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It is of interest that Khordaldrum have over seven hundred words in their language that describe rocks, and over a hundred words that are derogatory towards beings that think a rock is just a rock". - Shylock Weir, noted Sage.
"When you build, you start with the foundation because all else rests upon the strength of that foundation. Same with society, where rules and laws are the foundation upon which the people stand. You knock the foundation; you are going to fall." - Runemaster Gavlic Pickhammer.
"We thought that the Khords would understand, but they couldn't see past the incident, they couldn't bend their laws and rules. For that, we were at war for six hundred years." - Unknown Sylvari seer
Writer's Note: This write-up draws heavily upon an article written by Roger E. Moore in Dragon Magazine #58, February 1982, "The Dwarven Point of View". Yes, we are talking over 20 years ago but I highly respect the writing of Roger E. Moore so I wanted it noted.
Deep in the mountains of Khordal live a race of beings that dwell in cavern homes, who dig deep into the earth and mine for gold and riches. These are the Khordaldrum, which roughly means "The chosen people of Khordal." They are a hardy race that lives deep under the mountains, building vast cities and mines within the rock and earth. Of all the races of Audalis, the Khordaldrum are the most reclusive, even more so than the Gilskalos or the Slaa'kar.
The People: The Khordaldrum race is known for being sturdy and strong. As a long-lived race, they can easily attain three hundred years in age, and remain quite active through the majority of those years. They are often called "Khords" by the other races and sometime "Kords," although a Khordaldrum always prefers to be called by his given name. While they rarely grow much taller than four feet, Khordaldrum are very solidly built (weighing usually over 130 lbs) and make excellent warriors. Their skin is usually tan or ruddy; hair is normally brown, occasionally black, sometimes red, although very rarely. Eye color is typically brown for the males, although it is said that Khord females have violet or green eyes. Khord males have a tendency to go gray early in life, around sixty or seventy years, which is considered a mark of distinction in their society. All Khords, both male and female, have beards. A clean-shaven Khord is an outcast, this being a lowest sign of disgrace and dishonor.
Most Khordaldrum make their homes in the subterranean cities under the Khordal mountain range, though a few opt for aboveground settlements. Centuries ago, a second Khordaldrum nation existed in the Chakran mountains, but the inhabitants there were exterminated by the crunaik, goblins, and trolls that also made their homes in those same mountains. Many Khordaldrum still dream of the day when the Chakrans will be reclaimed from the foul beasts that slew their kin, and rumors persist that a small clan of Chakrandrum survived and live on deep within the bowels of the earth. The Chakrandrum were a very similar race to the Khordaldrum, with the exception of being taller (4 to 4.5 feet tall), and fairer of skin and hair.
Culture and Society: Rules. They are the heart and soul of Khord society and each and every last Khord lives and dies by the rules. The people live in vast caverns, built from the rock and earth, carved carefully from the living stone. If one rule is not followed, one part of a column done in haste and without care of the rules, then the cavern will probably collapse. One can only imagine how important rules must be to the Khordaldrum, given that context.
A Khord that breaks the rules is banished from society without exception. A Khord that breaks the rules and thereby causes the death of another is shaved, then banished - a fate worse than death. All the rules, no matter how small or how important, are kept in the Halls of Memory where the entire Gamulqolfelir is carved into the walls and kept for all Khordaldrm to read. [Editor's note: The written language of the Khords is based on over five hundred different runes and symbols. Every Khord child is taught to read and write the runes before their twentieth birthday.]
As a function of the rules, every Khord in Khordal knows what he is and where he ranks within the society. He knows what to do to help a craftsman, he knows who to go to when he is not feeling well, and he knows what he can say and what he can not. This may be part of why Khords have so much trouble with other races, because they cannot classify them into any rank of their society other than "outsider".
Khord social structure is not widely known or understood by outsiders. Many Khords never leave their homes for their entire lives, instead devoting all of their energy to crafts and smithing. Others become warriors, defending the homelands from invaders above and below. Yet, where are the women? Very few outsiders have even seen a Khord female, and some have pondered that there is no visual difference between male and female Khordaldrum. That is not true; female Khords are indeed bearded, slightly shorter than males, and tend to be round-shaped with large bosoms.
