The Quintessential Dwarf
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A character concept is like a character background. It provides adventuring and roleplaying suggestions as well as a small mechanical bonus and small mechanical penalty to help further define your character. Character concepts are an optional mechanic and should only be used with the approval of your game master.
Blighted Blighted dwarves are a direct result of life in a small, isolated community. Cut off from other dwarves, the people of a blighted clan grow thin of blood and twisted of body. Within a blighted clan, dwarves are born with visible deformities such as hunched backs, limbs of mismatched sizes, protuberant eyes, and other physical oddities. These blight marks are unsightly but are rarely an impediment to health or physical capabilities. Still, the deformities mark blighted dwarves as different from other dwarves, hindering their attempts to blend in with communities outside of their own, stunted clans.
Adventuring: Blighted dwarves often leave home to find a better life for themselves or their families. With their own community so clearly on the decline, the more adventurous dwarves set out to find a more hospitable location to which they can relocate their clan or another clan of dwarves they can appeal to for help. Sadly, many of these adventuring dwarves abandon their clans entirely once they are out in the world and do their best to disguise their own deformities in an effort to appear ‘normal’. A blighted dwarf may eventually join up with a band of adventurers, hoping his strength and skills will help his new colleagues overlook his physical deformities.
Role-playing: The blighted dwarf is often ashamed of his origins and appearance. Experience has taught him that his deformities can be frightening or disgusting to others and he takes precautions to hide them whenever possible. Most blighted dwarves long for their homeland and are somewhat frightened and confused by the world outside. After so many generations of living in isolation, blighted dwarves have diffi culty understanding cultures outside their own, leaving them at a disadvantage in social situations.
Bonuses: Dwarves with this character concept receive a +2 competence bonus to any Disguise skill checks due to their experience hiding their deformities. A successful Disguise check (DC 15) can be used to hide the blighted deformity for 24 hours.
Penalties: Blighted dwarves are socially inept when dealing with anyone outside of their clan. They receive a –2 competence penalty to the following skills: Diplomacy, Gather Information, Innuendo and Sense Motive.
Exile In the underlands life is short and harsh. Members of any subterranean society must pull together and obey the laws of the community or they endanger the lives of everyone they live near. In some dwarven cultures the only fitting penalty for aberrant behaviour is the banishment of the offending party. These exiles often perish, cut down by one of the myriad monsters roaming the caverns and tunnels in the deep darkness. A few, however, learn to survive in the lightless places far from civilization. Most of these become bandits, preying on any creatures unfortunate enough to cross their paths, but a few take up the adventuring life in an effort to escape their past and make better names for themselves.
Adventuring: To the exile, the life of an adventurer can be an exciting alternative to an otherwise dreary fate. Isolated from their community for a crime they may or may not have committed, the exiles must learn to survive in the harsh wilderness that is the underlands. If offered the chance to join an adventuring group, exiles leap at the opportunity, if only to prey on their new companions. Many discover that adventurers are a little tough to take on, even with surprise, and choose instead to throw in their lot with their new companions. After all, the chance for a dangerous life with the potential for riches and legendary fame is certainly better than a dangerous life likely to end savagely in some darkened corner of the deepest caverns.
Role-playing: Exiles are touchy about their past and will do their best to avoid speaking about what led to their distance from their clans. Those who are truly innocent of any crime often accept their fate grudgingly but still only explain their troubles to those they regard as true friends. Dwarves who were exiled for crimes they did commit, on the other hand, attempt to hide any crimes from their new companions. In either case, the exile can become fanatically loyal to his new friends, replacing the traditional connection between a dwarf and his clan with ties to the band of adventurers.
Bonuses: The only exiles who survive are those who are naturally adept at surviving in difficult environments. They receive a +2 natural bonus to all Wilderness Lore skill checks.
Penalties: A combination of guilt and shame taints the exile’s view of the world, which makes it hard for him to believe others and just as hard for others to believe him. The exile suffers a –2 competence penalty to any Bluff or Sense Motive skill checks.
Guild Serf Dwarven communities of all types believe strongly that all members should pull their own weight and pay their own way. In those rare occurrences when a family is unable or unwilling to meet its obligations to the community for a long period of time, the children of the family become guild serfs. Whichever guilds agree to pay off the family’s debts are given custodianship of the children, who are entered into an enforced apprenticeship program. The children, now known as guild serfs, are expected to work for the guild for a period of no less than one year following at least three years of apprenticeship in order to repay the kindness shown by the guild.
