The Dwarves, or Dwarva, as the dwarves refer to themselves are one of the major humanoid races of the Dragon Age setting. In the dwarven language, they refer to themselves as the dwarva. Strong, stocky, and shorter than any other humanoid race, the dwarves 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 in the midst of a bitter civil war 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.
In addition to the loss of thaigs and the abandonment of much of the dwarves' territory of the Deep Roads to darkspawn incursion, dwarves are known to be increasingly infertile, a situation which has given rise to anxiety for the future of the race, as well as the invention of noble hunters to bolster the children born to noble houses.
Unlike elves and humans, dwarves do not naturally enter the Fade, as they do not dream and lack magical ability. However, they are not completely barred and may enter it in exceptional circumstances. This is reflected in their resistance to magic, and accounts for their high tolerance to lyrium exposure. Dwarves who live on the surface for a long time (or who were born there) appear to gradually lose this resistance - however, there is still no recorded exception to their inability to learn spellcasting.
A unique dwarven ability is "Stone sense": a talent for subterranean navigation derived from the race's progenitor, the Stone. Dwarven characters in Dragon Age: Origins comment upon their stone sense, but it is neither a game mechanic nor a plot device. It is noted in Origins that (as with their magic resistance) their stone sense is slowly lost the longer they are on the surface.
Racial benefits: +1 strength, +1 dexterity, +2 constitution, 10% chance to resist hostile magic
The Golden Age
Before the first Blight, the dwarven empire expanded as much underground as the Tevinter Imperium did above. The first dwarven kingdom was founded in a time beyond even the history kept by the Shaperate. Dwarves in this time interacted freely with both the Tevinter Imperium and the elves of the great elven homeland, Arlathan. The dwarven leaders Endrin Stonehammer and Orseck Garal created the foundations of the dwarven kingdom in Kal-Sharok, working in conjunction with the first Tevinter Archon, Darinius.
Eventually Garal moved his kingdom to Orzammar to preside more directly over the commercial aspects of dwarven life, mining and crafting, as Orzammar was the ancestral seat of the Miner and Smith castes. It was rumored that he and Stonehammer withdrew from reach of the Imperium to avoid the power struggles that would ensue following the Archon's death. Stonehammer took up leadership of Orzammar after Garal's passing, expanding and improving the city, and creating the Hall of Heroes and altering the Provings to allow for massive tournaments. In this period of great flourishing and wealth, thaigs were built under every human kingdom, and the Deep Roads experienced great development as the dwarves' chief method of travel between their cities. Dwarven artisans and engineers pioneered new crafting methods and built many cherished monuments to dwarven history, such as Gundaar's House of Crystalline Waters, a massive underground lake decorated with shining quartz stalactites.
The empire was encompassed by several kingdoms, the major of which was Kal-Sharok, Orzammar, Gundaar and Hormak. The kingdoms had their own king and Assembly, however they all held allegiance to the High King of Kal-Sharok or to the High King of Orzammar after the capital of the empire was moved to Orzammar.
The First Blight
The first Blight, however, severely crippled the empire as darkspawn flooded the Deep Roads that connected the countless thaigs and cities. Political disunity amongst the Warrior and Noble castes and the inability to focus the city's defense led to the dwarves losing countless thaigs over the next couple of centuries, pushing them to the brink of extinction. Paragon Aeducan's resourcefulness in sealing Orzammar off from the darkspawn onslaught saved it, but at great cost. Indeed, the need for each dwarven kingdom to gradually isolate itself, destroying bridges and blocking entrances from the Deep Roads, engendered tragedy and conflict even as it allowed the kingdoms to survive.
At this time one of the dwarves' greatest engineering feats was developed: the creation of giant golems. These creatures - bipedal warriors of stone or metal used as siege engines, were the product of the Paragon Caridin. Caridin was already renowned as the architect of Bownammar in the Deep Roads, but the advent of golems superseded that. The constructs allowed the dwarves to push the darkspawn back and reclaim some of their lost territory. However, this progress ceased all too soon as Caridin disappeared, taking the secret of making golems with him. He is presumed dead and no-one has been able to replicate his breakthrough; the use of golems on a military scale has become but a memory.
