Gristlegrim’s Dwarves   6 comments

Let me tell you a history.

For more than two years now I’ve been reviewing movies and comics and conventions.  I told you about my cancer, and my dancing, and lord knows what all.  But I haven’t really spent much time on the most important thing of all to  me–my writing. So, one of the things that amuses and entertains me a great deal is simply making things up–whether it’s world creation, or story creation, or game creation, the process of letting my imagination go and making something new is the most satisfying thing that I can do. And I’d like to share some of it with you.

For years people have asked me questions about the world of Tunnels and Trolls.  The T & T rules can be used in any setting, but of course I made up my own fantasy world to go with it.  My world is, inevitably, a hodge podge of other fantasy worlds that came before it, not all that original, but at least combined in a way that is unique to me.  So, if Trollworld looks a bit like Middle Earth and the Hyborean Kingdoms and Nehwon and Melnibone’ and and several other places, that is because those are all very important and inspiring places for me.  And I’d like to think that I have added some lore that was never before known in any of those places so that Trollworld has its own life.  Let me share one such piece of lore with you readers, and perhaps in the future, I will share more.

Peoples of Trollworld



STR X2 IQ X 1 LK X 4/5 CON X2 DEX X 1 CHR X 3/4 POW X 1 SPD X 1.  (To create a character in Tunnels and Trolls, roll 3D6.  To specify the Kindred (we say Kindred not Race–T & T is not Racist), you multiply the numbers rolled by certain multipliers–humans are all ones.  You can see the Dwarf multipliers above.)  And by the way, it isn’t Dungeons and Dragons.  Triples add and roll again.  Attributes can easily go far above 18.  They also start with Gold Pieces X 2. (I went over all the arguments about Dwarves being unlucky and uncharismatic, and I think they may have some slight deficiencies in these areas, but nothing overwhelming.–Ken)

The Dwarves of Trollworld are the people of Gristlegrim. (Actually there are several different races of Dwarves on Trollworld, and only one kind are the people of Gristlegrim, but I didn’t know that when I first wrote this essay.–Ken in 2011) They are a sturdy race–larger than Hobbs and Goblins, smaller than Men and Elves. They are generally not considered to be beautiful–being too broad and somewhat asymmetrical–but their faces have great character and integrity, and their bodies and minds are strong.

Gristlegrim made them–literally carved them out of stone, then used a more powerful version of the Pygmalion spell to bring them to life. He did it because he noticed that all the other great wizards of Trollworld had subject races to use in their wars against each other.

People freshly carved out of stone have but little in the way of mind or memory. After verifying that he could indeed bring stony statues to life, but then finding that they simply sat around and watched him unless he magically seized their minds and used them as living puppets, the Dwarf God saw that it takes more than bodies to make a people. He set his first few dozen Dwarves to simple tasks, carving a tunnel into a mountain, and went off by himself to study the situation. From time to time he sent them food. Because they were living creatures they needed living food, but he wasn’t too interested in feeding them, so he only sent a kind of moss and lichen stew–rich in vitamins and minerals. To this day, Dwarves still love to chomp on scummy mossy things that other races wouldn’t even consider as food. It explains why moss is so often seen in their beards–they are messy eaters.

Scrying the multiverse, Gristlegrim found another race of Dwarves somewhat like his own on the world of Midgard (sometimes known as Earth). These ancient creatures (the maggots of Ymir) were accomplished stoneworkers, mages, fighters, and traders. Gristlegrim admired their industry and decided to mold his new minions in their likeness, but how to do so? He came up with a simple plan–he abducted a few dozen Dwarves from Midgard, brought them to Trollworld, and told them he wouldn’t send them back until they had taught his Dwarves all they needed to know to survive on their own. Imagine being abducted from your own world by some sort of mad deity, and told to perform a hopeless task before you would be allowed to return. Those kidnapped Dwarves didn’t like the idea much, but when one of them tried to physically attack Gristlegrim, he was exploded like a blood sausage, and when a mage tried a magical attack, Gristlegrim turned his head inside out while leaving him still alive. Sickened and terrified, the remaining captives agreed to teach Gristlegrim’s Dwarves how to live. Laughing hugely, Gris then reversed his spells, restoring both Dwarves to life and health, and set them free.

