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The dwarf is a race from Dungeons & Dragons. Dwarves are short, sturdy humanoids who typically live underground, possess long beards, and have a high skill at mining and metalworking.

Appearance and personality

Dwarves are short humanoids typically standing around 4 to 4½ feet tall. With broad stature they weigh as much as a human, and are especially sturdy and stable on their feet.[1]

Male dwarves are almost always bearded, and in some worlds bearded female dwarves are not unheard of. Dwarves often braid or decorate their beards with ornaments.

Dwarves often dress in earth tones to match their underground abode. Many dwarves encountered outside of their homes are warriors, and wear finely-crafted armour.

Abilities and traits

Dwarves are tough, possessing a stronger constitution than humans. Dwarves possess darkvision, allowing them to see in their underground homes without light. They are variously described as resistant to poison, and magic.

Dwarves are skilled with stonework, possessing an intuitive sense known as stonecunning.

Some dwarves are known for their exceptional strength, such as the shield dwarves of Faerun. Others, as the hill dwarves of Oerth, are known for their wisdom and toughness.

Society and culture

Dwarves are famously honourable and have strong ties their clans. Tradition and

Dwarven culture places great importance on physical strength and combat ability. Although not all dwarves take up arms, most dwarves met outside their mountain home are warriors, giving an exaggerated impression of their demographics.

Notable dwarves

  • Tordek, the dwarf iconic from Dungeons & Dragons 3.5

Publication history

Dwarves have appeared as a playable race in every edition of D&D since the original.

Original D&D

Dwarves appeared in the original D&D "White Box" set (1974), along with elves and halflings. They possess superior magic resistance, the ability to detect sloping passages underground, and the ability to speak the language of gnomes, kobolds and goblins. However, they may only play the fighter class, and may not advance beyond 6th level. Clumsy large creatures have a penalty to hit dwarves due to their size. Dwarves can be lawful or neutral.

AD&D 1st edition

Dwarves appear as a playable race in the Player's Handbook (1978).

In this edition, dwarves have a bonus to Constitution, but a penalty to Charisma.

Dwarves are limited to the fighter, thief, and assassin classes. As in OD&D, they resist magic, detect slopes and the like in underground passages due to their skill as miners, are harder for giantlike creatures to hit, and speak the languages of certain humanoids. They also resist poison, possess infravision, and have a bonus to attack orcs, half-orcs, goblins and hobgoblins.

AD&D 2nd edition

Dwarves appear as a playable race in the Player's Handbook (1989).

In this edition, dwarves are limited to the cleric, fighter and thief classes. They otherwise retain their abilities from AD&D 1st edition, with the additional drawback that, due to their innate magic resistance, most magic items have a 20% chance to fail when used by a dwarf. This penalty was unpopular, and not carried forward to later editions.

D&D 3rd edition

Dwarves appear as a playable race in the Player's Handbook (2000).

Their favored class is fighter, although like all races in this edition they may choose any class.

Dwarves have a bonus to Constitution, but a penalty to Charisma. They retain their traditional abilities of stonecunning, darkvision, resistance against magic and poison, an attack bonus against orcs and goblinoids, and harder to hit by giant-type creatures. They also gain bonuses when crafting or appraising stone or metal.

In the D&D 3.5 revision (2003), dwarves gained additional abilities. Their speed is unimpeded by heavy armour or heavy load, they find it easier to wield dwarf-specific weapons, and they are harder to push or trip.

D&D 4th edition

Dwarves appear as a playable race in the Player's Handbook (2008).

Dwarves have a bonus to Constitution and Wisdom. They have low-light vision, but not darkvision. They resist poison, but not magic. They possess all of the new abilities dwarves gained in D&D 3.5: unencumbered by armour or heavy load, proficiency with dwarven weapons, and resist pushing or trip.

D&D 5th edition

Dwarves appear as a playable race in the Player's Handbook (2014).

Dwarves have a bonus to Constitution, darkvision, proficiency with dwarven weapons, stonecunning, and resistance against poison but not magic. Additionally, all dwarves belong to a subrace which grants additional abilities. Hill dwarves, or gold dwarves, have a bonus to Wisdom (as in 4th edition) and increased hit points, while mountain dwarves, or shield dwarves, have increased Strength and armour proficiency.

Creative origins

The dwarves drew their inspiration from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937), in which that race appear as short, brave, bearded warriors. Tolkien's dwarves were in turn inspired by the dwarves or dvergar of Norse legend, as D&D creator Gary Gygax often related in an anecdote:

When I was part of a lsrge con panel on the East Coast, one young twit of an editor for a major publisher also a panelist asked me before the audience why I had stolen dwarves from Tolkien. I responded in august tones: “I beg your pardon, Young Lady,” but I stole my dwarves from the same source the Good Professor did, Norse Mythology.”
— Gary Gygax, 2005

In Norse legend, dwarves are expert metalworkers and crafters of magic items, including weapons. They are credited with the creation of Thor's hammer Mjolnir, Odin's spear Gungnir, Freyr's folding boat, and the golden ring Draupnir that creates eight other rings.

The dwarves of Norse mythology also often possess magic, such as the ability to transform into animals. In some stories they commit evil acts, such as murdering the god Kvasir to brew the mead of poetry. D&D's dwarves much more closely resemble Tolkien's dwarves, although the evil duergar better match the creatures of Norse origin.

According to Old Norse specialist Jackson Crawford, the dwarf's short stature is attested in the original Norse myths, with the phrase dvergr of vǫxt referring to a person of short size. The eddas describe the dwarves as living underground or within rock. However, the distinction between dwarves and elves in the surviving Norse sources is unclear.[2]

D&D's dwarves also take influence from Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961), in which dwarves possess the ability to detect sloping passages.

Reception and influence

D&D's use of dwarves largely influenced the inclusion of similar races in many tabletop and computer roleplaying games.

External links