Wednesday 3 February 2021

Corrupted Lineages: Several Kinds of Dwarf for Blood & Treasure

 Among the subtler effects of Shroudfall - one which did not show itself immediately, but became blindingly obvious over time - was the loss of Dwarven biological exclusivity. Known for millennia to be incapable of breeding with other races - even the fecund human race - Dwarven dalliances with other races began to produce offspring, and where this offspring was plentiful enough, new hybrids emerged. In addition, distinct subcultures of Dwarves emerged in the wake of the upheavals brought about by Shroudfall as old nations collapsed and clans drifted apart.

Blood Dwarves


One of the most recent consequences of Shroudfall, the Blood Dwarves – known to themselves as Ghastov – are a widely feared Dwarven culture. Emerging from the mist-smothered shadows of Morgharay’s Rift, these strange, wrathful Dwarves are believed to be mutated remnants of Guldorvenn’s Raiders, a group of Dwarves who believed that many of the treasures of the old Elven kingdoms – including many of Dwarven provenance – remained in the Rift. Trusting in their native resilience, these foolhardy Dwarves (under the leadership of Prince Guldorvenn of Galozel, who sought wealth and magical items to strengthen his claims to the throne of that land) ventured into that varicoloured sea of fog. They did not return.

However, some forty years after the ill-fated raid, Elven Rangers monitoring the Rift began to face attacks from strange Dwarves that wielded a deathly magic and drank the blood of their victims. Isolated incidents became full-scale skirmishes, then a veritable army of these dread individuals swept out of the Rift, breaking the Elven defenses and spreading out across the whole of the east in small groups that were tracked for a while, until sightings became fewer and fewer.

A century or so passed, and the memory of the cursed Dwarves faded somewhat, until there came tales of a new Dwarf-delving in the Qa Mountains, and the emergence of a fell dwarven people who had come forth, seeking to trade gold and silver for magical lore.

They soon found those willing to do business with them, and these brave – or foolishly greedy – individuals reported that the Ghastov were seeking knowledge to somehow undo a curse that lay upon them. The Ghastov also richly rewarded those who could bring them healthy slaves – although the fate of these slaves was not known. Certainly there was little sign of them in Khur-Hakel, the Ghastov delving.

It is now known that the Ghastov buy these slaves in order to harvest their blood, for without it, the Ghastov are unable to endure. The slaves of the Ghastov live lives of great opulence and indolence until they are slain and their blood consumed – it is said this is some gesture of their masters to alleviate some of their guilt.

It is also known that the Ghastov are bitterly repentant of their requirement for blood, but, until they can lift their ‘curse’ – some suspect it is part of their nature, inextricable from the fact of their existence – they argue that they have a right to exist as a people, and that when they are freed, they will make mighty restitution.

Ghastov appear much like other Dwarf-lineages, but they are much more pale and lack both the Dwarven gruffness and camaraderie. They are also not quite as robust as their estranged kindred, and have an aptitude for magic most Dwarves lack. They tend towards the alignments of Neutral, Lawful Neutral and Lawful Evil; it is impossible for such creatures to be of Good alignment, given their particular requirements for sustenance. 

The Blood-Dwarves add +1 to their Intelligence, but subtract 2 from their Charisma. They have the following minimum/maximum ability scores: have the following dice pool for their ability scores: STR 4/18, INT 5/18, WIS 3/18, DEX 3/18, CON 5/18, CHA 3/16. They roll 2d6+5 for their Hertiage score.

Ghastov must consume an amount of fresh humanoid blood equivalent to that given by one mature body per week. Should they consume the blood of a Dwarf, they will sicken (no saving Throw), being at -2 to all activity for a number of weeks equivalent to that Dwarf’s Hit Die. On the other hand, the blood of a single Aasimar, Fey of the Seelie variety or Elf will sustain a Ghastov for a month. Note that Blood-dwarves are also required to pursue a normal diet.