Getting a couple of stone-masons from Midgard to help him, Gristlegrim went back to carving Dwarven statues. But, they were all male–as Gristlegrim was male, and hadn’t associated with females for millenia. However, one of the Midgardian masons liked women, and he began carving some female, beardless, and quite voluptuous statues, and thus the khzd race came to include both sexes. To aid in bringing multitudes of statues to life at once, each new Dwarf was carved with a G rune hidden somewhere on its body. A favorite spot was the bottom of the chin, another was the soles of the feet. All of Gristlegrim’s  Dwarves have a G rune that looks like a tattoo somewhere on their person–without it they could not live.

The Dwarves from Midgard found that they did not age and die on Trollworld as swiftly as they had on Midgard. It took centuries, but they trained and educated Gristlegrim’s Dwarves into fair replicas of themselves. They learned stone-carving and metal-smithing, and architecture, and combat, and wizardry. Not many of the carven Dwarves seemed to have any natural talent for magic, but a few, perhaps one percent, those whose raw ore had contained some silver, became powerful magicians. Something about the silver seemed to allow the natural magical power of the planet to infuse them to a greater degree than their fellows.

It took about 2000 years, but finally Gristlegrim had what he wanted; namely, a race of tens of thousands of strong, sturdy, and fearless fighters with some magical talent. They thrived in great subterranean fortresses, meeting and beating Uruks and Trolls on their own ground. They were manlike enough to pass among humans without arousing much alarm or suspicion. He scattered them around the world on all continents, and they have been ubiquitous ever since. And he returned his teaching cadre to Midgard, where time seemed to pass slower than it did on Trollworld. 2000 years in the other world was a mere 400 years on Earth. They came back with riches and magical power beyond belief, and many of them became legendary Dwarven kings and rulers.

A well-equipped Dwarf warrior as visualized by Greywulf.

There are some definite oddities about the Dwarves of Trollworld. Standing from one-half to two-thirds average human stature, they have no children among them. That is because new Dwarves are still made by carving a figure from stone, complete with a G rune which is the last thing to be added, and then magically brought to life. It takes from twenty to fifty years to infuse the blank Dwarf with knowledge and personality, and during that “growing period”, it is kept as a laborer in the deepest Dwarven caverns.

Dwarves generally speak three languages: the Root Tongue which is Gristlegrim’s native language brought from a vanished world. It is notable because it has no vowels in it at all. The original Dwarven people were called “khzd”, now pronounced as Kah-zahd in Dwarvish which is the root tongue with vowels added. All Dwarves also learn the Common Tongue of Men, as it is the most widely spoken language on the planet.

Because of their origin as statues, Dwarves rarely change size or weight. Dwarves can eat as much as they want and never get fat; conversely, if they were carved fat to begin with, they can starve themselves and never get thin. Dwarves have neither fingernails nor toenails, but both fingers and toes are broad, spatulate, and strong. They have only one kind of tooth, squarish molars good for grinding away the roughest plants. A Dwarvish smile is a frigtening thing. If a Dwarf was carved hairy, then it is exceedingly hairy when it comes to life. If carved bald, then it never grows hair at all.

Because they all started as stone, and retain a certain implicit rockiness (although they are not the true living stone of Trolls), Dwarves have exceptional strength and constitutions. Gristlegrim wanted them to be strong and hard to kill in order to fight the Uruks and Trolls who share their environment.  Their essentially rocky nature makes them immune to certain spells and magics.  Seeing a Medusa does not turn a Dwarf to stone.  Medusas are also powerless against Rock Trolls.

Dwarven senses are generally keen. They can see well in conditions with very little light; their hearing is acute; and it is said that they can smell gold or other metals. This is actually only true for those Dwarves that were trained as miners.  They are quite sensitive to vibrations, especially vibrations in rock. They do not seem to feel pain and pleasure in the same way that humans do, experiencing both as just varieties of pressure which rarely bothers them. Because of this immunity to pain, they can fight on with terrible wounds that would leave other life-forms gasping in agony. Dwarves seldom mention how things taste, except to comment on various mineral flavors. They love alcoholic beverages, but it takes a great deal to intoxicate them.

The great majority of Dwarves never leave their cavern strongholds. Only a relative few go forth to live and adventure in the outer world, and this they do as a form of service to their people. Dwarves need traders to bring foods and cloth and other luxuries to their underground cities. Those who venture above ground generally fall into three classes–warriors, traders, and craftsmen.  They can also be wizards, thieves, artists, politicians, farmers.  But, warriors, traders, and craftsmen such as blacksmiths are the most common.

