Author Topic: Dwarves  (Read 2125 times)

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Hansie

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Dwarves
« on: September 07, 2011, 11:33:25 PM »
I'm thinking of running a campaign set in a world where the dominant human culture is devoted to a monotheistic church similar to medieval Europe.  The other core races will be more-or-less integrated into human society, in a variety of castes/roles.

For the dwarves, I'm thinking of making them somewhat similar to the Jewish community in Europe.  Human religion drew out of old dwarven monotheism, and they share some aspects, but the dwarves believe their religion is the old, true religion, and live a relatively insular life, even as they mix with humans in the market, build their castles and tend their forges.  Dwarven religion yearns for the return of the Oldhome, the holy kingdom of the dwarves that predates modern human civilization, but which was destroyed thousands of years ago.

Thoughts?  Has anyone else played around with comparing a player race with the Jewish diaspora?

awaken DM golem

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2011, 10:53:22 PM »

Haphestus / Vulcan could basically be Moradin for the greeks.

idk the dude gawd's name in viking/nordic, but they have dwarves and elves, etc ...

Since I don't have deities & demigods available right now,
I can't say exactly which egyptian gawd it is, but the 1 DvR
guy is almost the first proto-monotheist. And a "heretic" at that.

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weenog

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2011, 11:41:20 PM »
Tread carefully and check with your players before decide whether to tie one of your fantasy races to the Jews.  You risk raising incredibly awkward parallels, and possibly putting that race into an unintentional position of privilege.  Be sure you and your players are ready for the possibilities before you consider moving in that direction.

Plenty of races habitually hate, make war with, and try to wipe each other out.  Are the ones that don't get along with the dwarves now your fantasy Nazis, and anyone who points out this is just business as usual and dwarves are nothing special, a holocaust denier?  What about rangers?  Fantasy racism is tied into the class mechanically, and (for the most part) people are fine with it... what about when one selects dwarves as a favored enemy?  Is he now the reviled anti-semite while no other rangers are singled out for special hate and treatment?

When your dwarves do something horrible, or have done something horrible in their past (and it's all races like this, I'm not singling them out), how are you going to avoid turning that fictional tragedy into a parody of the (possibly also fictional) crucifixion of Jesus, and later people's reactions to it?  Do you want to avoid that?

Maybe you and your group can take the issues in stride, and maybe find them enriching your experience.  But definitely take some time to check into whether anyone in the group is especially sensitive about Jewish people, culture, and history.  Check also whether there's anything that is often done to (or done by) individuals and races in your games, that would be arbitrarily restrictive here because you can't have it associated with your fantasy Jews.

Regardless of how it works out, nice to hear of dwarves being something other than viking or russian caricatures for once.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2011, 11:43:22 PM by weenog »
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Hansie

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2011, 04:51:08 AM »
 Thanks weenog.

I wasn't thinking of going anywhere near antisemitism, only catching a little flavor.  This is really more about how I think of the various races and construct their identities.  I'd prefer that players never even make the connection.  In fact, it's best not to make any explicit connections between the fantasy racial scheme and the real world, or to think too deeply about the roots of that racial scheme.

Littha

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2011, 03:59:55 PM »
Yknow who traditionally hates dwarves? Elves...


Go go Nazi elves?

veekie

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2011, 08:30:09 PM »
Done that.
Ultra nationalist racist bio-necro-mancy specialist elves.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2011, 08:34:51 PM by veekie »
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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2011, 04:16:13 PM »
Read Terry Pratchett, particularly The Fifth Elephant.  Pratchett does a good job making the Dwarves' traditions and culture analogous to Jewish ones without making them insulting or over the top.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2011, 12:29:27 AM by InnaBinder »
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Lycanthromancer

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2011, 11:01:09 PM »
Read Terry Pratchett, particularly The Fifth Element.
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InnaBinder

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2011, 12:30:10 AM »
Read Terry Pratchett, particularly The Fifth Element.
That's The Fifth Elephant, my good man.
Of course it is.  What else could I have typed?   :blush
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zioth

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Re: Dwarves
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2011, 09:10:44 PM »
There are other interesting parallels you might create if you want dwarves to resemble medieval Jews. For example, Jews were not permitted to own land, and I think they weren't allowed to join guilds. This forced them to live in towns and cities, but with a very limited set of allowed professions. Many Jews became travelling merchants, conducting trade between multiple kingdoms. They used Hebrew as a trade language, which gave them an advantage, since they had a common way of communicating with merchants from kingdoms all around the Mediterranian.

Another example: While Christianity generally discouraged education of the masses, often to the point of forbidding priests, let alone laymen, from owning bibles, Judaism encouraged education and religious debate. This meant that a disproportionate percentage of Jews were literate.

A player in a game I run (http://zioth.com/zioth) created a religion based on these two aspects of Jewish history. Followers were highly educated and worshipped the "merchant god."

Unless your players know a lot about Jewish history, it's not hard to avoid cries of anti-semetism. Just don't make dwarves into stingy money-lenders with pointed noses and horns, who demand a pound of flesh to repay debts. It's the stereotypes that cause problems, not the realism. In fact, you can even create your own stereotypes, as long as they're not the same as the historical ones.