CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Blowing Like Sand In The Wind

An article written by my friend Neal Litherland the other day got me thinking. Why do we not usually see varied cultures for non-human races? In many fantasy worlds elves are elves and dwarves are dwarves no matter where you go, even while humans have vast cultural differences. Pathfinder’s Golarion has done some things to address this; artic snowcaster elves, desert dwelling nomadic dwarves, demons-worshipping cannibalistic halflings. But even these cultures within the races aren’t fleshed out very well.

Since Neal already covered why we should have differing cultures for non-human races, I’m going to work on actually producing some playable differing cultures for these races. I’ve already spoken about how I go about making new races so you can see some of my thought process. To make things easier I’m going to work within the confines of Golarion, but these races can probably be ported over to any game you like. Much of the mechanical information will be Pathfinder based, as that is my game of choice, but again you can probably quite easily move it over to any other system that is an appropriate setting for fantasy non-humans.

I’m going to do a few of these, but today I’m going to flesh out one of the preexisting alternate non-human cultures. I will look at expanding the culture of the desert dwarves of the shattered range in Garund. This is not to be confused with the sand dwarves of Osirian,  about which there is far more written.

What do we know about the desert dwarves? They live in tunnels by day and travel the sands at night. They are guarded but not xenophobic and trade with other peoples. They still forge and a handful of “hidden smiths” tend forges in their underground oases. They believe they once had mighty cities which were destroyed in a cataclysm for some unknown sin. Although this isn’t a ton to work with, it certainly gives some ideas on where to go. Oddly, the one thing these desert dwarves don’t have is a name for themselves.


When the dwarves pushed forward in their quest for sky they did so in such numbers that not all the dwarves came up in the same place. When most people think of dwarves, they picture the mountain dwelling smiths and miners of The Five Kings Mountains and Janderhoff. Not all dwarves, however, reached the sky in the same climes. The now nomadic desert dwarves are one of those groups.

The desert dwarves were initially much like their northern counterparts, living and working within the Shattered Range. Their empire spanned from as far south as the Screaming Jungle and through the western border of what is now Geb, all the way up through the mountains of The Mana Wastes and Nex. Some of the desert dwarves claim they too once had a Sky Citadel, but it has fallen into the sands of time. Although some claim the ruins of Spiro Spero are its remains, that is hotly contested even among the dwarves.

Sometime after the quest for sky, but before the fall of Aroden, the Shattered Range dwarves had a sort of cataclysm of their own. Much of their true history was lost during this time so an exact date has never been forthcoming from the desert dwarves, nor has a reason why.  The common consensus among the dwarves themselves is their culture had become so decadent so as to be an affront to the gods. The riches of the Shattered Range spoiled them and they were brought low because of it.

It took many years after the dust settled before they began to rebuild. During those times the dwarves huddled in their caves wondering if any others of their kind had survived. After more than a century of living like cave rats, the desert dwarves finally went looking for more of their people. Long used tunnel roads were caved in so the dwarves began to travel above ground to get from place to place.

Eventually the desert dwarves settled into their nomadic lifestyle; refusing to rebuild their empire for fear they would be lured back into their old and impure ways. Although they’ve given up the greed some dwarves are known for, they have not given up their life of toil and they still work old forges in the oases in which they stop to rest their days.

Mechanical Note: Desert Dwarves replace the Greed racial trait with the Craftsman racial trait.


Desert Dwarves retain the same basic stature as their northern dwarven cousins. However their surface travelling ways have seen them become more resistant to the scorching climates of their homeland and less acclimated to living underground. After years of dwelling on the surface and becoming accustomed to the sun and moonlight, the Desert Dwarves have lost the ability to see in complete darkness.

