The dwarves of Golarion are best known for their skill at mining and crafting, their fierce determination in combat, and their stoic, almost mirthless demeanors. Dwarves made their mark on the world with their magnificent castles and fortresses, but they have fought and died endlessly over every last one—particularly in wars with their ancient enemy, the orcs—ever since the day they first emerged from the Darklands.
Dwarven history begins deep below the earth, where the first dwarves mined and smithed under the watchful eye of Torag, the Father of Creation. In the late centuries of the Age of Darkness, following the dictum of a series of ancient mandates handed down from a prophet of Torag, a relentless subterranean migration of dwarves called the Quest for Sky drove these people upward toward the surface. After years of civil war, strife, and skirmishes with orcs, the great dwarven general Taargick united his people. Under Taargick’s leadership, the dwarves finally completed their push to the surface and established 10 glorious Sky Citadels atop the points of their emergence. The dwarven nations crowned Taargick king and named their new kingdom in his honor—Tar Taargadth.
The 10 glorious Sky Citadels of the ancient dwarves still stand today, some in ruins, some reclaimed by other races, and some still inhabited by their dwarven founders. Tar Taargadth’s unifying role has long since passed, and today the various dwarven nations and cities of Golarion do not necessarily operate under a unified whole. Notable Sky Citadels that are still held by the dwarves include Janderhoff in Varisia and Highhelm along the southern coast of Lake Encarthan, but there are just as many examples of lost citadels, such as Urgir in the orc-lands of Belkzen.
Dwarven perspective tends to change with the climate. In this era of human and gnome and even elven cultural influence, what it means to be a dwarf remains more fluid than ever before, and the whitebeards of the oldest dwarven halls fear this fluidity as a sign of the impending extinction of dwarf society. Yet some aspects of dwarven culture show little sign of changing. Smithing, fighting, and stronghold-building have always been major parts of dwarven society, ever since Torag first breathed life into the earliest dwarves. The Creator God’s influence on dwarven culture still guides and drives all of dwarven society, and most dwarves believe that, should they ever slacken their efforts, Torag will abandon them.
Dwarven dress, as with all physical objects dwarves craft, favors function over form, but is never plain. Decorations serve practical purposes—fasteners, padding, reinforcements of seams, pockets, and tool-holding loops. While adventuring dwarves usually seem reserved and conservative to members of other races, they are seen at home as impetuous youths or shirking wastrels. Dwarves tend to view other races as soft, weak, or even degenerate. Elves, for example, are thought of as weaklings who abandoned the world during the Age of Darkness, while half-orcs—the progeny of a race dwarves warred with for millennia before humans started counting years—are considered savage curs who need seeing to. No one holds a grudge like a dwarf. But even the most obstinate dwarf is capable of overcoming ancient prejudices to make exceptions for battle-tested friends, and dwarves value friends even higher than the gems and gold that notoriously fuel their lust for adventure.
The dwarven language is full of hard consonants, and few dwarven names include soft sounds like “f,” “h,” or “th” (as in “with” or “mouth”). The letters Q and X do not appear in the dwarven alphabet. Honorifics like “-gun” (“-son”), “-dam” (“-daughter”), and “-hild” (“-wife”) are common. Dwarven family names sometimes seem to contain Common words, such as “hammer” or “gold.”
On average, dwarves stand about a foot shorter than humans and tend to be stockier than even the burliest half-orcs. They weigh about 100 pounds more than they appear to (because of their strong skeletons and tightly packed musculature). Most dwarves wear their hair long, and male dwarves pride themselves on the length and condition of their beards. Traditionalists festoon their beards with elaborate braids, small battle trophies, or beads commemorating important events in their lives. Shaving a dwarf’s beard is a terrible insult to the dwarf, his ancestors, and his gods.