If a Ghastov cannot obtain the required amount of blood, they must make a Saving Throw vs. Death each day. Every failed Save drains 1 point of CON and CHA, until the Ghastov obtains relief (at which point half the lost points are restored, with the balance returning at the rate of 1 CON per day and 1 CHA per 2 days), or dies.

Ghastov can only ever gain half of the total hit points indicated when healing magic (including potions) is used upon them, and they cannot cast such spells themselves.

However, the Blood-Dwarves do get some recompense for these hindrances: unlike most other Dwarves, they can access magic of the arcane variety, and possess an innate ability to Turn Lawful Good Clerics, Paladins, Puritans and Outsiders (as if a Cleric of half their level, rounded down). They must, however, pass a Saving Throw to activate this ability.

They can also detect life as per the spell once per day (increasing to twice daily at 6th level, thrice per day at level 12).

Finally, Ghastov add +1 to hit with nets and man-catchers.

Blood-Dwarves may select any of the following classes: Anticleric, Assassin, Barbarian, Bounty Hunter, Defender, Demonologist, Fighter, Magic-User, Priest (Death, Scholar, Weird), Scout, Sentinel, Shaman, Sorceror, Thief,  Venturer, Warlock, Zodiac. 

Note that Ghastov Magic-Users, Sorcerors and Warlocks can only access Basic Spells.

Blood-Dwarves may multi-class as follows: Assassin-Priest (Death),Fighter-Priest (Death, Weird), Fighter-Thief.

Chaos Dwarves

The most feared of all Dwarfkind, the Chaos Dwarves emerged from the fall of Bastion - of which they remain the custodians. Their very bodies have been distorted and rendered mutable by the Chaos-energies that leaked out of Bastion’s warded Elvengate. Although they remain dwarf-like in appearance, their features are twisted, as if a wax dwarf had melted then cooled suddenly, before it could be worked back to its original shape. They often have muzzles, or mismatched arms, missing digits or eyes that resemble those of insects. Their intellects and morality have also degenerated considerably.

Although most Chaos Dwarves remain besieged in Bastion, a small number managed to escape the mountain fastness, disappearing into the wild expanse of Menerhanta. Few were successfully hunted down. Those remaining at large found their way into the underworlds of human cities, where they hide in the shadows, building small cadres of grotesques and corrupting the New Kingdoms with visions of wealth, power and delusional Chaotic eschatologies. Chaos Dwarves may only select the Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil, Neutral or Neutral Evil alignments. Only Chaos Dwarves with at least two of their INT, WIS and CHA scores in excess of 13 can avoid the pull towards Chaos and select Neutral or Neutral Evil as an alignment.

Chaos Dwarves are similar in most respects to their forebears, but they lose their saving throw bonus against magic and their bonuses against Giants, Goblins, Hobgoblins and Orcs. Instead, they roll once on the Macabre’s Extraordinary Powers table. They also gain +1 to damage against all Lawful Good, Lawful Evil and Lawful Neutral Outsiders.

Once per day, when specifically targeted by a spell (which they then successfully save against) Chaos Dwarves may, if they roll under their CHA score, choose to cause the caster of the spell to be dazed for 1d4 rounds as the Dwarf’s innate Chaos causes a mind-muddling backlash (if the caster passes a saving throw). If they fail their saving throw, the enemy caster also loses 1d4-1 points of Charisma and cannot cast spells until they gain a full eight hours’ rest (the lost Charisma, if any, returns as per normal ability damage). 

Chaos Dwarves have the following minimum/maximum for ability scores: STR 3/18; INT 3/17; WIS 3/17; DEX 3/18; CON 6/18; CHA 3/16.

Chaos Dwarves may select from the following list of classes: Anticleric, Assassin, Barbarian, Blackheart, Bounty Hunter, Chaos Mage, Fighter, Priest (Weird), Scout, Thief. 

Chaos Dwarf Fighters may multi-class with Priests of the Weird cult, Scouts or Thieves.

