The Dwarven Purpose, part 1

From: Erik Sieurin <>
Date: Tue, 9 Jun 1998 21:08:26 +0100

The human view on dwarves is full of misconceptions. One of them regards the dwarven psyche. What makes dwarves tick(1)? To a human, their lives seem meaningless. To a dwarf, that's just the point.

PURPOSE AND LIFE A dwarf doesn't need his life to have meaning. He needs it to have a Purpose, and all dwarves have a Purpose. All dwarves are made because they are needed for something(2). The dwarves creating them have something in mind that they need to be done, and the dwarf is the tool - the very expensive, delicate and valuable tool, it should be noted - they carefully make to perform that task.

As long as a dwarf fullfills his Purpose, he stays alive - truly alive, according to dwarven standards. This also means he experiences something so similar to the human concept of 'joy' that we might as well call it that. Humans think that dwarves fear breaking the dwarven customs, their 'priming', because if they do that they'll die, but that's wrong. Dwarves fear breaking the Rules because doing so means, or at least it might mean, not fulfilling their Purpose. That they would break down and die if they did is merely a side-effect. Existence without Purpose is meaningless to a dwarf. A dwarf which finally fulfills his ultimate Purpose dies as well, theoretically, but that has yet to happen.

The issue gets complex because a dwarf has several layers of Purpose. For instance, the overall ultimate Purpose of all dwarves is to repair the World Machine. The closest-to-reality Purpose for a dwarf is fulfilling his specific function, for which he is educated and trained, in the work unit he belongs to, whatever that is, with as great a level of perfection as is possible. In between these Purposes is the Purpose primed into him when grown: Gold Dwarves wishes to preserve and manage Information, Iron Dwarves wish to engage in constructive destruction, Tin Dwarves want to control and perfect other (more or less) sentient beings.

Sometimes these Purposes conflict. For instance, at one point a group of Iron Dwarves might end up in a situation where they have to (according to Orders) run away. The Foremen might have decided this to be better for the Schedule; the fighting unit might be too valuable to lose and the odds bad. Or a Tin Dwarf might be told to destroy a troublesome machina, whose programming isn't perfect.

However, the general Iron priming stresses that Irons don't flee. Thus the Irons might resent fleeing. The general priming of all dwarves is preservative; all dwarves want to avoid waste, to repair that which can be repaired instead of breaking it. Thus the Tin Dwarf might resent destroying the Jolanti.

A dwarf in such a situation have a bit of a conundrum: whatever it does, it will conflict with its Purpose. This generates what humans would describe as unhappiness, uneasiness or angst, depending on the level of the conundrum. Often, dwarves will in either enter a Reiteration Loop or throw an Enthropic Tantrum because of such a conundrum.

A dwarf stuck in a Reiteration Loop will activate the mathematical/logical parts of his brain, and concentrate all his resources to them, trying to calculate which acts actually conflicts most with his overall Purpose. Often, such a calculation is not possible, always reaching the conclusion: 'Insufficient data', which starts the process all over again. While doing this, the dwarf freezes. Usually, his pulse slows, his breathing almost stops, and he either ceases all bodily or magical actions, or (if he is skilled enough), continues with any repetitive action he was performing when the conundrum presented itself(3). Only the most extreme, upsetting actions will cause him to slip out of this loop.

A dwarf who throws an Enthropy Tantrum will realise that all reasonable actions are out of the question, so it might as well do something unreasonable - like start to perform any current irrelevant caste function, start to perform its hobby, run in circles screaming, form a queue, or break for coffee. After the Tantrum ends, the dwarf (if still functional) returns to normal.

A dwarf in the presence of a Foreman or similar authority when presented with a problem of this kind will in most cases ask him what to do - unless the Foreman created the problem (like, throwing an Enthropy Tantrum himself for some reason and giving weird orders). =A8
PURPOSE AND HOBBY If presented with a problem of this kind regularily, a dwarf will finally find a way around it, if by no other means then by reporting for recycling. Although this quite often means making a decision by itself, this is not normally seen as dysfunction or breakdown. It is what gives dwarves what they have instead of a personality, but that is a moot point to dwarves; what's important to them it is that it enables them to perform their Purpose.

Anything which does not hinder a dwarf's Purpose, nor helps it, is unimportant to a dwarf. He'll ignore it. This means that dwarves care nothing for other dwarves or their work as long as it doesn't touch their own work in some way, and they realise it does. What a dwarf does in his spare time, for instance, it usually of no interest to his Foremen or fellow unit workers. This is the origin of the strange concept of the Dwarven Hobby.

All dwarves have a hobby. The hobby is something which relates at least to their Caste Purpose and preferrably to their Specific, Personal Purpose. All dwarves will sometimes find that they have nothing to do, just as they sometimes find that they have to work for very long times without rest or respite. It all depends on the Schedule. However, dwarves have an urge to make things, to do stuff, to give shape and purpose to the raw matter of the world. They also have an urge to perfect whatever their specialty is so that they will perform their Purpose better. Their work tasks seldom suffice, since dwaves promote in exactly the opposite way from humans. Anyone is usually given a position below his capability, so that it will be unlikely that he will fail.

So the dwarves fill their spare time with work which has no purpose except to make something and/or to perfect their crafts. That's why, for instance, all dwarven produce is covered by barocque decorations, carvings and runes. The walls have leering faces, the feet of a table toes, the tools are filled with strange geometric patterns. Sometimes these things hinders the purpose of the item, because the dwarf who created it was slightly dysfunctional.

