One of my favourite things is random charts and rolling on them, to see what madness ensues. And of the core races in most fantasy games, dwarves are my favourite. Tough, stalwart, down-to-earth dwarves. And so it is luck that The Complete Book of Dwarves for 2nd ED AD&D just happens to have random charts, specifically to create a dwarven stronghold. And it was fairly balanced, unlike the Complete Book of Pointy-Ears, which should outright be banned.
We are going to go through the process, step by step, and create one with jut dice rolls and nothing more. While the book says that you can pick and choose if you want, we are going to let chaos and fate choose for us. One odd thing to note is that Dwarf Strongholds as presented in the books never get very big, with maybe a couple of thousand people living in them at most. Dwarven cities just aren’t a thing apparently.
First up is the name of the Stronghold. For that we roll 1d4 times on the Dwarf Name Prefix table and then roll on the Stronghold Suffix table, whack them together and mix to come up with a name. Sadly no meanings are provided, like in Dwarf Fortress. For us we get 2 prefixes, which are Bal and Kil, and the suffix of Hak. Balkilhak.
Next is to find out just which dwarven subrace lives there, and how many of them there are. There is a chance of a mix of subraces as well, but we don’t get that. Instead we roll a 23 on the d100, which turns out to be Gully Dwarves. Oh dear. They are unwashed, cowardly, degenerates who give all true dwarves a bad name. They scavenge in the refuses of others for their treasures and are dealt with contempt by everyone.
Why the dwarves get saddled with such a terrible subrace and a certain pointy-eared race doesn’t is one of the great travesties of gaming.
A gully dwarf stronghold has 1d100+100 males in it, plus half that number of females and one quarter of children. We roll a 49 for 149 men, 74 females and 37 children, for a total of 260 inhabitants.
We know that gully dwarves live in Balkilhak, but we don’t know the overall alignment of the place. For that we roll 2d6 and consult the Gully Dwarf column of the Overall Stronghold Alignment Table. We roll an 8 – Chaotic Neutral. Standard for gully dwarves, resulting in a stronghold teetering on the edge of collapse.
A picture is forming, but now we need to find out what type of stronghold it is, from a major one all the way down to a tiny one occupied by a single family. A roll of 44 on 1d100 results in a Secondary Stronghold, the standard size, and one without any population modifiers.
How old is Balkilhak? Dwarves think in terms of generations, not years. For a secondary stronghold, it has been around 2d6 generations, but because gully dwarves are involved, we subtract 2 from the roll. We roll 11 – 2, for a total of 9 generations. Somehow the gully dwarves have kept this place running for 9 generations, and given a gully dwarf lives for around 250 years, that is 2250 years the place has been standing. That is something of a miracle.
How has that happened? Perhaps the government type will give us some clues. For that we roll 1d100, but we add 10 to that for being gully dwarves and 10 more for being a chaotic aligned stronghold. A roll of 75 +20 = 95. Theocracy. Priests rule the stronghold, but what gods they follow we may not want to know.
Our next step is to work out the attitude of the stronghold, which impacts their military strength. A decadent stronghold is not going to be as strong as an expansionist one. In our case we roll a 20 on 1d20 – Isolationist. They avoid all contact with other races if they can help it, and 75-100% of their adult population, male and female, receive regular training. It is probably more likely that all other races avoid contact with them than the other way around. Just for the best really.
What about the resources that Balkilhak has access to? That is a 1d20 roll, -10 for being gully dwarves and +1 for being a secondary stronghold. That is a big penalty. We manage to roll a 19. Modified, that brings us down to 10, or average wealth. For gully dwarves, that is living in the lap of luxury.
Even an isolationist stronghold has some sort of relationship with the other races out there, and the first we roll for are the four other player character races – humans, elves, gnomes and halflings. For that we roll a 1d20, modified by +1 for being chaotic neutral. Isolationists treat all rolls of 4 or less as being a 9 – they cant actually be friendly with anyone. Humans are an 11 – cautious. Elves are a 7 – cautious. Gnomes are a 10 – indifferent. Halflings are a 15 – threatening. Balkilhak is neutral towards the gnomes, even allowing some to visit and maybe have a merchant or two live among them. For humans and elves, the relationship is strained, and any visitors are searched and watched closely. Halflings are warned off with threats of violence and are not allowed into Balkilhak at all, though they aren’t at war. They just really don’t like halflings for some reason.
