Wild dwarves are a smaller subrace of dwarves descended from the gold dwarves of Great Bhaerynden, they have long since descended into barbarism and now live almost exclusively amid the Jungles of Chult.
Millennia ago, a group of gold dwarves migrated from the fall of Bhaerynden to the Chultan Peninsula
Chultan Peninsula: The wild dwarves live almost exclusively among the jungles of the Chultan Peninsula. There are a few isolated wild dwarves outside the jungles, but they are either outcasts or escaped slaves.
Chult: The highest concentration of wild dwarves is found within the Jungles of Chult, the endpoint of a great migration of dwarves from Bhaerynden. Within the Jungles of Chult there are a number of bands that wander the Chultengar region, keeping the Kyusspawn population under control.
Mhair Jungle: There is a sizeable population of wild dwarves in the Mhair Jungle and in a few of the surrounding settlements in Lapaliiya. It is believed that a few of the ruins within the Mhair Jungle are of dwarven origin and that at one time there was a kingdom of dwarves there that presumably fell to yuan-ti and other attackers.
Around -9000 DR, the drow of Telantiwar attacked the dwarven nation of Bhaerynden and caused the collapse of that great nation. Great bands of dwarves spread out in all directions, founding dwarf holds amid mountain ranges as they searched for a home.
One of the larger bands headed west along the mountains of the Shaar and Halruaa, with some establishing permanent holds while the rest continued their migration west until they reached the Chultan Peninsula.
The Chultan Peninsula is filled with mountain ranges which contain sizeable lodes of ore that dwarves are eager to exploit. For some reason the dwarves of this migration were unable to establish themselves in the region, perhaps due to the abundance of firenewts and other scalykind that infested the region, perhaps it was because in the dark places of Chult the shadows come alive. There is evidence among the ruins of the Mhair Jungle that a lost kingdom of the dwarves once thrived there (briefly).
Another migration of dwarves had come to Chult previously from one of the fallen kingdoms of Shanatar (Alatorin), and had encountered similar issues, choosing to sequester themselves in the far western corner of the Jungles of Chult in the Kobold Mountains. Presumably this group of dwarves encountered similar problems in their migration and found their only refuge in this faraway mountain range.
The shield dwarves of Alatorin and the gold dwarves did not ally due to ancient disagreements and so the gold dwarves were left to eke out a living amid the Jungles of Chult. The first holds in the foothills of the Peaks of Flame fell to the constant attacks of scalykind, the clans fractured and established smaller holds in the jungle that again failed under pressure from the jungle denizens and the rapid rotting that the jungle causes in almost every permanent structure.
Eventually the clan system of the dwarves collapsed as groups became so small they could not sustain traditional dwarven society. The dwarves also had to adapt to live in small, nomadic groups that blended into the surrounding jungle and avoided other creatures.
After millennia of living in this fashion the gold dwarves were no more and the wild dwarves were born.
There are few notable events in the history of the wild dwarves, their nomadic lifestyle in small hunting groups makes it difficult for a single event to affect the entire race as a whole.
The emergence of Kyuss in -483 DR was one such event, the couatl Ts’ikil appeared to the wild dwarves (as a great green serpent) and convinced them of the threat Kyuss posed. The wild dwarf bands came together as part of a great army and joined with the Chultans and aarakocra to battle Kyuss and his worm infested minions.
The only other event of significance affecting all wild dwarves was the explosion of the fourth cone of the Peaks of Flame. It quickly became home to the emerald dragon Esmerandanna, who gathered the wild dwarves about her, claiming to be the voice of Thard Harr.
Wild dwarves have long since descended into primitive barbarism and have embraced that lifestyle. Their thoughts and outlook revolve entirely around surviving in the dangerous Jungles of Chult according to the beliefs of Thard Harr, they must make themselves as strong as possible in order to hunt their prey while remaining nimble and constantly mobile to avoid their own predators.
Wild dwarves are constantly on the hunt or run in ever moving nomadic groups of other wild dwarves that have banded together for protection and assistance. Survival is the all consuming drive of a wild dwarf, it causes them to form loose ties with friends and family (knowing that at any point that person could die). It is the reason they never grow attached to a place or to property, making them endlessly wander the jungles in search of their next meal.
Wild dwarves are much shorter than their gold dwarven ancestors, averaging about 3 ft in height at adulthood. They are stoutly built with dark brown skin (darker than gold dwarves), dark eyes, and brown or black hair. Their appearance allows them to blend more easily into the shadowy forest floor and understory.
Life and Society
Wild dwarves do not have a social structure to speak of, each band has a varied membership that changes regularly (whenever different bands cross paths there is always a number of members who swap between the two groups).
The leader of the group is the eldest / wisest individual and is almost always female, however, she gets no special provision for being the elder, beyond the ability to make decisions for the group (she gets the same ration of food as everyone in the group). Those elders that prove themselves unreliable or incompetent are replaced with other more suitable individuals (no further reprisal for mistakes is taken unless the band is decimated in which case the elder may be outcast or the band splits if the membership is split between support for and against the elder).
All other members of the band are considered equal, they receive an equal share of the ration and are expected to perform an equal share of whatever tasks they are able to do (elderly and juvenile wild dwarves are not expected to hunt).
Bands: Wild dwarves live in nomadic groups that endlessly wander the Jungles of Chult searching for food and evading predators. These bands are led by the eldest wild dwarf in the group (who is almost always a woman), and the elder determines the wandering of the group and who takes part in the hunt.
Survival for the band depends upon everyone in the group working together, and this is an implicit part of membership. Daily hunts are organised to acquire food for everyone in the group, scouting parties are sent out to find safe passage through the jungle, and a number of wild dwarves are left behind to protect the weaker members (the elder and the children) who are repairing the tools and preparing the nests in the understory for the night.
