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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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MGibster

Legend
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 like they would improve game to me.
A lot of us ignored those restrictions in previous editions of the game as well. Just like we ignored level restrictions.
 

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G

Guest User

Guest
now? I am a dinosaur: I still really enjoy the dungeon and did not know that was not popular. Ignorance is bliss.
Warpiglet-7, D&D shifted away from a focus on 'the Dungeon', to a focus on 'the Campaign' back in 2e. Were you frozen in an iceberg in 1986? 😉

Joking aside, nothing wrong with dungeons, or dwarves. Play on Warpiglet!

Here are the ones I still have:
DSCN1040.JPG
I know it is shallow to like someone due to their possessions, but anyone that can post a picture like that, is someone I know I can happily have a beer or two with.
Cheers! To that collection! 🍻
 

Ravenbrook

Explorer
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 ...
If I would DM a D&D game again, I'd probably make dwarves totally Germanic, i.e. intensely magical. Many would be wizards or sorcerers and I'd also give them magic resistance. Cloaks or hoods of invisibility would be dwarven hallmarks.
 

6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
I know it is shallow to like someone due to their possessions, but anyone that can post a picture like that, is someone I know I can happily have a beer or two with.
Cheers! To that collection! 🍻
LOL, it is only a little shallow, so don't feel badly. I'll buy the next round! 🍻 :)

Seriously though, I'm lucky. Those have survived fire and flood and moves over thousands of miles. I reread them every few years and kept them to pass on to my own children someday. I always love them when I was growing up.
 

Richards

Legend
The campaign I DM has a dwarf, two humans, an elf, and a half-orc as PCs. The campaign I play in has two dwarves, a human, a gnome, and a lizardfolk as PCs. Our group hasn't seen any drop in dwarven popularity (it's the same group of six in each campaign, just with different DMs).

Johnathan
 

Minigiant

Legend
I really tickles the brain that people don't play dwarves.

  • Dwarves are a traditional D&D race.
  • Dwarves are free in rules.
  • Dwarves are one of the strongest mechanical races before Tasha's.
  • Dwarves are one of the richest story races.
  • Dwarves are decent or excellent in almost every class.
  • Dwarves areusually not banned by DMs, even in most themed worlds.

So most people must not like the D&D dwarf at all and only play it for power.
 

I really tickles the brain that people don't play dwarves.

  • Dwarves are a traditional D&D race.
  • Dwarves are free in rules.
  • Dwarves are one of the strongest mechanical races before Tasha's.
  • Dwarves are one of the richest story races.
  • Dwarves are decent or excellent in almost every class.
  • Dwarves areusually not banned by DMs, even in most themed worlds.

So most people must not like the D&D dwarf at all and only play it for power.
Dwarves are a tired one note cliché. Is no wonder people are bored with them.
 


But it's long been a one note cliche.
Why haven't anyone in TSR or WotC ever try to expand them?
Why do some many DMs keep them so boring?
There are too many races and all the niches the dwarves could reasonably expand into are also covered.

Also dwarves are one those things that some people really, really like, but I personally don't get the appeal at all. So there is a good chance that were I to try to 'fix' them, I would break them for the people who like them as they were. Not that it's gonna stop me from doing so for my own settings.
 
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jgsugden

Legend
D&D Beyond show the statistics for what people build and mess around with - not what they play at the table. Their recent ad campaigns on D&D Beyond actually reference that they see a lot of people making a huge number of characters to test things out. Seriously. They talk about, "oh, what would it be like if I gave my paladin a horse". While some builds are currently not going to be used for a campaign, they really have no way to tell when someone is just advancing their backup character to make sure it is ready to drop in a game, or when it is an active PC being updated. They're identical in how they change.

There are now 44 playable humanoid types, and when you include subtypes it rockets well above 100 options. We'll continue to see tweaks to the uses as more are introduced and rolls that fill one 'build type' find more competition. Any changes we see are likely more a result of new competition rather than changes in appreciation of the existing options.

However, I imagine that after Tasha's is more widely used we'll see a big push towards mountain dwarves by min/maxers. Two +2 ability score bonuses? And a bunch of weapon and armor proficiencies you can trade for other stuff? I'm betting we'll see a decent number of mountain dwarf monks, for example. If you use point buy, this is the easiest way to get to +18 in dex and wisdom at level 4. I'll be surprised if dwarves do not show up higher in the metrics by the end of 2021.
 

Minigiant

Legend
There are too many races and all the niches the dwarves could reasonably expand into are also covered.