A little known fact about Khords is that for every four born, three will be male. Given this disproportion in the male to female ratio, Khord males who do not find a mate in life will devote themselves and their energies to working on their chosen profession. Married Khords also have professions, but it is generally accepted that bachelors do the better work. Female Khords mostly tend to home and hearth, attending to the needs of children and education. It is taught among the Khords that males deal with the big issues, while females deal with the small. To the outsider this may seem a bit derogatory to the women, but it is not true to the Khordaldrum. It is understood in their society that there are many more small issues than big, and if they are not dealt with effectively, then society will fall.
The family is the most important part of the Khordaldrum life. Families live together, building subsections off of their homes as needed. Every family has a Patriarch who represents them in outer council meetings. Married couples will have their own dwellings, while bachelors often stay in the same series of caverns. As the typical Khord female has four children in her lifetime, it is considered good if one child becomes a craftsmen, another a warrior, the third a part of the clergy, and finally a female to help continue the race. If a fourth male is born, then they are the one encouraged to marry to help build the family. Marriage ceremonies are planned years in advance, last for two weeks, and invitations to these events are relished and highly sought. Once a couple is married, the female is officially adopted into the family of the male and takes his name. This adoption is often ridiculed by the other races, as it does mean that the couple technically becomes brother and sister, but the Khords do not understand the joke.
Marriages are often prearranged between families, many times as soon as a female child is born, and the women do the choosing. With so few females and so many males, it is considered unwise to let these things happen by chance, and generally male Khords are just glad to be picked. Whether part of their heritage or whether the women are good at "picking" couples, most marriages among the Khords are considered happy, although there is the fact that they will go long periods of time without seeing each other.
Khords often find it hard to understand other races because they do not follow the same world views. Raised to believe that rules are the foundation of society, Khords have a problem understanding the "frivolous" Sylvari, the "promiscuous" humans and the "damned annoying" cidals.
Part of this also lies in the fact that Khordaldrum have a completely different sexual makeup than the other races. Female Khords are only in "season" for a period of three days every three years. During that time they give off an earthy scent (like peat moss) that will drive a male Khord into a lustful state. Married Khords usually lock themselves in their homes during this "fertile" season (Orta-dal as the Khords say). Females usually go through this starting at age fifty. However, other than during the season, there is no sexual activity. If a male Khord goes his entire life without ever marrying or seeing a female in this state, he will never feel the urge. This is why Khords are baffled by the other races' need to court, kiss, cuddle, and fool around; it is all a waste of time to them. This is not to say that a Khord never feels love - indeed, when a male Khord dies, it is not unusual for his wife to die of the "weeping" disease, an illness created by severe grief where the female essentially cries herself to death. Those that do recover from the grief will usually not remarry for decades.
There are many different kinds of craftsmen and professions within Khordal. Metals are forged into mighty weapons, gems and rock carved into artistic pieces of beauty. It is said that a Khord hates to see a naked blade, - which is to say that every piece that is worked upon has some artwork bestowed upon it. Even the simplest of pots and pans will have the seleta mark of the maker upon it. This seleta mark is a source of great pride among the Khords, and they will remark upon them to others. (See this hammer? Look here, it's a Relis! See, here is his seleta). The Khordaldrum love to work hard and enjoy their professions. Anything less than twelve hours is a leisure day, and even warriors will spar for hours, only to take their turn at helping the craftsmen work.
Warriors are held in high regard in Khord society, and are very necessary. The lands of the Khords are often beset by many a foul creature, from trolls, ogres, and goblins to even viler creatures awoken by the Khordaldrum digging too deep into the bowels of the earth. Another profession held very high among the Khords is the sapper. A type of warrior, a sapper combines the fighting skills of a soldier with the engineering skills of a miner. The sapper is the first into any newly discovered caves or grottos. It is said that sappers can look at a stone on the ground and realize whether a cavern is safe to claim or best left alone.
In combat, the Khordaldrum favor the double-edged axe or the warhammer. Looking at a Khord, it is not hard to see why, as they are not built for finesse-type weapons. Some Khords use short swords, light spears, or other such weapons, but most chose the axe and hammer.
It is often said that Khordaldrum are completely without a sense of humor. The Khord response to that would be that it is false; he will laugh when he hears something truly funny! Although an extremely serious and somber race, they do enjoy a good laugh over a nice frothy tankard of ale or hard cider. The reason that Khords are seen among the other races as humorless is that to them, each individual must be the epitome of Khordaldrum kind when they are among other beings. Therefore, it takes a while for a Khord to feel comfortable enough around others to let down the guard, push the rules to the back of the mind, and simply relax.
