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Dwarves – A guide to D&D Races

Dwarves are one of the oldest and best known of the fantasy races found in Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), dating all the way back into mythology and centralised through Tolkien in ‘The Lord of The Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’. Dwarves are an interesting local variation as they way they are seen often tends to reflect regional ideas of people who are practical or down-to-earth.

Lore and Heritage

The Dwarves of mythology were usually described as short and heavy-set craftsmen with large beards who lived below the ground, and this tradition has continued into D&D. In most settings, Dwarves are considered one of the ‘Elder Races’ as they are a long-lived people. These long lives give them the opportunity to practice and perfect skills in both crafting and war.

Dwarves are also considered master lore-keepers, borrowing from their origins in Norse mythology they are usually said to use a runic alphabet and to keep long and extensive records of all their dealings, comings and goings.

Lineage is also important for Dwarves in most settings, with ancestry and pedigree being considered greatly important to them. Dwarves do not like ambiguity and so like to have facts available to them about the people with whom they are dealing, often making them seem terse or taciturn to other races.

Defining Characteristics

Height and build are an essential component of Dwarven characteristics. Dwarves are all shorter than 5 feet tall, but built much more heavily than most other races, often weighing as much or more than taller races.

Endurance is another trait famous in Dwarves, they are known to be tireless, relentless and capable of weathering great hardships. This is reflected in their physical durability and size, but also in their psychological make up – dwarves are famous for their stubbornness and sense of ‘rightness’ and are well known to carry grudges that can last for generations.

Physically, dwarves have skin that is pale to deep brown, depending partly on locale and if they choose to live above or below the surface. Hair tends to be in earth tones of grey or brown, but auburn, black and redheaded dwarves are also quite common.

Beards are another defining characteristic of dwarves – and one that can provoke arguments easily! The Player’s Handbook refers to the beards of male dwarves being well tended, but there is considerable debate about whether or not female dwarves have beards or not. This is definitely one to check with your DM to see if they have strong feelings either way!

Dwarves in Social Environments

Commonly, dwarves are portrayed as gruff traditionalists, industrious and hard-working, who remember any slight or insult against them. Among dwarves, the social units are clans and kingdoms, often with complex and overlapping webs of intermarriage and lineage to be aware of, not to mention the written records of insults, slights and honours owed by each group to another!

In social settings, Dwarves tend to be the ones who expect detailed, well-thought-out plans that are well researched and rely on traditional methods. Where dwarves are innovators, it is through iterative design rather than inspiration and a reliance on tradition can make them less spontaneous than many other races.

Dwarves hold grudges for a long time and will remember the people who have wronged them – this doesn’t mean they will justify a murder spree against them – which can lead to excellent social opportunities with rivals and antagonists or the classic ‘rivals to friends’ storyline.

Dwarves will often be portrayed with an accent that implies their hard-working nature – this may very dependent on where in the world you are. Dwarves will also pepper their speech with oaths and utterances about beards, forges and ancestors which help to emphasize their focus on history and heritage.

Dwarves in Combat Encounters

Dwarves approach combat in the same way they approach any type of work – methodically and with the appropriate tools in place to get the job done. Commonly portrayed with axes and hammers as weapons of choice, these are also tools of some professions and it is easy for many dwarves to move from beating steel or wood to beating enemies with the same items!

A methodical approach, combined with their tireless nature, makes dwarves dangerous combatants, capable of packing a punch, but even more capable of enduring a barrage of attacks from others and waiting their opponent out.

Dwarves make use of their skills in crafting to help them in battle. Finely made weapons and heavy armour are hallmarks of dwarven ingenuity and dwarven warriors are among the best equipped in the world.

Dwarven spellcasters, while rare, are not unheard of and often rely on crafting magical tools and using potent runes and inscriptions to bolster their own abilities.

Reasons to Play Dwarves

Dwarves are one of the most iconic and classic of all the fantasy races and are a time-honoured part of any adventuring party. Best suited to act as the mainstay of the group, a dwarf is a worthy addition to any group, with a wealth of background ideas and tropes to consider (or ignore).

The opportunity to weave history and heritage through your character is a great draw to many players, as is the increased likelihood of survival granted by the famed endurance of the dwarves.

Playing a dwarf means being able to dig deep into the characterisation of a tough, no-nonsense, practical hero and is well suited to players who want to play up the history of the game world and be a part of the lore that already exists.

Reasons NOT to Play Dwarves

Dwarves do not lend themselves well to spontaneous or light-hearted adventurers and may not be best suited to the joker of the group. With a lower moving speed and a stocky nature, they are less nimble than many other races and thus less suited to some roguish professions.

As spellcasters, Dwarves tend to be more suited to Clerics or Wizards with their focus on tradition and writing over Sorcerers and Warlocks as easily mapped lineages and heritage make it less likely that such bloodlines or tradition breaches would be tolerated or encouraged.

Finally, Dwarves tend to be of more rigid alignments and not well suited to players who prefer chaotic characters.

Dwarf Mechanics

Dwarves gain a +2 bonus to their Constitution score. They have a lower-than-average Speed of 25 feet. Dwarves get the benefit of Darkvision and can see well in darkness and dim light.

Dwarves are resilient and gain Advantage on saving throws against Poison.

All Dwarves are considered proficient with battleaxe, hand axe, light hammer and Warhammer. They also gain proficient with one type of artisan’s tools of the players choice.

Dwarves gain the ability ‘Stonecunning’, adding double their proficient bonus on History rolls to investigate stonework.

All Dwarves begin with the ability to speak Common and Dwarvish.

Written by Rawand Al-Issa

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