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Creating a new world for Dwarves

Discussion in 'World Building' started by callmeclemens, Aug 15, 2014.

  1. callmeclemens

    callmeclemens Acolyte

    Hey all,

    So my novel I'm working on centers around Dwarves. A mixture of culture somewhere in between that which you find in the worlds of Warhammer, and Tolkiens Middle Earth. However, I'm really trying to bring a fresh perspective to Dwarves and the world around them. While I won't give up to much information right now, I'm pretty ambitious about what I want to establish in the first novel, and that's creating five separate and beautiful ecosystems in which my Dwarves will inhabit.

    We all know about the Dwarves high up in their Mountain keeps hidden under the snow and keeping vasts riches of Gold and gems, and while I understand that has become an important part of Dwarven lore I really want to add more diversity to that. A couple of idea's I'm thinking are currently : The Dwarven hold in the ancient forest, where you will find ancient tunnels winding and weaving through ancient root systems, and great halls buried deep beneath a sacred grove above. The sea-faring Dwarves, whom havew carved their homes high in the cliff rock above the sea.

    I'd appreciate any input or suggestions.

  2. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    "The Dwarven hold in the ancient forest, where you will find ancient tunnels winding and weaving through ancient root systems, and great halls buried deep beneath a sacred grove above"

    This is all pretty generic

    "The sea-faring Dwarves, whom havew carved their homes high in the cliff rock above the sea"

    This I like. This sounds cool.

    With Tolkien, I understand he partially based his Dwarves off of Jewish people. Or at least, he based their language off of Semitic languages. But you know how Tolkien is with languages: you are what you speak.
    Beyond that, Tolkien based his Dwarves on Dark Elves. It's no coincidence that the contemporary versions of both Dwarves and Drows tend to be subterranean and hate more traditional Elves. In fact, Tolkien originally conceived Dwarves as villainous and allied with Orcs. It wasn't until he worked on the Hobbit that he changed it.
    All the remaining aspects of Tolkien Dwarves (such as mining and metalworking) were based on the Germanic Dwarves.

    So, if you want to create a distinction between your Dwarves and more mainstream interpretations, you'd need to remove or play with those traits that Tolkien picked-out of mythology.

    I got two examples, one my own setting and the other from elsewhere.
    I'd hate to use my own stories as an example but y'know, people on this forum tend to like talking about their own works. I based my Dwarves off of Hawaiian Dwarves (which are called "Menehune"). Most cultures have their own versions of Dwarves, don't be afraid to look outside Europe for ideas. African Dwarves, for example, are pretty bizarre.
    My Dwarves are also arch-enemies with Giants rather than Elves. "Dwarves vs. Giants". Seemed logical.

    My favorite portrayal of Dwarves is in the Elder Scrolls video game series. Like in Norse Mythology, they are a race of "dark elves" called Dwemer who were at war with a race of "light elves" called Chimer. They are tall, though still bearded, live underground and love crafts. In fact, they could do pretty crazy things with their machines including building giant robots. While the Chimer culture is loosely based on ancient Israel, the Dwemer were based on Mesopotamia.
    Unique but still aligned with traditional Dwarf lore.

    Wow, this post was longer than I thought it'd be.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2014
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  3. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

    Main/Our Dwarves Are All the Same - Television Tropes & Idioms

    Good luck. You needed.

    The dwarf race that life in the hills, smoke pipe and work in agriculture are Hobbit.
    The dwarf race that life in workshop and are mechanical genius are Gnomes.

    Besides already mentioned Elder Scrolls I do not know any other change to dwarfs. even the world of Eberron where Hobbit are barbarian who ride on dinosaurs keep dwarfs in standard role.
  4. Jesse Booth

    Jesse Booth Scribe

    Do you want the Dwarven culture to change from ecosystem to ecosystem? Are they competing nations?
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  5. Ermol

    Ermol Dreamer

    You need to address the most important question of them all - do female dwarves have beards?

    Are there other species in the world and do they view the all the subspecies of dwarves as one or separate, have they even encountered them? Also, are the different dwarves on different levels of development? You could have the more primitive forest dwarves, the free spirit seafaring dwarves, the gnome-like skyfaring dwarves that developed technology & magic simultaneously, the city-dwelling militant & merchant dwarves who oppress their subterranean cousins whilst living well off trade. (This is all fairly cliché material, I know.) One continent or many? Feudal society, empire, or mixture.

    Finally, once you've decided what you are doing, another cool thing would be to introduce your world from the perspective of the less tropey dwarves, i.e. of the seafaring variety etc., so the more traditional ones can appear later but initially you want to subvert the reader's expectations and surprise them a bit.

    I ended up rambling a bit, sorry, just throwing ideas out there.

    PS: The Elder Scrolls dwarves was the one of the best things in Elder Scrolls. Morrowind was one of the best RPG stories that I've played/heard about.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  6. callmeclemens

    callmeclemens Acolyte

    Well sort of in my current outlines their are going to be four of five great Dwarven keeps (most likely four), while none of them act entirely independent they are spread throughout the world and each work to serve the other in one way or another.