Adventuring: Guild serfs sometimes feel betrayed by the culture that turned the misfortune of their family into years of virtual slavery. This resentment and general disgruntlement with dwarven customs goads the former serf into seeking a new lifestyle. Some become travelling merchants, while others head out in search of friends and adventure. Rebelling against the regimented life they were forced to lead, these dwarves enjoy adventuring and rarely go back to their old lifestyle.
Role-playing: Being forced into servitude as a child colours a guild serf’s attitude for the rest of his life. While the serf does learn a useful trade, so he will not become a burden on the community that bailed his family out, he also learns that his own value can be measured by the number of gold pieces he can generate in his lifetime. This mercenary attitude dovetails nicely with the adventuring lifestyle and traditional dwarven greed but often goes to extremes. A guild serf remains obsessed with money throughout his life, parting with hard-earned coin only when absolutely necessary and always demanding an accurate accounting of the proceeds from each adventure to be sure he is receiving his fair share.
Bonuses: Dwarves with this Character Concept as their background receive a +2 competence bonus to all skill checks for a single Craft or Profession skill, chosen during character generation.
Penalties: The character must purchase four ranks of the Appraise skill during character generation.
Mechanist Dwarven clans are often known for the crafts and trades in which they specialise. Some clans boast of their masterful smiths, others proclaim the strength of their warriors, and still others are renowned for their facility with mechanical devices. These dwarves are skilled at working with everything from locks to traps to the complicated and dangerously finicky runecannons. They are also regarded as more than a bit insane, and other dwarves often believe the tinkering of mechanist clans to be dangerous. The mechanists did produce the first runecannons, the theory goes, and it’s only a matter of time before they unleash something truly monstrous on the world.
Adventuring: Dwarves from mechanist clans are natural explorers. In their spare time, they explore the world of machines and gadgets, delving deeply into the inner workings of these conglomerations of gears, wires and struts as they search for deeper understanding. Many take their explorations even further, travelling the world to find exotic examples of mechanical brilliance. Adventurers enjoy the expertise of a dwarf with a mechanist background, especially if they spend much time exploring dungeons strewn with traps.
Role-playing: Clans with mechanical proficiency spend a great deal of time and money furthering their own knowledge. Dwarves from these clans are very curious about the world and are quite willing to risk death or dismemberment if there is a chance they will be able to uncover some lost bit of mechanical lore. While very detail-oriented, these dwarves tend to overlook the bigger picture and as a result are not as aware of the world around them as their companions might desire.
Bonuses: Dwarves from mechanist clans receive a +1 insight bonus to all Disable Device skill checks due to their familiarity with mechanical contraptions of all types.
Penalties: Their attention to fi ne details and theoretical mechanical concerns means that dwarves with this Character Concept are often oblivious to the world around them, receiving a –2 insight penalty to all Spot checks.
Mercenary Everyone has a price and the mercenary is pretty sure he knows what the market will bear for his services. Whether working off a debt or struggling to get money to purchase the old family home, the mercenary is all about money. Entire clans of dwarves fund their communities by hiring their young men and women out as mercenaries, lending legitimacy to a lifestyle other races often view as unsavoury. Dwarven mercenaries, like dwarven merchants, drive a hard bargain and charge as much for their services as their employer can afford. While the price is often high, the steadfast nature of dwarves makes them excellent front-line fighters and creates a steady demand for their skill at arms.
Adventuring: After a stint as a mercenary, returning home to live a quiet life around the hearth may seem boring and dreary to a young dwarf. Some head off with other mercenaries in search of adventure, putting their combat skills to use looting tombs and laying waste to monsters wherever they can fi nd them. Other mercenaries take up adventuring as an outlet for aggressive instincts in a less structured, more rewarding line of work. Then there are those dwarves who just love the thrill of combat and don’t want to be told who they can or cannot kill. For these former mercenaries, the adventuring life is a perfect fit. With their combat training and courage under fire, former mercenaries are welcomed with open arms by the majority of adventuring companies.
Role-playing: Mercenaries are calm and collected during battle, treating every encounter as yet another battlefi eld to conquer. Their knowledge of team tactics allows them to assist others where it will do the most good during a battle. Used to the privation that so often accompanies battle, mercenaries are able to endure hardships without complaining—at least too much. On the other hand, when the pay is good and the mercenary is in town, he can quickly become rowdy and unmanageable, playing every bit as hard as he works and often with just as much bloodshed.
