Jhoric Stonehammer is the character I’m playing in the
Descent into Avernus
campaign. The backstory was originally developed for a different character, and
a different campaign. However, by Moradin’s Hammer, I decided to play a cleric,
and as I began building the character, I realized the dwarven cleric I had in
reserve would do fine. The last bit of his backstory was quickly thrown
together, as part of the hook into the campaign, but it works well enough.
Character Backstory: Jhoric Stonehammer
Most of the great halls of the world have been built by dwarven masons and smiths. The mighty vaulted ceilings and buttresses of cathedrals, the impregnable walls of keeps, and the humble alcoves of libraries, can all call themselves brethren. Birthed by the greatest architectural minds of the realms, dwarven craftsmanship is unparalleled. The secret, any dwarf will tell you, is a dedication to the lifelong pursuit of absolute creation. Dwarves do not seek merely to craft stone, but to shape stone; not to carve, but to coerce it. The great stone masons of old, so the legends tell, willed stone into shapes. They worked with the stone, not against it. When they finished, the product was one never seen before, and never to be seen after. Unique not only in shape, but in spirit. The lifeforce of the dwarf, with the lifeforce of the stone, combined into a creation of such quality, the divines would be impressed. In fact, as many a dwarf will boast, the Halls of Valhalla are built by their ancestors.
Becoming a stonemason is a great honor for a dwarf. Many of the families of many settlements have long and storied histories and traditions, none-the-least of which involves dedicating a child to the masons or smiths. Being of a trusted family is not enough, though. No dwarf is admitted to the mason’s craft before forty. Until then, it is expected that would-be mason spend his time learning not only of stone, but of history. They must learn the history of their clan, of their bloodline, and of all dwarves. Often, they are sent with expeditions to ruins, as scribes and laborers. They may accompany trade caravans to foreign lands (though generally to dwarven settlements), as assistants or guards. They are often called upon by priests and clerics to aid in ceremonies. One of the first pre-mason stone-working jobs they may be given is helping to shape gravestones, though not for any significant figure. As their knowledge of history, tradition, and lore improves, they are invited to more prestigious tasks. For smiths this may be helping to create mundane tools. For masons, this may be helping the architects in their daily activities, or cutting blocks. Still, they are taught to focus on learning. As they grow, the students begin to see the learning opportunities in all they do. Every tool created offers secrets of iron; every block cut reveals the history of the stone. When a dwarf exclaims this revelation to his masters, only then is he considered eligible for training.
Now, having been worthy of applying to become a mason or a smith, a dwarf must begin work on his entrance piece. For a smith, this is often a weapon of masterwork quality. For a mason, this may be an architectural design, or a finely crafted stone idol. Once their creation is completed, a task which may take a decade or more, they submit it to the council of their chosen profession. If the council is pleased, they will announce that you are eligible to seek an apprenticeship. If they are not, they will tell you to do better and return to them when you have done so. Once eligible for an apprenticeship, a dwarf generally seeks his bloodline. As tradition dictates, blood teaches blood, as stone teaches blood, as iron teaches blood. In circumstances where a bloodline relative is not an option, a dwarf may find apprenticeship to the second or third representative from a bloodline. In doing so, the dwarf generally seeks to renew their bloodline, through the assistance of the stronger one. This is seen as an honorable position for a second or third representative of a bloodline.
As an apprentice, the dwarf discontinues any previous expeditions in favor of working exclusively in the workshop of his chosen craft. For a decade or more, the dwarf apprentice practices their craft. A smith may start off working the bellows of his master’s smith. After several years, the dwarf may be trusted to smelt ore into ingots. After that, the dwarf may be trusted to help hold and quench items. It is often a decade before an apprentice smith touches the hammer. A stonemason may start off cutting stone, and also learning the difficulty in transporting stone. They then may move to assisting architects with drawings or measurements. Often apprentice masons are called upon to assist with cosmetic fixes through plaster, or to cut uncommon shapes. A daily ritual for every mason is often to create several pallets worth of cut blocks, whether it be stone, brick, or less common materials, and to assemble the necessary chemicals for mixture into plaster, grout, and other cements. After many years of this, the apprentice is often called upon to assist their master with foundations, extensions, roadwork, and more intricate stone working.
