Runemaster - Developer diary 25 - Race: Dwarfs

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This is the 25th dev diary for our upcoming Tactical RPG Runemaster! Isn’t that cool? This time we'll talk about the Dwarfs, who are so awesome that they get to live in two cool places: Svartalfheim and Jotunheim.

Inspiration
Our main inspiration for dwarfs is Norse Mythology, which has sort of become the ur-text for dwarfs in most fantasy fiction. J.R.R. Tolkien, most famous for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, based his dwarfs on his extensive knowledge of Norse mythology. Dwarf names from Norse mythology, such as Dvalin, Balin and even Gandalf, was used by him for his characters.

Dwarfs are known as a mountain-dwelling race with great blacksmithing skills, known for their mead, the creation of important artifacts with magical qualities and their lust for goddesses. One legend tells how the goddess Freya wanted to buy a beautiful necklace or torq from four Dwarfs, who refused her gold and silver. Instead, they insisted that she spend one night with each of them. She paid the price and is never seen without Brisingamen, although there are stories about Loki stealing it or it being broken when she grows angry.

The Mythology: The Creation of Dwarfs
There are two creation myths of Dwarfs. One tells of how the mixture of the blood and bones of Ymir created them, another says that they were mere maggots that festered in the flesh of Ymir which the Aesir gods gifted with reason. We choose to believe that both are true, the Dwarfs were created by the blood and bones but did not gain reason until Odin and his brothers found them feasting on Ymir.

Odin then chose four Dwarfs and placed them in each of the four corners of Midgard, to uphold Ymir's skull or, in a sense, the sky. Their names were Nordri, Sudri, Austri and Vestri, or "North, South, East, and West". The Dwarfs are thankful to the Aesir for giving them reason, although there have been occasions where they have clashed. Loki, known for his mischief, has bothered the Dwarfs many times and stolen or cajoled them into giving him and the Aesir magical artifacts such as Sif's golden hair, Freyr's ship Skíðblaðnir, Odin's spear Gungnir, the golden-bristled boar Gullinbursti, the hammer Mjölnir and the ring Draupnir.

The Appearances of Dwarfs
Dwarfs are a fairly common fantasy race who are often portrayed as a bearded, short, beer-bellied and inventive race. We have of course taken inspiration from this, and after some deliberations we decided to not change too much about the physical appearances of Dwarfs. No matter their gender, our Dwarfs have beard which they take care of in varying degrees.

The life, work and traditions of Dwarfs
Most of the Dwarfs’ cities and villages are buried deep inside mountains, with only a few houses surrounding the entrance to the mountain, and a marketplace serving as the only place where people from the other races are allowed to venture in dwarven lands. The life of a Dwarf is often a strenuous and hazardous one, and thus the average lifespan can be very short. Therefore the ones who do live to be older withdraw from the cumbersome work of mining and smithery so they can study the ancient texts. These older Dwarfs are very revered for their knowledge. There's a saying: ”Dwarfs need no roof, but the ones they have will never make you wet.”

The monarch is elected and everyone can apply for the job. Naturally, the richest families that can afford to bribe enough Dwarfs to get the majority of the votes have an edge here. But sometimes a "nobody" is elected. The job is for life and, sometimes, this life might be awfully short.

Dwarfs are highly superstitious but not very religious. If a Dwarf curses a god or two that is fine; there's no reason a Dwarf buried so deep underground need fear a god. On the other hand, if salt is spilled and nothing is done about it (throw the salt over your left shoulder and say 'Tvi, tvi, tvi'), then you surely deserve every bad thing that will happen to you.

The Dwarfs live so closely packed together that the need for privacy is sometimes great. Some Dwarfs retire from the main mines, finding a cave or mine of their own where they most often study some sort of craft to become a master of it. Some of these Dwarfs return, some don't. For those Dwarfs that live in tight quarters, there are a lot of social rules to follow to keep the peace. For example a Dwarf who does not clean himself after work or, at least, fairly regular, will be shunned until he has taken a bath. Fights are uncommon, but discussions aren't. The one who wins an argument gain other people's respect and might be asked to solve an argument or discussion for others. Some of these arguments have been going on for years, sometimes not even between the ones who started the argument in the first place.

Dwarfs have two main languages, one they speak and write on parchment, the other carved into rocks, cavern walls or onto their weapons. This rock language is rather primitive ,with crude signs that more or less look like the thing they signify. For example, the sign for a mine is a circle with a line going through it horizontally. These markings are used for on cavern walls to help a Dwarf get through tunnels and the like safely without having to use a torch. They can also be used to mark magical weapons, more to warn the wielder than to imbue the weapon with any particular magic. The Dwarfs let other races believe that the marks are what makes the weapon magical, hiding how they enchant weapons. Dwarfs have a great ear for languages and any Dwarf is able to talk to another Dwarf, no matter how far they are from home or how broad their accent is. If you meet a Dwarf, be careful not to insult him or her, no matter what language you use. There's a great chance the Dwarf already understands it...

Salt is highly prized among Dwarfs and the ones who own salt mines will charge a kilogram of gold for a kilogram of salt.
It is said that if a Dwarf offers you bread, accept it - but eat it on your own risk! The Dwarf bread is surprisingly hard and it is said that it needs to be soaked for hours before it is safe to eat it. That is not true, although it would be best to boil the bread before eating it, making it a bit soggy. It tastes like porridge.

They do not eat the flesh of birds. Dwarfs live deep underground and birds fly high up in the air, which, according to Dwarfs, makes them incompatible. This taboo does not extend to other races, of course, so Dwarfs won't react if they see a Human or Giant eating chicken.

