One of my current projects is the all-dwarf roleplaying game Dwarf Lode, which I describe as a a game of drunken exploration, ancestral guilt, and engineering disasters.
Although, at its heart the game is built upon the skeletal framework of B/X, I’m building the rules system for Dwarf Lode from the ground up. In this post, you’ll find Ability Scores/Attributes re-imagined through the viewpoint of dwarfish culture. (I’ve done the same for Saving Throws, which are referenced throughout the post below.)
In future posts, we’ll look at saving throws, the dwarf class, armor, and beers. Armor and beer is where the game really sets itself apart from others. How a dwarf arms himself for battle and what libations he drinks determine his abilities.
Included is a description of each Ability is an explanation of its uses within the game.
A dwarf’s Brawn determines how strong he is, how easy it is for him to crack skulls, tumble boulders, carry treasure, etc. Brawn applies to To Hit rolls and Damage rolls. A dwarf may attempt an Open Kegs check for minor tasks of Brawn, such as opening stuck doors or kegs, etc., or Tumble Boulders/Crack Skulls for more weighty, if not impossible-seeming, feats of Brawn such as bending bars or lifting portcullises.
|Score||To Hit||Damage Bonus||Open Kegs||Tumble Boulders/Crack Skulls|
One’s got a knack if he’s deft at something dwarfs aren’t usually good at, like being nimble on his feet or sneaky, climbing without the use of pitons and rope, ducking from a swing as opposed to letting the helmet take care of it, etc. Knack applies to Armor Class, firing missile weapons, and saves versus Fire! and Gettin’ Outta the Way.
|Score||AC Mod||Missile To Hit||Bonus to Saves|
A dwarf’s got Heft to him if he’s robust, stout, or otherwise endowed with bit of extra meat about the belly. The more heft the harder he is to knock over, the more beer he’ll drink, the harder you have to hit him to bring him down. Heft applies to Hit Die rolls, all healing rolls from rest, saves verses What Ails Ye, applies save bonus as a negative to Gettin’ Outta the Way, and helps a dwarf hold his liquor and resist drunkenness.
|Score||HP Bonus||Bonus to Saves||Hold Liquor|
It’s a nicer way of saying that dwarfs are stubborn. Once a dwarf has set his mind to something, it’s his Tenacity that determines how he sees it through. Tenacity determines how likely (or unlikely) a dwarf is to resist holding a Grudge and how determined he is in his engineering.
|Score||Bonus to Save||Engineering|
Most dwarfs are are as narrow-minded as a boulder heading downhill. Once they’re set on a path, it’s hard for them to imagine getting where they’re going any other way. It’s not Tenacity, this, or even stubbornness, but a simple lack of imagination. But some dwarfs are wily. They see things less literally than other dwarfs. They’re devious, they’re cunning, and even capable of thinking in the moment. Wile determines whether dwarfs can read or write, determines the number of bonus languages, and their ability to resist Curses.
|Score||Reading & Writing||# of Bonus Languages||Bonus to Saves|
|3||Unable to read or write, broken speech||0||-3|
|4-5||Unable to read or write||0||-2|
|6-8||Can write simple words||0||-1|
|9-12||Can read and write native languages||0||None|
|13-15||Can read and write native languages||1||+1|
|16-17||Can read and write native languages||2||+2|
|18||Can read and write native languages||3||+3|
It’s what gives a dwarf his zest for life, for battle, for ale! A dwarf with a lack of lustiness is dour and grim, and so a respectable dwarf. Dwarfs with too much lustiness are troublemakers, at best, or inspiring warriors who lead other, more impressionable dwarfs across the wastes of the world to seek the (allegedly) stolen treasures of their ancestors.
|Score||HP Bonus||Reaction Adjustment||Bonus to What Ails Ye|
A dwarf with Clout knows how to throw his weight about. This might be through influence, honor, or respect gained on the field of battle, or it might mean literally his willingness to clout another dwarf over the head to get him to listen.
|Score||Reaction Adjustment||Max # of Clansmen||Loyalty/Morale|