Santicore 2015: Dwarves’ Beards: What are they for?

mybeardDuring last year’s Secret Santicore, I was asked to come up for uses that Dwarves might have for their beards. (Beyond simply being super stylish). Nearly a year after the fact, my entry just popped up on the Santicore blog, and I thought I’d share it here.

Dear Santicore,

Dwarves’ beards: what are they for? A serious question. I would like a table of useful spelunking skills which a dwarf might be trained to accomplish using only their beard. Ideally starting dwarven characters would be able to roll up one bonus skill on it. Thank you!

— F.W.

For centuries, the dwarves of the Copper Keep have practiced the art of Beardcraft. When a young dwarf’s chin hairs first reach 6” (usually around 8 months), they are presented to the Beardmasters. These bearers of beardly secrets study every aspect of the child’s whiskers: from texture, to thickness, to curl, to pull-strength, and even color. From this, they determine which style the child’s beard is best suited to. The process of treating and grooming the beard is begun immediately, and the young dwarf grows up learning how to maintain and style their beard. Only recently has this practice begun to spread out from the Copper Keep, as a new generation of Beardmasters travel to other dwarven strongholds to share their dignified craft.

1. Rope Beard: In a private ritual each nameday, the dwarf carefully trims their beard from everywhere but their chin. This hair is then treated and braided into the chin hair, lengthening it. The resulting rope is 1’ long for every 2 years of the Dwarf’s life. It is normally worn draped around the dwarf’s shoulders like a scarf. It does not count against the dwarf’s encumbrance limit.

2. Food Catching Beard: The dwarf’s whiskers cling to every crumb of bread, string of meat, and dab of sauce that doesn’t make it into the dwarf’s mouth. At the end of the day, a good shake produces a tidy little pile of edibles ready for consumption. Any rations that the the dwarf purchases will last 50% longer than they normally would.

3. Junk Beard: A messy, unkempt kind of beard often adopted by dwarfs who consistently fail to maintain a more refined style. It is used to store a variety of small, occasionally useful doo-dads. By rummaging through their beard for 1 minute, the dwarf has a 2-in- 6 chance of producing any mundane object of small size and negligible value that they’re looking for: a pair of shears, a spool of twine, a chisel, etc.

4. Disarming Beard: A tangled mesh of wiry hair, slightly sticky to the touch, and tough as strands of steel. When the dwarf is the target of a critical fumble, the fumbler must save versus Paralysis or their weapon becomes caught in the dwarf’s beard. With a practiced jerk of the head, the dwarf can easily send the captured weapon flying away, safely out of reach.

5. Grappling Beard: A soft, voluminous beard, woven into dozens of large loops. With a deft tug of the chin, the dwarf can wrap these loops around an opponent and tighten them. Such dwarfs are skilled wrestlers, using their beards to get a grip on arms or necks. The character grapples as though they are one level higher than they are.

6. Climbing Beard: A tightly braided beard, wrapped around the body as a simple harness. Hooks and spikes dangle from strands of hair in easy reach of hands and feet. Dwarfs with such a beard receive +1 to any climbing related checks.

7. Falling Beard: Soft hair woven into a kind of checkerboard quilt shape, adorned with bits of cloth. Often these are scraps of old clothing donated by friends and loved ones. If the dwarf ever falls from a significant height, their beard will open up like a parachute, and the fall should be treated as though it were 10’ shorter than it actually was. If for some reason the dwarf wishes to fall at full speed, they must make a conscious effort to do so by holding their beard down as they fall.

8. Bramble Beard: A massive bristly bush of hair spreading in every direction, leaving only a few facial features visible. Best suited to dwarfs who are short, even by their race’s diminutive standard. By simply squatting down and squinting their eyes, a Bramble Bearded dwarf becomes nearly indistinguishable from a common tumbleweed.

9. Beard of Lights: A curly beard, with dozens of small upturned strands treated with oil and wax. A Beard of Lights is often chosen for those whose beard grows more quickly than is easily manageable. The upturned tips can be lit, and the fully lit beard serves as a light source equivalent to a torch for up to 6 hours a day.

