The short, powerful, gem-hungry race of the Dwarves are a cornerstone of all things fantasy. In Dungeons & Dragons 5E, this doesn’t change much. The Dwarf in Dungeons & Dragons tends to be the Scottish creature you see in most fantasy media, but there are so many ways to spin a Dwarf in this game. No longer do you need to have every Dwarf be a warrior or Cleric… Though, they tend to be good in those roles! If you’re struggling to make a Dwarf character for any reason, our Dwarf 5E guide will try to brainstorm with you!
Dwarves are fairly isolated, due to their massive kingdoms of wealth hidden in mountains and underground. Their kingdoms are built for their relatively short, but squat bodies. Dwarves are dense and compact, though this usually means they weigh about as much as a human. This does not make them fearful of battle, or rushing in to save someone’s life.
Dwarves are long-living, usually reaching 500 years before passing naturally. That leaves a lot of time to remember previous grudges, such as the one they have with orcs. As such, a dwarf’s mind can be hard to change, and it can be hard for them to find forgiveness in their hearts. That doesn’t mean that a Dwarf and Orc can’t become friends; the Orc would have to prove themselves monstrously more than any other party member, and the Dwarf might still never fully respect them. Their traditions are carved into them, as deep as you could carve any stone.
Dwarf clans are important to them, since family and trade are ingrained in Dwarf culture. Dwarves have a rigid class-based system, and not having ancestry to call on is a fate worse than death for most dwarves. These clanless men and women find themselves most likely to travel the world aimlessly, though all Dwarves are willing to leave their mountains if they have the hankering to gather treasure, or they might want to aid others, or even want to please their gods. They will always remember home, of course.
Dwarves are most friendly with humans, who tend to share Dwarven dedication and loyalty. The problem is age; humans die fast, so dwarves tend to not trust them. It takes so long to fully attain a dwarf’s trust (though, much easier in an adventuring party!).
Dwarf clan names are as important, if not more so, than their normal name. Check out our Dwarf naming guide for more info!
All Dwarves are as sturdy as the mountain they were born in. Dwarves also have a massive list of miscellaneous benefits that you might never see in a campaign! It’s hard to keep them all in check.
- +2 Constitution. The single best generalist stat in the game. This simply boosts your health and your Constitution score. However, in a game where losing all of your health means potentially losing a character, you want as much health as you can muster. Constitution is a great stat, but not very offensive; you’ll rely on subraces for your damage potential.
- Medium Size. Normal, nothing good or bad. You may want to remind your DM about your relative squatness for the purpose of cover.
- 25 ft Speed, Not Encumbered By Armor. This is pretty dang slow, 5 feet slower than every other race. You’ll be a problem during chase sequences. However, the ability to ignore Heavy Armor’s most significant penalty is great. You can be a Forge Cleric with no Strength and still be moving as fast as if you had 20. Most Heavy Armor builds have good Strength, however, so this might not come up too often.
- Darkvision. Great, you don’t have to waste time holding a torch. That’s good for ambushes and making sure you’re not a massive target. Versatile!
- Dwarven Resilience. Poison is a fairly common damage type for enemies, and the poisoned condition kinda sucks. Being twice as good as your average character at dealing with it comes in handy.
- Dwarven Combat Training. If you’re able to make use out of these weapons, then you’re probably a class that’s proficient with them. Still, great for Strength-based Clerics or Druids that have limited weapon choices.
- Tool Proficiency. Tools are relatively weak in 5E. If you can be creative with them, then you can make these tools a cornerstone of your character. However, these are usually going to be less useful than a Skill proficiency (unless your DM is really good at thinking with tools!).
- Stonecunning. Unimportant, typically. You might be able to solve a puzzle once per millenia, but otherwise this isn’t going to come up.
- Languages. Dwarvish is a fine language, but won’t cross many language gaps.
Duergar (Gray Dwarf)
Duergar are from the Underdark, and are tyrannical slave owners after earning their own freedom. They work hard, very hard, and value no emotions other than determination or rage. They are utilitarians at heart, and rarely become adventurers.
- +1 Strength. A small bonus, compared to Mountain Dwarves. Good for builds that plan on wearing a lot of armor and swingin’ in melee.
- Superior Darkvision. An extra 60 feet of Darkvision lets you get the drop on enemies very, very easily, since you outrange typical darkvision. Extremely good, though not a huge upgrade from typical Darkvision.
- Sunlight Sensitivity. You suck in the sun, which isn’t great. If you know your campaign is going to be primarily underground, then this isn’t too bad. Otherwise, you’ll need to find a way to get advantage on attack rolls or otherwise negate this.
- Duergar Magic. Enlarge has some good combat potential and Invisibility is extremely useful (especially if you can use it to counter your Sunlight sensitivity by casting it in shadow). Not awful to have in your pocket.
Hill Dwarves are fairly standard, tending to be a little bit more religious than other dwarves.
- +1 Wisdom. My favorite mental stat! Wisdom saves are the most common of the Mental saves, and thus having high Wisdom can save you from mid-to-late game mind control. Wisdom also affects Perception, the most commonly rolled Skill check. You’re happy with this, even if you don’t necessarily use Wisdom to cast.
- Dwarven Toughness. That’s… Incredible. You almost get +4 to your Constitution with this class. That’s so tanky! You won’t have much versatility, but holy crap will it be hard to put you down!
Mark of Warding (Eberron: Rising from the Last War)
The Mark of Warding is part of the Dragonmark system from Eberron, so ask your DM if you can use this. These marked dwarves are usually used to help defend a town via magic.
- +1 Intelligence. Intelligence is not a terribly useful stat. The skills are niche, the saves are rare, and Intelligence is the base stat of only two classes.