Sealing the Deep Roads
In the years after the death of the Archdemon Dumat, the dwarven kingdoms splintered and communications between them became erratic at best. Eventually in Orzammar, when it seemed all was lost, High King Threestone ordered the Deep Roads to the remaining three kingdoms sealed forever. Orzammar had become the only bastion of dwarven culture in Thedas, the last outpost of the race. Word came within a decade that Hormak and Gundaar had fallen, but word of Kal-Sharok's fall never came. In addition, the fortress of Bownammar, the base of the Legion of the Dead, fell in 9:13 Dragon.
In 9:12 Dragon it was discovered (and is still known only to few high-caste dwarves) that the great thaig of Kal-Sharok had in fact survived - though because of their resentment and rage over Orzammar's abandonment, the prospects of restoring the dwarven empire in all its glory are bleak. The two cities only communicate when necessary, Orzammar positioning itself as superior to Kal-Sharok and demanding homage, and Kal Sharok retorting that Orzammar and its dwarves are traitors to them.
Over time the dwarves have built their cities closer and closer to the surface, but originally they lived very deep underground indeed. The Deep Roads and the thaigs they connect represent distinct historical layers of dwarven civilization, but below the Deep Roads exists an older system of tunnels, caves, and thaigs that predates the dwarven empire altogether. These Primeval thaigs display cultural practices that would be completely foreign to any modern dwarf, such as the construction of temples and the veneration of a pantheon of deities.
The dwarven social hierarchy is ruled by complex, interrelated, and rigid castes. The casteless, commonly known as "dusters" after their ghetto of Dust Town, 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.
Above the casteless (in no particular order) are merchants, miners, smiths, warriors, servants (only one step above casteless), nobles, and deshyrs. Nobles are the nobility of dwarven society, while the deshyrs are a group of dwarves who participate in the Assembly on behalf of their noble houses. While it is possible for some dwarves to better their family's station by performing great deeds and/or siring children with higher-caste dwarves, these remain rare and difficult circumstances. Lower-caste dwarves who rise in caste are generally considered "upjumped" by the highest castes. In dwarven society, children inherit the cast of their same-sex parent; should a son be born, he would inherit his father's caste, or castelessnes, should that be the case.
Monarchy is the dwarven standard of government, but heredity tends to be a weak factor in determining who sits on the throne when the time comes for a new ruler. While a king may propose his heir to the throne, the next ruler is ultimately determined in the Assembly by a vote of the deshyrs.
It has been mentioned that 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), but there remains a flourishing black market of the substance, dominated on the dwarven end by the carta in Dust Town.
- Main article: Dwarven diet
The diet of the dwarven race is unique to all other races in Thedas, owing to the majority of dwarves living their entire lives underground. The diet of those living in the thaig of Orzammar are the most documented, as opposed to the unknown diet of the more secretive dwarves of Kal-Sharok. As a result of living underground, a dwarf's diet relies heavily upon foodstuffs harvested, and animals found, in the Deep Roads.
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. According to Shaper Czibor, this religion has been practiced for two thousand years by the dwarves.
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. Furthermore, a dwarf can be declared as a Paragon even posthumously.
Gender and Sexuality
- Main article: Sexuality and marriage
In spite of the fundamental conservativeness of the dwarven culture, sexuality plays an important role, largely due to the low racial birth rate. It has been suggested that the root cause of the low birth rate may be "corruption-caused infertility" contracted from exposure to the Deep Roads. As is common in surfacer society, nobles and other high-caste dwarves are expected to marry only within their caste. Dwarves do not often mate with other races as such contact is limited in the isolated Orzammar. And as they naturally consider themselves superior to other races, and such mingling is looked down upon in any case.
Female dwarves appear to have little control over their sexuality, as seen in the Dwarf Noble Origin and Dwarf Commoner Origin, as their chiefest asset, regardless of caste, is their ability to bear children. Noble females are especially pressured to marry and bear children. Male nobles are expected--even encouraged--to be promiscuous, in order to sire as many children as possible, often with noble hunters. Noble females must guard their virtue (or have it guarded by male relatives, as in the Dwarf Noble origin).
