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The Purifiers

September 05, 2015

demoIn the Millennium of Purification, a group of Elves and Dwarves join forces to purge the world of the dark magicks they themselves once helped unleash. Is there a chance to make up for their sins of the past and restore order to the world? Find out in the serial fan fic: The Purifiers.

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May 05, 2015

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September 05, 2015

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Dwarven Culture

When most people think of Dwarves they think of gruff, bearded, axe-wielding warriors. While this may categorize some Dwarves, it is far from the average. Historically Dwarves were also well known for their art, architecture, scholars, magic, and even their religious fervor. At one point the Dwarven Empire actually had the best organized system of education in history. It was not until the Elf-Dwarf War their incredible prowess as warriors become so legendary. After the war, when their great empires were in ruins and they abandoned magic forever their warriors are the only thing that others still remember.

In ancient times Dwarves had a great and beautiful culture that varied greatly from the Elves. While the Elves designed a culture to impress the other archaic races such as titans and Dragons, the Dwarves did not have any such goals. Instead, they simply designed a culture that fit their people allowing them to remain more unique and develop more as a race. Dwarves were not more mature than Elves and still craved approval, but as a younger race that didn't fight against the Old Ones they weren't faced with the same expectations and pressures as Elves.

It is this same fact that may have added to the grudge between Elves and Dwarves. Elves felt they needed to constantly prove their worth to the other archaic races and always expected to be perfect. Meanwhile, the Dwarves and their culture were simply accepted like the little brother who always got the attention of the parents. Though this fact is not as well documented as other factors such as the Dwarven secrecy of rune magic, it is an underlying element that allowed otherwise minor factors to become more heated.

After the Great War the Dwarves abandoned more than just the use of magic. They also left a majority of their way of life. Over 90% of their once great culture did not see the end of the war. The Great Cataclysm scarred more than the lands and changed the Dwarves in ways none will ever comprehend, except possibly the Elves. Details of what happened that day was only known to Elves and Dwarves, but has since been forgotten by even them and lost to the passages of time. Any records of the incident were destroyed during the Millennium of Purification.

There are some customs which have remained, but even most of these are nothing more than a footnote in history than actually practiced. Few Dwarves of the current age still follow them and it is rare to find a Dwarven family that holds true to the old ways. They are most commonly observed when an entire community of Dwarves can be found, but there are few of these that have survived. The Old Kingdom Mountains is the greatest collection of these communities and only some (10%) still practice these customs. Eltara is perhaps the only other notable community that follows these customs with a mix of human customs blended together.

Note: Eltara, the Eternal Isle, is an island of my own creation and has serious issues with "Eternals" (the Eltaran term for demons and other supernatural threats collectively). It is off the coast of the Eastern Territories and is not on any official map of the Palladium World (preferred forgotten). The community consists entirely of humans and Dwarves, where the two races have merged into a more unified and joint culture. Hopefully, more about this island and its people will appear in the future. See Rifter 45 for the Demon Archer O.C.C. (page 35, by Travis S. Guerrero) for another reference to his land.

 

Language

The Dwarven language is one of the oldest languages in the world. It is second in age only to the Elven language and possibly faerie speak, but the latter is left to much debate. Unlike the Elven language though, it can prove a challenging task to learn. The beauty of the language is that it can describe the smallest of details in the most exquisite of manners. Unfortunately it is weighed down by complicated rules which often cause confusion and more words than any other language in the Palladium World, at times more words than multiple languages combined.

While Elven has a small handful of words in its dialect to make it easy to learn the Dwarves created a wide variety of words for clarity. The language itself is made up of millions of words, each often varying only the in the subtlest of ways from another. To help learn the words, the language spells and pronounces each variation only slightly different, a single letter usually being the only difference. This change of letters always follows a specific pattern that indicates which degree of the word is being used. For example, adding an 'e' is the equivalent of the word 'very' while the letter 'i' indicates it's an unpleasant degree. The letters 'ei' together symbolizes it's 'very unpleasant' but the letters 'ie' indicate it's only 'barely unpleasant.'

To help speed along conversation the language also created a method of combining words into one big word. If the end of the first word ends with the same letter and/or syllable that the second word begins with the letter and/or syllable is not repeated when the new word begins, but instead flows seamlessly into one word. Some smaller words (such as 'a' and 'the') may be left out all together, but left to the discretion of the individual. The purpose of this rule is not to cut a conversation short, but to allow even more to be said within the same conversation.

With the rule to combine words that sometimes don't seem to stop Dwarven is often referred to as the "flowing language." While originally designed only for use with some words it developed into a rule used with all words within a sentence forming just one really big word. This rule applies to both written and spoken languages. When spoken, it can sound as if a person is racing through the sentence without ever pausing or taking a breath. At first this can be difficult to understand, but after time and practice it gets easier to mentally break apart the words to decipher the meaning.

In written dialect it can be far more difficult. Imagine trying to read a book that has no spaces and some of the letters are missing. It becomes difficult to figure out where one word stops and where the next one begins. Depending on the exact word and which variation of the word is being used, a sentence can take on several different meanings. Sometimes the only way to comprehend what is written is to try and figure out a few of the more distinguishable words and then build a context around them. Those familiar with language natively do it naturally, but those less experienced must do so with great effort.

