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The karamhul, or dwarves, are an ancient race now far past its prime in the eyes of most observers. The dwarves are frequently ignored in histories of human cultures, and due to the karamhul culture of isolation, as often ignored in day-to-day affairs.
The karamhul are one of the older races, they may even predate the sidhe, certainly they lived in Cerilia long before the human tribes migrated from Aduria. The dwarves never seem to have been particularly widespread and unlike the sidhe they did not come into conflict with the early humans. They are a martial folk, but are not expansionist or otherwise overtly violent - ready for trouble seems to about sum them up.
Player Secrets of Tuarhievel suggests ancient wars between karamhul and sidhe, however this seems likely to be a misinterpretation, or outright fabrication by the Anuirean sages involved with drafting the document. Neither race has much reason to even meet the other, much less claim land or possessions belonging to the other to provoke conflict. More obviously both have low birthrates and prefer to avoid conflict as a result. Both races are also notorious for holding grudges, but currently exist amicably - these factors suggest that if there was conflict, it was likely small scale and long ago.
Of all the races noted in Birthright, with the exception of halflings, the karamhul are probably the least xenophobic, having good relations with most human and also sidhe cultures. The dwarves however have long fought wars against the orogs, notably Birthright is silent on relationships between karamhul and goblins - so the unending hatred seen in other settings may not be present.
The DM has to decide how fantastic the elves and dwarves are. The original, published materials give indications that the dwarves are near humans physically as well as indications that they are mostly fantastic.
As near-humans, the dwarves are expert craftsmen and miners, clever traders, and bold warriors. Where humans build on top of the ground's surface, dwarves build just below it. The normal world's agriculture, based on sun and rain apply, and so dwarves must look after their crops and animals just like their human neighbors. While they live underground, they dig into the earth for security and because much of their labor takes place there.
As a fantastic race, their anatomy may be so unlike that of humans that their response to bludgeoning, their metabolism, and other qualities may be entirely unlike humans. They may dwell deep, deep underground, and be capable of staying far from the sun for generations.
The amazing descriptions of dwarves can be real descriptions of the race and its abilities. Or, it could be the misunderstandings caused by different perceptions of dwarves and humans.
-- An Observation on the dwarves as a near-human race.
Where do wandering dwarves come from? The stereotypical answer is simply 'the mountains' or 'under the earth' - for this to hold true however dwarves should have some reason for living in such places, which given their poor agricultural value either means that the dwarves were militarily pushed back to such lands and prevented from claiming more desirable lands elsewhere, or that the dwarves actively prefer such locales.
The largest realm of Karamhul in Anuire, Baruk-Azhik conducts a fair amount of trade and so is quite out-going. Most Dwarves from Baruk Azhik seen outside the realm are traders, or more rarely mercenaries. A few craftsmen have set up shop outside the realm, generally those craftsmen who would be considered 'average' in Baruk Azhik but are considered unparalleled masters outside the dwarven lands. Dwarves are on occasion exiled from the realm, but this punishment is rare in the extreme. To most Anuireans dwarves and natives of Baruk Azhik are synonymous, dwarves from other lands are likely to be treated as natives of Baruk Azhik in Anuire.
Crushed by the Gorgon long ago, the dwarves of Mur-Kilad know freedom only far beneath the earth where the Gorgon's minions never roam. Hated by their brethren in Baruk-Azhik for submitting to the Gorgon, the dwarves of Mur Kilad nevertheless often flee their realm, although some of those who leave are spies of the Gorgon or other lords of the realm giving all those who leave a bad reputation.
The Seamist mountains may be home to some dwarves, but no great realms of the Karamhul are known in the west of Anuire. That doesn't of course mean that a PC could not play a dwarf from a small clan in the depths of the mountains.
The only dwarven realm in Khinasi is described as a mere rumor, dwarves are thus probably very rare in the Khinasi lands.
The largest karamhul realm in the Rjurik Highlands, Khurin-Azur is much reduced from its glory days. It has little ability to trade - the Brecht realms of Danigau and Wierech are the only likely trading partners, as the sidhe of Lluabraight are isolationist even for the sidhe. Dwarves from Khurin Azur may be traders, explorers seeking possible allies, exiles, fortune seekers in the Giantdowns, etc.
The Silverheart Mountains
In the north of the Giantdowns small dwarven colonies hold out against the orogs of the Blood Skull Barony, these dwarves are often allied to cloud giants. Silverheart dwarves could be explorers, seeking allies, traders, etc.
Standing between Brecht and Vos this karamhul realm has a number of potential trading partners, but it has many foes - it is close to the Gnoll Fells and the Mistmoor while relations with Rzhlev are unclear. Some dwarves of Daikhar Zhigun are held as slaves in Hjorig - this is unknown to the karamhul realm and is a highly unstable situation.
Karamhul live for centuries, while this endurance is far from the immortality of the sidhe, the extended lifespan does have a significant impact on their culture.
Karamhul craftsmen can gain great skill over time - but having decades to complete a great work may reduce their interest in working together thus Karamhul craftsmen may be secretive and insular.
A single Karamhul couple can engender a multitude of children - even if only one child a decade is born, a single couple could easily produce twenty children. If the birthrate increased even slightly and the mortality rate was contained, then the population could expand rapidly. It is likely however that the Karamhul have strong prohibitions on intermarriage between various generations - or keep clear records of bloodlines to ensure incest does not occur.
