Monday, September 26, 2011

Running the Realms - Dwarves, Accents, and Easy Stereotypes

Somewhere along the way dwarves got tagged with Scottish accents. I'm not sure when. It definitely wasn't present in the '77 animated Hobbit movie. I would blame Warcraft but looking back Salvatore's The Crystal Shard from 1989 has dwarves saying "Aye" and "Lass" a lot so it's around a little earlier than I had thought. Gimli is in the same ballpark in the LOTR movies in the early 2000's and I'm comfortable blaming Warcraft after that.

Anyway in the Forgotten Realms there are two major types of dwarf - Shield Dwarves and Gold Dwarves and that probably began in the AD&D days when we had Hill Dwarves and Mountain Dwarves as player races. Savatore is writing about Shield Dwarves who live up north in the mountains, stomp around in chainmail with axes and hammers fighting orcs and giants and say "Ach" a lot. Fine, they're Scottish. It's easy enough to do and widely accepted enough that it's an easy hook when running a Shield Dwarf NPC or player character.

There is that other race however. They mostly live down south near a huge rift in the earth in the middle of major grassland. The Gold Dwarves have gone sadly unappreciated in my games as in 25 years or so of either playing in or running the Realms I have never seen a player make up a Gold Dwarf character. I think a big part of this is that they don't have an easy hook. Shield Dwarves fill the stereotypical "Fantasy Dwarf" role and have the popular accent so how do we encourage more Gold Dwarf presence in Realms games? Let's give them an accent and a cultural touchstone!

First, let's see what we know about Gold Dwarves:
  • They love in an area of large plains 
  • They dig into the earth in search of wealth
  • They have an independent streak 
  • Gold dwarves are stout, tough individuals like their shield dwarven brethren but are less off-putting and gruff in nature. 
  • Humans who wander into the gold dwarven strongholds may be surprised to find a people far more confident and secure in their future than most dwarves. Whereas the shield dwarves suffered serious setbacks during their history, the gold dwarves have stood firm against the challenges thrown against them and so have few doubts about their place in the world. As a result, gold dwarves can come off as haughty and almost eladrin-like in their pride, believing themselves culturally superior to all other races and lacking the fatalistic pessimism of their shield dwarven cousins.
  • Gold dwarves are a deeply materialistic race who believe that the resources of the natural world exist only to serve the purpose of conscious beings. 

Those last three items are from the Forgotten Realms Wiki which is handy because it supports the direction I am going. Area of big plains, like to pull natural resources from the earth, friendlier, and confident in their subculture's abilities and future?

Gold Dwarves are clearly Texans! Let's embellish:

  • There must be some trade caravans crosisng those plains - no reason they couldn't be driving some cattle as well. Dwarves like a good steak!
  • When not in heavy armor they might wear flat wide-brimmed hats to keep the sun out of their eyes and dusters or ponchos as well.
  • They have a distinctive accent that stands out quite readily from the usual Scottish thing. 
  • They might have more of an interest in ranged weapons than their more mountain dwelling cousins.

 So there's the hook for this week - Try presenting Gold Dwarves in your game as Texans instead of miniature Scottish Vikings and I would bet very heavily that they get a lot more interesting. And the interactions between the two subgroups...

"Och, aye, welcome to the clan hall"

"Well howdy y'all, thanks mucho"

Oh that is RP gold just waiting to be mined.


Fabian said...

Love it! Now for the elves...

Higgipedia said...

Well played, sir...

Jeremy said...

Yep. We here dwarves are mighty attached to our right to bear arms.

Never met a problem a big enough boom couldn't solve, I reckon.

Blacksteel said...

Still thinking about Elves - there's no lack of elves in most of the Realms games I'e seen so it's not quite the same problem. There are other areas though - do Waterdeep natives sound like New Yorkers?