Sadly though, even this explanation is simplistic compared to the real thing. It is far more complicated in reality than a simple letter change or combining a few words. Though it is this complexity which makes it so hard to learn, it is also this complexity that makes it so beautiful. Unfortunately, it is also this difficulty in learning and understanding it that has caused it to become a "dead" language by human standards as well as most other races. Only the subterranean races still speak it frequently, and usually only those who do not make the surface their home alongside humans or the monster races.

Because of the extreme level of detail the language is known for, many of the great works of the world throughout history have been written in Dwarven. Elven may be the language of scholars, practitioners of magic, merchants, and "educated" people of the world, but Dwarven is the language of artists and poets. Some of the new books and plays written by modern talent are actually old Dwarven pieces slightly updated and, only sometimes, with a new twist.

 

Children and Aging

Dwarven fertility cycles and length of pregnancy are believed to be nearly identical to that of humans. During the Elf-Dwarf War this served to the Dwarves' advantage by allowing them to breed faster and replenish their losses quicker than the Elves. After the war ended Dwarven reproduction took an unexpected and drastic decline, though sexual activity did not lessen. The exact reason is unknown, but it is a well documented fact and not just a theory.

If the Dwarves know the reason they refuse to discuss the matter with anyone. Some believe during the war their reproduction cycles changed, possibly a result of an Elven curse. This curse may have caused the Dwarves to surrender the war once and for all for the survival of their species. Others suggest that the highly increased sexual activity and dramatic increase in children caused a major strain on their race that hinders them even today. Unfortunately the truth may never be known unless someone from that time can be found to explain it.

To add further to the mystery, some of the information that has survived since before the war gives indication that Dwarves may have once had life spans that equaled or even surpassed that of Elves. These notes are few and vague enough that they can be left to interpretation. It is commonly dismissed as discrepancies that have resulted as a passage of time, terms and meanings changing throughout the ages. However, some scholars believe that these references are true and that the life spans of Dwarves have since been shortened by some outside means, perhaps the same source as their decreased reproduction rate.

In Dwarven culture, once born, a child is raised by the entire community, not just the parents. This is for a few reasons. First, the parents are not expected to be experts at everything. By this method the children can be exposed to more options and learn more things than being limited to only the skills and knowledge of the parents. Second, this is believed to promote the concept of teamwork. Since the community works together to raise the child, then the child is taught working alone is not the only way to accomplish a task. Finally, if the parents die the rest of the community is already considered family and can band together to take care of the orphaned child. Unfortunately, in times of war this is all too common.

Though Dwarves live far longer than humans, they appear to actually age faster. By the age of nine a male Dwarf will already be able to grow an early beard, though it is not as thick or full until the age of twelve. Sixteen is the Dwarven Coming of Age. This is the time in life that a Dwarf is finally viewed as an adult. Before this point the Dwarf had no rights and had to obey the will of the community. At this age is also when a Dwarf will have reached full height and appears fully grown, though some have reached this point even earlier in life.

By the age of forty the hair of most Dwarves has gone completely white. It is around this time the signs of aging slow as well, but it's hard to be sure to what degree as it becomes increasingly difficult to tell their age. This is mainly due to the fact that Dwarves already appear so old due to rugged and weathered looks covered by full and thick white beards. Only a slight difference can be noticed between a fifty year old Dwarf and a two hundred year old Dwarf. Not until after reaching the age of 250 will more noticeable differences be apparent to the average eye.

 

Duels of Honor

Though still considered a duel of honor the Dwarven duel is nothing like their Elven counterparts. While Elven duels are based around formality and rules, a Dwarven duel is closer to a bar room brawl. Once insulted a Dwarf clears a path to the offending party, throwing everything blocking his path to the side. From there the challenge is stated loudly so that all can hear. Whether the offending party accepts or not isn't important, the duel begins at that point! If the person did not wish to duel then they should have been more careful in their actions. There is no delay or scheduling to meet at a more appropriate time. If the matter is insulting enough to warrant a duel then no time can be wasted. A matter trivial enough that it can wait isn't worth a duel. Delayed duels are considered a joke for public display, not the Dwarven style.

In addition to their repentance for their past, this is another reason Elves are not quick to attack a Dwarf physically or verbally. There are several incidents of a Dwarf attacking an Elf with apparently little provocation or warning. Those who do not know better believe that these battles are fueled by ancient rivalries from the time of the Elf-Dwarf War. While this fact may play a part, the truth is that most of these fights are actually Dwarven duels of honor. This is the reason an Elf will almost always retaliate without hesitation. They understand it is a matter of honor, even if not the same as their own.

These duels tend to be only hand to hand, involving no weapons. Typically the only weapons involved are those found in the middle of a fight. This is most often something like a chair or glass of mead. It is more of a quick improvised weapon used once for a slight advantage and then dropped. Of course, if one of the duelers draws a real weapon the other is likely to respond the same. Usually this is the result of someone who did not wish to enter the fight in the first place or does not understand the way a Dwarf duels.

One of the main reasons for no weapons is that Dwarven duels of honor are rarely to the death. It is felt if duels were always to the death then the Dwarven race would always lose at least one, sometimes both, of the warriors. Since this is not in the best interest of the race it is well accepted by Dwarves to not kill the opponent during the duel. When such matters arrive Dwarves tend to simply know when to yield and admit defeat while the other knows not to take it too far. A Dwarf's pride rarely gets in the way because losing the duel is not considered to damage a person's pride. Pride is saved by participating in the duel, the outcome is not as important. Only when real weapons become involved do things tend to get deadly.

