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4E 4e Duergar PC Race (First Cut)


Note -- Updated the race write-up to version 4, incorporating comments.

Changes: Adjusted Avernal Bloodline racial feat to have a daily effect instead of encounter, added option to gain proficiency in war pick in lieu of the standard warhammer, adjusted the write-up for the expand racial power to decrease the damage bonus, and changed the Impregnable Mind save bonus to be +1 will and +2 bonus to perception checks involving illusions.

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One of my favorite races has always been Duergar. And now that the Drow have been done as a basic race, I wanted to bring out the Duergar for my FR campaign.

Here is the first cut, which I based on the Duergar in the Thunderspire Labyrinth module with a dash of things from the FRCG, FRPG, FR Wiki, and a couple of my own ideas.

Comments are certainly welcome. I am particularly concerned with balancing the new feats and racial powers. They are designed so that a comparable level PC can end up with the same number of racial abilities (feats or powers) as the monster versions. I realize monster design has diverged from player design in 4e, but I still have a problem with level 6 monsters having more racial abilities than a level 6 PC of the same race.


Natural humanoid (devil)

Average Height: 4’3” – 4’ 9”
Average Weight: 170-230 lb.

Ability Scores: +2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence
Size: Medium
Speed 5
Vision: Darkvision

Languages Common, Deep Speech, Dwarven
Skill Bonuses: Dungeoneering +2, Arcana +2

Impregnable Mind: +1 racial bonus to Will defense, +2 Will defense vs. powers with the illusion key word
Tartarean Blood: Resist 5 fire, 5 poison

Duergar Weapon Proficiency: You gain proficiency with the warhammer or war pick (choose one when your character is created).
Encumbered Speed: You move at your normal speed even when it would normally be reduced by armor or a heavy load. Other effects that limit speed (such as difficult terrain or magical effects) affect you normally.
Beard Quill: Once per encounter, you can pluck a poisoned quill from beneath your beard (hair if female), and throw it as a minor action – you gain the Beard Quill racial encounter power.

Play a Duergar if you want...
to be resistant to fire, illusions and poison
to possess dark ties to fell heritage
to be a member of a race that favors the artificer, swordmage, and warlock classes.

The duergar, also called gray dwarves, were once a settlement of shield dwarves in the dwarven kingdom of Shanatar. The shield dwarves that eventually became the duergar lived in certain strongholds that fell under attack of mind flayers, or illithids, and were captured. During their captivity, which lasted for generations, the illithids performed many cruel and unusual experiments on the dwarves. Eventually, the dwarves rose up against their captors and gained their freedom from the mind flayers. Believing Moradin abandoned them in their long captivity, duergar turned to evil dwarven deities (like Ladaguer and Deep Duerra) and infernal powers, strengthening their stock by breeding with devils and seeking power in dark rituals. When the evil dwarven deities perished in war with the Moradinsaman, the duergar took Asmodeus as their favored deity. Now the duergar inhabit volcanic areas of the Underdark and have been left as cruel and evil as their former captors and quite withdrawn from their experiences.

Physical Qualities
Duergar are similar in appearance to their distant cousins, the dwarves. Short and strongly built, duergar stand about 4 ½ feet tall and weigh roughly 200 pounds. All duergar have fiery amber eyes, and their skin is usually gray to sooty black. Their hair is generally white to gray, and males are bald (although they wear facial hair). Their long association with devils and infernal magic has left them strongly resistant to illusions, fire and poison. Nearly all duergar have long, stiff spines concealed within their beards (for males) or hair (for females) that carry a burning venom. They can pluck and hurl these quills like daggers. In public, duergar wear drab clothing designed to help them blend into their environment. In private, they may add subdued jewelry and well-wrought metal bracers, armbands or torcs. They share the love of their surface cousins for mining and metalcraft, and excel at artifice.

Playing a Duergar
Grim and ruthless, duergar grow up like their infernal relations valuing strength and endurance, and despising weak sentiment or behavior. Courageous, duergar are fierce enemies with little sense of fair play. Even more than their surface cousins, duergar are insular, looking inward and little valuing those outside of their clans. They never forget their enemies, and will wait patiently for a chance to take their vengeance ten-fold for any harm done to them. They always pay back a debt; if you are lucky enough to be on the good side of a debt with a duergar, he will grudgingly make it good to the letter of the agreement. But if you have taken advantage of him or dishonored him in his own mind, he will add you to the tally of those who deserve ten-fold vengeance. Duergar are patient and will spend years if need be preparing a revenge that leaves their enemies humiliated, and in ashes or eternal servitude. It is not uncommon for a duergar’s vengeance to fall onto those one or two generations down from the person or creature who offended them, especially when dealing with shorter lived races.

In the chance that an adventurer wanders across a duergar on the surface, that adventurer is likely to notice facial and arm tattoos that mark the gray dwarf as a traitor to duergar society.

