Why Dwarves are the Best Race in D&D
“Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?”
Dwarves are, by far, one of the toughest races in D&D. They hit hard, and they can get hit hard in return. They are loyal and fierce, with some of the greatest characters in the fantasy genre. They fight for the good and the great, in fantastic clans of incredible warriors. What is more, as a D&D player and fan of the fantasy genre, Dwarves have swiftly become one of my favourite races to play in Dungeons and Dragons.
The question is: Why? What is it that makes Dwarves so awesome in D&D?
Well, pull up a chair, and let me tell you why. After reading this you will know why it is an undisputed fact that Dwarves are the best race in D&D.
Why Dwarves are the Best Race in D&D
An Incredible Legacy
This wouldn’t be much of an article about Dwarves if we didn’t start by recognising their heritage in the fantasy genre. Two authors in particular have inspired my love of Dwarves over the past six months. The first one of those comes as no surprise, as one of the forefathers of the fantasy genre, JRR Tolkien. His characters Gimli, son of Glóin, and Thorin Oakenshield are an inspiration for so many Dwarf players all over the world. Secondly, but more importantly from my perspective, is RA Salvatore. Salvatore has written several series of books, each with amazing Dwarf characters in them. Ivan and Pikel Bouldershoulder redefine the definition of loyalty in the Cleric Quintet, however, the flagship D&D Dwarf (and character who is used for explaining the stats in the D&D Player’s Handbook) is Bruenor Battlehammer. Bruenor is not just one of the best characters in the Forgotten Realms mythos but, in my opinion, one of the greatest characters in the entire high fantasy genre.
Of course, it isn’t just those two authors. White Dwarf magazine is named after the Warhammer character Grombrindal, and who can forget the slayer Gotrek Gurnisson from the Gotrek and Felix series of books? Badass Dwarves are all over high fantasy, and who can blame them? They are brilliant in so many ways.
Dwarves in D&D
Two Types of Dwarf and Abilities
Okay, so let’s narrow this down. Dwarves are great in the genre, but what is it about that which makes them great in D&D? Well, firstly we need to recognise that there are two base types of Dwarf in D&D – Mountain Dwarf and Hill Dwarf. All kinds of Dwarves gain Dwarven Constitution, giving them a +2 on that stat. This makes them resilient and harder to kill than other races. On top of that they get Dwarven Resilience, to make them even tougher, and giving them advantage against poisons. Both of those are incredibly helpful traits that help make Dwarves the tanks we have grown to know and love.
They have a few other bonuses that come with just being Dwarven, including Dwarven Weapons Training – giving proficiency on all Axes and Hammers. Finally, to top it off, they get Darkvision, as well as a few other minor perks (speaking Dwarven, being able to know the history of stonework etc.).
Hill Dwarves are one of the two core refined species of Dwarf, and could be considered ideal for Wizards and Clerics. You see, Hill Dwarves get a bonus +1 to Wisdom as well as get Dwarven Toughness as a trait. Dwarven Toughness improves the steadfastness of Dwarves once again, giving them a +1 hit point at all levels, included the start of Level 1 and continuing with every level up throughout the game. Yes, it happens at every single level, making Hill Dwarves difficult to kill.
Mountain Dwarves are my favourite race and sub-race in D&D, gaining two different abilities to the classic Dwarf or Hill Dwarf. These are a +2 to the Strength statistic, making them heavy hitters, and they also gain Dwarven Armour Training, giving them a proficiency on all light and medium armour. One of my favourite tactics is to make a Mountain Dwarf Wizard, as it means they get armour proficiency (which a normal Wizard doesn’t get) as well as the additional strength aiding their hand-to-hand (should they run out of spells). What is more, they get proficiency with axes and hammers making them dangerous with both spells and in melee combat.
In fact, I have just come off the back of a one-shot where I played Mountain Dwarf brothers – Saman, a Wizard, and Dûm, a Fighter. They worked magnificently well together.
What these two types of Dwarf mean though is that the whole species of Dwarf is no longer trapped in the realm of being Clerics or Fighters in the world of D&D. Additional proficiencies mean they can now make tough Wizards, Sorcerers, or Warlocks. They can be Druids (in fact, I actually made and published an article about a Dwarven Druid here) and Bards. They can be anything, and that makes them incredibly enjoyable to play.
Of course, they do still have a couple of classes they fit more naturally with. Dwarves always make awesome Fighters, Clerics, and Barbarians; however, now they have more versatility for those who want to break the mould.
The awesomeness that is their abilities is only part of what makes a Dwarf. For me, the main thing that makes them is their mentality.
In the Player’s Handbook, it suggests that Dwarves are Lawful Good by nature. This is, it has to be said, is my preference for playing them; however, it is not the only alignment our runic friends can be.
Like all characters in D&D, the Dwarven race come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good and some are evil. That being said, Dwarves, no matter what, are stoic. They believe strongly in following their own moral compass, whether that is good or bad, and will always stick to their principles.
This makes Dwarves strong – not just physically but mentally and emotionally. They are solid characters, both in their physicality and their steadfastness. This makes them a great centrepieces for the party, being both reliable and sturdy at the same time.
This whole article has been a bit of an unfocused love letter to the Dwarvish race; however the point should be very clear. Dwarves are a fantastic race in D&D. They get some awesome bonuses and, if you only take one thing away from this article, take away that Dwarven Armour Training and Dwarven Weapon Training are incredibly valuable traits. They make Dwarves forces to be reckoned with, no matter what class you decide to go with.
Those two bonuses alone give Dwarves a significant combat bonus. With the natural bonus to constitution, and potential bonus to strength, the Mountain Dwarf is thus one of the versatile races in D&D. It allows for you to use your valuable dice roles for other stats to specialise as the class you want, and still be as hardy as you can with the bonuses. Win-win.
Since I don’t want this to become just a ramble about Dwarves, I am going to end this article here; however, before I do, let me ask you a question – what are your favourite races to play in D&D? Do you like Dwarves or do you prefer other races? Let me know in the comments below.