Dwarven religion is a complicated and often-misunderstood subject in the Golden Empire. Far removed from the world’s other races, the dwarves of the Kargenspire developed a religion unlike any on the surface: a religion without gods, called The Path of the Seven Virtues. The dwarves instead revere the Seven Virtues, a list of traits that all dwarves should aspire to. The Seven Virtues are:
For each Virtue, there is also an Exemplar—a venerated dwarf whose life and deeds best embodied the Virtue’s precepts and instructions. Exemplars can and do change over time, as the Sevenfold Council votes to venerate and exalt a dwarf who best suits the current generation’s needs regarding a given Virtue. The current Exemplars are:
Alberich Mountain-Sapper, Giver of Utmost Law, known as the first dwarf to codify the laws and the Seven Virtues by which all dwarves should live. Alberich represents the Virtue of Order, and each Low King is nominally her consort as well. Unlike the other Exemplars, Alberich’s adherents keep close ties with dwarven secular leaders and play an active role in day-to-day administration and law-keeping. Her adherents are known as “Lawgivers.”
Atmi Heartstone, Defender of the Hills, was a foundling raised by humans who came to the Karthspire wholly ignorant of her dwarven heritage but possessed of an indomitable resolve. She was elected as the Exemplar of Courage after she fought to her last breath against Grimhilde the Frost Hag. Her adherents—properly called Gallants, occasionally ridiculed as “Gully-Dwarves”—are loud and boorish by the standards of proper dwarven society, and spend most of their time in the low-lying hills at the outskirts of dwarven lands.
Dolgrim Longaxe, Seeker of Justice, champion of the dwarven faith. Dolgrim represents the Virtue of Justice, which is virtually synonymous with the dwarven rune for “vengeance.” Since the War of Subjugation, Dolgrim’s adherents, called “Champions,” have become increasingly dour and aggressive, and disturbing rumors have surfaced that the Champions have either recovered or reconstructed a powerful artifact known only as “The Tome of Spite.”
Esbern Runehammer, Delver in the Dark, represents the Virtue of Wisdom. Esbern is known as the dwarf who discovered the magical power of the dwarves’ own runic script, and who first learned to speak with the earth itself. Her adherents call themselves Questioners, and seek answers to the secrets of creation in the deepest, darkest pits beneath the Kargenspire.
Gravelord Ator, Keeper of the Barrows, the guardian of the dwarves’ honored dead. Ator represents the Virtue of Honor, and is often called upon to witness contracts and oaths, owing to the dwarves’ veneration of their ancestors. His adherents are, unsurprisingly, called “Witnesses,” and wield tremendous economic power in dwarven society.
Modo Sevenfingers, Tender of the Forge, is the newest Exemplar, having only been declared such in the last 200 years. In Life, Modo Sevenfingers was a toymaker who volunteered as a siege engineer during the War. After the War, he dedicated himself to rebuilding the dwarves’ crumbling infrastructure and comforting the War’s many orphans with his toys and puppet shows. On his death, the Sevenfold Council venerated him as the new Exemplar of the Virtue of Craft, replacing Thondred Foehammer, who had been a renowned weaponsmith. Modo’s adherents are called “Artisans,” and are as known for their laughter as they are for their skill.
Ort, Exemplar of Toil, the oldest and least-changed of the Exemplars. Little is known about Ort’s origins, whether Ort was a man or woman, or even whether Ort ever lived at all. Adherents of Ort are simply called “Tools,” and preach the values of simple, honest work—particularly mining—and finding honor and satisfaction in labor of all kinds.
The Sevenfold Council
The dwarves are lead along the Path of Seven Virtues by the Sevenfold Council, a conclave of elder dwarf priests representing each of the Virtues and Exemplars. By tradition, each Virtue has seven representatives at the Council, for a total number of 49 when the Council is gathered in force. The Low King is also allowed to speak at Council gatherings, but is forbidden from voting in person.
The Sevenfold Council gathers every seven years to debate matters of religious import. In theory each Exemplar is subjected to scrutiny and reevaluation to see if they still represent the utmost pinnacle of their given Virtue. In practice, it is a rare and tumultuous event for an Exemplar to be ousted, or a new dwarf venerated to Exemplar status. Modo Sevenfingers is the only Exemplar to be newly venerated in living memory, and it took the War of Subjugation to make that happen.
Alignment, Domains, and Favored Weapons
Dwarf clerics have two options at character creation: they can either follow the Path itself, or they can be an adherent of one Exemplar. While they are not gods themselves, Exemplars function much like deities of other pantheons, in that they each have their own alignments, domains, and favored weapons. The Path itself is a special case, representing the sum total of dwarven tradition and history.
Alberich Mountain-Sapper is Lawful Good, being the pinnacle of dwarven order and society in general. Her domains are Community, Good, Law, and Protection. Her favored weapon is the warhammer. Her adherents serve as advisors and mediators in dwarven communities.
Atmi Heartstone is Chaotic Good, representing dwarven courage and obstinance in their purest forms. Her domains are Chaos, Glory, Good, and War, and her favored weapon is the dwarven waraxe. Her adherents are virtually indistinguishable from the barbarian heroes of other races.
Dolgrim Longaxe is Lawful Evil, and his adherents preach the necessity for avenging all slights and wrongs sevenfold. His domains are Destruction, Evil, Law, and War, and his favored weapon is the Greataxe. His adherents are single-minded champions of the dwarven cause above all other concerns.
Esbern Runehammer is Lawful Neutral, being possessed of a disciplined mind and more concern for lore and secrets than morality. Her domains are Darkness, Earth, Knowledge, and Rune, and her favored weapon is the longspear. Adherents of Esbern serve as sages, healers, and experts of all kinds.
Gravelord Ator is also Lawful Neutral, for the Keeper of the Barrows protects both heroes and villains alike so long as they rest under his watch. His domains are Law, Nobility, Protection, and Repose, and his favored weapon is the flail. His Witnesses both protect the grave-sites of their charges and take active roles in the larger world as guardians on pilgrimages and enforcers of sworn oaths and contracts.
Modo Sevenfingers, newest and kindest of the Exemplars, is Neutral Good. His domains are Artifice, Charm, Good, and Trickery, and his favored weapon is the crossbow. Modo’s artisans work tirelessly to repair the damage caused by the War and to bring hope and laughter back to the dwarven people.
Ort, somehow both the most reliable and enigmatic of the Exemplars, is Lawful Good, representing sacrifice for the good of all. Ort’s domains are Earth, Good, Law, and Strength, and Ort’s favored weapon is a heavy pick. Ort’s Tools often rise from the ranks of common miners, masons, and other laborers, and can be found toiling alongside their fellow workers or questing in the world at large, taking it upon themselves to solve whatever task has befallen their communities.
Finally, the Path of Seven Virtues, when taken as a “deity” of its own, accepts clerics of any Lawful or Good alignment. Its domains are Artifice, Earth, Healing, and Protection, and its favored weapon is the battleaxe. Dwarves who follow the Path but do not adhere to any one Exemplar are called “Pigrims,” and have as many motivations as there are stones in the mountain.