Duergar is a subrace of dwarves often called Gray Dwarves due to their pale complexions. They are known for their exceptional strength, toughness, and resilience, which are enhanced by their natural resistance to poison and magic.
Unlike other dwarves, Duergar live primarily in the Underdark, a vast network of caverns and tunnels deep beneath the world’s surface. They are often described as more aloof and suspicious than other Dwarves due in part to their long history of conflict with other underground races, particularly the Drow.
Duergar society is organized around clans, each holding its territory in an iron fist and ruling over its members with a strict hierarchy. They are known for their masterful crafting of weapons and armor and are particularly adept at creating magical items that harness the power of the earth and the elements.
Table of Contents
What Are the Duergar 5e?
The Player’s Handbook includes mention of the Duergar as a subrace of Dwarves, but their stats are absent. However, players can find their character stats in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The Duergar are particularly prominent in the Forgotten Realms (Faerun) setting, with established Dungeons & Dragons lore supported by acclaimed novelists such as R.A. Salvatore.
In Faerun’s Underdark, the Duergar have established the City of Blades, more often called Gracklstugh, located 100 miles from the Drow city of Menzoberranzan. Like their Drow counterparts, Duergar tend to be aligned with evil.
In appearance, the male Duergar is typically bald with a beard, and while they are no less strong, they tend to be slimmer than other Dwarves. It is from their grey skin and white hair that they have earned the moniker “Gray Dwarves.”
Duergar as Encountered Monsters
There are numerous monsters that adventurers can encounter, a number only bounded by the DMs imagination. As you travel the lands, you can meet everything from tribes of kobold, dangerous only in large numbers, to the lethal, titular Dragon and all sizes and levels of challenge in between.
Head underground, and the potential of encounter is increased and likely to be more unusual, not to mention dangerous. One of those encounters is the Drugear, who are tough, malicious, magic-wielding, and magic-resistant. However, there is a deeper aspect to their presence.
Dungeons in campaigns often lead deeper underground, and while they are not always prisons, they do provide a setting for heroes to encounter monsters and claim treasures. But why do these heroes always have to venture underground?
Why indeed? It is worth noting that the Duergar, denizens of the Underdark, are part of a deep, dark dungeon network that snakes endlessly under the surface, a place connected to all manner of rumors and tales of unguarded riches and ancient artifacts ripe for the taking.
The Duergar represent an evil society that dwells miles below the earth’s surface, guarding horrifying secrets buried under millennia of pain and loss. As such, they offer a unique challenge for heroes capable of exploring such depths and facing the monsters that reside there.
Duergar 5e Stats
Duergar reach maturity at age 50, and their lifespan extends up to 300 years. Duergar player characters can cast the Enlarge Spell at the 3rd and Invisibility Spell at the 5th levels.
The Duergar reside in the Underdark in the Faerun setting and spend most of their lives deep underground. Hence they have double the Darkvision of other Dwarves but also suffer from Sunlight Sensitivity. Other Dwarves have Darkvision and can function well underground, but they also spend time on the surface in daylight, so they do not have to succumb to Sunlight Sensitivity.
- Size: Medium
- Type: Humanoid
- Subtype: Dwarf
- Alignment: Lawful Evil
- Armor class: 16 (scale mail, shield)
- Hit Points: 26 (4d8+4)
- Hit Dice: 4d8
- Hit Points Roll: 4d8+8
- Speed: Walk 25 ft.
- Senses: Passive Perception 10 Darkvision 120 ft.
- Languages: Dwarvish, Undercommon
- Challenge Rating: 1 (200 XP)
The ability known as darkvision used to be called infravision; in the earlier editions of the game, it related to heat-sensing sight in 1e, whereas by 5e, it has become more comprehensive. In complete darkness, darkvision allows you to see as if in dim light, while in dim light, it allows you to see as well as you would in daylight.
Duergar Special Abilities
Duergar Resilience: The Duergar has advantage on saving throws against poison, spells, and illusions, as well as to resist being charmed or paralyzed.