Sable Dwarves

Sable Dwarves are not a new Dwarven people: rather they are a subculture that reflects a tendency always present in Dwarf culture - an urge to overthrow outmoded traditions and enmities. Great frustration with the inertia of Dwarf society has married with a lack of scruple to produce the Sable Dwarves: grim warriors who stop at nothing in order to accrue wealth and power, and who have an abiding hate of many other Dwarf clans - especially the High Dwarves and Mountain Dwarves. Sable Dwarves have instead formed closer bonds with the more militaristic human nations, as well as various Goblinoid tribes - particularly Hobgoblins - and have shown a great willingness to work with various monstrous creatures to gain their own ends. 

Oddly enough, Sable Dwarf culture is equally - if not more - stifling than the cultures they sought to overthrow, having for example reintroduced slavery and embraced worship of such dour Gods as Ornokur and Volkuros. It is certainly harsher in terms of the demands it makes on its members and the distrust their striving engenders in one another. From their culture’s primary hub - the storied fortress of Kadorna, long ago taken by revolt and treachery - Sable Dwarves work to further their agenda of accumulating grotesque amounts of wealth (which apparently brings them little pleasure) and work for the overthrow of other Dwarf cultures, and ultimately, unification of Dwarf-kind under their suzerainty. Many Sable Dwarves embrace the Chaotic alignments (Lawful Evil in Kadorna, Chaotic Evil in lands ruled by others), but there are also less stringent souls who adopt a Neutral stance. 

Sable Dwarves are similar to Dwarves in all respects, save for a tendency towards bushy black hair and black beards. They have all the normal attributes of Dwarves, save for the fact that they no longer gain attack bonuses or AC against Goblins, Hobgoblins or Giants (they do retain hostility and their +1 bonus to hit - for some unknown reason - to Orcs). Instead, they gain +2 to Lore checks and Reaction Rolls pertaining to 1-6 (which random number reflects the variety of the Sable Dwarf’s experience; the actual creatures chosen are the player’s choice) of the following creatures or races: Boggles, Bugbears, Devilkins, Derro, Gargoyles, Giants, Goblins, Gremlins, Hags, Harpies, Hobgoblins, Jabberlings, Jenglots, Lopers,  Lycanthropes, Maggot Dwarves, Mites, Ogres, Ratlings, Skulks, Spriggans, Svart, Trolls, Winter Wolves and Worgs. This ability allows the Sable Dwarf to improve the reaction of any Chaotic creatures chosen from the above list (and only those creatures) to Neutral, and Friendly on a roll of 10.

Finally, Sable Dwarves gain +1 to damage rolls with axes and maces.

Sable Dwarves may select from the following classes: Acrobat, Alchemist (Arcane only), Anticleric, Antipaladin, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Bounty Hunter, Charlatan, Chthonic Druid, Cleric, Conjurer*, Curmudgeon, Defender, Demonologist, Diablo, Druid, Fighter, Marksman, Monk, Necromancer*, Pariah, Priest (Death, Fighting, Guardian, Scholar, Weird), Saboteur, Scout, Sentinel, Shadowdancer, Sorceror, Thief, Thug, Transmuter*, Warlock.

*  indicates that, whilst Sable Dwarves cannot become Magic-Users, some specialist Magic-User classes are available to them, although the Evoker is only allowed as a multi-class option. 

They may also choose the following multi-class combinations: Alchemist-Fighter, Alchemist-Thief, Anticleric-Assassin, Anticleric-Fighter, Anticleric-Thief, Anticleric-Scout, Assassin-Conjurer, Assassin-Necromancer, Assassin-Priest (Death), Assassin-Transmuter, Conjurer-Scout, Conjurer-Monk, Conjurer-Thief, Fighter-Conjurer, Fighter-Demonologist, Fighter-Evoker*, Fighter-Priest (Death, Fighting, Weird), Fighter-Scout, Fighter-Thief, Monk-Evoker*, Monk-Priest (Death, Guardian, Weird), Saboteur-Evoker*, Saboteur-Transmuter, Scout-Evoker*, Scout-Transmuter, Sentinel-Priest (Guardian), Sorceror-Thief, Thief-Evoker*, Thief-Necromancer, Thief-Transmuter.    

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