D&D: Duergar Species Guide

D&D: Duergar Species Guide

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The idea of Dwarves in Dungeons & Dragons often brings to mind boisterous festive-goers enjoying lively parties. But few know that beneath the surface, a different side to the dwarves thrives in the shadows of the Underdark. The Duergar are a stoic subspecies of dwarves who spend their lives toiling away in the mines and forges, scorning the idea of personal happiness. But don’t let their somberness fool you, these grumpy dwarves have some unique features and history that make them a compelling option for any adventurer looking to put a twist on the traditional Dwarf archetype.

History Of The Duergar

The Duergar, a unique subspecies of the Dwarf family, hail from the industrial underground city of Gracklstugh, a city defined by the glow of its countless forges and persistent smog. The appearance of these dwarves—stout, stocky, and gray-skinned, with a noticeable lack of hair—reflects their hardy nature and horrific past.

Mind Flayer
Talk about a face only a mother could love.

Once a clan of surface Dwarves, the Duergar were abducted and cruelly experimented on by the Mind Flayers. This ordeal left an indelible mark on their society, transforming them into a distinct subspecies. They could no longer identify as Shield Dwarves and, having never received help from the surface dwellers, the Duergar renounced the surface and remained in the vast subterranean tunnels of the Underdark. This abandonment and survival has bred a deep-seated bitterness and resilience within these joyless dwarves, which deeply permeates their worldview, relationships, and motivations.

Duergar Species Features, Explained

Species Features Explanation
Dwarven Resilience These Duergar are highly resistant to poison, granting them advantage on saving throws to avoid or end the poisoned condition and resistance to poison damage. So if someone tries to poison you, you can shrug it off like it’s nothing.
Psionic Fortitude The Duergar have advantage on saving throws to avoid or end the charmed or stunned condition on themselves. They’ve been through so much mental trauma, being charmed or stunned barely fazes them anymore.
Superior Darkvision Living in the darkness of the Underdark has made the Duergar’s eyes adapt to see in dim light within 120 feet of themselves as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. Although everything might look a bit more gray, it’s a small price to pay for superior vision in the dark.
Duergar Magic The Duergar have some innate spells up their sleeves. Starting at third level, they can cast the Enlarge/Reduce spell on themselves without a material component. And starting at fifth level, they can also cast the Invisibility spell on themselves without a material component. Imagine being able to make yourself giant or invisible whenever you want. Talk about handy!

Best Duergar Class Options

Klondorn, the Duergar Priest
Just your everyday priest working at Starbucks.

The Duergar’s unique abilities make them a great fit for a handful of classes that complement their tenacity and spellcasting abilities:

Classes Benefits
Monks, Fighters, and Barbarians Enlarge/Reduce grants increased size, advantage on strength checks, and increased damage. This means you can become a giant powerhouse on the battlefield.
Paladins and Bladesinging Wizards These classes also benefit greatly from the effects of Enlarge/Reduce, and they can cast the Duergar’s innate spells using their own spell slots. It’s like having extra spells without the hassle of learning them.
Rangers When a creature is enlarged, so are any weapons they are carrying, dealing additional damage. This even works with ranged weapons, making it a deadly combination for any ranger who wants to pack an extra punch.
Bards Bards can add the Enlarge/Reduce and Invisibility spells to their support repertoire. Plus, being giant or invisible provides great material for ballads and tales.

Best Duergar Feats

Durth Sunblight
“Hold my ale while I show you how tough I am!”

Feats are a great way to elevate your character flavor, and there are plenty that complement the already-unique dispositions of the Duergar:

Feat Benefit
Tavern Brawler Not only does this feat increase your strength or constitution, but it also allows you to grapple opponents with unarmed strikes or improvised weapons. A powerful grapple build combined with the advantage on strength checks from Enlarge/Reduce? That’s a recipe for success.
Tough This feat increases your hit point maximum by 2 HP every time you level up. It’s perfect for any frontliner who wants to soak up hits like a sponge.
Sentinel For defenders who want to control the battlefield and protect allies, Sentinel is the feat for you. Thanks to the effects of Enlarge/Reduce, you can stop enemies in their tracks and keep them away from your squishy companions.
Dwarven Fortitude This feat not only grants you extra health but also allows you to use your hit dice to heal yourself each time you use the Dodge action. It’s like having a built-in healing pool. Plus, it’s a reminder to your surfacer cousins that you also possess some of that sweet, sweet Dwarven heritage.

Duergar Subspecies: Derro

The Derro
They’re not angry, just misunderstood.

Although not a playable species, the Derro are a separate subset of the Duergar and look even more removed from their surfacer cousins than the Duergar do. Predisposed to genetic madness, erratic behavior, and general hatred towards everyone and everything, the Derro live alongside the Duergar in Gracklstugh. However, they are treated with great unease and largely considered second-class citizens in the city. They are held in lower regard than slaves and confined to hovels in impoverished districts.

Now that you know the backstory, features, class options, and feats of the Duergar, you’re ready to delve into the depths of the Underdark and embrace the grumpy graces of these underground dwarves. Just be sure to bring a good supply of ale and a sense of humor to keep up with their somberness. Happy gaming!