Sunlight Sensitivity: While in sunlight, the Duergar has disadvantage on attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Enlarge: For 1 minute, the Duergar magically increases in size, along with anything it is wearing or carrying. While enlarged, the Duergar is Large, doubles its damage dice on Strength-based weapon attacks (included in the attacks), and makes Strength checks and Strength saving throws with advantage. If the Duergar lacks the room to become Large, it attains the maximum size possible in the space available.
War Pick: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage, or 11 (2d8 + 2) piercing damage while enlarged.
- Attack Bonus: 4
- Damage: Piercing
- Damage Dice: 1d8+2
Javelin: Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage, or 9 (2d6 + 2) piercing damage while enlarged.
- Attack Bonus: 4
- Damage: Bludgeoning
- Damage Dice: 1d6+2
Invisibility: The Duergar magically turns invisible until it attacks, casts a spell, or uses its Enlarge, or until its concentration is broken, up to 1 hour (as if concentrating on a spell). Any equipment the Duergar wears or carries is invisible with it.
Duergar Character Classes
Wizard: Duergar’s innate magical abilities make them well-suited to the Wizard class. Their ability to cast the Enlarge spell on themselves can also be used to significant effect in combat.
Warlock: Duergar can make great Warlocks due to their charisma and ability to communicate telepathically. The fiend patron is a perfect fit for Duergar, allowing them to tap into their darker, more ruthless side.
Rogue: Duergar can make excellent Rogues due to their natural stealthiness and telepathic ability. The assassin subclass is a perfect fit for Duergar, as it allows them to use their innate magical powers to deadly effect.
Ultimately, the best class for a Duergar character will depend on their preferences and playstyle.
The Duergar and the Illithids
Illithids, also known as Mind Flayers, are an evil alien race with psionic powers and tentacles on their faces. The Duergar are just one of the many races enslaved by them, along with the Githyanki and Githzerai.
In the Forgotten Realms/Faerun setting, the Duergar were once part of the Shanatar Empire of the Eight Dwarvish Clans. After disagreements with the other clans, the Duergar separated and delved deeper into the earth to mine for riches, pushing further than any other Dwarves. However, they soon realized that the Mind Flayers had been using their psionic powers to influence their thoughts, lead them to their city and, eventually, entrap them.
By the time the Duergar realized what was happening, it was too late to escape, and their minds were already under the thrall of the Mind Flayers. Even when the other dwarvish clans learned of this, they did not help, leaving the Duergar enslaved for thousands of years. Their bodies and minds evolved to accommodate their masters’ dominance, a testament to the Mind Flayers’ psionic prowess.
When the Duergar finally freed themselves, they attempted to return to the surface, but the other Dwarves rejected them, viewing them as tainted. This rejection led to a long and bloody war between the Duergar and the other Dwarves, leaving bitterness and hatred that continues to this day.
The Duergar suffer from permanent psychic damage caused by the Mind Flayers, which has altered the creative part of their brains. As a result, their cities lack vibrancy and artistic expression, but they compensate with exceptional craftsmanship in their utilitarian items. Interestingly, the coins minted in The City of Blades bear the image of their ruler on one side and a Mind Flayer skull on the other, with the motto “As low as we can go” inscribed.
The Duergar race is characterized by its tyrannical, grim, industrious, and pessimistic nature. They see their lack of happiness as their greatest strength and the defining feature of their pride, considering themselves the true paragons of dwarvish ideals compared to their weak and pampered kin.
However, their ways are but a dark reflection of those found in regular Dwarves. The moral failings of the Duergar can be traced to three primary principles. Bottomless greed, unceasing conflict, and rejection of emotion. They are violent and hateful, sullen and insular, greedy and ungrateful, deeply cynical of others’ motives, and nursed every grudge, whether or not any offense was meant.
If you think that regular Dwarves are a tricky race to get to know, The Duergar are on a whole other level. Their industriousness is spurred on by their greed and exhibits itself as a primal urge to build and create, driven by a need to own and acquire as much as possible. They are not above stealing to get their precious gold and resort to brute demonstrations of power, always keen to prove that might makes right.
