Dwarves are odd little folk. Hairy, thick-skinned, asexual, and zealously industrious, dwarves are the workforce of dragons. Up until recently, dragons reigned supreme over the mountains that line the coast of The Bay. Ageless and with no need for reproduction, the eggs they laid hatched the perfect workers, dwarves. They built massive holds to house their queens, amassing awe-inspiring hordes of treasure to sate the serpents’ pride and greed. But about 50 years ago a mysterious figure rose among them, a dwarf who wasn’t bound to the hivemind. A messianic cult formed around this dwarf and eventually they were able to liberate a hold from the grasp of their queen. She is now imprisoned deep below ground where her eggs are harvested for more dwarves, her flames used to power the hold. Not long after the first hold’s liberation, other holds broke their bonds as the dwarf messiah roamed the mountains. These days, many holds are free but many are still held in bondage… no one knows if their messiah is still out there freeing dwarves, but stories of a sighting or encounter with the legend surface regularly.
Dwarves hatch more or less fully formed, hairy and able to speak and walk by virtue of genetic memory. This genetic memory is referred to as The Rubric and it is both their greatest strength and weakness. It includes knowledge of architecture, masonry, blacksmithing, carpentry, etc.; it is a massive but finite store of blueprints and crafting dogma inherited from their queen. At birth a dwarf will only have access to speech and basic day-to-day needs, but they quickly uncover more as they encounter crafts and are reminded of their ancient subconscious. Most dwarves will spend their first year or two drifting from task to task in the hold before finding their obsession, the branch of the Rubric which is accessible to them. They are then usually quite content to spend the rest of their life relentlessly pursuing this craft all waking hours. Where this becomes a weakness is that as massive as the Rubric is, it represents the whole of what a dwarf can learn… original inventions are unheard of. Then again, with their newfound individual sentience who knows what’s possible?
Even free dwarves still have much of their old trappings. When large numbers of dwarves are together, they have an exponential effect on one another which induces a sort of automatic order to their lives and behaviors. Dwarves that venture out beyond the holds and adventure with non-dwarves however find that they slowly lose this innate sense of place and purpose. Many find the experience highly disturbing and return quickly. Some though, a rare few, find fresh relief and joy in this and find a place among other civilizations.