Wildhammer Military and Culture?

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Deckenpuppel
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Wildhammer Military and Culture?

Post by Deckenpuppel » Tue Nov 18, 2014 5:39 pm

For an upcoming P&P campaign taking place in the Hinterlands, I am currently trying to delve deep into the background of the Wildhammer clan, and I sure could need some help.

This is what I’ve come up with so far:


The world naturally becomes much larger in the P&P, and the Hinterlands encompass much more than just Aerie Peak in terms of Wildhammer settlements. Aerie Peak will be the capital of course, but there will be one or two other cities, as well as great number of small fortresses and villages harboring many different clans, and more Wildhammer dwarves will in fact live in these villages rather than in the great cities.

I would consider the gryphon riders to be the Wildhammer’s elite fighting force. Surely, there are not enough gryphons for just anybody to become a rider, and even if there was, the clans would still have need of regular guardsmen and soldiers to protect their settlements, as the gryphon riders have limited use against enemies sneaking through the great forest expanses. In this context, I am wondering about what the Wildhammer’s military might have looked like during the War of the Three Hammers. They did not have gryphons back then, and still they were able to go toe to toe with the forces of the Ironforge and Darkiron clans, so they must have been formidable even back then. One possibility would of course be that they were much more similar to their cousins in those days, also military wise, probably meaning heavily armored, tough infantry. Was it ever established when firearms were actually invented in Azeroth? Might the Wildhammer of that time have used them? For flair reasons, I would not like that very much, but I don’t think it is impossible.

Back in the present, I am going for a kind of primitive Highlander kind of culture. In the villages, I wouldn’t expect for the clans to have organized military units aside from the prestigious gryphon riders. Rather, each and every able-bodied clansman (and woman) would be expected to take up arms and defend the community. Of course, there would be those better suited to that kind of work, who would become something like regulars, but who still would not be soldiers in the strictest sense, and who would still have other duties/skills aside from that. The cities would still have soldiers and guardsmen, but after millenia of fighting against little more than disorganized troll warbands, I doubt that even these units would be highly organized and disciplined, relying on individual prowess rather than tightly knit formations.

Economy-wise, they these rural clansmen would for the most part be farmers and breeders of cattle and sheep. Even awesome dwarves have to eat, after all, and all that ale has to be made out of something. Despite of being more feral than their cousins, the Wildhammer are also still dwarves and would work with iron, which probably means there would be some sort of mining going on. Now, keeping in mind that the hill dwarves that love to live under the open sky would probably abhor little as much as crawling under the earth to dig to ore, this poses a potential problem. I tried to solve it with the following.

The different clans bicker and argue a lot. Each clan normally pretty much keeps to itself, and rivalries among the clans are common. Young dwarves are pretty much expected bring glory to their own clan by humbling its rivals. As a result, thefts between the clans are common, even somewhat encouraged. Sometimes even potential spouses are stolen from other clans, though rarely kept against their will if they truly wish to return to their clan afterwards. The idea is humiliation of the clan as a whole, not cruelty against any particular member. Usually, an appropriate fee is decided upon by the two parties, accompanied by lots of swearing and oaths of revenge, and then the abducted clansmember is returned to his/her family (this is especially embarrassing for male dwarves having been abducted by a woman from another clan). Sometimes, however, such potential spouses are actually quite smitten by their abductors’ courage and bravado, especially if no member of their own clan have displayed similar determination in showing his/her interest.

The more important part about this is what happens if these “criminals” are caught. First of all, a failed raid of this kind of course only shames the perpetrator’s own clan. Secondly, the potential value of whatever the dwarf was trying to steal has to be repaid in full, and this usually by working it off in the mines. If the clan in question owns a mine on his own, the sentence is usually carried out there. If it doesn’t, the perpetrator is “lent” to another clan who has a mine for the appropriate compensation, either in money or in ore. These transactions would be supervised by the shamans of the clans, who are considered to be neutral and working for the best of the land and all of its inhabitants.

That being said, I also intend for a few human villages to be around, as well as an elven village next to the hunting lodge, and many of the humans would actually work as miners for those clans that are not too proud to let them.

