Dwarves have always seemed a bit boring to me. I’ve never really ‘got’ them in the way that Tolkien or D&D seem to present.
In my mind all dwarves are druids, but druids of stone not wood and nature. Possibly dryads even, connected wholly to this element that they live in and work in endlessly with little regard to all else above.
Anyway, i’d like to reclassify dwarves as the different strata of rock they live in. This is their climate, both geographically and socially. It affects them in ways that being born in Equatorially or in the Arctic Circle would have on us and in the same ways being raised in a rural or urban setting would. We’re more alike than we are different but the differences are notable and interesting.
Some are of the bedrock, others of the surface, none are evil but all are different. The water, the stone, the soil, the trash, these all make them different.
Dwarves feel holistically connected to the strata they’re raised in. And are vitally happy within it. A dwarf would happily sleep upside, resting on their head, in their own strata, they could caress the rocks there night and day and get seldom bored. Digging too deep or too surface-bound and a dwarf is likely to get homesick, to feel uneasy and anxious. They start to feel a psychological sunburn the longer they’re exposed to those alien rocks. Given the passage of enough time the effects will be permanent, driving the Drawf insane.
Legends say the Duergar are the way they are due to Mind Flayer meddling. The truth is the rocks did it to them. They dug to deep through fear of the Mind Flayers chasing them. Deeper and deeper they went as their mind warped and disfigured, so far from their own strata.
A great Dwarven monk once posited to me that this was due to their neuroliths being so out of alignment with those rocks surrounding them. What is a neurolith you ask? I asked the same thing. Some creatures eat small stones to help them digest, these are called gastroliths. As it turns out, dwarves eat rocks so voraciously that they are part of the gestating process. The most diminutive foetus of a dwarf forms around minerals in the Dwarven womb. This becomes the neurolith. All dwarves have one, a rock in the brain. Some hungry Xorn will rip open a dwarf’s skull just to eat their neurolith. A rare delicacy.
Followers of Linthor, the Great Stone, will cut out the neurolith of their loved ones on their death bed and add it to a communal soul stone and make rites and offerings to their collective memory there. A breakaway faction of Linthor followers prefer more insular private shrines of where only one neurolith is kept and other douse it with water for luck and guidance before a particularly dangerous dig.
Dwarves are often able to accurately guess the neurolith of another strata when they come across one another. Dirt Brain and Cobble Mind and others in a similar vein are common insults.
The Carbuncle is a mysterious creature to surface-folk. They may be seen only once in a generation. A blind bird-mammal hybrid. Like a turkey crossed with a cat. Some humans have wasted their whole lifetimes hunting for Carbuncles. The most obvious feature of a Carbuncle is the stone lodged within their skull. I’ve commonly heard in the pubs that line the edges of town, men boasting to have seen Carbuncles dart across their fields or scamper down holes like giant moles. The biggest lie of the boast is often that the stone lodged in their skull is something wildly precious, a giant ruby or sapphire, even a block of gold. The truth of the matter is that Carbuncles are the failed experiments of the Dwarven mages of the Order of Black Naxor. And the stone lodged in their skulls are merely neuroliths. The mages had tried to create their own life forms, reanimating the soul of the deceased dwarf by fusing its neuroliths with the bones of moles and the deep cave birds.
Some dwarves are nomadic, whilst others create great subterranean kingdoms but an almost universal trait of Dwarven-kind is a reverie for the earth. They see themselves as custodians of the rocks. They live to tirelessly dig. Robot as you might know has Slavic roots with the meaning do-er. Dwarf has Dwarven roots with the meaning digger. A dwarf will deep of digging and think of digging throughout the day, while digging, while eating, while fucking. A moment won’t go by without thoughts of digging crossing their mind. Something that riles up a dwarf more than anything else is the idea that some other species is digging in their rocks and that they’re doing it wrong.
Dwarves have exterminated whole civilizations of Drow and other subterranean races for digging incorrectly. This crime is often as simple as digging at all whilst not being a dwarf. I’ve seen surface dwarves watch as a group of friends dig a few stones from the ground to use as building materials or to skip along the street, only for those people to mysteriously disappear days later. Don’t mess around with digging if there’s a Dwarf around.