The Duergar enjoy tormenting those vulnerable to their ways and derive great joy from satisfying their violent urges and desire for treasure. To show weakness within their race is a mortal sin, and they have little tolerance for those who fail to show the proper ambition and cruelty. They are consumed by feelings of bitterness and find it impossible to trust others. Their lives are fundamentally empty, characterized by ceaseless labor and drudgery.
The chief deity of this pantheon is Laduguer, also known as the Dweller in the Depths. Laduguer is often portrayed as a stern, demanding god who values hard work, loyalty, and strength. He is associated with fire, metalworking, and smithing, often worshipped by Duergar artisans and craftsmen.
Laduguer is also seen as a god of vengeance, and his followers often seek to correct perceived wrongs and settle old scores. He is a popular deity among the Duergar, who see him as a source of strength and protection against their enemies.
In addition to Laduguer, the Duergar pantheon includes other deities such as Abbathor (the god of greed and the patron of Duergar merchants), Haela Brightaxe (the goddess of battle and physical prowess), and Sharindlar (the goddess of healing and mercy).
Dark rumors might suggest that the Duergar’s chief deities, including Laduguer, have long perished, yet their clerics undergo excruciating rituals of devotion in the name of their faith. Allegedly, these clerics may be worshipping Asmodeus, the Lord of the Nine Hells, but it is thought that even they might not know the true identity of their new master. Whether this is true is unknown, but such a notion would be dismissed out of hand by the Duergar themselves.
Incorporating Duergar into a Campaign
Duergar can bring a unique perspective and set of abilities to the game as a player character. Here are some ideas for fitting a Duergar character into your campaign.
Embrace your underground heritage: Duergar are often depicted as living deep beneath the earth, so consider leaning into this aspect of your character. You could have a deep reverence for stone and gems or a keen knowledge of underground geography.
Play up your strength: Duergar are often portrayed as physically powerful, so consider emphasizing this in your character’s abilities and personality. You could be a skilled warrior or blacksmith or have an intimidating presence that makes others think twice before crossing you.
Struggle with mistrust: Duergar are often depicted as distrusting other races, particularly those living on the surface. Consider incorporating this into your character’s personality, making them slow to trust and quick to suspect ulterior motives.
Explore themes of prejudice: Duergar are sometimes depicted as being discriminated against by other races, who view them as barbaric and uncivilized. Consider using your character to explore themes of prejudice and discrimination, either by experiencing it firsthand or challenging others’ preconceptions.
Lean into your magical abilities: In some fantasy settings, Duergar are known for an affinity for magic. Consider making your character a skilled Wizard or Sorcerer, using your magic to support and defend your allies.
Duergar society is all about conformity and being dull. Therefore, they will only occasionally join parties of adventurers. This leaves your player and DM with three options:
• You can have a Duergar-centric campaign where every adventure is just another mission to promote the interests of the Duergar empire.
• The character is a Duergar agent, one of the few permitted to mix with the surface-dwelling races. They are on a quest to find an item or information, and the goals of such adventuring parties occasionally align enough with their own.
• Your character can rebel against Duergar society and be some type of outcast. That, of course, would make for an interesting backstory.
Ultimately, the key to playing a Duergar character is to embrace their unique traits and use them to add depth and complexity to your roleplaying. Whether you lean into their physical strength, underground heritage, or magical abilities, there are plenty of ways to make a Duergar character an exciting and engaging addition to any campaign.
Building A Duergar Character (An Example)
One such outcast is Dwalin, a male sorcerer with a silver dragon draconic bloodline. Despite his distinct Duergar features, his skin has a slight silvery tint that makes him appealing by human and elven standards. However, when he’s shirtless, one can see scales and marks of shame tattooed on his arms and back by the disgusted priesthood of The City of Blades.
His people rejected him, deeming him an abomination due to his suspected impure heritage. In turn, he rejected them and their ideals. Dwalin tends to lean towards chaotic neutral and doesn’t get philosophical — he just wants to escape. Though he can travel across various planes and continents, he never feels at home. Despite acquiring treasures and defeating monsters, he remains unhappy, unable to find solace.
