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D&D 5E The Fall Of The Dwarves: What Races Do People Actually Play?

What races are people actually playing, and how much of it is Tolkien fantasy as against other stuff?

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Fortunately D&D Beyond provides a better source of data than we've ever had. The most recent data from less than a week ago in December 2020 alas does not provide percentages.
  1. Human
  2. Half-Elf
  3. Dragonborn
  4. Tiefling
  5. Half-Orc
In February 2019, using stats found via this very site:
  1. Human
  2. Variant Human
  3. Half Elf
  4. Tiefling
  5. Dragonborn
  6. Wood Elf
  7. High Elf
  8. Half-Orc
  9. Goliath
  10. Mountain Dwarf
  11. Lightfoot Halfling
  12. Hill Dwarf
Which is a bit of a change from what people were creating in launch month for D&D Beyond (mid 2017)
  1. Human
  2. Elf
  3. Half-Elf
  4. Dwarf
  5. Tiefling
  6. Dragonborn
  7. Genasi
  8. Halfling
  9. Half-Orc
  10. Gnome
  11. Goliath
The percentages are presented in different ways in 2019 and the launch month, with launch month merging the various subraces. So to compare like with like:
  • Wood elves and high elves taken together in the 2019 data are more popular than half-elves (or variant humans)
  • Meanwhile if we split the wood elves and high elves from 2017 they are probably both behind tieflings and dragonborn
  • Dwarves taken together in 2019 are only just behind dragonborn. They've still fallen from ahead of tieflings and dragonborn to behind them
  • Halflings combined in 2019 are neck and neck with half-orcs and ahead of goliaths
  • Genasi combined in 2019 are a little behind goliaths and slightly ahead of combined gnomes
Interesting that dwarves have fallen so heavily out of favour - and half orcs have climbed so strongly into favour; I guess there's been a lot of talk here. The thematics of tieflings and dragonborn (entirely unsurprisingly IMO) have made them core races and even the dwarfs are disappearing in favour of half-orcs (which IMO is a surprise).
 
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Only 23 titles of Endless Quest were translated into Spanish, and with different covers. The Advanced Endless Quest gamebooks also had got different covers.

Dwarves are cool, but when someting is too seen, too popular, it become old fashioned. It has lost that exotic touch to feel it was different. And like "black sheeps of the family" can be good antagonists.

Dwavers may become popular if an author creates a female dwarf who seems a total tomboy on the cover, but a true femenine soul when her shows her maternal heart and behaves like the oldest sister for the rest of the team.

Other suggestion is to show dwarves like a civilitation who really tries to be eco-friendly, but they would rather to live underground to avoid attacks by evil dragons, giants or with laser rays by flying saucers from outer space.
 

Dwarves are cool, but when someting is too seen, too popular, it become old fashioned. It has lost that exotic touch to feel it was different. And like "black sheeps of the family" can be good antagonists.
Dwarves make good bad guys.

They're a militaristic warrior society with wealth based on mining. It doesn't actually take too much subversion to make a lot of that mining (a historically extremely unpleasant job) based on slavery. The Dwarves then become something like Ancient Spartans.

Plus people still don't really expect Dwarves to be evil - elves being evil is extremely old hat, but Dwarves are rarely done.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Dwarves make good bad guys.

They're a militaristic warrior society with wealth based on mining. It doesn't actually take too much subversion to make a lot of that mining (a historically extremely unpleasant job) based on slavery. The Dwarves then become something like Ancient Spartans.

Plus people still don't really expect Dwarves to be evil - elves being evil is extremely old hat, but Dwarves are rarely done.
Yeahh, when Dwarves as a race are on the naught scale it's usually not due to evil but seeing red or green.

Dwarves in conflict are out for revenge or wealth if outward. Dwarven evil is usually protested inward, as clan vs clan or brother vs brother. This makes it difficult for D&D RP as rivals are almost always back in the dwarven lands and require the party to go to a dwarf PC's home to do backstory things
 

Dwarves in conflict are out for revenge or wealth if outward. Dwarven evil is usually protested inward, as clan vs clan or brother vs brother. This makes it difficult for D&D RP as rivals are almost always back in the dwarven lands and require the party to go to a dwarf PC's home to do backstory things
One way I've dealt with that before that I liked was by taking that very idea and mixing it with the idea of Dwarves as an exiled diaspora.

So something like this: when Dwarves dug too deep etc etc, they lost not only their homeland but their direct royal family. The Dwarven diaspora are then split between a whole lot of different clans who all either think they have the best claim to be the next king, or are allied with a clan who does. This makes conflict between dwarves something that can spill over into the setting in interesting ways.
 

wicked cool

Adventurer
The trolls aren't the dwarves; the dwarrows are the dwarves - it's in the name :)
always felt the quanuc were the dwarves based on size (yes they don't have beards and dwarven but I look at how dwarves have evolved since Tolkien and I see lots of things in common) . the dwarrows were more like sithi in appearance and related to sithi (aren't they and norns just factions of the gardenborn). I believe one of the authors was looking to break the stereotype
 

Dwarves make good bad guys.

They're a militaristic warrior society with wealth based on mining. It doesn't actually take too much subversion to make a lot of that mining (a historically extremely unpleasant job) based on slavery. The Dwarves then become something like Ancient Spartans.

Plus people still don't really expect Dwarves to be evil - elves being evil is extremely old hat, but Dwarves are rarely done.

