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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pellatarrum: Dwarven Hit Squads

I've been getting lots of comments about yesterday's My Dwarves are Different post, and even though they're on Facebook or Google+ or IM, they amount to same thing:

What's stopping someone from either killing a dwarf for his eyes and hair, or keeping several captive and routinely shaving them?

And the answer is, Nothing. Not a goddamn thing is stopping anyone in Pellatarrum from doing this.

Well, except for good sense.

First you have to capture or kill the dwarf. This is not as easy as it sounds, as most of them live in their impenetrable nation-state of Agnakorem. To get in past the diplomatic and trade sectors you either need to be a dwarf, be trusted by the dwarves, or have a dwarven escort. So, you know, good luck with that. And even if you do get in, and you do manage to perform your perverse deed, you still have to get out again. This is even less easy than it sounds because dwarves are highly organized, community-minded, and distrustful of outsiders. The moment a body is found, entire neighborhoods go into lockdown. Who do you think they'll question first? The non-dwarves, of course.

Second, you have to find a dwarf you can capture or kill. If you want to get a child or noncombatant, see above. If you want to try your luck with the ones who leave their nation-forge, those are typically adventurers (who do not go down without a fight) or diplomat-traders (see: heavily armed escorts). While you may win, A) you'll know you've been in a fight, and B) aren't their easier targets for robbery? Like, say, that fat human merchant?

So all right, let's assume you succeed with your vile deed. At this point, you are either crazy, the baddest meanest motherfucker who has ever lived, or you're really good at running and hiding and don't mind looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life. This is because dwarves have tempers, enjoy holding grudges for centuries, and have large extended families with at least one relative with magical powers (such as access to scrying or divination spells) and another relative who's really good with an axe.

Dwarves in Pellatarrum are modeled after a fusion of four human cultures: the Vikings, because they are clannish and like to drink and fight; the Germans, because they believe in precision craftsmanship; the Russians, because of their insular "us versus them" mentality and preference for spartan stoicism; and the Israelis, because they live in a perfect fortress and show absolutely zero mercy to their enemies.

Do any of those cultures sound like the forgiving or gentle types? No. They are the "Assemble the family, pick up your axe, and let's go wreck some shit" types when it comes to avenging a wrong. I mean, look at the Mossad, Israel's secret service: they've made it their mission in live to capture or kill (preferably kill) any terrorist or war criminal who harms an Israeli citizen. Compared to the dwarves, the Mossad are rank amateurs who coddle their foes.

You may say "Sure, but the Mossad has the resources of a nation to call upon, surely these dwarf families don't have that kind of pull," which is indeed true. However, they have access to magic, can craft magic armor and weapons, and given the Lawful nature of dwarven society are likely to receive help if they go to another dwarf and say "We're tracking down the monster who murdered and defiled our kin. Can you give us information/ supplies/ shelter for the night/ access to your temple?" which kind of evens things out in my opinion.

And then, as Bunny helpfully pointed out in the comments, there's always the possibility that your victim will come back as a ghost or other form of undead.

So yes. You can kill a dwarf and take its eyes and hair. But unless you have a foolproof plan for doing so -- in which case, why aren't you using these resources more effectively? There are less intelligent monsters out there with more gold than this! -- you will incur the wrath of an entire dwarven family/clan, who will be supported by the full weight of their race, nation, and culture. If your GM can't or won't turn that into an adventure seed with lasting consequences, then that is a failure of the GM and not of the setting.

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