Friday, March 24, 2017

The Pillars of Durn: The Dwarven Religion

We have talked about the gods of the Naryan Pantheon and we have talked about the Imperian religion of the Nameless God, but we haven't really talked about another subject much: racial religions. In Dungeons and Dragons, and in Narya, most races believe in ancestral god, a precursor of their race, who has guided them throughout history. In the case of the elves, Iaur and his family serve that role. And, in the case of the dwarves, their ancestral deities are Urd the Forge Father and his son Durn.

In the dwarven creation story, after the clay peoples were washed away by the Mother's tears and the primordials were overthrown by the titans, her sons awoke to fulfill their own destinies. They believe that her sons had assisted in the creation of Narya and the difficulties of creation caused them to fall into a deep slumber that lasted for eons. The dwarves believe her sons were Iaur, who would create the elves, Gnoldo, who would create the gnomes, and so on. Some more recent iterations of the dwarven tellings of this myth include other gods like the Nameless Gods. The dwarves believe that most important among her sons was Urd the Forge Father.

Urd was responsible for building many of the geological wonders of the world from the mountains to the canyons of the world. It is said that Urd planted the dwarves in the roots of these mountains until they were ready to awaken and be born unto the world. The first dwarves were giants forged directly from the rock that lived during the Primordial Age. It is said that they cut pathways through the earth that would become the foundations for the Underdark.

With each new generation of dwarf, their bodies softened and grew smaller. By the time they broke through the surface of the world and entered the twilight of the Titanic Age, the dwarves far more resembled dwarves as we imagine them today.

It said that Urd planted the dwarves in the roots of Narya's mountains until they were ready to awaken. The period of dwarven history covering the mythic times of the Titanic Ages and the Wyrd Wars were considered the Golden Age of Dwarfkind by many; the dwarves held unmatched wealth and power, building incredible wonders of architecture and engineering, and dwarves conquered the greatest mountains of Narya. They overcame many great enemies such as cults of Lolgar the Hungry and invasions from Axeron the Pain Lord. It wad during this time that the golden city of Bryngalla was built and it was a wonder to behold.

But, as with all things, this age would come to pass.

The wealth of the Sublanaryan dwarves, combined with assistance from their gnomish and elven allies, attracted invaders from Mimia. These invaders were giants who came on great barges from the north. They sacked the city of Bryngalla, demolishing all resistance in their path and left dwarven history in ruins. The surviving dwarves, along with their elven and gnomish allies, were enslaved by the giants and held in bondage for generations. Dwarves were forced to work themselves to death in the mines, forges, and building projects of their cruel giant overlords. The giants even twisted the dwarves and created the race known as the duergar. The spirit of the dwarven people was broken and it would take a great leader to reforge their peoples.

The dwarven people have two great heroes that they recognize for their liberation: the Blacksmith's Daughter has already been discussed here but today we're talking about Durn.

Durn was an orphaned dwarf raised by the smithing slaves, forced to make armor and weapons for the dwarves, and it was there that his story would have began and ended. He had always been filled with a great hatred for the giant masters but, like other dwarves, had been beaten into submission. Obedience or death. Those were the options under giant enslavement.

But something happened one night as his ears rang from a long day of the striking of hammer on anvil. It was as if he could hear a voice whispering to him, singing a song old and new, and telling him something important that he must do. It was the voice of Urd. The religion of his people had been beaten out of the dwarves, their holy writing smashed into rubble, and he had never heard the name Urd but he knew that this voice was that of the holy father of all dwarves. The voice told him to leave his cot and to help an elven girl.

When Durn left his cot, he soon discovered an elven girl, the daughter of a blacksmith, had been caught trying to escape and that the giant who had caught her was discussing how best to punish her-- whether to cut off a leg or to throw her to the flaming hounds. For the first time in Durn's life, the fire in his belly that had been boiling since the first beating he had ever experience erupted from within him and in his righteous fury he found the courage and strength to overcome any fear put in him.