Racial Feats

Improved Tartarean Blood
Prerequisite: Duergar
Benefit: Fire and Poison resistance increase to 10.

Aberrant Slayer
Prerequisite: Duergar
Benefit: +1 bonus to attack rolls against aberrant creatures, and +2 saving throws versus power effects of aberrant creatures.

Avernal Bloodline
Prerequisite: Duergar, Constitution 13+
Benefit: Once per day, you can use either the invisibility or expansion duergar racial powers.

Racial Powers:

Beard Quill Duergar Racial Power
Minor Action Ranged 3
Attack: Str +2 vs. AC
Hit: d6 + Con, Ongoing 2 poison and -2 penalty to attack rolls (save ends)

Expand Duergar Racial Power
Daily Polymorph
Free Action
Trigger: When first bloodied
Effect: You become Large, occupying 4 squares instead of 1. Any creatures in the squares that you come to occupy are pushed 1 square. You also gain reach 2 and a +2 bonus to your melee damage rolls. You remain Large until the end of the encounter.

Invisibility Duergar Racial Power
Daily Illusion
Minor Action
Effect: You turn invisible until end of your next turn. You become visible if you take a standard action

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Duergar Traits


I thought about that, but I was concerned about balancing them at first level with other races. Genasi can take a similar feat to get increased resistances.

I'm not sure about the approach I took with racial feats/powers. I think it may make the race too customizable. Other races don't get an option on what racial powers and abilities they start with.

I built them that way because the duergar NPCs had different racial powers/feats: the scout could turn Invisible, the shocktrooper gets Expand, the guard gets Infernal Anger, and all of them have beard quills -- except of course the theurge, who gets none of the racial abilities possessed by the others...

In hindsight, I may have been better to stick with my first idea, and give all of them Beard Quills and an ability similar to the drow's that lets them use either Invisibility or Expand once an encounter. Then make the others optionally gained through feats.

I may rework the duergar that way later tonight.



Duergar PC Race Characteristics Updated

I updated the characteristics of the duergar to better balance it against the other 1st level races (click the button in the first message).

Cut-out some starting abilities, limited the illusion protection to be the same as regular dwarf's resistance to poison, adjusted started ability bonuses to make them different from dwarves, changed skill bonuses to better represent their dark magic heritage, identified their favored classes as artificer, swordmage and warlock, and some other flavor text changes.

This iteration is much better balanced and cleaner IMHO.

Comments continue to be welcomed.



First Post
I think that this is a pretty good race, all things considered. What sticks out to me though are two problems.

First of all, having +2 Constitution and +2 Wisdom is more than a bit lazy. It just is. It makes duergar seem less different compared to dwarves than drow are from elves and eladrin, which is clearly not the case. Likewise, giving the duergar "dwarf origin" while nice, doesn't have an equivalent feature for the eladrin, elves, and drow who are simply considered to have a "fey origin" (which doesn't seem to affect gameplay very much at all, if in fact it even does).

Secondly, the duergar seem to have more than a few powers here. I know they were an ECL race back in 3e but drow, tieflings, and other high ECL races were translated to core races for the sake of 4e's balanced approach to races. The same should be done for duergar and I'd remove at least one of their racial features - probably the ones that make them seem more like dwarves (I'd keep, for instance, their resistance to illusions, which is distinctively duergar-like).


Duergar Traits


Thanks for the comments!

I'm not sure how, but you seem to have been looking at the original and not the updated version of the race write-up I posted last night.

In the updated version, the duergar have +2 Con and +2 Int, and their number of racial abilites was substantially adjusted for balance reasons.

I kept the racial tie with surface dwarves becasue of the history of the race in DND. There are also a few magic items and feats that are keyed to specific races, so I included much as half-elves get to count as human or elven for purposes of selecting racial feats.

When I click on the hide box in my original post, it shows me the updated write-up. Please let me know if it isn't showing it (the old Con +2. Wis + 2 racial ability mods will be the sure indicator that you are seeing the wrong version. This is the first time I've used sblock to try and hide text like this, so I'm a little gun-shy of using it for fear that somehow someone will not be able to see what I planned for them to see.

Based on your comments, I think you'll like the updated version better than the original (I do anyway).




First Post
It is much improved and I could see playing this race or using it for a playtest. I like the +2 Con and +2 Int alot, but I still think you have one (just one) too many features. Don't forget that Dual Heritage counts as a full racial feature for half-elves - they don't get it plus as many features as elves or eladrin do. Being able to take feats restricted to another race is a pretty big bonus, actually, particularly since the duergar creation you've made does have other feats.

