Dwarf history begins in the underdark, a vast network of subterranean tunnels that connects to many cave systems across the world. There are many predators in the underdark, ranging from giant spiders, to myconids, to abberations too hideous to even imagine. For thousands of years, dwarves were prey.
Eventually though, one band of dwarves stumbled upon a relatively isolated section of cave with only a few entrances and a supply of edible fungus. Those early dwarves settled there, and because they were protected from predators and threats, they learned the skills of mining and stoneworking. In that vast cave they built the city of Hagadûr, the stone home, capital of the kingdom of the dwarves. While dwarves have built outposts and small towns in other part of the underdark, as they expand and seek to eliminate monstrous threats from their subterranean home, most dwarves still live in Hagadûr. As the population grows, more and more tunnels are dug to accommodate it.
The first dwarves to arrive on the surface of the great orb arrived there by accident. Emerging from the ground in the spine of the world, the found the brightness of the sun and the harsh weather of the mountains to be inhospitable, and they retreated back into the ground. Exile to the surface became punishment for unforgivable crimes. Many dwarves sent to the surface died, but some thrived, and built villages and communities there, adapting over generations to the conditions of the surface, with their skin and hair becoming more suited to their new environs. Deep dwarves, recognizing that the children of those exiled shouldn’t be punished for their parent’s deeds, began to trade with the surface dwarf communities, exchanging valuable ores for exotic surface goods.
These days, the two communities exist in easy harmony, though the deep dwarves still exile hundreds of criminals to the surface very year, and surface dwarves tend to distrust any dwarf they meet with dark skin and fair hair. Surface dwarves operate mostly by clan ties, with each surface village ruled by a particular clan of dwarves, usually the founders. The rulers of these villages are the thanes, who pay lip service to the king of the deep dwarves, but are in reality totally autonomous in the villages they preside over.
Because of the advantages of having the dwarves as trading partners, and the logistical problems of mounting an invasion either into the mountains or the underdark, the elven empire has refrained from attempting to invade or attack the dwarven kingdom. Instead, the power of the dwarves is kept in check by harsh environment in which they live and it’s monstrous denizens, both in the underdark and on the surface.
Dwarves are shorter than humans, averaging slightly over four feet, but make up for what they lack in height with breadth. Dwarves have tremendously stout frames, with broad shoulders and thick powerful limbs. Surface dwarves have skin that ranges from ruddy pink, to tan, to coffee colored, with hair that runs the gamut between dirty blonde and jet black. Deep dwarves have dark gray skin, white hair, and pupil-less white eyes. They are slightly shorter than surface dwarves. All dwarves live twice as long as humans do, maturing at about the same rate and then aging much more slowly beginning around middle-age.
All male dwarves (and some female dwarves, see below) wear full beards. They’re usually well-kempt, often with braids or pieces of jewelry — a dwarf’s beard is a point of pride, and few dwarves would let their beards become tangled, or worse, shave. Surface dwarf clothing of typically rugged and functional. They also have a penchant for tattoos, with each clan having a specific emblem (the brand their ancestor was given when exiled to the surface) that’s tattooed onto the sons at birth, and the daughters when they are married into their new families. Deep dwarves tend to wear pale colors and a more delicate fabric woven from spider silk or glowing mushroom fiber. Dwarves of all kinds tend to wear metal adornments, studs, and jewelry on their clothes.
About half of female dwarves can grow some amount of facial hair. While it’s usually just downy sideburns or a handful whispy hairs on the chin, some have been known to be able to grow beards as big as the males. Female dwarves living in communities integrated with other races often shave or pluck these hairs, but this is less frequent in more isolated dwarven villages.
Dwarves believe they and the rest of the creatures of the underdark were created by tears of the god of death, Umbruk, as he retreated underground after the death of two of his brothers in the battle against Tiamat. As such, they worship him almost exclusively.
Death rights, and the honoring of ancestors, are the primary mode of religious activity for most dwarves. These rituals are typically somber, though dwarven wakes — which come after and are just as important as the funerals — are raucous to make up for it, with much drinking and revelry to celebrate the life of the deceased.
Because of the important nature of ancestor worship in dwarven culture, typically towns and settlements are built with the town hall or throne room in the center, and then surrounding that a large circular mausoleum (or spherical, if the settlement is underground). The purpose of this is that the dwarves are constantly reminded of the sacrifices their ancestors made to get them where they are. Dwarves are typically buried in these with many precious metals and stones, and as such they mausoleums are usually filled with traps and protections against necromancers and grave robbers — this also means that they double as places of shelter if the settlements are being attacked. Each town has a number of gravekeepers, who know where all of these traps are, and how to avoid them.
Dwarves speak Elvish and Dwarven. The dwarf language is full of heavy consonants and low vowels — every word sounds like a hammer on an anvil. The language of the deep and surface dwarves are very different, having grown apart over the centuries, but close enough that knowing one allows you to understand the other well enough.
Male Names: Bjorn, Garid, Hadrin, Oleg, Ivor
Female Names: Trega
Clan Names: Rockseeker
Dwarven clan names are all compounds of two dwarven words. When speaking to a non-dwarf, it’s typical to translate these compounds into whatever language is being spoken as a sign of respect.
Surface-dwelling dwarves use the ‘Mountain Dwarf’ statistics block from the player’s handbook. Deep dwarves use the ‘Hill Dwarf’ statistics block.