|Images of dwarves
Source: Player Core, pg(s). 42–45
The dwarves of Golarion are a humanoid race of dour warriors and craftspeople. They excel at jobs other races find tedious, but also have a great love of exploration and discovery.1 Taller races sometimes refer to dwarves as runts, although they find this extremely offensive.2
A dwarf is a stout humanoid, usually a foot shorter than their human counterparts, but much broader.3 They have thick, heavy bones, tightly packed muscular sinew, and a stability unmatched by other races. This bulk also causes dwarves to weigh as much, if not more than, humans. Their coloration varies, with the dwarves of Garund being deeply tanned and weather-beaten, while the dwarves of Avistan tend to be paler, especially those who dwell in the far north of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings.4
Dwarves have a wide range of eye color, with brown and grey being the most common, though some possess shocking blue irises.5 Their hair is usually worn long, and dwarves of all genders spend considerable effort growing, maintaining, and embellishing their long beards, which are viewed by many dwarven clans as a symbol of honor.3 Popular beard decorations among more traditional dwarves include complicated braids, small trophies of battle, or other objects associated with significant life events.6✝
Dwarves attain physical maturity by their 25th year, but culturally are considered adults upon the completion of a coming-of-age ritual specific to their clan. A typical dwarf's natural lifespan is approximately 350 years.3
Dwarven dress mirrors the items they so carefully craft, elevating function over style, but they are never plain. Most decorations also serve a practical purpose, such as special fasteners, reinforced seams, useful padding, or loops for holding weapons or tools.6
Dwarves have a broad reputation for stubbornness, sensibility, and fierceness, and an affinity for fine craftmanship and working with stone and metal. They keep powerful familial ties3 and rarely forgive a wrongdoing done to them or their families.6 While friendship with a dwarf can be hard-won,3 they are capable of seeing through ancient prejudices to value a battle-tested friend. True friendship to a dwarf is worth more than all the gold and gems they seem to crave.6
Treasure hunting or mercenary work are the main professions of dwarven adventurers, though often not for selfish profit: they seek to find dwarven treasures lost to history; to recover land stolen by the enemies of dwarvenkind; or simply to find a fortune to improve their citadels. Many dwarves choose a martial role as a barbarian, fighter, monk, or ranger; some take a higher calling as clerics and druids.7
According to their own myths, the dwarves were forged by Torag in ancient times8 and are to this day sometimes referred to as "Torag's Children".9 They lived and worked in their forges and cities in Nar-Voth, fighting against the orcs and goblinoid races, and among themselves, for eons.10
Quest for Sky
Late in the Age of Darkness (ca. -5133 AR) they followed the dictates of a prophet of Torag to leave their Darklands home and migrate to the surface, an event that would later be termed the Quest for Sky. This massive societal upheaval caused a terrible civil war between the clans that ground the migration to a halt, until they were united under General Taargick.6 With the Quest for Sky renewed, the dwarves inadvertently herded their ancient enemies, the orcs, before them, and finally emerged onto the surface around -4987 AR.11 Once they established themselves, they built vast and magnificent fortified cities called Sky Citadels, and crowned Taargick the king of the newly established kingdom of Tar Taargadth.6
Dwarves are great lovers of tradition, but with their culture waning and nations of other races rising around the world, dwarven society is becoming more heavily influenced by human, gnomish, and even elven culture. This makes older dwarves quite nervous, as they see the more porous nature of dwarven society today as a prelude to its extinction. Despite these changes, dwarves still spend most of their time crafting, fighting, or building fortifications, mainstays that have not changed since Torag breathed life into the first dwarf.6
Dwarven society is traditionally divided into numerous clans. Each clan is associated with a particular gemstone cut into a specific shape; the stone is usually one common in the clan's lands but rare enough to be valuable. These stones are often set in clan members' armor or the hilts of weapons. Due to the dwarves' extensive record-keeping, it is rare for any two clans to have the same stone and cut. Dwarves also forge special clan daggers in preparation for an infant's birth, which is then used to cut the newborn's umbilical cord. The dagger is given to the dwarf when they come of age, who is then charged with keeping it in good condition. When dwarves marry, they often create sheaths for their partner's dagger bearing their own clan gem.12
Most dwarves primarily speak the Dwarven language, although most are also fluent in Taldane.6 Dwarven shares its runic alphabet with Petran.13 Dwarven names are full of harsh-sounding consonants, and rarely include soft or sibilant sounds. Honorifics are common in given names, such as "-sun" ("-son"), "-dam" ("-daughter"), and "-hild" ("-wife"). Family names sometimes contain words in Common, such as "gold" or "hammer". Also, the letters Q and X do not appear in Dwarven.6