    Haha, I do not intend Dwarven woman to have beards. The Dwarves play an interesting role in my world interacting with the three other humanoid species (Man, Elf, Scale Skin) The Dwarves we're once highly revered Shamanic people to whom the other races would come to for council. The book picks up in a time we're the world had vastly changed and is moving away from the ways of the old, and Dwarves have been largely ignored/forgotten, they have even become distanced from keep to keep. The book begins with the great king sending his grandchildren (four) each to restore order to realms of dwarves.

    Here's a brief breakdown of the other species.
    Men: Pretty self explanatory corrupt, greedy, and growing ever so fast.

    Elves: A bit of a departure from common lore, the elves here are found to be petty, and quick to anger. While they seek no power, the great Houses of Elves are always at war over disagreements of philosophy, theology, and science. The northern dwarves acted as council to the houses for a long time but in recent years the pride of the elves led them away from that relationship.

    Scale Skin: An ancient tribal race of lizard type mean found on the eastern outskirts of the ancient forest and on the coastlines of the great eastern sea. These folk have no interaction with man of elf whatsoever, at one time they interacted regularly with the forest dwarves though the scale skins ambition to expand their territory and the dwarven resistance has halted that relationship.

    Now I'll try to simplistically break down the traits of Dwarves found in each realm, I must add in my world the Dwarves great keeps can be found on the four points of the world, far north, far east, far south, and far west.

    North: The Mountain Dwarves. The dwarves found here are the greatest scholars of the race. These were once the dwarves the world came to with questions of philosophy and technology. Dwarves of the north are also the oldest strongest bloodlines, and the purest in blood. In some ways I think I am a bit inspired by Jesuits when it comes to the Northern Dwarves. I havent fully decided on any sort of deity for Dwarves yet, thought this group will unquestionably be perceived as working closely with the deities without engaging the same ritualistic worship as the others.

    East: The dwarves of the Ancient Forest. These guys are the most earthy and shamanic of them all. They live both above and below the ground and of course provide medicinal herbs, and timber to the other keeps. These dwarves once worked in close relation to the tribal scale skins thought growing tensions over lands have frozen relations over the past century. I find the inspiration for these dwarves in both Native American culture, and the tribal folks of Siberia.

    South: The dwarves of the great plains. These dwarves have become most distance from the ways of old in great part to their close proximity to the great keeps of Man, many of the dwarves have now even crossed bred with men. These dwarves provide meats and grains, as well as common goods in the world of men.

    West: The Sea faring dwarves. These dwarves live in homes carved high in the rocks above the great western sea. They are a bit whimsical and free spirited as far as dwarves go, and work as fishermen or extractors of precious minerals found under the oceans surface. Not long ago this keep still interacted with Elves, though the constant drama in that world has made them cautious to interact.

    There is a dark tone set for the World around them, so far in my outlines I have decided that even the Kings own children have abandoned their rights to the Thrones of the keeps in exchange for a life of worldy pleasure in the keeps of Man. As the heirs would bare bastard children outside of the realms they would send them back to the keep to evade a responsibility and each time the King took great care in raising them. The book will begin with the king contemplating to which keep each will go.

    Sorry if this was one big ramble. I assure you when I sit and right I am very meticulous in detail and keep rambling to a minimum.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  7. thecoldembrace

    thecoldembrace Sage

    Warhammer may not have a purely sea born dwarf race but they do have the dwarfs of Barak Varr who control the one dwarf sea hold. They have their fleets of ironclads which I love and of course slayer pirates and the like. Who doesn't like dwarf pirates?
  8. Khama

    Khama Scribe

    Looks pretty interesting! I adore dwarves and right now I am editing a story based on some.

    I have a suggestion which is flesh out the cultures of the Dwarves that will be in your book. Truly make differences among them and reflect their environments and rituals on their personalities. The reason I say this is that in a lot of cases there is not an outstanding amount of differences in books with multiple dwarfen factions. Granted it varies depending on what you want done, but that's just my thoughts.
  9. robmatheny80

    robmatheny80 Acolyte

    Something you may consider is the fact that females are often obscure and hard to find. You may take that into consideration, and possibly have one of the races procreate based on a queen-hive society. Also, considering how short dwarves are, you could play it off as a curse from the gods for delving too deep into the earth.
  10. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

    Is there a such thing as ANY dwarf without a beard?
  11. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    Personally I like the idea of nomadic dwarves. Perhaps a nomadic tribe of desert dwarves, moving from oasis to oasis and selling trade wares in large bazaars. This could provide them with ample opportunity to interact with those seafaring dwarves that you mentioned.
  12. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Dwarves that live in the frozen steppes. Herds of shaggy oxen provide meat, milk, leather and cloth, and they are avid fishermen. They are skilled hunters and often seek out hot springs for their camps; though they certainly don't need to stay somewhere warm. They use the places for growing food; tubers, spinach, carrots, chard. They keep goats as well for mobile food and often tame the hairy oxen as pack animals. In battle, they tend to use weapons that can serve other purposes besides just killing; like spears, bows, slings, ice picks and use thickly padded leather armor; that usually includes a hood.

    Unlike many dwarves, they can and do use runic magic; magic that they often infuse into their weapons. They also use the magic to form golems from the ice, ones they use to protect their tribes.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.

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