Dwarven Focus? What happen?

Hi all.
I’m wondering, what happen to dwarf minds once they accomplish their focus?
I have two dwarf characters in my game. Earth Cleric and Druid (custom earth druid). Both of them finished their focus: created a weapon for a champion and kill a defiler.
Do they continue with more complex tasks? Like kill a Sorcerer-King? They become “sane” people? They explode?

1 Like

As I understand it, Dwarves need a focus in their lives. They should choose a new focus.

1 Like

Yes I know. But also they become Banshees if they didnt accomplish their focus when they die. That’s just weird or there is something I’m not seeing.

I agree, it is a little weird. I always played it that a Dwarf had to be doing something to complete his focus in order to not become a Banshee. However, I know the rules don’t say that.

I would suggest a time frame for the completion of a focus and the start of another, where Dwarves are free to die without fear of returning as a banshee. Something along those lines.

One could say as long as they completed at least one focus in their lives, they were free from the Banshee curse. Those dwarves that could not complete ANY focus were doomed. That’s just a suggestion and not canon anywhere.

When you say created a weapon for a champion, do you mean a Sorcerer-King?

The focus didn’t make sense. Because dwarves always have a focus, the final focus will remain incomplete by definition.

I believe the intention is that the dwarves should pursue their focus. Only in abandoning their focus might they become banshees.


Wow. Great answers. I think they there is not something like a “canon” answer. Maybe @redking answers is the one that fits the most with canon. I’ll talk with my players. Thank you. :slight_smile:

1 Like

How personal is a focus? Can you pass it on like… in your deathbed? Who to? To a dwarf, to someone in your family, to a party member? Do they have to take it?

‘My father charged me with the focus of drinking in every tavern in Athas.’

How does a dwarf know when the focus is accomplished?

To me, part of it is how you are looking at the focus. If you put the focus as “Do X” then it will have to be incomplete at death. So I try not to do that.

“Protect my village, even to the death.” is a focus that wouldn’t automatically leave a banshee, but still leaves open an option for failing.

I want to say the dwarf Caro in Verdant Passage had a focus like that, to serve the noble house Asticles so it has precedence.

While it’s not necessarily cannon, I always worked with dwarves only becoming banshee’s if they turned their back on their focus or believed they could have done more to fulfill his focus, kinda self fulfilling prophecy. Dwarves can have times without a focus, that’s when they throw a party. There’s also been cases that I remember where a dwarf doesn’t have a focus at all and refuses to choose a new one (I can’t remember where I saw it though).

It also looks like Mind Lords of the Last Sea has dwarves without a focus, so it may be something specific to the Tyr region dwarves (same as hair). We also know that magic/psionics can release a dwarf from their focus. I could easily see it being something almost like a magical compulsion. We have the hair loss from “By our beards, Kemalok will not fall!” (taken to the logical dwarven extreme) and could easily do something along the lines of “Even death itself will not release us from our task.” If the King had the authority to swear an oath for his people, and his people were duty bound to fulfill it, that could explain both dwarven peculiarities.

It’s it’s something that’s always been a dwarven trait, I could easily see the ancient dwarves burial rites including a priest/psion who released the dwarf from his focus (unless he was being punished). If the rites weren’t completed before sunrise after the dwarf’s death, the banshee was created.

1 Like

My take on the whole dwarven banshee thing is that banshees are an example of a ghost revolving around a very important piece of unfinished business that any race could end up as and dwarves were just more likely than most to become banshees.

Even then the vast majority of dwarves don’t end up as banshees, but especially tragic or emotional circumstances regarding the dwarf’s death and their focus might cause them to return as one. For instance if a dwarf’s focus revolved around finding a new water source for his home only for him and his village to die, the shame of his failure may make him return as a banshee wandering the wastes, seeking a suitable oasis or well for his long dead family.

If a dwarf’s focus revolved around finishing the completion of a hammer and he died before that happened he is unlikely to be a banshee, but if he focused on creating the perfect hammer out of the finest materials and his focus consumed him so dearly he shunned his friends and family to pursue a focus turned obsession and he is killed by raiders before he finishes that hammer, there is a chance he might end up a banshee. It isn’t what the focus is so much as how the focus fits into the dwarf’s life.


My house rule is that a dwarven player that completes a major focus, is free from the compulsion that drives dwarves to take on a focus, for twice the duration it took to complete the focus.

So a one year completion time gives the dwarf two compulsion free years, and the dwarf can die peacefully without fear of returning as undead hamburger. If they out live their reprieve, the compulsion returns, and the dwarf makes a saving throw each week, with a cumulative dc to resist. Failure means focus time. Dwarves seem to embrace the compulsion, so they can choose to fail the save, and pick a new focus.

I added a limited reusable inspiration reward for completing a focus. I think dwarves were cursed during the cleansing war, and the whole “physiology” bit is just propaganda, so the dwarves won’t try to break the curse. :beer::dash:

Heh, or what if literally all dwarves become banshees? Like, there are cities in the Grey that are just composed of a bunch of neurotic dwarf ghosts, and it’s just that a few of them are able to return to the mortal world and actually do something about their condition?

1 Like

The thing is when I first learned about how dwarven banshees were connected to their focus I immediately wondered if that just doomed their entire race. I like to think it doesn’t, but it’s important to refill our nightmare fuel every so often.

1 Like

I wrote that as a joke, but it got me thinking… what if they ARE doomed to become undead, and that’s WHY they have their focus to begin with? After all, the eventual dissolution in the Grey is usually thought of as a bad outcome (hence all the efforts of the early sorcerer-kings to cheat death for themselves and their subjects, a-la Kaisharga, T’liz, and Morg). What if the dwarven race, after realizing that Borys was going to try to wipe them out, collectively decided to hyper-emphasize their already stubborn attitudes to such an extent that it would grant their entire race a form of collective immortality?

I don’t think that works for Athas personally. Athas is meant to be dark. The dwarves didn’t decide to become immortal because it would be fun, they are damned. Maybe it is because their old king swore an oath he failed to fulfill, maybe they were always that way, but deciding to in order to avoid the gray, that just doesn’t work for me.


I wonder why Athas isn’t full of dwarven banshees. Perhaps they’re just destroyed asap, or perhaps dwarves commit ritual suicide once they complete their focus. Maybe athas IS full of banshees, and it’s just not common knowledge.

In the original Monstrous Compendium: Terrors of the Desert, it states that Dwarven Banshees are uncommon. That means players have a 20% chance of running into one. That’s scary.
It’s interesting that in the second Monstrous Compendium: Terrors beyond Tyr, Dwarves are also listed as uncommon.


So one could extrapolate that dwarves and banshees exist in roughly equal numbers. That’s disturbing.


now, that actually tells us something important about the process. Because banshees are essentially immortal unless a) killed or b) freed of their focus somehow, if all dwarves became banshees there would be MORE of them than actual dwarves, rather than roughly equal amounts. However, because they ARE roughly equal, that still means that dwarves probably become banshees 50% of the time or more (unless we imply that the majority of banshees were produced when they were killed by Borys, which is an interesting conclusion it itself).