A truly interesting fact about Dwarven duels of honor is that it is common to see both participants laughing and drinking with each other after the duel is finished. This may sound unusual to others, but for Dwarves, displaying courage and/or skill can impress the other combatant. Once the duel is over the insult is forgiven and a strong respect can be formed for a worthy opponent. Many close and long lasting friendships have been the result of one of these duels. Sometimes the quickest way to befriend a Dwarf is to instigate a duel and then go from there. Of course, this can also be one of the most painful methods.

 

Favorite Weapons

Dwarves favor a wide variety of weapons from axes, throwing knives, picks, large swords (often worn on the back), and a variety of blunt weapons. While they have sworn against practicing magic they love to have magic weapons and are typically preferred over any other. If an ancestral weapon is owned, even if not statistically superior, it usually holds special significance to the Dwarf. The ancestral weapon is considered the main weapon even if rarely used in battle. This is because it is the most important to the Dwarf and will be the weapon of choice when there is more than life at stake, such as honor or revenge.

Most weapons designed for Dwarves have thick and broad straight blades. They're heavier for inflicting greater damage. While a weapons main purpose is to damage the enemy it is common for Dwarves to highlight weapons with precious metals and gems. Dwarves love the look of a weapon that can sparkle and dazzle the eye, impressing all who set sight upon it. This is usually done in moderation as not to unbalance the blade with heavier metals and causing it to become unwieldy, but there have been some designed for the sole purpose of appearance, sacrificing even functionality.

 

Chiefs and Advisors

Society for Dwarves is ruled by a chief. Usually the chief is the most powerful warrior. The most powerful doesn't mean just physically stronger, but also experienced. It is well understood that being just a tough warrior is not enough if the wisdom does not come along with it. A wise and experienced warrior will usually find a way to win a fight against a young and physically dominant warrior. This is something that the young must often learn the hard way.

Only a male can be chief. The reason for this has nothing to do with lack of faith in a female's ability or power, but only females can bear children. During war the chief is at the frontlines leading the troops into battle. This caused the chief to become a prime target. So they sought to protect the females by not making them a prime target. As long as the females survived they figured the race would always be able to continue. Despite this, it did not change the fact that, at times, a female would be the best fighter of the community and end up fighting on the frontlines alongside her chief all the same.

There are three different types of chiefs: Chief Proconsul, Chief Magistrate, and High Chief. The Chief Proconsul has the authority of an individual community. He is in charge of his home town or city and entrusted with making laws, settling local disputes, and the overall protection of his community. This is the smallest of the chiefs, but still plays an important part in the society gaining great honor and respect.

The Chief Magistrate has all the same responsibilities as the Chief Proconsul, but in addition has the added responsibility to look after an entire area, including other communities with a Chief Proconsul. Influence over other communities is limited. Normally a Chief Magistrate only takes over when something involves the entire area such as a drought or a large band of raiders too big for a single community alone. In addition, if the Chief Proconsul ever needs assistance, the Chief Magistrate is obligated to help. This can be as simple as advice or a foe too strong for the Chief Proconsul to handle alone. While the Chief Proconsuls are formidable making this rare, there have been such occurrences.

The High Chief has all the duties of the other chiefs, but is also the highest authority in Dwarven society. It is his responsibility to look out for the well being of all Dwarves, not just limited to a single area. For this reason he is often also called the Dwarf King, more commonly by other cultures that are more familiar with kings than chiefs. To ease the load placed upon the High Chief there would normally be a Chief Proconsul and/or Chief Magistrate who took care of the day to day affairs of his city.

Today it is rare to have a chief. In the few Dwarven communities that still exist there is rarely anything more than a Chief Proconsul. However, in the Old Kingdom Mountains where the known collection of Dwarven communities still exist, as well as on the eastern island Eltara, there is known to be at least one Chief Magistrate each. However, the position of High Chief is no longer existent. With the few Dwarven communities that still use chiefs so scattered it is impossible to have someone to organize them all.

As stated earlier, the chief is typically the most powerful warrior. After a certain point, typically when the chief is nearing the end of his days, the chief will either be challenged by a young and well respected warrior or will step down from the position and name a successor. In cases of the chief being challenged it is important the challenger has the respect and backing of most of the community. Without the backing of the people the challenger can never become chief. It is not a simple matter of being the most powerful nor is it a popularity contest.

If the people did not accept the chief then it is understood that the community can never prosper. So, even if the challenger won the fight, without the support of the people the challenge is in vain. There is record of a Dwarf who once made such an attempt. After killing the Chief Proconsul at the time the challenger tried to take the position by force. Word reached the Chief Magistrate. Before he could act to resolve the matter the villagers took matters into their own hands. Three warriors attacked the usurper. One died and the other two were injured, but when the battle was done the Dwarf who attempted to seize power was dead, his name forever disgraced.

In a legitimate challenge, if the chief wins the fight the challenger is spared but loses the right to challenge the chief ever again. To ensure this, the chief is forbidden from killing challengers or automatically forfeits his position. This is to prevent the death of young and talented warriors whose death could hurt the community. These challengers can even become the new chief if proven worthy and named as the successor when the chief steps down later. It is actually a common occurrence in these situations because the warrior already proved he has the support of the people, and experience can come later.

