Sunday, June 20, 2010

More on Dwarves and Gnomes

Expect a more detailed post on the subject of gnomes soon (probably tomorrow), but for now here are some additional details, since comments are continuing to my earlier posts and some of them proceed from false assumptions.
  • Dwarves are male. They're not neuter, despite the lack of a female counterpart. Why this should be the case is completely unknown, even to the dwarves.
  • Dwarves cannot intentionally create gnomes any more than they could intentionally create a human or an elf by trying to carve one from living rock. The process by which a son is created involves carving a dwarf and embellishing it with precious metals/gems and then, at some point, the carving may come to life, typically as a dwarf but sometimes as a gnome or a knocker. There's no way to force the process to result in any particular outcome beyond the expected one.
  • Even moreso, a dwarf cannot carve a female dwarf and attempt to bring her to life, because there is no such thing as a female dwarf. The carving process produces male dwarves and nothing else, except by accident.
  • Although there's no reason a dwarf couldn't carve more than one son, dwarven society frowns upon it, seeing it as evidence of arrogance and self-aggrandizement. The social stigma against multiple sons extends even to dwarves whose sons were carved inert, which is part of why dwarves place these "stillborn" children in a place of honor and respect in a dwarf stronghold.
  • Gnomes too are male, not neuter but, unlike dwarves, they are incapable of creating their own sons. Some believe that their aptitude with magic somehow negates this natural ability of "normal" dwarves, but there is no evidence that this is so.
And with that I'm off for the day. Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there.

31 comments:

  1. There's something deeply creepy about an all male culture that has dispensed with women and is yet able to reproduce. And there's something even creepier about gnomes not being able to reproduce at all.

    Are dwarves raving misogynists?

    On the other hand, they are clearly non-human and seem driven by speculative fiction. There's definitely an anti-feminist dystopia feel to the dwarves. Maybe gnomes are really proto-females?

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  2. In what sense are they male if there's no other sex? Humans perceive them as males or are the dwarves also aware of the fact (of missing gender)? Are they sexual and willing to have intercourse with other dwarves or humanoids even though there can be no offspring?

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  3. This would seem to be a species headed inevitably towards extinction, seeing as there are always fewer members of the newest generation.

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  4. Dwarves being a touchy lot, I can imagine quite a few brawls happening anytime one steps into an inn. LoL!

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  5. This is great stuff and it makes me wonder what sort of stories dwarves tell each other (secretly or in public) about the making of sons.

    For example, a cautionary dwarven Pygmalion story about a father who wanted a daughter and the tragedy that ensued.

    Or a tragedy about a father who'd already made a perfectly good son who was just a little deficient, so he made another. The second seemed superior in every way, but turned out to be a knocker.

    Unfortunately, I can't think of any happy stories that would come of this arrangement. I don't think we need to be in a hurry to insert feminist assumptions about boys-only clubs, but it must have a bizarre effect on their aspirations as individuals and as a species.

    It also makes me wonder if part of the secret of longevity in Dwimmermount has something to do with the destruction of sex, the sexes, or sexual dimorphism. The dwarves are only male. Who can say about the elves? Humans are short-lived but have the immense advantage (as a kindred) of having two sexes that make get together and make more short-lived humans.

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  6. "Although there's no reason a dwarf couldn't carve more than one son, dwarven society frowns upon it, seeing it as evidence of arrogance and self-aggrandizement. The social stigma against multiple sons extends even to dwarves whose sons were carved inert, which is part of why dwarves place these "stillborn" children in a place of honor and respect in a dwarf stronghold."

    Sounds like a dying people.

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  7. "The social stigma against multiple sons extends even to dwarves whose sons were carved inert, which is part of why dwarves place these "stillborn" children in a place of honor and respect in a dwarf stronghold."

    Interesting. So a Dwarf gets one chance to make a socially-approved son, and that's it? Even if all you wind up with is a nice piece of statuary? What happens to a Dwarf who defies this social convention? Shame? Ostracism? Banishment? And is the punishment of the father visited on the son?

    I agree with the others who say this indicates a dying race, and it's a very nice way to explain why Dwarfs are passing away.

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  8. "Sounds like a dying people."

    Yes, if left to themselves. But if we assume that dwarves have always reproduced in this fashion, then the 1st dwarves had to have been created by some being or force of godlike power. Maybe this god will create a new clan of dwarves sometime in the future to bolster thier numbers. Maybe the currently known dwarven clans are only a fraction of the original dwarves created, and other clans lie dormant beneath great mountains far away. Maybe these dormant clans must be found and awakened before their ancient enemies (giants, orcs, whatever) find them and destroy them in their ageless sleep. In other words, they don't have to be a dying race.

