Game Day: Researching a Dwarven Fortress

It began with a sword called Winter. Jorm, one of the party’s dwarven heroes, found the long sword still clutched in the skeletal hand of a Northman barbarian. It will end at the The Lost Sky Citadel of Akrafell, a dwarven fortress at the top of the world of Golarion.

Winter has a singular goal: the unification of the Northlands under the rule of a single Great King … starting with the Land of the Linnorm Kings. It whispers of this goal almost continuously, urging its wielder to ever greater acts of glory while demanding he gather a great horde and travel northward.

Meanwhile another character, Cutheric, is a classic Northman barbarian who’s travelled south to prove himself, slay a dragon or two, and make his own run at kingship. Naturally this sets up a certain amount of tension between the two — will Cutheric follow the wielder of Winter … or will he try and seize the blade for himself?

The weapon whispers to Jorm and Cutheric, and both were recently tempted by visions of an ancient dwarven ruin from which they could rule the entirety of the North: The Lost Sky Citadel of Akrafell. The fortress was founded by Andvari, the father of dwarven rune magic, and his brother, Dvolinn. Although long his brother’s right-hand man, Dvolinn coveted the throne of the citadel. He sold his soul to dark powers and transformed himself into a linnorm so that he might slay Andvari and rule the citadel forever. He succeeded, but with his dying breath his brother swore he would forever rule in obscurity, a king of nothing but gold and ice.

Now the Sky Citadel has been rediscovered … and I need to build a dwarven fortress. To that end I’ve been hunting the web for resources related to dwarven society, maps, and magic items as well as worthwhile opponents.

Dwarven Source Books

Dwarves are a favorite topic of gamers, thanks in no small part to the iconic band of dwarven heroes in The Hobbit. Every edition of Dungeons & Dragons has written about them, and they’ve played prominent roles in other RPGs, like Warhammer and Middle-earth Role-Playing.

  • Complete List of RPG Dwarves Books: A huge list of sourcebooks for Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer, MERP, Harn, and Everquest.
  • Hammer & Helm: A Guidebook to Dwarves: Green Ronin’s dwarf book isn’t bad, but it’s pitched squarely at players with lots of feats, prestige classes, and magic items.
  • Dwarves of Golarion: Paizo’s take on dwarven culture, including the history of their epic “Quest for Sky” in which the dwarves journey’s from their ancestral homelands deep below the Earth to the surface world. It includes the expected new traits and feats, but also a run down of dwarven gods, faith, and magic.
  • Forge of Fury: One of the few D&D 3rd Edition modules that I’d consider a classic, Forge of Fury involves a 5-level dwarven fortress that’s been overrun by orcs and other humanoid scum.
  • Land of the Linnorm Kings: One of my favorite Pathfinder source books, Land successfully recreates a contentious Viking subculture in the Golarion campaign setting. It’s not a dwarven source book, but I intend to rely on it heavily to depict the lands around Akrafell.

Dwarven Fortress Maps

Dwarven Art

Dwarven Music

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: You need this soundtrack just for the “Misy Mountains” soundtrack where the dwarves sing their lament for the lost Lonely Mountain. The two-disc collection includes 37 tracks that blend elements of the Lord of the Rings into a new, dwarf-centric theme. There’s the occasional brighter hobbit-inspired theme, but this is the soundtrack you need for a dwarven campaign.

Non sequitur

  • Dwarf Fortress: Search for “dwarven fortresses”, and more often than not you get “Dwarf Fortress”. It’s a notoriously difficult game with ancient-looking graphics and punishing game play. I was sorely tempted by this game, but it’s just too damn difficult. For a sense of how difficult, check out this Ars Technica review.
  • The Complete Book of Dwarves: A comprehensive of lists of board games games relating to dwarves.
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