Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dwarf in the Machine (5e D&D Race/Dwarves/some subraces)





Nearly all of the dwarves in modern fantasy are from Tolkien. Tolkien's dwarves are an amalgamation of the Hebrew language, second temple period Jews, the more negative characteritics of certain Norse heroes (stubbornness, alcoholism, violence, volatility) and the Nordic Dvergar (short, wise earth spirits, experts in crafting and mining who dwell in mountain halls or below the earth).


And then there is Adam, the created man (the only thing that the god of Genesis appears to make with His bare hands) whose name in Hebrew is a sort of neologism for ruddy dirt.

FORGED
Forged are dicordated humanoids. Their frames fleshy and broad, they are wide-handed and wide-mouthed and usually hirsute (or, in certain environments, hairless and hyperdense or scaled and gilled). Each Forged is bound to its home Forge and all the Forged bound to a Forge are called an Iteration (as in, "we are the Iteration of Gaz'sham").

Forged show less phenotypic diversity within a single Iteration than humans do among a single population group: while their hair and skin color may vary, facial features and general physique remain startlingly similar, making it difficult for most non-Forged, and for many Forged not of the same Iteration, to distinguish at sight between two Forged of the same iteration.

There are phenotypic distinctions that resemble human "male" and "female", but Forged are sterile, and most find a pseudo-sexual release in work, power, research and creativity. Their numbers are replenished: whenever a Forged dies, a new Forged appears fully formed from their Forge's creation matrix, pursuant to their Forge's preservation procedures and their Iteration's birthing rituals. Birth rates (Forgings or Smeltings) sometimes increase or flag, with multiple Forgings for a single death or no replacement born at all depending on the needs of the Forged: in times of war as many as four or five Forged may be born for each death, in times when the Forge's halls are crowded, some deaths may go without a corresponding birth.

Forge worshippers hold this as the considerate hand of Mother Forge, while others suggest that Forges may be acting in their own defense or simply responding to birth and death rates (more frequent death rates indicating a stress on the Forge's environs and the need for more Forged).

Diversity of appearance within a Forged population may be down to bugs in a Forge's code, an ancient signalling mechanism, simple caprice or environmental variation (the palest Formostian are born in the higher reaches of their homes, the more blue their skin, the closer their birth port is to the Ocean Below).

TRAITS
*Con+2
*are born mature, average lifespan of 350 years
*their laws of utmost importance, but they disregard the laws of all others
*4-5' tall
*25' walking speed
*60' darkvision 
*advantage on poison saving throws and resistance to poison damage
*proficient in battleaxe, handaxe, throwing hammer and warhammer
*proficient with one of smith's, brewers or mason's tools/supplies
*proficient in Int(History) checks relating to stonework
*speak read and write Common and their own language
*there are multiple subraces, detailed below
(ie, as PHB for dwarves)


CESSATION OF LIFE FUNCTIONS
Forged eventually wear down and collapse. Stilled Forged rot within seconds and are gone within hours, as if designed to leave no trace or else be immediately forgotten. 

The body is Still, but the spirit continues and most Forges give voice or even spectral form to the Still. The Still of Gaz'sham retain some form, like ghosts or specters and work alongside their fully corporeal cousins. Gaz'sham is more dead than living. 

Similarly, the Still of Formost are rooted in place in the sea bed fathoms below their stalactite home, are composed primarily of photons and speak in gargling Deep Speech. They stand and sway in the deep, softly glowing in the trillions, making the ocean bed like a moon, like an endless bed of anemones (their knowledge of the deep is said to be fathomless).

The Still Dwarrow retain no form but are a cacophonic voice and force, rolling stones and cracking trees but at times have appeared en masse, as a tribe of ghostly mountain warriors stretching from the observer to seeming infinity and it is in this form they have their centennial games of ninepins in remote mountain vales. They know the names of most things.

Still Agnians disappear, their burial cave sealed tight by elves. They will someday break the seal and pour over their home like a tide of ice, freezing many to death, locking their homes deep below ground, fouling their own forge unless aided. The Agnian Still regularly seek aid from any they can reach, but have reached no one as of yet.