On the other hand, when the challenger wins the fight the current chief is usually slain. This is not of disrespect, quite the contrary. The chief is killed to end his life like a warrior instead of forcing him to live on as a shattered memory. At least this is the official reason. Those who are not as intimately familiar with the culture aren't aware of the hidden truths behind it. Challenges typically stem from poor leadership from the chief. Poor leadership can mean several things, but most commonly refers to a chief who puts his needs above those of the people.

Usually in cases like this the chief will be accepted for a time, giving him the chance to adjust to his new position and realize the error of his ways. However, if the chief did not show signs or willingness to change the people would soon find someone new to turn to for leadership. This type of chief is viewed as an embarrassment to the entire race. For this reason the challenges will end in death. The same as a duel of honor the chief will be forgiven for his mistakes as chief. He can then be remembered fondly as the warrior they once trusted to take the position in the past.

This type of situation is not always the case. Sometimes it is simply a matter of a chief whose heart may be in the right place but lacks the skill to properly fill his new role. Chiefs are normally well chosen for the position and that makes this a rather rare occurrence, but it does happen from time to time. There is no shame in this fact. It is well understood that the position of chief is a difficult one. In situations like this it is common to spare the life of the chief after the challenge.

If the chief steps down, or in the rare case of a chief being spared by the challenger, he usually takes the position of an advisor to the new chief. Psychics, mainly due to Psi-Healers and Prophets (see the names section below for more details), are also well respected members of the community and often serve as advisors as well. Even if just passing through and not an official advisor a psychic can still have the ear of the chief, helping to sway the opinions of him and the people.

 

Military

Unlike the Elves, the Dwarves didn't have a specific code and order to their military. The Dwarves felt all the rules and restrictions of Elven military only served to restrict an army's effectiveness. In times of war things can change quickly and to adapt fast enough the military must have a loose set of codes that can adjust to any situation. For this reason the Dwarves set up only the most basic of rules. This allowed some structure for the unit that can be easily followed, but not so many rules that the freedom of the soldiers would be eliminated.

Chiefs led the military in the same order of power as their ruling structure. The High Chief was supreme military commander under any circumstances. During war it was not uncommon for a chief to place a trusted and skilled comrade, never a female, as second in command. This was typically a Dwarf most likely to be next in line to being chief. Placing a second in command was a precautionary method to ensure that if the chief ever fell in battle, not unheard of, there would always be another ready to take charge and rally the remaining soldiers.

When engaged in battle the highest chief in the area would typically lead the battle. A lower chief, or second in command, would most commonly stay back to observe troop movements, counter enemy attacks, watch the rear, protect innocents, as well as several other responsibilities. Of course, it is important to keep in mind this was only the basic guidelines for combat. These guidelines could be changed if the leading chief decided upon it, or if a lower chief felt the need to deviate.

One of the most famous battles in Dwarven history involved a high ranking Chief Magistrate. He let one of the lower Chief Proconsuls lead the initial charge while he held back. Though this may have seemed like cowardice to an outsider no Dwarf dared to even think such a thing.  The Chief Proconsul followed his orders with total loyalty. While the Chief Proconsul met the enemy directly and kept them distracted, the Chief Magistrate took a secondary force and attacked the enemy supply lines. Soon after becoming cut off the enemy surrendered with relatively few casualties on both sides.

While it was important to follow orders remember that this was also designed to be flexible. A lower chief may suddenly see an opening in enemy defenses, a pattern to enemy attacks that can be broken, notice an ally flank in trouble, or other need to take action. It was not always possible to take the time to discuss it. Chiefs were selected for their combat prowess and leadership. For that reason they were given a considerable degree of leeway in making decisions. This unpredictability made the Dwarven forces difficult to anticipate and counter. However, if an enemy could isolate and exploit a weaker chief it could also lead to disastrous defeats.

Since the highest chief typically led the troops into battle it also put them at a high risk of death. Though chiefs were among the best warriors of all the soldiers in battle it did not make them invincible. Even the best warrior could be taken down by luck, a strong enemy, or greater numbers. To help ensure the safety of the chief the other Dwarves accompanying him were entrusted with his safety. It is the job of the chief to sacrifice his interests for the good of the people every day, so it was only honorable for the people to sacrifice everything for their chief in times of war.

If the leading chief is killed in battle the next highest chief or second in command takes over to lead the battle. If there is more than one chief of equal status then the more skilled warrior and leader takes charge. Though this seems like it could cause problems, usually the chiefs know and accept who is better. Part of being a chief is to do what is best for the people and set aside personal pride. If no other chiefs or second in commands are around or alive, then the next most skilled warrior takes charge until a more permanent solution can be arranged.

In this type of dire situation even a female can be in charge. It was up to this new temporary leader to restore order, rally the troops, and save the lives of those remaining. While winning the battle was important, the top priority is the survival of the people. It is more important than any single loss or victory. This concern for the survival of the people is the reason females are kept out of a place of leadership. Dwarves learned through early battles that some enemies target the leader of soldiers to create disorder and panic, a tactic Dwarves later adopted as well.

Since only females can give birth it was decided to try and prevent them from becoming prime targets in battle. Despite their protection of females it did not stop some females from becoming the greatest Dwarven warriors. These female warriors still typically end up on the frontlines beside their chief. Though having a female at the front was often frowned upon, most chiefs, guided by advisors, knew it would be a foolish tactic to hold back their best warriors simply because they were female.

