Thursday, June 10, 2010

Making Babies

As most of you probably know, dwarves in my Dwimmermount campaign are a male-only race. Even if they were immortal, which they're not, accidents and violence would ensure that their numbers would inevitably dwindle if there were not some way to create more dwarves. That way is through the carving of a "son" from living rock, with embellishments and adornments of precious metals and gems. With enough attention and craftsmanship -- outsiders say obsession -- a weird magic takes hold of the carving and imbues it with the spark of life, becoming a new dwarf.

In my campaign, Vladimir is in the process of creating a son for himself and I decided we needed rules to cover how this would work. Basically, a dwarf gets one chance per level to imbue his son with life. His player rolls 1D20 and adds the character's current level as a bonus. If the final result is 20 or more, the carving comes to life. This roll requires a minimum 10,000 gp investment in materials, however, with an additional +1 bonus to the carving roll for each additional 10,000 gp invested. Consequently, most low-level dwarves will not be able to make a carving roll, unless they're very lucky and/or diligent when it comes to seeking out loot. The investment bonus carries over from level to level, so a dwarf who invests 10,000 gp at level 5 and then invests 20,000 gp at level 6 gets a +3 bonus the next time he makes a carving roll (in addition to the +6 he gets from being 6th level).

There are some wrinkles to this system, of course. A roll of 1 is not just a failure but a critical one, resulting in something unusual occurring, according to the following table:

1D6 Roll

Result

1-2

Gnome

3-4

Inert

5-6

Knocker


Gnomes are an offshoot race of dwarves, created when something goes awry in the process of carving a dwarf son. Gnomes and dwarves have a complicated relationship, something I'll discuss in a couple of days in a separate entry. A knocker is a twisted dwarf, one so obsessed with gold and gems that it retreats into mines, dungeons, and other such subterranean locales in order to sate its lust for riches. Knockers are selfish, malevolent creatures with a penchant for trap-making and cruel practical jokes on other beings, most especially dwarves. A result of "inert" means that the carving is "stillborn" and unusable. The dwarf must start work over again on a new son. Inert dwarf sons are never discarded or destroyed. Instead, they are given a place of honor somewhere safe, often within a dwarf hold, which typically has a large "cemetery" filled with sons whose carvings failed to bring them to life.

A newly-carved dwarf is level 1 and has the same ability scores as his father. There is a 10% chance per ability score that it might be higher (or lower) than that of his father, owing to some quirk in the process of his carving. Roll 1D6, with even numbers conferring a +1 bonus to the ability score and odd numbers a -1 penalty. The new dwarf also owes his father an amount equal to the cost spent in carving him. Each month, there is a 75% chance the father will receive 1d12 x 100 gp from his son in partial repayment of this debt. The other 25% of the time, he receives nothing. This money cannot be converted into experience points, while the cost of carving a son can. (Remember that, in my campaign, only gold spent earns XP)

A dwarf PC, by the way, begins play in debt as well, to the tune of 1D10 x 10,000 gp. He is not under any obligation (other than a social one -- dwarves who don't attempt to repay their fathers are ostracized by others of their kind) to make good on this debt, although any money spent in doing so earns XP at the usual rate. Paying off a debt, however, does have one mechanical benefit. Usually, dwarves are limited to level 8 in advancement. For every 25% of their debt they pay off, they may advance an additional level, up to a maximum of 12.

34 comments:

  1. A very interesting and unique take on rules mods. And very refreshing I might add. Awesome stuff!

    Looking forward to seeing what your posts will have for us on the 'problem with the gnomes.'

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So that's how Dwarves reproduce? no wonder they're so dour...

    ReplyDelete
  3. So, I have to ask, is there a room somewhere filled with inert dwarves? Or do they get buried? Can they become animated through some horrible, twisted magic?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jay,

    I briefly touched on this topic in the original post, although the question of whether they can be animated through some kind of magic is one I'm leaving open for now. It's got possibilities, but I don't yet know what I'd do with them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I wonder what the implication of casting a stone to flesh on an inert dwarf?

    Good job a unique take on Dwarves and nice how you work in Gnomes as well.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Jay: A necromancer who manages to animate a dwarven stillborn cemetery (turning them into something between zombies and golems) sounds like a really interesting adventure hook for a party that has some dwarves in it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A very well done and mythic idea which I will steal the next time a run a D&D game.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Well done. This is a nice departure from the usual "clan theme" for Dwarfs.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What if the carven dwarf had boobs?

    ReplyDelete
  10. nice. i love how just a little creative thought and some dice mechanics enriches the campaign possiblities so much.

    tempted to steal it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The carving-birth of dwarfs is something I like so much I shamefully stole it a few months after you first mentioned it and adapted it to my own needs. This sort of "natural magic" is something I've become a big fan of in fantasy settings.

    Looking forward to hearing about how Gnomes fit into the equation. Thankfully I already have gnomes accounted for in my fantasy game so I promise not to steal this time!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was part of a collaborative campaign once where one of the races we made up had a similar concept, although in this case the creatures sought out rare and magical gemstones that would form the heart of the offspring, and carved a new member of their race from the rock around it.