Reincarnation is unheard of and not necessarily desirable. When not speaking through their Forge, Still Forged are still working, praying, interacting with one another and their ancestors in a cold, dark, vast and seemingly infinite cave. If there is an end to the cave or to the Forge's storage capacity, there is no clear end in sight. It's possible that the active Forges share space with the inert ones.

FORGES
Each Forge is fortress- or city-sized. Some are worshiped (depending on the Forge, the Knowledge, Tempest, Fortian, Forge or Void Domains). Most are embedded in rock and only partially excavated, the Forged living in their empty spaces, not within the Forge's bulk, where its workings are.

Most Forges are clearly enormous machines of some kind, usually composed of brass and a dull super hard metal as well as poured stone and each Forge is unique in its design. Many are inert, humming and twinkling but cold and otherwise dark. Others are superheated, churning, literally deafening or blinding if you end up in the wrong place or look into the wrong port or hatch.

There are always sealed doors in. The Forged usually guard all open access points into their Forged to their death. 

Some are gears and clockwork and Modron scholars explore and catalog the interiors when allowed and others are gas and coolant and tubes and cold green displays and Illithids and Gith try to steal their guts and there are whole ecosystems living in those tubes, most of them stow-aways from somewhere and time very, very distant, their minds like a map to cities no Common-speaking sapient has ever heard of let along visited or else a spellbook of great and alien power.

Most Forges have some motive power, likely all can teleport anywhere in an instant. The Forged have never discovered how to enable these fucntions and those Forges that do move mostly hover or scuttle a centimeter or so every year one way or the other, listless.

Most Forges contain writing composed largely of arrays of lines, some leaning or curling, as if composed by an impatient, brutal hand. The language shares roots with Giant and Infernal and takes loan words from Deep Speech. This is called "Dwarvish".

Forged keep records of all the other known Forges and they lock these records up tight and keep them encoded and cursed. Most Forges are keyed to the others, making travel from one to the other a matter of tapping a portal key to a portal, though the portal keys are largely lost or else have been intentionally disseminated, to allow certain individuals ready access to the Forges. Forged will pay great sums or craft mighty devices for the return of these keys. Some portals are dead and others are prohibited or malfunctioning. The portal for Formost, for example, is shut. When it was open it just spewed crawling piles of flesh.



THEIR NATURE IS OBSCURE

It's possible that:

*Forges are some biomechanical computer or sentience of alien purpose or intent and Forged are some kind of maintenance race or defense system or both

*or that the Forged are some kind of very specific defense system: the Forges may be thought structures of pure order, crystallized into matter, the Forged a response to sapient life or perhaps a means of communicating with them (in which case there is a fundamental flaw or break in the communication relay because the Forges don't speak to the Forged; an alternative theory is that the Forged are, themselves a kind of language or symbol - akin to the plaque on Pioneer 10 "I see you, I understand you and make things like you" as well as some kind of maintenance or defense mechanism)

*Forges may be probes and their Forged a kind of data collection system

*the creation of the Forges is often attributed to old, lost creator deities, usually a demonic titan (creator perhaps also of the Dungeon Virus and Elves and other soul-less beings)

*the Forged may be a kind of internal signalling system, organelles gone haywire

*some Forges make things, with or without the help of their Iteration of Forged, but not all and this production itself could be some other kind of bug, information gathering or dissemination technique, etc.

SOME FORGES, SUBRACES


Formostian live in Formost and their home is full of monsters (a sort of bubbling froth of flesh and mouths and magic and rays of force) and they're living on its outskirts (or what is believed to be its outskirts, the Forge's location and nature having been long lost to the memory of even the oldest Stilled Formostian still interested or capable of speech). More precisely, they live in holes and tunnels roughly quarried from stalactites and eat fungus and they are broken (either whatever part of their forge that gives them things like empathy is broken or they were made to be like people pretending to be people who are actually a little more like machines). They are born out of rock. It is unclear if the rock itself is some extension of their Forge or their birth is some last ditch defense mechanism or means of perpetuation or the Formostian are a kind of distress signal.

