I’m going to do a new thing, where I talk about why something is awesome, and then immediately talk about why it is terrible. When I talk about why something is awesome, I’m going to focus on why/how it could/should be awesome. When I talk about why it is terrible I’m going to focus on why, in practice, it often isn’t. I’m going to start with the standard PC races from Dungeons and Dragons, and I’m going to do them alphabetically. And so, without further adieu…
Why I Love Dwarves:
Dwarves are hearty, salt-of-the-earth type folk. They are the embodiment of honor, integrity, hard work, doing your homework before going out to play, eating all of your vegetables, and sticking up for your kid sister. You can have a lot of fun playing dwarves; they can be wise, brash, generous, greedy, disciplined, barbaric, even-tempered, or quick to anger. They generally seem pragmatic without being cynical. Dwarven gods kick ass. Dwarven weapons are awesome too; anyone who says that the idea of throwing big-ass hammers around or splitting skulls with giant axes doesn’t sound cool is a liar, and you shouldn’t leave them in your house alone because they will probably rifle through your drawers and steal your loose change and spare batteries. If you want to play a character who does whatever he does well, and takes pride in that fact, you should play a dwarf. Also: dwarves can see in the dark, which is pretty cool.
Why I Hate Dwarves:
People tend to latch on to a couple of dwarven stereotypes and then really cut loose with the melodrama. My least favorite of these is the tired “dwarves hate elves” cliche. This thing tends to rear its head right from the beginning of a game session where someone rolls up a dwarf and someone else rolls up an elf. This is often a two-way street, and these players decide their characters don’t like each other just “because.” Role-playing and personality development take a backseat to just sticking in a banal idea that you picked up from somewhere else. Congratulations: you rolled up a level one racist. I’m not saying you have to be Drizzt Do’Urden and Bruenor Battlehammer, but you shouldn’t start out by saying “I ain’t sharin a room with no tree-huggin elves!” just because “that’s how dwarves are.”
The other, equally popular and equally annoying one is the over-the-top alcoholic. These players make a point of letting you know that they are drinking at every opportunity. They feel like they should be able to drink constantly, act drunk, and suffer no mechanical consequences, because they think dwarves can drink a few gallons of hard liquor over the course of a day and still pass a field sobriety test.
These are the two big ones that really annoy me, but there are several other ways you can overplay certain aspects of being a dwarf while
underplaying ignoring completely some other ways to make your particular dwarf interesting and unique.
There are a lot of ways you can play a dwarf, and you can even include a bit of alcoholism and racism if that makes sense for the character you envision. Just make sure you’re playing a character and not a caricature.
Please don’t take this as me saying “I know how to play such-and-such and other people don’t.” I’m just thinking back on my years of gaming and ranting about some recurring themes I’ve witnessed over the years. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t guilty, especially in my formative role-playing years, of doing everything I just bitched about.