Carved from the bedrock of the universe, dwarves endured an age of servitude to giants before winning their freedom. Their mighty mountain fortress-cities testify to the power of their ancient empires. Even those who live in human cities are counted among the staunchest defenders against the darkness that threatens to engulf the world. (Player's Handbook, pg. 36)
Dwarves are a race that is very familiar to war. Their history as a race began with war and they are still in an ongoing war with orcs, goblins and even dragons, whether it's defending their stone fortresses high up in the mountains or claiming their mining stake in the underground veins of minerals.
Dwarves were a slave race to the giants and titans who worked them mercilessly and endlessly. Among them was a dwarf named Bergrom Earthfast who became a renown general that lead the dwarves to rebel and fight against the giants for their freedom. It was he who set the standards of resilience that is attributed to his people and it has become a long held tradition by the dwarven warriors and warlords of today.
The dwarven fighting style was mainly developed based on the tools that they had which were the only so-called weapons available to them. These were used as thrown weapons as well as up-close murder weapons when they were able to bring down their towering slave drivers. The dwarves that were able to escape, fled underground and craved new refuges from the rock so that the giants wouldn't be able to capture them.
From there, the dwarven rebellion gradually turned into a crusade in the name of their creator god, Moradin which seek to liberate all dwarves from the iron grip of their overbearing nemesis.
Although not all dwarves were able to be freed from their slavery, their strong unity and stubborn tenaciousness like the earth which they believed to have spawned them would lay down the rock solid foundations on which dwarven civilization would be build upon.
Dwarves In Times of War
Although dwarves are not constantly at war with their hated enemies but their society is always prepared for such eventualities.
Soldiering in dwarven society is a very common profession much like being a weaponsmith, an armorer or a miner which has their place in normal society. During peacetimes, dwarven soldiers do not belong to any uniform military force that one might expect from other racial armies. They seek employments in various dwarven institutions and integrate themselves seamlessly into dwarven civil society. Soldiers often find employment as guards or defenders, either as temple guards, escorts for mining missions, caravan guards for merchants or simply a loyalist to their king or clan elders.
All the institutions of dwarven society have soldiers loyal to the cause. Doughty fighters serve king or lord, guild or business, deity or church, or a simple creed. A few serve the almighty coin, selling their time and axes for wealth. Time-honored fighting techniques teach a dwarf warrior to use his or her racial abilities to the fullest and to use fine weapons and heavy armor. When the dogs of war are loosed, dwarf soldiers hold the line. (Martial Power, pg. 27)
Dwarves value everything that is old. Anything that is old by dwarven standards are either called traditions or grudges and it is the latter category which gives reasons for dwarves to go to war.
Dwarves never forget their enemies, either individuals who have wronged them or entire races of monsters who have done ill to their kind. Dwarves harbor a fierce hatred for orcs, which often inhabit the same mountainous areas that dwarves favor and which wreak periodic devastation on dwarf communities. Dwarves also despise giants and titans, because the dwarf race once labored as the giants’ slaves. They feel a mixture of pity and disgust toward those corrupted dwarves who still have not freed themselves from the giants’ yoke—azers and galeb duhrs among them. (Player's Handbook, pg. 37)
Dwarves don't normally wage war easily unless it involves their hated enemies but dwarven strongholds also find themselves besieged by greedy war leaders of other races who crave for the riches that are promised to be found within and underneath the halls of dwarven kingdoms. More often than not, self defense becomes a major reason of why dwarves go to war.
When there is a threat great enough to threaten the whole of dwarven society, the clan elders are called to council where they will discuss on how to confront with the threat.
They are strong, hardy, and dependable. They value their ancestral traditions, which they preserve through the ages as fiercely as they defend the carved structures of their mountain homes. (Player's Handbook, pg. 37)
Dwarves never want to give up their territory so easily. When the clan elders have decided, it becomes a clan matter and the order is passed down.
Dwarves believe in the importance of clan ties and ancestry. They deeply respect their elders, and they honor long-dead clan founders and ancestral heroes.(Player's Handbook, pg. 37)
When that happens, all dwarven soldiers are mustered together despite who they serve. Loyalty to ones clan takes precedence over their employment. Together, these soldiers would form into an army that the dwarves call a 'host' to show their invaders a bloody taste of dwarven hospitality. Retired soldiers who have taken other vocations could possibly dust off their arms and volunteer themselves to join such a 'host'.
