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[Let's Read] The Complete Books of Demihumans and Humanoids

VoidDrifter

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And most dwarves are Lawful Good how?

Actually I would think most members of most races would be neutral, at least towards other races. Tribalism is expected of anything like a human. It would be nice to see how conflicts between allied races should be played out. I doubt humans would reach for their sword if they were gentrified by halflings.
Exactly why dwarves are considered Lawful Good by default is covered in the 3rd chapter. But, yeah, honestly, TSR's explanations for alignments never made sense, which is one reason why I don't like that mechanic...

Anyway, when should I post the next chapter?
 

NobodyImportant

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Exactly why dwarves are considered Lawful Good by default is covered in the 3rd chapter. But, yeah, honestly, TSR's explanations for alignments never made sense, which is one reason why I don't like that mechanic...

Anyway, when should I post the next chapter?
It varies a lot. Some lets reads post every day, some every week, some whenever the poster feels like it. Just do whatever fits your schedule.
 

Crinos

Next to me you're all number two!
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My brother had the complete book of dwarves. I used it to create a Gully Dwarf rogue I ran in one of his games.

I failed to pick pocket a scullery maid, got arrested by another PC who was the town marshal, hid from him under a bed (successfully) and the game ended with both of us falling asleep in the same room waiting for the other to make a move.

Thus was the short career of Stank the Gully Dwarf (Stank wasn't his actual name. I'm not going to write what his name was, it was similar to Stank. I was 13 at the time and a dummy, So now he's Stank).
 

VoidDrifter

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Alright, I think it's been long enough; let's move on to chapter 2 of the Complete Book of Dwarves, shall we?

The Complete Book of Dwarves
Chapter 2: The Dwarf Subraces
This chapter is, again, quite brief, being only 5 pages long. It examines the basic physiology and culture of six dwarven subraces; Hill, Mountain, Deep, Gray, Sundered and Gully. Hill, Mountain and Gray Dwarves (better known as Duergar) all appeared in the Monster Manual. Gully Dwarves are brought over from Dragonlance, having first appeared as a PC option in AD&D 1st edition's Dragonlance Adventures. Deep Dwarves and Sundered Dwarves are new to this book.

Hill Dwarves are the most common dwarves, inhabiting rolling hills where they build settlements that combine subterranean living spaces with surface outposts. They're considered lawful good, but the book grudgingly notes that they might be other alignments if the DM prefers.

Mountain Dwarves are distinctly larger than their Hill Dwarf cousins, averaging a good six inches and twenty pounds on them. They are isolationists who have little interest in having contact with other races. They dislike and distrust their hill dwarf cousins, considering them "tainted" by their willingness to deal with other races. They tend to claim to be the original strain from which dwarves sprang. Again, they are "usually lawful good" race.

Deep Dwarves are a race of conservative, isolationist dwarves who dwell in the Underdark, tall (by dwarf standars), but lean, with large eyes of a pale, washed-out blue color. They are the only dwarven subrace where females wear long beards, according to this book; the other strains do have bearded females, but they culturally favor shaving them. They are lawful good or lawful neutral.

Sundered Dwarves are dwarves who have been driven from their traditional underground homes so violently that they now live exclusively on the surface. They are described as a tormented, miserable people; retaining the dwarven tendency towards mild agoraphobia, yet strongly plagued by claustrophobia. Their culture is often sharply divergent from their traditional roots; they have "lost much of their racial pride and tend to be a miserable and dirty people", typically living amongst other races. They are typically lawful neutral.

Gray Dwarves (Duergar) are an Underdark dwelling strain of dwarves, hated and shunned by their cousins for their embrace of evil. They will war on the other dwarf races, even finding common cause with goblinoids or other malign races to sack dwarfholds, and compete fiercely with their Deep Dwarf cousins for living space and mineral wealth. Duergar, it's stated, may be either descendants of dwarves outcast for their worship of evil deities, or else divinely created as an evil counterpart to dwarves. In contrast to how they'll be presented in later sources, duergar are said to be typically impoverished and to produce inferior crafts to their non-evil cousins. They are described as "lawful evil with neutral tendencies".