Dwarves are a people renowned for their deep spirituality, and possess a perspective on faith that intertwines personal beliefs with ancestral and clan traditions. The dwarven culture place significant importance on honoring their ancestors, including founding figures of their clans and builders of their grand cities, as well as esteemed heroes and skilled artisans. Core virtues such as craftsmanship, mining, smithing, determination, honor, friendship, exploration, and the preservation of family traditions are paramount to dwarves, who seek to prove themselves worthy of their ancestors' esteemed legacy and the divine protection bestowed by their gods.14
Dwarven religious practices are characterized by a large amount of ceremonial rites that can often go beyond any base requirements set by the deities they worship. These rituals are often group activities, particularly during significant events that commemorate big achievements or the passing of revered heroes. These rituals generally feature the prominent use of relics expertly crafted from precious metals and lavishly adorned with gemstones.14
In smaller communities or among traveling dwarves, more condensed and pragmatic rituals are more commonly observed, attesting to the adaptability of dwarven faith.14
Most dwarves venerate Torag, the God of the Forge, above all others, although Cayden Cailean, Gorum, and Abadar are also given great respect. Torag's teachings still guide most of dwarven culture and thought, as they believe he will abandon them should they ever slack in their duties.6
Gladdringgar is the dwarven tradition of carving one's personal rune in stone on the deepest cave or tunnel one has explored. It literally translates as the "ritual of toil", although younger dwarves have begun to refer to it as kangreddin, or "wall-making". Dwarves are obsessed with leaving a mark and being remembered, and great respect is given to the dwarves who risk their lives to delve in their race's ancestral home in the Darklands.15
Attitudes toward other races
Dwarves are incredibly hard working, dedicated, and tough, and see other races who do not share these traits as being frivolous at best, and weak and degenerate at worst. Elves are considered to be the ultimate examples of this, in addition to being labeled cowards and weaklings for abandoning Golarion for thousands of years following Earthfall. Half-orcs are generally considered little better than their full-blooded orc relatives and regarded with suspicion.6
Dwarven civilization is traditionally divided into three groups: the Grondaksen, or underground dwarves, who live in cities beneath the earth; the Holtaksen, or mountain dwarves, who live in cities high in the mountains; and the Ergaksen, or surface dwarves, who live scattered on the surface lands.12
Grondaksen dwarves are usually somewhat shorter than other dwarves, and are known for extensive beards that are present even in their women. They believe that the Quest for Sky was completed just below the world's surface, and rely on contact with surface-dwelling dwarf cultures for news of the world. Grondaksen cultures include the Kulenett, who live in a complex tunnel system beneath the mountains of Geb.16
Holtaksen dwarves live in fortresses built among the peaks of the world's mountains. They are the most militant dwarven culture, and frequently war against orcs and giants. They possess a strong cultural desire to relive the glory days of the Quest for Sky, and are the likeliest dwarves to become adventurers.17
Ergaksen are thought of as a homogenous group by mountain and underground dwarves, but do not consider themselves a single culture and only refer to themselves as Ergaksen or surface dwarves when dealing with the other two groups. They descend from those dwarves who scattered across Golarion's surface and intermingled with other cultures, and are defined as a group by their differences from the other two kinds than by any strong links between their various subdivisions. Ergaksen cultures include the Pahmet of Osirion, the mercantile Paraheen of Qadira, the dragon-worshipping Mbe'ke and Taralu of the Mwangi Expanse, and the monastic and atheist Vahird of the Eternal Oasis of Rahadoum.18
Dwarves can be found throughout Avistan and Garund, although the vast majority inhabit the Five Kings Mountains on the borders of Druma. Of particular note are the city of Highhelm in the Five Kings Mountains, whose inhabitants consider themselves the heart of dwarven culture and life; the Sky Citadel of Janderhoff in Varisia; the Ouat monks of Osirion; the Sky Citadel of Kraggodan in Nirmathas; and the wild warriors of Kalsgard in the Lands of the Linnorm Kings.15
Among the southern peaks of the Shattered Range in Garund are the less-known desert dwarves, who are hardy nomadic warriors who dwell in rough caverns by day and travel above ground by night. In southwest Osirion are the Pahmet, or sand dwarves, who are proud but xenophobic warriors that believe they once protected the greatest secrets of the ancient pharaohs.19 Kulenett dwarves live nomadic lives in intricate tunnels below the mountains of Geb.20
For additional as-yet unincorporated sources about this subject, see the Meta page.
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- “Chapter 1: Characters” in Campaign Setting, 7. Paizo Inc., 2008 .
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- “Dwarves” in Character Guide, 17–18. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
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- “Dwarves” in Character Guide, 18. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- Core Rulebook, 1. Paizo Inc., 2019 .
- “Ancestries & Backgrounds” in Player Core, 44. Paizo Inc., 2023 .
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- “Chapter 1: Arms and Armor” in Ultimate Equipment, 27. Paizo Inc., 2012 .
- “Chapter 5: The World” in Campaign Setting, 212. Paizo Inc., 2008 .