"A race of stonecutters, artisans, and craftsmen. They invent machines and build elaborate underground cities where they worship their gods of reason and logic." -Avatar of Io
Thaigs: Amgarrak, Bhaerynden, Bownammar, Cadash, Delzoun, Hammerfast, Heidrun, Kal Hirol, Kal Repartha, Karaz Ankor, Khaz Modan, Ortan
Dwarva society is ruled by complex and unforgiving castes. The casteless are the lowest station of the dwarves. Outcasts in their own city, unable to take up work among the higher castes, nor to defend their honor in the Provings, these are the dwarves rejected by their own. Dwarves who are exiled or born on the surface are also officially casteless - but since the formation of the empire, they are instead called surface dwarves. The average dwarf will never see the surface, and often will have superstitious beliefs concerning surface-life, such as falling into the sky, or the sun falling to the ground. Those dwarves who are most commonly seen on the surface tend to be merchants and traders, or on occasion smiths, but amongst the dwarves they might have been thieves, murderers, or worse.
Above the casteless are servants, miners, merchants, smiths, warriors, nobles, and deshyrs. Nobles are the height of dwarven society, while the deshyrs are dwarves who participate in the Assembly on behalf of their noble houses. While it is possible for some dwarves to better their family's station by performing great deeds and/or siring children with higher-caste dwarves, these remain rare and difficult circumstances. Lower-caste dwarves who rise in caste are generally considered ascended by the highest castes. In dwarven society, children inherit the cast of their same-sex parent; should a son be born, he would inherit his father's caste, or castelessnes, should that be the case.Monarchy is the dwarven standard of government, but heredity tends to be a weak factor in determining who sits on the throne when the time comes for a new ruler. While a king may propose his heir to the throne, the next ruler is ultimately determined in the Assembly by a vote of the deshyrs. It has been mentioned that most of the wealth of the dwarves comes from their extensive mining and trade with the Halflings of the Nentir Vale and the Men of Nerath.
The dwarves are a free-thinking and reclusive people who prefer the dark, enclosed spaces of the Underdark. The dwarves, in general, are a very advanced and powerful civilization. Dwarven society did not force the use of engineering over magic, but the general view of their society was that magic was unimportant and pointless, so much so, that most surfacers believed they worshipped no gods. Though opinionated, it could be said that the dwarves are a naturally noble and honorable one. Legends tell of their heroic tales of honor and glory.
The judicial functions of government are split between the king and the Shaperate. The king and his warriors deal with crime and maintain order, while the Shaperate deals with civil disputes. The Shaperate is also ultimately responsible for the preservation of all records current and historical. As a result, it is the supreme authority over the authenticity and binding nature of contracts, as well as legal precedent. The Shaper of Memories is considered a role of absolute impartiality in dwarven society, and commands enormous respect as a disinterested third-party in legal matters.
In dwarven society the role of the Shaper is one of great honor, privilege, and also hardship. A Shaper must honor the memories, protect them, and record new history. However, this means that a Shaper must seek out knowledge and history beyond the city and its inhabitants, venturing into the deep to record the history of thaigs and crypts and dwarves whom the Memories might otherwise forget. A Shaper must be prepared to risk all, perhaps even their own lives, so that the dwarven race might claim knowledge and learn from it.
The Provings are public arena battles fought for the sake of honor and glory and to entertain the masses. They take place in an arena. Dwarves believe that a fighter who wins a Proving has the approval of the ancestors and so they use Provings to settle debates and honor challenges that could not be settled otherwise. This usually falls to warrior caste champions. Some Proving matches are fought to the death, as one death is thought preferable to the widespread bloodshed of a conflict between noble houses. On occasion, the Provings have also been used for entertainment and events to honor special guests, and each year the best fighters in Hammerfast meet for the Trials of Blood, a great tournament that crowns the kingdom's best and most popular fighter.
The twelve great dwarven kingdoms joined together to form the dwarven empire in the first era, making them the single most powerful force in the Underdark. Hammerfast is said to be the largest, greatest and proudest of them. The dwarves are ruled by a constitutional monarchy, consisting of a king and one legislative house entirely of nobles. Other castes are not represented in any fashion in the Assembly. The noble houses which are allowed to have a deshyr and represented in the Assembly are those which can trace a general or a deshyr among their ancestors. Subsequently, lesser noble houses may not have a vote in the Assembly, and the number of deshyrs in the Assembly can easily vary. The Assembly holds the power to advise the king, approve or veto acts of the king, propose policy, and elect new kings. Furthermore, the Steward of the Assembly is a non-voting member.
The dwarven people defied the titans and giants. Unity has sustained them, and tenaciousness has upheld them; traditions preserving these values serve them well. They stand unmoved and unconquered, like the mountains, against orcs and goblins and dragons.
Dwarf soldiers are unmatched in their fighting prowess and loyalty to one another. War stories hold that a single dwarf foot soldier is the match of any two warriors of another race and the same skill. Two such soldiers are worth five similarly skilled enemies. When the enemy forces are composed of little more than savages, dwarven armies break them like stone channels water.
All the institutions of dwarven society have soldiers loyal to the cause. Doughty fighters serve king or deshyr, guild or business, deity or church, or a simple creed. A few serve the almighty coin, selling their time and axes for wealth. Time-honored fighting techniques teach a dwarf warrior to use their racial talents to the fullest and to use fine weapons and heavy armor. When the dogs of war are loosed, dwarf soldiers hold the line.
As masters of dwarven fighting arts, they rely on loyal allies as much as their own courage and resilience. Their expertise lies in defensive maneuvers and battle-line tactics. Dwarves know how to take advantage of holes in enemy lines. Allies come to rely on them as the center of the formation. They take heart in the steadfastness and dwarven ability to break the defenses of their enemies.