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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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DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
dwarves are basically just bearded guys.
Which makes them awesome!

(Being a bearded guy, myself, I can say this and know it is true. ;) )

Seriously though, as I outlined in another thread, about half our PCs at the tables I've run/played at are "common" Tolkien races and half were everything else. Humans, Elves, and Dwarves were the most popular 3 IIRC.
 

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Ace

Adventurer
SNIP

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?"
There was a 3E era game that actually had dwarven steppes nomads along with a five elements magic system. I can't remember the name for the life of me and its telling that the game has fallen low on the Google search threshold.
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
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!
I still have this book...
1608424448966.png
 

Which makes them awesome!

(Being a bearded guy, myself, I can say this and know it is true. ;) )

Seriously though, as I outlined in another thread, about half our PCs at the tables I've run/played at are "common" Tolkien races and half were everything else. Humans, Elves, and Dwarves were the most popular 3 IIRC.
Me too and all any of this is...is a culture shift.

people grow to resent the old way of doing things.

advancement used to be more about perceived skill and not guaranteed. Conquering and wealth acquisition, monstrous evil humanoids were not gauche. Tough stout conservative dwarves were viable. The game was a game and not story hour.

there has been a shift. People want more winning and more “telling their stories” as central goals. Dwarves are being replaced by Dragonborn and tieflings. It’s more about disaffected loners and less champions of a dominant culture.

happens most generations. We can label it as progress and the way it should have been all along. But it’s ok to think it sucks. Just preferences.

I have tried to dip into old and new. I think dwarves rock. But I play warlocks....so I say dip into what resonates trends or traditions be damned
 


Ogre Mage

Adventurer
I am a dedicated caster player and try to optimize. In 5E, Hill Dwarves are one of my go-to races. And when I play a dwarf cleric I know I will be a hardy caster, not some wimpy wimpy elf. HA!

I have often tried to portray my dwarven characters as more cultured than they are stereotypically shown. One dwarf PC of mine came from an upper-middle class merchant family. She liked good quality clothes, jewelry, food and drink and had an eye for such things. She preferred to live in well-furnished dwellings. And she could make cutting remarks when she encountered something which she considered low quality.

In worlds which are human dominant and dwarves are a strong minority, their greediness could lead them to dominate the finance and banking industry. Eberron has taken this approach via House Kundarak.
 

cbwjm

Hero
A group I'm currently running are playing a dragonborn, warforged, halfling, half-elf, and lizardfolk.
A group I'm currently playing in are playing a genasi (me), tabaxi, tabaxi, aaracokcra, and a halfling.
A group before that had an aasimar, warforged, human (me), and dragonborn.
A group before that which I was running had a dwarf, elf, elf, human, halfling, half-orc.

That's all I can really remember. Been in or ran a few other games but these are the ones that stick out.
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
Dwarven society is often portrayed as hidebound. So what happens to the dwarf whose nature falls outside of society's convention? The rigidity of their society actually presents compelling opportunities for "outsider" stories. I have played upon this idea with past PCs.
 

Dwarven society is often portrayed as hidebound. So what happens to the dwarf whose nature falls outside of society's convention? The rigidity of their society actually presents compelling opportunities for "outsider" stories. I have played upon this idea with past PCs.
It does.

however, a lot of folks find playing against type too constraining since there is a “type.”

not me, but people have differing opinions
 

Argyle King

Legend
FWIW, My last 10 D&D characters:

Dwarven barbarian/paladin (dedicated to a dwarven god of valor, adventure, and drinking)
Lizardfolk (Oath of Ancients) paladin
Half-Elf fighter ranger with battlemaster and ranged style cheese (powerful, but painfully boring to play)
Dragonborn Storm Cleric/sorcerer hatched among dwarves... he identified as a dwarf and was sad he couldn't grow a beard
Aasimar Infernal Pact warlock
Catfolk rogue/monk
Half-elf necromancer (wizard/something else... don't remember)
Folgers Valdez (half-elf,) a humble coffee merchant swept up into a life of adventure (ranger/bard,) and his mule -Maxwell
Half-Elf Arcana Cleric
Dwarven Ranger
 

Voadam

Legend
There was a 3E era game that actually had dwarven steppes nomads along with a five elements magic system. I can't remember the name for the life of me and its telling that the game has fallen low on the Google search threshold.
The Sovereign Stone Campaign Setting and magic system is still around, now in Pathfinder 1e under a new company. The Dwarves, Marauders of the Wolf is the Steppe Nomad sourcebook.
 

