Dungeons and Dragons 5e: Guide to Dwarves
The dwarves might be small folk (although mechanically they are still considered medium like humans or elves), but they are a hearty lot who can combine the wisdom that comes from several centuries of life as well as the heartiness of a folk that is synonymous with mountains, mines, and harsh climates. They have a reputation as fierce fighters, shrewd merchants, and can be among the most loyal of friends - or bitter enemies who will hold grudges for a lifetime or even more.
There's a lot to love about this race and while definitely leaning towards the martial side of things, there are many interesting details surrounding the dwarf race that can lead to wonderful options when it comes to race/class combinations or fun role playing opportunities. Dwarves can be boisterous, they can be wise, and they can go berserker in battle. Actually, the same dwarf character can be all three of these combined depending on the situation - which is a sample of just how fun they can be.
All adult dwarf characters tend to be 4 to 5 feet in height and tend to be very stout in build. Since they are on the short side of medium size their movement is only 25 feet instead of 30. While they age at the same rate as humans when young, a dwarf can commonly live up to 350 years meaning they are considered young through their first half century. The overwhelming majority of dwarves will be some form of the lawful alignment because they are very society and family focused.
Fair and just order through balanced laws gives benefits to all. This is a major part of what most dwarves believe and because of this many dwarf kingdoms, cities, and even smaller towns and villages will be well-ordered and run extremely efficiently.
Dwarves are a hearty folk, which is why all dwarf characters get a +2 constitution bonus. In addition to this, they are very resistant to poison. They have advantages against all saves against poison, and then have resistance to damage taken by poison. Since the constitution score is important when it comes to hit points, a high constitution score also means higher hit points with every level up.
They have dark vision which allows them to clearly see in the darkness, as well as a proficiency bonus for any intelligence check that has to do with stonework or stone cutting.
Two Sub-Races of Dwarves from the PHB
Additional benefits are going to be added based on what sub-race of dwarf the player chooses. There are two options here: the hill dwarf & mountain dwarf.
Dwarves who come from the hills have a reputation for having a deep reliable intuition, strong senses, and an unparalleled resilience. This intuition results in a +1 starting stat boost to wisdom. The heartiness means an automatic +1 HP as well as an additional bonus +1 HP every single time the character levels up. This makes them a popular choice for tanks who need to be able to soak a lot of damage for an adventuring party, and that slight wisdom boost can make a difference depending on class choice.
Dwarves who come from the mountains tend to be among the tallest of the dwarves, frequently growing to close to five feet in height as opposed to four feet. They get an additional starting +2 strength bonus and are the only race that get a racial proficiency with armor as all mountain dwarves have a proficiency in light and medium armor.
Important Note: These sub-race bonuses are in addition to the general dwarf race traits and benefits.
The Importance of a Name
While many races have certain interesting points around a name, names have some very interesting meanings with dwarves in particular. A dwarf isn't given a name, but it is "granted" to him through one of the elders in their clan. This is a long held tradition and that means it is almost a given any dwarf is using a name that has been used many times before within the clan by many dwarves over the centuries.
If for some reason a dwarf misuses their name or brings shame to their clan, they actually lose their name. It is not only stripped from the individual dwarf and by dwarven law they can not use that name or any other dwarf name. This gives some really intriguing potential as a character who may use a traditionally non-dwarf name to give a hint they have been thrown out of their society, or as a DM giving a clue that something is off about a dwarf. Plenty of backstory opportunity, especially if the dwarf who was disgraced was framed or wrongfully banished.
The bonuses to constitution and strength make it clear that many players are going to go the route of dwarf when looking at boosting a fighter or barbarian. This is a really solid strategy, as they are a martial race whose starting bonuses make them an excellent option for these types of classes. Mountain dwarves give the bonus of additional strength and some armor proficiencies right off the bat while hill dwarves get a lot of extra hit points as they continue to level up.
An incredibly scary buils is a hill dwarf path of the totem barbarian since the starting stats on that are +2 constitution, a d12 HP die, as well as the heartiness bonus for +1 HP per level. Have them go with the tough feat for +2 HP per level and then level up constitution and strength and that's scary even before taking into account path of the bear makes them resistant to all but psychic damage on top of it.
Monk is also an intriguing choice, especially for mountain dwarves with that +2 strength starting bonus. Since monks can use strength or dexterity, a dwarf monk can choose to stay with strength based fighting and the story of how a monk's lawful alignment led to the path of a monk can lead to some really fantastic backstory potential.
Good Class Matches Vs. Poor Class Matches
The nature of dwarves makes them a natural pick for paladins and clerics, as well. This requires a commitment to wisdom for clerics or charisma for paladins, but that dedication to being lawful and following the rules and guidance of the gods fits right into the belief wheelhouse of most dwarves. The previously mentioned fighting classes of barbarian, fighter, and monk are excellent choices, as well.
There really isn't an ideal casting class for a dwarf, however like the half orc they can do well with the right fighting based warlock build as the constitution, hit point, and strength bonuses can help buy time as they build up charisma.
Interesting Build: Mountain Dwarf Wizard or Sorcerer
In fairness, a lot of this will depend on how the DM and group plays, and this is a non-optimized build that requires at least one incredibly high stat roll to put into either intelligence or charisma. However, if you have that role the ability to cause mischief is high. Since the mountain dwarf has a racial armor proficiency that means you can have a spellcaster wearing armor with no penalties.
Does he hide his abilities? Wear a breastplate and carry an ax to act like a fighter then cast magic when no one is looking? Does he get into massive fights at a wizard school? There are many different ways this can play out, and having a high constitution and taking the tough feat can mean a sorcerer or wizard who even manages a respectable number of hit points.
Are All Dwarves Scottish?
While it seems like the default accent for dwarves is Scottish or Irish, this does give a player or DM an opportunity to mess with experienced players by throwing them a curve ball. Trying something wildly different like a French or Australian accent can be a fun way to throw a fun twist into everything.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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