Saturday, May 13, 2017

More Dwarfy Abilities: Dwarf Beard Skills!

In one of my recent posts, I discussed a method of taking traditional dwarf class abilities, sensing moving stone and secret doors, and putting new spin on them. Rather than the source of their abilities being a lifetime of living in caves and mines, their abilities are magical in nature. After thousands of years and uncounted generations living within the bowels of the earth, dwarves have formed a connection with the earth. Through singing to the earth and stones, they can sense changes in the underworld environment and even manipulate stone.

This great post on Papers and Pencils, a 2015 Secret Santicore response, adds another ancient dwarfy ability: Beard Skills! Basically dwarves have learned to groom and train their beards to do some wild things. At character creations, these abilities can be selected just like any other abilities. Additionally, as a dwarf gets access to more abilities as it advances, it may choose to become skilled with its beard, but it must find a tutor from whom it can learn the new beard skill. A dwarf may only ever have one beard skill; and they cannot be changed after a dwarf has become trained in a beard skill.

Beard Skills:

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 either the target of a critical fumble or when it scores a critical hit, 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 it is one level higher than they are. They are able to choke their opponents as though they are armed with a garrote. 
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 either advantage when climbing or a check when no climbing check would be allowed.
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.
I have altered the text of a couple of these descriptions to make them "work" better in my games. Before I finish this post be sure to check in with Papers and Pencils. It is a great OSR style blog. I have been sifting through the play reports lately; they are pretty wild.


  1. This is fantastic! I might try to convince my DM to pull this into our latest game.

  2. Exactly, that's why I am bringing them into my game... silly kinda but fantastic.