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(Odd Ideas) The Price of Practicality

Posted by on January 13, 2012

Art has long been the measuring stick of civilizations. Most cultures have produced or thrived to produce distinct art, usually based on those art forms and styles that have been perceived as valued. Many anthropologists maintain, that without art, a society is not complete. There have been few or none societies that held all art in disdain. for a long time, it was claimed that classical Spartans didn’t produce art and this was the cause for their lack of societal development. Spartan art existed and was quite beautiful, but what if there truly was a society that valued practicality above anything else? A society that truly saw no point in decorations or art?


Dwarves have held the secrets of metal-craft for a very long time and are famed for their blades, armor and tools. They are superbly functional, yet most other races regard them as inferior craftsmanship. No blade cuts like a dwarven sword, yet they are boring tools, nothing else. Compared to the human blades with their filigrees and engraving glorifying the warrior, they are ugly and strictly functional.

The dwarves were the first race to build cities, the first to make pottery, the first to make metal weapons. But when a catastrophic plague wiped almost all dwarves from the world and decimated the leader and thinker castes, the remaining dwarves have tried to rebuild their ancient culture. But without their leaders, artists and innovators, dwarves had to find a stable platform to base thei post-disaster society on. They found this on their very walls.
The dwarven mindset is set in stone, quite literally. Since the dawn of their first cities, dwarves have recorded their history on the walls of ancient caves. The texts record in great detail the complicated processes required to craft metal, glass and stone, but since beauty and art were almost impossible to record in texts, they were left out.
Thanks to this omission by the ancients, the modern dwarves can craft excellent tools, masterful buildings and craft superior weapons. But they are all plain and without soul, nothing more than shelters and tools.
Since the catastrophe killed the vast majority of dwarves and the race has never recovered their numbers, the old cities now house only a fraction of their old population. The cities provide them with more than plentiful protection, food and space. This means that the dwarves are practically self-reliant and manage to thrive without any new innovation.
The dwarves think that the other races are foolish and vain with their decorations, books, plays and aesthetic arts and avoid deviating from the ancient records. To them, this is natural as the methods have served them well over the centuries and their few experiemnts always ended in failure.
Some human scholars think this is because the dwarves fear that hey might lose their superior methods of craftmanship if they deviated from the old recipes. Most other races regard the dwarves as an tragic example of functionalty over everything else.
This lack of innovation and over-reliance on ancient, functional but static methods has made them living fossils of the world. Living inside their ancient fortresses, safe but unchanged.
The others races may not envy the dwarven lack of art or their lack of innovation, but they greatly desire their ancient methods. If someone was able to infiltrate a fortress and bring back secretsof dwarven metalwork or stonecraft, the wold become rich indeed and the race who combined modern ways of development with ancient dwarven knowledge would be very powerful indeed.

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