Dwarves IMC are very isolationist. After stomping the humans rather thoroughly when the Empire tried to annex the mountains (human infantry trying to attack dwarven fortresses, said fortresses having cannon and grapeshot… you just know that’s not going to work), they turned their backs on them, having a no-interaction arrangement. Something along the lines of “you don’t try that again, we won’t march on your capital and burn it to the ground”. Since then, their technology has gotten even better.
- Four hundred years ago, the dwarves had black powder. And built cannon, defending their surface emplacements along the border. Cannon are also used where attack is expected, and most towns and villages in the kingdom have a couple of mobile cannon (on wagons).
- About 350 years ago, a rather clever dwarf figured out the first steam engine. They were initially large, ungainly things, way too heavy to move themselves. They were excellent for things that didn’t need to move. They have huge application in mining — mine pumps, ventilation systems, and pulling mine carts. They have use in various other crafts and industries.
- After about 80 years of refinement and improvement (including the use of better alloys produced using the steam engines, in fact), lighter engines became possible. The first railway started, eventually connecting the capital (“High King’s Seat”) to the other major towns of the kingdom. The network has since grown; rail joins all towns, all militarily relevant locations have rail access, and even most of the larger villages are on the rail. There are dwarves who actually commute by train.
- Dwarves IMC don’t float worth a damn. The *human* body doesn’t float very well, dwarves’ bodies are even denser, in part because of greater muscle fibre density, partly because they do in fact embody the spirit of stone. They *sink*. So, very few dwarves were ever willing to travel over water. They don’t trust wooden boats, they sink too easily.
- Steel production in the dwarven kingdoms is huge. About 30 years ago a dwarf thought “part of why we don’t like going on water is that wooden boats sink too easily… let’s build a steel boat”. It was, frankly, too damn heavy to sail at all well, and dwarves as a group don’t much like heights. Steam engines were now light enough it was feasible to use one to drive a ship (and carry the fuel for it).
- Six years ago, the first steam-driven ironclad slid into the sea, armed with cannon. Since then, seven more have been constructed and commissioned, and now patrol the sea nearest the dwarven kingdom. From time to time one will go on a wider patrol, or run a mission farther away.
- The meraelves (sea elves) usually stick to the southern waters and haven’t actually run into them, but they have heard stories from northern merchants who have sailed those waters and seen them. The meraelves have dominated the sea for the last several hundred years; it is uncertain how they will view this new development… but it seems likely that being between the two will not be good.
Where’d I get the idea for this? Well, I knew dwarven technology was more advanced than the other kingdoms (I wanted cannon and dwarven musketeers — not the swashbuckling kind, the kind that carry around hand cannon), and I knew that the meraelves controlled shipping.
Mostly, though, I wanted my players’ first view of a dwarf to be a ship’s engineer. Short, same general shape and consistency of a brick, wearing grease-stained coveralls and smoking a bigass cigar, reaming out the guy he’s talking to, trying to get certain equipment/material/parts/ whatever.