I also intend to carry over the classical notion of gryphons hating horses for some reason. I mainly like this idea because it gives me a good reason why the Wildhammer should have never sought to use horses as mounts or animals of burden. So while there are still wild horses roaming the Hinterlands, few people would be crazy enough to risk riding one, as there is always the risk of some wild gryphon deciding to take a swoop at you, as the new human settlers had to find out the hard way. So aside from a few crippled gryphons (alces) used as mounts by downed gryphon riders, the way to get around the Hinterlands would be either flying or on foot, maybe by ox cart between the villages and cities.

I think that’s pretty much all I have at the moment. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. If there is anything directly conflicting with established lore, don’t be shy to point that out. Otherwise, I am pretty open to other ideas to paint a more complete, plausible picture of what the Wildhammer society could look like.

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Re: Wildhammer Military and Culture?

Post by Bonetti » Tue Nov 25, 2014 3:15 am

Caveat: I'm consistently Horde, so I'm not super familiar with the Wildhammer lore.

I also want to comment that I rather like the non-monolithic view of the Wildhammer, who are presented as a single clan (I think) in the MMO (at least based on the story Lorewalker Cho tells). Did you see that the Wildhammer have representation in the Twilight Highlands in the Cataclysm expansion of the MMO?
WowPedia wrote:The Wildhammer dwarves dwell in forested outposts among the highlands' mountains; though long friendly with the Alliance, they have only now begun to consider casting their lot in with Stormwind and Ironforge thanks to the entreaties of their cousins, the Bronzebeard clan.
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I think how they're structured there might fit well with the clan-based model, too.
Deckenpuppel wrote:Was it ever established when firearms were actually invented in Azeroth? Might the Wildhammer of that time have used them?
I don't remember seeing a tech timeline that would yield this sort of information. Given how readily they are currently used by (at least) Tauren, Dwarves, and Goblins (at least), and that Gnomes are known to engineer zappers of varying sorts, I think it's fair to assume they've been around for a long time. At the very least, they didn't come through the Dark Portal, they're native to Azeroth.
Deckenpuppel wrote:Rather, each and every able-bodied clansman (and woman) would be expected to take up arms and defend the community.
Also, the Hinterlands aren't that developed, so it's probably more skirmishes (small and large scale) rather than clash of armies between the Wildhammer and the Vilebranch and other local tribes. So, that model makes sense for the local threats -- there's not a need for large-scale organization, and that fits in quite well with your views. (Plus, as a bonus, the troll empires collapsed so long ago that they're pretty disorganized as well, and we already know of some internal rivalries, such as the trolls of Revantusk village vs. the Vilebranch.)
Deckenpuppel wrote:I also intend to carry over the classical notion of gryphons hating horses for some reason.
I rather like your train of thought with this. Is it possible that it's just a case that gryphons are larger, and perhaps the wild horses run smaller than horses bred for riding, and thus are simply the largest (manageable) prey for the wild gryphons? In fact, is it possible that the Wildhammer even actively capture horses to feed their gryphons? (Might make for an interesting cultural clash when they join up with, say, Alliance cavalry in joint ventures...)
Deckenpuppel wrote:If there is anything directly conflicting with established lore, don’t be shy to point that out.
I'm not steeped enough in Alliance to say for sure, but I've weighed in where I could.
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Re: Wildhammer Military and Culture?

Post by Deckenpuppel » Thu Nov 27, 2014 12:17 pm

First of all, thanks Bonetti. I really appreciate your feedback.


The terminology and clan titles used for the dwarves are really one big mess as far as I am concerned. We have certain race names like mountain, hill or wild dwarves, we have great clan names. We have dwarves actually carrying these great clan names as surnames (mostly leaders of the respective factions), and a great deal of other dwarves carrying other names for surnames. There are a couple of ways to work through this and sort this out, but I don't think there is an ideal sollution that everybody will be able to agree on.