When a dwarven society is going to war, their industrious instincts kicks in. All mundane production and mining are halted and their efforts are refocused to arming their host. Weaponsmiths and armorers work furiously in their forges, manufacturing weapons and armors for their soldiers in the highest craft of dwarven weaponary. Miners walk down the mines only to dig for ore and raw materials that are used for war. Artificers use up their residuum reserves to enchant weapons, armors and other war gears for their elites, commanders and generals. Other citizens work to gather food supplies to feed the 'host' and themselves for the coming days ahead.
More so than most other races, dwarves seek guidance and protection from the gods. They look to the divine for strength, hope, and inspiration, or they seek to propitiate cruel or destructive gods. (Player's Handbook, pg. 37)
The clergy plays a special part during wartime. They hold sermons and preaching either at their temples, if it's large enough to support the host or at the grand halls of their stronghold, reciting heroic war tales of lengendary dwarves from the past. The most important lesson that is passed down at this time is that dwarves are protected by Moradin, their creator who set their race free from servitude. This is a lesson to remind all dwarves that in the face adversity, steadfastness is what all dwarves are blessed with.
Dwarf soldiers are unmatched in their fighting prowess and loyalty to one another. War stories hold that a single dwarf foot soldier is the match of any two warriors of another race and the same skill. Two such soldiers are worth five similarly skilled enemies. When the enemy forces are composed of little more than savages, dwarven armies break them like stone channels water. (Martial Power, pg, 27)
Once the host is assembled, organization is quickly done to divide the soldiers between the main infantry and the elites based on senority and experience. Dwarven soldiers require little training to teach them how to use weapons and their shields but drilling is intensified.
The main infantry unit of a dwarven army are the hammerers which forms the basic rank and file of the host who are led by a champion called the Dwarven Defender. For elite troops, they have the dwarven assault fighters, also called the Avalanche Hurlers who are better armed than the ordinary infantry and are mostly comprised of veterans who are well trained in various dwarven fighting styles.
Dwarf bolters are lightly armored since mobility is their main concern but their marksmanship is well renown among the races to produce fine snipers. Their role is to usually provide a barrage of well aimed shots at charging enemies as they approach the host.
Clan elders that are physical fit to join the host act as their leaders. Their presence is to strengthen the rock solid morale of the dwarven soldiers and lead by example as a beacon of resolve. It is through endurance and loyalty to one another that dwarven wars are won and the elders are living proofs.
Dwarves on the Battlefield
To a dwarf, it is a gift and a mark of deep respect to stand beside an ally in battle, and a sign of deepest loyalty to shield that ally from enemy attack. Dwarven legends honor many heroes who gave their lives to save their clans or their friends. (Player's Handbook, pg. 37)
When the day of battle draws closer, depending on the scenario, the host either marches out to meet their foes or cautiously await the arrival of the invaders in a siege.
On a march, dwarves are known to travel for long miles without resting and for their meals, they are known to feed on Stonemeal biscuits (Adventurers' Vault, pg. 192) which provides the basic sustenance for the host to keep moving. During a siege, the dwarves are fed by the food supplies that their citizens are able to gather or hoard albeit sparingly to save them in case of a long siege.
On the day of battle, the clergy would lead the host into prayer as well as providing them with blessings by their father, Moradin. The commander of the host would recite a war poem, sing a battle song or any performance that traces back the history of victorious battles and war leaders, how dwarven resilience seized the day as a proud dwarven traditions. The dwarven soldiers would beat their shields with their hammers and form their lines. When all is done, the host remains silent and waits for the approaching enemy.
Dwarves are willing to accept negotiations for surrender or peace except towards their hated enemies who by any means should be squashed in the name of Moradin. Dwarves are known to fight to the death, seldom surrendering but never retreat. If a dwarven stronghold hears the defeat of the host from another stronghold, they will remember the victors and are bound to avenge them.