That is also why the dwarves produces many outlandish and completely useless little widgets and thingamajigs and thingummies. It is to test whether they can do it; make an arrow which is completely un-aerodynamical, a perfect pyramid which levitates in the presence of ketchup, an egg made of stone which will hatch and produce a copper chick if you crack it...

Quicksilvers perform alchemical experiments. Silvers weaves weird enchantments or personal signs which accompany their magicks, known as their Signatures. Golds write detailed descriptions of things everyone knows, or outlandish lies to train their deception capabilities(4). Brass dwarves create stuff like iron which rusts in minutes or gold which dissolves in water. Tins create small constructs which quickly dissolve, or train Jolanti to do stupid Jolanti tricks. Iron dwarves have invented the wargame to practice tactics they will never use(5), and build guns to large to lift and swords made of rubber.

All these actions of course demand space, time and materials, and as soon as the amount of space, time and/or materials becomes to small to allow for the hobbies to be practiced, most dwarves cease practicing them until it becomes possible. Materials for hobbies are simply taken from stores unless the manager protests or recycled from previous projects. Space is usually the dwarfs small private cell, or his normal working area. In Openhandist enclaves, where the purpose of 'trade' has wormed itself inside the dwarven mind, there is a whole 'aboveground' economy, parallell to the normal dwarven economy but not in conflict with it, in which dwarves work beyond their quotas to produce products and services which they can trade to other dwarves for stuff these dwarves have made which is usable in their hobby. This drastically cuts them time it is possible to practice your hobby, but increase the amount of materials. Also, it leads to the production of extra, useful resources which can be expropriated by the community when need arises.

PURPOSE AND ENEMIES Anything which have no purpose at all, like most living beings, are horrible to dwarves, like run-amok machines on a rampage. This include humans. The purpose of non-dwarven life seems to be to exist, to die and to procreate. To exist without purpose, be fated to die and to fill that empty purposelessness with creating more horrible purposeless copies of one self, that is our 'life' to the dwarves. These purposeless units of unlife exist because Nature, the Machine, is broken and thus produces these abominations. That means that every discerning dwarf which sees a living being sees proof that the Task is not yet complete, and feels distress.

Plants are the most horrible, for they seem to have least purpose of all. Plants are unimaginably scary to many dwarves, and the fear of civilians will generally cause Iron dwarves to destroy all plantlife within sight of any surface workplace. Irons themselves dislike plants but do fear them, unless they are controlled by elves or their allies.

And Chaos is even more horrible, though many dwarves cannot tell the difference. It actually has a Purpose, but a purposeless Purpose: To destroy the Machine utterly, so that it can never be repaired(6).

1, And what makes them tock?

2, Well, sometimes they are made because some joking Quicksilver added an extra nought to the requisition document, making 20 200, but without such mistakes, there wouldn't be any saxophones or any bowling, and then the Schedule would be even more screwed up.

3, This was the cause of the infamous Fortysixth Level Lecture, which took 67 human years. A Gold, Grip Numbermonger, was lecturing 110 dwarves-in-training when he got stuck in a Reiteration Loop. He just continued to hold the same lecture he had held for 149 yearly batches of dwarves until it was over, then started again. And again. And again.

As their general Priming told the audience that they must stay Numbermonger finished his lecture, _but_ that they also must be in time for work, other study, etc, most of them _also_ got stuck in a Reiteration Loop, and duly took the same notes again, and again, and again.

The Loop seemed to be contagious; dwarves sent to end it was stuck as well, between the objectives of having to end the lecture and allowing it to continue until finished. The Golden Foremen finally decided to wall off the lecture area; an appearantly individualist Quicksilver who was responsible for the feeding of these dwarves sent in nilmergs to re-stock their wrap-covered rolls, choclate bars and synthetic coffee, and as a result they survived.

The lecture finally ended when one Silver student threw an Enthropis Tantrum instead, stood up in his chair and screamed 'UP YOUR M*RTAR, MOTHERGR*WING PIECE OF M*AT!!' to the lecturer, giving him the finger at the same time. The all-important function of preserving dignity took over, and Numbermonger threw out the student, concluded the lecture one final time, and went off to report the student as faulty. He was sent to reconditioning the next day.

4) The dwarven talent for deception is severely hindered by their lack of imagination and greatly helped by their general lack of facial and vocal expression. A dwarf says things like 'We're doomed' 'That was the self-destruct button' or 'You saved my life' without any greater facial movements and in the same monotone as ever. The only thing which tells you if a dwarf is lying or not is the likelyhood of whether what he says is true or not. Tip: 'We mean you no harm' is usually a lie when dwarves are concerned.

5, Wargames are part of Iron training, simulating past battles until the prescribed tactics becomes instinctive to them. Since Irons are often held to be generally responsible for contacts with other beings, and thus have to perform some social interaction with them, among Openhandists there was for a period of time something best described as a role-playing game. The project was abandoned as the minds of the involved dwarves where affected. They started to have strange, irrational emotions like 'affection', 'faith' and 'inspiration'.

6) The small dysfunction known as the Nihilists actually thinks this is a good thing. They dislike the whole idea of repairing the Machine. Instead it should be recycled, reduced to the basic featureless chaos slime it came from, and then it's self-repair functions would reconstruct it in its true glory, and restore it to its original magnificent Purpose. Most Nihilists simply commit suicide while trying to destroy as much of dwarfdom as possible, but some have seceded and allied with chaos creatures, most often krashtkids, although they certainly aren't worshipping Chaos Gods.

"The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea, in a beautiful pea-green boat..."
>From "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear

Erik Sieurin
Bodagatan 39, 2 tr
50742 Bor=E5s

End of The Glorantha Digest V5 #652

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