 

Names and Deeds

A Dwarven name is broken up into two parts. The first part is the true name and the second is mentioning a deed. For the true name the first syllable represents the order of birth. This syllable indicates if the child is first born, second born, third born, and so on. It is important to note that just because the first syllable indicated the birth order does not mean it was the same for each first born. The choice of letters and their order in the name are the indicating factors. During the glory days of the Dwarven Empire the order of the child was very important. However, in modern day Dwarven societies even those that try to follow the old ways tend to not give this part of the name too much attention.

Anything after the first syllable is preferably chosen by a prophet, often referred to as a seer. The prophet incorporates the order born into the rest of the name to make a truly fitting name for the "child's destiny." According to legend, a prophet can use divinity to choose an appropriate name for the child. Every area under the rule of a Chief Magistrate had at least one prophet and families would travel through great lengths to bring their child before one. Since the end of the Elf-Dwarf War prophets have become increasingly rare. Now, unless by some miracle a prophet can be found, the name is chosen by the parents.

Male names typically have only two syllables in their true name. Both syllables start and end in a consonant. Though rarely done, if the first syllable ended with the same letter that the second syllable started with, it is a sign the child will live an extraordinary life. However, extraordinary does not always mean a good life. The child could grow up to become a great hero or just as likely become known for infamy. Most of the famous Dwarves in history are not remembered by their true names (true names hold great power and it is common for many to use aliases) such as the Dwarven "king" Ithan or the "usurper king" Isle-Wind.

Females typically had a name with two or three syllables. The word always started and ended with a vowel, but the individual syllables did not matter as much beyond that fact. There are rare occasions of a female Dwarf with a four or five syllable name. While being so rare it only happened a few times in all of Dwarven history, it indicates the child destined to become well known throughout the ages. Once again the source of this fame is unknown. It can be for greatness or tragedy.

As stated earlier, Dwarves don't use family or clan names to identify themselves. Instead they refer to their greatest accomplishment. These deeds don't necessarily have to be a battle or other physical accomplishment. An artist can mention the greatest work painted or a music composer the most famous composition. If a Dwarf has not yet made an accomplishment in life then they are expected to mention the most notable deed of a parent. While this is usually the father it is not unheard of for a mother's deeds to be mentioned instead.

By the Coming of Age a Dwarf is expected to have a field of expertise (O.C.C.). Within five years they should have at least one deed worthy of mentioning. This deed doesn't need to be legendary in nature, simply something notable enough that others in the same field should have heard of it. Any adult Dwarf by this point without any deeds behind his/her name is viewed as a disgrace. The main reason for this is that someone who cannot make an accomplishment in their chosen profession is clearly in the wrong line of work.

In the past Dwarves were well known for naming all their weapons. Each weapon was believed to carry a piece of its wielder within it. Dwarves that have been swayed by the influence of humans over the millennia no longer practice this custom. To most humans the concept of naming a weapon and it carrying a piece of the wielder is a foolish concept; a weapon is simply a tool to be used. Even to the few Dwarves who still do practice this concept it is typically only used for their favorite weapon, usually a family heirloom that has survived for generations. These weapons are said to have the greatest life to them as they contain not only the life of the current wielder, but all those who came before.

When naming a weapon it usually consists of three syllables. It starts with a two syllable female's name which is given to it by the one who forged it. The female name is then preceded by the last syllable of the current wielder's name. That means that while the name of the weapon stays the same in some aspects it also changes each time it takes a new owner. This allows the weapon to keep an individual identity and yet accept within itself a piece of the current wielder. With this method the two can truly become one. Rune weapons are not named in this method as they are recognized more as a person than a weapon.

 

Music

When most think of Dwarves and music, they picture a Dwarf in a tavern singing drinking songs. While it is true that Dwarves are renowned for their drinking capacity (higher P.E. than humans and Elves), Dwarves as a species are no more likely to be in a tavern singing drinking songs than any other race. This is simply a common stereotype and built upon misunderstandings. In reality Dwarves have a wide variety of musical preferences, but perhaps none as famous as their creation of opera.

In the days of the Dwarven Empire, when their love of art and culture were still at its peak, Dwarves created a method of musical storytelling known as opera. The beauty of opera moved even the noble Elves, who tried to mimic the style but never to any significant success. Even in modern times opera is considered a music type that's appreciated by nobles. Modern operas are primarily old Dwarven operas that have been saved and restored, still sung in the Dwarven dialect even though it is now a dead language. For learned men who appreciate "class," the beauty and feeling of the words are more important than their understanding.

There is a traveling show that is currently touring the Eastern Territory performing famous Dwarven operas for the inhabitants. At their height, acclaims of their skill spread so far that they were invited to perform at the Royal Timiro Theatre. They decided to perform what they considered the greatest opera ever written: Ithan and the Mountain, the story of the legendary Dwarven "king" Ithan. A part of the opera involves Ithan freeing slaves imprisoned in a mine. The royal court of Timiro did not approve of the material and felt it encouraged rebellion. Their show has not been welcomed in the Timiro Kingdom since.

