Thursday, October 7, 2010

Worldbuilding: Evil Dwarf Jamboree

I might take a breather and write some non-worldbuilding posts for a bit after this one. First...

I was going through my emails recently. I like to keep emails from people who tell me my blog is great, because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and regular praise doesn't do it for me any more. I don't even get hard. Normally I reply to them, but it turns out I missed one and it's starting to get awkward, so:

Chris Devlin, if you are still reading, thank you for the email you sent in April 2009! I really appreciate it. It has a "favourite" star in Google Mail and everything.

If you thought that was going off on a tangent, prepare to be AMAZED as I go off on more tangents than an absent-minded professor of mathematics at a geometry convention in Tangent, Florida:

The last post was on the need for jerks in the setting, and while I was bouncing around some ideas, I thought of something I was missing: Evil dwarves. I had the broad strokes of how dwarves work down, but that was about it. Since I actually use dwarves a lot in one of the games I run I thought I would work them out properly and make up a few dwarf nations.

What I had put down was not well-articulated. The important part was the dwarf's core philosophy, something called the "harmony of opposites", which was about how everything was supposed to be balanced by its counterpart. Good and evil, fire and water, Wendy's hot dogs and food, etc.

Naturally, since I hadn't explained it well, it made dwarves sound like weird True Neutral fanatics who thought "good" and "evil" were both crazy extremes. Not what I wanted.

So, I did what everyone who creates things in a D&D setting does when they're not busy telling people stealing from real life is cool and original, which is steal from real life. Two minutes later I had worked out what I kind of knew anyway: Turns out the dwarves are sort of half-assed Taoists. I might as well work with that - some vaguely related concepts, like the Golden Mean, fit them nicely too. They're not huge True Neutral fans, they just try to do everything in moderation.

I will have to avoid making them too much like Asian dwarves, though, because I do not want to just replace the terrible image of a dwarf with an awful Scottish accent chugging alcoholic beverages so hard he is practically pouring them down his massive beard with a similarly awful image of a dwarf with an awful Chinese accent and a long thin beard smoking opium through a gigantic pipe. Also, I can't imagine dwarves moving into Aldanath en masse to open laundromats.

Religion-wise, I was thinking of having it be a dualistic religion. Two gods, yin and yang and whatever. Or maybe one god. Or maybe one god that is also two gods, and screw with everyone's head. At this point, though, to go further with that I would want to research more and I think if I open another TVTropes/Wikipedia tab I will be here all week, so screw that for now.

So, nations. What would they be like?

Dwarves live underground and dig mines in a lot of settings; here, the underground would be an "extreme" environment because the opposite to the earth would probably be the sky and there isn't any down there. Maybe it's an aesthetic thing and they think that makes it a cool place to live; in that case, they'd probably live on mountains and things too, where there's more "sky" than "earth". Mountain dwarves would probably encounter humans more, too, depending on trade routes, so perhaps the common image of a dwarf is a philosophical mountain-dweller. Maybe one who still likes to get drunk, who knows.

So, we have some dwarf lands in mountain ranges, some underground... perhaps some out in the ocean? Who knows.

I could see them having a lot of monasteries and monks, too. (Remember when 2e neckbeards thought the 3e monk was going to be overpowered?) Those are easy to make into both heroes and antagonists, like that monk dude in Neverwinter Nights who I never picked to join my party because he was a creepy little fuckwhistle. Maybe too easy. I want something bigger.

So, evil dwarf land ideas off the top of my head:

Sky Jerks

The longer I write this the more I think "don't say duergar, don't say duergar, don't...", so let's avoid the little bastards and set these guys somewhere duergar wouldn't be: the sky! They could live on floating islands or a metropolis supported by balloons and blimps or something. After spending so much time looking down on everyone else (literally) they have decided it is their destiny to rule the lands below, and their flying city is armed with -

Hold on. This is the setting of Bioshock: Infinite.

Okay, new idea.

Wet Jerks

The ocean idea sounded cool! Perhaps instead of living underground some dwarves live underwater, in big domed underwater cities. What would they be like? Maybe instead of being expansionist they just want to be left alone, but are evil because they consider themselves unrestrained by the desires and morals of the outside world and delve into forbidden knowledge and -

Regular Bioshock. Okay, third time's the charm.

Jerk Fortress

Maybe dwarves don't have a unified nation. Maybe they just have a big dwarf territory, and any dwarf can build a little keep and claim a tract of land. Running it is a pain, since there's no government around to help them, but if they can fend off the local fish and establish a well-running fortress then they could start digging downward, looking for forbidden knowlege and -

No, wait.

I did this for my other, more steampunky setting in the area known as the Dorf Holds.

That was a practice attempt!

Two Cities

Maybe we can try the dualistic theme again instead of weird locations.

Say the dwarves have two metropolises, one underground and one above... actually, no, let's put both cities on the surface right next to each other, separted by a narrow road or a river or something. One side is benevolent and one is a bunch of jerkshoes, though I would probably make it a little unclear which is which. Maybe they can each have a different theme in their architecture and culture, too, like one side favours blue things and one side favours red. Something minor like that. Naturally, if they live right next to each other, they'd fight for control a lot, maybe send spies to collect intelligence on the other or something.

Finally!! An idea. I can go to bed now.