The Thunder Dwarves – as natural channels for the energies of the Eight Thunders – alone among the major races have little fear of the magical effects of storms. For them, as for the stormfruit plants, the storms are a time to harvest power and channel it into their own works. Their towers are designed to use and focus that power, and some of them extend from foundations anchored in the mountains (although rarely too deep) up to the lower levels of the Jav-Sabok itself. They are the greatest magicians and artificers in the known world – which is not always a good thing. Given the major races sensitivity to disruptions in the natural flow of magic, dwarven outposts tend to be regarded as industrial centers often are – as “noisy”, “smelly”, and “polluted”. Individual dwarves who carry sizeable amounts of magical devices are regarded similarly.
Dwarves living outside their own realms are typically encouraged to isolate themselves in undesirable locations – such as atop rocky hills, towering mountain peaks, and other storm-lashed locations. The fact that they often prefer such places, and voluntarily subject themselves to intolerable concentrations of magical gizmos, simply proves to most of the other races that the Thunder Dwarves are crazy. Still, if you need some specialized magical device, or mighty relic, they’re the ones to see. They may not be the most desirable neighbors, but they’re certainly useful to have in the area – and can easily make a living selling minor enchantments and emergency-spell talismans (which will also normally work for a full “day” once triggered thanks to their racial abilities). Thunder Dwarf adventurers are quite rare – but they’ve a splendid addition to a group when one can be found, since they can easily keep an entire party stocked up with magical talismans for use in emergencies.
Physically, the Thunder Dwarves show substantial traces of their elemental heritage – partially the remaining traces of distant elemental ancestors and partially the effects of their natural elemental infusion. They are short, massively-boned, and extraordinarily heavy-set, giving the impression of a giant who has been crammed into a nail-keg. Their skin is thick, rough, and stonelike, often showing colors and patterns typical of one or another mineral – or related to their elemental imbuement. Their features are usually craggy and rough-hewn. Oddly, they are often either bald or hirsute, with few intermediate states and no distinction between male and female. Their hair is usually in the lighter shades, auburn, red, blonde, or pale – and, if pale, tinged with various other colors like their skin. They are prone to minor problems related to their inherent elemental imbalances however, including minor bone deformities, and sometimes require life-magic intervention to deal with fertility problems.
Dwarven society is quite well-organized. It’s also surprisingly free and open to criticism – both due to their religious beliefs, and because it’s the only functioning democracy (or semi-democracy) in the Twilight Isles. In practice, the elders and family heads are automatically seated in the parliament and the rare individuals with life-attunements are almost guaranteed of election. Still, there are worse choices to make for an elected official than a well-respected elder or a social specialist with healing powers and minimal natural offensive talents.
The political philosophers speculate that the dwarven openness to other opinions, notions of personal rights, and democratic tendencies, springs from simple affluence coupled with the fact that every dwarf – except those with the Life affinity – is effectively magically armed and can easily stockpile more spells and enchantments if they’re feeling upset. Interestingly, it’s also the only major culture that opposes slavery on principle – if not always in practice.
Political parties play a relatively low-key, but influential, role; the biggest rivalry is between the expansionists, who want to explore, trade, and expand, the consolidators, who want to improve the defenses, solidify control, and maintain what they have – but there are many smaller groups.
Personally the dwarves tend to be well-mannered, somewhat formal, and to have strong expectations of proper behavior – all important survival characteristics in a tightly-packed society of natural magicians. Oddly enough, this has led to a fairly unique dwarven terror – “Scandal”. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to anyone else. The Ikam simply don’t understand even wanting to keep secrets from the rest of the Deza, the Shadow Elves tend to laugh (what powerful people do is their own business!), and only the Veltine have any hint as to what they’re talking about – although their reaction to such things is to fight a duel over it. Dwarven cities – partially supported by the best magic around – tend to have larger and denser populations than most other cities in the Twilight Isles, but there are relatively few of them. The total dwarven population is thus relatively small compared to that of the Shadow Elves and slightly smaller than that of the Ikam – although they do somewhat outnumber the Veltine.
