Playing Dwarves

I’m looking for advice on playing dwarves, as the title suggests. 3/4 of my current group are dwarves and I’m wondering what kind of themes and situations a dwarf-heavy campaign might include. What are some of the ways in which Greed can become a key element in dwarven stories, and how can I as the GM bring to light the qualities that make dwarves dwarves and not just short men? How have you handled dwarves in your games, and if you’ve ever run a dwarven campaign, what made it dwarven?



no, but really. use the situational tests for advancing greed questions in the greed section of the dwarven lifepaths. those give plenty of fodder for pushing dwarven characters. plus,


dwarves have these beliefs built-in as oaths. bring them up every session. make it part of the culture. have people swearing oaths in front of longbeards in front of characters. the players will latch on to the culture and start pushing oaths on other NPCs and between oaths and greed, you have great story fodder

Some the best play you’ll get out of this game is playing a group of Dwarves (and their Elf/Man friend) on a quest to recover valuable, powerful and beautiful artifacts.

I ran an all-dwarf campaign and got MUCH use out of Greed. Anytime that met a new, important NPC, there’d be some tempting item that triggered their Greed.

One example was where humans built a church right on top of an ancient Dwarf milestone. But only the Faithful were allowed in. And the head priest had a Forge Mask that he used in rituals with his God.

Also, I made the PCs wear beards. And we all sung a Dwarfy (possibly the most Dwarfy) ever song with the beginning of each session.

I hate dwarves, and I don’t know what to do when players want to be dwarfs. I feel they don’t want to play the same game as me. However, the ​​Luke’s idea (to play a group of Dwarves on a quest to recover powerful artifacts) makes it almost desirable to play dwarves. Almost.

Perhaps someone can throw even more ideas. :slight_smile:

Needs more pics (and video).

Also, for extra credit, it’s good to swing a tankard, while you’re singing. Helps keep time.

Some had forgotten their beards for this shot, but you get the gist.

And I customized the lyrics for this song, which we sang at the start of each session, as the lyrics were clues to the next location in the quest for the lost kingdom.


Another theme that is quite powerful with dwarves is decline; a sense of being past their prime, of being a society stuck in old and traditional ways and (often) of “losing” the world to the industrious and ever-multiplying humans. I like gloom, and this is often gloom of the best flavor.

This dish is best served along with something that really shakes the dwarven world and makes it obvious that it is falling apart; the fall of an entire Hold, the death of the last female dwarf, whatever suits your fancy. Just make it real juicy, and don’t be afraid to keep hammering home the point.

Some players will just revel in this, and will seek poetic and tragic ends to their characters just to further the saga. Some really dislike it; you will have to be open and frank with them and present this as an option, and for players like that I find that a dangling hook to be the saviors of Dwarfdom somehow can work really well. Perhaps they can find the old and long-lost Halls of Thrum where the First Throne stands, and end the dwarven curse by crowning a new High King?

If yer looking for some setting color with dwarves warring on a dragon, the7 Kings Mountains was something I wrote up for an old D&D game and ended up using in a BW game later. I expanded on it and wrote it up for Fight On! magazine.


The last Master Forger has passed two generations ago. No one has managed to redevelop his techniques, and slowly, surely, the Dwarven goods have deteriorated. Clans and families have begun strife over the remaining prized tools and weapons.

…but you’ve recently made contact with another Hold. One FULL of master craftsmen. If only a deal could be made, a way to re-learn the proper Dwarven crafts…

Of course, every Clan wants to be the ones to learn. Of course, every Clan wants to marry or forge alliances with the other Hold for their wealth. Of course everyone is going to turn on each other in their Greed…

(The obvious way to play this is PC vs. PC, but it can be fun if the players are all from the same Clan or allied Clans driving for their own interests, or, more tragically, actually trying to help out the entire Hold…)


I guess it all goes down to your idea, or more appropriately, the group’s idea of dwarves. What ideas they evoke in your group? Are they tinkerers and engineers who only crave for new techniques and minerals to craft? Are they proud warriors, bound to their ancestral traditions in search of relics from their past glory? Drunken brutes who only ambition gold, ale, and orc-hunting? All of the above?

I think that it’s the best starting point for your campaign. Build a common dwarven concept.

Anyway, here its an idea i had while reading this thread:How about a guild intrigue? From the baker to the runesmith dwarves own ancestral, secret techniques to their family trade. For example, the brewer’s family has a secret recipe that dates from the first clan-father. What happens when an architect from the Mason’s Guild is found dead in the streets? What happens when an ancestral rivalry between the two town brewers scales to full violence? What if the orcs invade from the north and the last heir of a blacksmith family must abandon his trade, maybe to never come back? What if a lost heir from a fallen hold appears and want to recover the lost secrets of his clan?

Hope it helps.

Stay cool :cool:

An all-dwarven campaign might be the best (and only) excuse to do a full-on dungeon crawl in Burning Wheel. ^^

Middle-Earth, year 2989 of the Third Age (29 years before Frodo sets out on his famous journey). Balin and Co. set out to attempt their bold recolonization of Moria. Cue the balrog. Dun dun dun duuuuuun.

ICE did a great splat book for the Mines of Moria back in the day. Some great setting fodder.

I love BW dwarves. To really nail dwarves, you have to focus on the things that drive advancement of Greed.

One of my favorite things about Greed is how effectively it shapes BW play. It offers tremendous power when dwarves deal with something they lust after, but players of dwarves can never take Greed for granted. When dwarven characters start approaching a Greed of 10, they tend to become relentlessly virtuous and honorable because they cannot afford to have Greed motivate them in any way; giving in to Greed means death.

This is the root of dwarven oaths. Oaths are the glue that binds dwarven society together and staves off the anarchy that would result if dwarves were free to pursue their Greed without restraint. They wrap themselves up in rigid rules to keep themselves from giving in. This explains why oathbreakers are reviled and dwarves who refuse oaths are shunned as cowards.

This 100%. We’ve definitely found that out in our current BW game. It’s an all Dwarf game and we’re all members of an exiled clan.

We just finished our second major story arc (11 or 12 sessions, I think). And a few sessions ago I realized we just weren’t hitting Greed advancement a lot, so I pointed that out to the group. Then, in the last session our GM hit our Greed a bit harder, and… WOW what a difference it made. I mean, we were having pretty good sessions as it was, but that really made the session awesome.

Thanks to a failed Steel check for Greed my dwarf literally snatched something right out of the hands of his betrothed. And he had an oath about making a proper husband for her.

I think our next step is to focus on oaths a bit more. Our lost Prince will be in the story when we play again so that should really put a lot of Greed and Oaths to the test.