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D&D General Make Your Dwarves More Interesting

guachi

Adventurer
Add a bit of difference to Dwarves in your game:

Dwarves have skin color of a base metal (lead, copper, nickel, aluminum, zin, tin, etc.) or its alloys (brass, bronze, solder, pewter, etc). If a Copper and Zinc parent have a baby Dwarf, he just might be a Brass-skinned dwarf!

Keep a dwarf outside too long without a good scrubbing and he'll tarnish. Dwarves who want to impress on a hot date make sure to scrub up and get a nice sheen to their skin. Not too different from a human, really. Face cream? No. Polishing cream.

Dwarves may live a long time but death is inevitable. Humans sometimes incinerate their deceased loved ones and put their ashes in a special container. Dwarves do something similar. Dwarves will honor deceased ancestors by putting them in a furnace. But it's not ashes they are looking for. No! A dwarf will leave some quantity of his skin color as residue. Copper-colored skin isn't just for show. That dwarf has real copper in his skin (and blood and bones, too). Humans just have ashes in an urn. Bah! Melt Grandpa Gimli down into copper and honor him by making a mini-Gimli statute of him. Bronze heroes get turned into magic weapons, for example. Just imagine how powerful a weapon (or any other item) could be if it contained the remains of an entire line of Dwarven rulers.
 

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DND_Reborn

Legend
Dwarves in my games:

1. Do NOT have darkvision. Nearly every media/book/image of dwarves (even underground) shows them with light sources; and personally I think way too many races have darkvision (so others have lost it as well). YMMV, but that is my experience.

2. Dwarves are known as excellent crafters of ALL trades, not just smith's tools, brewer's tools, and mason's tools (those three are severely limiting IMO and too stereotypical), and so gain tool proficiency in any tool (including instruments, game sets, anything under the Tool table in the PHB).

3. Although dwarves are comfortable underground, most dwarves actually live above ground. Some groups stay for extended periods underground, of course, but even if a community has an extensive underground network, most will reside above ground and have several other buildings there as well.

4. Dwarves can exchange Dwarven Combat Training for a language, skill, or tool proficiency.

5. Dwarves can exchange the poison damage type of Dwarven Resilience for acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder (basically "elemental" types) damage instead. Dwarves with different types come from different clans or families and are related. You can also roll a d6 to determine it randomly.

6. Dwarven Stonecunning is replaced by Craftcunning, which is the same benefit but you can choose any tool proficiency to gain the benefit for. If you want the original Stonecunning you choose Mason's tools.

7. Dwarves receive a +2 CON bonus and have maximum CON 20 (other races are maximum CON 18), and only floating +1 ASI.
 

1. Do NOT have darkvision. Nearly every media/book/image of dwarves (even underground) shows them with light sources; and personally I think way too many races have darkvision (so others have lost it as well). YMMV, but that is my experience.
While I agree that there is too much darkvision in D&D, I would not pick the prototypical subterranian race to be where I draw the line.

Humans don't spend all of their time in the minimal amount of light they need to function, so I don't know why we would assume fantasy races do.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
While I agree that there is too much darkvision in D&D, I would not pick the prototypical subterranian race to be where I draw the line.
I get that, but again the media, etc. seems to always have them with torches or lanterns... why if they have infravision/ darkvision???

For example from 1E AD&D PHB:
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Also, my other points explain why I removed it from dwarves (except Duergar still have it).

FWIW, at one point Mountain Dwarves kept it, and Hill Dwarves didn't, but later I just made it all dwarves.

Here is the thread/poll I did a while ago about darkvision:

Anyway, I get your point--not for everyone--but I like it and it works for my world. 🤷‍♂️
 


Irlo

Explorer
I once used dwarves with stone bones and fingernails with bonuses for being in contact with earth or rock and penalties for being on water or in the air.

I don't mind the darkvision. Even dwarves will use torches. No one wants to work in dim light, which is what darkness would seem to be to them.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
One idea we came up with in our campaign (which had 3 - 5 dwarf characters, depending on the session) was that Dwarves live for so long that they perceive time differently. When they are in the routines of their work, time passes quickly... years could pass as if they were days. But when something of note occurs, suddenly time snaps back to normal!
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I particularly like how Dwarves are in the Inheritance Cycle (the Eragon series) are different from Tolkien knock-off dwarves. They're extremely devoted to their gods, like D&D Dwarves, but they believe that the only way for their spirits to properly journey to the afterlife is if they're completely enclosed in stone (they actually think that if they do this, their bodies will eventually "become one with the stone", and that they'll essentially turn into stone statues if properly buried). Now that I think about it, this kind of has an Egyptian feel to it, while their language is kind of a mix of German and Russian (lots of hard consonants and u's and o's in their words, but also have a lot of compound words).

Oh, and their name for themselves basically means "Rock People".