Also dwarves are one those things that some people really, really like, but I personally don't get the appeal at all. So there is a good chance that were I to try to 'fix' them, I would break them for the people who like them as they were. Not that It's gonna stop me from doing so for my won settings.

I think it's more the second than the first.

There is plenty of space for dwarven culture and society to go.

I think the issue is that the things that people love about dwarves are the same thing people don't like about dwarves. So you don't even see expansion of dwarves much. Not even as subraces.
 
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6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
Dwarves, like any race, are what you make of them. Are all elves flighty and such, all gnomes absent-minded and distracted, all halflings hungry and trying to find their courage? No, of course not. All half-orc brutish and crude? Nope. Again, dwarves are what you make of them.

Anyway, looking over some of the info in the OP this is hardly "the fall of the dwarves" IMO. We don't have enough information, really; after all, the most recent info only shows the top 5 as where the other lists show over 10 each.

Also, look at what dwarves have for racial traits (before Tasha's :p ):

+2 CON - great for any class due to HP
+2 STR or +1 WIS or +1 STR (Duergar) - great for non-DEX martials and Clerics mainly. Given the over-importance of DEX (AC and Initiative primarily), it isn't surprising a lot of people shy away from STR-based martials. Two martial classes (Monks and Rogues) traditionally don't favor STR anyway, and Rangers are close to them in that respect. Even Barbarians rely on DEX some because you can't benefit from raging in Heavy Armor, so the AC factor is important to them. Which basically leaves three classes for Dwarves: Clerics, Fighters, and Paladins. But, with all the literature and prior editions portraying many dwarves as unfriendly, rude, etc. CHA is not normally associated with dwarves, which takes Paladins out of the running in many players' minds. So: Clerics and Fighters.

Speed: 25 feet - so poor. At least heavy armor doesn't slow you down. But again, this favors Cleric and Fighter builds.
Darkvision: Awesome (IMO and IME) - but over 50% of the races have darkvision, so it isn't as important because so many races have it.
Dwarven Resilience: - ok, poison is pretty common in the game and getting both advantage and resistance is great. BUT once you get to higher levels, it starts to not be as important since you have higher HP and as a damage type it becomes less common.
Dwarven Combat Training: Proficiency with the battleaxe, handaxe, light hammer, and warhammer - All pretty much pointless since a number of Clerics get all martial weapons and Fighters already do. Probably the worst trait for dwarves.
Tool Proficiency: just three choices so pretty weak. Good for flavor at times, but that is about it. Also, many groups don't fully exploit the potential of tools so it loses something for them.
Stonecunning: also very meh. I think in the last two years of playing this came into play two or three times at best--and we do A LOT of dungeon crawls, etc.

Subraces (PHB):
Dwarven Toughness: +1 HP / level - again, useful for any class, but since Hill Dwarves favor Clerics (WIS +1) the extra HP put them on par with the d10 martial classes. So, nice, but hardly great IMO.
Dwarven Armor Training: Light and Medium armors? Oh, what a colossal waste! All clerics and fighters have these already, and so do many other classes. Very weak.

And finally the Duergar:
Superior Darkvision: 120 feet! Nice, very useful IMO and IME.
Extra Language: Undercommon - Nothing special unless it fits your campaign.
Duergar Resilience: Advantage on saves for illusions, charms, and paralysis. Handy when needed.
Duergar Magic: Very good. Enlarge yourself good for many combats and situations when you want advantage due to a size bump, "Go biggie Dwarf!" as we like to say. Also good for blocking enemy movement as a large creature. And later on: Invisibility... enough said. Totally useful and awesome if used correctly.

They contradict much in that some favor classes such as Fighter and Cleric but the others don't favor them at all and are virtually useless.

Now, with Tasha's, you can move the ASIs (LOL many tables already did this, so very creative of of you, WotC :rolleyes: ) so dwarves can be expanded to other classes and in many ways can favor a lot of the casting classes. But casters rarely use weapons (as cantrips do as much or more) IME and tools still aren't used a lot in many games. So, you have to really want the other traits to play a dwarf.

Finally, with custom lineage ( :sick: ) why bother playing a dwarf or anything else? You get darkvision and a feat if you allow it (never in my games--NEVER I say!), arguably the two strongest racial traits you can have. All the rest is pretty much fluff and DM fiat (other than extra HP, of course) so those are the two biggies.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Dwarves, like any race, are what you make of them. Are all elves flighty and such, all gnomes absent-minded and distracted, all halflings hungry and trying to find their courage? No, of course not. All half-orc brutish and crude? Nope. Again, dwarves are what you make of them.
Isn't that the whole problem?