Bonuses: Because of his extensive combat training and experience with small unit tactics, the mercenary receives a +3 circumstance bonus (rather than the normal +2 bonus) when an ally uses the aid another action to assist him during a battle.
Penalties: The mercenary has a hard time controlling himself when it is time to take it easy. If given the opportunity to drink or engage in any other recreational activity, the mercenary must make a successful Will save (DC 15) or party for at least 1d4 hours.
Merchant’s Apprentice Dwarves are greedy; it’s part of their nature, which can make them particularly successful merchants. Their trade techniques are guarded secrets, handed down from merchant to apprentice during years of training. Unfortunately, a few of these apprentices don’t really appreciate the skills offered to them and abandon their training before they become merchants in their own right. Still, they do pick up enough to know when they’re being rooked and how to fi nd a good deal when shopping.
Adventuring: A surprising number of mercantile apprentices fi nd their way into the adventuring profession out of sheer boredom. Many slip away from their masters during travel or simply run away if given the opportunity. These rebels know they aren’t going to be welcomed back into their community and choose instead to hook up with a group of adventurers for excitement, fame and wealth. That most adventurers end their lives poor and unknown whilst most merchants die rich and fat does little to dissuade these dwarves from their chosen course.
Role-playing: To an apprentice, the whole world is still exciting. After spending years learning about exchange rates and how to tell the differences between various coins from assorted clans, most are just happy to be doing something—anything—different. The apprentice is also well aware of the value of money and tends to be more financially responsible than the average adventurer.
Bonuses: If a merchant’s apprentice has at least 4 ranks in both Bluff and Appraise, he receives a +2 synergy bonus when haggling for the best price from a merchant. The Sense Motive modifier is equal to +1 for every 20% increase (if the character is attempting to sell an item) or decrease (if the character is attempting to buy something) in the price of the item being sold or purchased.
Penalties: The merchant’s apprentice must make a successful Will save in order to spend more than 1/10 of his current wealth on any single purchase. Tight-fisted merchants teach their apprentices how to hold on to money, not how to spend it.
Oreborn Dwarven legends speak of destiny and those dwarves who are born to embrace a legendary fate. Known as the oreborn, these dwarves are destined for greatness—if they can survive long enough to fi gure out just what it is they are supposed to accomplish. Dwarven priests and wizards proclaim the birth of an oreborn based on a plethora of esoteric interpretations, leading many to wonder if the whole thing is just an overblown myth. Even the sceptics, however, cannot deny that the number of oreborn who go on to become something special is a bit higher than mere coincidence would allow.
Adventuring: Oreborn constantly strive to fi nd the purpose they were born to fulfi l. Adventuring is a natural occupation for these dwarves, many of whom find themselves unsure whether they can live up to the expectations of their clan. For every oreborn who heads off to slay evil and find a glorious destiny, there is another dwarf who decided to leave his home rather than be confronted with the constant desire of his clan for him to do something impressive. The former tend to make leaders who are brave, if a little imprudent, while dwarves of the latter type are most comfortable just following along behind a more enthusiastic leader.
Role-playing: Regardless of whether they believe they are indeed destined for some great and important action in their life, oreborn dwarves cannot help but be infl uenced by their upbringing. When you are raised to believe you will do something fantastic some day, it is not unusual for a sense of self-importance to invade your thoughts. Some oreborn even come to believe they are indestructible and take outrageous risks while searching for their destinies. Most, however, realize that the majority of oreborn die before they get a chance to do anything of importance and are a bit fatalistic about their own eventual demise.
Bonuses: Oreborn receive a +1 bonus to any one ability score, which represents their exceptional nature.
Penalties: Oreborn are used to being noticed and have forgotten how to be inconspicuous. As a result, they suffer a –2 penalty to the following skills: Diplomacy, Disguise, Hide and Move Silently.
Runescribe Dwarves take their history very seriously and do their best to record it in a form that is not easily lost or damaged. Runescribes are trained from an early age to etch dwarven traditions onto the copper plates used as pages in the books of dwarven lore. These dwarves are also trained in translating works written in other anguages into dwarven and vice versa, making them among the most well read of all dwarves.
Adventuring: Runescribes rarely head off to adventure but those who do have a defi nite purpose in mind. Recovering lost bits and pieces of dwarven culture is regarded as one of the highest callings for a runescribe, and some join adventuring bands for the chance to dig up a scrap or two of ancient lore to add to the body of dwarven history. More than a few runescribes go on to become wizards after completing a few years of service, and these naturally gravitate toward the adventuring profession, where they can gain spells and magic items more easily.
