would marry Dagmaeri Frorefoot and they would then rule as king and queen.  All seemed well during the ceremony, but the reception soon fell to ruin when it was made public that Einarr had long been having an affair with Gunnhildr, who was Hrodolfr's young queen. When Einarr publicly denied their relations she cursed him in such a way that he could not consummate his new marriage. Dagmaeri was outraged by all of this and quickly divorced him, but Einarr retained the dowry by challenging Dagmaeri's father to trail by combat. Her father refused the fight as he knew of Einarr's reputation as a warrior. Thus Einarr kept the dowry (and the crown!) in accordance with the laws of Ghem, but this was such an offense to both honor and justice that many dwarves refused to accept Einarr's rule and instead swore their loyalties to Queen Dagmaeri.  The matter has never been resolved. The appointment of a new monarch can only happen during a great assembly of the seven clan chiefs, and most of them refuse to speak to each other due to the great tangle of feuds.  Until then, the Frorefoots and Gristleguts both claim rulership over Ghem, and each disputes the legitimacy of the other. The Frorefoots have been passing down Dagmaeri's crown from mother to daughter for generations now. Thus, the queen's crown is now worn by Queen Brynhilvieg.

Queen Brynhilvieg pursues a policy of openness and trade, not only between the clans but throughout the kingdoms of Minaria.  She also advocates for social justice, and wants the wealthier clans (like Frorefoot and Electrumeye) to help provide for those who have fallen upon hard times (like Bogbeard and Coalfist), so that they might spur development and thus improve the economic growth of all the clans. These new policies are a break from the longstanding traditions of competition, and reactions among the clans have been mixed.

Feud #6 - Frorefoot vs. Electrumeye
"Those greedy Electrumeyes wanted to keep the plans for the airships and all that trade wealth to themselves. It's selfish and despicable that they'd let other dwarves suffer while they're living the good life.  The airships are vital for the prosperity of all the clans, and they should have been happy to hand over the plans. Besides, those airships would have been useless without our designs for the sails and repeating bellows.  We had every right to share them."

Feud #7 - Frorefoot vs. Gristlegut
"If those Gristleguts had any honor they would have give up their misbegotten crown and admitted that Einarr was wrong to keep it. You can't just scream that a deal's a deal and snatch the crown away. A true king would know that."

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Gathering
The Crag
Pennol on the Lake - Muetar
Colist - Mivior

Gristlegut Clan - The Stone Face

At the northern end of the Shaker Mountains, deep within the foreboding Trollwood, stands a mountain with a great stone face. The Gristlegut dwarves live within.  The Stone Face is a natural formation, though it has been reinforced and augmented by dwarven engineers over time. The Gristleguts are currently in an uneasy truce with the nearby nations of Hothior and Mivior. The fighting started when the Gristleguts took control of the region around Serpent Bay and cut off Mivior's northern holdings.  Mivior has a fearsome navy, but their army was not prepared to repel fortified dwarves who were quickly trapping every roadway into the region. Hothior eventually got involved after Mivior agreed to pay a large sum. The whole thing became a quagmire on all sides. The Gristleguts lost some of their mountain forts to Hothior, but still retain the territory west of Serpent Bay. The Gristleguts make regular patrols through their territory, and skirmishes are not uncommon.  The roadways, mountain trails, and much of the Trollwood are now riddled with traps.

The Gristleguts are hardy and stubborn folk who revere history and tradition. They claim to have the most complete and detailed sacred texts of all the clans. They still contend that the kingship of Ghem is theirs according to the law, and Einarr's crown has been passed down from father to son for generations. They recognize that simply stating the legal facts are not enough for some dwarves, and they've been working hard to make some grand gesture that might unite the clans behind them. Their efforts to find the lost city of Zion seemed promising at first.  They spent much of their treasure and political capital in order to convince the other clans to allow Gristlegut historians to look through their sacred texts in an attempt to decipher secret codes within that might lead them to Zion, but those promises quickly became an embarrassment due to the forgeries that led to the whole Knuckles McStabby debacle. Now the king's crown is worn by King Ortwin Gristlegut, and he hopes to unite the clans against a common enemy.  He would prefer to turn them all against Hothior somehow as the Gristleguts want to take back their mountains and also because Hothior would not fare well versus the combined might of Ghem, but many clans balk at the thought of attacking humans.  Uniting the clans against the goblins of Zorn might be easier, but that war would be far more risky.  For now King Ortwin watches and waits for any opportunity to begin his great war.

