What Drow are to Elves, Duergar are to Dwarves. This race of magic-touched, grim, cheerless dwarf-kin inhabits the dark depths of the Underdark, a malign twist on their more familiar and goodly cousins.
Duergar first appeared in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, appearing as a monster in the Monster Manual II and then as a player character race in Unearthed Arcana. They were subsequently updated to 2nd edition in the Monstrous Compendium Volume 2 (which was reprinted in the Monstrous Manual) as monsters, and as PCs in the Complete Book of Dwarves and in Player's Option: Skills & Powers. Rules for psionic duergar were presented in the Complete Psionics Handbook.
In third edition, Duergar first appeared in the 3.0 Monster Manual as an NPC, with a "Level Equivalent" in the DMG for adapting them into a playable race. They then appeared as a proper fully playable race in the 2001 Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and then in just about every other splatbook where one might find dwarves. The Expanded Psionics Handbook offered adjustments for converting the Duergar to a psionic race, though it did not include a full stat block for the converted race. 3rd party settings brought evil-dwarf alternatives. The Scarred Lands setting had Charduni, more focused on militarism than on slavery.
In 4th edition, duergar appeared as monsters and PCs both in the Monster Manual 2.
In 5th edition, duergar appear as enemies in the Monster Manual and as a playable dwarf subrace in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. They were given expanded backlore and reprinted PC stats in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.
Physically, duergar look a lot like their dwarf kin, differing predominantly in coloration; their complexion and hair ranges from medium to dark gray, though some art depicts them with white hair. Their eyes are often shown in art (if not mentioned in text) as solid white - strangely, their "Ecology" article claims they have solid pitch-black eyes (something the XPH agrees with) and that grey or white eyes are rare and considered a terrible omen. Like the drow, duergar have adapted to the eternal darkness of their subterranean environment, and whilst their vision in the dark is keener than a dwarf's, sunlight pains and disorientates them. A strange trait that duergar gained around 3rd edition is that they are almost universally bald, males and females alike, although females are more likely to have hair than males and even males usually just have a receded hairline (no hair on their skull above their ears) rather than being completely hairless. Male duergar still grow beards and mustaches.
Duergar have a few traits unique to them; unlike their traditionally magic-inept kin, duergar have innate magical powers, allowing them to become invisible and grow to ogre-like figures for limited periods when need be - these traits may suggest that duergar draw their inspiration in part from the spriggan. Whist they share a similar toughness to dwarves, they are even more resistant to poison, and have a unique resilience against illusion spells and paralysis. The Psionics Handbooks both state that duergar have a natural affinity for psionics, especially compared to their dwarven kin. In 5e's "Tome of Foes" splatbook, it's even stated that their innate powers of invisibility and growth are actually inherently psionic in origin.
Another strange addition to their lore in the "Tome of Foes" is that duergar rarely imbibe alcohol, and always do so in moderation. This is because, whilst a normal dwarf can experience happy ancestral memories by getting drunk, duergar who overimbibe are assaulted with racial memories of the terrible torments that their ancestors underwent whilst enslaved by the illithids. Needless to say, this is unpleasant and duergar don't like remembering that shit.
Because of their gray coloration, it's common for duergar to be nicknamed "gray dwarves".
Duergar of the Nentir Vale are different creatures entirely. In effect, the duergar of that setting are more like a dwarven tiefling, having more in common with the Durzagon than with the duergar of other worlds - they are the descendants of evil dwarves who swore themselves to the service of Asmodeus, resulting in their descendants being tainted with diabolic energies. One of their more unique traits is that they grow viciously sharp, barbed spines from their scalp (females) and chin (males), which soak up toxin from venom glands; these duergar can rip these spikes harmlessly from their skin and hurl them as poisoned darts. Other mutations are also implied to be possible; one duergar statblock is a warrior that fights with oversized, devilishly sharp taloned fingers.
Everybody's heard the stereotype of dwarves as cheerless, joyless workaholics who do nothing except toil without stop from rest period to rest period... well, duergar are basically those stereotypes come to life. Left blank beyond their society being "harsher" in comparison to other dwarves, it wasn't until 3e's Expanded Psionics(!) Handbook that duergar personalities were expanded upon. Here, it was stated that duergar are basically all of the dwarven flaws (or at least negative stereotypes) with few of their redeeming traits.