With a single swing, Durn struck down the giant with his blacksmith's hammer and told the elven girl to flee as more giants arrived. As the blacksmith's daughter escaped, he killed several of the giants before they overwhelmed him and subdued him. But, rather than take his life for killing his giant masters, they instead put him in the fighting pits. It was there that the giants would forge their own downfall.

They didn't expect the dwarf to last long but he quickly became a champion of the arena. No matter what they threw at the dwarf, miraculously, he somehow managed to survive and come out on top the victor. And with each victory, his resolve grew. He wasn't fighting to survive. He was fighting for the dwarven people. He knew his destiny.

He was no ordinary dwarf. Durn was both the son and vessel of Urd. His purpose was to liberate the dwarven people and forge for them a new future.

And so, when rumors came that the blacksmith's daughter was returning with an army of bjergfolk, Durn led a rebellion from within the golden city. The giants were unable to contend with invading force from without and a disruptive force from within. The combined forces of Durn and the blacksmith's daughter, Tytanya herself, were victorious in overthrowing the giants and casting them out of Bryngalla and the other dwarven cities.

Durn could have become the king of Bryngalla. He had no claim but the loyalty and admiration of his followers made him a candidate. And yet, he declined the offer and instead went on a journey to help rebuild not just one but all of the dwarven cities. His wisdom was invaluable and he became a respected figure among the kings and queens of dwarfkind.

But his greatest achievement was to reform the dwarven faith.

Durn proved himself the scion of Urd, performing miracles and taking a position as the head of a new dwarven religion forged from the pieces of dwarf history, and as part of establishing a new philosophy for dwarves to follow, he laid out what he called The Four Arches or, as they're more commonly called, The Pillars of Durn.

 Most good-aligned religions are focused on teaching basic morals and preparing for the afterlife: that is to say that they are focused on people performing good deeds in exchange for rewards in the afterlife. It is important to understand that while dwarves believe in the afterlife, they're not terribly concerned with it. A dwarf's chief concerns are on the material plane.

In Durn's words, "a good dwarf should not be concerned about whether or not he will supp in the Hall of Urd, but should instead be concerned as to whether his children and his children's children will speak his name before the supp in their own halls." It doesn't matter what happens to a dwarf after they leave the world. Instead, it matters what world they leave behind. The greatest reward for a dwarf isn't found in the afterlife, it is found in the knowledge that he has left behind a legacy.

Furthermore, dwarves consider basic morality to be self-evident and not even worthy of discussion in their holy texts. Dwarves assume that all peoples should be able to teach their children that theft and murder are bad.

And so, with that in mind, the dwarf religion focus on how best a dwarf can forge their legacy. In Durn's experience, all dwarves must find a balance between four conflicting pairs of ideals in order to preserve the past, prosper in the present and prepare for the future. The conflicting pairs reflect dwarf values and perspective.

I & II. Family VS. Community

The first pillars of Durn are family and community.

A dwarf's family should be considered the most important thing in the world and yet, a dwarf is also beholden to the community as it represents a union between a number of families and not just a single dwarf's own kin. A dwarf must strive to provide and protect his family while also serving and participating in his community. Durn warns dwarves to put their family first but to always consider the community both the family's foundation and their family to part of the community's foundation. It is important to find a balance between these two forces.

For example, it is wise to assist your family in making a living by giving them valuable positions in your business but this should not be at the expense of the community. Blind nepotism leads to corruption and incompetence. It is important to ensure that you do not put a son prone to greed in charge of the city bank or a lazy son in the position of a city guard. These sorts of failures weaken the community and a weakened community cannot protect or provide a good environment for future generations of your family.

III & IV. Tradition VS. Progress
The next pillars are tradition and progress.

Tradition is important to dwarf society: it is important to learn from the past and respect the ways of your predecessors. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to fall to the same follies of their ancestors and, prematurely, become history. Traditions have been passed down for the benefits of all. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. Still, with that in mind, it is also important to examine your traditions carefully and to question their purpose.

It is important to give new ideas a chance as they may provide new and/or improved solutions to problems facing your community. Furthermore, progress opens up new avenues for prosperity and can provide a foundation for the future. Nothing is more foolish than obstructing the future for the sake of traditions that hold no value.