Gully Dwarves are... oh, dear grok, where do I begin? One of most tasteless demihuman races, at least until "Dwarves Deep" introduced the Wild Dwarves of Chult, who are based on headhunting cannibal pygmy stereotypes, gully dwarves are essentially the dwarf equivalent of goblins. They are debased, degenerate form of dwarf that inhabits unwanted places; abandoned ruins, the ghettos of human cities, old mines, caves, sewers, refuse dumps, slums... anywhere that is filthy and squalorsome will be colonized by these creatures. They are described as stupid and obnoxious, making virtues of cowardice, filth, witlessness and dirty tricks, living in places that even orcs wouldn't want and seeking to lie, steal from, bully and cheat each other and any other race they encounter. Nobody wants anything to do with gully dwarves. They are presented with multiple possible origins; a cruel jest played by the gods on a mischievous stronghold of dwarves, the degenerated descendants of dwarf outcasts, crossbreeds between dwarves and gnomes or, perhaps more likely, goblins, or the result of experiments by evil wizards. Also, unlike other dwarf women, female gully dwarves only sprout hair on their cheeks instead of being able to grow full beards. They are often Chaotic Neutral, but can be any alignment.


Closing Thoughts:
This is... not a good chapter, I must be honest. I said in my preface that dwarves tend to be all boiled to a single archetype, and this chapter really shows how TSR's obsession with racial monocultures tended to hinder their creativity.

I mean, the problem is exacerbated by the lack of space dedicated to fleshing out the subraces, but I just find them boring; they're all retreads of the simple idea that "all dwarves live in holes in the ground mining stuff". The Forgotten Realms would present more interesting takes on dwarven subraces with their Wild Dwarves (Dwarves Deep, Jungles of Chult) and Arctic Dwarves (The Great Glacier)! I mean, yes, the Wild Dwarves are horrible because they're based on obvious racial caricatures, but at least they're different!

I can't help but roll my eyes at the aside in the hill dwarf entry about how "so long as the majority remain lawful good, strongholds of chaotic, neutral or evil dwarves will not unbalance a campaign". Seriously, that seems to be a recurring issue with AD&D; there's a fair few hints of "One True Wayism" scattered here and there.

Duergar have never really caught on, unlike the drow they share the Underdark with. Part of this may be due to the lack of sex appeal - say what you will about it now, but the drow's sensuality really made them stick out in the minds of D&D's earliest gamers - but another part of the problem is just how little detail we have on their culture in AD&D and how poorly they distinguish themselves from standard dwarves. Drow are mirror images to their surface elf cousions. Duergar... dwarves who use slave labor in their mines and are nakedly racial supremacists. That's it. That's the defining point of their characters; they're dwarves with the natural dwarven jerkness turned up a little and no justifications for their being jerks.

But I think duergar suffered even more for the existence of Deep Dwarves. Seriously, this is the most unnecessary subrace I can think of for dwarves; their entire concept is one part "duergar, but not evil" and one part "the most conservative dwarf subrace" - a niche already given to the mountain dwarves. Like, seriously, what is the point? What could possibly justify having this race instead of just, I don't know, not making duergar so monolithically evil?

Sundered Dwarves depress me, plain and simple. I mean, as-is they do more or less make sense, but there's a missed opportunity; standard dwarves are heavily built around the monoculture of being socially conservative and highly distrustful of outsiders. Sundered Dwarves could have been an interesting counterpoint; forced to abandon the old ways and mingle with other races, they could have been a gregarious, open-minded and flexible branch of the race, truly cementing themselves a unique position. Instead, they're just "miserable dwarves" - the kind of dwarves you'd expect to see directly after the cataclysm, not several generations later.

Gully Dwarves... just, just WHY?! Why do we have these? Kender were a direct response to Weiss & Hickman's dilemma about how halflings could be "the thief race" and still considered a Good Race. Tinker Gnomes were a badly thought-out comic relief race. What possible reason could they possibly have for making gully dwaves? The only answer I can possibly conceive of is that they wanted the protagonists of the Dragonlance modules to interact with goblin-like ruin-haunting stupid savages, but because they couldn't possibly have a non-evil goblin tribe, they decided to make dwarves who lived like goblins.