I love dwarves and I especially enjoy them when they (in some way) subvert the Our Dwarves are All the Same trope, and I feel like Dwarves from the Inheritance Cycle are a fairly under-represented variant of typical fantasy dwarves that do a pretty good job at making themselves feel unique and belonging to their world.

Nice thread, by the way. I really like your ideas, @guachi.
 
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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
A homebrew I did years ago had dwarves who were essentially minor earth elementals native to the prime material plane. They reproduced by carving new dwarves from stone, and using a Ritual (“Moradin’s Breath”) to give them true life.

And the stone from which the dwarf was carved determined their favored class.
 


Kurotowa

Legend
Rather than physiognomical changes, one idea I've spitballed but not used yet is to shift dwarven culture to put an emphasis on tradesmen instead of craftsmen. So instead of clans and master craftsmen hoarding their finely polished works, dwarven society is a tangle of trade unions and contracts. There's the Miner's Union and the Armorer's Union and the Tavernkeeper and Hospitality Union and all the way down to the Streetsweeper's Union, and when you become an adult you contract with one for a precisely defined package of training and responsibilities and compensation. Then the different unions have contracts with each other for their overlapping relationships, and the city's Leadership Committee of union representatives selects a rotating Chair to act as governor, and religious observances are more about paying your contractual dues to the gods for their blessings with the priests as HR reps for arbitrating disputes and communicating grievances.

It's not a wildly different spin on dwarven culture, they've still got the strongly LG tendencies and emphasis on keeping their word, but it pushes them away from tropes that are worn a bit thin (and come out of some ...questionable ethnic stereotyping) and into being a bit more dynamic.
 

The Lizard Wizard

Adventurer
Add a bit of difference to Dwarves in your game:

Dwarves have skin color of a base metal (lead, copper, nickel, aluminum, zin, tin, etc.) or its alloys (brass, bronze, solder, pewter, etc). If a Copper and Zinc parent have a baby Dwarf, he just might be a Brass-skinned dwarf!

Lots of good ideas here, thanks for sharing.

In my homebrew I went with the (extremely basic) idea that there are Dwarven clans / houses based on the different gem stones. So when you pick a Dwarf you can also pick the gem-stone clan they belong to. This hasn't really been fleshed out, so the players are welcome to add their own ideas to what a Ruby (or whatever) clan might be like.

I've only ever had one person want to play a Dwarf in 5E, so it's never been much of an issue.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Way back in the old days, dwarves didn't reach maturity until 35-40 years of age and elves not until 100+.

I explained that while elves spent decades in glorious carefree childhood, dwarves spent decades as sullen adolescents resenting everything.
I just had this mental image of young Dwarves looking like Goths, and listening to The Smiths, The Dammned, and The Cure.
 

MGibster

Legend
I gotta say, one of the most interesting takes on dwarves I've seen in the last decade or so was from Dragon Age. And it wasn't so much that they were radically different from your typical fantasy dwarves, it's that they had a good story to tell. That's what makes a race interesting.
 

The Dwarves

The Dwarves you see out in the world, they may not look at it, but they're all the noble/warrior caste. You see sometime under the mountain not too long ago, there was a revolution and the worker caste rose up and caste out their rulers. The nobles all fled and took with them their wealth and have long planned to lead an army of mercenaries to take back their homelands.

But there's a reason that they haven't. They can't take back their homeland until they sort out who gets to be king when they do and their quarrels have been going on for centuries.

All dwarven exiles know their family history and it's long and complicated web of branchings, marriages, blood feuds and alliances. As mercenaries they tend to join sides in human struggles where they can oppose rival claimants. Dwarves have a reputation amongst humans of being unreliable mercenaries, willing to switch sides at the drop of a hat, but in reality they have their reasons. When Dwarves change sides it's because some distant marriage or death has led to a change in their families allegiance to one or the other of the leading rival claimants to the lost Dwarven throne, or because circumstance has provided the chance to act on an ancient bloodfeud. There is no hatred in the world so strong as that of a Dwarf for another Dwarf.

In the last days of the humans' war, one of the last scions of an ancient line died overwhelmed by sheer numbers in a siege. Now, dwarves scurry across the land, making new alliances and breaking old ones, consulting weighty genealogical tombs and negotiating marriages.

And arranging assassinations. It is said by those who live by the sword, that when a Dwarf has a job for you, it will in the end, no matter what the initial claim, be about settling a score with another Dwarf.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I just had this mental image of young Dwarves looking like Goths, and listening to The Smiths, The Dammned, and The Cure.
…come to think of it, why just the YOUNG dwarves?

A quasi Goth Dwarven society- living in darkness, dressed in darkness; grumpy, morose and possibly even jealous of Elves; a gloomy bardic tradition…

Oh, I bet they’d show the Drow and Shadar-Ki something!
 
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Dwarves in one of my games had been "humanized" by disturbing, deific forces from a bear-like ancestor. Although retaining many of the classic dwarven characteristics they still had functional digging claws, bad tempers, and a penchant for hibernation.
 



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