The dwarven ability of smelling gold and gems is one of the most simple but flavor ideas for a d20 fantasy race in a long time and one of the many reasons why I think DCCRPG rocks. It’s not only original (with a mythic feeling) but totally unworried with game balance issues (like the excellent poison immunity of D&D Next dwarves; this trait does provided various interesting consequences in regard to dwarven society, from cuisine to social relations with other races… a pity it didn’t survived the “playtest”).
At my DCCRPG Hangout games, one of my players just got 2 0-level dwarves characters (a blacksmith and a stonemason). Both characters are now 1st-level Dwarves and while the notion of playing 2 dwarven brothers is cool I wish to give my player a little variety. So, here’s idea: I want to give the “smelling gold and gems” stuff for just one of the brothers; the other will get his own unique dwarven trick. I’m looking from something equally flavorful and “system neutral”. Here’s what I cooked so far:
- Talk to Burrowing Animals and Beasts: simple and can provide ample roleplay opportunities. Maybe I should include earth elementals (although I’m afraid this could be really unbalanced… if you doubt, go read DCCRPG’s The People of the Pit).
- Smell Dweomers and Spellslingers: the dwarf can “smell” the presence of the various types of spells, incantations and cantraps. He can also “smell” the chaotic miasma usually surrounding spellslingers (the more corrupt the caster, the strongest the odor). Icon magic (i.e. clerics) doesn’t smell.
- Language of Doors and Portals: the dwarf can “talk” with doors, gates, portcullis and similar structures. This thing can either work like Tolkenian dwarves and their “secret door spells”, like a knock spell (ignoring corruption) or in a weirder fashion, where the dwarves really must talk, cajole or threaten doors and portals (a Personality or Luck check maybe).
- Lore of Weapons, Armors and Tools: this dwarf not only knows a lot about any manufactured items, identifying their basic traits, origins and crafters, but can also “talk” to them when nobody is watching. This works almost like psychometry. [Yes, if anybody is watching this ability it doesn’t work. A cruel GM can even “suppress” the racial power for a full day if the dwarf is caught on the act, “talking” with his warhammer. I don’t want dwarven PCs to craft magic items so this is as close as I’m gonna let them get to that famous archetype.]
- Water Cursed: there’s an old lineages of dwarves that is instantly turned to stone if completely submersed in water. They can only revert to normal if three drops of molten silver are poured upon them. These dwarves however are immune to thirst (but they love ale) or poisons, and can’t drown (they’re petrified!). [OK, this one is a very radical option. I stole part of it from a dwarven subraces of an old and awesome free brazilian RPG called Vikings!, written by Tiago Quintana]