The Khordaldrum have a higher alcohol tolerance than most races, and can drink an exceptional amount of libations without feeling the effect. The preferred drink of most is ale, followed by hard cider and mead. No Khord will drink wine willingly ("if I wanted water, lass, I'd ask for it!"). In Khordal, there is a drink that the warriors drink called zhan-vunlgen or "Khordaldrum Liquor". This is a harsh drink, and very potent; few of the other races can stomach it. It is so strong that even among the Khords, one tankard is enough to put a male warrior on the floor.
Trade and Commerce: Khordaldrum merchants trade the goods and products of the craftsmen among themselves and to the aboveground races of Antaron. Metal goods, weapons, armor, jewelry, and crafted metallurgy are traded by the merchants in exchange for foodstuffs, cloth, and other goods that are not readily available to the Khordaldrum. On the bigger scale, the Khords are the source for about forty perfect of the iron ore and sixty percet of the gold in Antaron.
If it weren't for the goods they sell being so highly needed, no one would ever willingly deal with a Khord merchant. They rarely haggle and if they do, they don't deviate from the price much. All the merchants use the same prices (rules, don't you know) and it is hard to find a bargain with a Khord.
One particular trade good that will get a Khordaldrum merchant bargaining is mithril. This fine metal, the secret of which is held by the Sylvari, is like ambrosia to the Khords. They love it and they like to have it. Many a Khord smith has tried unsuccessfully to figure out the secret of mithril, and it remains a point of contention between the Khordaldrum and the Sylvari.
Religion: Religion is a very vibrant part of a Khordaldrum's life. They worship Kharox, or Gamultinader in their language, and it is considered part of a family's honor to enter a son into the clergy. There are three different clerical followings of Kharox, each with its own function and purpose within society.
Art of Olorfarluk, the World Carvers: Followers of this teaching seek to make their marks upon the world according to the vision of Kharox. This is the largest sect of his teachings that keeps Kharox's laws called the Gamulqolfelir, the Grand Vision. The home of these followers is in the Warrens of Gunthras in Khordal with other shrines and followings in Settlestone and Jaycern. World Carvers seek to preserve the great works of the Khordaldrum as well as work towards making even grander and more breathtaking works of beauty from the earth.
Sentinels of Runes: The Sentinels are guardians of sacred places. These followers study ancient arts, architecture, and engineering to create some of the grand tombs, temples, forests, and rivers seen in the world of Audalis. Whether natural or formed by hand, the Sentinels use their knowledge, creativity, magic, and their abilities to protect holy places. Some of the most famous traps and protection devices have been devised by the Sentinels.
Runemasters: Among the Khordaldrum, there is a small group that is held in high esteem. While the World Carvers are keepers of the Laws, the Khun-kharad, or Runemasters, are keepers of all lore and knowledge that is sacred. They are the defenders of secrets, and the last line of defense against demons and elemental creatures that slumber within the earth's core. Unless they are on a specific quest for knowledge or an artifact, the Runemasters will not venture forth from Khordal. Most Runemasters would prefer to stay home in the mine and curl up with a good rock.
Values and Taboos: As strange as it sounds to the other races, Khords hold great value in their beards. Their facial hair tells a story to other Khords and they read one another's like a book. A braid in a beard is something highly valued by the Khords, both male and female. When a Khord performs a deed or action that exemplifies the Gamulqolfelir or shows great honor, they are allowed to tie a braid in their beard. No one would dare tie one without performing such an act, as wearing a braid will bring prompt other Khords to ask, "Tell us how you earned that braid." A bead within the braid means that a life was saved and the family of the rescued has given honor to that Khord. Two braids woven together through a single bead represent a sacrifice. A grouping of silver or golden threads in a braid represents acts of faith or steadfastness.
Stories and tales of heroic deeds and Khordaldrum steadfastness are enjoyed by all, along with song. Khords tend to enjoy songs that are shared by a group and generally make all other races look ridiculous in comparison to Khordaldrum kind.
There is a Sylvari saying that all topics are taboo to the Khordaldrum. Certainly with the structured lives of the race, it is very limited what they will discuss among themselves, let alone with outsiders. Among themselves, it is considered very taboo to talk about another Khord's wife. It is very bad manners to use another dwarf's tools without permission. This rule alone could explain the special dislike of cidals that the Khordaldrum are known to have. However, to offer another Khord the use of your tools is considered a high honor.
