Dwarf Guide 5e

Published on July 15, 2020, Last modified on May 2nd, 2022

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the dwarf will be right for your 5e character build.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your dwarf. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.

What are Dwarves in 5e?

Source: Player's Handbook

Bold and hardy, dwarves are known as skilled warriors, miners, and workers of stone and metal. Though they stand well under 5 feet tall, dwarves are so broad and compact that they can weigh as much as a human standing nearly two feet taller. Their courage and endurance are also easily a match for any of the larger folk.

Dwarven skin ranges from deep brown to a paler hue tinged with red, but the most common shades are light brown or deep tan, like certain tones of earth. Their hair, worn long but in simple styles, is usually black, gray, or brown, though paler dwarves often have red hair. Male dwarves value their beards highly and groom them carefully.

Dwarf 5e Traits

Ability Score Increase: +2 CON is a fairly uncommon double racial bonus.

Age: Dwarves are considered young until they are 50. They live about 350 years

Alignment: Dwarves are usually lawful good.

Size: Dwarves stand between 4-5 feet tall and weigh about 150lbs.

Speed: 25ft walking is below standard. Only Dwarves and Gnomes have this reduced speed.

Darkvision60ft

Dwarven Resilience: Free resistance to a common damage type and condition is always welcome.

Dwarven Combat Training: Typically, if you’re going to be using these weapons you will have the proficiency available in your class.

Tool Proficiency: Tool proficiencies don’t end up affecting most 5e games very drastically. The most useful one here is probably the smith’s tools.

Stonecunning: This will likely come in hand a couple times during the course of a campaign.

Languages: Common and Dwarvish.

Dwarf 5e Subraces

Gray

Ability Score Increase: Getting an ASI to STR in addition to the dwarf’s +2 CON is great for martial builds.

Superior Darkvision: Darkvision out to 120 feet is a solid buff and can be very helpful when exploring the Underdark.

Extra Language: Knowing undercommon is another great resource when exploring the Underdark.

Duergar Resilience: Advantage on saving throws against illusions is pretty niche, but charmed and paralyzed are common, nasty conditions.

Duergar Magic: The enlarge portion of the enlarge/reduce spell is good for buffing damage and STR skills, which is synergistic with the ASIs that the gray dwarf receives. Invisibility is an awesome utility spell to add on top of that, but not being able to cast either while in direct sunlight is a massive con for this ability. 

Sunlight Sensitivity: Disadvantage on attack rolls and Perception checks while in sunlight is a game-breaking debuff for most campaigns. If you’re playing a campaign that focuses on dungeon delving or the Underdark, you might be able to get by.

Hill

Ability Score Increase: +1 WIS is quite useful because that is the highest WIS bonus PHB races can get.

Dwarven Toughness: More hitpoints, even the minute amount given by this trait, are always useful.

Mark of Warding

Ability Score Increase: An ASI to INT makes this a solid option for casters interested in INT. The combo of CON and INT is also an interesting option for these casters as they usually have troubles with survivability.

Warder’s Intuition: a d4 bonus Investigation and checks made with theives’ tools is certainly an interesting feature. If you don’t have a rogue in your party, this feature certainly becomes stronger as it can help enable a cross-functional build. As it stands, it’s quite a situational trait. 

Wards and Seals: While alarm and arcane lock are situational spells, mage armor is an nice spell to have a free casting of once per day for most casters.

Spells of the Mark: There aren’t a ton of spells in this list that are a big draw. Armor of Agathys is probably the best spell on this list, with the rest being situational utility spells. 

  • 1st level
    • Alarm: This spell is relatively useful whenever you’re resting. What’s better is it can be cast as a ritual. If you have Ritual Casting, this is never a bad pick.
    • Armor of Agathys:
  • 2nd level
    • Arcane Lock: Surprisingly, a useful little utility spell. The effect lasts until dispelled so it’s a good thing to use on a home base when you have the spell slots to spare. Of course, the lock can be bypassed with knock but you’ll be able to hear someone using knock while you’re within 300ft. Overall, you don’t want this stocked unless you’re really paranoid or need to lock down an area.
    • Knock: Great spell if you don’t have a rogue around and works better than Thieves’ Tools anyway since it works automatically. If you need to be stealthy, keep in mind that this spell is audible from 300 feet away.
  • 3rd level
    • Glyph of Warding: Costly components and a long casting time are the major hurdles in the way of making glyph of warding a stellar spell. As it stands, its probably the best way to set a trap if you know where the enemy will be coming through and have at least an hour to prepare.
    • Magic Circle: While celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead are quite common, this spell provides a very lackluster effect against them. As the creatures can still attack inside the cylinder and can still teleport out using a CHA save, it’s not very effective at containing, nor protecting from, these creatures.
  • 4th level
  • 5th level
    • Antilife Shell: Great option if you find yourself in trouble in melee combat. It will also hedge out your allies so keep that in mind.