Mechanical Note: Desert Dwarves replace the Darkvision racial trait with the Surface Survivalist racial trait


Family is key to the desert dwarves. Each nomadic caravan is usually made up of 30 to 50 family units. Due to dwarves lower birthrates, these family units are usually relatively small. However because each member of the caravan must rely on every other member, the desert dwarves usually consider all members of the caravan “family.” This perception of one larger family is further supported by each caravan’s dedication to the dwarven goddess Folgrit.


Being nomadic and reticent to fall into the trap of severe greed, the desert dwarves do not place as much faith in material goods. Each member of the caravan carries his worldly goods and these belongings are usually shared freely among the rest of the caravan as the need arises. Some dwarves do carry minor personal trinkets and keepsakes, not out of want for anything material, rather as mementos of special events.

The guidance of Folgrit leads the desert dwarves to being extremely protective of their children. The clergy of Folgrit are some of the highest ranking members of the caravan's council. Although to some outsiders this may seem like the desert dwarves have a matriarchy, they are actually ruled by a council of elders both male and female.

Although to most the caravan is life, some few desert dwarves give up their nomadic ways. These dwarves settle in the underground tunnels which still have working forges. They keep these forges and surrounding areas in clean and working order. The nomadic dwarves think of these as “oases” where they can practice the metallurgic arts they still hold dear. The smiths who revere Torag still make sure that the areas they maintain have ample food and water supplies so that dwarves traveling through may resupply.

Alignment and Faith

Like most dwarves, the desert dwarves tend to be driven by honor and tradition, although those traditions may be unrecognizable to the dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains or any other northern kin. Because they ply the sands and trade frequently they are seen as less standoffish than traditional dwarves, but it still takes much for one to win their full trust. Most desert dwarves are Lawful Good.

Although Torag is still paid homage as the traditional creator of the dwarven people, the desert dwarves keep his wife Folgrit as their patron. After the cataclysm that destroyed their former society the desert dwarves turned to Folgrit to keep their families safe and together. Fearing they would never be a society again the strong community ties in each nomadic group are incredibly important to the desert dwarves.


The desert dwarves keep much of their travels to the sands below the country of Geb. Although Geb itself retains a mostly neutral stance to all foreign relations, the desert dwarves find the undead that roam the land freely revolting. The fact that Geb lays claim to the bodies of any who die on their soil is something the dwarves have no stomach for.

The dwarves will also travel the west side of the Shattered Range edging the Screaming Jungle. Some more adventurous groups will make a yearly trip into the jungle itself to trade with the egalitarian city of Osibu. The dwarves have a good reputation as fair traders here, but none see fit to make a permanent home.

Most of the folk the dwarves trade with on the sands are human of Garundi and Osiriani heritage. Their old enemies the orcs and goblins remain next to non-existent in the lands the desert dwarves inhabit. The desert giants tend to be reclusive and less aggressive than the giants their northern kin must deal with, so the desert dwarves have few if any direct enemies.

Mechanical Note: Desert Dwarves replace the defensive training, hatred, and stonecunning racial traits with the Stoic Negotiator racial trait


Adventurers aren’t as rare among the desert dwarves as they are in other dwarven cultures. Especially with a culture that has been completely lost to them, many a young dwarf seeks to find the truth of their past. Desert dwarves tend toward becoming rangers and rogues. There are also no small amount of clerics to the dwarven gods especially Folgrit.

And there you have it. The desert dwarves of the Shattered Range. A culturally different variation on dwarves, mechanically using nothing more than the alternate racial traits. If you’re looking to play something different than the standard Five Kings Mountain or Janderhoff dwarf, perhaps your GM will allow you to use this interpretation of the desert dwarves. Or maybe it will inspire them to make their own variation.

What kind of cultures for other races would you like to see? Would you use these desert dwarves in your Golarion campaign? Would you adapt them to your homebrew world? This is just a short write up but what other information would you like to see about the desert dwarves?

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  1. Great details! I'm even thinking I'll add a similar desert area just to add them to my homebrew!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. You're welcome. And thank you. Let us know just what you did with them at some point.