D&D: Delve Deep into Dwarven Lore

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Dwarves are defined by creation and conflict. Sit down with Mike Mearls and learn more.

Alright, let’s talk Dwarves. Beyond beards, Scottish accents, and a love of beer, that is. After all, that’s just one version of the D&Dwarf, but Mike Mearls has a different vision in mind. And since the Dwarven and Duergar conflict features fairly prominently in the upcoming Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, you better believe there’s a D&D Beyond video that takes a closer look at what that’s all about.

What stands out most from this session is the idea that Dwarves are defined by creation. Moradin, creator of the dwarves, forged them out of stone and metal on his anvil. As a result creation is this internal drive for all Dwarves. They’re devoted to crafting or creation of any kind, because it expresses who they are, it brings them closer to Moradin–viewing their own skills as a reflection of Moradin’s ability to create things.

Indeed, Moradin and the other deities of the Dwarven Pantheon are looked up to (generally) as mentors or examples to try and live up to. Whether mastering the skill of mining or forging or warfare. For most typical dwarves from dwarven commmunities, mastery of a skill is very much the mastery of the self. Young Dwarves will eagerly seek out a vocation, devoting themselves to try and match the skills of the gods. It’s all very craft-centric–and it casts the Dwarves in a slightly more mythic mien. They bear a lot more resemblance to the niebelung or other mythological dwarves, passing down secret crafting techniques taught to them by the gods themselves.

As Mearls puts it, a Dwarven holy text might be more a collectiong of knowledge passed down from the gods that talk about working adamantine or stone, and lay a path for dwarves to forge themselves by improving their skills in pursuit of mastery.

They are driven to be the best crafters because they have this inborn greed that manifests not as a lust for wealth, but as a greed/lust to show off their best work. Even if that work isn’t their own. After all if a dwarf’s skill falls short, or if a dwarf gives into the temptation of greed, they might simply steal beautiful things to claim that they had crafted them.

To help temper this, the Clan has become sort of the central unit of Dwarven life. Family is everything. Dwarves tend to think in the long term, being one of the more longer lived races, so they’ll look to the future to try and lay the groundwork for whatever comes two or three generations down the lines.

All of this is contrasted by the Duergar, who were tempted by greed (and mind flayers) to disappear beneath the earth, where they were enslaved, augmented, and germinated throughout the planes. Given psionic abilities by the Mind Flayers so that they might better serve as guards and soldiers, the Duergar are very much a dark reflection of the Dwarven ideals.

As a result, they are reviled by the Dwarves who can bear a grudge like nobody’s business. With no time for their fallen brethren, the Dwarves cast the returning survivors out and the Duergar swear revenge on all Dwarvenkind and Moradin as well. Basically they’re the anti-dwarves, except they’re still dwarves and still have that innate talent for crafting (even if they hate it).

Which brings us to the biggest takeaway from the video. Duergar apparently have been working to blend their talent for crafting things with their psionic powers, and are making things like mechanical devices powered by psionic energy. They might even have a metallic claw that replaces a lost limb again, augmented with psionics. They’re psiberpunks, and this is very exciting. If there’s nothing about this in the Tome of Foes, it will be the missed opportunity of the century.

At any rate, I love what this new perspective does for dwarves. If I’m honest, they’ve always been one of the more uninteresting fantasy races–mostly because it feels like they all tend to be a little one sided. This video sheds some new light on what it means to be a dwarf–it’s still not the most unique thing ever, but it makes it a little easier to understand “hey here’s what to keep in mind when playing a dwarf.”

It feels like the release of the Tome of Foes will add more information to this, and take Dwarves from that list of superficial traits up there (beards, hammers, beer, thunder, scottishvikings) and make them more something you can sink your teeth into. That said, now I want to go roll up a character named like Beerbeard Thunderhammer or something.

Happy adventuring!

  • Kabal1te

    Ya know magical artificial limbs have been around in d&d for some time at least since 2nd edition. in a world where you can have regenerate cast on you for often a similar price, what is the need for such things?

    • Aurion Shidhe

      Augmentation? We can rebuild you. We have the “magitechnology”.

  • Jared Swenson

    I love Dwarves

  • Aurion Shidhe

    Dwarves were pretty “meh” for the first few editions of D&D. In Basic they couldn’t even use Battle Axes because they were two handed weapons. Then 3e and 3.5e came out and they made up for time. Dwarven clerics have been the shizzle ever since. They even make decent mages in 5e, with their CON bonus adding a little extra oomph to concentration checks and hit points.

    Honestly, with the way 5e is set up, race isn’t as big of an issue as it was in previous editions. You can have an effective Dwarf Bard or Halfling Barbarian these days. It’s kinda cool.