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A Dwarf Society Built on Adamantine
May 6, 2022

The Dwarves of the Bürach Empire

Dwarf DnD Grim Hollow

Artist: Victor Garcia

Adamantine was a revelation, the metallic savior of the last great dwarven city.

As humans overran Etharis in the Era of Expansion, dwarven lands were consumed. Even the mighty fortress city of Grabenstein fell, and dwarves came to despair about their future above ground. The onslaught of humanity involved descriptions like ‘mountains, fields and rivers’ when describing the number of bodies. With dwindling numbers of soldiers and crops, the dwarves experienced desperation.

Short of total surrender, any option was debated until the discovery of adamantine. Forged into armor, the metal closed the debate in favor of battle. The explosive alchemy of the gnomes and the invulnerable dwarven warriors saved the tiered city of Stehlenwald. The military might of the metal masters brought respite and, with time, favorable negotiations.

Now dwarves and their gnomish cousins are autonomous citizens of The Bürach Empire. Once the thanes of the mountains of Etharis, today they still dwell in Stehlenwald and the surrounding province of Rauland.

Like all citizens of The Bürach Empire, the dwarves of Rauland contend with The Great Beast. This monster threatens the population, turning them into monstrosities. While the Empire continues to deny its existence, the dwarven thanes offer secret bounties for slaying The Beast or driving it across the mountains into The Ostoyan Empire. After freedom, metals, and commerce, The Great Beast is the largest concern for the leaders of Rauland.

Most dwarves respect their treaty and alliance with The Bürach Empire, as the only way to survive outside of their fortresses. However, certain minorities harbor ill feelings toward their perceived subservience to humankind. These splinter factions’ goal to turn back the hands of time and restore their full independence, freeing their kindred occupied in Grabenstein.

They believe that discovering adamantine saved the dwarves, therefore, they simply need to continue to dig and meld until another metallic revelation that will restore their dignity. The quest for a successor to adamantine, one powerful enough to throw back all human and elven armies, is the central belief of this faction. To upstanding dwarves, those thoughts are seditious and oath breaking.

The Hunt for Stronger Metal

Mining even deeper into the earth, the chase for a new metal is not self-delusion or misguided hope because this element is remembered by a specific group: the Dreamers.

Kortone entered dwarven consciousness when they uncovered and awoke the Dreamers. These mysterious folk shared what they could recall; some dreams, some history, all embellished. Kortone is an element taken from the gods that can be smelted and shaped to rearrange the order of time. As generalization, dwarven culture does not build governance on prophesy or fantasy. Yet the idea of returning to an age when their wealth was not stolen from them in taxes and their cities not plundered by human hands has many a dwarf picking away in the deepest of mines.

In Rauland, the search for Kortone is not supported by dwarven leadership and is in fact politically divisive. Though mining is the dwarven path to prosperity, because of its association with dissent, the search for any new metal is deeply contentious.

Add to that, Stehlenwald’s shafts already extend far into the roots of Hermansdatt, the dwarven name for the Rock Teeth Mountains. Yet no new metal has been yielded. There is now a belief that the answer will not be found in heavily mined Stehlenwald, but beneath abandoned Grabenstein.

Unfortunately, what remains of Grabenstein has the military fist of Unterland clenching it. Grabenstein holds the only gap in Grey Spine through which the darkness from Ostoya could invade, making it invaluable to the Bürach’s safety. Additionally, what mines and forges still exist there produce steel and swords used across The Bürach Empire to defend it. Any attempt at a dwarven restoration of the city could not be achieved through force and lacks any political strength or incentives for the humans to relinquish it.

Dwarven Prosperity

Despite the political factionalism, life among the dwarves of Rauland is not so unprosperous. They continue to mine, to smith, to drink, to farm, to train, to raise families, and to know the dwarven brand of merriment, bravado, and drunkenness.

Living freely throughout The Bürach Empire, as well as wider Etharis, dwarves are recognized as the finest smiths, forgers, and engravers in the world. Their work is sought after with calls far and wide to forge a weapon, suit of armor, piece of jewelry, or any art of metal and stone.

Kings want dwarven forged crowns, mages want dwarven etched runes, and inquisitors want dwarven sharpened iron maidens. No matter where they travel, their skill and wares confer an unspoken degree of prestige that few other merchants enjoy.

The world’s decline after the gods fell to madness did not end trade. Commerce still flows through Stehlenwald, the city’s Grand Market is its trade hub and beating heart. Covered in the thick smog from the city’s bellows, the market is always alive with merchants and travelers who arrive from distant lands to purchase dwarven craft.

Located deep in the neighborhoods of Stehlenwald and policed by merchant guilds, this is the safest bazaar in the Bürach to barter for goods of any make. Unlike humans, where the markets are portable stalls are built from wood and cloth, the Grand Market is made of stone but is no less changeable. The stone structures do not reach down to the bedrock, and are constantly moved, rebuilt, or built upon but the coming and going dwarven merchants. The Grand Market can be a labyrinth to those not used to walking its laneways, and its layout can shift entirely in a matter of days. Consistent however are the bank branches that operate at each entry into the Grand Market, accumulating wealth in the financing of great orders.

