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Thread: Dwarves?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Dwarves?

    I know similar questions have been asked, but I'm asking this one on kinda specific details. I was planning on having dwarves in my story, I could have smeerpves, but they're dwarfy enough that if they aren't human they may as well be actual dwarves. The reason I wanted dwarves is because one particular group of them are fine craftsmen (of course), but they are insanely perfectionist. They could spend a year doing really intricate engravings on something, make a barely perceptibly mistake, and throw the whole thing away and start over. It seems like the longer lifespan of dwarves would be kind of required for that sort of time wasting to be at all feasible. Humans just wouldn't have enough time to get skilled enough and then waste that much time in their prime working years. Economically the wasted time wouldn't be a problem because of the extremely high prices they get for their goods. Opinions?

  2. #2
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    It's certainly likely that a species that lives much longer than we do would have more time to train professionals, and they might hold people to a higher level of performance as a consequence. Still, there would potentially be an issue with wasted materials. Even if a crafter can get a lot of money for their finished masterpieces, some materials are really hard to come by--enough so that tossing failed attempts at perfection would be very untenable. Would younger and less skilled craftspeople be restricted to working with materials that are lower in quality or commonplace?

    The only other question I have is are all dwarves insanely perfectionistic, or is this an average (by human standards) with the same variation around a mean we see for various traits that might typify our own species? Because one weakness, as I see it, with traditional fantasy is that writers often given near-human races signature traits that define them and are largely invariable between individuals.

    That's just one of my pet peeves, because in human history we've always tended to stereotype groups and to employ considerable confirmation bias (we notice and mark when someone conforms with our expectations and dignore or explain it away when someone doesn't). IMO, fantasy races often become a substitute for dealing with human diversity, or rather, they become a replacement for all the cliches and stereotypes we've had about one another in our own history (but without examining this in any way).

    Is the penchant for extreme perfectionism with dwarves perhaps exaggerated somewhat by humans who interact with them, or is this how dwarves see themselves? Is this going to be presented as a "narrative truth" in your stories, or is it going to be shown through the (possibly unreliable) perception of characters?

    That's one thing I liked about the traditional races in the Dragon Age franchise--you saw enough of them as characters to see how they varied as individuals, just as humans do, and you saw how they had a lot of friction within their groups and differences of opinion re over what they should be.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 11-05-2017 at 03:09 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Well they're not all like that of course, there are some who just sweep the floor and such, and one character who rebels against the parochialism and traditionalism ends up founding a university in the human lands. There are also other dwarves who live other places who aren't that way at all. If you're making goods for export though they have to be perfect. With regards to wasted material, "throwing it away" is a bit of an exaggeration. Metals wouldn't be an issue since they can be remelted (they have advanced metallurgy), gems might be usable for other projects needing smaller gems, etc. There would be some waste, but that'd be part of the reason for the high prices.

  4. #4
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Aside from the difference between 'skilled craftsmen' and apprentices and such, who are learing the craft from the floor sweeping up, I would assume that perfectionism is an individual thing, varying among dwarves to the extent that there are jokes both ways: some dwarves never get anything done because it's never good enough (seriously, I've know humans like this) and other dwarves who finish everything, because why waste the time?
    I'm thinking that there would be a few of grades of dwarven work:
    the custom jobs, or pet projects, that a master craftsman would put all his efforts into, top quality all the way;
    the 'good enough for everyday' stuff, still fine quality but not 'special';
    and 'good enough for men' - stuff for sale at human markets, where people know it's good, careful work by dwarves (which has a cachet all it's own) and worth a good price, but it's generally apprentice pieces or things made specifically for the human market.
    Or 'seconds', not labeled as such. Sometimes there are amazing pieces at reasonable prices that didn't quite reach some dwarf's exacting standards. You can buy it, but the maker won't put his name on 'shoddy work' like that.
    Of course, this leads to suspicions from the customers.
    "Sure, this is good work, but the really good stuff, we'll never see. They keep that for themselves, or 'special' customers. Not the likes of us."
    "Hey, buddy, why don't you show us the stuff you've got hidden in the back - the magic swords and enchanted kettles and such?"

  5. #5
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    It's fantasy. Make it up and make it the law of your land. That's the fun part of it.

  6. #6
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    Since the comments are more about how the dwarven system should work rather than if there should even be dwarves at all, I guess I'll take that as dwarves seem like an OK choice for my story?

  7. #7
    Historian of Altearth sknox's Avatar
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    Author's choice is always ok. The not ok part comes from bad writing. Ideas are always good; writing, not always.

    Perfectionism in humans is a character trait and extends into many areas of life. I would expect your perfectionist dwarf to obsess over lots of things besides work. If you have a whole society of this, then my question would be how does *anything* get done?

    One way to solve or lessen the conundrum is to introduce either religion or strong tradition. Perfectionism only applies to work. Or perhaps only to certain crafts. Or to stuff made for sale. In that scenario, dwarves are *required* to be perfectionist, so naturally some would chafe under it. Then again, your dissenting character might be treading close to heresy.
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  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    I tend to be a little cautious in my writing regarding stereotypes. You may not want your little people to come across like something out of the Wizard of Oz.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW MisterFrancis's Avatar
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    Everybody loves dorfs.

    This thread caused me to enter a fell mood and sit up 'til 4am playing Dwarf Fortress, and now I've got a dwarf baby weresquirrel locked in the mayor's office and it's destroying the furniture.

  10. #10
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    It's nice that nobody is saying that dwarves are way too overdone. I'll be careful to make sure they have depth and aren't all the same. Thanks everyone.

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