Whatever can be made from rock or metal, the subsurface Dwarves can make for themselves, but organic goods are harder for them to obtain. They also need knowledge. They are excellent craftsmen and tireless workers and searchers, but there are few Dwarven inventors or innovators. Luckily, for the reputation of the Dwarves as master technologists, they have strong alliances with the Gnomes, and Gnomes are full of wacky ideas. Sometimes the Dwarves can actually make some Gnomish flight of fancy work, and when that happens there is a technological advance.

Although the Dwarves who venture to the surface appear to be a bluff, good-hearted, friendly people, their rulers and masters in the caverns are secretive, suspicious, and greedy. They never allow outsiders to penetrate into the true Dwarven fortresses–going so far as to construct whole mock-cities on upper levels where surface dwellers can be suitably entertained and impressed. A showpiece city can be extensive and beautiful, but it always seems to be sparsely populated, leading outsiders to believe that Dwarves are not a numerous race. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Half a mile deeper in the Earth lies the true Dwarf metropolis with untold thousands of inhabitants performing their countless jobs: mining, smelting, building, tunneling, creating weapons, tending the vast fungi farms that provide their basic food. New Dwarves are carved at the very deepest levels–miles below the surface, and they wait in uncounted millions to be released into life. Meanwhile, the Dwarven population increases slowly but steadily, and the outside world never knows.

Dwarves have only one truly natural enemy–the great stone Trolls of Trollworld. Only those Trolls can penetrate into the deepest Dwarven cities, and Dwarves, being of rocky origin to begin with, are considered a great delicacy by the Trolls. To them, Dwarves taste better than anything. The Trolls also resent the fact that the Dwarves are carving ever bigger and deeper caverns, turning living rock into unliving metal, and driving them from their ancient haunts and homes. Deep under the earth there is a never-ending war between Dwarves and Trolls, with raw power and savagery going to the Trolls, but numbers, organization, and planning going to the Dwarves. Ever so slowly, the Trolls are losing this war also.

Dwarves encountered on the surface of Trollworld are generally good fellows–stout, axe-swinging maniacs, and the best dungeon-delving bodies you could ever ask for.

There is a great deal more to be said about Gristlegrim’s Dwarves, and about Gristlegrim himself and his great  floating fortress of stone, but this is enough for now.  The first portrait of a Dwarf warrior was done by the talented David Ullery who has illustrated several of my T & T solo adventures this year.  The second was done by master renderer Robin Stacey.   I appreciate their ability and willingness to work with me very much.


If you would like to say something about Dwarves, or any of the other Kindreds of Trollworld, please feel free to leave a short comment below. (heh!  short comment, get it?)


Posted October 4, 2011 by atroll in Dwarves, Tunnels and Trolls, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Gristlegrim’s Dwarves

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  1. Did Gristlegrim keep his word to the abducted dwarfs of Midgard, and return them? Or was he faithless? Your tale does not tell either way…

    • Ooops never mind — I didn’t read as carefully as I thought I did. I see now that he DID return them.

      However, they were returned 400 years later.

      And I dispute the morality of their abduction! Returning them “rich and powerful” isn’t a justification; it is an excuse. Couldn’t Gristlegrim simply have REQUESTED, or BARGAINED FOR, their assistance in advance, and in an honorable fashion, instead of behaving as a power-mad bully?

      Or to put it another way, why must all gods be bullies?

  2. Hello,please tell us more about Trollworld’s hobbits, fairies and leprechauns.
    Are they as original as your dwarves compared to conventional mythology/fantasy literature?

    • Interesting idea, Grrraall. I’m not sure how hobbs, fairies, and leprechauns got to Trollworld. They probably just wandered in and couldn’t get home again.

  3. could u possibly tell some more about gristlegrim like is he a good or evil deitie and is he more warrior or mage and what kind of magic would he use stuff like that im quite intrested

  4. Boy howdy, I’m glad I fumbled through the archives. There’s stuff here that even Dwarf World doesn’t have. No WONDER Mensa was confused and has false memories! He obviously wandered to the surface long before he gained any long term memories, and his skills tend to be muscle memory instead of training. As always, I am left wanting more.

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