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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:32 am 
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For those of you who are unaware, in art, different scales are used when drawing or sculpting people.
Gods are often drawn to a different scaling than nobility, and nobility different to the sculpting of regular men. This difference in size isn't just that they're "bigger". Their shape is subtly altered. They're inhuman.

Hercules is often depicted at a 1:9 head to body ratio.
Royalty at 1:8.
Biology textbooks at 1:7.

The roleplaying equivalent of this is actually quite common.
Superheroes are often depicted with tiny heads. Figurines are often done to heroic scales, not realistic scales.
Warhammer gives its marines a sense of epic proportions with a distorted head to body ratio.
Seriously, take a look.

Image

Now lets be very clear. I'm not talking about height. I know a space marine is tall. I know that he's in armour. He's a giant. That's fine. He doesn't have the head of a giant though. He has the head of a man who is still 5'8". This was done on purpose.

This does however make him something other than human. He would move differently. Fight differently. Look up the Square Cube Law if you're that way inclined. Without his suit, he may not be even capable of producing enough force to jump.

Now. Take a good look at a Dwarf.
Image

For all the in-picture clues we have, he could be as tall as the marine. It's a picture. It's a certain number of pixels big. What's different is his proportions. They are very different. I once had a "Giant Dwarf" in a game of mine, which some players stated was "just a human then". A dwarf isn't a small human. A grown up halfling may get away with it a little, but a Dwarf at 6 ft tall would be terrifying to behold.

Inch thick fingers. A massive bulbous neckless head resting on a single block of bone and muscle forming a core 6 feet across from shoulders to toes.

So when building a world, things like this should be taken into consideration. Dwarven children would survive harsher winters, longer droughts, worse plagues, and more severe injuries than any human counterpart. Would they be doting and protective of their indestructible offspring?

Look at their shape: Would their fighting style be the same?

Look at their mental acuity: I loved the Desolation of Smaug, because it shows some great "Dwarven Fighting". Dwarves are legendary mechanics and engineers. They have a natural affinity for how mechanisms come together. How cogs in a machine interact. How pieces of a puzzle fit together.

Take this further. How troops on a battlefield interact. A Dwarven army would be a clockwork nightmare of precision tactical genius, just like any Dwarven machine. Ambushes within ambushes, wheels within wheels.

Take this further. How muscle and bone knit together. A Dwarven fighter would be a master of locks, holds, breaks and twists whilst already being an immovable object. He becomes the center of gravity in any fight he's in.

Take this further. How political plots interact. A Dwarven politico would know just who to push, and in what direction to get whatever result he desired.

Take this further. How economies interact. A Dwarven city state could control the economies of entire countries by knowing the key investments to make.

Dwarves have the potential to be so much in a world, yet are so often disappointingly handled as "slightly shorter humans". Occasionally with Scottish accents.

This is not to say my interpretations here are the only ones and I'd love to see what others think a Dwarven society would be like.

Join me next week when the topic will be Elves: Slightly Emo Humans, or Eternal Aliens of the Hunt?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:33 am 
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Well, someone loves dwarves.

Would giant dwarves be powerful? Yep. So would giant humans, aka giants. If you scale a creature up, it becomes stronger, bigger, and other parts of a Daft Punk song--but not faster. More mass requires more energy to move, which is why a weasel moves faster than an elephant.

As for your depiction of Giant Dwarvish society, there's two ways to look at it: from a design POV and from a realistic POV.

From a design POV, this society should do whatever is necessary to support the game's theme and make it fun. Screw reality, shape the game to meet design goals and provide a fun gameplay experience. (Sidebar: I realize that realism in a game varies wildly. Some people prefer Toon, others prefer Riddle of Steel. But even RoS' uber realism is done for a design goal--to create a system where combat is as close to real medieval combat as possible. That's the design goal, so in this case, realism works. My point is to make decisions, not on what's realistic or not, but on the game's direction.)

From a realistic POV, methinks doth love dwarves too much. Yes, a dwarven army would be like a dwarven machine. (Assuming these dwarves make machinery and aren't, like Pratchett's dwarves, just really into mining and chainmail.) But the more complication and precise a machine becomes, the easier it is to gum up the works. A lost screw can render a complicated system of cogs and belts inoperable. Likewise, a lost battlefield command can render a complicated Dwarven army inoperable. When it works, such an army would be unbeatable--but how often would said army find a predictable, non-chaotic battlefield? Just like it takes a long time to change the inner workings of a clock to make it do something different, a dwarven army would take a long time to adjust its tactics. Add in some traditional dwarves stubbornness and you've got a recipe for strategic disaster.

