Dwarf Lode – Saving Throws

When I started developing my idea for an all dwarf RPG, I decided that the entire system should be approached from the viewpoint of a dwarf. I felt this was the only way to really evoke the sense that the game was all about dwarfs. If you’re gonna go demi-human, you gotta go full demi-human.


At the same time, Saving Throws appear to be the most malleable of sacred cows in D&Dish-inspired games, so I went full throttle on re-imagining saving throws for Dwarf Lode just as I did with Ability Scores. Here they are:

Saving Throws

Instead of the usual saving throws regarding poison, death, and dragon breath, the saving throws in Dwarf Lode are designed to better reflect the stuff that life throws at a dwarf. Below is a description of each type of saving throw and examples of situations in which a dwarf might be called upon to roll such a save.

Level Fire! What Ails Ye Grudge Curses Gettin’ Outta the Way
1-3 12 13 7 12 14
4-6 11 10 10 10 12
7-9 10 7 13 8 10
10-12 9 4 16 6 8



It’s hot, it burns, and you can choke on the smoke, it’s fire! A dwarf will be called upon to roll this saving throw whenever he’s avoiding being set on fire, resisting the choking or irritating effects of smoke, or attempting to put out his beard after he got too close for comfort to forge or campfire.

What Ails Ye

Dwarfs are, by tradition, if not genetically, a gloomful and surly people, and as such among their numbers are the greatest complainers in the annals of history. A dwarf might be called upon to save against What Ails Ye whenever he’s at risk of catching a disease, been poisoned, or suffering from madness. To be certain, dwarfs are stouter and meaner by far than other races, but What Ails Ye isn’t only for catching disease or being poisoned, it’s a save against the psychosomatic aspects of being diseased or poisoned such as wailing and carrying on about one’s impending doom. Basically, it’s a save against grumbling. Fortunately, dwarfs are masters at concocting the perfect remedy for What Ails Ye: booze!


Whenever a dwarf is wronged, or at least, more importantly perhaps, perceives himself to have been wronged, he may be called upon to roll a save against Grudge. (Players can request a save vs. Grudge, as well, if they feel their character perceives himself to be wronged. ) Success would mean that he’s the bigger dwarf (ed. Sorry!) and forgives the slight, but if he fails the save, then BY THE SURLY BRAIDED BEARDS OF MYRRG AND DOOG THE RAUCOUS THEY SHALL FEEL YER WRATH! Whenever a dwarf fails a save versus Grudge, he is overcome with a need to seek revenge against those who have (allegedly) slighted him, and for a dwarf, revenge is so deeply rooted, so infused into their bones, so epigenetically entwined with their seminal fluids that if the dwarf does not have immediate means to exact his vengeance, the grudge risks becoming ancestral. Treat having a grudge as being under the effects of a Geas spell or the like but less severe, initially. Eventually, the grudge becomes seething. Unlike other saves, a dwarf finds it more difficult to pass a Save vs. Grudge as he attains levels. This is because a dwarf has to maintain his respectability in the face of perceived wrongs the more famous he becomes; otherwise, other dwarfs will start saying things to his face normally reserved for behind his back.

[Note: Grudges play a larger role in Dwarf Lode for calculating experience points and determining the fate of the dwarfs’ clan, part of the domain-level phase of Dwarf Lode campaigns.]


Anything and everything magical is, to a dwarf, a curse. Of course, there are potentially “magical” things that dwarfs don’t consider magical, such as magic weapons and armor and potions at least of 4.6% alcohol by volume (saves called upon to deal with the effects of alcoholic potions are handled under What Ails Ye, but everything else is a Curse and saves against such sorcery (and non-alcoholic potions) are rolled as such. The other exception to this is when magical fire is involved, at which point a save against Fire! must be rolled.

Gettin’ Outta the Way

A dwarf makes this saving thrown when he, well, needs to get out of the way of anything he doesn’t otherwise believe he should stand his ground against.


Dwarf Lode – Ability Scores

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.

Ability Scores

 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
3 -3 -3 1-in-6 0%
4-5 -2 -2 1-in-6 1%
6-8 -1 -1 2-in-6 2%
9-12 None None 2-in-6 4%
13-15 +1 +1 3-in-6 8%
16-17 +2 +2 3-in-6 16%
18 +3 +3 4-in-6 24%



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
3 +3 -3 -2
4-5 +2 -2 -1
6-8 +1 -1 -1
9-12 None None None
13-15 -1 +1 +1
16-17 -2 +2 +1
18 -3 +3 +2



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
3 -3 -3/+3 -3
4-5 -2 -2/+2 -2
6-8 -1 -1/+1 -1
9-12 None None None
13-15 +1 +1/-1 +1
16-17 +2 +2/-2 +2
18 +3 +3/-2 +3



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
3 +3 -3
4-5 +2 -2
6-8 +1 -1
9-12 None None
13-15 -1 +1
16-17 -2 +2
18 -3 +3


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
3 None -1 -3
4-5 None -1 -2
6-8 None None -1
9-12 None None None
13-15 None None +1
16-17 +1 +1 +2
18 +2 +1 +3



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
3 -2 1 4
4-5 -1 2 5
6-8 -1 3 6
9-12 None 4 7
13-15 +1 5 8
16-17 +1 6 9
18 +2 7 10