The Khordaldrum value hard work, good craftsmanship, and time honored traditions. Family, home, and hearth are at the core of their existence, and they enjoy peace and harmony. That being said, a Khord will never shy from a fight, and they do not fear dying for their homeland, family, or race.
Large bodies of water and things that are used to cross them are not liked by Khords. The general dislike comes from the bulky and solid physique of the race, which is not meant for swimming; truth be told, most Khords would sink faster than an anchor in water. Another general dislike of the Khordaldrum are horses. They do not like riding horses, for basically the same reason - their short stature makes riding difficult at the best of times.
One of the biggest values and taboos rolled into one lies in the prized weapon or tool of the family Patriarch. When a family loses their Patriarch to age or battle, the chosen weapon if he was a warrior, or tool if he was a craftsman, is passed to the eldest son. The ceremony is very sacred, and is always attended by members of the clergy. The celebration afterwards rivals that of marriage as the family celebrates the new Patriarch and the fond memories of the ones who have passed. The eldest son has no choice in this - he must take the offering and the role given to him, and abandon all previous plans. If a Khordaldrum were to ever refuse this honor, they would be shaved and banished forever, never again allowed to return.
Game Terms (d20):
·+2 Constitution, -2 Charisma:
·Medium-size: As Medium-size creatures, Khords have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
·Khordaldrum base speed is 20 feet.
·Darkvision: Khords can see in the dark up to 60 feet. Darkvision is black and white only, but it is otherwise like normal sight, and Khords can function just fine with no light at all.
·Stonecunning: Stonecunning grants Khords a +2 racial bonus on checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn't stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A Khord who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a check as if he were actively searching, and a Khord can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A Khord can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up. Khords have a sixth sense about stonework, an innate ability that they get plenty of opportunity to practice and hone in their underground homes.
·+2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison: Khords are hardy and resistant to toxins.
·+2 racial bonus on saving throws against spells and spell-like effects.
·+1 racial bonus to attack rolls against orcs, crunaik, and goblinoids (goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears): Khords are trained in the special combat techniques that allow them to fight their common enemies more effectively.
·+4 dodge bonus against giants: This bonus represents special training that Khords undergo, during which they learn tricks that previous generations developed in their battles with giants. Note that any time a character loses his positive Dexterity bonus to Armor Class, such as when he's caught flat-footed, he loses his dodge bonus, too.
·+2 racial bonus on Appraise checks that are related to rare or exotic items: Khords are familiar with valuable items of all kinds (especially those made of stone or metal).
·+2 racial bonus on Craft checks that are related to stone or metal: Khords are especially capable with stonework and metalwork.
·Favored Class: Fighter. A multiclass Khord's fighter class does not count when determining whether he suffers an XP penalty for multiclassing. Khordaldrum culture extols the virtues of the warrior, and the vocation comes easily to Khords.
Game Terms (OSGS):
·+1 Constitution; -1 Charisma
·bonus to Khords' saving throws against attacks from magical wands, staves, rods, and spells. This bonus is +1 for every 3 - ½ points of Constitution score. Thus, for example, if a Khord has a Constitution score of 7 he gains +2 on saving throws.br>
Saving Throw Bonus
·Khords have exceptional resistance to toxic substances. All Khordaldrum characters make saving throws against poison with the same bonuses that they get against magical attacks.
·In melee, Khords add 1 to their dice rolls to hit orcs, half-orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins. When ogres, trolls, ogre magi, or giants attack Khords, these monsters must subtract 4 from their attack rolls because of the Khords' small size and combat ability against these much bigger creatures.
·Khordaldrum infravision enables them to see up to 60 feet in the dark.
·Khords are miners of great skill. While underground, they can detect the following information when within 10 feet of the particular phenomenon (but they can determine their approximate depth below the surface at any time).
Detect grade or slope in passage 1-5 on 1d6
Detect new tunnel/passage construction 1-5 on 1d6
Detect sliding/shifting walls or rooms 1-4 on 1d6
Detect stonework traps, pits, and deadfalls 1-3 on 1d6
Determine approximate depth underground 1-3 on 1d6
Thanks to Roger (Alacrity) Briant for this contribution!