Few want to play a straight up normal dwarf except those who want to be a "goofy grumpy angry Scottish axe-drunk mason"?
 

6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
Isn't that the whole problem?

Few want to play a straight up normal dwarf except those who want to be a "goofy grumpy angry Scottish axe-drunk mason"?
How is that a problem? You play a dwarf however you want to play a dwarf, just like every other race. Give it some personality and a dwarf (like any other race) can play however you want them to.

Take Hill dwarves for example. I've long played Hill Dwarves as not being as fond of underground things as a Mountain Dwarf. My hill dwarves prefer the openness of the sky and fields, grasslands, river valleys, and forests as much as most elves might. They are friendly, open, trusting, and generally good-natured, not at all your "goofy grumpy angry Scottish axe-drunk mason"-type dwarf.

That is the thing for me. You pick a race for mechanics and the make-up of their appearance--personality and such can apply to any race IME.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
If I would DM a D&D game again, I'd probably make dwarves totally Germanic, i.e. intensely magical. Many would be wizards or sorcerers and I'd also give them magic resistance. Cloaks or hoods of invisibility would be dwarven hallmarks.
This is how I’ve (re)interpreted gnomes in my own campaign setting. Though my dwarves are closely related to my gnomes.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
But it's long been a one note cliche.
Why haven't anyone in TSR or WotC ever try to expand them?
Why do some many DMs keep them so boring?
They’re only a one-note cliche if you let them be. Like, if all your dwarves are just slightly different shades of Gimli, yes, thats pretty boring. So look to other media for inspiration for your dwarves. Dragon Age has tons of really cool dwarf characters that aren’t just Tolkien dwarves but are still recognizably dwarf-y. Even within the limited scope of Tolkien, look at the more varied designs of the dwarves from the Peter Jackson Hobbit films (who, ironically, I often hear people complain don’t look like dwarves 🙄). Look to Germanic folklore and Norse myth. If your dwarves feel too one-note, add some more notes!
 

They’re only a one-note cliche if you let them be. Like, if all your dwarves are just slightly different shades of Gimli, yes, thats pretty boring. So look to other media for inspiration for your dwarves. Dragon Age has tons of really cool dwarf characters that aren’t just Tolkien dwarves but are still recognizably dwarf-y. Even within the limited scope of Tolkien, look at the more varied designs of the dwarves from the Peter Jackson Hobbit films (who, ironically, I often hear people complain don’t look like dwarves 🙄). Look to Germanic folklore and Norse myth. If your dwarves feel too one-note, add some more notes!
I don’t get it. I have had lawful good pious cleric or paladins dwarves, mercenary treasure seeking fighter thieves (previous edition of course), chaotic good wild warring heavy drinker, in 3e a very steady handed wizard contemplative party leader.

this pigeon holing thing is a self created problem.

the info in the players are suggestions about currents in the culture. Heavy drinking Scotsman is something made up by those outside of D&D!

elves could have the same problem. And yet my group had had Elrond like nobility, quick ruthless assassins and fighter wizards who were stereotypical? flighty elves.

the game offers starting points. Players are supposed to fill in blanks and create and deviate with impunity
 

Minigiant

Legend
They’re only a one-note cliche if you let them be. Like, if all your dwarves are just slightly different shades of Gimli, yes, thats pretty boring. So look to other media for inspiration for your dwarves. Dragon Age has tons of really cool dwarf characters that aren’t just Tolkien dwarves but are still recognizably dwarf-y. Even within the limited scope of Tolkien, look at the more varied designs of the dwarves from the Peter Jackson Hobbit films (who, ironically, I often hear people complain don’t look like dwarves 🙄). Look to Germanic folklore and Norse myth. If your dwarves feel too one-note, add some more notes!
I don’t get it. I have had lawful good pious cleric or paladins dwarves, mercenary treasure seeking fighter thieves (previous edition of course), chaotic good wild warring heavy drinker, in 3e a very steady handed wizard contemplative party leader.

this pigeon holing thing is a self created problem.

the info in the players are suggestions about currents in the culture. Heavy drinking Scotsman is something made up by those outside of D&D!

elves could have the same problem. And yet my group had had Elrond like nobility, quick ruthless assassins and fighter wizards who were stereotypical? flighty elves.

the game offers starting points. Players are supposed to fill in blanks and create and deviate with impunity

The problem is totally self created.
People create the same o dwarves, so we get same o dwarves. And those who don't like same o dwarves wont play straight dwarves.
 
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