Clans of Magnus
The Dwarves of the Atlas Mountains find themselves, at present, in an unusually unified posture – Carcolie attacks and depredations among The Deeps have given them sufficient common enemies to present a unified front. While renowned far and wide for their expansive underground settlements, this is not necessarily true of all dwarven villages. A proud and hidebound people, the dwarves have settlements over and under the Atlas Mountains on both its eastern and western slopes, and running the full extent of the mountain range, deep into the Lordless Lands. Normally, this region is subject to extreme variability in governance, with individual Clanholds ruling over a few surface villages, but in the common era, the dwarves have gone so far as to appoint from among themselves a High King. Their nation recognizes only the claims of Dwarves of the Twelve Clans as citizens, but some other dwarves along with gnomes and the occasional half-orc make up the ranks of their non-citizen population.
The Dwarven Kingdom is properly recognized as the lands of the **Clans Of Magnus**, representing twelve clan units who all claim to be descendants of the sons of Magnus, first High King of the Dwarves. They participate little in the politics of the wider world, except at their borders, and where their territory “underlaps” the territory of other surfaces races.
Dwarven society is highly rigid and oriented toward tradition, with little social mobility and strong traditions of military and civil service. Dwarven craftsmanship of metalworks is considered second to none; some clans near Atarlie or Bastonian settlements even take on “out-freyn” apprentices to spread the traditions of that craftsmanship, or otherwise engage heavily in trade.
Magnian Geography and Government
Thanes, Kings, and High Kings
Just because a clanhold has its King doesn’t mean that person’s word is absolute. While Kings are highly respected as the usual patriarch (or matriarch) of the clan’s most prestigious family (a designation that can be slipperier than it seems), and are the font from which the laws of the clanhold flow, they designate a figure that often commands greater public respect (and greater realpolitikal power) – the Thane. Part provincial prefect and part General, Thanes command enormous public respect and even the ability to levy armies as needed, but gain the responsibilities of day to day governance of the clanhold. While being Thane virtually guarantees you will be your clan’s next king, that does not necessarily mean the eldest son or daughter of the King will be Thane, at least for long. To avoid public revolt and the need for tyranny, a Thane must be proven in both martial and political prowess and possess the goodwill of those who he would be put in charge of. If the risk of civil unrest demands, kings have the authority to depose their Thane; that said, if a thane is popular enough among the actual military and civil keys to power, this might not go as planned.
N.B. that Thane is a neutral title, unlike that of a monarch or a Bastonian noble. You would would be Thane would be Thane regardless – just as there is no such thing as a Captainess or Generaless, there is no feminine diminutive of Thane in either the dwarven tongue nor common.
As needs be, the clans have in the past come together and, by unanimous assent among the kings, nominated one of their kingly number to the position of High King, who serves as a sort of “Grand Thane” to martial uniform order and coordinate the defense of Dwarvendom as a whole.
Understanding Dwarven Clanholds
Just as a clan can be thought of as a metafamily containing distinct family lines all nominally descendant from one paterlinial (or matrilinial) source, so too can a clanhold be thought of as simultaneously the specific holding maintained by that clan (sense 1) or the region under that clan’s rule (sense 2).
In sense 1, a clanhold is a massive, fortified, and often concealed underground city of ancient heritage with stories running deeper than its roots, spanning from its surface entries upon the mountain it is hewn from all the way down into the Deeps themselves. Within a clanhold sits all the apparatus of its higher government and much of the apparatus of industry.
In sense 2, a clanhold is also those surface or underground villages, thorps, hamlets, camps, and so forth, which either pay homage do the clanhold proper or are under the sway of that clanhold (depending on how tyrranical or benevelant the current King and or Thane is).
Under normal circumstances the clanholds are the unit of political power among the Clans of Magnus but in the Common Era, under depredations of various external forces, there is usually a High King. Because of this, it is difficult to make blanket statements about individual clanholds in the same way as it is difficulty to make blanket statements about individual Duchies in Bastonia.