Casteless females understand their value in Orzammar is solely in breeding among the castes, which gives them agency, in a fashion, as noble hunters, who seek the sexual attentions of noble males in order to advance themselves (and/or their families or 'sponsors'). Casteless males have a more difficult situation, as they can only hope to sire children with higher-caste women - most of whom are not in a position to pursue affairs with them, or who are not interested in doing so.
Additionally, in terms of courtship, it is noted that for a dwarven male to wear both vambraces indicates he is unmarried and eligible.
- Main article: Shaperate
The judicial functions of government are split between the king and the Shaperate. The king and his warriors deal with crime and maintain order, while the Shaperate deals with civil disputes. The Shaperate is also ultimately responsible for the preservation of all records current and historical. As a result, it is the supreme authority over the authenticity and binding nature of contracts, as well as legal precedent. The Shaper of Memories is considered a role of absolute impartiality in dwarven society, and commands enormous respect as a disinterested third-party in legal matters.
In dwarven society the role of the Shaper is one of great honor, privilege, and also hardship. A Shaper must honor the Stone, protect it, and present a new history to the Memories. However, this means that a Shaper must seek out knowledge and history beyond the city and its inhabitants, venturing into the Deep Roads to record the history of lost thaigs and ruins and dwarves whom the Memories might otherwise forget. A Shaper must be prepared to risk all--perhaps even their own life--so that the dwarven race might reclaim its lost knowledge and learn from it.
The Legion of the Dead
- Main article: Legion of the Dead
The Legion of the Dead is an independent branch of the dwarven army which answers directly to the Kings and Queens of Orzammar. It is considered to be the most intimidating and devastating dwarven military force and most attribute this to the fact that the Legionnaires consider themselves already dead.
- Main article: The Provings
The Provings are public arena battles fought for the sake of honor and glory and to entertain the masses. They take place in the Orzammar Proving arena. Dwarves believe that a fighter who wins a Proving has the approval of the Paragons and so they use Provings to settle debates and honor challenges that could not be settled otherwise. This usually falls to warrior caste champions. Some Proving matches are fought to the death, but even in a dwindling society such as Orzammar, that one death is thought preferable to the widespread bloodshed of a conflict between noble houses. In recent years, the Provings have also been used for entertainment and events to honor special guests, and each year the best fighters in Orzammar meet for the "Trials of Blood," a great tournament that crowns the kingdom's best and most popular fighter.
The great gladiatorial battles of the ancient Tevinter Imperium are based on this dwarven tradition.
The Warden has at least one opportunity to take part in a Proving - through either dwarven origin story and/or in the process of soliciting Orzammar's aid against the Blight.
- Main article: Golems
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.
- "The Memories tell us that our kingdom once reached far beneath the mountains, and that the thaigs were almost beyond counting."
- --Shaper Czibor
There are currently two remaining dwarven cities where once there were twelve great kingdoms adjoining the dwarven empire, in addition to numerous smaller thaigs. Orzammar is said to be the largest, greatest and proudest of the two. The other dwarven city is Kal-Sharok. It was thought to be lost to the darkspawn incursion after the First Blight, but during the Dragon Age it was discovered to have survived—although it had done so only at great cost, and with a great deal of resentment against the dwarves of Orzammar who had sealed off the Deep Roads and given up Kal-Sharok for dead. It is unknown what the future relationship of the two cities will be, if anything.
- Main article: Orzammar Assembly
Orzammar—as the ancient empire likely was before the division into city-states—is a constitutional monarchy, consisting of a king and one legislative house entirely of nobles (approximately eighty of them at the time of Dragon Age: Origins). Other castes are not represented in any fashion in the Assembly. The noble houses which are allowed to have a deshyr and represented in the Assembly are those which can trace a general, deshyr or a Paragon among their ancestors. Subsequently, lesser noble houses may not have a vote in the Assembly as well as the number of deshyrs in the Assembly can easily vary. The Assembly holds the power to advise the king, approve or veto acts of the king, propose policy, declare Paragons, and elect new kings. Furthermore, the Steward of the Assembly is a non-voting member.
