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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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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
In my new game in progress, Dwarves live anywhere from deep underground to in deep dark forests, most notably Germany's Black Forest. They cannot be poisoned by ingestion, and can metabolize nearly any organic material, and even some minerals, meaning they can eat moss and if necessary stone, and they can get drunk but they don't suffer hangovers. A dwarf can also make themselves immune to hunger for weeks or even months at a time by loading up on difficult to process food, because their system will just keep it until it's processed, even if it takes months.

They have clans, and Kings (any ruler is a King, regardless of gender), non-binary gender identity is as common as male and female, and whether they have a beard or hair is dependent on a hundred different social, professional, religious, and other factors, from your trade, your place in your family, your standing in the community, etc.

Their culture is very gift-exchange oriented, and family is as determined by deed and loyalty as by blood.
 

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In my homebrew world, I've just decided to mash up gnomes and halflings into one. There's just no meaningful difference between them. I mean, if there can be 100 different flavors of elf, why can't little people do the same?

Regarding dwarves, I think there's room for reimagining them. The artificer aspect definitely has potential. Duergar are a bit of a conceptual mess with their psychic powers, devil associations, and worship of a god of toil...but somewhere in there are the makings of an Underdark-themed dwarven subrace.
 

J-H

Adventurer
My party:
2 dwarves (cleric & barbarian)
2 half elves (arcane trickster & paladin)
1 half orc (artificer)
1 wood elf (monk)

My characters:
Human (wizard)
Human (druid)

Races I have concepts for that I'd like to play:
Halfling
Half-orc
Human
 

In my homebrew world, I've just decided to mash up gnomes and halflings into one. There's just no meaningful difference between them. I mean, if there can be 100 different flavors of elf, why can't little people do the same?

I personally feel like gnomes are conceptually very different from halflings. Gnomes are curious, passionate creatures with a knack for magic: rock gnomes are tinkerers and artificers, forest gnomes are effectively woodland fey, and deep gnomes are dour survivalists who find joy in gems (which, in Out of the Abyss, at least, they can turn into what are effectively reusable spell scrolls). The Fade Away feat reinforces the magical feel, as does the Svirfneblin Magic feat.

Halflings don't have as much of a clear gimmick. Back in 4E the designers realized this and tried to give halflings a role as the primary traders, the people who feel most at home on the move, the ones who travel the road and ply the river waters. The default Points of Light setting had the goddess of luck, trade and travel as their patron. There was also a brief nod to Birthright's halflings with a bit of lore about a certain group of halflings who discovered secret paths through the Shadowfell.

5E got rid of the niche 4E tried to make for halflings and replaced it in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes with a pastoral one. Whereas in 4E halflings were lucky partially because they pleased the goddess of luck and travel (who includes among her commandments "luck favors the bold"), in 5E halfling luck refers to an apparently supernatural protection that causes halfling settlements to be overlooked by monsters.

Duergar are a bit of a conceptual mess with their psychic powers, devil associations, and worship of a god of toil...but somewhere in there are the makings of an Underdark-themed dwarven subrace.

I really liked 4E's fiendish duergar (save for the strange beard quills) and in my own current campaign have decided that the duergar god Laduguer is merely a false persona for the archdevil Mammon, who himself is only playing the role of a false god for Asmodeus until the god of the Nine Hells decides to increase his presence in the Underdark. Depending on how things go in the campaign, the party may be tricked into defeating the priest of Laduguer only for a half-fiend duergar with a half-fiend fire giant ally to seize control in the name of Asmodeus.
 

Perhaps one nice thing about playing as a Dragonborn is the fact you can actually reskin it to be somebody who is Half-Dragon. So Dragon Monster Girl/Boy. Cuz if I'm not gonna play the Dragonborn as the 3.5. lore version, that's probably would I'd play a Dragonborn as.
 


steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Seems Dwarves are perfectly set up for a long series of campaign... Something in which where they have a complete surprise of a "Return," p'haps... Possibly with some kind of "Revenge" being sought... yes... A "Rise" of sorts... good... good... It's bubbling... coalescing... This will work... I want to run it... I've seen this somewhere before...HAHA! YES!
 

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I went with the communist dwarf theme too and I'm currently playing a duergar that defected to the surface to escape fascist duergar society. The grey dwarves exalt a joyless work ethic and unending toil in order to enrich their masters, and the whole culture revolves around slavery and hierarchy as default institutions. He's looking to create a society that raises up the worker against the tyrannical Laduguer and the pursuit of profit for the elite. I tossed the cliched scottish dwarf accent for russian.
 

Ravenbrook

Explorer
It would be interesting to see what the percentages are in other game systems. Most players can relate to traditional fantasy races, I don't know if that's really the case with "unique" new ones. My guess is that most players will then play human characters. This also applies to sci-fi, although Vulcans in Star Trek are basically "space elves."
 