Role-playing: The intensive training necessary to become a runescribe gives the dwarf a breadth of knowledge unrivalled by most other dwarves but also deprives them of real-world experiences. While a runescribe may speak more languages than your average adventurer, his lack of exposure to other cultures often leaves him unable to react quickly to unexpected situations.
Bonuses: Runescribes receive one bonus language in addition to any other languages they speak. They also receive a +1 competence bonus for any Decipher Script skill checks.
Penalties: Runescribes aren’t very experienced in survival techniques and suffer a –2 competence penalty to all Spot and Wilderness Lore checks as a result.
Stonesoul Ancestors play an important part in dwarven cultures, and ancestor worship is common among many clans. Those clans who venerate their ancestors with special fervour are often blessed by the birth of stonesoul children. Wise beyond their years and spiritually tied to one of their ancestors, these children are often extremely skilled in specific areas and receive insight from their predecessors in the form of uncontrollable visions. Many stonesoul children go on to become great priests, but there are others who never fully adapt to the voices in their heads and leave home in search of a ‘cure’ for their affliction.
Adventuring: Stonesoul dwarves may adventure for a number of reasons. Primary among these is an attunement to an ancestor who was himself an adventurer. Stonesouls also join adventuring bands to seek information about their own past or to rediscover ancient items of dwarven heritage from lost ruins. Still others attempt to fl ee their clan in order to avoid the role fate has ordained for them, shirking their responsibilities and using the knowledge of the ancestors for their own benefit. A small percentage leave their homes because they fear losing control to the spirit of their ancestor and hope that they can somehow purge themselves of the ancient influence by journeying far from home. Adventuring companies are usually glad to have the expertise of a stonesoul but may fi nd the dwarf’s visions to be a bit of a problem.
Role-playing: The attitude of stonesouls varies widely from dwarf to dwarf. Some view their connection to the past as a gift akin to a divine blessing. Others see their visions as an unwanted handicap and a disruption to their own plans and desires. A few become unhinged by their exposure to the whispery voices of their ancestors and are forced to trade their sanity for glimpses of the ancient past or insights into a future problem. In all cases, though, dwarves born with a stonesoul cannot change the vision seizures which rock them from time to time any more than they can change the fact they are dwarves. This knowledge leads many to be cautious in their actions, knowing they can be incapacitated without warning by messages from the past.
Bonuses: A stonesoul receives a +2 insight bonus to all skill checks for any two skills, chosen at the time the character is created.
Penalties: The stonesoul hears the voices of his ancestors in his head at odd times and is periodically afflicted by visions of ancient dwarven history. Stressful situations exacerbate this problem, and every time a stonesoul enters combat he must spend his first partial action fighting off the visions assailing him.
Throwback With their strong traditions and connection to various crafts and professions, dwarves are a civilized race. There are some clans, however, which are not so fortunate. Plagues, wars and disasters have stripped away the best and the brightest citizens, leaving behind only those too stubborn or too tough to give up. These communities slowly revert to barbarism, losing much of their heritage and understanding of the traditional dwarven skills and crafts. While few in number, members of these primitive clans tend to be tough and resourceful, substituting grit and brawn for the wisdom lost by their people.
Adventuring: Dwarves from a throwback culture set out on adventures all the time. Whether it is simply to seek a better place to live or to find better hunting grounds, these barbaric dwarves make long journeys in small groups or alone. With so little to lose, many throwbacks find themselves giving in to a sense of wanderlust and leaving their past behind. With their rough and tumble attitude and physical strength, these dwarves are welcomed by adventuring parties in need of muscle.
Role-playing: Throwbacks are tough and they know it. Raised in a culture where physical strength and endurance are prized more highly than intelligence or wisdom, these dwarves go out of their way to prove their physical capabilities to their companions. Throwbacks tend to be disdainful of others who are not as physically capable as themselves and are openly distrustful of any who practice magic of any type. While this rarely leads to open confl ict, the dwarf will have no problem in making his opinions known and backing them up with an axe if necessary.
Bonuses: At the time the character is created, the player may choose any one of the following skills, which will be treated as a class skill regardless of the throwback’s actual class: Animal Empathy, Climb, Handle Animal, Hide, Intimidate, Intuit Direction, Listen, Spot, Swim, or Wilderness Lore.
Penalties: The following skills are always considered as crossclass skills for a throwback, regardless of the character’s actual class: Craft, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Innuendo, Knowledge, and Profession.