The Dwarfs are famous for their beer, which comes in all colors, from clear honey-golden to bitter black. The honey-golden beer is sweet and not that powerful, often drunk at weddings and other happy occasions. The bitter black is strong and musky, with a long aftertaste. It will be served at more serious occasions, at funerals or at remembrances. The other kinds of beer are for evening meals or for festivities. Though they always have a supply of mushrooms, dried fish and goat-meat, the Dwarfs prefer to trade for their food.

The Dwarfs produce all sorts of weapons, armor and some potions made from the mushrooms and plants grown in the dark. They can, in fact, make almost anything you might ask for, and will invent anything they might need. With their special mixture of magic and technology, the Dwarfs can make virtually anything.

If the price is right, the Dwarfs will trade almost anything, including tools, inventions, armor, weapons and, very reluctantly, beer. The price is most often gold, jewels or blueprints. Ideas may come to any race, but the Dwarfs are most reliable if you wish to see your invention come into being. They are also great construction workers and can be hired to raise any kind of building much faster than any race.

Dwarf Heroes
You can choose to play as either a Dwarf female Berserker or a Dwarf male Runemaster. We have talked about the Berserker and Runemaster in earlier dev diaries, if you wish to refresh your memory you can find them here:
Berserker: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?774091-Runemaster-Development-Diary-12-The-Berserker
Runemaster: http://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/showthread.php?775295-Runemaster-Development-Diary-13-The-Runemaster

Dwarf Units
If you've been reading the diaries, the basics should be old hat by now. But I'll repeat some of them anyway. Every race has six different units, three standard units and three unique units. The Dwarfs’ three standard units are melee, assault and ranged. The melee units have a decent amount of armor and damage. The assault units do a lot of damage but don’t have a lot of armor. The ranged units do not have much armor but can attack from afar.

The three unique units are an Avatar, a walking armor animated by magic, a Dwarf woman called Witch with a lot of spell power, and the Mouflon Cavalry, Dwarfs mounted on sheep.

Screenshots

runemaster_dd25_screenshot01.jpg
Dwarf Runemaster, Witch, Avatar and Mouflon Cavalry in Jotunheim.

runemaster_dd25_dwarf_runemaster.jpg
Concept art of a Dwarf Runemaster.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this dev diary as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Do you have any questions? We’ll gladly answer almost any questions you might have.
 
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First! Can you become the dwarfed king?

The Dwarfs prefer to have a king or queen that actually wants to rule them, not someone who runs around trying to postpone or trigger Ragnarök.

So, this is pretty standard, but what exactly are dwarfs relationship with the various elven races? Or any races in general, as I did not see much mention of interaction with others.

The dwarf culture you outlined sounds remarkable identical to that demonstrated in the various books of Terry Pratchett. Has Pratchett been an influence upon the creation of the dwarfs or have you just reached the same place by working with the same source information?

The Dwarfs do not care much for either elf race, and have waged war against the Darkelfs. They leave the Lightelfs alone mostly, both race being close to the Aesir and thus almost allies in some aspects. But the Dwarfs prefer to rely on themselves and don't really need any help from another race. As the dev diary says, the Dwarfs like to trade and are always willing to make prototypes as long as they know that their inventions won't be used against them.

I love Terry Pratchett's books, so that is quite possible. Although they do not conceal their gender, which is rather important and makes for less awkward dating between the Dwarfs.

mouflon is sheep, not goat.

Will change! Thank you :)
 

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So just out of curiosity, has women with beards created any difficulties when it comes to armor graphics? Also, do women in dwarf culture behave functionally identical to the men as they do in the Discworld books, or do they possess any unique roles in dwarf society?

So, in your opinion, would a dwarf be the best race to play as for killing all elfs then? Based on your statements, is the Elves Vs Dwarves trope in play in Runemaster?

Not really, I could perhaps add a picture of the Dwarf Berserker tomorrow to show how she looks. I don't have access to the pictures from home.

Everyone is free to pursue what they find most interesting, be it blacksmithing, mining, taking care of a family or something else.

That trope is interesting, it's the first time I've seen it. I recognize it, of course, from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I can honestly say that we haven't worked with that at all.

dwarfs bartering their products for ... services, is that exclusive to goddesses or will my light elf runemaster be able to save some gold by following Freya's example? :)

I think it is mostly goddesses they like, especially Freya as she is a war- and love goddess. It's a good mix, according to most Dwarfs. I mean, they never tell what they do during that night. She might have revealed a couple of weapon-related secrets after all...
 

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*sigh As a devout Tolkien fan I just have to point out two things.


(1) Tolkien isn't the father of fantasy literature, William Morris (1834-1896) is. "Fantasy" was already an established genre when the Hobbit came out in 1937, and all of the early fantasy authors cite William Morris as a source of inspiration during their childhood.
(2) Tolkien knew a lot about Norse legend considering he was a professor of dead languages at Cambridge university and is still considered the most authoritative modern scholar on Anglo-Saxon.

1. Did not know that. Thank you for telling me :)
2. What is wrong with my sentence? Should I have written something else? I am not a native speaker/writer of English, so I kind of cannot see what is wrong with it except for "The father of fantasy literature[...]".

I'll rewrite it into this: "J.R.R. Tolkien, most famous for The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, based his dwarfs on his extensive knowledge of Norse mythology. Dwarf names from Norse mythology, such as Dvalin, Balin and even Gandalf, was used by him for his characters.".
 

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Strike the Earth!

From Shovel Knight?

Is there any camera control in the game? Can we get a different angle with more details on the units? The Avatar and Mouflon Cavalry look neat, and I'd like to see more of them. :)

We are still working on camera control, and I cannot get a good picture right now of units in-game, sorry :/
 
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