My own lesson about the game of thrones is not everything is about power and astuteness but the help by the right allies. If you aren't a true leader making efforts to get and keep trust and loyalty by subordinates and allies but a tyrant, mafia capo or toxic boss then the sensible people will not want to be sacrificed as cannon fodder to save you neck, and you shouldn't be surprised if you are betrayed in favor a rival for revenge against the suffered mistreatment.

Other matter is if the state can controll everything, even with the best one of the intentions the consequences will be like a child too overprotected and unable to fend for himself.

I tell again a saying by my father: "Mule owned by everybody is eaten by the wolves" (because nobdy worries about take care it).

The true communists in D&D are the kenders because they share everything, and they don't worry about the things being borrowed by others.

---

I love dwarves because they respect their roots, their traditions, defends their families with the warcry "MAKING EREBOR GREAT AGAIN!". They are ready to cooperate for a zombie apocalypse and working together to kick-ass bad people like that governor or Nega, that fool with a spiked bat.

I have got the Endless Quest gamebook "the revenge of the dwarfs", at least the translated version.
 


Crit

Explorer
Yeah, I was very much thinking the whole time, "This has the potential to blow up in my face SPECTACULARLY if I'm anything less than puissant with circumspect scruples." Starbound could also do things like take inspiration from can-pass-for-human aliens like Kryptonians or Gallifreyans. I spent easily half an hour trying to come up with anything else that wouldn't have Horrifically Unacceptable Implications and came up empty, which was somewhat disappointing as it broke the otherwise rather nice "every folk has 4 options" symmetry. (I also moved away from using the word race and used "folk" instead; human is the colloquial term, with the "formal" term being wanderfolk, because humans, more than any other folk, are unable to just stay wherever it is they're from. It's both part of why there are Starbound humans--because proudly reaching beyond the circles of the world is just such a gosh darned human thing to do--and why humans do so often build great nations or empires.)
I think that idea for Human sub variants is actually very valuable. It seems like the most efficient way of handling the spectrum of half-human half-(anything) races.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
You forgot an edition (not that I'm surprised), but it did very slightly continue the pattern.
4e: 51-57 in (4'3" - 4'9")
Though you could argue that 5e, in trying for a looser and more "word-based" style, simply took the 4e measurements and expanded them in both directions to account for unusually tall/short dwarves, e.g. 4'11" is pretty much 5 feet, and 4'1" is pretty much 4 feet, even though that's only two inches outside the usual range from 4e, so just shorthanding that to "four to five feet" is reasonable. If the pattern continues into 6e, we'd be looking at dwarves with a minimum typical height (4'5"-4'7") equivalent to their AD&D maximum typical height (4'6").
If you look at the actual height and weight tables, “4 to 5 feet” isn’t even entirely accurate for 5e. Hill dwarves have a minimum rolled height of 3’10” and a maximum of 4’4”, whereas mountain dwarves have a minimum of 4’4” and a maximum of 4’8”. That kind of thing is actually quite common in 5e, where the description rounds to the nearest half-foot, but the actual numbers in the random height and weight table are a little off. Weights are even more egregious.
 

Campbell

Legend
Not sure what impact it has on their play, but from a mechanical perspective Dwarves are fairly poorly designed. They offer very little to classes (other than ability bonuses) that are thematically apropriate while offering quite a bit to classes which are not in the Dwarven wheelhouse. If I lean into martial character classes on a half orc I get quite a bit that jives with the role I want to play while with a Mountain Dwarf I pretty much get bumpkiss.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Not sure what impact it has on their play, but from a mechanical perspective Dwarves are fairly poorly designed. They offer very little to classes (other than ability bonuses) that are thematically apropriate while offering quite a bit to classes which are not in the Dwarven wheelhouse. If I lean into martial character classes on a half orc I get quite a bit that jives with the role I want to play while with a Mountain Dwarf I pretty much get bumpkiss.
I dunno, +2 Constitution and either +2 Strength or +1 HP/level is pretty good for any martial character. Sure, the proficiencies don’t give you much, but they’re basically just ribbons anyway.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I dunno, +2 Constitution and either +2 Strength or +1 HP/level is pretty good for any martial character. Sure, the proficiencies don’t give you much, but they’re basically just ribbons anyway.

If strength and dex is usually just as good and half Orc......

Hill Dwarf not great fighter +1hp isn't that great due to incoming damage.
 
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MGibster

Legend
I'm trying to remember whether I have ever played a dwarf in any game ever. I can't remember that I would have. Perhaps as kid in some one shot and I've just forgotten. But they definitely are one classic fantasy race that I do not find at all appealing.
I'm hard pressed to think of every playing a character that was a dwarf myself. I've even played a gnome, but only because that was my only choice for a thief-illusionist back in the day, but never a dwarf. It'd not that I have anything against the noble dwarf, I once ran an all dwarf campaign on purpose, but I've just never had a desire to run one as a player.
 

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