My personal take on this is that dwarvish society consists of a great number of clans. Over the course of the centuries prior to the War of the Three Hammers, 3 great factions/alliances emerged between these clans, and society began to distuingish between Hill Dwarves (living mostly on the hills around Ironforge), Mountain Dwarves (living in Ironforge) and Deep Dwarves (living below Ironforge). When Civil war broke out, these factions rallied under charismatic leaders in their pursuit of control and power. The Hill Dwarves rallied under the Thane Kardros Wildhammer, the Mountain Dwarves under Madoran Bronzebeard, and the Deep Dwarves under ??? Thaurissan. All of these factions decided to refer to themselves as one clan as a symbol of unity and loyalty, choosing a single high-thane from the ranks of the existing thanes. Two of these new clans decided to adopt the name of their first high-thane, while the Deep Dwarves choose the dark iron ore that they found beneath Ironforge for their namesake.

Following this logic, we would have indeed two Wildhammer and Bronzebeard clans. There would be the actual family-like clan Wildhammer, whose members actually carry the surname Wildhammer, for example Kurdran Wildhammer. Then we have the overall faction of the Hill Dwarves, who also refer to themselves als Wildhammer dwarves, but who carry different surnames, reflecting that they belong to other clans. Within the actual Wildhammer clan (meaning Kurdran and his brethren) there might even be something akin to royal lines that is again seperated from the other "normal" families of the clan, as Blizzard's descriptions so far more or less indicate that there never was a actual change in leadership as far as the ruling families of the Dwarven factions are concerned, making the whole thing appear somewhat hereditary in nature. Personally, I would insert times were other clans supplied the high-thane into the timeline, just to make the system a little bit different to those of the Humans and Elves.

I am a little torn about the military status of the Wildhammer clan. I agree that with their environment and enemies being what they are, the Wildhammer would usually only fight skirmishes. The question really is how much the Dwarves would have allowed their military system, which I am assuming they had prior and during the War of the Three Hammers, to deteriorate since they arrived in the Hinterlands. The war with the Dark Irons has not been so long ago, about one generation depending on what vital statistics you use, and you could easily claim for Dwarves to have long memories. As such, it might just as well be possible that the Wildhammer have kept their military tradition strong, despite their lack of proper enemies, at least within their bigger cities/fortresses.

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Re: Wildhammer Military and Culture?

Post by Bonetti » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:57 am

Deckenpuppel wrote:...and the Deep Dwarves under ??? Thaurissan. All of these factions decided to refer to themselves as one clan as a symbol of unity and loyalty, choosing a single high-thane from the ranks of the existing thanes. Two of these new clans decided to adopt the name of their first high-thane, while the Deep Dwarves choose the dark iron ore that they found beneath Ironforge for their namesake.
Here's a thought -- Thaurissan was his name, and his descendents chose that as their family name. Assuming for a moment that -san is not "son of" (not necessarily a sound assumption), that provides a possible interesting history. After all, one could see some subset of families choosing the name of someone of note, someone they see as a hero, as their name for identification purposes. In this case, anyone with the surname Thaurissan would be a direct descendent of their hero from the war, or someone who married in and adopted the name for legitimacy purposes (e.g. Moira).
Deckenpuppel wrote:Following this logic, we would have indeed two Wildhammer and Bronzebeard clans. There would be the actual family-like clan Wildhammer, whose members actually carry the surname Wildhammer, for example Kurdran Wildhammer. Then we have the overall faction of the Hill Dwarves, who also refer to themselves als Wildhammer dwarves, but who carry different surnames, reflecting that they belong to other clans.
Sounds good.
Deckenpuppel wrote:...as Blizzard's descriptions so far more or less indicate that there never was a actual change in leadership as far as the ruling families of the Dwarven factions are concerned, making the whole thing appear somewhat hereditary in nature.
Possible, but I could also see a case where the ruler/leader is known as The Wildhammer, and his descendents would adopt that as a name on his/her ascension. I could also see where wars could be fought if the previous descendents failed to relinquish it -- if you want to spice things up a bit...
Deckenpuppel wrote:I am a little torn about the military status of the Wildhammer clan. I agree that with their environment and enemies being what they are, the Wildhammer would usually only fight skirmishes. The question really is how much the Dwarves would have allowed their military system, which I am assuming they had prior and during the War of the Three Hammers, to deteriorate since they arrived in the Hinterlands.
It might not be something they willingly let slide. It might be something they no longer have the resources to pursue on a larger scale. Consider the temper and exuberance often exhibited by dwarven NPCs. One good bar fight, and old allies might be in a blood feud now, and the Hinterlands might have allowed them the room to spread out and walk away from tensions. And if the tensions were present, fueled by personal animus over even small slights, but carried forth another generation, then when they do meet, they won't cooperate the way a larger army might have during the earlier war.