 

Blood Oaths

According to Dwarven culture words are just that, words. To give someone a promise or to otherwise swear on oath only in words is a hollow gesture. Once a word is spoken it is gone and with it the agreement. Making a pact in blood, more commonly known as a blood oath, will cause it to last forever. Blood is a symbol of life and of the spirit. Swearing a blood oath is an eternal bond that lasts in this life and the next. A blood oath is never something to be taken lightly and is known to change the life of a Dwarf forever.

One of the most famous blood oaths is the Oath of Eternal Love. This involves a ceremony similar to magic but can be far more intense. The only people necessary to be involved are the two taking the oath. They often include close friends though, along with an alchemist and a healer. Those taking the oath stand face to face with arms extended, their palms facing the ceiling. A small ceremonial dagger is taken and both cut their left forearms from wrist to elbow. These cuts are not deep to cause serious injury, only deep enough to draw blood. Both then place their arms so their wounds touch.

It is the mixing of their blood that makes this a blood oath, but the Oath of Eternal Love does not stop here. The two each stand there staring at one another without speaking. This is because spoken words are believed to have no special significance. If they are truly meant for each other then their love will exceed the need for mere words and their feelings will be transmitted through the look in their eyes. While they stand there the blood from their wounds drips down into a small bowl beneath their arms.

Once the ceremony is finished, their wounds will be treated so the two do not bleed to death. Though the wounds are sealed the scars themselves will not be healed, even if a Psi-Healer is used. These scars are an important mark and help to remain a constant symbol of their love. Things such as rings or other material possessions can simply be taken off and removed, but a scar is as eternal as their love.

Meanwhile, the bowl of blood is given to an alchemist. The alchemist then pours some of the blood into two molds and adds special ingredients which cause the blood to become as hard as stone. These two molds are turned into necklaces and given to the two who swore their love. While it can serve as a symbol of love the true purpose is so that both will always have a piece of their love's soul with them. In the glory days of the Dwarven Empire this was a free service provided by the alchemist. In modern times, for those who still take this oath, the service usually costs 400 gold. The necklaces have no magical properties.

An Oath of Eternal Love is just as it sounds. Those who take the oath are vowing to love the other until the end of time. The two refer to each other as "beloved" and, even after one dies, the other will never take another similar oath. It is believed that after death the two will be reunited once again in the next life. On the other hand, it is acceptable for the survivor to take bed with someone else on occasion as long as it is not a common occurrence and there are no deep feelings involved. This is understood as "needs of the flesh."

Another of the sacred Dwarven blood oaths is the Oath of Revenge. This is a very serious oath that is perhaps more sacred than any other. When this oath is taken the Dwarf swears to never stop until the death of a loved one is avenged. The oath is only taken after a loved one has been killed, often murdered. Until either the killer is dead or the Dwarf dies in the attempt this oath will not end. It is not appropriate for the Dwarf to return home and relax for a few days, even if it has been ten years since the oath was taken. Even a "beloved" and kids take a second place to fulfilling an Oath of Revenge.

The oath is taken by dipping the fingers into the blood of the deceased loved one. This loved one is often a "beloved" but can be a child, parent, or even best friend. If the body of the loved one is not available, usually the result of the body being completely destroyed by some spell or more likely stolen by the one or ones who did the killing, then the sacrificing of a noble animal can substitute. Typically this is an animal held in high respect by the culture, quite often a horse.

With the fingers of the Dwarf still wet from blood a dotted line is drawn around the neck. This is a chain of blood that holds the Dwarf to the task at hand. Even after the blood dries and is washed off the chain remains in spirit. Until the death is avenged the Dwarf will never be free from this chain. Of course there is no physical or magical hold at work, but it is a chain of the spirit that none will let go. If the Dwarf is capable of letting it go then an Oath of Revenge would never have been sworn in the first place.

A less common blood oath is the Oath of Alliance. This is an oath to always help the allied party no matter the cost. It is typically taken between two chiefs or other type of ruling body. In order to fulfill the oath either member will risk everything they have to help. This even includes bringing their individual communities to arms to risk war with the other's enemy regardless of the odds. The two will always be there for the other even if it means standing as fools to oppose the gods themselves! Due to the extreme loyalty required and the amount of dedication to back it up this oath is highly uncommon.

The main hesitation from taking this oath is not putting oneself in danger, but also risking friends, family, and community as well. When it is taken there can be no greater friend. There is never a doubt that the other would be there when needed. This oath did not entitle either side to simply demand something. Both only ask when there is genuine need. To constantly seek help is dishonorable and can result in a duel of honor to settle the matter.

During the oath both parties take a blade, most commonly a dagger, and cut their right palm. The cut will be from just below the index finger and slash in a downward angle to the bottom of the palm near the wrist and below the pinky. With the wounds still open and fresh the two would shake hands. It is important for the hand to be scarred by the cut for the same reasons as the Oath of Eternal Love. Any Dwarf breaking this oath becomes an outcast. All power, land, and friendships within the community are lost. Often the Dwarf is also killed for such a disgraceful act.

The rarest of all blood oaths is the Oath of Servitude. In all of recorded history there have only been thirteen cases of this oath being sworn. When taking the oath the Dwarf will take a blade and cut his or her own cheeks. It is a cut starting from near the ear and stops near the cheekbone. This is done to both sides of the face. Scars are left so that all can clearly see the Dwarf is a servant to another. There are incidents where an enemy will inflict similar wounds as an insult, indicating the Dwarf will forever be under the enemy. Such a mark does not force the Dwarf into servitude as the true oath is spiritual, not physical.

