Of all the races of DnD, there’s one I love for reasons completely apart from DnD lore.
This is almost entirely due to my love and fascination with Warhammer fantasy dwarfs. I just adore a culture that places personal honor so far above even their own lives that if they are dishonored, they will arrange their own funeral and swear and oath to die in glorious battle asap.
Now, while honor systems and ancestry is a part of DnD Dwarves, warhammer levels of honor fanaticism isn’t really there…. Until I created Traph Winterbane.
I’ve had a long used character, Troph Winterbane for a long time, but the group I was playing with needed a cleric, so I invented “Traph” Winterbane, Troph’s brother. Which is of vague importance. Traph has many stories but this one here is a big one we really enjoyed.
I had to introduce a very warhammer esque character into a DnD game, so I had to do a lot of work with the DM, thankfully I am really good with my words and story telling, so I generally created a good story to weave Troph, and Traph into a DnD world seamlessly.
Troph Winterbane, the first… born several thousand years ago was a simple son of a blacksmith, nothing important or ground breaking, to most dwarves he would have even been a sub par dwarf. Living in the far deep north, a land so frozen and decolate that it nearly couldn’t be settled. So a few dozen dwarven generations back, when a great clan moved in and tried to tame these wild lands, eventually they became rather disconnected, and unable to mingle with other clans and kingdoms, their culture began to change and suffer. The outside was so unforgiving that most dwarves didn’t even bother, eventually becoming far more concerned with improving upon their own civilized culture. This created a dwarven peoples who were remarkably full of themselves and physically weak.
Feeling the need to leave behind their roots and focus on being something new, these dwarves indulged in sophistication and shamefully became far far more like high elves than like proper dwarves. By the time Troph was born and became a young bearding, proper culture was unrecognizable, but the more pressing concern was the distinct lack of physically capable dwarves over the generations, meaning the hold they lived in slowly fell into disrepair. Powerful storms and earthquakes even separated the hole many times, collapsing great halls and making the vast underground city of a hold smaller and smaller each generation.
Troph’s first steps to greatness was sadly the discovery of ancient murals dusty and worn in old abandoned sections of the hold. The old Dwarven ways inspired him, made him understand the greatness his people once held. His ancestors were warriors and conquerors, they took this desolate frozen hell because others thought they couldn’t, it was proof of their strength and stubbornness… proof of their might.
A fire lit in his heart, a fire the likes that his kind had not seen in a thousand years and he was forever changed. Granted, he quickly became a social pariah but in a few very short years, his world turned on it’s own head.
An ancient hallway had broken open to one large corner of the hold, but before the dwarves could try and seal off even more of their home, handing it over to the elements, frost trolls rushed through the gap for a bearded snack.
As the prissy older dwarves ran for their lives, one set of short legs carried a brave young dwarf towards the enemy wielding only an ancient and far out of service hammer. Troph charged the Trolls and before every last one of the Dwarves there, he personally killed every last intruding Troll.
“We were once a great clan, we commanded this keep, not just the ruined foolery you see here now, old feeble dwarves running live pompous elves tripping over their robes to flee from dumb animals…” He paused to heft the crushed skull of the dead Troll.
“We are descended from warriors and the most noble and brave warriors… Dwarves a full century older than you dying in honorable combat… We are descended from those who knew that a death from the hand of time was a shameful waste…. And here we are… where a dwarf nearly three centuries your minor must defend you… I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS! THIS IS OUR KEEP, OUR ANCESTRAL HOME!!! OURS!!!”
His words wounded deep many, causing a skism in the older dwarves, almost none had ever even held an axe before in their lives, but while it was never publicly spoken, there was shredded remains of their ancestral pride left, and those who preferred to hide, vs those who were properly moved by what they personally considered a child saving them. Their shame forced their hand and they moved to join him.
In less than an hour, these stuffy nobles stood awkwardly holding improvised weapons to guard the hole in their halls as Troph and what few were healthy and still young enough to survive outside left to viciously and most likely foolishly “reclaim” the rest of the hold.
The skism between the current culture and those overwhelmed with the smack of reality and shame Troph had brought them slowly began to close as the hours passed without Troph’s return. Hours turned to days and slowly as the group began to debate, the choice to seal the breach in their hall began to gain support. It was beginning to look like Troph was simply a foolish young dwarf who rushed off to his death in the cold unforgiving wilderness.
But just as the last and most stubborn of the dwarves were ready to roll with their improvised weapons against the other elders, a horn sounded, rising from over the howling wind. Staring in wonder through the whipping icy blizzard they saw it. The visage of a king, a true dwarf, followed not only by a great many grizzled battle ready warriors but all those there that day swore they saw their ancestors striding beside that lone dwarf leading the way. Clad in ancient magical runed armor, hefting an ancient great hammer, even the most stubborn and apposed dwarf fell to his knees as Troph the tamer of the winter storms, the bane of winter itself stepped into the hall.