At any point in time the High King, being one of the clan kings elevated by the assent of their peers, typically rules from their usual clanhold. Nominally, the High King also has the right and authority to open the Sealed City of Khaz Urdim and rule from this location – however, the last time this happened was well into fuzzy period of mythology and antiquity and doing so again is looked at as a last-ditch attempt to preserve some form of holding for the United Clans should the clanholds themselves fall.
The Magnian Clans and The Deeps
The Deeps are not properly part of the Dwarven Kingdom in the same way that the Lordless Lands are not properly organized and under the rule of the people who live there. They are at once a frontier and a complete wilderness, an expanse of caves, ravines, fissures, and tunnels, whose true depths remain unplumbed and whose furthest extents are unmeasured.
The Deeps have three major territories in the reckoning of the dwarves themselves:
- The Roots of the Mountains, which are the areas more or less immediately beneath the Atlas Mountains and their foothills, which are considered relatively civilized and are both well-trafficked and regularly settled. Rootways connect all of the Clanholds (including Khaz Urdim) and are often faster, more convenient, and oftentimes seen as safer than the equivalent overland journey, provided you know what you’re doing and are appropriately equipped.
- The Deeping, which is an intermediary area below the Roots and considered much broader in its expanse. Expert dwarven navigators of the Deeping claim to be able to navigate to any city on the continent (or “near enough”) via the tracks the deeping provide. The Deeping ranges from reasonably safe (in the bring-a-guide sense) to areas traversable only under arms, and contains plenty of natural hazards besides the wildlife.
- The Dark, which are areas beneath the deeping that are completely wild and openly hostile to most life, including the Dwarves themselves. The line between Deeping and Dark is often blurred, with one Dwarven rule of thumb for determining it being “if it’s a monster it’s the Deeping, if it’s aberrant it’s the Dark.” Myth and legend speak of tunnels in the Dark that emerge in other worlds entirely, like the lands of the dead or the upper shores of Hell.
Arts and Architecture
Because of the cultural pride in crafstmanship, many dwarven arts are practiced around the area of fine craft rather than being art for its own sake. A beautiful mural is just dressing on a solid bulwark, and beautiful clothes still provide the same (or better) functionality to the more common variety. Given their relative wealth in precious metals and gems, jewelry is extremely common among dwarves of any gender or profession.
Dwarves who live in aboveground settlements – or even dwelling in the roots – often construct homes and other buildings in a dug-out fashion, with roughly half of the first story above ground and somewhat fortified, and the rest of the dwelling dug in. Of course, if local materials and resources do not support it, they will find shelter in other ways.
Religion, Festivals, and Timekeeping
If the Bastonians believe they were saved by their Diety, and the Carcolie believe themselves the children of nature, the Dwarves can be seen in some senses to be the union of those two beliefs. Dwarves following the Dwarven Pantheon follow a religion that teaches of a heroic patriarch-god, Magnus Allfather, and that they are that god’s direct creation, though some patronize the sons and daughters of Magnus as second only to Magnus himself and above their peers, as the rest of the Pantheon is made up of the progenitors of the Clans themselves. Unlike the Bastonians, there is no “evil” cohort in this Pantheon, and evil deities are better thought of, to dwarven minds, as simply extremely powerful demons or devils, as appropriate.
Dwarven Festivals involve feasting and drinking, usually in commemoration of some great historic event. None of the clans celebrate these festivals at the same time (or even necessarily the same set), as each clan has its own reckoning of the order of events around a single-year calendar.
On that subject, we should mention dwarven Timekeeping. Dwarves, historically, mark their seasons by the moon (as the Carcolie do) and could be viewed as nocturnal in practice. At one point it is believed dwarves had a unified calendar and a better grasp of the dates of religious and historical significance, but this is believed to be among the many sociopolitical casualties of the battle that resulted in the sealing and abandonment of Khaz Urgrim.