The oath is not just of life long servitude, but one that extends into the next life as well. This is one of the reasons it is so very rare to see a Dwarf take such an oath. If a Dwarf took this oath it is the result of a great debt that could be repaid no other way. Debts like this indicate a tragic wrong committed by the Dwarf or as a thank you for a service provided. A thank you is typically the result of the other saving someone dear to the Dwarf. Personal safety is not enough to take this oath, but those close to the heart are worth giving away everything, even freedom. Death did not always have to be avoided as there can be far worse things than death. This is a fact Dwarves know all too well.

After taking the Oath of Servitude the Dwarf will never know freedom again. From that moment forward the Dwarf lives and dies to serve the other. It is not required that the oath is sworn in front of others as witnesses. The oath is something sworn within the heart of the Dwarf, and that is what binds the Dwarf to servitude. Within Dwarven culture there is no greater honor to someone than having a Dwarf swear the Oath of Servitude. If the oath is sworn to a member of another race that individual is accepted by any Dwarven community.

 

Funerals

Death of a Dwarf is traditionally honored with a funeral pyre. Friends, family, and comrades in arms join together to witness the passing as the rising smoke carries the spirit up and into the next life. Ideally every Dwarf will get an individual pyre, but during times of war this is not always possible. When the death toll is high it is common to use a mass funeral pyre burning most of the bodies together. Chiefs and exceptional individuals, usually a warrior but not necessarily, will always be given individual funeral pyres out of reverence.

After the death the main weapon of the fallen Dwarf will be given to a close member of the family. If no family member exists it is given to someone close to the Dwarf, usually a best friend. All of the remaining possessions go wherever they go, effectively considered meaningless. Only the main weapon carries special significance. This is usually an ancestral weapon passed on through the generations, but can be just a personal favorite if no ancestral weapon is owned.

Though not all Dwarves are warriors almost all will have at least one weapon. The Palladium World is a dangerous place and protection is needed regardless of occupation. By keeping the weapon it is believed that it is keeping an important part of the person. Even if it is not currently ancestral, the weapon often becomes one later as it started off as a favorite to the deceased, then becoming important to the new owner as a result, and continues to pass to another in the same way. A weapon is believed to carry a part of the soul of all who have possessed it. In this way those who have died can continue to watch over future generations.

 

Rumors and Misconceptions

Unfortunately for the Dwarven race there are several rumors and misconceptions that can lead people to the wrong conclusions about them. One of the most common falsehoods is that all Dwarves are "barbaric" axe-wielding warriors that live for nothing more than fighting. Naturally this is a gross untruth. Though it's true that Dwarves are well known for their ability to fight and some do prefer the axe as a weapon, there are also a number of blacksmiths, miners, philosophers, artists, musicians, and other diverse groups with minimal combat training at best.

Another common rumor is that Dwarven females have beards. Those that haven't had contact with female Dwarves may very well believe this ridiculous rumor. It is unknown how this rumor got started, but it is generally believed by many Dwarves that the lie is the result of an Elven insult. Despite this fact most Dwarves find the rumor humorous and anyone who believes it is viewed as little more than a fool. There is some speculation that it began due to the fact Dwarves don't hide homosexuality.

This doesn't mean all Dwarves have homosexual tendencies or that there are more homosexual Dwarves than any other race. It simply means that Dwarves have no taboo against it and, when it does happen, it can be publicly recognized. For Dwarves, at least during the days of the Dwarven Empire, sexual preference is simply a matter of choice. It is no different than preferring to eat an apple rather than an orange. Very few cultures have such an open view on the subject.

The Western Empire has actually gone so far as to outlaw homosexuality. Ironically, it is well known that 40% of the Western Empire's elite forces, the Janissary, prefer members of the same gender. Whether the rumor truly started by seeing two male Dwarves together may never be known. Even if it didn't start the rumor, there is little doubt that it helped to reinforce the false tale. It is this fact that also sparked the rumor that all Dwarves are homosexual. In truth only about 2% have had any such experience.  This is actually a smaller percentage than any other race.

There is another rumor that suggests Dwarves will abandon a still young child in the wilds for days, weeks, or even months. This is based in part on truth. It is more of a misconception than a complete rumor. The story stems from the fact that some Dwarven families did let a child survive for a while on their own. However, unknown to the child, and never mentioned in the rumors, is that one of the parents always remained nearby to keep a watchful eye to make sure the child is never in any true danger. Though less than 10% ever practiced this custom it is still accepted as a Dwarven custom.

The reasoning behind it is that by leaving the child without known help the child will learn the basics of survival. It is harsh training, but a child who can survive without help from a parent almost always grows up strong and self-sufficient. After the training ended the child was taken home and well received by family to show love and warmth. This allowed the child to know that he/she was missed and not forgotten within their hearts. The custom is typically viewed as too harsh and rarely practiced. Since it is based on truth Dwarves don't take great offense to the rumor, but will usually take the time to make sure the truth behind it is also known.

One of the more vicious rumors is that Dwarves will throw their children down a jagged cliff or similar location. According to the rumor, if the child dies then they are not a worthy heir and the world is spared their disgrace. This rumor is a flat out lie. Dwarves don't take kindly to anyone caught spreading it. It is viewed as a direct insult to the entire race and repeating it in the presence of a Dwarf can result in a Dwarven duel of honor.