In his absence he had found lost dwarves in the cut off sections of the hold, uniting with these less than weak dwarves, he lead them into battle to push the infestation of Ice Trolls from the highest sections of the hold and reclaimed the old treasure hall. The truth is lost to history but it was claimed that the ancestors who first settled the land saw him and deemed him the only true dwarf and told him where to find the crown of the deep north within the treasure horde. Crowing him king and charging him with the restoration of their ancient and proud heritage a new tradition began from this king of winters.
Every generation, the first born son of the new linage of kings, the Winterbanes would be given the name of the first Winterbane and be charged with going out, leaving his home to become more than he was and returning more worthy than when he left.
Troph Winterbane, in the present is on his traditional quest, Traph however… the youngest of Troph’s brothers, the fifth in line for the throne desired to be a master blacksmith and serve Moradin, or as he’s known in the North, Smendir. Traph works to become a proper Forge Cleric and travel south. The bloodlines of the deep north are a little muddled after so many generations cut off from the greater dwarven society and he would understandably like to have a wife he is not related to.
So, far too far down the totem pole to become a noble, and far too young to be taken seriously in his home, he ventured to the south and joined up with a guild for adventuring. However, his upbringing brought him many trials he was unprepared for.
Having never really seen any other race other than Dwarves and anything they fought against, mostly Savage Orc tribes, Traph was woefully ignorant of the races of the world as well as his own place in it.
Fighting his own ignorance and discovering a distaste for his personal racism against those whom his family would have likely slain on sight, he eventually befriended a small group of warriors he grew to even consider his closest of friends. A half elf Storm Cleric, a half orc Battlemaster, a goliath druid, and a human barbarian. The human barbarian however proved to eventually become a very serious problem. His name was John and he had a fancy for privateering. Troph turned a blind eye to this as what he did was not technically illegal and until John killed a dwarf, despite Traph working on his prejudices, he honestly didn’t really care. But this changed on a mission where something unthinkable happened.
Transporting a seemingly simple farmer to his farm as bandit activity in the area had been increasing for some reason, the farmer failed to mention the exact conditions they were being hired for. Not protection in general, but to get mercenaries for cheaper, he left out that a specific group of cruel mercenaries wanted to kill him exclusively and raze his town for various reasons. So fighting and fleeing from extremely eager bandits tracking them down, the group finally landed in the little farming village to continue the adventure.
However, the DM’s plans got tossed out the window when a little encounter hit the fan like so much fecal matter in a popular yet mildly crude saying.
As we were ready to leave, Traph had been teaching the local children how to fight and stand on their own like “proper dwarves” despite that it was a human village. And the village was attacked by Ankhegs.
John and Traph moved to keep the children safe and everyone else went to protect the harvest where the other bugs were attacking.
One of the other Players went down fast due to an unlucky critical attack and was in danger of being eaten, and while Traph fought, forcing himself between the children and the Ankheg, John was right there with him until for some reason far FAR beyond anyone’s understanding, He decided to leave the current fight and dash for four turns to the others leaving ONLY Traph to hold off this monstrosity and keep the children safe.
The very first turn, Graph was grabbed by the Ankheg and lost all but four of his HP. Alone, grappled and literal moments away from being killed and eaten, abandoned by the only other fighter he had to help him, one of the brave children leaped out and attacked the Ankheg with farming equipment. Just the image alone brought the image of his ancestor, a beardling, holding an improvised weapon, attacking a beast many times his own size.
The blow did nearly nothing, but the distraction gave him just enough of an advantage to escape and ready to keep fighting. But then it happened. In one fell swoop, the Ankheg turned, killed and devoured the brave young boy.
Flying into a frenzy, Traph did not stop his attack until the Goliath Druid pried him away from the crushed Carapace of the dead Ankheg by force. Weeping for the loss of such a brave and righteous soul, the group came together and they buried the dead. Traph gave the boy a proper Dwarven burial. But the group had to go through great lengths to convince Traph to not attack and kill John right then and there.
The barbarian had dishonorably fled, not only leaving Traph to die, but causing the death of such a brave young soul. The death of a child.
After several days of mourning and settling in after such a loss, the boy’s death still weighed heavily upon his mind until he did what he knew he had to do.
He wrote home, but it was months before they responded. A scribe was sent to take statements, record and confirm the story. It finally came to it. A grudge was declared upon the Human John. Any law abiding dwarf in all the known world would now be honor bound to kill the Barbarian John on sight. Additionally, the young boy’s name was recorded and commended. He was given proper honors and declared an honorary dwarven warrior.
Out of character, John’s player was ok with this, he made a bad call that he felt was in character for John and it didn’t play out. But ironically, the same day that the dwarven king sent back the details and confirmation of the Grudge, John was killed on a quest unrelated to Dwarves.