    These stones featured prominently in dragon hoards, and There was also a brisk black market for them, which necromancers could use to make golems and such. (At the risk, of course, of getting pounded into fertilizer by an angry earth elemental guy)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm curious. Why don't you feel income from the son should be allowed to be spent for experience? Does this then extend to other forms of income in your campaign, such as income from working at a job? Or does only "loot" count towards experience?

    ReplyDelete
  14. I like the idea because it's better than female dwarves with full beards. Better to just not have them.

    So do dwarves have weird anatomies? Wonder Woman was made from clay, and had no belly button. Well, for your dwarves I can think of a couple of things they don't need...

    ReplyDelete
  15. That was amazingly cool and flavorful! Nice work.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm with @Brunomac: Does it make any sense to refer to dwarves as a "male-only race" if they are, in fact, genderless creatures of living rock? (Understood that to outsiders they may *seem* male.)

    ReplyDelete
  17. "A newly-carved dwarf is level 1 and has the same ability scores as his father."

    from my experience as a father, this seems true of humans as well.

    and any difference between father and son is due not to any special care, knowledge, or skill-- but to "a quirk in the process"?

    true that too!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Very cool. I think if I stole it I'd still have random stat generation for the new dwarves rather than mirroring the clade-link, but it's definitely cool.

    Lots of room to play with what happens to those inert dwarves.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Excellent spin on the fantasy dwarf archetype. Makes them truly alien - rather than simlpy short, strong humans - much like the Gloranthan Mostali.

    ReplyDelete
  20. What does this mean for deceased dwarves? Do they return to stone, the weird magics dispelled as they die, or does their corpse remain flesh? I really dig this idea, just curious about where this is going to lead.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Gnomes are an accident?

    Is that the only way we get new gnomes? I can't wait to read the rest of the story

    ReplyDelete
  22. Love it! Your Dwarves are actually similar to mine, though not identical.

    On my main campaign world Dwarves were created by a select group of gods in a fashion similar to the one you describe. After the final forging was completed the 'King' of their gods blew on his creations to cool them, thus bringing them to life.

    Dwarves at this point were all Male and unaging. When the first Dwarf mated with a female of another species(a faerie or Valkyrie or something I forget) a female Dwarf was born and the father started aging. Over time, Dwarves became long lived mortals, although many of the originals remain and some 'young' Dwarves are only three generations past the first of their kind who lived thousands and thousands of years earlier.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I would think a room or vault full of "stillborn" dwarves, or as outsiders might see them, statues heavily decorated with precious metals and gems, would make great targets for thieves, greedy monsters and kingdoms or other wealth-obsessed types. Maybe even Knockers.

    Might make for interesting quests for less-scrupulous players, or as a starting place for a dwarf, trying to recover the "lost body" of a stillborn "son".

    ReplyDelete
  24. James;

    Good stuff! It reminds me very much of the Mostali "dwarves" of Glorantha (though the dwarf-gnome tension sounds more like trolls and trollkin!). Looking forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'm sorry, but I'd have no interest in playing a neutered dwarf!

    It's an interesting system though. The costs in raising a dwarven army must be astronomical! I do like the "in-debt at birth" bit - sounds something like our present economic system.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Great stuff! Up there with the willing lich. Hope it's going to be published.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I wish I had thought of it! Brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Very interesting idea. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Then one day a dwarf carved a dwarfette and the whole society went mad.

    ReplyDelete
  30. As they are made from stone and minerals, I am assuming [in my setting, for which I have already stolen this idea] that the dwarves are animated by the powers of elemental earth, and it is this connection that gives them their inherent earth-related abilities.

    But how about having the inert dwarves animated through the powers of elemental fire (making them azer)? Better yet, how about those bitter dwarves whose sons never seem to animate turning to darker forces to help them live? Maybe demon-tainted dwarves, or perhaps this is the origin of the duergar? Or maybe it's not the anxious fathers-to-be making pacts with demons, but rather that the forces of evil stumbled onto the inert dwarf-spawn and tainted them all on their own!

    James, your posts are always excellent, but this one has just been over the top. Awesome stuff, my good man. Awesome!

    TFotH

    ReplyDelete
  31. Storaging the inert statues is one of the creepiest ideas I've read in a while. One could up the creepiness if the dwarves held some kind of ceremonies for the unborn.
    Obsessing with the corpses always gives me the chills.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I love this, too. I particularly love the gaps and absences, each of which is a plot hook. Dwarves are all male, not neuter. Why not? It raises productive questions, that are very seldom raised in fantasy gaming. If a dwarf tried to carve a female it would be "wrong," therefore inert, so how could female dwarves be created, theoretically? How and why do dwarf sons animate? Your discussion of gnomes and knockers makes me wonder if the carved bodies attract wandering spirits, with flawed bodies attracting the wrong sort of spirits. Can dwarves be raised, reanimated, exorcised, treated with human medicines, poisoned? Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.