For instance, superstitions have been a nuisance to our peoples. While your ancestors may have had a reason to forbid some activity or behavior, it is possible that the reason is no longer valid. Your people could starve because you refuse to eat some meat or vegetable because your ancestors forbid its consumption. In the past, that food may have been forbidden due to it being tainted by some disease but that disease may have long died out.

Do not allow the past to weight down on the future like a ball and chain but do not allow the past to be forgotten. Value the experience of your elders and ancestors.

V & VI. Prosperity VS. Work
This is perhaps the hardest struggle of dwarfkind.

All dwarves should seek prosperity. The material world exists so that we can experience it. A dwarf should seek to create wealth and prosperity for himself and his descendants. The pleasures of the material world and financial security are the rewards that all dwarves should seek to reap. Every dwarf is entitled to the sweat of his own pits. And that is the key:

Every dwarf deserves to profit from their own labor. They should not fall to greed and excess. There is no shame in wealth but there is terrible shame in becoming wealthy at the expense of your fellow dwarves.

Furthermore, wealth for the sake of wealth is a terrible crime. Instead of building material wealth, instead seek to invest that wealth into building materials to build your legacy. Those who find wealth should seek to reinvest the wealth into their community. A healthy community will create wealth for generations.

Remember King Ragar Widebelt and the flooding of the Widebelt Goldmine. King Ragar and his kin could have escape the flooding mine but instead tried to fill their boats with gold. Their boats sank and they were killed by their own avarice.

Greed is the greatest evil of dwarfkind. Know it and oppose it.

VII & VIII. Honor VS. Common Sense

The last pillars concern passion and logic.

Good dwarves are honorable. They keep their oaths, they obey their lords, and they do not show cowardice or cruelty. These are all good values and yet, more often than not, the nobility of a good dwarf has been their downfall. It important to maintain your reputation and standing among dwarfkind but do not foolishly throw your life or, worse yet, the valued lives of others to the wayside for the sake of your honor.

 It is often wisest to abandon your pride for the sake of survival. Sometimes, you must be willing to throw down your life for a cause but not all battles are worth fighting. Do not throw away your life for nothing. Live to fight another day.

Too many warriors, including Durn himself, let their anger and pride get the better of them. Furthemore, the tragedy of dwarfkind is vanity and pride. Too often do dwarves dig where they should not, build what they should not, and challenge those they should not for the sake of their own stubborn pride. Do not be the reason behind the next fall of dwarven society.

Despite these lessons, dwarves still struggle with these conflicts. Arguably, it was dwarf pride that led to the second and final downfall of Bryngalla when the beastmen's horde sacked their cities and inarguably it was dwarf greed that led to them betraying the elves in the Saesun civil wars and, ultimately, led to the elves allowing the dragons to cast them out of the home that the elves had so generously provided them.

As dwarfkind struggles to rebuild, will they learn from their mistakes?


The Father and the Son of Dwarfkind, The True Kings, The Hammer and Anvil, The Mine Master, The Underkings


Power Level
Greater Deity

Lawful Good

A hammer and anvil

Urd Hall

The forge, engineering, mining, family, community

Forge, Protection, War, Life


Dwarves, smiths, miners, engineers, warriors

Favored Weapon


The Ceaseless Burning, The Secret Flame, The Sphere of Chaos


Power Level
Lesser Deity

Chaotic Evil

A spherical face spewing flame


Volcanoes, fire, sacrifice, destruction,



Evil dwarves and azer, fire newts,

Favored Weapon


Master of the Chain, The Gear Master, The Grand Torturer and Executioner, The Firebrand,

Dwarf and Naryan

Power Level
Greater Deity

Lawful Evil

Flaming gears and chains

Nine Hells

Torture, execution, machines, war, domination

War, Light, Death


Evil dwarves and azir, demons, tyrants, executioners, torturers,

Favored Weapon

I hope you guys enjoyed this week's article and if you have any feedback or questions, hit me up!

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