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  • D&D 5e: Let’s Build A Dwarf!

    July 12, 2021 7 min read

    Author: Rhenn Anthony Taguiam


    Meta Description: Fantasy fans often think of Dwarves as miners, armorers, and grumpy drunkards. In this D&D 5e guide, let's look at Dwarves and their many possibilities.


    Fantasy stereotypes describe a Dwarf as short and stout with a side of snarky. With these tropes in mind, usual images of Dwarves paint them as short people wielding warhammers, axes, or even pickaxes against their foes. Naturally, first-time Dwarf users in Dungeons & Dragons 5e might imagine their dwarf as a miner, a smith, or an armorer with an attitude. If you're building a Dwarf, it might be better to "break" this stereotype. How, though?


    This quick guide will give you everything you need to know when making a Dwarf for your D&D 5e game. Outside your usual miners or smiths, your Dwarf can be a stalwart knight, an angry warlock, or even a Dwarven noble. Remember, Dwarves may be short but, they pack quite the punch.

    Basics: The Traits

    Players who want to make a Dwarf will benefit greatly from their Constitution, with their long lives in their settlements forging their resilience and proficiency in their craft. They have these racial traits:


    • Ability Score Increase: CON + 2
    • Age: Dwarves at 50 are considered mature and can reach up to 350 years old.
    • Size and Speed: Medium (4 to 5ft tall, 150 pounds average), 25ft walking speed. Their speed isn’t reduced when heaving Heavy Armor.
    • Alignment: Most Dwarves lean towards a Good and Lawful alignment, as most Dwarven societies know the benefits of a just and well-ordered society.
    • Racial Features: Dwarves also receive these benefits:
      • Dwarven Resilience, which gives them Resistance against poison damage and Advantage on Saving Throws against being poisoned.
      • Dwarven Combat Training, which gives a Dwarf proficiency with the hand axe, battle axe, war hammer, and light hammer.
      • Tool Proficiency, which gives Dwarves proficiency with their choice of artisan tools: mason’s tools, brewer’s supplies, or smith’s tools.
      • Stonecunning, which gives Dwarves the ability to add double their Proficiency Bonus to INT (History) checks on the origin of stonework.
      • Languages, of which Dwarves can read, write, and speak Dwarvish and Common. Other races notice the prominence of guttural sounds and hard consonants in other languages the Dwarf knows, thanks to the influence of Dwarvish.


    Dwarven Subraces

    Players can choose to be Hill Dwarves, which gives them incredible resilience, keen sense, and a gift of intuition. They gain these additional benefits:

    • Ability Score Increase: WIS + 1
    • Dwarven Toughness, which gives Hill Dwarves a +1 to their Max HP, which also increases by 1 whenever the Hill Dwarf gains a level.


    Meanwhile, they can also choose to be Mountain Dwarves, all forged by the harsh life inside the mountains. They have lighter skin tones and are trained in the craft of wielding armor. They enjoy these benefits:


    • Ability Score Increase: STR + 2
    • Dwarven Armor Training, which grants the Mountain Dwarves proficiency in wearing armor (light and medium).

    Dwarves: The Best Classes

    Thanks to their Constitution bonus, Dwarves get a much-needed boost to their health. As such, technicalities-wise, Dwarves can take on the role of classes that fight head-on and still take a bit of punishment. This factor explains the stereotypes of Dwarven Fighters with great-axes or even Dwarven Barbarians that tear the battlefield when enraged.


    However, flavor-wise, Dwarves can opt to choose classes that take full advantage of their connection with nature, or even their advanced knowledge of crafting. Dwarven Clerics of the Forge domain or Dwarven Paladin stay true to the armored stereotypes of their race, with a touch of divinity courtesy of Forge gods.


    Here are some of the best classes for your Dwarf that combine their technical advantages with a bit of flavor on the side: 


    • Barbarian: Dwarves, despite their grumpy nature, tend to lean towards law and order thanks to their attachment to their kin, clan, and even society. Threaten a Dwarf and the things he loves, and all these disappear, leaving nothing but rage. This rage may be best reflected through a Barbarian's battle-axe.
      • Players who want to take advantage of the Dwarf’s gruffy and temperamental stereotype can make a Dwarven Barbarian. To add a twist, their Dwarven Barbarian can be the calmest person in the clan, only to show no mercy when berserk.
      • Thanks to the Dwarf’s natural CON Ability Score Bonus, they may benefit from the Barbarian’s Unarmored Defense. With this perk, a Dwarf Barbarian without any armor will get AC equivalent to 10 + DEX + CON.
      • Most of the Barbarian’s abilities cater towards the Rage mechanic, which increases their overall attack and bonuses towards STR-related checks. As such, players who want a Dwarf Barbarian should rely on CON/STR/DEX-based builds.
      • Players can help expand their Dwarf Barbarians even further, both flavor-wise and technicalities-wise, with their chosen Paths. Dwarf Barbarians can enjoy multiple attack benefits from the Berserker Path, while they can be more versatile with the Totem Warrior Path. Other sources offer more unique paths such as the divine-empowered Zealot Path, the aura-based Storm Herald Path, and the spirit-reliant Ancestral Guardian Path.


