I have read by way of asides in several other threads views of Chaos Dwarf social conventions. I thought I’d bring the subject up, especially given the incredibly important (indeed, dominant) role it plays in Dwarf fluff.
My thoughts on how it would likely work essentially break down to grim pragmatism. For example, a Dawi Zharr’s position in the hierarchy might break down based on the following factors:
1) Magical ability.
3) Military ability.
Now, the latter two are largely the metrics of success for first three - good sorcerers and commanders are successful at acquiring slaves, slaves are used to generate wealth (through mining, manufacture, or as a commodity themselves). The oldest have wisdom in the ways of slave-taking, war, magic, etc. I imagine the Dawi Zharr are proof-is-in-the-pudding sort of folks. Clearly, if you haven’t been able to acquire slaves and wealth, you have no ability or worthwhile wisdom.
I furthermore suggest that society is a brutal meritocracy: nepotism only flourishes in areas where your abilities aren’t put to the test, and I hardly think impotent sorcery, inability to conduct slave raids, poor resource management, and inability to defend against periodic incursions from Chaos, Ogre, or Orc and Goblin hordes are qualities that would go untested.
Here is the primary motivation for writing this thread - a general lack of Chaos Dwarf idealism. This bears some thinking on, and I’m going to diverge from several other schools of thought here.
For the Dwarfs, craft, mining, courage and oathkeeping are all cultural ideals. Most of the Dwarf history and nearly all of their interactions with other cultures reflect these ideals, especially where they carry beyond what is reasonable, efficient, or in the best interests of the Dwarfs.
I do not imagine the Chaos Dwarfs to hold to any of this as an abstract ideal. I imagine fierce pride in their craft - the better to slay, or inspire fear, or sell to others. Mining is left largely to slave labor - a means to acquire wealth, not because of a spiritual inclination. Here’s the important part - I do not imagine the Chaos Dwarfs to be treacherous. I figure their concept of honor to be demonstrated following through of bargains and promises, not a higher moral standard.
Grim pragmatism governs their qualities. They respect ties of blood because if Chaos Dwarf society fractures amidst internecine fighting they will be drowned in a rebellion of slaves, or overthrown by rambunctious neighbors who envy their wealth. The risk is far greater than individual advantage to be gained. They respect hierarchy because it is all likely a product of demonstrated ability - and while their greed is doubtless less restrained, they probably grasp that their own long term self interest is better served by observing the customs rather than trying to supplant someone for brief wealth before the fall. They keep their word, likely even to outsiders, because a businessman is only as good as his word. No one cares to deal with the treacherous unless it is necessary, and what is futile is never necessary.
I also would expect pragmatism to be the extent of it - loyalty to Chaos Dwarf interests is a matter of self interest rather than personal faith. I expect there would be maneuvering, manipulating, trading and bargaining to get around inside the hierarchy, between equivalent members, for the opportunity for advancement, for personal grudges, or any of a thousand other reasons, all to be put aside the instant the practical realities assert themselves. This puts them below the Dwarfs in terms of quality of social fabric, but higher than the Dark Elves, for whom the appearance of orderly behavior renders any treachery fair play (save dealings with the Witch King), and far above the Skaven, for whom treachery is the only convention.
I’d write more, but it’s damned long as-is. What are your thoughts?