Duergar are avaricious, short-tempered, sullen, violent and ungrateful. Vengeful buggers, duergar nurse grudges for a lifetime, never ceasing in counting the slights they've received (real or imagined). Their standard belief is that might makes right, which comes easily to a race so churlish, hateful, envious and merciless.
That isn't to say they're entirely irredeemable... just that they are, without a doubt, the nastiest and most spiteful branch of the dwarven family tree. Duergar are courageous, determined, and believe in minding their own business (unless you have something they want) and working hard. No obstacle daunts a gray dwarf who's settled on a goal - they're not very loyal to anyone other than themselves, but they will never leave a job half-done.
"Ecology of the Duergar" states that most of the duergar's negative traits are culturally enforced by their worship of Laduguer, whose theocracy dominates their culture. This article, at the least, also states they have a strong, religion-mandated utilitarian mindset; beauty and ornamentation are described as "wasteful" to a duergar.
5e mostly supports this interpretation, noting that they are dour, pessimistic, untrusting creatures, always toiling and complaining, who have lost the memory of what it means to be happy or proud.
Duergar society is a dark mirror of dwarfdom, a grim and cheerless place of ceaseless toil backed by slavery, whom the duergar will work to death without hesitation. Similarly to their drow rivals, duergar are heavily shaped by the religion of their dark god. Dragon magazine joined them with Abbathor the greed god, but he proved not Lawful enough for these slavers so the lore switched to Laduguer.
The Duergar "Ecology" article had them as outright theocrats to this one. A lesser deity than Laduguer in their culture, but still very important to them, is their patron goddess, Deep Duerra. Like dwarves, they live in clan groups, but unlike dwarves, these clans compete bitterly, and will happily destroy or enslave each other for their own advancement.
Duergar are a bitter and xenophobic people, hating pretty much everyone. The one race they offer any respect towards is the svirfneblin, whom they begrudgingly admit has some decent skill in craftsmanship. Their deepest enmity is towards both other dwarves and to illithids; lore built up around 3rd edition is that duergar are former dwarves who were enslaved by the mind flayers and escaped under their own power, but who have been psychologically and culturally damaged by both their enslavement and by their belief that their former kin abandoned them to slavery. Wonder where they got that idea.
In their "Ecology" article, it's implied that duergar hold a particular disdain, if not enmity, for the Derro, as Laduguer's creation myth claims the first derro was made from a rogue duergar that tried to challenge Laduguer's skill at creation and his flawed work produced the various other races that "stain" the world today. Mind you, it's implied everybody who lives in the Underdark regards the derro with disdain, and given they're the only race who challenge the Kuo-toa for the position of "nuttiest nutbar in the Underdark", that's kind of justified.
In the Nentir Vale setting, duergar instead worship Asmodeus, mostly because Laduguer felt somewhat superfluous in the face of him and Torog, and because, really, it doesn't make a lot of sense that a race that fought its way out of slavery would worship a god whose faith explicitly turns them into his slaves.
5e reconciled this by stating that whilst duergar mostly worship Laduguer, Asmodeus has been known to impersonate him in order to usurp control over duergar clans and guide them towards their darker aspects, such as encouraging them to enslave other races. The subsequent "Tome of Foes" expansion would add to this by stating that Laduguer was originally a mortal duergar who bargained with Asmodeus for the power to save his people; as such the duergar are bound by their pact with Asmodeus to battle Lolth and her drow minions, and many duergar clans go so far as to worship Asmodeus for his part in freeing them.
This same sourcebook also explains further just why duergar are so bitter and spiteful; according to their histories, they were betrayed by their dwarf kin. When illithids lured the whole duergar clan into the Underdark, dwarves investigated their old clanhold, but never bothered to try and find out where they went, as the priests of Moradin had denounced the duergar as heretics. Even when Laduguer led his people back to the surface and explained to the priests what had happened, they refused to apologize for their failure to try and find the duergar. Incensed by this, Laduguer and his people spat on Moradin and vowed to cast him down from his celestial throne as an unfit patron before marching back into the Underdark, beginning the long war against their people.