I also disagree with your take on political and economic masteries by dwarves. Both arenas require strong social skills: the politician needs to manipulate (or at least convince) others to take his side, while the economist relies on salesmen who also need to manipulate others. If we're taking the cliche of dwarves as master craftsmen, I don't see them being highly social as well.

The one thing I agree with is how many people treat dwarves as short humans. Elves usually get a bit of alien mystery about them, and gnomes are just weird, but dwarves often lack any defining traits, culture, or mannerisms. It used to be all "I love gold" and "I love mines!", but that's gotten so cliche that most gamers turn away from it.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:09 pm 
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I've always pondered on how Dwarves can actually fight well against human size opponents. Their size does place them at a huge disadvantage in terms of reach. If we assume they are disproportionately stronger than their size the average dwarf would be as strong as the average man (fit medieval folk who work with their hands not modern IT guys who never go out) or maybe a little stronger. But get a warrior type human and a Dwarf has a problem - a serious problem because reach often wins an armed melee (which is why fighting human cultures usually produced bigger folk over time as the small ones tended to get killed before they could reproduce). Physics doesn't go in on the side of dwarves in grappling either if fighting a human who can also grapple. If fighting a strong, well trained human I think one on one a Dwarf will loose 8 times out 10 even when trained to an equal level). I can't see a Dwarf army faring well against a trained human army in a pitched open melee without serious disparities in equipment and leadership.

I think Dwarfs would have to become masters of guerilla warfare and adopt Swiss-style defence in order to survive. Then coupled with their ability to mine and manufacture (which, charisma or not would gain them a lot of allies) would be able to forge lasting, viable kingdoms.

Dwarven fighting techniques (if training to fight human sized opponents) would involve lots of deception, effective parrying and dodging (the only things to counter reach and size). Armour would be heavy on the head and shoulders, Axes would be better employed as pulling down larger opponents than for swinging wildly as so many fantasy pictures show. Halberds, Bill Hooks, knives, armour piercing daggers to stab at armoured leg joints and poisoned crossbows seem more appropriate, as well as flash powers and blinding concoctions (mace/chilli etc). I can see Dwarves having a reputation has extremely unfair and dishonourable fighters. When the rest of the world is at least a foot taller and just as active and tough (let's be realistic here, in a dark age to medieval setting anyone well fed who survived to age 20 was much fitter on average than we are today so I call BS on Dwarves being 'tougher' unless they also have honey badger DNA. There is an argument for them being faster in short bursts though - something few fantasy settings explore sadly) you're probably going to favour survival over honour and decency in combat.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:43 pm 
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Quote:
Well, someone loves dwarves.


Or wrote my OP with faux passion to avoid it sounding like a biology textbook on Dwarven skeletal structure. It's not about "What are Dwarves like? There is only one answer." You can make your Dwarves the dour isolationists of the stereotype, or the social masterminds of the Dragonage series. They both make sense. I use either depending on the world I run.

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From a design POV, this society should do whatever is necessary to support the game's theme and make it fun. Screw reality.

We're not discussing reality. We're discussing Tolkienesque Dwarves.

They're not realistic either way. I don't ever care about realism. I always care about verisimilitude.

Realism is "magic doesn't work". Boring.
Verisimilitude is "given that magic exists, society will develop accordingly".
Lack of verisimilitude is "Yes, your level 1 human mage burned down the forest of the elves because nobody has ever, in the lifetime of the elves, come up with a defense to 'burning hands' before".

The Last Airbender. People bend the elements of Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water, through a gift of the spirit turtle-lions in ancient times. It doesn't have realism. It has verisimilitude. Technology has a mismatched pace because of that difference. Certain technologies were less important to certain people. Certain technologies were more important to certain people.

Element bending is a pro-sport that fills arenas. Of course it is. That makes sense. It isn't realistic.

The animals in the world are all crosses between two animals (Otter-Penguin, Turtle-Seal, Armadillio-Lion). This is not realistic. When they hear someone has a Bear, and just a bear, with no second animal, the protagonists go "Huh... weird". That, given the rules of the world, makes sense. And a world, no matter how "unrealistic" should make sense if we're going to engage with it.

Which is why I posted this in World-building, not game-talk. ;)

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If you scale a creature up, it becomes stronger, bigger, and other parts of a Daft Punk song--but not faster.

