Why Dwarven Wizards Are Awesome D&D Characters
Dwarves are never thought of as being one of the most magical races in D&D.
In fact, Dwarves are often considered one of the least magical in the grand scheme of things. They are rune masters and, according to the RA Salvatore Legend of Drizzt series, they can imbue a certain magic into their smithing. That’s about it. They are never really considered Wizards, Warlocks or Sorcerers.
Well, having recently played a Level 5 Dwarf Wizard (Saman Dragonhammer – with Saman being Khuzdûl [Dwarven] for “Shield-Brother” in the Forgotten Realms Dictionary) in a one shot scenario, I think that not only are Dwarves a fantastically suited race for the Wizard class, but I think they are one of the most competitive races out there, especially if you want to be combative at the same time.
So, with that in mind, lay down your Elf or Tiefling spell casters – here’s why Dwarfs make the best Wizards in D&D.
Dwarven Masters of Combat
It is a well known fact that, where Dwarves may be magically lacking, they are fantastic masters of combat. This is one of the reasons they make such good Fighters, Clerics, and Barbarians; however, their weaponry and armour proficiencies are intrinsic to being a Dwarf as well as being intrinsic to those classes. This means that, no matter what, they are kind of great at combat. Dwarven Combat Training is something all Dwarves get, giving them proficiencies in most Hammer and Axe based weapons. Dwarven Armour Training, a trait of the Mountain Dwarf sub-race, gives Dwarves proficiencies in all light and medium armour.
What has this got to do with Magic and being a Wizard? Medium armour goes all the way up to AC15 with Half-Plate, and that is approximately…well…a lot more than Wizards usually get.
Realistically, what this helps do is combat (no pun intended) one of the biggest problems with a Wizard in D&D – they fall apart relatively easily. Wizards don’t get proficiencies in any armour and in only slings, staffs, daggers, and the light crossbow. Where the light crossbow is useful, the other weapons are very much secondary. This is fine (I mean, magic, amIright?) however, what happens when you use up all your useful spells? There comes a point where cantrips just don’t hack it. Being around 5th Level for example, and dealing 1D10, rolling a 1, absolutely sucks. It was nice to be brought along to the party – but you aren’t doing much to help.
Having a modifier on a melee attack increases the odds of doing a decent amount of damage with a hit rather than being left with the spell equivalent of a tickle as your last choice rebuttal.
Having the 1D8 of a Warhammer, plus the Mountain Dwarf additional strength modifier helping your strength attribute, hopefully means you should have a semi-decent modifier on your melee attack (I had +5 with Saman). Add the proficiency bonus for your weapon, and suddenly you have a Dwarf who is magical, but also a complete badass when it comes to dealing melee damage. Who needs cantrips when you can put a hammer the face of your foes instead?
This is, for those familiar with their Fighter class, kind of the equivalent to the reverse Eldritch Knight. Instead of creating a Fighter come Wizard, you are creating a Wizard come Fighter.
Next, let’s talk about armour. I know we’ve already talked about it, but let’s talk about it some more.
Mountain Dwarves are one of my favourite races in D&D. Not only does their strength modifier help with the fighting classes, but also Dwarven Armour Training makes them able to have a proficiency in all Light and Medium Armour. If you don’t care about being stealthy, then this opens half-plate up as an option with AC 15. Alternatively, Breastplate is an option at AC 14, plus dexterity modifier, and without the stealthy disadvantage.
As mentioned before, Wizards have a tendency to fall over easily in D&D due to their “no armour and no real melee” approach. Being a Dwarf and getting those proficiencies means that can no longer be the case. Dwarves can be awesome with both.
What does this mean for Ability Scores?
Of course, the ability scores of your Wizard will make all the difference in the world. Where this is up to you, let me tell you a bit about how I focused Saman. Firstly, his highest score went into Constitution (I wanted to keep him alive, no matter what since the party had no healer). Then his next two were Intelligence and Strength, before coming down the scale to Wisdom, Dexterity, and Charisma.
I was quite lucky with my dice rolls (we used the 4D6 and take away the lowest approach) which meant that after the Strength increase for being a Mountain Dwarf, the Constitution Increase for just being Dwarven, and the Ability Score Increase for being a Level 5 Wizard, Saman was pretty tough. He had STR 17, DEX 11, CON 19, INT 18, WIS 15, and CHA 10. Those were my choices, and as I said, I was lucky with rolls, but he played well in the end.
I would urge Constitution, Intelligence, and Strength being where the points get invested though if you want to make the most of being able to hit things with a hammer as well as with magic.
So you have your badass and tough as nails Dwarf. Now what?
Well, now you need to choose your school of magic, and there are a few that can work well with Dwarves, opening the floor to (“arguably”) more strategies than other races of Wizard.
Evocation is an obvious choice, dealing damage and causing big blasts. Nothing is quite as satisfying as a Lightning Bolt in a crowded room and I personally prefer it to Fireball. Shatter can go along the thematic lines of the Dwarves, and Chromatic Orb is a fantastic spell for a 12 second kill (a round of combat in D&D lasts around 6 seconds, and Chromatic Orb takes two turns – one to cast and one to trigger).
Another spell from Evocation worth looking at is Darkness, especially if you have made your Dwarf Wizard a strong fighter. Darkness causes all within a 15ft sphere to be plunged into absolute darkness, blinding them whilst they are in the space. Blinding gives the disadvantage on combat rolls; however, if you hit with melee on a +5 then it is almost worth blinding the enemy and wading into the darkness for combat. This can be remarkably stupid with poor dice rolls, or epically awesome without.
This idea of merging the warrior and the Wizard within a Dwarf is one that can work well with other schools of Magic. Transmutation is one such example, where spells like Haste, Levitate, and Magic Weapon can help you in combat, augmenting you and making you that better fighter. Likewise, some of the other spells can cause disadvantages to the enemies. Slow is one such example.
These augmentations are a brilliant way to go, especially if you plan on getting your warhammer dirty with some casual smashing-things-in-the-face.
Dwarven Wizards and Warriors
One of the reasons I wanted to take Saman as a Dwarven Wizard was so that he could help augment the other character I was to play – Dûm, a Dwarf Fighter. Dûm (meaning “Mansion” or “House” in Khazdûl – hence the Bridge of Khazûd-Dûm in Moria) was an all out fighter, specialising in two weapon fighting and getting in three attacks per turn. This meant he was brutal and bloody; however, he worked best with Saman at his back.
What would happen is Saman would open a door and blast (something like Lightning Bolt, Magic Missile or Scorching Ray) to weaken the room. Dûm would then charge ahead, avoiding the spell (due to Spell Sculpting, an Evocation ability) and hack the room to pieces. Once Saman had used his Dwarven wizardly might he too would run forward and finish off anyone Dûm left alive. It was a beautiful partnership that was also relatively conservative on spells.
This is one of the best things about Dwarves as a Wizardly class in D&D. They are versatile without being wasteful. Dwarves can cross the boundary out of the scholarly Wizard stereotype and become something more physical with their magic. They can have that back up plan in case they need to get out of dodge fast, or in case they don’t have the room clearing spell they need prepared. They are hardy and all round fun to play. They are a Swiss Army Knife of fun, magic, and hitting things really hard with a hammer.
So, what are your thoughts. Have you ever played a Dwarven Wizard? If so, what did you think? Would you play one again? If you haven’t played a Dwarven Wizard then would you now consider it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.