10. Stonesense Beard: Sometimes mistaken for magic, the Stonesense Beard requires a dwarf of extreme patience and focus to master properly. By pressing their face to a stone surface, the Dwarf can slowly wriggle their beard hairs into the imperceptible cracks and channels in the stone by precisely vibrating their body. The process takes an hour of intense concentration before the beard is fully in place. Once the process is complete, the dwarf can feel even the most minute vibrations traveling through the stone. They can describe any room adjacent to the stone surface they’re connected to, including any creatures or treasure within those chambers.

When the dwarf wishes to extract themselves, they may either spend 10 quiet minutes delicately vibrating their body in reverse, or they may simply tear themselves free of the stone, loudly crumbling it, and leaving a crater roughly 3’x3’x1’ in the surface.

11. Nesting Beard: A wispy funnel of a beard, shaped and scented to be an attractive nest for a particular animal. There are four common animals that these beards are typically made for, based on how the dwarf’s own natural musk resonates with the required scent. Roll to determine which creature nests in your beard:

i. A canary. Will usually remain quiet, but will tweet in a wild panic if there is poison gas in the room. These canaries are particularly sensitive, and can even detect poison gasses that have not yet been released into the air.

ii. A squirrel. A helpful creature that will happily retrieve any small, squirrel-sized objects the dwarf can point to within their line of sight.

iii. A carrier pigeon. Can be sent to any location the dwarf has personally visited within 1 week’s travel distance. It takes 1d8 hours for the pigeon to reach its destination, and the same amount of time to return.

iv. A beaver. Can be directed by the dwarf to gnaw small holes in wooden objects, chew through ropes, etc.

12. Smoking Beard: A wild cascade of hair, meticulously groomed to appear untamed and ferocious. The whole thing is oiled and treated with incense. When the tips of the beard are lit they produce very little light, but a great deal of black, foul-smelling smoke. The smoking beard creates a hellish image of the dwarf, and any foe fighting them takes a penalty of one on their morale checks so long as the beard is lit. There is no limit to how often or long the beard may be lit, but there are natural consequences for being the source of so much smoke.

13. Beard Sack: Easily mistaken for any common dwarf beard, the Beard Sack is a layered style, with a loose outer layer obscuring a tightly woven satchel hidden beneath, with its opening just under the dwarf’s chin. This storage space grants one additional point of encumbrance ability for the dwarf, and anything stored within is considered hidden. Only a thorough search will reveal these hidden items. Such a search would be deeply offensive to any dwarf, and in respectable communities such poor treatment by the authorities may cause civil unrest.

14. Poison Straining Beard: Thick whiskers hang down over the dwarf’s lips, treated with cleansing tinctures. The dwarf can sip any substance safely, and determine with a few smacks of their lips whether it is poison or not. If it is poison, the dwarf can describe the poison’s effects in perfect detail.

15. Bestial Kinship Beard: A layered beard, scented with a subtle, gamey musk, and curving back slightly between the knees. Animals perceive the dwarf as a powerful but temperate creature. The dwarf gains a +1 bonus to reaction rolls made with natural creatures.

16. Beard Art: Only the most malleable of beards is suited to beard art. It is a rare gift, much prized by the beardmasters. The hair is treated with gels, and the dwarf is trained in the art of grooming their beard into the most spectacular shapes and sculptures. Such a beard grants a +1 to reaction rolls with anyone who has an appreciation for the finer things.

17. Sifting Beard: A single looping braid, supporting a lattice of sifting strands. The almost impossibly intricate lattice separates objects based on weight and density. It takes 1 minute to sift through a 1’ cube of detritus. The beard will separate the stones from the metals, and the coppers from the gold pieces. The beard must be dry to function properly, and cannot sift through mud or water.

18. Sleeping Beard: The hair is conditioned for maximum softness on one side, and for insulation and water resistance on the other. It can be used as a rudimentary one-dwarf shelter in time of need.

19. Steel Wool Beard: A coarse beard, treated with polishing oils. Any metal treasure with artistic value (such as a fancy sword, jewelry, a gold watch, ancient coins, etc.) has its value increased by 10% after the masterful cleaning and polishing it receives at the hands of a dwarf with a steel wool beard.

20. Utili-Beard: The beard is knotted and tied with four small tools hanging from it. The expert tying of the beard keeps these tools always within arm’s reach, but never in the way. Any one-handed object can be hung from the utili-beard: a hammer, a hacksaw, a sword, etc. The dwarf may switch between these four objects freely, without taking any penalties that might normally be incurred for switching a new object into the character’s hand.

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