Think of them as chaotic good, I suppose -- they'll bow to order when necessity dictates, but not otherwise.

Again, though, this is coming from a non-Alliance perspective just weighing in on some things which, I think, make interesting choices and allow you to put in variants in the history and character that will lead to a more vivid and memorable background for your game.
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Re: Wildhammer Military and Culture?

Post by Ivellius » Sat Jan 31, 2015 3:31 pm

Deckenpuppel wrote:The terminology and clan titles used for the dwarves are really one big mess as far as I am concerned. We have certain race names like mountain, hill or wild dwarves, we have great clan names. We have dwarves actually carrying these great clan names as surnames (mostly leaders of the respective factions), and a great deal of other dwarves carrying other names for surnames. There are a couple of ways to work through this and sort this out, but I don't think there is an ideal sollution that everybody will be able to agree on.


My personal take on this is that dwarvish society consists of a great number of clans. Over the course of the centuries prior to the War of the Three Hammers, 3 great factions/alliances emerged between these clans, and society began to distuingish between Hill Dwarves (living mostly on the hills around Ironforge), Mountain Dwarves (living in Ironforge) and Deep Dwarves (living below Ironforge). When Civil war broke out, these factions rallied under charismatic leaders in their pursuit of control and power. The Hill Dwarves rallied under the Thane Kardros Wildhammer, the Mountain Dwarves under Madoran Bronzebeard, and the Deep Dwarves under ??? Thaurissan. All of these factions decided to refer to themselves as one clan as a symbol of unity and loyalty, choosing a single high-thane from the ranks of the existing thanes. Two of these new clans decided to adopt the name of their first high-thane, while the Deep Dwarves choose the dark iron ore that they found beneath Ironforge for their namesake.

Following this logic, we would have indeed two Wildhammer and Bronzebeard clans. There would be the actual family-like clan Wildhammer, whose members actually carry the surname Wildhammer, for example Kurdran Wildhammer. Then we have the overall faction of the Hill Dwarves, who also refer to themselves als Wildhammer dwarves, but who carry different surnames, reflecting that they belong to other clans. Within the actual Wildhammer clan (meaning Kurdran and his brethren) there might even be something akin to royal lines that is again seperated from the other "normal" families of the clan, as Blizzard's descriptions so far more or less indicate that there never was a actual change in leadership as far as the ruling families of the Dwarven factions are concerned, making the whole thing appear somewhat hereditary in nature. Personally, I would insert times were other clans supplied the high-thane into the timeline, just to make the system a little bit different to those of the Humans and Elves.
This is actually pretty accurate. Certainly there are different clans within each of the three major dwarven groups, but these smaller families seem to maintain an identity as "Wildhammer" or "Bronzebeard" dwarves that creates these larger factions.

For what it's worth, Falstad also refers to the dwarves of Ironforge as "hill dwarves" in the MMO. I wonder if that suggests the Wildhammer groups have started to drop that label--off-hand I don't remember what references they make in other places.

I think the idea of Wildhammers as feuding is suitable (see Twilight Highlands in Cataclysm) but not to the extent you've taken it. It seems to be a bit too serious in your description and less good-natured than I'd expect from the Aerie dwarves. I don't see them being quite so punitive in "failures," either. My approach to the mining and industrial work would be a combination of hired outsiders as well as one or two Wildhammer clans that actually enjoy being underground and/or in the forge. Dwarven proclivities should vary like humans, right? Even better, it could be more of an honorary clan designation in that dwarves from other families are free to join this "Ironshaper" clan or what have you if they prefer doing the work.

I agree that I think other than the gryphon riders themselves the Wildhammer don't seem to have much military organization, but I think their culture is such that most Wildhammers get martial training and would be fairly effective as militia. For bigger threats, the gryphon riders' mobility means that having a large standing army isn't all that necessary.

I like the gryphon ideas, too.

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