Fighting, Warfare, and Death
Dwarves fear no death. They believe they were, side by each, forged personally by their creator and that their death merely marks their recall by the Father of All. The dwarven religion teaches of a sort of distinguished afterlife – those who have committed great deeds and made themselves worthy of a place will reside forever among the halls and song of Khaz Urheim, fabled palace of the gods, whereas those who “still have a ways to go” or were even quite irreverent will be “made anew” and born again into the world; a fresh start for a soul that lost its way.
As a result, the dwarves do not share some surface civilization’s revulsion to warfare or even view it as a necessary evil. Wars are usually waged as a righteous assertion of supremacy (though almost always in defense), and the more equal the foe is seen, the better the odds of final respite for those who die on either side. When the clans are not united, they fight among themselves. When united, as they are now, they martial forces against whatever enemy seems most pressing and proceed to war with the same efficiency and pride-of-effort that they pursue everything else.
Of note is this: apart from their guards, clanholds rarely keep standing armies. The fact that the clanholds currently have standing armies and that a High King occasionally martials them is a sign of how embittered Dwarven life actually is.
Language and Scholarship
Most dwarves are both numeriate and literate, though the degree to which either are literate and numerate is driven by their line of work and where they live, as they pick up these skills along with other life and trades skills first by observation of their parents as under-apprentices and then through the more formal process of education as they work through apprenticeship and journeying to become masters (or better) at their professions. The Dwarven language itself is possessed of a runic alphabet that is at once pictographic and a syllabary, allowing careful users of the written language to express doubled meaning in their writing, common in dwarven names and hallmarks.
In a sense, formal education for its own sake does not actually exist within the Dwarven Kingdom, leading to a surface-world-wide misunderstanding only recently being laid aside that Dwarves are uneducated, as one of the only sources of information on this topic was a previous attempt to compile this very codex, which had simply remarked that the Dwarves “do not possess schools”. While this statement is true, it would be very wrong to consider a dwarf any less educated than a person of equivalent social status in any other nation.
Diet, Libations, and Entertainment
Dwarven diet can be spare or plentiful depending on season and fortune, and strongly favours pork (among a few other subterranian meats), virtually excluding fish. Meals are often cured or salted meats fortified with potato, stews, or rich in mushrooms (which grow plentifully throughout many parts of The Deep.
Dwarves in particular are famous for their ales (which they grow barley for almost exclusively) and mead.
Dwarven song is often historical in nature, but there is an additional culture of music among dwarves that is specific to each trade and involves either laments or celebrations of their labour (depending on the individual song) and is percussed and given rhythm by the sound of their labours themselves, providing a shanty-like quality. Of these varieties dwarven forge-song is the most well known abroad and a traveler in dwarven lands who has the fortune to visit a clanhold should not miss the opportunity to see it properly performed by actual labouring smiths.
The Guild System
By long tradition (as good as law, even in places where it isn’t explicitly law), all Dwarven trade and commerce has been controlled by the guilds of various Clanholds, in both the mercantile and industrial senses. Working sons and daughters are expected to take membership in the guilds of their fathers and mothers, which is not an automatic process – one must work hard through a series of stages of pre-apprenticeship under one’s parent to proper apprenticeship under a journeyman to become a journeyman oneself in the trade, and from there one must push ever harder to become a master or even Grand Master of their craft. Quite a few take on administrative roles within the guild if it turns out they are not suited for the actual work of a journeyman. The alternative would be to reapprentice in a new guild, from the very beginning, which can be advantageous to the individual (who might obtain a more prestigious trade) but is rarely seen as auspicious for that individuals parents (who therefore often discourage such thoughts).
It is seen, if the family trade is being a baker, to be better to be a middling but respectable baker than an exceptional wizard – unless you’re the wizard, of course.