One final closing thing; I really don't get the whole "dwarf women have beards" thing. To me, it just seems like a bad, vaguely sexist joke. I did like that they at least describe most standard dwarf cultures eschewing the wearing of beards on women, but frankly I think D&D would have been better off just not including that lore to begin with. I'm pretty sure it wasn't present in BECMI, so they literally added it for AD&D.
 
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NobodyImportant

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Gully dwarves are the single worst concept to appear in DnD. I have never seen anyone like them, and I have never seen anyone even attempt to defend them. They make everything that contains them objectively worse. What the hell were they thinking?

As for dwarf women having beards, I’ve seen people on all ends of the gender spectrum who really love it or really, really hate it. I’ve gone back and forth on it myself, but I mostly think it comes down to execution.

This execution is not one I like, largely because it seems to make the assumption that female dwarves are set-dressing, not something anyone would ever actually play.
 

Monsieur Meuble

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Will we ever get the answer to the great question ? Are all dwarf PCs squat drunk warriors who only ever say "Och ! I drink beer ! " and "Och ! I hit with my axe ! " because that's the only option proposed by the books, or do the books have to justify monocultural, all identical dwarven cultures because players only ever demand small bearded Scotsman-caricatures ?
 

Theodoric

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One final closing thing; I really don't get the whole "dwarf women have beards" thing. To me, it just seems like a bad, vaguely sexist joke. I did like that they at least describe most standard dwarf cultures eschewing the wearing of beards on women, but frankly I think D&D would have been better off just not including that lore to begin with. I'm pretty sure it wasn't present in BECMI, so they literally added it for AD&D.
It dates back to LotR, at least; Appendix A. I guess it's from the time where D&D compulsively added in every bit of (popular) fantasy lore available without rhyme or reason.

Dwarven women in general are rather unrepresented in fantasy works (thank Tolkien, again, though it probably goes back to mythology). Dwarves are culturally rather male-coded as they are, so there's some room for an interesting discussion of how gender works in Dwarven society. 'Though given how wrong that can turn out, I understand why it's been mostly ignored.
 
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GodEmperorDrothan

formerly Xereaux
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I have never seen anyone like them, and I have never seen anyone even attempt to defend them.
I certainly don't approve of the way gully dwarves are portrayed as a comic-relief take on the mentally disabled, and I won't in a million years defend the portrayal. Still, I can't help but sort of like them even as I fully realize why they're a problem. I suppose that reading the Dragonlance Chronicles at a young enough age that I didn't yet think through the connotations, and finding Bupu sympathetic when doing so, is to blame.

I'm not sure that gully dwarves can be salvaged even as a broad concept, but I've used the following approach. An isolated tribe of dwarves has experienced a disaster (disease, war, volcanic eruption, etc.) that killed off a large portion of their tribe. Without a sufficient population to sustain the dwarfy metalworking, mining, and manufacturing typical to dwarven society the tribe loses its "modern" way of life, and the pressures of mere survival overwhelm all other concerns. The survivors and their descendants become scrappy and tough survivalists with very little in the way of formal education or "modern" technology, but have become very good at repairing what little remains to them and improvising to create new things. Other dwarves and other outsiders who encounter them consider them crude and backwards, and may look down upon their living conditions as comparatively primitive, but those who leave for adventure in the outer world are at no disadvantage.

I'm sure that this approach has its own issues, especially in the comparison to Appalachian stereotypes. But it might fill the same niche of gully dwarves while avoiding the connotations that they bring. Of course, it's probably worth considering whether or not such a niche is even needed. But since I still kind of like gully dwarves even though I know better, this is the course I've taken when playing a gully dwarf PC.
 

VoidDrifter

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Like I said, I personally suspect Gully Dwarves were only created because Dragonlance needed a pitiful, cowardly, outcast race that scrabbles in the margins of other races as a source of sympathy (and, arguably, comic relief) in one module to be friendly to the PCs, and rather than just make a non-evil tribe of goblins, who already had that characterization, they decided that degenerate, intellectually impaired dwarves were just fine and dandy.

I'm also surprised nobody's commenting on the whole "dwarves are good and yet believe they have the right to pursue genocide and slavery of certain races just because they dub them evil" thing. Especially since I took the line about "work camps" implying a certain... motif. A... solution to an ongoing problem, as it were?
 
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