Axes against the Storm! (part II)

Dwarves are not heroes, but a calculating folk with a great idea of the value of money; some are tricky and treacherous and pretty bad lots; some are not but are decent enough people like Thorin and Company, if you don’t expect too much.

— JRR Tolkien

The Dwarves – the People of Stone and Steel
The main source of information about the Dwarves is the Appendices in The Lord of the Rings, which describe their history, culture, and language. Unfinished Tales provides a few facts on their everyday life in the late Third Age. In addition, Silmarillion explains the First Age origins of the hostility between the Dwarves and the Elves.

In the third millennium of the Third Age, there are three major Dwarven realms in northwestern Middle-earth: the Blue Mountains, Erebor and the Iron Hills. Tolkien writes little about the Blue Mountains, but it appears to be the most significant one. For instance, Thorin Oakenshield settles there after the destruction of Erebor.

The Dwarves are also a travelling people. Tolkien mentions several times how they go along the roads of Eriador and through the passes of the Misty Mountains. That is, for instance, how Gandalf and Thorin meet for the first time in Bree, an encounter that sows the seed for the fateful expedition to Erebor; that particular event is described by Gandalf in Unfinished Tales.

Role-playing a Dwarf
Dwarves ought to be played as artisans and warriors. They are smiths, miners, masons, canal builders, etc. Their skills in such crafts surpass by far those of Men. All also appear to been competent fighters, i.e. the Children of Durin are a people in arms.

But their number is tiny compared to all other Free Peoples and that affects how they look on the world. They know that a determined enemy – like Sauron – might be able to exterminate them. The fall of Moria in the 1980s, Smaug’s devastation of Erebor and the war against the Orcs in the 2790s depleted their numbers badly and because of low birth rates, they have not yet recovered at the end of Third Age.

The Dwarves have both external enemies (e.g. Easterlings, Orcs, and the servants of the Shadow) and internal (e.g. excessive pride, greed and ambition). To speak in character creation terminology, all that ought to give them some psychological disadvantages, e.g. Won’t Back Down, Speaks the Truth, Speciecism (“racism”), Quick to Anger, and Greedy. Their compensating advantages may, among others, be Endurance, Robust Physique, Master Craftsman, and Combat Prowess. The Lord of the Rings shows that Dwarves are elite warriors, whereas the common Orcs (snaga, goblins) are cannon fodder. At Helm’s Deep, Gimli slays 42 Orcs while receiving only a light wound. Men and uruk-hai are harder to defeat, while cave trolls and olog-hai are serious adversaries.

In this campaign the Dwarven player characters will therefore be well equipped and battle-hardy, but they are few and their enemies numerous. And Dwarves in boats will always be at a disadvantage.

Part III will be published on February 20.

One thought on “Axes against the Storm! (part II)

  1. Tolkien took much inspiration from the Jewish people when thinkin of the dwarves – a wandering people in diaspora, a warlike past, artisans, toymakers and great tinkerers.

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