Topsider While most dwarves spend their lives hidden from the light of the sun, hammering out a place for themselves in the underlands, a few clans have forsaken their roots and now live on the surface. These dwarves serve as intermediaries between surface dwellers and the dwarves who live in the deep caverns, brokering trade agreements and alliances between various races and cultures. Unfortunately, their time spent on the surface leaves topsiders at a bit of a disadvantage if they ever choose to return to the subterranean lifestyle.
Adventuring: Topsiders are natural adventurers— they’ve already left behind their natural place in the world to carve out a niche for themselves in an alien environment. Frequent trips into the underlands to work with dwarven allies gives the topsider ample opportunity to hook up with a group of adventurers, and time spent hiking overland as part of a merchant caravan or guard detail seasons them for a life of travel. The mercantile skills possessed by topsiders, coupled with their impressive dwarven fortitude, make them a valuable addition to most adventuring companies.
Role-playing: Dwarves who give up a life underground for one on the surface often become more outgoing than their subterranean cousins. Because they act as liaisons between the more taciturn dwarves and the races of the surface, they tend to be politically savvy and knowledgeable about the world at large. any are also very adept merchants, earning excellent prices for their dwarven suppliers and giving customers of other races a chance to purchase goods they might otherwise never see. A topsider who becomes an adventurer often does so in an effort to learn even more about the world around him and for the chance to discover new, exotic items to sell to his customers.
Bonuses: Topsider dwarves receive a +2 competence bonus to either all Diplomacy skill checks or all Appraise skill checks.
Penalties: Topsider dwarves lose the +2 racial bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework provided by the stonecunning racial ability. They still possess the rest of the stonecunning ability, including the chance to automatically detect unusual stonework and to find stonework traps.
Xenophobe Life deep below the surface of the earth is harsh and unforgiving. Clans living the furthest down are often isolated from any friendly faces for centuries at a time. Besieged at all times by enemies, these dwarves develop an instinctive distrust and suspicion of anyone who is not a member of their clan. When exposed to outsiders the xenophobes do their best to retreat from exposure, and their dwellings are elaborately concealed to protect them from their enemies, both real and imagined. On a personal level, a xenophobic dwarf is hostile and suspicious, nearly unable to believe that any non-dwarf can be trusted.
Adventuring: Most adventurers hailing from a xenophobic clan join the lifestyle when invaders of one type or another wipe out their clan. Struggling to survive, these dwarves latch on to any allies they can find, learning to trust others through necessity. Still, the dwarves do not give their trust easily and often fi nd they cannot learn to embrace the wider world, regardless of their experiences. While their companions will certainly fi nd xenophobic dwarves very loyal, the dwarf is unable to ever truly trust others.
Role-playing: Xenophobes live in fear of the world. The experiences of their lives have invariably been hard lessons in the abject cruelty and horror committed by outsiders, leaving them emotionally scarred and unable to trust others. While the dwarf may learn to view his adventuring companions as family, his trust is diffi cult to gain and easily lost. Strangers may as well give up trying to befriend a xenophobe, as their efforts will undoubtedly fail—xenophobes simply are not able to trust more than a handful of people.
Bonuses: Xenophobes are very suspicious, which provides them with a +1 natural bonus to all Sense Motive skill checks.
Penalties: The xenophobic dwarf is unable to ever raise the attitude of an NPC beyond Indifferent due to his suspicious and hostile nature.
The Prestige Dwarf
The various dwarven cultures give rise to many specialists, individuals who undergo specialized training to increase their skills and emphasize their natural talents to fill particular niches within their communities.
The prestige classes in this chapter are designed to open new paths of advancement for dwarven characters. Focusing on the unique culture of the dwarven race, these prestige classes provide not only a way for characters to hone skills and pick up new abilities but also hooks to tie the character back to his origins. Players who adopt the prestige classes found in this chapter will add a distinctly dwarven flavour to their characters. Whilst members of other races may qualify for one of these prestige classes, finding a dwarf willing to teach such secrets to outsiders may be difficult. Where such difficulty exists, it is noted in the individual prestige classes. These prestige classes cover the whole range of character development, from those available at early levels to prestige classes only the most skilled and determined charact ers can hope to achieve.
Using these prestige classes in a campaign provides dwarven characters (and their close companions) with new opportunities for character development. Whether focusing existing abilities or adding new ones, these prestige classes can help shape a character to meet your desires.
- Clan Wisdom
- Deeping Druid
- Fused Companion
- Deeping Druid
- Forge Mage
- Shock Trooper
- Tunnel Rider