Shardstone

Hero
Publisher
Speaking as a young gamer, having only really been in the hobby around 6~ years or so, to me, Dwarves don't have the "magic" that the top races do.

Elves feel magical in every possible way, even in aesthetic. Humans are default. Tieflings and Dragonborn ooze magic, and half-orcs have a kind of darkly enchanted feel to them. But more importantly, half-orcs do the dwarf thing better than the dwarf for most people, because they can look more unique and aren't short.

In 1E, when dungeoncrawling was important, dwarves had these magical abilities to know stonework and architecture. But now the story of D&D has moved outside the dungeon, and the dwarf hasn't really followed. In order to make it popular again, it has to find a way to spin its magic into stories more pertenent to the average gamer.

Or not. Its good some races have become niche or are niche! That means 5E has a good spread, and thus is a more successful game.
 


DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
Dwarves don't have the "magic" that the top races do.
Funny you should say that... in AD&D (like Gnomes) dwarves have a high resistance to magic and got bonuses to saves against such. Because of this originally dwarves could not be magic-users (or illusionists) and gnomes could only be illusionists.

Now, Gnomes still have some resistance to magic, but dwarves have lost theirs. :cautious:
 

Funny you should say that... in AD&D (like Gnomes) dwarves have a high resistance to magic and got bonuses to saves against such. Because of this originally dwarves could not be magic-users (or illusionists) and gnomes could only be illusionists.

Now, Gnomes still have some resistance to magic, but dwarves have lost theirs. :cautious:
Dwarves surely had a niche. They kept going and were hard to poison or spell.

now? I am a dinosaur: I still really enjoy the dungeon and did not know that was not popular. Ignorance is bliss.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Funny you should say that... in AD&D (like Gnomes) dwarves have a high resistance to magic and got bonuses to saves against such. Because of this originally dwarves could not be magic-users (or illusionists) and gnomes could only be illusionists.

Now, Gnomes still have some resistance to magic, but dwarves have lost theirs. :cautious:
Yeah, you can blame all those players who wanted to play Dwarf Wizards to be ‘different’.

I’d be happy to give Dwarfs back their magic resistance and limited ability to use arcane talents. Dwarfs still can access Divine magic and use runes but leave magic for those talc-soft elfs ...
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Speaking as a young gamer, having only really been in the hobby around 6~ years or so, to me, Dwarves don't have the "magic" that the top races do.

Elves feel magical in every possible way, even in aesthetic. Humans are default. Tieflings and Dragonborn ooze magic, and half-orcs have a kind of darkly enchanted feel to them. But more importantly, half-orcs do the dwarf thing better than the dwarf for most people, because they can look more unique and aren't short.

In 1E, when dungeoncrawling was important, dwarves had these magical abilities to know stonework and architecture. But now the story of D&D has moved outside the dungeon, and the dwarf hasn't really followed. In order to make it popular again, it has to find a way to spin its magic into stories more pertenent to the average gamer.

Or not. Its good some races have become niche or are niche! That means 5E has a good spread, and thus is a more successful game.
Not to try and argue with an opinion - I think this is a perfectly valid way to look at it - but to me, the idea that orcs do the dwarf thing better than dwarves is very strange. I suppose if you all you see “the dwarf thing” as is being strong and tough and seeing in the dark, that might make sense. But to me that’s only a small part of what makes dwarves dwarf-y.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Dwarves surely had a niche. They kept going and were hard to poison or spell.

now? I am a dinosaur: I still really enjoy the dungeon and did not know that was not popular. Ignorance is bliss.
Dungeon delving is still very popular, they just aren’t the default mode of play any more. There are folks who detest dungeon delving (some of whom are regulars on these forums), but I don’t think it will ever fully go out of fashion.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yeah, you can blame all those players who wanted to play Dwarf Wizards to be ‘different’.

I’d be happy to give Dwarfs back their magic resistance and limited ability to use arcane talents. Dwarfs still can access Divine magic and use runes but leave magic for those talc-soft elfs ...
Dwarves are already not played much, you really want to double down on that by locking them out of 2/3s of the classes? I’m fine with dwarven magic resistance, but race-based class restrictions don’t seem to me like they would improve game in any way.
 

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