Dwarven technology is as well-advanced as their magic. Their architects are highly skilled (and in demand throughout the Isles), their stonework is expert, their mechanisms are precise, their steam engines (usually powered by Najmhan cores) are traded throughout the Twilight Isles, and they even make najmhan-core steam-driven pistols and rifles – although they’re relatively low-powered and very expensive. They produce the best armor around, including (almost uniquely in the Isles) full plate – although it’s mostly only used by heavy infantry specialists, by guards, and by the people who have to go out and handle attacking monsters. For practical defense, the Thunder Dwarves are fond of breastplates, mystic architecture, defensive chokepoints, and clear fields of fire, usually with handy stockpiles of “wall” and explosive spells ready to go.
Thunder Dwarf Opinions of the Other Races:
The Thunder Dwarves mostly consider the Ikam to be close and reliable allies. Their dedication to their people is admirable, as is their reliability, loyalty, and the way in which they honor their promises. They don’t entirely approve of their social structure – but at least the Ikam aren’t being forced to submit to it; they just seem to be that way naturally.
Quite a lot of older dwarves think that it would be great if the younger dwarves were more like the Ikam.
The more thoughtful dwarven leaders know better than that – and think that it’s probably a good thing that the Ikam seem to be incapable of organizing past the level of the Deza. If their dedication, personal mana level, and caste of combat specialists was coupled with political unity, the Ikam might well dominate everyone else. Still, as things stand, the Ikam make superb guards, servants, and aides – and the price of their service is relatively cheap. All you need to do is feed their noncombatants and help them build secure fortresses to protect them, and the Ikam Sovath will do almost all the fighting.
Most of the younger dwarves find it impossible to understand how the Ikam can put up with their rigid society and their preset roles.
The Thunder Dwarves don’t approve of the Shadow Elves – and they don’t trust them any further than they absolutely must. They’re corrupt, cutthroat, blatantly embrace inequalities and slavery, and are quite undependable. Of course, like it or not, they’re all over the place and there are quite a lot of them. The Thunder Dwarves trade with the Shadow Elves, and sign treaties with them – but they never expect those bargains to last beyond the moment they become inconvenient for the Shadow Elves and expect to have to play factions off against each other. Fortunately, unlike any sensible race, the Shadow Elves are shortsighted enough to spend most of their energies stabbing each other in the back and eliminating personal rivals.
The Thunder Dwarves have an oddly mixed attitude about the Veltine. The ones who attempt to be civilized show independence, and have hands and can speak clearly, tend to be respected as “Noble Savages”. The ones who act like ravening beasts are seen as crazed barbarians. The ones who don’t have hands and can’t speak are mostly regarded as animals – either out of simple (if perhaps thoughtless) acceptance of the “obvious” or because their own people tend to see them as severely defective.
Those with more direct experience of the Veltine, and their dominance-hierarchy, territorial tendencies, and raiding, tend to think that it might be possible to civilize them – but that it would probably require some fairly extreme measures, like a set of collars and leashes. It couldn’t be worst than they way they often treat each other.
Obviously enough, the Dwarves think that they’re the best – an attitude they share with most of the other races – but they see no need to push it; some of the other races can be quite useful.
Finally, here’s their religious information again:
The Thunder Dwarves believe that their gods created the world, then held an after-the-job discussion to talk about what could have been done better, made sure that their creations could take care of themselves, and departed into the infinite to build an even better world – and better ones after that. They feel that – as one transverses the Maze – one is following after the Creator Gods, and will encounter a succession of ever-better worlds, until one who finally learns enough will reach them, have their user-feedback report heard – and be permitted to work with them on their next project.
As a practical “religion”, the Lords of Thunder are inchoate and demanding, but they can certainly provide substantial powers to their followers. They are, however, elemental powers of the world; mighty spirits of Fire, Air, Earth, Water, and Spirit and of Life, Change, and Death – and they make no pretense of being creators, of being all-wise, or of possessing any power over the dead beyond that common to magic. The Thunder Dwarves tend to call upon the Lords of Thunder for power and in ritual magic, but rarely worship them.