Tactics & Strategy
Warriors in a unit of skilled shield bearers can place their shields together in an overarching arrangement, completely protecting all within the shield shell from outside attack. This is said to have originally been a dwarven trick, a “boulder formation.” (Martial Power, pg. 33)
The basic formation of the dwarves has been passed down from generations to generations and it is shaped to represent the dwarven endurance. Hammerers from every line lift their shields, each one meant to cover their comrades side by side. Bolters are placed in between the hammerers to have a clear line of sight at the enemy and to place a shot as they charge.
This common trick is called the 'boulder formation' upon which the tide of enemies will come and smash against the rocks of dwarven hammers, axes, bolts and shields
Bolters provide heavy barrages of crossbow bolts raining down on a charging army, each shot aiming to take one casualty off the battlefield. These well aimed shots although not as long ranged as other races are usually a deadly sting that could stop a charge at its tracks. Once the battle is joined, the bolters quickly drop their crossbows and pull out their hammers to meet their enemies.
Once the enemies have crashed into the dwarves, not only does the shield provide an obstacle of breaking through the ranks but the front lines heave and push back the enemy while those behind would slaughter those on the ground. The 'boulder' formation then moves forward slowly after initial contact, like a disturbed rock that should be left alone, it rolls down and buries their enemies.
Once the enemy are starting to show signs of breaking, the elite assault force or the Avalanche Hurlers breaks rank and burst out into the withdrawing lines of the enemy, raining hammers and axes at them before breaking through the ranks of the enemy, causing as much havoc as they can to make them break and run.
Dwarven attire and equipment, including weapons and shields, are decorated with bold geometric shapes, natural gems, and ancestral faces. (Player's Handbook, pg. 37)
The dwarven armor is one of the greatest strength of dwarves when it comes into warfare. They truly understand the meaning of 'the best defense is the best offense'. Their production quality of every armor and shield is revered among the other races and it increases their resilience further more. Even the lightest armored bolter are endowed with forgemail which provides better protection than a normal chainmail. The main infantry are suited with platemail while the elites wear the tougher warplate. Only the elders and members of the clergy are entitled to wear the perfect godplate which is said to be forged by Moradin himself.
The first most important weapon that all dwarves learn to use is the hammer and axe. Although they are called hammerers, the standard armament of the dwarven infantry is a shield and a mixture of single handed warhammers and axes. Only the Avalanche Hurlers carry a more bizzare assorment of weapons (which are still mainly different shapes of hammers and axes) that can often be thrown as well. As mentioned before, the first dwarven weapons were the tools they used when they were still slaves and their fascination with them as evolved into a tradition and an art form for dwarves. When dwarves are fighting against giants, the size of their weapons is in proportion to the size of their enemies.
Numerous peoples maintain a tradition of bringing dead warriors home on their shields, and burying a shield with its owner. Especially among dwarves, a broken shield is seen as a symbol of loss or corruption. (Martial Power, pg. 33)
The second most important element of the dwarven arsenal is the shield. They are used to create stone-like walls and shielding a comrade with a shield is a sign of deep loyalty among dwarves. The shield is the bulwark by which the dwarven 'boulder formation' is formed.
Dwarven greaves and boots are also specially made to be sturdy and to root them down to the ground. This is very helpful when facing the full force of the enemy's onslaught at the first charge. The elites and the clan elders wear magical boots that makes them immovable as the mountains.
The Avalanche Hurlers wear a special glove called Dwarven Throwers (Adventurers' Vault, pg. 133) which allows them to throw any weapon even if they are unwieldy or unsuited for throwing.
Dwarves are also known to use war beast in battle such as the thunderthusk which are domesticated dire boars. Even so the dwarves don't ride them as mounts as they are still too aggresive. Thunderthusk are uncontrollable war machines that can easily rip through enemy lines when unleashed.
Although the dwarves are industrious in producing weaponary, some dwarven artificers are innovative as well. During a war, some strongholds employ a device known as the Ornithopter (Adventurers' Vault, pg. 20) which allows a single dwarf scout to survey the enemy from the air.
Other innovations also include the 'Sending Stones' (Adventurers' Vault, pg. 255) which the dwarven generals use to relay a single order to the host from a distance.