- Main article: Kings and Queens of Orzammar
When a king dies, the Assembly goes into deliberation and chooses one of their own to be the next king, by majority vote. Ever since the First Blight, it has been traditional to nominate a descendant of House Aeducan to be king, as this house hails from the Paragon who helped save Orzammar (and all of dwarven civilization, by Orzammar's reckoning) from destruction. On the rare occasions when this does not happen, the fighting, blackmail, and assassination can be intense as contenders for the throne vie for power, and can last for a very long time before the succession is resolved. Dwarves, as they themselves note, are hardheaded and stubborn in their decision-making.
Typically a male is chosen as king, but on rare occasions a female is chosen as queen. 
The other crucial authority of the Assembly is to declare Paragons. Declaring a dwarf a Paragon is essentially declaring a new noble house, since that Paragon and their family will be elevated to noble status. From then on, they will have the right to their own deshyr in the Assembly. All other growth of the Noble caste depends solely on the fertility of its females. Because dwarven society (in particular the nobility) is essentially conservative, nominations for Paragon are extremely rare.
While the king may propose legislation, the Assembly has the authority to block the king's actions through dissent and deadlock, limiting the king's ability to affect domestic law or international relations. The king's primary functions are as an important figure in ceremony, and as the Commander-in-Chief. The king's greatest autonomy is in the deployment of troops in the Deep Roads and the training of warriors. It is unclear whether the king is also the de facto general of the dwarven army, though it is implied that each is a separately-held office and his role as Commander-in-Chief is mainly as a figurehead.
Relations with the Grey Wardens
Grey Wardens and the dwarven people have always had a kinship through their shared battle against the darkspawn. Dwarves are consequently viewed as excellent recruits to the Order due to their experience against the darkspawn. However, as there are fewer dwarves due to low birth rates, there are also fewer dwarven Wardens. Grey Wardens are also the only surface organization to care about the endless war the dwarves wage against the darkspawn in the Deep Roads.
When the time of a Grey Warden's Calling draws near, a Warden honors a longstanding agreement between the Wardens and the dwarves and serves a year fighting darkspawn in the Deep Roads at the side of the dwarves. When the advance of the taint is unbearable, the Warden is celebrated by the dwarves and then enters the Deep Roads for their Calling. As noted by Alistair, the dwarves respect the Grey Wardens for their sacrifices.
Relations with the Tevinter Imperium
The dwarven empire has long been allied with the Tevinter Imperium. Dwarven influence can still be seen in Imperial Proving Grounds and the use of Juggernauts, variations of stone golems, to patrol the capital of Minrathous. The lyrium trade is the primary reason for their close alliance, and the magic-centric Imperium is mainly dependent on Orzammar to meet its immense demand. Except the trade alliance, it is also known that the dwarves helped Tevinter during the Fourth Blight by lifting the siege of Marnas Pell and they received many accolades of the ruling Archon.
Many surface dwarves live in the Imperium, not considered citizens but rather foreign dignitaries, even if their houses have existed in the Imperium for ages.
The Tevinter Imperium hosts numerous dwarven embassies, since the days of Archon Darinius and his alliance with the founding fathers of the dwarven empire, Orseck Garal and Endrin Stonehammer. There are dwarven embassies in every major city, much like dwarven settlements in other countries in Thedas. However Tevinter dwarves have their own branch of government, unlike dwarves in other countries. This body is called the Ambassadoria, representatives elected by the dwarves to advise the Archon and the Magisterium. The Ambassadoria is more of a lobbying group than a parliament.
Dwarven embassies in Minrathous, Neromenian, and Qarinus are entirely underground and are considered by dwarves to reside within the Stone, allowing those in the embassy to retain their caste. Some dwarves serving in Tevinter embassies never leave these underground fastnesses. No dwarves are known to be kept as slaves in the Imperium, presumably due to their fundamental importance to the Imperium in providing lyrium.