In reading the Tal'Dorei setting book in preparation for my current campaign I discovered that the largest dwarven city in the world of Critical Role, Kraghammer, is a surprisingly oppressive and intolerant place.

  • Kraghammer sided with an oppressive empire that sought to conquer the continent and cut extensive trade deals with it, even when said empire's rulers started creating armies of the undead and making pacts with Graz'zt. The elves who were attacked by that empire are especially bitter that Kraghammer has never formally apologized following its defeat.
  • Residents of the city who aren't dwarves are only allowed to live in a district called "the Otherwalk". Rock gnomes are the city's "model minority" due to their knack for invention.
  • Indentured servitude is an accepted practice.
  • Laborers in the mines and forges get one day off a month and are required to live at the worksite.
  • The noble House Bronzegrip controls industry and is ruthless in pursuit of new sources of profit. For example, they reacted to their miners' discovery of a cavern full of myconids and giant fungi by hiring mages from House Thunderbrand to annihilate the myconid colony with fire.

Working from this, I decided in my current Underdark campaign set below Kraghammer that a minor noble clan working with House Bronzegrip was sent to attack a deep gnome city, drive out its inhabitants, and occupy their mines with indentured servants and prison labor.
 



Minigiant

Legend
One way I've dealt with that before that I liked was by taking that very idea and mixing it with the idea of Dwarves as an exiled diaspora.

So something like this: when Dwarves dug too deep etc etc, they lost not only their homeland but their direct royal family. The Dwarven diaspora are then split between a whole lot of different clans who all either think they have the best claim to be the next king, or are allied with a clan who does. This makes conflict between dwarves something that can spill over into the setting in interesting ways.
My dwarves are diaspora as well. The Giants got them good.
 




If you read The Hobbit, Tolkien makes the dwarves far from good. They are greedy, selfish, arrogant, pig-headed and cowardly. They easily fit the D&D definition of "evil".

Going on to read LOTR, Gimli appears as an outlier, not a typical dwarf.
 

In reading the Tal'Dorei setting book in preparation for my current campaign I discovered that the largest dwarven city in the world of Critical Role, Kraghammer, is a surprisingly oppressive and intolerant place.

  • Kraghammer sided with an oppressive empire that sought to conquer the continent and cut extensive trade deals with it, even when said empire's rulers started creating armies of the undead and making pacts with Graz'zt. The elves who were attacked by that empire are especially bitter that Kraghammer has never formally apologized following its defeat.
  • Residents of the city who aren't dwarves are only allowed to live in a district called "the Otherwalk". Rock gnomes are the city's "model minority" due to their knack for invention.
  • Indentured servitude is an accepted practice.
  • Laborers in the mines and forges get one day off a month and are required to live at the worksite.
  • The noble House Bronzegrip controls industry and is ruthless in pursuit of new sources of profit. For example, they reacted to their miners' discovery of a cavern full of myconids and giant fungi by hiring mages from House Thunderbrand to annihilate the myconid colony with fire.

Working from this, I decided in my current Underdark campaign set below Kraghammer that a minor noble clan working with House Bronzegrip was sent to attack a deep gnome city, drive out its inhabitants, and occupy their mines with indentured servants and prison labor.

The not-Swiss dwarves in Kobold Press's Midgard setting play with some of these ideas too. They have a traditional practise of slave raiding. The institution of slavery is relatively codifed etc, and there's a limit on the duration you can hold anyone a slave before releasing them. But that limit is something like 10 years, which isn't such a big deal in the lifespan of a dwarf, but very definitely is for any humans etc they enslave.

Though it's always struck me that of all the standard PC races, the reverence of dwarves for order and tradition and ancestors would leave them most susceptible to forming a necrarchy, where ancient undead dwarves rule the roost, revered by their living many-many-many times great grandchildren...
 

MGibster

Legend
Though it's always struck me that of all the standard PC races, the reverence of dwarves for order and tradition and ancestors would leave them most susceptible to forming a necrarchy, where ancient undead dwarves rule the roost, revered by their living many-many-many times great grandchildren...
Would it? In D&D, the undead are typically viewed as a perversion of the natural order and most of the intelligent ones are evil. Legend of the Five Rings is another game where parts of society were heavy into ancestor worship.
One of the things I absolutely loved was that one of the scariest creatures in the game was a common zombie. From a mechanical point of view, a zombie was weak and any samurai worth his salt could dispatch one with ease. But the zombie represented a perversion of the celestial order and brought about an existential crises that they were very, very scary.
 

auburn2

Adventurer
The problem with Dwarves is the whole of their appeal is based in their stereotypical beardy axy dwarfishness.

There's not a lot you can do with that really. You can make up new cultures of Dwarves who don't have beards, and use khopeshes rather then axes and are yak goat herders on the alti-plano etc - but if a player actually wants to play a Dwarf they're assuming beardy axiness. If you change them from that you're really basically going through the same process you would if you were removing a core race and adding something new in its place - which you can do - but if you are going to do that, it's worth asking whether there's any reason to base this new race around Dwarves at all.

There's the whole things of 'my Dwarves are different - they're steppe riding nomad horse archers' which to my mind just tends to provoke the thought "but why are your steppe riding nomad horse archers Dwarves?"
In the Forgotten Realms you have wild dwarves down in Chult which are a change. You also have duregar (sp) which have some spell options and are not stereotypical.
 



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