Deep Dwarves Ethnicity in Ulskandar | World Anvil

Deep Dwarves

Far beneath the surface of Ulskandar, well away from the light of the sun live the Deep Dwarves. Even though all Dwarves have an affinity for subterranean places, and will happily live underground, Deep Dwarves have gone even further, and live in the mysterious and dangerous area of the world, known as the Underdark. The Deep Dwarves were once clans folk of Dwarves, who belonged to three Clans who, at the turn of the settlement era spoke out vehemently against the formation of the Union of Mishtoon, and the bringing together of the Dwarven clans under the leadership of a High King or Queen. Not only did the ancestors of the Deep Dwarves resist the foundation of the Union, they actively opposed it, and attempted to destroy the newly formed nation through force of arms. Unfortunately for them, the Deep Dwarves were defeated, and rather than face a humiliating domination by the other Clans, the three rebel Clans retreated deep below the ground, much farther than any other Dwarves had dared to go. There, in the Underdark the three Clans of the Deep Dwarves live in their exile for more than 500 years, plotting against their cousins nearer the surface, and against one another for supremacy in the deep places of Ulskandar.   Centuries of living almost permanently underground have given Deep Dwarves a blue-greyish appearance to their skin, and their eyes have all but lost their coloured irises as their pupils have expanded to allow them to see much better in the dark than their true Dwarven cousins. Their hair tends to be black, and will turn to a brilliant white with age.

Naming Traditions

Family names

Deep Dwarven names will always begin with the name of which of the three Deep Dwarven Clans they belong to, followed by their given name, and then the name of their paternal family.

Other names

Deep Dwarves are also referred to as Duergar by the other sapient species in Ulskandar.


Culture and cultural heritage

Amongst the customs that the three clans of Deep Dwarves hold the following three being perhaps the most prevalent:   Purification of visitors to and from the surface- As Deep Dwarves live in a place that no sunlight has ever caressed they have become very superstitious of the idea of sunlight, even though they once lived in the light of day themselves. This means that Deep Dwarves who go to the surface world for any reason, or visitors that have been invited into a Deep Dwarf settlement will always be ritually purified of the ‘taint’ of sunlight that they are said to be infected with. This purification ritual involves being drenched from head to toe in water that has been taken from an Underdark river, pool or well, which the Deep Dwarves themselves believe has never seen sunlight. This will then be followed by the blessing and prayers of the community priest, who will petition for the safety of the individual or individuals in question, from the corruption sunlight brings.   Recording of pacts and alliances through tattoos- In order to show the longevity of alliances and pacts that they make, and to show the seriousness with which they treat such agreements, Deep Dwarves will not only keep a traditional written record of any new alliances, or important agreements that they have created, but will also tattoo the main individuals involved in brokering the agreement, with a brief description of what has been agreed, the date it was agreed on and who with. The idea is that alliances and agreements in Deep Dwarf society should be publically recognised and honoured, and having a visual reminder on ones skin of something that has been agreed to, not only reminds one to keep to the pact, but also acts to shame those, publically and personally of breaking them. This custom encompasses important agreements made between Deep Dwarves, and between Deep Dwarves and members of other races.   Always carry their Clan Dagger- Deep Dwarves will always carry a dagger with them, known as their Clan Dagger, that displays on its hilt, often in the form of an elaborately crafted pommel, which of the three Deep Dwarf Clans the individual belongs to. These daggers are highly prized objects, thought to represent the embodiment of the trust and confidence the Clan places in its members, and each Deep Dwarf family will spend as much as they can possibly afford to purchase, or create from scratch a Clan Dagger for their offspring that is as lavish as possible. Clan Daggers are not just viewed as ceremonial items, but are designed first and foremost to be wielded as lethal weapons, something which often comes in handy in the dark tunnels of the Underdark.   If a Deep Dwarf loses their Clan Dagger, it is viewed as something extremely shameful, and Deep Dwarves are taught to prefer death over surrendering their Clan Dagger. It is also frowned upon, though not unacceptable, to hide ones Clan Dagger about ones person, as Deep Dwarves believe that they should all be open with where their allegiances lie. In situations where a Deep Dwarf has brought great shame to his Clan, their Clan Dagger can be confiscated by the Clan authorities, which is tantamount to forcing the individual into exile.

Shared customary codes and values

There are a number of customary values and viewpoints that are shared throughout the three Deep Dwarf Clans, such as:   Hatred of other Dwarves- Ever since the Deep Dwarves were defeated in their attempt to stop the formation of the Union of Mishtoon, Deep Dwarves have universally reviled their Dwarven cousins that live nearer to the surface of Ulskandar. Dwarves that are found to have ventured down into the Underdark will be universally treated with contempt and it is often the case that they will be beaten on sight, imprisoned and then held to ransom by their Clan, if they are lucky. Unlucky Dwarves who come across a party of Deep Dwarves are lynched, without much if any forethought, if for nothing else than that the Deep Dwarves immediately suspect the Dwarf of attempting to spy on them.   Clan above family- Even though each Deep Dwarf Clan is made up of a large collection of families, many of which are linked through marriage and relation to one another, the primary allegiance of all Deep Dwarves is expected to be given to their Clan, and not their immediate or extended family. If a Deep Dwarf ever decided to work against their Clan, for whatever reason, they should expect no sympathy or support from their family, but should expect to be immediately reported or detained by any of their family that they come across, who are in turn expected to deliver their renegade relative up to the Clan authorities for trial and punishment.   Always looking to trade- As many resources are scarce in the Underdark, Deep Dwarves will always be on the look out to broker trades with people that they come across, or who come across them, unless, of course they are other Dwarves. This means that in many ways trade in the Underdark is driven by the Deep Dwarves, who are happy to act as intermediaries between different species or faction, no matter how foul and corrupt, as long as they are able to gain some resources that they would otherwise find hard to access. This means that the best way to approach Deep Dwarves, or a Deep Dwarf community is to pose as a potential trade partner, an approach that will always see you being heard out, and vaguely welcomed by the community, even if trading was not your original intent.