Karamhul are noted for having a strong sense of honor, powerful communities, being orderly and preferring strong, fair laws. Honesty is greatly important and they have long memories.
On the negative side karamhul are typically seen as holding grudges, being resistant to new ideas, prone to sticking rigidly to ideals of honor etc.
Karamhul are typically seen as having advanced technology - better alloys, crafting techniques, etc. Technology however also extends to terracing, crop rotation methods, genetic selection of crops and farm animals, etc. This advancement indicates that karamhul are intelligent, work together, and see the benefits of improvements - a strong difference to most human cultures where 'what was good enough for Grandpa is good enough for me!'
With relatively little presence at the battle of Mount Deismaar, few generations since the battle, and strong familial bonds which prevent casual sex amongst their leaders, few karamhul are likely to be scions. Rarity means however, little competition, as the Karamhul are fairly isolationist few non-karamhul contest their holdings, this together with low internal competition and the presence of strong laws and social pressures to support any karamhul domain in its actions (so long as they benefit the society) means that karamhul are more likely to be able to enhance their bloodlines through the accumulation of Regency points than most other races. Karamhul bloodlines are therefore likely to be few, but strong. Bloodlines of Azrai are likely to be relatively common due to the long wars between goblins and orogs (both of which served Azrai) and the Karamhul - many a Karamhul hero is likely to have had the chance to commit bloodtheft on a goblin scion over the centuries.
The karamhul are likely to have very disciplined, highly trained and well equipped troops. Add in a innate ability to pick good ground - or quickly prepare it, a delight in planning which encourages scouting and planning tactics, and the karamhul become deadly foes. The karamhul however lack cavalry - one of the three key aspects of any battle.
Karamhul tactics are likely chosen to minimise the use of cavalry - warfare on broken ground, the use of stakes (for example mobile hedges of stakes that can be quickly assembled or moved), and the use of pikes to hold off cavalry charges. As the karamhul have no cavalry slaughtering foes by running them down as they flee is impossible, so dwarves wishing to win a crushing victory must chose a battlefield where they control all possible routes for retreat.
Good dwarven tactics are:
- Phalanx - densely packed troops who work together to make a shield wall. Tightly packed troops allow the karamhul to effectively outnumber their opponents at the confrontation points of a battle even when their troops are greatly outnumbered on the battlefield as a whole.
- Dwarven wall - The British Redcoats made 'walls' of musketmen who stood, reloaded and fired in precise order to create a devastating continual volley of shot which shattered charges of less disciplined foes. Even with crossbows the karamhul could do something similar, as the key requirement of the tactic is discipline by the bucket and a focus on 'communal' power rather than individual quests for glory - a very karamhul approach.
- Shout - Shock and awe is far from a modern invention. If many troops shout in unison, particularly as a volley of crossbow quarrels are loosed, it can have a huge morale impact on the enemy. This tactic was used by the British in the hundred years war amongst others, Zulu armies used a similar tactic of rattling spears against shields to terrorize foes - see the film Zulu.
- Preparation - prepared battlefields of pits, trenches, rows of stakes, etc can make up for much by effectively neutralizing foes. However preparation is much more than this, karamhul can 'subsist on dirt', but even so they should always have good lines of supply allowing them to travel far faster than armies which have to forage. The cautious karamhul likely always ensure they have a relatively mobile reserve of troops, and a good escape route should a battle turn against them.
- Discipline - the importance of discipline on the battlefield cannot be underestimated. Undisciplined troops rush in to the fray before their allies can support them, are lured into ambushes and slaughtered, fail to take advantage of conditions, ignore commands from their officers preferring to do as they see best, etc. By maintaining high discipline the karamhul can use tightly packed formations, and maximize their effectiveness on the battlefield.
The Birthright setting was made for second edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons which stated that dwarves could not be wizards. Accordingly the setting assumes no dwarven source holders or spellcasters other than priests. With the conversion to 3e and 4e, this assumption of 'no arcane magic' may be invalid.
If karamhul can be wizards, then they are likely to treat it as any other technology - something that provides them with commercial and military power, to be studied and advanced by the community to maximize its utility.
Like the sidhe, karamhul can be more than merely mortal. Karamhul can 'subsist on dirt', meaning they can ingest minerals directly from rock or soil, or that they can absorb the mebhaighl of the land and derive sustenance form it.
In interviews, Richard Baker has said he regretted not emphasizing this aspect of the karamhul more. At present the karamhul are noted for being denser than other races but not otherwise all that different. Just as proponents of the Hanner Sidhe prefer a more mystical approach to the sidhe, so one can take a more mystical approach to the karamhul.
If one sees the karamhul as elemental folk of earth and fire - much as the sidhe are often seen as water and air - then much of their preference for rugged mountains and hills becomes clear. Similarly their ability to work metal and stone could be magical rather than technological in nature.
As a note if this view is taken, then the 2e focus on Moradin may also be obsolete - practical karamhul may revere heroes but why would proud folk worship what is simply a powerful spirit? If the karamhul, like the sidhe, disdain the worship of gods, then permitting the karamhul a second guild-type holding in place of temple holdings is not unreasonable. Alternatively they could have an organized faith based on reverence for ancestral heroes (of which Moradin could be the most famed) that encourages spirituality and racial pride without focusing on a specific deity. Consideration to the use of clerical magic should be made before using a variant of this kind.
, 02-06-2010 at 01:33 PM|
Last edited by , 10-23-2011 at 12:20 PM
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