Dwarves are a study of contrasts. The stereotypical dwarf is a serious man, a perfectionist with his craft and a precise master of his will. He has few words to share. He is plain-spoken almost to the point of offensiveness, and rarely apologizes.
But the same dwarf loves to drink, and will sing long sagas of military victories and impressive feats of craftsmanship. He may get maudlin in his cups, or dance a merry jig, but do not be fooled – he is a dwarf, and his thoughts remain his alone.
Dwarves are among the oldest known humanoid races in the WIlderlands. Many sages give credence to claims that dwarves and elves walked the earth long before humans.
During the ensuing millennia, dwarven kingdoms have spread beneath the skin of the world, and split into several rough population clusters. Mountain dwarves are seen as the most traditional faction, quietly expanding their mighty mountain metropolises and occasionally venturing out to make trade with the larger world. The hill dwarves are a more rustic population that forms towns and villages in remote hills and mountains. Unlike their more urbane brethren, they are fiercely monotheistic and view other dwarves with suspicion for their wavering dedication to the Rock Father. Deep dwarves are a strange and presumably-rare group that have taken to the unhallowed depths where natural light has never touched, and strange things slither. By most reckonings, they are no longer truly dwarves at all.
Other humanoids typically reckon the “city dwarves” as another clade of dwarvenkind, more gregarious and chatty than their hidebound brethren. In truth, these may simply be hill and mountain dwarves who have settled among other folk, and perhaps intermarried with other dwarves abroad.
What dwarves share with others
A dwarf makes friends slowly, particularly among non-dwarves. They see their bonds of friendship as firm structures, not to be built until the foundations are properly tested. Such friendships can span lifetimes, and are worth their weight in gold. Most dwarves value their friends as honorary kin.
Dwarves relish tales of historic battles and feats of bravery, especially of friends and relatives (and ancestors). They typically only speak of (or ask about) concrete and tangible details, though. Thoughts and motives are almost always implied. A dwarf will never tell you how he feels, and rarely says much about what he thinks. When pushed to comment, a dwarf might respond with the old saying, “Deeds, not thoughts.”
Dwarves are infamously materialistic, and very possessive of anything of dwarven manufacture. Adventurers who find dwaf-crafted items (in a dragon’s hoard, for example) can often find an interested (and appreciative) dwarven buyer. Dwarven personal effects are often repatriated to the appropriate clan or family, currying respect and favor among the recipients.
What dwarves share among themselves
Mountain dwarves occupy several dozen sites that they have continuously inhabited since before the reign of the Dragon Kings, possibly since the dawn of Kelnore. Their major cultural centers are dense and vast beyond the scope of any surface cities. Above-ground development, like an iceberg, tends to be no more than a tiny portion of any settlement.
Most dwarven cities, and even many smaller settlements, are connected through meticulously-maintained tunnels. These passages carry vehicles running at great speed, allowing dwarves to traverse the Wilderlands faster than even the swiftest sailcraft. The passage between Thunderhold and Naar-Kazan, for example, takes about a day. Several dwarven settlements sit deep beneath the earth, existing solely as a waystation and nexus of these transit tunnels.
Dwarves see the surface world as a transient one. Feeble structures are thoughtlessly erected, unfit to last even a century without extensive repair. They have learned from milennia underground to plan and build carefully, since a failed project there could cost thousands of lives.
Dwarves are raised with lore and technologies that are largely unknown in the outside world: firearms, compulsory education, postal service, telegraphs, and advanced metallurgy. Even he most rustic hill dwarves put their children through at least ten years of formal education. The children of the great cities typically work through twenty years of education, which includes public service – building tunnels and bridges, learning vital trades, and carrying mail.
All adult dwarves are adept at a skilled trade (perhaps more). They have probably lived in several cities (in different map regions), and have demonstrated competence in dwarven history, firearms, and craftsmanship or engineering.
Among their kind, dwarves discuss their craft, recent events, and economics. During their years of study, they cultivated profound friendships bound by mutual respect and sealed with a complex argot of in-jokes and puns. Their fastest friendships are often revealed by the prevalence of this code-speech.
What dwarves keep completely private
(Dreams, personal aspirations, fears)