Ah, except it doesn't. Someone didn't look up the square-cube rule. Every time a creature doubles in height, its strength is squared (muscle cross sections are a function of area), and its mass is cubed (volume of body).

You're 5' tall. Lets say you can carry 300lbs (including your own bulk). You weigh 150lbs. I.e. You can carry 150 lbs.
Double the height. Keep proportions.
You're 10' tall. You can carry 600lbs. You weigh 450lbs. I.e. You can still only carry 150 lbs.

At some point (actually, at every point in between), you could carry more, but at 10ft, you've capped out, and every inch over is making you weaker and weaker, and more tiring. In fact, even though you can carry more, you've consistently been giving up a larger percentage of your strength to carrying your own weight. At an extra foot, you'd feel sluggish and unresponsive. Things would just be getting smaller to you until that point.

Obviously this doesn't happen in D&D. Giants exist. However, you could use this information to, if you so desired, play on how alien these races must be to one another. Coiled strands of muscular fibre far stronger than humans. Bones that crack, fracture and mend with every step.

These aren't rules. These aren't "This is how the world would be if things were realistic". This is just a tool in your toolbox to flesh out the races of the world in a way that makes them unique and engaging, but still feel real. I agree with you. Screw reality. But immersion and engagement, the results of verisimilitude are far too important to ignore.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 04, 2014 5:23 pm 
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There'll be another interesting effect of the dwarven height/mass ratio: dwarves will be a cold-climate race. The surface area of their skin is less, for their mass, than a human, meaning they retain body heat better - and lose it more slowly.

No wonder they're considered a mountain race. No doubt humans will feel dwarven tunnels to be rather cold (and those skinny elves will find them freezing).

Mixing pop-science with fantasy races can be great fun.

Consider Terry Pratchett's trolls - they're made of rock. In cold climates, trolls get more intelligent (their brains become more conductive), and become more stupid as the climate becomes warmer.

In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, giants turn to stone if exposed to daylight. But stealing gold from a giant who's been turned to stone is considered bad luck. The gold is cursed - in fact, it's radioactive.

This kind of speculation about how things work is very fruitful for world-building.

Or, if pop-science is not your thing, consider the various species in Glorantha. Glorantha is a myth-based world, with many of its myths based around a number of runes (hence the name of RuneQuest, which was originally developed for the world).

Men are ruled by the Man rune. Various cults allow them to use the powers of other runes are well.

Elves are governed by the Man and Plant runes. Though they look like flesh and blood, Elves are plants. They believe the world was grown. Different species of elf represent different kinds of elves. Green elves are associated with coniferous trees. Brown elves are associated with deciduous trees - most of them hibernate in winter. There are elves associated with swamps, ferns and jungles. Vegetarian trolls will happily eat an elf.

Dwarves are governed by the Man and Earth runes. They are rock. Different types of dwarves are associated with different minerals. They believe the World Machine is broken, and they must fix it. Dwarves who go off-mission are considered broken. They long to achieve the perfection of the diamond dwarves. Trolls eat dwarves to aid their digestion. Dwarves darkvision is based around thermal imaging.

Trolls are governed by the Man and Darkness runes. They are nocturnal. Their livestock are giant insects - beetles, moths, spiders, mantises. Their darkvision is a tremorsense. Light affects most of them adversely. Trolls who are forced to deal with humans in daylight sometimes carry parasols.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:10 pm 
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You're making me want to play RuneQuest again... I knew about the Elves, but none of the rest of it. I adore the idea of the Trolls getting smarter the colder they get. That's brilliant!

You could theoretically base an assault on a Trollish enclave on an opening salvo of warming and heating spells. Taking this further, that may be considered a war crime if set in a modern day setting. Think how horrific a tactic that is, stupefying a group to incapacity before attacking.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:44 pm 
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The trolls getting good smarter is Discworld (Pratchett) not Glorantha. But Glorantha trolls are plenty cool.

As to stupefying an enemy before an attack, choose your weapon: propaganda, special forces, information warfare, cyberwar, electronicwarfare . Done all the time.

For a really cool racial intelligence, look at the Kafers in 2300AD. They are naturally dumb, but adrenalin makes them smarter. Lots smarter. Before issuing an order, a Kafers officer beats his soldiers. In combat, shooting Kafers is like shooting turkeys. Until several rounds in, when the adrenalin kicks in and they start becoming dangerous. Kafers who regularly experience combat find their base intelligence increasing. In the past, their cities were often overrun by barbarians; Kafers are terrified of the 'smart barbarian'.

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