Tuesday, August 16, 2011

[Fairy Tale OD&D] Rumplestiltskin Dwarves RULE

"Not tolkein/modern/WOW/Games Workshop/Scottish axemasters but gnomic crooked midget worms maggots of the earth akin to Rumpelstilskin and Norse mythology."

The Dwarves of my OD&D game are not stout, doughy, ale swilling Sean Connery's in geometric Viking drag but "real-life dwarf" sized, sinewey and not stout, crooked limbed, Rumpelstiltskins. They cackle and make bargains that involve 10 years off of a person's life. I'm pretty sure they dress like Punch from Punch and Judy, wear lots of stripes and polka dots, and their beards are long, scraggly chinbeards. This is somewhat relevant and inspirational to this game's version of Dwarves. I'm pretty sure the Dwarves in my game have creepy bird-like feet as well.

When the PCs encounter Dwarves in the mountains they cackle and demand tribute instead of being gruff and stoic.

Last session Peter made a Dwarf character and it was awesome. He cackled, he gamboled, he tried to give a teenaged girl to a hag that had a crush on him that he met at the Fairy Market.

His Dwarf used a short sword (which I now imagine looking like a big butcher knife), but during combat I kept thinking he used an axe and would say "Caddo rolls out from under the huge foot and severs the giant's hamstring with his hatchet!," Pete: "ahem... as I've repeatedly said before, Caddo is using a short sword," Me: "Goddamnit!"

Even when I attempt recasting D&D Dwarfs into a different (and more mythologically accurate IMO) archetype, the goddamn Scottish axe slingers still invade my imagination!

With the Algol games one of my goals was to attempt D&D without being stifled by modern D&D cliches; you don't know how many times I had to say when someone was making a PC: "No, there are no goddamn Dwarves on Algol! (aside from humans that have dwarfism)" I'm not out to cockblock a player's fun, but I demand a certain level of playing along with a campaign's "vision," and I think that all parties involved benefit from playing D&D under a different paradigm.

I'm consistently amazed at how much people love playing stereotypical D&D Dwarves (as well as playing toddler-sized races). It's not badwrongfun, but it's certainly interesting at how much traction such concepts have in folks' imagination.

But in this current campaign I'm trying to do something different yet again, and I have to say these Rumpelstiltskin Dwarves are pretty fun; they strike some Jung-ian nerve; and I'm glad "I imagined the hell out of it!" instead of just going all Talislanta during chargen and saying "No Dwarves!"


  1. I like it. I've never had a problem with stock Dwarves, though...it's the frickin Elves that need to go!

  2. All dwarves in Red Box Vancouver talks like Sean Connery. Except Gamgar.

    And Gamgar also wields a sword. A sword that kills undead.

    Or it would kill undead, if Gamgar could ever hit them with it.

    Which he can't.

  3. Man....honestly I'd be happy for Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and and Hobbits to just be gone from D&D. Gnomes, when imagined as you described dwarves above are fucking boss though.

    The traction in peoples imaginations thing is a big factor though, especially for people that have never played before. Always elves. Bloody elves. They just seem like such a bland cipher for " Okay everyone, it's FANTASY now"

    Word verification: Mobblyte. Now that sounds like a "demi-human" with some interesting weirdness.

  4. The Mobblyte is a dwarf made from a hundred glowing pixies.

  5. Each hit point represents one pixie. When you want to commit to some activity, roll d% trying to get over the number of pixies comprising you. If you roll under, there is anarchy in the decision-making and the pixies do nothing but argue for a while. If you roll over, a pixie majority convinces the others to do what you wanted. This means more pixies = more chaos.

    When you reach 90 pixies you must roll d% every week, failure means there is a population split. d20 pixies scatter to the winds. d20 more flee in 3s and 4s. The remainder stay (which may leave you still above 90 pixies, which is fine, until next week).

    A Mobblyte is born when at least 3 pixies come together and binge for a continuous month. This duration is uncommon. though the binging is not. Once formed into a Mobblyte, they gather other pixies as determined by their level advancement. For every 6 full pixies, the Mobblyte has 1 HD. Loss of pixies in combat or by anarchy purge leads to lost HD. Death magic, sleep, etc. affects the Mobblyte as if it were a single high-HD creature and not a bunch of individual 1 HP pixies. If a Mobblyte remains at 1 HD or less for a month the pack dissolves, the component pixies splitting up completely in roomate-angst.

    Mobblytes carry treasure as humans of appropriate HD. They have Magic-User spellcasting ability equal to 1/3 their HD, except that no spellbooks are required.

  6. Where did the "Dwarves speak with Scottish accents" thing originally come from anyhow? I was not aware of it until it (all of a sudden) seemed universal. It sure isn't from Tolkien, as his Dwarves are all named after the actual dwarf name list from Norse mythology.

  7. hmm... Cthulhu Dark Ages had dwarves which were basically body-snatchers that took over the bodies of the dead. I have been thinking about doing a variation on that for my campaign. So far without any success.