Diet: Wild dwarves will eat just about anything they can obtain, fruits, nuts and berries are a staple of their diet as are any edible plants the foraging teams can acquire. Small and large animals and insects are an important protein source for wild dwarves, and hunting teams spend much of their time acquiring suitable prey (a large tree slug is always an option but usually as a last resort). Wild dwarves have learned a strange method to gather honey, using their knowledge to cause nearby hives to over-produce it, which pools on to leaves below the hive, the bees do not mind the wild dwarves gathering this excess honey.
There are rumours of some wild dwarf tribes eating the flesh of intelligent humanoids, but this is likely misinformation spread because of fear of the unknown (wild dwarves rarely associate with other races).
Family: Wild dwarves are polyamorous, taking advantage of any opportunity to ensure the survival of their species. With the ever changing membership of a band of wild dwarves, it is not unusual for a wild dwarf to have a handful of relationships in progress simultaneously.
The lack of close relationships among wild dwarves means that the concept of a family unit is almost non-existent. Female wild dwarves raise their children, teaching them the skills necessary for survival until they come of age (wild dwarves mature much younger at 20 years old, they also have shorter lifespans but this is likely due to the dangerous environment they live in).
Wild dwarf mothers are protective of their children and this bond forms the basis for the matriarchal nature of wild dwarf society, but that is the only close relationship a wild dwarf is ever likely to form in his lifetime, everyone else they meet is viewed only as a temporary associate (wild dwarves lead dangerous and short lives).
Fashion: Wild dwarves do not wear clothing, they do not bother themselves with items that are not naturally occurring in the jungle (with the exception of tools that they fashion from wood, stone, and metal).
Long facial and body hair is a sign of prowess among wild dwarves, it signifies a long life hunting prey and avoiding predators. Hair and beard hair is braided and woven around the body to form a crude protection of body and modesty.
Animal grease, tree sap, and plant oils are smeared all over the body to keep insects away and to make the wild dwarves slippery and more difficult to catch. The mixture of fats and the heat of the jungle cause wild dwarves to emit a foul odour that deters many predators.
Tattoos and bone piercings are common as part of shamanistic protective rituals, with the lips and ears being most commonly pierced with the bones of prey carved into figurines that resemble the slain creatures and engraved with runes so that they may act as spirit guardians. A number of the tattoos are derivatives of ancient dwarven runic styles, and point towards their ancient heritage from Bhaerynden.
Homes: Wild dwarves do not construct buildings, they long ago learned that any permanent structure in the jungle was likely to be torn down by the relentless growth of vines, moss, fungi, and the assault of insects and animals that devour wood and stone, within 10 years.
The wild dwarves of Chult constantly wander the forest floor searching for prey and staying one step ahead of the predators that hunt them. During the day the wild dwarves march for 4-6 hours and establish a camp, the hunters go in search of food, while others prepare the camp for night. During the night the wild dwarves sleep in special nests in the understory of the jungle made from leaves woven together between large and stable branches.
Male Names: Abbaer, Athlur, Baval, Blaes, Breshan, Cuadaulyn, Iaghar, Ialdyn, Igilar, Irl, Olagondir, Rahaer, Riblys, Rmsiir, Storn, Tagar, Tantryn, Telmarg, Thelmarg, Thryth, Ulric, Urit, Wynd, Yanin, Zond
Female Names: Angathea, Ataiya, Bardda, Blaerinnd, Briiss, Chethri, Indarina, Irlinga, Olone, Olauntha, Rhaere, Rynna, Rynnyth, Tace, Taegann, Taloma, Tamath, Tassarli, Thasslume, Thuskra, Ulume, Urice, Urith, Wyth, Yithra, Zobrora
Surnames: Wild dwarves do not use family names or clan names or any other kind of surname. The polygamous nature of wild dwarf society, coupled with the ever shifting membership of nomadic groups means that most wild dwarves are completely unaware of their male parentage (leading to a heavily matriarchal society). If pressed for a family name (and they are unable to escape), a wild dwarf will give “dur Authalar” as their answer.
Runes: Although the wild dwarves have long since abandoned their dwarven traditions, the art of magic runes persists among the dur Authalar in the form of tattoos.
Each of these tattoos are inscribed by the elders using a mixture of plant extracts, rock residues, metal alloys, and bodily fluids. The recipes for these runic tattoos is well known to all wild dwarves (although the precise ingredients and amounts vary slightly between bands), as are the sacred words of Thard Harr, which are reminiscent of sacred prayers of the churches of the Morndinsamman but corrupted by time.
Some of these runes are magical in nature and produce certain effects when touched (and thus activated). The runes are consumed when activated and must be re-inked before they can be used again.
Some sages have suggested that the runes used for these tattoos may survive as some form of communal treasure possessed by a band as there are some special runes that only a few bands are aware of. These rune slabs may have been carried to Chult from the fall of Bhaerynden and so would be incredibly ancient. There are whispers among the most ancient of dwarven sages of elder runes that the gold dwarves used to possess in bygone eras but have long since been lost, perhaps they were lost when Bhaerynden fell and have been carried away and not returned.
Claws of Thard Harr: This tattoo, when touched, allows the bearer to grow long rending talons of exceptional sharpness. The bearer must carry the talons of a slain animal (a common trophy worn by veteran hunters), which are then absorbed into the bearer.
Disentangle: This rune allows the bearer to escape bindings (magical or non) with ease once activated, allowing to slip by or through the restraint without effect.
Guardian Hammer: This tattoo, when touched, causes an invisible hammer of force to fly towards the nearest hostile creature and strike them with terrific force.