Dwarf Focus Question

So, take a multi-generational project, like the bridge between North and South Ledopolus. Are there literally hundreds of dwarven banshees nearby? Or do you think the dwarves make a habit of going off somewhere distant to die? Or is there something I’m missing… perhaps since the project is still being worked upon the spirits still lay at rest (meaning that if the project ever stopped more permanently that there would be a mass raising of malignant spirits)?


Focuses are chosen, they aren’t forced upon a dwarf and instinctively known what is needed to be done. As a dwarf who could not finish a project within my lifetime, I would not have a focus where I tried to finish the project.

Most dwarves in Ledopolus working on the bridge don’t have a focus to build a bridge between North and South, that would doom their descendants to fighting banshees and ensure the bridge is never built. A focus for building the next section, could take months, maybe even years to complete. It would satisfy all requirements and still be complete-able.

Establish a village only requires finding a site, building a well, a few buildings, and a means of feeding the population. The key to dwarven success in large projects is incremental focuses.


I agree with SeruZmaj. Even if a section is torn down by giants, it would only cause a focus violation if the section weren’t rebuilt before a given dwarf died. If the dwarf dies and his section is torn down by giants post mortem, he won’t rise as a banshee.

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My issue is that a focus seems like something that should be a life’s work. Easier things would be regarded as cowardly or not what defines a Focus, right? If you read the summaries of the two Ledopolus’ it seems that focuses were brought into play in the building of said bridges. I can get behind lawyering a focus somewhat, and I understand not all dwarves that fail their focus don’t turn… let’s discuss on these lines a bit.

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In my opinion, no dwarf becomes a banshee while faithfully adhering it his focus. If the dwarf is in a multi-generational project and then dies, then the focus is fulfilled. If the dwarf abandons the project, he might become a banshee.

A dwarf only ever has a focus that is within his capabilities. A dwarf enslaved at a young age makes a good slave because he ends up with a focus that relates to the circumstances of his slavery. Usually a dwarf slave’s focus revolves around serving his master in some capacity.


@redking This makes me wish they’d done a proper book on dwarves in Dark Sun. There seems to be so much potential in a book on their ways, both lost and current. Perhaps through the lens of multiple ages, with comments on Borys and how they specifically lost their racial memory (and beards).

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What about a dwarf whose focus is to daily deliver water to his/her family or construction crew or what not? Is that ‘cowardly’?

S/He is fulfilling a useful role, taking risks and has made that, if not their life’s work, at least the focus of their contributions?

What about a dwarf stranded in the desert who says: My focus is to safely reach civilisation with my friends. Not cowardly. Not world shapingingly huge but important nonetheless.

The original DS rulebook said a focus must last at least a week in length. That’s it. That’s the only qualification. There will be dwarves who dedicate their lives to a project and come up short, becoming banshees in death. They’ll be rarities though.

Their familes, friends, and communities will guide a dwarf away from something likely to cause undeath because they don’t want the pain of seeing someone be killed twice. Dwarves are smart cookies and they’ll know whats likely to become a focus problem. So most dwarves won’t go down a problematic route in the first place.


I always thought/felt that dwarves who became banshees did so because they turned their back on / abandoned their focus.

A dwarf with a focus they couldn’t complete (“slay the dragon”) only became a banshee if they somehow didn’t actually do all they could to adhere to the focus.

Kinda like they knew deep down that they totally could have made a better choice but didn’t. Like if they had chosen to overcome their prejudice against elves and work together with that one elf who also wanted to slay the dragon, that would have increased their choices, and if they still died in the attempt, well then their spirit would be at peace because they did their best . . .

Except . . .

Well really, where is the power for this coming from? Is there a judge of some sort in the grey that determines whether dwarves return as banshees? Is it the result of an epic curse? Is it actually self-determined by the individual dwarves themselves?

The only other example of something similar that I can think of in the original material is the stuff from the dead lands where the fluff describes Rajaat’s wizards as submitting to chemical and magical conditioning to focus them on their experiments. Conditioning that lasted generations.

The dwarven focus is obviously an unnatural thing. This is all after-the-fact dot-connecting, but maybe the dwarven focus is the result of a curse (perhaps self-inflicted by a faction/nation of the dwarves) based on the conditioning Rajaat’s wizards underwent. Possibly self-inflicted in the sense of a last-ditch weapon of mass destruction to ensure an unstoppable army of undead dwarves taking revenge on the war to exterminate them.