An old Dwarven journal was found that suggests such a thing really did happen close to 12,000 years ago. However, Dwarves hold firm that it is all just a vicious lie. At this point, regardless of what evidence is uncovered to support the rumor, it is unlikely that Dwarves will believe it. If there is any truth to it then it was likely the actions of a single deranged Dwarf. It has never been a custom and hardly represents the actions of Dwarves as a race.

 

Magic: Past and Present

Elves are viewed as natural mages. Their affinity and natural aptitude for magic causes some to even believe they are creatures of magic. However, before the Millennium of Purification, Dwarves were the unrivaled masters of the mystic arts. They alone held the secrets to rune magic and several other styles. This arrogance caused them to unleash powers too great for even them to control nearly destroying themselves along with the Elves during the Elf-Dwarf War. Even after the end of the war the Dwarven knowledge of the arcane was unsurpassed.

When the war was done the two forces joined together to purge the world of the most loathsome and dangerous forms of magic. This began the Millennium of Purification. Most historians believed this was simply a time when spells and forms of magic were destroyed, most notably rune magic. While there is no denying this played a part, there is more to it. As a result of the war several powerful magical beings were unleashed upon the world, including raw and untamed living magic. The Elves and Dwarves needed to work together to help reign these powers in for the safety of world.

Most people believe that Dwarves abandoned their arcane arts after the war come to end, but the truth is that they continued to use them for another thousand years. To battle forces such as living magic and practitioners of dark mystic arts unwilling to abandon their ways, the Dwarves needed to use the magical knowledge. When the Millennium of Purification came to an end, the Dwarves destroyed what remained of their magic. Those who still contained such knowledge in their minds kept it locked away there letting it die with them, lost forevermore.

Since that time no Dwarf born on the Palladium World has studied or practiced magic in any form. This is in part because of the social stigmata, but also because of an instinctive response. Even a Dwarf who doesn't know of their past will view studying magic with great caution and fear. When attempting to learn even the basic principles of magic a Dwarf's hair will stand on end and the individual will feel agitated, similar to an instinctive animal response when faced with magic.

Dwarves have a higher intellect and conscious thought compared to an animal so it is possible for a Dwarf to overcome this primal reaction, but it is not easy. There is debate if this instinct has always been a part of their race that they overcame to become the masters of magic, or if the instinct emerged sometime during or after the war and it is the reason Dwarves so readily abandoned magic. It is important to note Dwarves not native to the Palladium World such as Asgardian Dwarves (see Rifts Conversion Book Two: Pantheons of the Megaverse for more details) do not suffer from this instinctive fear and disdain for magic.

Today, Dwarves still have an aversion to magic. Among their most hated practitioners are the Summoner and Diabolist. Both are believed to deal with magic that the world would be better off without. Summoners play with forces beyond their understanding, much as the Dwarves once did during the Great War. Their threat is quite clear to the world. On the other hand a diabolist does not pose as immediate of a threat, but they are perhaps even more dangerous. While a summoner is "mad," a diabolist knows what he is doing and proceeds down the perilous path anyways. A Dwarf will only work with either of these classes in desperate situations, and neither will likely ever be trusted.

Wizards, Conjurers, and other traditional spell casters are disliked, but there is no direct animosity. Dwarves will willingly work with these types of individuals and may even call them a friend. Some Dwarves will use their time with these practitioners to try and convince the spell caster of the danger of magic and that it should be abandoned. However, few practitioners of magic actually heed such warnings as they learned the history and dangers of magic during training. This can be an interesting chance for some lively debate on the matter between the two views.

Psi-Mystics are generally accepted. There can be some suspicion if the mystic is a Dwarf, but this is viewed as a calling in life. They are born with a "gift." Additionally, Dwarves have forsaken the practice and study of magic, but a mystic does not study or practice the art. Their knowledge is intuitive and not learned. This diminishes the danger of it turning into other forms of magic and darker arts. Priests also have limited spell casting abilities, but these talents are bestowed upon the priest by a god so there is no conflict with the Dwarven aversion to magic.

Similar to Priests and Psi-Mystics, Dwarves accept a Warlock. Like the other two, the warlock does not know traditional spell casting and other mystical knowledge. Their power is granted by an Elemental Being. However, no Dwarf can become a warlock. Elemental Magic does unsettle Dwarves the same as practicing magic, though not even Dwarves understand the reason for it (perhaps a connection to the Circle of Absolute Elemental Power, see Island at the Edge of the World for details). The reason goes deeper than an unnerved feeling though. No Elemental Being will ever consider a Dwarf their little brother.

While a witch does not study magic and only has their power bestowed the same as some other class, the witch remains as feared and hated as a summoner. This type of pact shows a lust for power akin to the one that once almost destroyed their entire people. Any Dwarf that makes a witch pact is a traitor to the race. These corrupt monsters must be hunted down and destroyed. The above are only a portion of the many types of magic in the Palladium World and the rest of the Megaverse, but help to provide a guideline for comparison.

 

The Five Elements

In the Dwarven culture there are five elemental forces: Earth, Fire, Metal, Water, and Wood. Dwarves are the only race on the Palladium World to believe in these five elements. One of the things that make these elements so uncommon is that it completely goes against the known elements reinforced by warlocks and Elemental Beings. However there are rumors that in the days of the Dwarven Empire there were warlocks of the five elements as well (see below for more details).