    As for them all being male, I take that to mean that they can be seduced by a succubus, they will give a giant ruby to the Silver Princess, and they will blush when Snow White kisses them on the forehead. It doesn't have to go any deeper than that.

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  9. What it means is that the other half of the dwarven race ran off to Paradise Island, where better nutrition and Caribbean climate turned them into the tall Amazons.

    Probably an intergender war among the dwarven gods. Or it's all the gnomes' fault, because divorces are always nasty when magic gets involved.

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  10. @Peka: Making them male makes sense in an Aristotlean world view. They are the active (male) component, whilst the earth is the passive (female) component that receives the reproductive impulse from the male (in this case "the act" is the carving of the new dwarf).

    This very misogynistic philosophy occupied an awful long stretch of Western European history (leading to the belief that the woman was just a recepticle where the man's seed incubated into a baby), and was a profound influence on Alchemical thought [especially when classifying chemicals as active (male) or acted upon (female)].

    So by this philosophy dwarves are fundamentally male in a procreative sense, just not in a biological sense. And being referred to as a neuter would imply that they are a eunuch and unable to carve (or if they did, the Stone would not receive their gift if they were to lovingly carve it). A exceedingly bad insult.

    I'd think this would also present a far less misogynistic worldview than you might think, given the amount that they lavish on the stone so that it yields them a son.

    Similarly the production of a gnome or knocker would be a great personal shame on the dwarf; probably large enough that they wouldn't want to try again. Since they are entirely the active component in the sexual equation, the failure would be perceived as being entirely their own. [Whereas with humans the woman is often blamed for being unable to bear a man a son. Take a look at medieval divorce decrees and customs if you don't believe me.]

    [All this is speculation, of course. And a philosophy I don't actually adhere to at all.]

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  11. In what sense are they male if there's no other sex? Humans perceive them as males or are the dwarves also aware of the fact (of missing gender)? Are they sexual and willing to have intercourse with other dwarves or humanoids even though there can be no offspring?

    Primarily, they look male to human eyes and they have male "parts." They also behave in a fashion that most humans would associate with being male, though the dwarves themselves wouldn't use that term to describe themselves. There's just "dwarf" and that covers all the bases.

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  12. This would seem to be a species headed inevitably towards extinction, seeing as there are always fewer members of the newest generation.

    That certainly seems to be the case, as far as humans can observe.

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  13. It also makes me wonder if part of the secret of longevity in Dwimmermount has something to do with the destruction of sex, the sexes, or sexual dimorphism. The dwarves are only male. Who can say about the elves? Humans are short-lived but have the immense advantage (as a kindred) of having two sexes that make get together and make more short-lived humans.

    You're likely on to something here, but, as the truth is still something that hasn't revealed itself through play, I can't say for sure how it all fits together.

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  14. So a Dwarf gets one chance to make a socially-approved son, and that's it? Even if all you wind up with is a nice piece of statuary? What happens to a Dwarf who defies this social convention? Shame? Ostracism? Banishment? And is the punishment of the father visited on the son?

    It's believed that sons after the first are cursed and will bring ruin upon both their father and any dwarves who allow them to remain with them. Thus, banishment is usually the punishment, although some dwarven enclaves have been known to slay both the father and his subsequent son(s).

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  15. But if we assume that dwarves have always reproduced in this fashion, then the 1st dwarves had to have been created by some being or force of godlike power. Maybe this god will create a new clan of dwarves sometime in the future to bolster thier numbers. Maybe the currently known dwarven clans are only a fraction of the original dwarves created, and other clans lie dormant beneath great mountains far away. Maybe these dormant clans must be found and awakened before their ancient enemies (giants, orcs, whatever) find them and destroy them in their ageless sleep. In other words, they don't have to be a dying race.

    All superb speculations. Some of them might even be true! :)

    As for them all being male, I take that to mean that they can be seduced by a succubus, they will give a giant ruby to the Silver Princess, and they will blush when Snow White kisses them on the forehead. It doesn't have to go any deeper than that.

    Yep. That's mostly what I meant by it, although, as I noted above, they have what humans recognize as male physiognomy and psychology so it's the simplest way to describe them.

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  16. Thus, banishment is usually the punishment, although some dwarven enclaves have been known to slay both the father and his subsequent son(s).

    Okay, this is what I'd hoped you would say, and thus it earns you major coolness points. :)

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  17. Dwarven genealogists have it easy, what with just the single linear line of descent to follow. A dwarf's framed family "tree" must be the most boring picture on the wall.

    Less puckishly, if the dawarves in this setting are ruled under any sort of royalty, then succession is both very easy yet fraught with peril. No question who the heir is, but I imagine a lot of the national treasury goes into making sure he shapes up right (literally). And no adventuring for him, or any other kind of even mildly dangerous activity, the risk to the stability of the state is too great.