Despite this close alliance, there are two known cases in which some of the dwarves secretly breached this pact. The first was with providing safe harbor in Cadash Thaig for the ancient elves who were fleeing after the destruction of Arlathan. The dwarves of Kal-Sharok were informed of this so they attacked Cadash thaig and killed everyone in order to hide all the evidence from the Imperium. The second occassion was when Amaranthine was held by the Avvars. The Imperium at that time were trying to conquer Ferelden and the Avvars secretly traded with the dwarves beneath Amaranthine.
Dwarven language and phrases
The dwarves once had their own language, but (at least in Orzammar), it is no longer generally spoken, and only a few phrases remain in common usage.
- Amgarrak: "Victory".
- Amgeforn (ahm-geh-forn): "Sacrifice."
- Amgetoll: "Duty".
- Atrast nal tunsha (a-TRAST NAWL TON-shah): A formal farewell. Possibly an archaic form of atrast tunsha, since it is only spoken by Caridin. May translate as "may you always find your way in the dark."
- Atrast tunsha (a-TRAST TON-shah): A formal farewell.
- Atrast tunsha. Totarnia amgetol tavash aeduc.: Words of a formal dwarven rite for the dead.
- Atrast vala (a-TRAST VA-la): A formal greeting. Literally, "speak" or "find your tongue."
- Cloudgazer: Surface dwarves who have lost their Stone sense.
- Deshyr: Title given to nobles who are members of the Assembly.
- Dwarva: The word dwarves use to refer to themselves. The human word most likely derives from it.
- Gwah: "Salt".
- Isana: A term for lyrium. Also called "singing stone."
- Kallak: "War".
- Kalna (KAL-nah): "House" or "lineage"
- Mathas gar na fornen pa salroka atrast.: Meaning unknown.
- Mud Splashers: A nickname for nugs.
- Ren: Pool. 
- Rock Licker: A nickname for brontos.
- Salroka (sal-ROW-cah): "Friend." Most commonly used by the casteless. Literally means "one at my side."
- Stalata Negat: Part of the title of a book of dwarven history, "Stalata Negat: The Stone Unheld: A Commentary on the Roll of Years."
- Tezpadam: "Deep Stalker".
- Thaig (TAIG): A dwarven colony. Generally founded by, and named after, a particular house.
- Topside: The surface.
- Valos atredum (VAH-lows a-TRAY-doom): May translate as "the favor of the ancestors," "the voice of the ancestors" or "the ancestor's blessing".
- Veata (VEE-et-ah): "Stop" or "halt".
- Wim and Wam: "Whine and plead".
There are also traces of the dwarven language in some place names. "Gwaren" comes from the combination of two dwarven words, gwah (salt) and ren (pool).
Dwarven runes are used on signs by the dwarves as well as by the humans on the surface. In the latter case, they are used instead of the native language, as it is common for peasants to not be able to read.
- Early in development it was planned that dwarves would speak with a German accent. It was, however, scrapped and the dwarves speak with varying North American accents.
- Prostitution exists in Orzammar, with the finest brothels being restricted to the highest caste dwarves, such as warrior caste.
- According to dialogue between Oghren and Zevran, dwarves are 100 times less numerous than humans.
- Female dwarves were notably absent in Dragon Age II.
- Owning to their hardy constitution, sickness is thought to be rare among the dwarven folk. But their proximity to the darkspawn and low fertility rate have caused the population of dwarves to fall steadily (except during the Blights) for nearly a thousand years.
- Children of dwarves and elves are dwarven to all appearances, and such children are more rare than those of dwarves and humans.
- Dwarves have developed their engineering to a level of technology that surpasses everyone but the Qunari. They have mastered clockwork and limited steam power. Dwarven clockwork, while uncommon, is notable, as time-telling in Thedas is inexact.
- Ash Warrior mythology indicates that humans and dwarves have had a long and complex relationship, learning from one another and sometimes falling in love.
- Dwarves brought currency and trade to humanity, in addition to the "Common Tongue" spoken nearly everywhere in Thedas. This was a new language that was created by dwarves to trade with other Thaigs, and was later used by Humans as a lingua franca.
- Dwarf Noble Origin
- Dwarf Commoner Origin
- Stone Halls of the Dwarves, a book written by Brother Genitivi about dwarves