I think the only fluff examples we have of banshees are Jo-orsh and Saram who were guarding the dark lens, as well as a dwarven templar in tyr who came back to protect her garden? And I think one of the newer novels had a dwarf bodyguard of the Vordon heir? And sure you’ll definitely have “monster” banshees who just abandoned their focus or whatever, but it totally seems viable that we have banshees who returned (in the fluff example cited above) not because they “failed” their focus, but actually because they were then continuing them in undeath.

Quick side-note: I don’t remember if it were ever explicitly stated, but I always assumed Jo-orsh and Saram were twisted and messed up physically not because they were banshees, but because they were wounded when they stole the dark lens and the pristine tower mutated them a bunch.


I believe it comes from a sense of guilt.


Lets take a look at the lore.

The Revised Box Set says the following on dwarven foci and banshees

“If a dwarf dies without completing his focus, the need remains so strong that the dwarf returns as an undead banshee to finish the task that drives him.”

The Revised Box Set also says

“A dwarf’s present task is called his focus. No simple job can become a focus. A focus must be a feat that requires at least one week to complete…The concept of the focus is integral to a dwarf’s makeup and is even tied to his physiology-so much so that those dwarves who die before completing their foci become undead banshees who wander the wastes haunting their unfinished works.”

I cannot find the source but I seam to recall that dwarves can go a while between focuses. I recall something about a ritual celebration dwarves have when one of them completes their focus and also a time gap between the completion of a focus and the development of a new focus. This is relevant as a dwarf that dies between foci would not turn into a banshee.

I also think the specifics of the focus matter. I doubt that a dwarf would have a focus to build the whole bridge between North and South Ledopolus as that is a project involving hundreds maybe thousands of dwarves over many years. Each of the dwarves working on the bridge have different tasks they are performing as part of the project. I could very well see something like placing a difficult support for a section of the bridge or crafting an exceptional tool for use in the construction project as subjects for a focus. I could also see finding or establishing a new quarry to supply stone for the bridge project being a suitable subject for a focus.

Simple tasks and very short term tasks like making a delivery of water or other supplies to the bridge workers from one of the villages would not qualify for a focus. Such a task is to simple and short to warrant a focus. If you really want a water supply based focus something like constructing a new first rate cistern for a village’s well, could be focus worthy as it would take a while and would be a crafting challenge.

Another thing to consider is the specifics of a focus. A dwaren guard whose focus is the performance of his duty could very well die without becoming a banshee as death in the line of duty would be consistent with his focus. A dwarven gladiator whose focus is to perform a great spectacle for the crowd could very well die and not become a banshee if his death is part of a great spectacle. Dwarven cleric whose focus is to do his utmost to protect a spring could die fighting a defiler near his spring and not violate his focus as dying in the spring’s defense is the ultimate thing he could do to protect the spring. A dwarven wanderer whose focus is to see as much of the world as he can could die while traveling and not become a banshee as he saw as much of the world as he could.

Moreover, I don’t think most dwarves would regularly make foci that risk creating banshees. I could see a young dwarf that is inexperienced with foci making a mistake. I could see a few other exceptions, but I don’t think it would be common place or else dwarven villages would become uninhabitable within a generation or two.


Despite the text in the Revised Setting, I’ve always played Banshee’s as coming from a dwarf who died while willfully abandoning their focus to do something else.

That said, I don’t think dwarves would set a focus for a task that would require their entire lifetime. Life on Athas can be cut short at any moment, so most focus tasks would be rather immediate ones. “Guard this position during the attack”, “craft this chitin into a masterwork piece of torso armor”, “fill two pallets with bricks for the bridge”.

In this way, there should be few if any dwarven banshees around the bridges of Ledopolis. Since the other dwarves are also working on completing similar foci, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to complete the focus of a dead dwarf before he could rise as a banshee, or releasing him from the curse of undeath if he had risen.


I think that so long as the Dwarf in question is reassured his work will continue he won’t become a banshee. An example would be Caelum’s Father, his focus was to excavate the kingdom of Kemalok. He founded the village of Kled and worked his whole life for that goal. If he was close to death I would imagine his son or grandson saying I’ll take up your life’s work and complete it for you would be sufficient to prevent a banshee. Provided the one taking over the focus is also a dwarf who could take the job seriously.