His racial memories add to his sense of isolation, with the Mind Flayer tentacles inside his head twisting his thoughts against him and erasing any hope for peace. His only friends are his spells and axe, as they’ve never betrayed him. Dwalin doesn’t experience hate or rage, only the unfeeling coldness of nihilism that surges through his very being like innate frost and ice.
Duergar as Non-Player Characters
Merchants: Duergar merchants are renowned for possessing high-quality items, including magic items, precious stones, and rare metals. They are typically lawful evil and adhere to the values of their society but are willing to work with outsiders in business relationships. The players may choose a merchant background for their characters, and their adventuring may revolve around finding new treasures to trade and improve their enterprise and Duergar society.
Bodyguards: Duergar merchants always have bodyguards to protect their treasures. These bodyguards are not mindless-muscle but individuals with personalities. Negotiations with merchant bosses could be easier or more difficult depending on how players recognize and roleplay the bodyguards. Some merchants with connections to the priesthood, especially those with an Asmodeus slant, may have access to devils, Tieflings, and other planar outsiders.
Agents: Despite being xenophobic, the Duergar play an active role in the politics of other races, both within the Underdark and on the surface. Their agents could be spies, diplomats, assassins, warriors, clerics, or other spell-casters. These agents could serve as formidable adversaries for the players or represent rival factions that the players can pit against the Big Bad and other enemies. These agents could provide valuable information if captured and properly interrogated, but a Duergar’s resistance to interrogation and magical mind probes should not be underestimated.
Outcasts: Outcasts in Duergar society are not uncommon due to their unjust and unforgiving standards. Thanks to the Mind Flayers, the Duergar society is psychologically and psionically damaged, and many do not measure up to their rigorous standards. Exile is the perfect solution for these misfits, as execution would show that they care, and the Duergar are too damaged to care about much of anything. It is possible that their gods are dead, and their priests do not seem to care much.
Duergar 5e FAQs
Why do Dwarves hate Duergar?
The reason for this hatred lies in their history. According to D&D lore, Duergar were once dwarves enslaved by Mind Flayers and subjected to experiments that resulted in their current form. They were then released into the Underdark, where they carved out their society and became masters of enslaving other creatures. This betrayal by the mind flayers and subsequent enslavement by their kind created a deep-seated anger and bitterness in the Duergar.
Do Duergar have to be evil?
While they have a reputation for being cruel and ruthless, alignment is ultimately up to the player as long as it is consistent with their character’s backstory and motivations. As with any race or character in D&D, their alignment and personality are ultimately up to the player and how they choose to roleplay their character.
Who is the god of Duergar?
Laduguer is the main god, but the Duergar pantheon includes other deities such as Abbathor (the god of greed and the patron of Duergar merchants), Haela Brightaxe (the goddess of battle and physical prowess), and Sharindlar (the goddess of healing and mercy).
What is the difference between Duergar and Dwarf?
Duergar and Dwarves are two subraces of the dwarven race. While they share many similarities, there are also several key differences between them. Duergar might be seen as the dark opposite of the regular Dwarven race.
Final Thoughts on Duergar 5e
When playing a Duergar, you can expect a unique and thrilling experience as they boast a rich history and culture that sets them apart from other races. To make the most out of your Duergar character, here are some things to consider:
Firstly, consider your character’s backstory and motivations, especially concerning their enslavement by mind flayers and transformation into Duergar. This history will have a significant impact on their personality and worldview.
Also, remember that the Duergar are infamous for their cruelty and brutality. This may affect how other characters perceive your character, and you may need to work harder to gain their trust and respect. Utilize your unique abilities to your advantage, such as your spellcasting and resistance to fire and poison, making you a valuable asset in combat.
Finally, roleplay your character’s interactions with other Duergar and their gods, especially Laduguer. Explore how they feel about their society’s emphasis on enslavement and revenge.
Playing a Duergar can be an exciting and rewarding experience that adds a fresh perspective to your D&D campaign.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages. She is also a professional content writer at SlashGear.com