Their forge is lost to them and they sacrifice themselves in great numbers deep in their stalactite home or in the rock above or far below them, breaking like waves upon unceasing hordes of crawling, mutant life. They have yet to even find the original halls of their forge and are birthed from the stone of their new home, rock spaces crudely excavated from stalactites hanging over and suspended in an ancient, black underground ocean. Their skin is blue-grey to white, their hair, when it grows sticks out straight and ranges from deep green to black. They stink of brine and the bio-luminescent fungus they eat makes their teeth and mouth glow.

traits
*can drink salt water and eat rotten food without ill effect
*when suffocating, adds half its con score in rounds it can survive without breath
*advantage on trying to communicate with mollusks and most low-intelligence fish


Gaz'shamen live in Gaz'sham, First Forge, Cathedral of Polumetis, so long forgotten it's falling into (is partway into) the primordial soup of Limbo, and the Gaz'shamen are relatively recently born, kickstarted into existence either by warning sensors in the Forge-cathedral or else by some intruder. They're frantically trying to save their home and themselves from extinction. Their home is the sole source of new Dirge Walkers (space ships in Limbo) and they swear that production will cease when they die out (it will certainly cease when the primordial soup takes Gaz'sham entirely).

The technopriests of Gaz'sham spend most of their time researching their home, the Dirge Walkers and some means of pulling their home Forge, what amounts to a small planet, out of the soup, if not out of Limbo entirely. They're all for taking whatever offers of help come their way. They still haven't figured out a way in to Gaz'sham even and everyone lives on buildings cobbled together on the factory's outer structure.

The warpriests, on the other hand, already stretched thin defending their planet against the chaos beasts that clamber up its hull from the primordial soup, are much less enthusiastic about dealing with the thousands of petitioners from all over the planes who offer help in hopes of getting a spot at a Dirge Walker auction. 

Gaz'sham is crawling with monstrous constructs and sentient engines (technopriest attempts at automated defense systems and/or help reversing Gaz'sham's descent, many of which are simply left to run wild near Limbo, some of which have decided it makes more sense to organize and Xaositects are in their number, coaching the more rebellious) and higher and lower planars, often acting on their best behavior and only trying to kill eachother in secret. Black markets for artifacts and lost tech and assassination attempts are common here as there is no Lady of Pain here to keep such potentially destabilizing intrigues in check.

traits
*+1 Wis
*advantage on Int(History) and (Arcana) checks to identify or discern basic information as to lost or far-planar tech





Agnians are red- or black-haired, volatile, and often drunk or strung out. They claim to be fled from deep below the surface, escaped from siege cities built in plutonic igneous rock floating amid magma like a clot in the terrestrial blood or like an inverted asteroid. It's unclear if they're all talking about the same city or many, and they gather regularly to compare copious notes and diagrams of their home(s).

Their Forge has melted and now circulates as magma, its functions intact, its processes continuing. Functionally the whole terrestial circulatory system of an Agnian's planet is their Forge and in the rolls of the other Forged is known as Bast-Thurm. If only these exiles could get access to another Forge's rolls, talk to the eldest among the Still there they could confirm the existence of Bast-Thurm, point to its name stricken from the list, and proclaim it lives still, if in a terrible form.

Once upon a time, the story goes, Bast-Thurm was a city of gold filigree and platinum instrumentation and then the Elves cracked its spine, sent it into the earth, melted it down to its formulas and intentions, wove their gods into its codes and turned to their own cold wills the mind of the Agnian.

According to the refugees, the Agnians still trapped below congress with Fothians (fire elementals) and Star Lice (emissaries of the stars), lead armies of char-orcs, and claim demons and red dragons as counselors and ambassadors, build enormous siege weapons to lay surface civilization to waste, refining the art of telluric theurgy (planet magic) whereby they will convert their plutonic homes to volcanic weapons, cracking their planets. They cultivate a death-cult and sorcerers, warlocks and barbarian-berserkers are common.


They have discovered what all Fothians know: that all magma is one and these sub-crust rock battleships sail from one planet to another effortlessly, via nodes and byways through the elemental plane of fire.

The satellite Agnians claim that every so often the Elven coercion fails and some of the Iteration flee their brethren. For these few, their Forge feels like an oppressive, numbing fever and live like the medicated insane, dulled and cutoff, their heel to the edge of a terrible abyss that will claim them happily and from which they could never return. 