Despite entire surface villages and hamlets existing for no purpose other than to produce foodstuffs and ship them back to the clandholds, many clanholds (especially in the Carcolie Territory or on the fringes of the Lordless Lands) have difficulty producing food in sufficient quantities and maintaining control of it to support the clanholds themselves – as the clandholds are underground, they obviously have limited capability to produce foodstuffs in caloric amounts. As a result trade is a major part of Dwarven life, though often internal – some of the more remote clanholds produce surpluses of food, though some foods have to be imported from the Atarlie, the Hearthlands, or the Bastonians.
To support this trade the dwarves can fulfil the great demand of outside nations for their craftsmanship and even expertise – some wealthy Bastonian lords can afford to hire Dwarven architects for improvements and replacements of their castles, for example. Dwarven metalwork is second to none in quality and legendary in most lands for this reason, and a wagon-train full of everything from dwarven swords and armour to quality castings for religious pieces can fetch enough in trade to feed the clanhold for a year.
To support that trade, the dwarves have a constant industry of expansion, prospecting, and mining within the deeps and across the surface of their mountains.
Technology and Craftsmanship
Dwarven technology is a paradox – it is simultaneously at the state of its art and stagnant. Dwarven creativity and innovation focuses on improving that which already exists than upon creating novelty. Each generation makes its product of their father’s fathers, but in small ways each generation improves upon the quality and process of those items in their own iterative way.
Critically, dwarves prize reliability above almost any other consideration, rarely adopting truely novel solutions as these are seen as “untested” and sometimes dismissed as (human, elven, or gnomish) absurdities.
The Clans of Magnus outstrip all other nations in the production of metal and goods made from those metals. Their forges burn hotter and their techniques shape truer than any other nation above or below the surface of Ahren. It is rumoured that no other race has discovered the technique for working Adamantine on their own, but depending on who is telling the story, they either learned or stole that craft from the dwarves themselves.
Because of these qualities, a magical item is almost always preferred to its technological equivalent. The Dwarves are particularly famous for their enchanted arms and armour, but they have also produced magical jewelry of great power. The last time a High King needed to wage war on the surface, the dwarves employed enormous golems of stone and even metal as siege engines and force multipliers.
The Adventuring Class in the Clanlands
Barbarians within the dwarven ranks are more properly known as Berserkers. They are not barbarians in the sense of being uncivilized or “of the wilds”, rather, they are motivated by a Barbarian’s rage while still being professional warriors – depending on birth, this may be a village’s tough, an outfreyn monster hunter, or even a professional soldier of “unorthodox methodology”.
Bards are rare but not unheard of (the Skald variant is more common), and almost always professional poets rather than professional musicians, though some military units and some clanholds do play host to a few bards who are good with horns or drums. Bardic magic is considered a step or two removed from sorcery, and therefore unreliably “wild” in much the same sense.
Clerics are quite common and exclusively belong to the Dwarven Pantheon. Dwarven clerics are chaplains-militant first and pastoral second – most pastoral clergy are better represented as the Adept class. Such clerics favour the heaviest armour they are proficient in and are as much responsible for the upkeep of allied morale as they are for spreading terror among enemy troops.
Druids are next to unheard of in mainstream dwarven culture. In a few surface villages (especially in Carcolie territory) they are more common, though they tend to practice in secret. In much the same way, some outfreyn dwarves in the Deeps worship the strange nature of that sunless underground expanse and become druids of another colour – as feared by the general public as they are valued by military units operating in their territory.
Fighter is an incredibly common class – whole family lines are made up almost entirely of fighters intermixed with the odd ranger or paladin. Dwarven fighters favour heavy armour (no surprise there) and heavier weapons, and make up the bulk of both village and clanhold guard units as well as standing military. Quite a few elder commoners may even have fighter levels from past military service.
