Tuesday, March 30, 2021

So whatever happened to the Dwarves?

In some fantasy settings, dwarves are extinct. It may be that there are only humans remaining, or that all the dwarves that remain are deep dwellers with little interest in the surface world. There are dungeons, perhaps, and ancient cities dwarves once ruled, but now are silent and teeming with monsters and traps.

So what happened to the Dwarves? Well I'll tell you- they decided to live on the surface.

When it comes to sustaining a civilization, hunter gathering can only take you so far. This goes double for cave dwelling civilizations. For fantasy ecologies this isn't as much of an issue, but most people don't see the caverns realms or underdark as a good place for farmining and supporting a large population. Small families can live off fungus farms, but not empires. People like to live near their food sources.

Perhaps in ancient days, the world was terrorized by the wars of the gods, or the clashes of huge and powerful races on the surface world. Dwarves lived in the Earth, afraid to stick their heads out. They developed and advanced, gaining technology and building a culture and society that could go out into the world and conquer it; maybe not all of it, but enough to make a life among the hills and valleys.

But Dwarves aren't very well suited to life above ground. Dwarven bodies are compact and strong, but not known to be especially fast or dexterous. Up on the surface, being able to move quickly and see farther is more important. Being able to use a bow and arrow is a lot more important on the surface then underground. Perhaps the dwarves got a bit taller. This could have been through magical or societal eugenics, or perhaps it just happened naturally. Maybe it was a blessing of the Gods.

Dwarves are the fantasy version of the cave man. Cave men and neolithic people wouldn't be able to survive in a fantasy world with other older, more powerful intelligent races like Elves or lizardmen. They wouldn't be able to defeat dragons and giant monsters without steel- our human ancestors in the real world slaughtered almost all of the world's megafauna with stone tipped spears, but fantasy monsters tend to be several layers of magnitude more scary then even our scariest predators.

So instead, pre-humans in fantasy lived deep underground. Formed by the salt of the earth, hiding from sight, they learned the crafts of fire and steel first, before language or writing. These were more important to them. Once they reached the surface, they became a bit softer in a way, but more developed to. Not necessarily more intelligent- man's gift is his intelligence, without it they could never survive in this world or the fantasy one. But the intelligence was just shifted to different things.

So what happened to the Dwarves? Well, they became humans.


  1. Hey there, this is an attempt at getting in touch. I'd like to publish some of your posts in KNOCK! Magazine (for money). Would you be kind enough to email me (knockmag {hat} pm {d¤t} me) so I can give you the deets?

    1. I sent you an email, I hope. Hope to work with you soon!

  2. Very interesting take on Dwarves. Would be curious as to how that would change the way Humans work - or how their technology would differ from the other player races - or how the lore to those other player races could likewise be changed.

    Also, your Paint skills are really improving. ;-)