The dwarven race is immeasurably ancient, their civilization already entrenched in the deepest bowels of the Earth when the first elves roamed the forests. For thousands of years, the dwarves lived deep underground and had no contact with men, elves, and others of the surface. Over the span of hundreds of generations, they lived in harmony with the Earth Mother, industrious, wise, and cautious as a people. But over time, their ambition and their hubris grew and it was the dwarves who first awakened the Earth Mother’s wrath, a mythical anger that would burn for centuries and come to the surface lands as well.
From the womb of the world, the Earth Mother sent elementals, spirits, and dragons against the vast dwarven civilization, punishment for their unchecked ambition. The dwarves fought bravely and courageously, and while they held their ground against the Earth Mother’s anger, their great civilization suffered under the weight of ceaseless war. The deep forges that once crafted wondrous and immense machinery now produced an endless stream of weapons. Expansive vault cities, wonders of dwarven architecture, were abandoned as the front lines of their endless war shifted.
For a time, it seemed the dwarves had emerged victorious from their struggle against the Earth Mother. The war slowed and during this time, some dwarven heroes discovered the Tears of Ages, flawless gemstones that conferred great power to those who held them, much like the divine breath given by the Sky Father to his heroes. The dwarven heroes took these gems as spoils of war and held onto them by force and avarice, starting a tradition that exists in dwarven society to this day.
These days of relative peace were not to last. As the surface races also learned, even darker things were soon to emerge from the vast depths and darkest corners of the world. Twisted, evil creatures flooded up from the subterranean deep to war against the dwarves once more and this time the dwarven lines could not hold. The dwarven civilization was engaged in a constant retreat for survival, pushed back into the caverns of the mountains and sometimes into the unfamiliar surface world.
Today the dwarves are a shadow of their past glory, though their pride would never allow them to admit it. War, struggle, and survival define their people now and has shaped virtually every aspect of their lives. The most powerful among them hold the Tears of Ages and are virtually gods among their kin, but they only hold them for as long as they are able. In dwarven society, if a stronger dwarf can take power from you then they are more deserving of it.
It is believed that in the distant past, dwarves lived longer than even the elves, possibly into 250 or 300 years old. But today, it is exceptionally rare for a dwarf to live past 175 years. Their culture does not tolerate the weak and infirm and most dwarves would rather end their own lives prematurely than to suffer the cruel effects of old age.
The Hill Dwarves are the dwarven people who were driven out of their subterranean homes entirely and into the surface of the world. Some have founded cities among the mountain peaks, while others have settled into human cities, often in their own racial neighborhoods. Hill dwarves are canny and tough survivalists and even those that live among the other races are slow to trust them.
Hill dwarven culture revolves around the Cartels, power-hungry clans that seem a combination of merchant family, secret society, and criminal syndicate. Typically, one powerful family rules a Cartel and all lesser families in the area are subservient to it, often extorted in exchange for protection, goods, or favors. Some Cartels are run by a handful of families acting in concert, none of which is powerful enough on its own to defeat the others. In some cases, the most powerful figure in a Cartel bears one of the Tears of Ages, though this is more common in distinctly dwarven cities. Regardless, the leaders of any given Cartel know that they will only stay in power as long as they are able to hold that power, leading to ruthless competition within the ranks and often bloody coups.
Hill dwarves in this campaign are otherwise identical to the hill dwarves presented in the Players Handbook.
For the Mountain Dwarves, the war has never ended. They still call the caverns deep within the earth their home, though they have been pushed back to the mountains like many of the other surviving peoples of the world. Here they hold the line against armies of goblinoids and orcs, twisted aberrations, devils and demons, and all manner of cursed and horrible things that emerge from the darkest depths. If not for the mountain dwarves, many surface cities would have been overrun, though their people may never know it.
War defines the lives of mountain dwarves in much the same way as survival defines their hill kin. The Mountain dwarves align their society along the Companies, which behave much like the surface Cartels, but they are less trade organizations and more mercenary legions. The Companies do not extort lesser dwarven families so much as subsume them, breaking familial bonds into platoons and war camps. The leaders of the Companies are the Immortals, war generals who bear the Tears of Ages. But like the dwarves on the surface, an Immortal only holds his status as long as he can keep it; their history marked by violent shifts in power at the top of Companies.
Mountain Dwarves in this campaign are otherwise identical to the Mountain Dwarves presented in the Players Handbook.