Satellite Agnians throw themselves into art (brutalist sculpture, often highly political, may involve self mutilation or harm), and drinking and dangerous living and try to master the formulas of telluric theurgy, refactoring the thousands of pages of calculations so that they work outside of magma, further from the gravitational nut at the planet's core.


traits
*+1 Int
*can create sparks with a snap of their fingers (treat as flint)
*advantage against fire saving throws


Dwarrow live in Dwarrowhelm, a network of cities built into mountains and hills. They are fractious, wild and violent, like an antibody against any other thing that stands in their way or is in their home without explicit welcome. They eat meat and drink strong liquor, though they can survive on rock or sunlight and ambient moisture, as if built to last in the depths of the earth or in a vast wasteland. Dwarrow hibernating in the sunlight closely resemble statues, their skin hardening to a grey, flaky stone, their limbs locked, axes and hammers clenched tight, but they're just barely breathing and waiting for something more interesting to come along. There are expedition or raiding parties of Dwarrow, frozen still for millenia in some desert.


When they aren't fighting, they are making things or plotting how to get more materials to make more things. Ownership and personality are not distinguished: a Dwarrow's axe is the same as its arm and anything in Dwarrow land not only belongs to the Dwarrow but is Dwarrow in some fundamental sense. Loss of an axe is like loss of an arm and physically hurts (though not as much as the pain a human suffers upon losing a limb - the Dwarrow have so many limbs, the nerves are attenuated). This also means that, at least when within their Dwarrowcraft (the term extends to everything the Dwarrow makes, including its section of Dwarrowhelm), Dwarrow can feel the theft of something (a singe coin like a pin prick, a prized possession like the loss of a child). 

Dwarrow name every bit of their Dwarrowcraft, they are obsessive namers and catalogers and mappers and Dwarrowcrafting is incomplete until the thing in question is named. Names tend to be mosntrously long, including narrative and history and are usually shortened to one or two words, but each Dwarrow knows all the names of all its Dwarrowcraft.

Accordingly, the gift of Dwarrowcraft is either a pseudo-sexual sharing of personhood (something frowned upon by more conservative Dwarrow while the most liberal and rebellious have been known to gift their whole selves to one another or, rarely, those not of the Iteration), or it involves a severing of the Dwarrow's person. 

Dwarrowcraft coexist in a delicate balance of long-negotiated and oft-re-negotiated contracts whereby one Dwarrow has egress through another's Dwarrowcraft in exchange for the same. There are whole dead areas within Dwarrowhelm, where the Pure let none pass, keeping themselves entirely separate. Most Pure are old, violent and a bit insane and are generally treated as something like saints.

Territorial disputes are constant and often end only in death. Seizing such lost Dwarrowcraft take days as the conquering or exploring Dwarrow has to slowly go through and read each name in full to incorporate it into itself.

Forcing a Dwarrow to invade another's Dwarrowcraft is nearly the highest crime possible.

Dwarrow tend to narrowly construct the boundaries of Dwarrowcraft - it's boundaries are usually coterminous with their Forge halls - but the Dwarrow Iteration sometimes revises the definition. A popular, minority opinion of ownership/self runs that Dwarrowcraft is wherever a Dwarrow plants its feet, whatever it wears, whatever it holds and names and little else.

The Sightless, preaching a dual concept of communal self that was coterminous with the ends of a Dwarrow's sight, built massive claiming/observation devices at the tops of mountains and rallied great armies of Dwarrow who claimed and named all they could see. The Sightless's empire was eventually toppled, and its survivors were blinded by those reborn into the Iteration. The Sightless persist among the Still, fomenting perpetual expansion from their spectral generalships.

 traits
*+1 Str
*can eat rock in lieu of starving to death, can hibernate if given roughly 10 hours of sun and some ambient moisture, hibernating Dwarrow can live indefinitely with a little air, their skin forming a seal, granting them a natural AC of 18.

attributions: armandeo64, Carl & Linda Sagan & Frank Drake, Mignola, Blanche, Adrian Smith
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.