Posted on December 29, 2019
Review: Dwarves Companion for Chivalry & Sorcery
The Dwarves Companion for Chivalry & Sorcery was originally published in 2000, intended for use with Chivalry & Sorcery 3rd Edition. I am reviewing it with a view to its use with Chivalry & Sorcery 5th Edition. It is available for purchase as a PDF from DriveThruRPG (affiliate link).
Like the Elves Companion, this PDF is a scan of the printed book. It is a clean and legible scan the equal of many of the TSR-era D&D products available for sale on DriveThruRPG, but OCR has not been employed to make the text searchable, so you get a “flat” PDF. The layout and presentation is comparable to 3rd and 4th edition Chivalry & Sorcery products – serviceable black and white, typical of the way RPGs were presented prior to Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. Although not as visually exciting as a full-colour interior and not hyper-functional like the Chivalry & Sorcery 5th Edition PDF, it is at least easy to print!
The Dwarves Companion is primarily a sourcebook for dwarves, one of the classic fantasy roleplaying races, which embeds them in the mythology of our own world. The default setting for Chivalry & Sorcery is medieval Europe, albeit a fantasy version where magick and miracles are as ubiquitous as medieval people believed them to be. Incorporating the classic fantasy roleplaying races into this setting is challenging as I discussed in my review of the Elves Companion, but is once again achieved skillfully in the Dwarves Companion by weaving a “concrete” origin and racial description out of Norse mythology, Earth worship, and just a dash of Tolkien tribute (Durin is one of the three forefathers of the dwarves, and Thorin appears as a jarl who defends his clan against the goblins). (EDIT: The Extraordinary Mr Speirs has pointed out to me that the names Durin and Thorin are derived from the Voluspá so this is not so much a Tolkien tribute as reference to the same primary source as the Professor) Along the way, dwarves take the place of the “Ancient Aliens” endlessly talked about on the History Channel, arriving in Ancient Egypt in time to teach the Egyptians how to build the pyramids, for example, and they also prove to be the origin story of leprechauns of Irish folklore. This is all done in a way which feels organic and which sows the seeds for campaign “secrets” a Gamemaster may wish to further develop for their players to stumble upon.
Despite being written for 3rd edition, the rules components of the Dwarves Companion seem to be compatible with Chivalry & Sorcery 5th Edition too, much as with the rules in the Elves Companion. This is encouraging, frankly, because I have quite a few sourcebooks and adventures for previous editions which should, if these two race sourcebooks are anything to go by, be largely compatible with Chivalry & Sorcery 5th Edition. The character creation chapter of the Dwarves Companion features the same tables as appear in the 5th edition PDF, simply with more source material to accompany them. A handful of new weapons have stats which are entirely compatible with 5th edition, although I believe that the costs probably need to be refactored since 5th edition seems to use lower prices on the whole than previous editions.
The Dwarves Companion features new rules for Dwarven Magick. Dwarves can cast Earth magick or Rune magick, both of which are covered in section 8 of the Dwarves Companion. With the disclaimer that I haven’t tried to use them in play, on paper they are presented the same way as magick appears to be presented in Chivalry & Sorcery 5th Edition so I feel confident these would slot into a 5th edition game easily enough. Next follows a section on Dwarven Metals, Ores, and Stones, many of which have special properties granting modifiers to various rolls. I didn’t notice any skill or roll specifically mentioned in this section which I didn’t see in 5th edition so I assume there has either been no change here or the changes have been so superficial that I missed them entirely. Likewise, the new Vocations in Appendix A are presented in the same format as vocations in 5th edition so I think this will fit into a 5th edition game just as easily as they fit into 3rd edition games when this book was first published.
Also in an appendix (Appendix B), there are some rules for dwarves in Chivalry & Sorcery Light, as was the case for elves in the Elven Companion, which take up a page. I didn’t pay them close heed although I do have Chivalry & Sorcery Light – I am just reading this product with a view to using it in Chivalry & Sorcery 5th Edition first and foremost.
The remaining appendices consist of a very brief 2 page introduction to dwarves in Marakush, and some NPCs for Chivalry & Sorcery 3rd Edition which I think would be fine for use in 5th edition too. Evidently the dwarves in Marakush are similar to the dwarves in the “default” real-world setting of Chivalry & Sorcery as the primary differences mentioned here appear to be based on their geography. I will have to read more in Dragon Reaches of Marakush – which I also have and intend to review in case you think I will be finished with old C&S products with this post!
Like the Elves Companion, the Dwarves Companion is a sourcebook for a well-established fantasy roleplaying race, which nevertheless gives us a different take on the dwarves which is both derivative from the same mythology as inspired Tolkien and yet fresh in its presentation grounding the dwarves in our real world, its history and legend. The presentation of the dwarves in the Dwarves Companion is probably a little bit closer to the way most players coming to C&S from D&D and its derivatives will envision dwarves than was true of the elves in the Elves Companion. Perhaps this is why I feel that the Dwarves Companion helps make it easier to envision how dwarven characters in a Chivalry & Sorcery campaign set in medieval Europe will interact with historical human societies as compared to how I felt about elves after reading the Elves Companion. Perhaps if I had read them in the other order I would feel the reverse was true.
Either way, I recommend the Dwarves Companion to those who want to run a Chivalry & Sorcery campaign in the default, medieval Europe setting, and to those who want to build their own worlds and want to understand what they may wish to reverse and alter about Chivalry & Sorcery dwarves to suit their world. At $4 for 58 pages, I think it is good value, despite the drawbacks of the scanned PDF format. Pick it up here from DriveThruRPG via my affiliate link.