Dwarven Forge Grim Hollow

Artist: Toni Munteanu

What the dwarves of Stehlenwald accomplish is one of the most robust markets for its size in all of Etharis. The Bürach Empire would not be the force it is without Stehlenwald’s forges. Raiders from the Valikan clans treasure stolen weapons that may have originated from the tiered city centuries earlier, and employ dwarf blade smiths themselves to craft or maintain these trophies. Without a millennia worth of fine dwarven weapons being bought, stolen, or subverted by the many other races, the armies of Etharis would not be the menace that they are today.

Beyond The Bürach Empire, dwarves are less common, but not so infrequent that they are a surprise to those that meet them. Their reputation precedes them, and a skilled dwarven artisan can make an exceptional living travelling to other realms to educate smiths and tinkerers abroad.

In addition to their skilled works, dwarves are known for their endurance and ferocity in battle. Dwarven adventurers and mercenaries are nearly as prized as half-orcs are. Many syndicates seek these axe wielding berserkers as guards and enforcers, who strike fear and hesitation into all that would cross them. Rumor has it that some nobles from the lands bordering The Bürach Empire pay handsomely for mercenary companies of dwarves to offset the Empire’s advantage.

Dwarven Story Hooks

Long ago, the forges of Rauland produced a custom set of undetectable daggers. These blades were secreted into the imperial palace and employed to slay the mad Emperor Leopold. They were then lost in the disorder and haste to close out that chapter of history.

Over the decades, some of those blades have resurfaced. They are undetectable to magic, invisible when needing to be concealed, and well pedigreed in their craftmanship and lethality. They are highly sought after, as is the secrets of their forging.

A dwarf, Yanif Dreburt, discovered a way to forge more of these artifacts. He found one of the daggers inside its scabbard in an old library. He realized the scabbard wasn’t empty when he cut his finger on the invisible edge. If Yanif can reverse the spell and make the dagger visible, then he can observe the runes engraved upon it and begin the process of making new daggers.

As might be expected, filling the world with regicidal weapons has the potential to make enemies. To that end, many want the dagger destroyed before more can be forged, and Yanif beheaded for trying to profiteer on the dark history of the Godfall. Bounties have been offered to this end. Yet to protect himself, Yanif is also offering a mighty reward: one of the daggers he will forge in exchange for his safety.

Dwarves are caricatured as drinkers, but none so much as Giftil Halleg. A dwarf with a peg leg, she’s never let that fact be more than a conversation starter, “Ask me and you’ll buy the drinks until the story is done!” What few know is that Giftil is a smuggler, supplying potions to mages who are hiding in Castinella beneath the nose of the Arcanist Inquisition. To deliver a specific potion, she needs a team to infiltrate Ember Cairn. Whoever agrees to the job will get all the dwarven spirits they can handle as well as the rarest of potions.

There’s a joke about a dwarven rock garden. Milinz Fryr is a dwarven botanist and could be the example for that joke. She believes there is a stone fruit that will grow underground in quantity if she’s able to marry mushrooms and root vegetables together. Then dwarves could farm underground and the next siege would be won before the first human arrived.

Dwarven explorers could delve into new under-lands, taking crops with them and building far flung subterranean colonies. Currently, dwarves can only dig as deep as they can carry food. But if they planted crops along the way, there’s no distance they couldn’t manage.

Disaffected dwarves are looking for a way to break from The Bürach Empire, and some feel this might be the answer. For her efforts, Milinz has been arrested as a dissenter and hidden away to prevent her botany experiments. If she can be found and freed, then she would offer vast tracks of underground land with rich deposits of ore to mine.

Abel Birkstein is a dwarven bard in a society that appreciates a good time. His music and poetry are a sensation among his folk, though less celebrated among those of differing ancestries. Abel discovered the Drums of Stone, an artifact that causes rocks to roll and can bring down whole mountains. He realizes he must find a way to destroy this magic as it could ruin dwarven cities with a single concert. He’s looking for magical help to destroy this artifact, though he’s not opposed to using it one time in a human-built settlement.

Dwarven lycanthropes are not as uncommon as many would hope. Yet for those afflicted, time spent underground can help with treatments. Cyvial von Heimer has spent years underground grappling with lycanthropy yet dreams of breathing fresh air and seeing the night sky again, free of their curse. Cyvial is looking for a way to cure his condition. If anyone could help, he’d pay in knowledge of deep dungeons he has explored, complete with maps and rumored treasures.

Female Dwarf DnD Grim Hollow

Artist: One Kristensen

Aleks Grindr is the type of dwarf that grinds other dwarves’ stones. She drinks to drunkenness, avoids work at all costs, always wants something for nothing, claims feats that she never accomplished, talks about her human husband (“he’s from Valika and hardy as an ox, you wouldn’t have met him”), plagiarizes elven poetry, and is the rudest dwarf in Etharis. Despite all this, she’s the only daughter of a great clan. While Aleks has started plenty of bar brawls over her false claims and thuggish behavior, her bodyguards are fearsome and always step in before things get out of hand. When those same guards are killed in a failed assassination attempt, Aleks is in need of aid and can pay with a noble family’s wealth.

Adam Tine III is the great grandson of Vynal Lorf, the dwarf credited with discovering adamantine. Vynal named his son for the discovery and the line has continued. However, Adam Tine III is worried about his family legacy because the adamantine vein is petering out and he must secure a new source to ensure his family’s reputation.

Deep underground, there is a rich find that will carry the dwarves forward, if only it can be cleared of the monsters that hold the caves. He can’t publicly request help and reveal the find to claim jumpers, so he covertly hires a band of adventurers to clear the area in exchange for a handsome adamantine reward.

 

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