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  18. They might not be dying. The fact that a sexual act is considered shameful doesn't make it uncommon.

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  19. The purity of the system seems unsustainable in the long run. All it would take to change things would be for one renegade dwarf to run off to a "virgin" mine and privately carve a brood of sons, who would then go on to carve multiple sons of their own. Such a culture would outbreed traditional dwarves by a wide margin.

    ... unless, of course, there really is something to this "curse" business.

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  20. The implications of the cultural stigma against more than one son makes Dwarven society a declining society. You need a birthrate of 1.1 in order to have a stable population (for normal folks it is 2.2). It isn't 2 for us because of early deaths. It needs to be 2.2 to account for that.

    I am not bringing this up as a criticism but the point out something you should think about.

    For example were all the dwarves created at once and their population been in decline since. Or was there a time where more than 2 sons was acceptable and then it changed. If so why did it change. In any case the answer may enrich the mythology of your dwarves.

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  21. The one-son thing is interesting, especially since it throws my first impressions of your dwarves out. The first post in which you mentioned them literally investing in offspring made me think 'aha, class distinctions go even further with dwarves' because only the wealthiest could afford more than one child - the rich guy having all the gold AND all the kids he wants might provoke some real tension.

    Which, come to think of it, might be part of the reason for the social stigma. Did 'conspicuous procreation' lead to rebellions in the distant past by the less well off? One of many possibilities, I suppose.

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  22. I am sure you mean for them to be a declining race but if you do the math, even if all the dwarves survive to 12th level and make a son every level, only 80.38% of dwarves will have a dwarf child capable of procreating. With the population losing 1/5 of its dwarves every generation you can't really sustain any kingdoms unless they were recently created. Even if you have a million dwarves to start with (incredible agriculture?), you have <150,000 after 10 generations. After 35 generations you only have 500ish. You have only 63 generations until the last weeping dwarf carves an inert son out of the clay or worse is slain by his knocker of a child and that is with maximum age and no deaths to knockers or adventuring. While 63 generations sounds like an incredible amount of time, 85% of it will be spent with only 1% of the starting population and 50 % of it will be spent with less people than most small towns. This ignores the enormous material cost of the children as well, even before adding extra wealth to increase the odds (best possible scenario, you still have a 5% chance of failure). This is a race that either had their mountains carved for them, which they now wander, desperate and lonely or that is massively more likely to carve second sons than they are willing to admit. This also ignores the knocker threat, who most likely have no compunction against carving terrible abominations.

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  23. This reminds me of the debates in the late 70's/early 80's over falling damage.

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  24. D1- Hey there Axebeard, how's the son coming?

    D2- Pretty good. Take a look. Quite proud of it myself!

    D1- Very nice, very nice. But why did you carve him with 3 legs?

    D2- I didn't.

    *Badum bump CHING!*

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  25. "This reminds me of the debates in the late 70's/early 80's over falling damage."

    Ah, memories. The good old days. :)

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  26. Chopping a dwarf's hands off would be the equivalent of castration.

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  27. I like Skylar's mathematical interpretation!

    Do dwarves have a sex life ?

    If so, what permutations are acceptable to your campaign?

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  29. "muleabides said...The purity of the system seems unsustainable in the long run. All it would take to change things would be for one renegade dwarf to run off to a "virgin" mine and privately carve a brood of sons, who would then go on to carve multiple sons of their own. Such a culture would outbreed traditional dwarves by a wide margin.
    All it would take to change things would be for one renegade dwarf to run off to a "virgin" mine and privately carve a brood of sons, who would then go on to carve multiple sons of their own. Such a culture would outbreed traditional dwarves by a wide margin.
    ... unless, of course, there really is something to this "curse" business."

    And that's how you fill a hex-lair!

    Long ago one dwarf stricken by madness or grief moved to a lonely mountain, hollowed it out,
    and carved 40d10 children. Each "batch" of which looks and acts wrong. [Use stats for gnomes, goblins, halflings, and any other kind of small humanoid ever written]

    Reminds me of that Lovecraft tale of the extended family with blue-green eyes who haunted a house.

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  30. I wonder about the sex thing, too. Do dwarves have a sex drive at all? If so, do they lust after females of other races or are they homosexual within their species as a rule?

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  31. Do dwarves have a sex drive at all? If so, do they lust after females of other races or are they homosexual within their species as a rule?

    Aside from human jokes and tall tales, instances of dwarven sexual interest in any species, including their own, are pretty much nil, so far as others can tell. This is why dwarves have a reputation among humans as being particularly dour and uptight: humans simply can't believe that they have no sex drive and don't suffer because of it. With reproduction being a matter of "art" and without competition for mates, dwarven society simply lacks most of the dynamics found among humans.

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