    • Monk: Dwarves get type casted into roles that depict them as impatient and impulsive - things the Monk class are nothing but. Dwarves who choose to be Monks can break away from these stereotypes, and instead show their mastery of their craft by honing their body as though they were metal to forge into perfection.
      • The natural CON bonus of Dwarves makes them great Monks, as players can simply focus on their STR, DEX, and WIS for features such as Unarmored Defense and Ki.
      • Thanks to Dwarven Weapon Training, a Dwarf Monk can opt to start with a handaxe (simple weapon), of which they have proficiency with.
      • Dwarves with a knack for strength can opt for an STR (Athletics) proficiency, while Dwarves who want to showcase their nimbleness can be proficient in DEX (Acrobatics) instead. However, Dwarven Monk adventurers may have gotten proficiencies with WIS (Insight) and DEX (Stealth) as well, depending on the nature of their sojourn.
      • Players who want to make a traditional Monk can take advantage of the Way of the Open Hand for a nimble Dwarf. However, they may opt for Way of the Astral Self to add a unique dimension to their Dwarf Monk, especially if their setting doesn’t have Dwarves who join monasteries often.  


    • Sorcerer: Dwarves can tap into their innate nature of seeking mastery of their craft and channel it through raw magical energy. Whereas Wizards rely on mastery of the arcane down to the letter, Dwarves should consider refining their attachment to the arcane as Sorcerers. Thanks to their connection to raw magical essence, they can manipulate nature itself to cast spells in exactly the way Dwarves envision them.
      • Sorcerers need guts - metaphorically and physically - to dare dabble into raw arcane magic, something the Dwarf’s natural CON bonus may help with. Moreover, Sorcerers have natural CON/CHA Saving Throws, therefore giving incentives to CON/CHA-based builds.
      • Thanks to Dwarf Weapon Training, a Dwarf Sorcerer can start with a handaxe, giving them Proficiency Bonus when making melee damage - should they need to attack up close.
      • Players who want to retain a Dwarf’s attachment to the mountains and rocky regions may want to try getting the Draconic Bloodline, giving them a connection to dragons who used to reside deep in the caverns of the world. Alternatively, they can stick to the “mechanical” nature of Dwarves and make a Dwarf Sorcerer of the Clockwork Soul, which connects them to the Mechanus Realm.


    • Artificer: Dwarves can take advantage of their penchant with inventions and innovations and take on the Artificer class. Their focus on combining magic and technology can pave the way for interesting developments that can help not just their clan and party, but perhaps the world at large.
      • The Dwarf’s CON bonus will make the INT-based Artificer hardier and meatier, making them much harder to kill. Moreover, the Dwarf’s natural proficiency with melee weapons will make them great Armorers or Battle Smiths.
      • The Dwarf’s natural inclination towards crafting and technology give them huge potential to be Artificers. Moreover, their penchant to want to make a lasting legacy by going “beyond” their skillset can incentivize their learning of Artificer features such as Magical Tinkering, Infusions, and even becoming a Magic Item Adept.
      • Artificer perks become extremely useful in any situation given the Dwarf’s natural Tool Proficiency and innate knowledge on stonework. This knowledge can very well extend to ancient technology, depending on their build.


    More Than Short, Stout: Character Backgrounds

    Most popular Dwarves in fantasy settings share similar characteristics: angry and gruff, drunk and still drinking, great with the axe and the shield. They’re most often confined inside their mountains and forges, creating some of the best weapons, shields, and armor the world has ever seen.


    However, players who want to lean away from this archetype may find interesting and compelling alternatives from various materials. Here are some considerations:


    • Archaeologist (Tomb of Annihilation): Thanks to their longevity, Dwarves can live long enough to explore the world and discover historical sights and ancient artifacts. This background fits well with their expertise in various stonework, which will likely be a material ancient civilizations used.
      • Tools: Choose between Cartographer’s Tools, Navigator’s Tools
      • Language: Learn one additional language.
      • Proficiencies: INT (History), WIS (Survival)
    • Guild Artisan (Player’s Handbook): Dwarves pride themselves in their craft, which comes in the form of a vocation they stick to honing for the rest of their lives. A Dwarf may end up becoming a Guild Artisan, studying under the tutelage of a master. They may aim to be masters themselves or search the world to refine their craft.
      • Tools: Artisan’s Tools x1
      • Language: Learn one additional language.
      • Proficiencies: WIS (Insight), CHA (Persuasion)
    • Inheritor (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Dwarves value their treasure, and to be considered an Inheritor to a fortune hidden faraway may put a Dwarf in the crosshairs of a multitude of threats. Whether they’re aware of such an inheritance or are on their way to get them, an Inheritor can make for an interesting character on the run.
      • Tools: Gaming Set x1, Musical Instrument x1
      • Languages: None
      • Proficiencies: WIS (Survival) and choose one: INT (Arcana), INT (History), and INT (Religion)
    • Noble (Player’s Handbook): Dwarves carry grudges for as long as they live, and as such clans pay attention to both the successes and the mistakes of their kin - especially those in the nobility. A Dwarven nobility may be on a quest to regain their honor or even strive to establish a foothold in foreign land.
      • Tools: Gaming Set x1
      • Languages: Learn one additional language.
      • Proficiencies: INT (History), CHA (Persuasion)
    • Spy (Player’s Handbook): Dwarven society isn’t always contained in a certain region, as their areas of expertise are often needed in various locations around their world. As such, it’s expected of different Dwarven factions to appear and sprout in different places - all with their different agendas and goals. As a spy, a Dwarf may spy on other clans to further their own agenda.
      • Tools: Gaming Sex x1, Thieves’ Tools
      • Languages: None
      • Proficiencies: CHA (Deception), DEX (Stealth)