Average technological level

Despite having isolated themselves in the Underdark, Deep Dwarves are by no means luddites, and they have made huge advances in metalworking, and the construction of complex mechanical creations, along with dabbling in the creation of arcane-mechanical creations, which utilise both high quality mundane craftsmanship and magical augmentations. Deep Dwarf steel in particular is highly regarded and demanded for the production of weapons, and securing this resource is one of the primary reasons that kingdoms and nations from the surface of Ulskandar have connections with the Deep Dwarves.

Common Etiquette rules

When meeting a Deep Dwarf in a peaceful context, whether for the first time or not, it is customary to show any weapons that you are carrying to them, and they will do the same to you. What this exchange is communicating is that both sides are being up front with the fact that they are both armed, and that if necessary any exchange could lead to violence. For Deep Dwarves, the fact that they are openly admitting that any situation may descend into violence almost acts as a check on Deep Dwarves, and makes them mindful that they should attempt to act in a restrained, and vaguely respectful fashion to try to avoid bloodshed.

Common Dress code

Both male and female Deep Dwarves were the same style of robe, made from a single piece of fabric, often woven from wool, that stretches from their shoulders to below their knees, in the same manner as a straight dress. These robes will generally be worn with a belt, to gather in the waist, and sturdy, generally knee-high boots, that are designed to take the constant wear and tear of walking on the Underdark’s rocky terrain. Male Deep Dwarves will tend to wear rather basic robes, that are all a block colour and without embellishment. Female Deep Dwarves, however, frequently wear robes that are embroidered with coloured or metallic thread. The fact that both male and female Deep Dwarves wear the same type of clothing is a matter of great hilarity for other Dwarves, and has given rise to the oft retold joke that begins, ‘what does a Deep Dwarf man have underneath his dress….’   Due to their deliberate split with other Dwarves, both male and female Deep Dwarves will wear their hair short and it is very rare to some across male Deep Dwarves that sport full beards, as is the style for Dwarves who dwell closer to and on the surface of Ulskandar. Instead, Deep Dwarf males will either appear clean-shaven, or will wear moustaches, as opposed to sporting a full beard.

Coming of Age Rites

When a Deep Dwarf boy or girl reaches the age of 25, they are considered to be of age, and are ritually presented with the their own Clan Dagger, emblazoned with the symbol of the Clan they belong to. This ceremony represents the faith that the Clan is placing in their son or daughter, to work for the good of the Clan, and to protect it at all costs.

Funerary and Memorial customs

Given that they live in the Underdark, there is little or no soil in which to bury people, and it is very labour intensive to construct tombs for every single deceased member of a family or community. This means that it is only the most prestigious and respected Deep Dwarves who are buried in specially constructed tombs, that are either built as free standing structures, or are carved into the rock surrounding the caverns and caves which have been settled by Deep Dwarves. These tombs are normally built for the internment of many, unrelated individuals, rather than being constructed especially for a single occupant, and the tombs act almost as a historical record for the community, with the notable community figures interred within acting as historical artefacts in their own right.   As for the majority of Deep Dwarves, who are not notable enough to be interred in their local tomb, each community will have a burial ground in a cavern that is linked to the same cave and tunnel system as the settlement, but which will often be separate from it by several miles. At these burial grounds, deceased Deep Dwarves will be brought there, respectfully laid out in a plain, black robe, with small offerings of money placed in their hands, and then they will be left there, either to decay naturally, or to become food for other denizens of the Underdark, which is a much more frequent occurrence. Deep Dwarves that go to leave a relative at their local burial ground will always go in large numbers and heavily armed, so that they can drive off the many creatures that are drawn to the location to feast on the rotting flesh.

Common Taboos

Entertaining or providing hospitality to a Dwarf that is not a member of a Deep Dwarf community is deemed to be incredibly shameful, and Deep Dwarves and their families that do such a thing will generally be shunned by their community. Not only is this supposed to be disrespectful to the community as a whole, it is also thought to bring bad luck to the house of a Deep Dwarf who knowingly and freely allowed a Dwarf into their dwelling. Even on the rare occasion that Dwarfs and Deep Dwarves officially come together as people or nations to undertake diplomatic proceedings, Deep Dwarves will refuse to allow the Dwarven delegation to stay in their community, and will instead insist that they stay outside of the settlement’s limits, often in a completely different cavern or cave.
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Cover image: by Chris Pyrah


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