For Return to Moria, a new Lord of the Rings survival game all about dwarves, a strong beard selection was a must. Indeed, the deep-mountain mining adventure includes 16 beard options in its character creator. Some are commonplace, others are fantastical.
Over a decade-and-a-half in games media has given me an insatiable urge to rank whatever enters my field of vision, and so, before doing any real mining or goblin fighting, I spent a few hours ranking all of Return to Moria's beard options from worst to best.
I have also given each beard a rating in pints (🍺), because one thing I know about dwarves is that they like to gulp down ale. In some cases, a beard's pints rating aligns with the number of spilled pints I think its fibers could hold.
16. No beard
Without a tangled reservoir to capture it, ale would dribble down this bare chin in unseemly streams, dripping right onto the table. Gross!
(This beard option gets no 🍺 rating, because it is the absence of beard.)
Better than no beard, but if we can call it a beard, we can't call it much of one.
14. Chin strap
Like an uncomfortable cat melting away from a friendly stroke down its back, this beard is unwilling to be handled, and leaves this dwarf's delicate chin exposed to cave dampness. Technically a beard, but a slippery, fearful one.
13. Twisted Chops
Straddles the border between sideburn and beard with rows of Medusa-like snake tails. Suitable for high-ranking civil servants, perhaps.
12. Chin Tail
A proper beard, finally. The chin-to-nose concourse has been kept clear to make way for salted pork, but at least the central stalactite discreetly drains misplaced ale into the tunic.
11. Pony Chops
These uncanny locks bypass the "chops or beard" debate entirely by assuming the illusory form of ponytails that have glitched through the back of the head. Daring, but perhaps likely to become faddish among dwarven anime cosplayers who favor old-school looks.
10. Braided Chops
The braided version of the Pony Chops offers a tidier look suitable for a kindly innkeeper.
It earns points for volume, but I'm not at all pleased by this chin bouquet's resemblance to the back of a head, specifically what looks like the head of a smarmy Guybrush Threepwood type. Unlike the preceding two sets of chops, the illusion here is unwelcome.
"Majestic" might be an overstatement, but this full, layered beard certainly adds heft to the face, and the shapely mustache is the first we've seen so far. The chin-shyness once again suggests a dwarf who's held back by overconcern for maintaining a clear route for incoming tankards and pies.
The floating gemstone lets down this regal beard: too central to be called an understatement, but too dull to be glamorous. Costumey.
Popular among Vikings, muscular social media influencers, and ducks, this big soft beard surrounds the neck like a brace. If bunched up to one side, it could perhaps double as a travel pillow.
A sophisticated chin carapace that brings a little Babylon to the Mines of Moria. Suitable for thoughtful stroking with the entire palm, ideal for unpicking the knottiest mysteries of life in Middle-earth.
A tidy broom held together with modest but handsome hardware. The wearer of this fine beard irons their cloak before going out.
The whole neck is plunged into the realm of imagination by this hairy curtain, giving its wearer an aura of mystery. It probably makes a pleasant clinking sound while swinging a pickaxe or boisterously singing.
2. Kine's Ring
A chiseled jaw frame funnels the eye into a taut sausage binding and down, down, down to a sturdy ring in the center of the chest—a lover's handle, perhaps? Meanwhile, calligraphic accents over the lips say "kiss me." This beard belongs to a dwarf who rarely sits alone.
When I began ranking these beards, it occurred to me that I might end up with a list that's simply sorted by size, from no beard to the biggest beard. Alas, despite being conscious of this trap, I couldn't help but put the complete Christmas dinner that adorns this dwarf's face in the top spot. A six pint beard, no question.