Feud #7 - Gristlegut vs. Frorefoot
"We'd be living the good life if those Frorefoots would obey the law and give up their ridiculous claims to the crown."

Feud #1 - Gristlegut vs. McStabby
"We were about to unite the clans until those loons and their forgeries ruined everything. It's their fault that Zion is still lost. If they had bothered to keep proper records then we'd have found it by now!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
The Crag
The Shunned Vale
The Golkus - Rombune

Fondle Rock
In the hills west of the Well of Lered a new fortress has been constructed. It's entrance is set back into a ledge on a large stony hill, protected in front by a deep gorge.  The dwarves who live here call it Geshud Gatizid, which (to the amusement of many humans) roughly translates to "Fondle Rock Fortress".

The dwarves here are all hill dwarves, exiled from their clans (or the children of such exiles). They've been brought here together by their charismatic leader King Micah Ludovidicus.  He claims that the clans have become corrupt and outdated institutions, and that he is the true king of Ghem and all dwarfkind.  The clans of course ignore him and dismiss all such claims, but many are drawn to the promise of a new dwarven society, free of the rigid clan structures.

Feud #8 - Hill Dwarves vs. All the other Clans
"They're so mean and unfair!"

Trading Partners/Airship Routes
"They won't even sell us an airship!"
Some overland trading with Unseen University at the city of Mezmer and the town of Hardingham deep in the Forest of the Lurking.

Dwarven Religion

The human gods, demons, and devils are mostly uninterested in dwarves (and vice versa), for there is little to be gained. A dwarf can neither pledge their soul in service nor trade their soul away. All dwarven souls are the exclusive property of Armok, and Armok does not negotiate. Many humans think that Armok is a deity worshipped by the dwarves. They're wrong. Armok isn't a god they pray to. Armok is the god they serve. It is not a matter of faith or devotion, they simply cannot help but to obey the divine will. The various dwarven clans each have their saints and legendary ancestors whom they pray to for aid and intervention, but no one really expects much. Armok is rarely swayed by the pitiful pleas of demigods.

The dwarves see Armok as the one true god. The one who created the world. The one who compels them to build their greatest monuments. The one whose whims can turn paupers into kings, but also leads wandering adventurers to raise armies of the dead and slaughter entire towns of men, women, and children. The one whose lust for the rarest of metals provides great prosperity, or can also cause them to unleash untold suffering on the world.

The dwarves do not worship Armok, no. They are slaves to Armok the God of Blood.

An individual dwarf can expect to be touched by Armok at least once during their lifetime, perhaps many times. They will fall into a strange mood, withdraw from society, and then be compelled to craft an object or to complete some strange task or quest. During this time they know only the next step in the process, but never to what end they are striving for. If they are to craft an item for example they might know which raw materials are needed (they must find and acquire these on their own), but once the components are collected they will work as if possessed and create objects that they themselves may not know how to build. Clever dwarves will carefully watch their quick moving hands for this is how the dwarves have learned many secrets of crafting, stoneworking, machinery, and more. Being touched by Armok is not always a boon however. Sometimes the materials needed are impossible to find or the destination too far or dangerous to reach quickly enough. Those who fail to complete their assigned task will become increasingly agitated over time, eventually falling into a manic madness which makes them a danger to themselves and others. Occasionally, the madness may pass if Armok is satiated by a significant amount of bloodletting and death.... occasionally. Usually the other dwarves will simply work together to surround and morosely kill the poor mad bastard before he murders his friends and family or pulls that one lever that fills the entire fortress with magma.

Humans and others will sometimes choose to worship Armok. They receive nothing. The dwarves roll their eyes at such naivety.

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