Estea: The Shadows Lengthen
Those who encounter a dwarf adventurer for the first time might think him rude, dour, taciturn, and inflexible. Human cultures, especially those that prize the rights or needs of the individual over those of the group, are often at odds with dwarven sensibilities.
Elves, ever mindful of the need for personal expression and experience, often complain that dwarves are not much different from the stones among which they live. In truth, however, one’s first impression of a dwarf is usually deceiving. Dwarves come from a very closed environment, with little in the way of personal space or privacy. Expansion of any one settlement is greatly dependent on the location and earth in which it is set. Digging out new living space can be an expensive, time consuming, and possibly dangerous activity. For every dwarf city nestled in a roomy expanse of trackless caverns, thousands of smaller settlements exist in which every room was hewn from the surrounding stone by hand. As a result, living quarters are close together and regularly house entire extended families.
A society of people living in close contact with each other day in and day out must, by necessity, place the needs of the group above the needs of the individual. The rule of law becomes paramount in many ways, for only in such a society can disputes be settled fairly and expectations kept reasonable. This cultural trait has become an ingrained habit for nearly all dwarves and is considered a virtue among their people. He who holds to his duty and obeys the law, even at great cost to himself, is hailed as a hero among his clan and held up as an example to others. Honor, duty, bravery, stoicism, and loyalty are considered the highest virtues in dwarven life. Those who live less responsible existences, as the dwarves might consider it, are subjects of continuing bemusement to the ordered dwarven mind.
By the same token, a dwarf who is considered rude or unsociable by other aboveground races is looked at as the soul of manners and tact among his own people. For those who live belowground, physical privacy is a thin illusion at best. None but the most wealthy or those of the highest status in dwarf society can claim a space of their very own, to be shared with no one else.
This forced physical intimacy has led dwarven culture to prize mental privacy. Thus, emotions are considered highly personal, and not readily shared outside the family or clan circles. If a dwarf admits any sort of joy or sorrow, it is an indication of how high the listener has risen in his esteem. The same is true for personal revelations of any kind, including weaknesses or achievements.
While this reluctance to show one’s emotions is true of most dwarves, however, it is hardly true for every individual. Many dwarves who spend their lives wandering the surface find dwarven attitudes difficult to live with. These individuals are often much more expressive and able to tolerate the seemingly chaotic cultures of humans, elves, and halflings. Still, a dwarf has been caught more than once between the world in which he was raised and the life he has embraced. Such conflicts are often amusing to those who witness them and embarrassing for the dwarf, but bridging two worlds is never easy.
Just as some dwarves do not speak unless first spoken to, other, more garrulous dwarves enjoy carousing and boisterous living. Some dwarves happily tell of their own adventures with little prompting, and others refuse to let another pay their way, regardless of how little gold might remain to them. A dwarfs actions in the surface world may or may not be indicative of his behavior at home.
When it comes to other races or cultures, dwarves are surprisingly tolerant, despite their firm belief in the rightness of their own ways. This attitude is due in large part to the reticence bred into the soul of every dwarf. Regardless of his opinion of the people he meets, a well-mannered dwarf declines comment, looking on the matter as none of his business. His disapproval might be expressed in other ways, should someones behavior violate his own beliefs too violently, but by and large, he leaves well enough alone. An old dwarven platitude states, You cannot spot the weakness in your own work by staring too long at someone elses.