Now if you don't want to remove it, that's fine. But get rid of another feature. I would probably get rid of Dwarven Weapon Proficiency or Encumbered Speed but feel free to choose a different feature to axe. It's fine using the historical connection between duergar and dwarves as a reason for giving them dwarven racial features. But don't give them everything. At the moment, you've given them half of what dwarves get anyway.


Duergar PC Race -- updated

Nivenus and Chrono,

Thanks for the comments. I've updated the version on the first post (v3) to reflect the changes I made based on your comments. My rationale for applying/holding on applying your suggestions follow:

Upon reflection, I agree that Duergar and Dwarves are now about as alike as elves and eladrin, or eladrin and drow.

So, I'm removing the dwarven origin feature.

Regarding Dwarven weapon proficiencies, all of the duergar write-ups include them using warhammers, regardless of whether they are essentially rogues, clerics or fighters. On the other hand, none of them use throwing hammers, so I'm removing proficiency with throwing hammers, giving duergar an extra military weapon proficiency.

In the same way, all of them are wearing chainmail with no move penalty (the only one not wearing chainmail is the duergar swordmage, who has the same movement with no armor that the rest have with chain). So, I'm going to leave in the movement ability.

Reviewing the spell lists, I did not find one that gave ongoing illusion damage -- whoops! So, instead I am changing it to give a +1 Will def vs illusion and +2 perception vs. illusion effects.

I also changed the Bear Quill from 1d8 + Wis to 1d6 + Con. The Wis bonus to damage was an artifiact of my first version that had duergar gettign +2 Wis instead of Int. I reduced the damage from 1d8 to 1d6 to better balance it. Thematically, I like the move to Con since this power has such a link to poison.

Comparing dwarves and duergar racial traits, they now look like this, which seems pretty balanced:

* Cast-Iron Stomach: = Impregnable mind
(Cast-Iron stomach is the more valuable -- much more likely to deal with creatures/powers with poison than illusion -- 292 monsters use poison in some way vs. 71 use illusions; 24 powers use illusions vs. 221 total.)

* Dwarven Resilience: = Beard Quill
(Dwarven resilience essentially gives dwarves a free standard action to use a weapon or power that will do as much or more damage than Beard Quill, these abilities are about equal although Beard Quill may get the edge)

* Stand Your Ground: = Resistance to fire and poison
(The impact of getting moved around unwillingly can be just as critical in battle as the chance of taking ongoing damage, and the impact to the party as a whole could be greater -- about even, overall edge to the duergar)

* Dwarven Weapon Proficiency: = Duergar Weapon Proficiency
(Warhammer only, edge to dwarves who gain the ability to use a missile weapon with range 5/10 that uses strength to hit and damage instead of Dex (minimizing MAD))

* Encumbered Speed: = Encumbered speed
(Draw. Encumbrance is not nearly as important in 4th edition as third, so basically keeps them from becoming so slow they are a drag on the party if they want to wear armor). Draw.)

All told, the number of racial traits is basically the same and I think are now roughly comparable.

Thanks again for your earlier comments.

I think this is getting close.

Any comments on the racial feats/powers?

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First Post
Excellent work, Melfast! That works much better in my opinion. I'll see if I can work it into a playtest for one of my games and give you feedback.

As for the feats, I'll take a look at them at some point and let you know how I feel about them.


First Post
Much improved!

Actually, I think you can power the Duergar weapon proficiency up to be back on par with the Dwarven weapon proficiency, but I would given them different weapon proficiencies that somehow mirror the Dwarves.
How about instead of the Warhammer you give them the Battleaxe and in place of the Throwing Hammer you give them the Handaxe?


Duergar Weapon Proficiency


I'm glad you think this version is better. I appreciate your comments and helping me make it better.

Regarding the racial weapon proficiency, I agree it would make the duergar a little more distinctive from dwarves if they used an axe instead of a hammer.

I bounced this idea back and forth and finally decided not to do it, because of a couple of things.

1) Every duergar write-up has them using hammers, even when they are representing classes that don't have a hammer proficiency. This is not conclusive, but it allows me to parallel the creature write-up just as the dwarf PC race parallels the dwarf entry in the MM.

2) Axes thematically seem wrong for an underground race. Fighting axes developed from a tool to chop down trees, etc. Hammers developed from a tool to pound things. I see an underground race using a hammer to break rock, knock in pitons for climbing, etc. and not developing a bladed chopping tool.

So, it feels more right to have hammers rather than axes. I'll consider adding the thrown hammer back into the mix as a racial benefit if it looks like the race ended up leaning to the weak side. For now, I see them using beard quills in lieu of throwing hammers. The lower range is a disadvantage, but underground the LOS distances tend to be shorter. Of course, since this is an encounter power, I may have to relook this when all is said an done.



Picks and Duergars


Picks are an appealing choice.

I think if I go with a second weapon for duergar weapon proficiency, I will add in the picks.

