The Dwarves are strong, stocky, and shorter than any other humanoid race. They are skilled builders as well as have a long tradition of courage and martial skill that has served them well in their millennia-long battle against the darkspawn in the Deep Roads. They are a race in decline, once boasting a huge, great empire spanning across vast underground networks of twelve great Thaigs that spanned the breadth of Thedas. The First Blight caught the dwarves off guard and only through the efforts of the great Paragon Aeducan was Orzammar saved from total devastation. However, within fifty years of Aeducan’s heroic rescue of the city, every outer Thaig and all but the four greatest kingdoms—Orzammar, Kal-Sharok, Hormak and Gundaar—were lost.
Unlike elves and humans, dwarves do not dream and lack magical ability. This is reflected in their resistance to magic, and accounts for their high tolerance to lyrium exposure.
The dwarven social hierarchy is ruled by complex, interrelated, and rigid castes. The casteless, commonly known as “dusters”, are the lowest rung of dwarven society: outcasts in their own city, unable to take up work among the higher castes, nor to defend their honor in the Provings or fight the darkspawn to protect the city, dwarves rejected by the Stone itself. Dwarves who are exiled or born on the surface are also officially casteless – but with an increase in the number of higher-caste dwarves choosing to live on the surface, it is becoming difficult for some surface dwarves to be considered permanent exiles. The average dwarf will never see the surface, and often will have superstitious beliefs concerning surface-life (such as falling into the sky, or the sun falling to the ground). Those dwarves who are most commonly seen on the surface tend to be merchants and traders, or on occasion smiths, but amongst the dwarves they might have been thieves, murderers or worse.
Most of the wealth of the dwarves comes from selling processed lyrium to the mages of Thedas. The Chantry holds a monopoly on lyrium trade with the dwarves (in order to maintain control over templars and mages).
Unlike many other cultures in Thedas, dwarves do not worship anthropomorphic gods. Instead, their philosophy promotes personal excellence and an almost intimate tie to the Stone that houses them. Referring reverentially to the Stone, the dwarves speak of it as being alive. They are the Stone’s children: they respect her, they fear her, they cherish her, and they give thanks to her for protecting them and providing them with her bounty. Their other cultural beliefs are more akin to ancestor worship. Dwarves who lead a strong and noble life are said to strengthen the Stone when they die, becoming one of the Ancestors. Those who are ignoble or disgraced would weaken the Stone and are therefore rejected by it for all eternity.
Every once in a while, a dwarf is declared by the Assembly to be particularly noble. If the required motion is passed in the Assembly, these dwarves become Paragons and are revered during their lives as living Ancestors. When a non-Noble dwarf achieves Paragon status, a noble house bearing their name is established. The deeds of a Paragon are carefully recorded in the Memories, records of lineage and deeds that help determine what caste a dwarf is born into. The word of a Paragon is held in such esteem that you can surpass even the king’s word.
In ages past, the Paragon Caridin magically crafted huge stone and metal golems to act as war machines for the dwarven armies. The craft of making new golems was lost with Caridin himself, and the main body of war golems, known as the Legion of Steel, was lost in a futile search for him.