Generally after two decades of apprenticeships, a dwarf will be given the title of journeyman. At this point, they are permitted by the councils to open their own shops, and sell their own services. Journeyman shops are often specialized, so as to find a niche they can work in and profit. Once they have proven their craft, journeyman shops will expand and generalize more and more, until they claim proficiency over their craft on the whole. Once this is done, a journeyman dwarf may apply to the council for the title of master. On average, this transition takes five decades. During this time it is not uncommon for journeymen to coordinate and form guilds or shared shops. Once the title of master is given to a dwarf, they are considered proficient in their art. At this point, they are permitted application to the council, and application to receive apprentices. This is also when a dwarf is permitted (and sometimes expected) to leave their settlement in search of foreign (though still often dwarven) settlements in need of their craftsmanship. It is expected at this time, when a dwarf is generally 110 to 150 years of age, that they start and family to continue their tradition.
It is not the first time that Jhoric defied expectations.
Jhoric Stonehammer, born of Namrok Stonehammer and Hilga Stoutwood, was the second born. His older brother, Horace, was to be a smith, and so Jhoric was to be trained a stonemason. He was trained in the tradition of his Uncle, Hilga’s brother Thordon. In his 23rd year, Jhoric went on a 5 year expedition to the ruins of an ancient giant trading post. Upon returning, he spent 2 years cutting bricks of clay for Thordon. In his 31st year, he was dispatched as a caravan guard along a trade route. He travelled with several merchants, selling stone from Thordon’s shop, and returning with iron, for Horace’s master’s shop. In his 38th year, Jhoric assisted with an excavation of an ancient temple of unknown patronage. There, he helped to recover many tomes of knowledge, which the priests of Moradin were extremely happy to receive. In his 39th year, he assisted in the construction of a new mineshaft at the local quarry. In his 41st year, Jhoric began work on his entrance piece to the mason’s council: a lectern, the base of which was granite, the stand of which was marble, the desk of which was yellowstone sandstone. The desk was decorated as a scroll, inlay with obsidian lettering of a prayer to Moradin. After his admission as an apprentice to Thordon, Jhoric donated the lecturn to the temple of Moradin.
Jhoric’s apprenticeship initially saw him dealing primarily with block cutting and transportation. Drawing on their previous arrangements, Jhoric arranged with Horace a caravan to transport cut stone and iron. The arrangement was further improved when the shops of Thordon and Horace (who had attained the rank of journeyman during Jhoric’s 50th year) joined. As a result, Jhoric’s focus shifted to construction and architecture fixing. In his 55th year, Horace left the settlement to establish his second shop. At this time, Thordon’s shop was called upon to assist with the construction of a new temple to Moradin. Jhoric assisted directly with architectural design, structural design, foundation laying, and resource acquisitions. On his 70th birthday, Thordon and the council announced that Jhoric had achieved the rank of journeyman. Jhoric continued to assist with the construction of the temple, until it’s completion during his 87th year. During those 17 years, Jhoric had established his own shop to work from and for.
On his 88th birthday, Jhoric had a divine vision, and was compelled by Moradin to pursue a specific artifact in a lost temple. After consultation and confirmation with the priest of Moradin at the temple he just completed, Jhoric assembled a small adventuring party and pursued the relic. He obtained the relic during his 91st year. Upon returning the relic, the priest of Moradin instructed Jhoric that he must travel to Baldur’s Gate. Little detail was given as to the reasoning, aside from that Moradin had once again chosen Jhoric’s path. He transferred ownership of his shop to Thordon.
Upon arrival in Baldur’s Gate, Jhoric took up employ with the Shattershield Guild. Having learned that this guild constructed the walls around Baldur’s Gate, it seemed the most appropriate place for him. A wealthy noble, Jopalin, contracted him through the guild to construct some elaborate building materials for an addition to his building, which contains his tea shop as well his living quarters. After several weeks, the materials were completed. Plans to deliver the materials to the construction site were temporarily waylaid by ruffians attempting to steal some of the finer looking items. By Moradin’s hammer, they were smote. As Jhoric stood outside the building watching the construction, the tea shop exploded. Nearly everyone, including Jopalin, died. There was one survivor from inside the shop: a half elf. A contingent from the Flaming Fist arrested Jhoric, the half-elf, and a nearby gnome that witnessed the explosion. This is where his story truly begins.
I’m writing this post as part of #100DaysToOffload, an initiative to inspire writing habits. Perhaps you could do the same.