- Warder’s Intuition. Intelligence (Investigation) isn’t rolled as often as Perception, but you can make it work. Thieves’ tools are more useful, though you don’t have proficiency with them right away. Maybe grab them with your Background and be an okay Rogue.
- Wards and Seals. Alarm is useful before a rest, Mage Armor is a fantastic replacement for traditional armor. These two spells are incredible! Arcane Lock will come in handy in some specific scenarios, too. These are great spells to have in your pocket.
- Spells of the Mark. These are not bad! There are a few spells not on the Wizard or Artificer spell list, and some are really hard to find. This is a good list to add to most spellcasters.
Mountain Dwarves are extremely powerful, burly men and women. They are the backbones of Dwarf kingdoms.
- +2 Strength. Dwarves are the only race in the game that gives +2 to two different stats. +2 Strength means you should highly consider an aggressive melee class, like Fighter or Barbarian. Strength saves aren’t great, and Strength skills are fine but can usually be replaced by Dexterity checks.
- Dwarven Armor Training. These will almost 100% of the time be wasted. With +2 Strength, you’re so likely to just be playing a class with Heavy Armor Proficiency. You might be able to play some sort of Battle Bard…? But even Valor bards get Medium Armor. Oh well, the +2 Strength is worth playing Mountain Dwarves alone.
Dwarves are extremely versatile. +2 Constitution is useful for every class, and each Dwarf has some good bonus. I’m serious when I say that a Dwarf can be any class. Even so, there are some classes that Dwarves aren’t good at.
Good Classes for Dwarves
- Artificer. If you’re allowed to use Mark of Warding, you can make a fantastic Artificer. Dwarf Artificers get decent Intelligence, have great Health, and can add the Mark of Warding’s spell list to the Artificer’s. That’s actually quite good! You can ignore Strength and still be good in Heavy Armor. Your 25 ft movement speed will be a bit of a problem, but you can work around that with some magic items.
- Barbarian. Mountain Dwarves are insane Barbarians. +2 Strength is perfect, +2 Constitution is perfect. Darkvision is great, Dwarven Resilience is useful. You’ll be wasting your Weapon and Armor proficiencies, and you’ll also be a bit slower than other races. However, you’ll be more than great with your stats alone! I wouldn’t suggest being a Battlerager, though. That’s kinda bad.
- Cleric. Hill Dwarves are great clerics. Extremely durable, able to use Heavy Armor without Strength pumping, still have good Wisdom… That’s pretty great! You’ll be very reliable on the battlefield. You will be a bit slow, so be sure to get some ranged healing.
- Druid. Hill Dwarves are also good Druids, for a lot of the same reasons. You can avoid going for Wild Shape builds and just let your incredible health pool stand for itself… Or you can go Wild Shape and let your health just be a backup plan. It’s really up to you! You will be a bit slow (unless you Wild Shape) so keep that in mind.
- Fighter. Melee Mountain Dwarves are insane. Once again, you’re “wasting” proficiencies, but your amazing durability and damage potential makes up for it. Duergar can be good too, but Sunlight Sensitivity is such a disadvantage.
- Monk. Yup, Hill Dwarves make good Monks. I’d suggest going for the Astral Self style so you can use Wisdom for attack rolls. Your movement speed will suffer, but Fast Movement lets you catch up. Your Dexterity (and therefore, your AC) will suffer a bit early on. This is a hard one, but you can make it work, even without Astral Self. Your damage will be low, but your survivability will be fine.
- Paladin. Dwarf Paladins might sound great, and they honestly aren’t bad! Mountain Dwarf Paladins work just fine… But in this case, the lack of any Charisma bonus can be a tiny bit hampering. Consider a Barbarian or a Fighter before locking this in, but it’s really fine! You’ll be happy, despite losing your Racial Proficiencies in the crossfire.
- Ranger. Melee Rangers can work, just not as well as ranged ones. This, like Monk, is another weaker build. You’ll be durable and can even use Hill Dwarf to be good with spells… But why not go Fighter or something that uses Strength a bit better? You could be a Duerger with Blind Fighting, maybe?
- Wizard. Yup, Dwarf Wizards. Mark of Warding is so good for Wizards. Your Dwarf Wizard will be stupidly tanky, able to disarm traps, have Mage Armor without spending a spell slot… So good. You’ll have some trouble with your movement speed.
Bad Classes for Dwarves
- Bard. No Charisma bonus? You could make a weird defensive build with Warding, but why not be a Cleric or even an Artificer/Wizard? Dwarf racial bonuses are a bit too niche to use in this situation.
- Rogue. Rogues don’t have an option outside of Dexterity, so your damage will suffer even more than Monk. Rogues damage output is worth considering, but if you want to be a Rogue just to pick locks, the Mark of Warding on an Artificer or Wizard might be better. Your accuracy and damage will suffer a bit too much for a Rogue, and Strength Rogues aren’t good enough to make Mountain Dwarf a reasonable build… (Though it could be a fun suboptimal build!).
- Sorcerer. Same problem as Bard. The Dwarves’ racial bonuses are a bit too niche to make up for a lack of Charisma. Your spells will be weak, which isn’t worthwhile. Warding adds a ton of spells to your list, but Wizard has most of Sorcerer’s spells in the first place. And your spells will be stronger.
- Warlock. Same problems as the other Charisma casters. Dwarves just have a bit too niche a skill set to be a good Warlock. The movement speed is mostly ignored, and you can even use Mountain Dwarf to get good armor… But it’s not worth it.
Dwarves are so strong, both in their lore and their mechanics. Their stats are crazy good, and their racial bonuses are niche but fun to play around with. If you’ve stayed away from Dwarves because they seem simple or their lore didn’t fit, I beg you to try it for your next non-Charisma build!