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Old 10-19-2015, 09:23 PM   #11
Rysith
 
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

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Originally Posted by VariousRen View Post
I was curious if anyone had experience for how much I would need to change to avoid player assumptions. Would a different name be enough? Do I need to change the physical appearance as well? What about entirely different physiology, like 3 noses and a mouth on each hand? The players won't know everything about their society that I know, and I want to make sure that "I don't know yet." is the answer rather than "Well, most dwarves like gold, these ones probably do too."
While my experience was with getting my players to /play/ dwarves without realizing it, rather than having them encounter dwarves without making assumptions, I think that your best bet is going to be behavioral, rather than physical. If their first encounter with a svartalf is something dramatically against the stereotypical dwarven mold, but not in a way that negatively affects the players too much (Status is determined by the number of different metals you are wearing, and their language uses specific forms of address depending on the difference in status. Or they are communists, with a fortress freely sharing its wealth internally and trading as a unit with the outside world. Or they are hairless, but have a beard-like symbiotic organism attached to their face), you can establish early on that at least culturally these dwarves are different, and thus likely to be different in other ways as well.
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Old 10-19-2015, 10:08 PM   #12
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

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My question is how different should I make these subterranean dwellers so the players don't just say "Oh, so it's a dwarf" and then jump to conclusions like "So they must hate elves!" or "They must all be greedy, and have bonuses against giants!".
Just different enough.

The first Dwarf my Players are running into in this campaign is a Priest, he's well armored, but wears a veil to shield his face from the sun (he'll happily explain that the most pure of Dwarves never see the sun, and even with the veil there are several rituals to cleanse oneself he'll have to go through each night). He has a small scroll tied to his right hand, and one centered on his brow between his eyes, these being the Words of the G-d, they drive his thoughts and guide his hand. He doesn't drink, or party, and isn't greedy for gold. He's honest and forthright... and a female. But with the beard and armor that's not going to be obvious for a bit.

The second two dwarves are an older couple that ran off from the 'Dwarfhome' and run a Tavern. They are also honest, hard-working, fairly straight laced types (even if they both drink a bit and throw the occasional wild holiday party). But they don't cover up in the sun, don't perform the many rituals the first one does, and obviously aren't very much religious (they aren't atheists, they're just not particularly devout).

The other group of Dwarves they'll met later on are wild, greedy, thieving, conniving, lying, party animals. This group is comprised of 'youngsters', 20-something Dwarves set free from the strictures of the religion, sent off to have fun and raise a stake to buy their way back into a clan so can be Dwarves again.



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Originally Posted by Rysith View Post
While my experience was with getting my players to /play/ dwarves without realizing it, rather than having them encounter dwarves without making assumptions, I think that your best bet is going to be behavioral, rather than physical.
Yup. It all comes down to how your Dwarves act.

Funny faux Scottish accent, proclivity for mining and drinking? Expect the PCs to treat them like the stereotypical 'Dwarf'.
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Old 10-19-2015, 10:09 PM   #13
warellis
 
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

Maybe borrow a page from The Elder Scrolls series and make them another type of elf that lives Underground and is the same height and such as other elves. Oh and they have beards as well.
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Old 10-19-2015, 11:29 PM   #14
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

Have them shave and speak with a French accent and your players will know that any assumption is unsafe. A smooth shaven dwarf is terra incognita.

But really, maybe the way to do it is to ask your players, outside any session, what the principle stereotypical characteristic of dwarfness is, beyond being short and subterranean (and whatever other qualities you want to retain). Make sure that if the players say "bearded," "greedy," "drunk," and "gruff," you introduce them to a short subterranean race that is smooth faced, spiritually inclined or at least charitable, sober and/or childlike, and refined. But at some point, if they diverge enough from dwarves, there is no reason to make them dwarves at all.
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Old 10-20-2015, 01:13 AM   #15
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

Forget a stereotypical Scottish accent. Give them German, Polish, Swiss, and Slavic - or possibly even French, Italian, or Greek - accents, as fitting their mountainous abodes. ;) (Think Alps or Balkans, basically.)

For the Elf-Dwarf rivalry, have it so that the two races have only ever heard rumors of each other until recently, because they live in wildly different climates: Elves in the tropical and semi-tropical rainforests, Dwarves far up in the mountains. Long distance, no direct contact, only indirect through Men, so no rivalry has been set up. In fact, due to trade they tend to depend on each other greatly: Dwarves need the wood and magic of the Elves, the Elves prefer the metalsmithing of the Dwarves over those of Men due to superior quality.

Also, quite possibly don't give the Dwarves beards at all! After all, beards get in the way of smith-work. In fact, it's quite possible most Dwarves lack hair altogether, due to their smithwork.
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Last edited by Phantasm; 10-20-2015 at 01:20 AM.
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Old 10-20-2015, 01:22 AM   #16
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

Choose which tracts you want as a basics for these "dwarves", because is not very clear. Metallurgy, mining, big architectural underground complexes, fortified and master engineered. A lot of exractive and manufacturing activities, lot of trade of masterwork artifacts, some greediness and miserliness. If I understand it well.

From this point, go away. Keep away the most stereotypical (and caricatural) other tracts and replace them with different/opposite ones.

Cheerful instead of surly.
No beard, their chin doesn't even grow hairs.
Delicate, handsome features instead of rugged ones.
Their preferred entertainments are sophisticated - complex dances, theatre, poetry declamation and so - instead of the usual beer drinking.
Complex and fashionable clothes instead of rugged, practical ones. Practical ones are good for working, after the work you go to the baths (like Latins), and then you get oiled and perfumed and refined. Big collars of semiprecious metals and gems, silk skirts, big gold earrings, heavy make-up, heavy purple and red wigs. Take inspiration from ancient Etrurians for this, or from stereotypical 18th century France.
Give them typical weapons: spear-thrower, khopesh, trident, kalis/kris, rapier and main gauche, urumi, sickle.

Etc.
Usually people doesn't make dwarvish assumption on nice, refined, handsome guys covered in rouge and perfumes, idly caressing a ceremonial gold kusarigama while amiably chatting of the fanciest modern philosophers and poets.
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Old 10-20-2015, 01:22 AM   #17
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

I suggested to one of my players (from the DF campaign) that dwarves should maybe talk with a Cajun accent. He watched a bunch of videos before his dwarf knight's premier and surprised everyone with a credible Cajun dwarf. It was pretty great. No one else was expecting anything like that, and it hadn't occurred to me he'd run so hard with it.
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Old 10-20-2015, 01:25 AM   #18
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

Oh man, or faux-Egyptian dwarves could be cool. It fits with trap building monumental architecture.
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Old 10-20-2015, 02:12 AM   #19
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

Dwarf Fortress Dwarves. Autistic Telepathic Booze Loving Workaholics Prone to Inspired Fits of Madness That Use Their Own Children as Ablative Armor, Hate Gobbos, Elves, and Kobolds, are Terrified of Monkeys, and Love Dogs.
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Old 10-20-2015, 03:15 AM   #20
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Default Re: A dwarf by any other name...

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On Kelewan in the Riftwar books, there is a species of sapient insect native to Kelewan that digs underground, trades with the humans near their domain, and have treaties to provide mutual defense. They fulfill many of the roles of dwarves while being very alien in motive and action. http://midkemia.wikia.com/wiki/Cho-ja
GURPS 3e Fantasy Folk has the Insect men.
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