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Origins and MythEdit
Dwarves first evolved in the mountains of what would become modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountains. While descended from primates which lived above ground, the shift from mountainside and valley living to actually dwelling underground seems to have been a crucial step for dwarves. In their native region, there are a number of myths that hint at what may have occurred, all with certain common underpinnings. In the beginning, dwarves lived aboveground in the mountains, but were constantly harassed by an airborne threat, evil entities of open sky and brutal storms - bird-demons, thunderous djinni, and malicious air sprites are common variations. A savior came to the dwarves, typically either an elemental Earth Father or a messianic mortal dwarf, who led them underground and taught them to live in the caves, particularly the sciences of architecture and subterranean agriculture. For those dwarves in the region which have retained their traditional beliefs, this figure is nearly always the central or chief deity.
From their home in southern Asia, dwarves spread throughout Eurasia and Africa, but did not cross the land bridge into the Americas (thus, there are no native dwarves in the Andes, Rockies, etc.). Historically, each mountain chain housed its own particular dwarven culture, and there was little communication between geographically distant groups of dwarves. The nearby human cultures were usually the strongest cultural influence on any given group (and, of course, were influenced by the dwarves in turn).
The traditional homeland of the dwarves, dwarven culture in the Hindu Kush mountains does not seem to have changed much from the very beginning, living in small and fairly isolated groups. Pashtunwali is thought to have originated with dwarves, though just as with humans, it is a cultural plurality, not a monolithic lifestyle of the entire region. Many dwarven tribes converted to Islam, though more dwarves have retained their traditional beliefs when compared to humans. A fairly common arrangement is for a dwarven tribe up in the mountains to have traditional trading relationships with human groups living in nearby valleys, but mixed-race dwarf-human communities are relatively rare.
Great Rift ValleyEdit
The dwarves of Italy were heavily integrated into Roman society, and grew to be wealthy merchants. As Rome crumbled and splintered around them, their relative isolation spared them the worst of the collapse, and some Roman influences on their culture remain visible to this day. They are diplomatic, mercantile, and refined, but indolent (Ability modifiers +2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, -2 Dexterity, racial feats: Small Concessions, Livers Need Not Apply, Slow and Steady).
Eastern European dwarves have a long history of struggle against seemingly impossible forces, suffering predation by vampires and other supernatural predators for their entire recorded history. Orthodox missionaries found eager converts in the Carpathian dwarves, desperate for any message of hope. Particularly, the focus of Eastern Orthodox Christianity on the potential of mortals to partake of divinity, in whatever small way, sounded like a possible defense or weapon against these foes. The ability to affect the state of their lost comrades' souls through prayer and love was appealing as well. To this day, the vast majority of dwarves in Eastern Europe are staunch Orthodox Christians. Their war with the vampires has never ceased.
While dwarves are eminent smiths and mechanics the world over, nowhere is that ability so singularly emphasized as in Scandanavia. They are renowned worldwide for their ability with all things metal, and took well to the technology of the newer era, often improving substantially on human designs.