I'm not sure I want to replace the warhammer entirely, yet. I'll have to look at it. I suppose given the new philosophy that NPC's and PC's don't have to follow the same rules that there is nothing inherently wrong with PC's and NPC's having different racial weapon proficiencies, but it still feels awkward.

Thanks for your comments. If you get a chance, give me a shout on what you think about the racial feats. I'm leaning toward separating the invis/enlarge powers into two feats. I like them together for the original duergar feel, but it may be too powerful to be a single feat. The invisibility is inferior to standard invisibility, and the enlarge power can only be used when you're bloodied, so it may be ok to leave them together since they have inherent limits.



Expand Duergar Racial Power
Encounter Polymorph
Free Action
Trigger: When first bloodied
Effect: You become Large, occupying 4 squares instead of 1. Any creatures in the squares that you come to occupy are pushed 1 square. You also gain reach 2 and a +5 bonus to its melee damage rolls. You remain Large until the end of the encounter.
If this is one of their standard racial powers, even if it fits the duergar flavor, it is way too powerful. There is only one other way to get expansion in 4e right now....a level 22 daily swordmage utility. In other words, this power is very high epic-level. You should switch it to a daily power and require that players take a feat to get it. They then replace the level 22 utility for whatever class the duergar takes with this power. Warforged and Dragonborn have feats like this. Note that these feats usually have 2-3 other feats as requirements.

Impregnable Mind: +1 racial bonus to Will defense vs. illusions, +2 racial bonus to perception checks vs. illusions

If you are looking to follow the pattern set by other races, this should be "+1 racial bonus to will defense, +2 bonus to saving throws vs. effects with the illusion keyword."
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First Post
Fey Origin has a very specific game effect, although it's not well-explained in the PHB at the moment. The MM makes it clear, though: All of the races that have Fey Origin (elves, eladrin, and drow at the moment) are fey humanoids, not natural humanoids like the other races.

Currently, we don't have many powers, if any, that are keyed off of the origin of a creature - fey, elemental, immortal, natural, and shadow are the ones that come to mind - but they may be added, and monsters that have powers like that are easily made, depending on the setting. If a campaign draws on traditional stories of the fey, setting them in opposition to the divine and making them dangerously ambiguous or antagonistic, a fey hunter paragon path or monster (for elven and eladrin PCs) would fit in very well.


Duergar Racial Powers


Expand is a racial power that they have take a feat to get.

Good catch on the comparison to the Swordmage power. I hadn't noticed it before.

Expand may have to become a daily.

After looking at Giant's Might, the Swordmage power, I think the duergar racial power is not nearly as good as it is though:

-- Expand can only be used the first time you become bloodied in an encounter. If you don't do it then, you can't use it in that encounter. The Swordmage power Giant's Might can be used at any time in or out of combat.
-- Expand gives reach 2 and +5 damage, while the Swordmage power gets this and also gives +5 bonus to Strength ability checks and a +2 to hit

I'm inclined to think it's ok given its lesser capability, use restriction and the need to take a feat to get it (especially if it becomes a daily). I may reduce the damage bonus as a balancing feature since +5 seems high. The old Expansion spell I think granted a +2 to damage, and maybe that would be more appropriate, especially if it stays an encounter power.

I do think, though, that I may need to change the current racial feat (Avernal Bloodline) so that you either have to choose one of the two powers, or split it into two feats so you have to use one on each power. Currently it's designed to follow the pattern of the Lolthtouched drow feat.

Lolthtouched essentially allows the character to get grant every member of the party combat advantage against one target for the whole encounter (and prevent it from becoming invisible or concealed), or create a globe of darkness that blocks line of sight for everyone but you (blinding creatures in the cloud). Both of those seem on par with the duergar abilities, so I'm not 100% ready to make that change.

Thanks for your comments.



Feytouched and Duergar


I'm not sure what you are referring to here with your comments on Feytouched.

Were you looking at the first version of the duergar where I had them being dwarf-blooded, using similar language to feytouched?

The current version (v3) removed that since I have made racial feats for the duergar, and because with their infernal background they are now as like to dwarves as eladrin are to elves.

As such, they no longer have that link to dwarves or the ability to use items keyed to dwarves or dwaren racial feats. This also serves as a further balancing factor that weakens them a little since duergar keyed items will naturally be less common than those keyed to swarves, and future expansions will target dwearves with feats etc.



Duergar PC Race Updated to V4


Based on feedback, I've updated the duergar PC race writeup in the first post to adjust the racial abilities (now version 4).

I think this is the final draft pending additional playtest comments/results.

Hope you enjoy using it.



First Post
Great work Melfast,

I followed the Duergar race evolution since day one and youve really done something good with it.... going to playtest it during christmas vacation, will tell you about it in january!

nice job again!

btw, its well balanced now but playtest will confirm everything =D

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