In the A to Z Challenge I will be describing parts of my fictional world I am starting to use for Roleplaying games. Most of this information is not known by my players, not to hide it from them, but because I think tons about a location that I won’t force them to sit through during gaming sessions.
Inhabiting the small nation to the east of the continent of the Violet Bellflower, the dwarves of Ziquan are not like most classical fantasy dwarves. First of all they do not live deep in the earth. This is not by their own design, but due to a scourge of abberrations in the deep places that forced them to the surface. Capable herders, smiths and stonewrights, the Dwarves are a highly communal society that focus on family and commnity over all else except for the value of hard work. Families with the most success and hard work appoint the leaders of the community, making the ruling structure that of a plutarchy.
Architecture: They live in circular multi-family complexes that have as many underground levels as levels above ground. Many outsiders remark on the near complete uniformity in these structures. What they usually don’t realize is the reason is due to the existance of three copies of a magical artifact that allow the outer shell of the rcircular buildings to be dug and constructed to the height of up to four stories tall and deep in just four days. Each of the three artifacts makes buildings of slightly different sizes, allowing for some minor variability. Some extensions of interior walls and outer sheds in then made by simple hard work.
Food, Goods, Imports and Exports: Most often the first underground layer is used as the stables for their herds of the hardy goats that provide the milk for pungent cheeses, and the meat for spicy sausages popular in the dwarven diet. The goats also have a hardy pelt used for the creation of supple leather and suade products that are exported from the reagion.
Tough tubers provide another staple of the dwarven diet. As do bamboo shoots from the bamboo forests common in the region. Cut bamboo of the region is a common export as they have some of the taller and larger diameter bamboo’s in the continent.
As for imports, the dwarves are mostly self reliant but do find their mines in the region are well depleted of metals in the safe upper regions of underground. So they often import a wide variety of metals.
Culture, Clothing, and Holidays: The common clothing used by the dwarves is a fine wool from their goats, often fitted and tied without buttons. They commonly use the motif of bats woven in their clothing as a symbol of their having to flee from their underground kingdoms to the realm above and to remind themselves that they will one day return to their undergound habitations. Rough cotton is used in undergarments and some colored fine cotten is used by some of the richer families but not entirely common.
The dwarves of Ziquan have a tradition of avoiding certain actions on certian days. Their pattern of avoidances is confusing to outsiders and those who do bussiness with the dwarves will often plan several extra days for any transaction. This is just in case contract signing is to be avoided on the third monday after the fifth full moon on an odd numbered year and it takes some extra time to complete the intended business. In game terms, something will come up when the players arrive, preferably inconvienent humerous and non-sensical.
The biggest holiday is the harvest festival in spring of the new bamboo shoots. The week long celebration is a mix of hard work havesting during the day and preparing the shoots in vats for preservation. Cooking the bamboo shoots and adding them to large salads of spring radish greens and spicy relish. At the end of the week a day is held where everyone does things backwards. Where lights are strung up to make night look like day and dinner is had in the morning. Where clothing is worn backwards and drinking overly much instead of in moderation is encouraged.
The next biggest festival is had in the fall when planting the biennieal tubers that are eaten throughout the year. At the end there is week long period of travelling and gatherings, especially popular among children and youth who get a chance to meet and play in competions. The great reading of the dwarven history during the week end feast ends the celebration.
My cultures often borrow from real world cultures a bit differently from most fantasy.
In my world the Dwarves use a complex system of runes like Chinese Characters. Their language is known as Ho-num. The language system is useful as paper is expensive and they will often use strips of bamboo.
The concept of round clan houses is based on Hakka chinese houses and good references are here and here. The image of the architecture above is taken from Jens Aaberg-Jørgensen and Originally published in ARKITEKTEN no 28, November 2000, pp 2-9. Published online at www.chinadwelling.dk.