Mountain

Ability Score Increase: Getting +2 from CON from the base racial bonus and +2 to STR from the subrace bonus is absolutely amazing for most martial classes.

Dwarven Armor Training: Typically, if you’re going to be using these armor types you will have the proficiency available in your class. This can be beneficial for spellcasters looking to boost their AC.

Which 5e Classes Work With Dwarves?

Artificer: Nothing here for an Artificer

  • Hill: Nothing here for an Artificer
  • Mark of Warding: The CON and INT are what an artificer is looking for, as are the extra spells and help buff out their relatively small spell list. Nothing here is particularly exciting outside of this, though armor of Agathys is quite a solid spell for Armorers and Battle Smiths.
  • Mountain: Nothing here for an Artificer

Barbarian: Dwarves are a great choice for melee barbarians. They get bonuses to CON and a free resistance to poison. What’s not to love?

  • Hill: More hit points isn’t bad, but not needed since the dwarf already gets a bonus to CON and barbarians have the highest hit dice. WIS saves are common so a bonus here also helps.
  • Mountain: Adding a STR bonus to the dwarf’s racial traits makes this a perfect choice for a barbarian.

Bard: Bards won’t be tanking any time soon, even if they are going Valor or Swords College.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS can occasionally help with Wisdom saves, but otherwise there are no redeeming qualities here.
  • Mountain: STR on a Bard could be useful for Valor builds

Cleric: Dwarves are your stereotypical cleric race. They get a CON bonus ensuring you will live long enough to heal your teammates. Their speed isn't reduced by heavy armor which allows you to ignore the STR component when choosing a subclass with heavy armor proficiencies.

  • Hill: Adding an increase to WIS makes the Hill Dwarf the perfect choice when it comes to Clerics.
  • Mountain: You won't need STR if you're going to be using heavy armor because of the caveat under the dwarf's Speed trait. The extra STR can be useful if you're going to be a melee-focused cleric like the Forge Domain.

Druid: +2 CON and Darkvision are nice.

  • Hill: +1 to WIS makes this an alright pick.
  • Mountain: Doesn’t help a druid.

Fighter: Dwarves are a great choice for melee fighters (just look at Gimli). They get bonuses to CON and a free resistance to poison. What’s not to love?

  • Hill: Bonuses to WIS isn’t going to help a ton but may be useful if you need to have high Perception, and the bonus hit points are always welcome.
  • Mountain: Most melee fighters will take +2 bonuses to STR and CON all day.

Monk: CON is helpful but not a priority. The fact that dwarves don't get access to +2 DEX will really harm a monk build.

  • Hill: WIS and hit points, but no DEX unfortunately.
  • Mountain: STR doesn’t do anything for monks since they use DEX for attack and damage rolls instead.

Paladin: Dwarves are a great choice for all paladin builds. They get bonuses to CON and a free resistance to poison which is just gravy.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS isn’t going to help a ton but may be useful if you need to have high Perception, and the bonus hit points are always welcome.
  • Mountain: Most paladins will take +2 bonuses to STR and CON all day.

Ranger: +2 CON and Darkvision are nice.

  • Hill: +1 to WIS makes this an alright pick.
  • Mountain: Can be useful for STR-based rangers, otherwise the ASIs don't match up with ranger's priority.

Rogue: CON bonus and Darkvision are nice, but dwarves have a base walking speed of only 25 feet. Mobility can be critical for the rogue Class.

  • Hill: More hit points and a WIS bonus. Both are tangentially useful, but there are much better options to choose from.
  • Mountain: Rogues don’t need the STR bonus, but medium armor proficiency is decent.

Sorcerer: No CHA is tough and the sorcerer won’t be tanking any time soon. Additional hit points are always helpful.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS can occasionally help with Wisdom saves, additional hit points are useful.
  • Mountain: STR won't help but light and medium armor proficiency is always nice for casters.

Warlock: No CHA is tough and the warlock won’t be tanking any time soon, even if they choose Pact of the Blade. Additional hit points are always helpful.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS can occasionally help with Wisdom saves, additional hit points are useful.
  • Mountain: STR won't help but light and medium armor proficiency is always nice for casters.

Wizard: No INT is tough and the wizard won’t be tanking any time soon. Additional hit points are always helpful, especially with the meager d6 hit dice.

  • Hill: A bonus to WIS can occasionally help with Wisdom saves, additional hit points are useful.
  • Mark of Warding: CON can help with survivability and INT is necessary to make this subrace worth it. Outside of that, there is a lot of overlap between the spells and none that are particularly exciting for wizards.
  • Mountain: STR won't help but light and medium armor proficiency is always nice for casters.

Sources Used in This Guide

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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