Monks are oddly represented among the Dwarves. As the Dwarves have little to no direct contact with the Shimmering Shore, they do not have foreign names for Ki and so forth. That said, there is a “clerical” order known as the Brotherhood of the Reforged that have a monastic focus and produce native Dwarven monks, who worship primarily the chief dwarven diety, Magnus Allfather, and follow a philosophy of ascetic training.
Paladins are effectively combat-focused clerics and can be found intermixed in the ranks of various clerical orders. They don’t strictly exist as a separate concept – there’s no distinction between a clerical order and a chivalric order, for example.
Rangers are uncommon, but recognizable, additional figures mixed among combants in a manner similar to barbarians. A village hunter may be a ranger. A specialist in the elimination of carcolie raiding parties may be a ranger. A highly-trained permanent soldier, experienced in pathfinding and combat in the Deeps, is almost certainly a ranger. Dwarven rangers tend to focus on the companions version of Ranger’s Bond, and crossbows tend to be more common than other ranged weapons.
Sorcerers are reviled and mistrusted, and can usually be found only among the fringes of Dwarven society – woe betide the Highborn whose powers manifest publicly. The chaotic and charisma-driven nature of Sorcery runs contrary to the dwarven preference for practiced and reliable crafts and those who rely on it are seen as foolish at best through dangerous at worst.
Wizards, by contrast, occupy positions of influence and are admired by those who are unfortunate enough not to belong to wizarding lineages – rare is the case where a wizard would take on an apprentice from a non-wizarding family. While Evokers and Necromancers (the practice of this school being illegal) can often be seen as nearly as dangerous as Sorcerers are more generally, a great many wizards or mystic theurges can be found at the highest of high forges in each clandhold, producing items of great wonder and significance. Dwarven magical writing is written in the Deepest Runes, which are said to have been originally crafted by the gods themselves to convey their unspeakable languages in a way that mortal minds could muster, and such runes and hallmarks feature heavily on dwarven magical artifice.
Magnians and Monsters
Magnians have no shortage of monsters they have to deal with the mountains, both above and below ground. In particular they favour underground prey as being particularly meritous in discarding of it, and they have a very particular hatred of undead, outsiders, and aberrations of all kind, which pose some of the largest threats.
Magnians and their Neighbours
Being an insular nation, the Dwarves have very little interaction with any of the other surface nations of Wisteria, except as noted below. Dwarven ventures beyond trade are rare, usually unofficial, and often performed by social outcasts within the Dwarven community.
- Bastonia, which is to the west of the northern portion of the Clanlands' mountain range, is a frequent trading partner. Human craftsman, with their short lives and practical natures, get along better with dwarves than any of the other trading partners the Magnians have, and there's no history of war between Bastonia and the Clans of Magnus.
- Carcolie, on the other hand, are the opposites of the Clans of Magnus in almost every way. Their territory and the surface settlements of the various Clanholds tend to overlap, and Carcolie are no more above raiding the dwarves than they are raiding the Bastonians. Accordingly, the two nations rarely get along; it is not uncommon for dwarven warbands to push carcolie settlements out of their immediate area as a preventative or retaliatory measure.
- The Atarlie Empire is also nearby, along the slopes of the eastern Atlas Mountains. The High Elves and the dwarves have little in common, and with their own competing traditions of enchanted artifice, little need for Dwarven goods. While they Atarlie are seen as at least more reliable than the Carcolie, they're still seen as a foreign empire and treated with the according mixture of grudging respect and quiet suspicion.
- The Orcish Nation occasionally settles in the foothills of the southern Atlas Mountains. Occasional wars and skirmishes spring up as the Dwarves attempt to move the Orcs further back from surface settlements or away from hidden Clanhold gates.
Naturally, there are a great number of underground threats, such as goblinoids, Chasm-Elves, aberrations and the like. Some of these threats are organized and inclined to form nations, all of which are viewed with high suspicion and outright hostility by the dwarves of the Clans of Magnus.