What of other races? We need to roll on the War/Peace table for that. An unmodified 1d20 gets us 5 – peace. How long have they been at peace? A 1d10 gives us 7 – 2d6 generations, or 4 generations. 1000 years before Balkilhak was at war, and we need to find out who with. A 1d100 roll on the war table gives us 63 – lizardmen. Not your standard enemy, but gully dwarves aren’t your standard race. On the war duration table, we roll 1 on a 1d10, which gives us a 1d8 day war, or 3 days. To find out what type of war it was, we roll a 1d10, with a +1 modifier for being isolationist. The result is 10 – invasion. Sounds like the lizardmen came across Balkilhak, stormed it in 3 days and then found nothing of real value and so left again.
The last step of the process is to work out the type of militia that Balkilhak has. As we saw earlier, an isolationist stronghold has 75-100% of its adult population in the militia. The total adult population is 223. In this case we will go with the 75% value. Gully dwarves being the cowards they are, a quarter of them hiding or running away before the fight makes sense. That gives us 167 members of the militia.
Looking at the entry for gully dwarves, we find their base morale is 7 (unsteady), +1 for being isolationist, for a final value of 8. Give the base value for all other dwarves is 13 (elite), it gives you an idea how cowardly this lot are. They are only equipped with leather armour and shields, and whatever weapons they can scavenge. Probably only weapons like spears, clubs, knives (rusty ones at that) and not much else.
There are a few gully dwarf leaders who are a bit better than the average gully dwarf. For ever 4 members of the militia, there is a thief of level 2-6, for every 5 a warrior of 2-4, for ever 10 a warrior of 2-6, for every 50 a warrior of level 8 and for every 100 a warrior of level 10 and a priest of level 1-10. Except for the thieves, the leaders have chain mail armour and shields.
The final total for the militia is;
167 1st level dwarves, 41 2nd-6th level thieves, 33 2nd-4th level warriors, 16 2nd-6th level warriors, 3 8th level warriors, 1 10th level warrior and 1 1st-10th level priest. The leaders are in addition to the regular militia members, which means there are 95 more people in the stronghold, increasing the size of it to 355 gully dwarves.
Stongholds may have access to special forces, such as Battleragers and Hearth Guards, but it is unlikely gully dwarves would have any, or be inclined to risk themselves in such a manner. For ever 50 members of the militia, they might have a war machine. We roll 3 times on a 1d10+1 for being isolationist, giving results of 2, 7, 8. A 2 gives nothing, but the other 2 mean there are 2 war machines in Balkilhak. Ramshackled things no doubt, prone to breaking down, but present. From the list, we give them 2 light ballistas, as everything else is a little too complex for gully dwarves. Some strongholds may also be guarded by trained animals as well, but without specialist trainers it means Balkilhak doesn’t. Still, there are rats around. Lots and lots of rats.
Why the mad god Balkil decided to create the gully dwarves is unknown, but created them he did. Somehow they survived and clustered around the stronghold they called Balkilhak, a place that wobbled on the edge of anarchy and collapse throughs its long history. Guided, if it could be called it, by the priests of the mad god, laws and rules were decided on by whim and ever changing. Not that the gully dwarves paid much attention to them.
They are ignored, left to their own devices, and about the only ones that pay them any attention are gnomish traders who arrive from time to time to buy what ever items of value that the gully dwarves have found and sell them baubles in return. The day may come when the whims of the rulers decided that the gnomes are to be barred, just as the halflings are.
Should any be serious about it, the place could be taken easily, as the lizardmen once proved in a one sided three day war, but to date no one has the desire to do so, for their would nothing of value to be gained from it. Thus, their lowly and oft despised nature keeps the gully dwarves of Balkilhak safe for now.