In this 5e source, duergar society is said to revolve around the three precepts of Laduguer, who is not so much worshipped in the traditional sense as the living image of who they try to be. Those three dictats, the Three Rules of Conduct, are:
Our Pockets Are Never Full: A duergar's ambition and avarice can never be sated. Success is not celebrated, as a duergar should already begin planning for what it will achieve next, be it wealth, vengeance, or power.
Our Fight Is Never Done: Life is a battle for survival that only the fittest can win, in duergar philosophy, and it is their solemn duty as a race to prove themselves the fittest.
Our Resolve Is Never Shaken: Showing weakness of any sort is a mortal sin in duergar society, be it in the workings of the clan or in personal conduct. Duergar are prohibited from demonstrating happiness, contentedness or trust, and the abandonment of emotion and individuality is idealized in their ranks. Thus, duergar soldiers on the march wear grotesque facial masks to obscure their identity and their feelings, and are compelled to march on relentlessly.
Spoilers for Out of the Abyss: the High King Horgar Steelshadow V is also being influenced by the Demon Prince Graz'zt. The influence is subtle, replacing the king's consort with a succubus that whispers devious things to the king. Graz'zt's plan is a very long-term corruption, however. Mostly, he wants to open up diplomatic channels between the duergar and the surface. With trade and emigration comes new ideas, and with new ideas comes the hopes that at least some deep dwarves will embrace luxury and overindulgence.
Duergar vs. Drow
One issue is that whereas drow feel different to elves, being spider-worshipping BDSM crazies; duergar are basically dwarves acting like jerks and being called out for it. It certainly doesn't help that in both AD&D and 3e, duergar actually co-existed alongside the "Deep Dwarves", whose archetype was being "Underdark dwarves who are not evil", something that undercut duergar rather badly. Fourth Edition tried to address this by essentially turning the duergar into fiendish devil-worshipers that incorporate lots of magma and flames into their strongholds, but the change was reversed come Fifth Edition (though minor lore ties to devils are mentioned in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes and Rime of the Frostmaiden).
Another issue is habitat. Duergar live in hewed-out Moria-style mines... just like dwarves. Surface-origin visitors, by then, have Been There and Seen That. By contrast the drow, as elves, take an organic approach to the Underdark as their ancestors once did for the surface. Drow-inhabited caverns work within the beauty in the caves. And by the late 1970s, the wonders of natural caverns were well-known to interactive-fiction players of Advent and Zork.
On the positive side, or perhaps negative from a narrative standpoint, the duergar's particular form of evil is more of a "utilitarian unpleasantness" compared to the drow's "psychotic sadism." You can negotiate with duergar and they're not just going to stab you or enslave you for the giggles. They deeply empathize with suffering, too. Following the Spellplague, their home of Gracklstugh was decimated (literally nine in ten residents perished), and they accepted refugees from throughout the Underdark, including Derro. They also deeply mourn their dead (as evidenced in Rime of the Frostmaiden.)
The Duergar of Eberron have an origin that's unclear in-universe. They are either the remanants of a lost kingdom destroyed in the Daelkyr War, a result of exposure to the mind twisting powers of the Daelkyr or Quori, or the vanished Clan Noldrun. The Duergar themselves claim to be the most ancient dwarves, which is an interesting parallel to the fact that the Drow (who live nowhere near the Duergar in this world) are factually the original elves.
The Duergar of Golarion are those who did not join the "main" dwarves in their exodus to the surface. Faced with extinction from the threats of the
Underdark Darklands they made a deal with the metaphorical devil by becoming slaves to the evil dwarf god Droskar in exchange for safety.
A consequence of the aforementioned deal is that the Duergar of Pathfinder cannot create any original works, reducing them to copying the works of another race. Since most societies require innovation to survive, the Duergar enslave other races to work endlessly and come up with new ideas and designs which they can then copy and implement, placing them among the greatest slavers in the Darklands
The Duergar fluff presented in Dreamscarred Press's revamp of Psionics for Pathfinder is that of Dwarves who "dug too deep" and encountered horrors beyond mortal understanding. The Duergar were changed by this experience and forever warped. You'd expect them to be crazy Cthulhu cultists, but they are actually trying to keep whatever sleeping power they encountered from waking up. While suited for player use, most are willing to whatever it takes to prevent what they found from awakening, even enslaving others to work on their projects.
Being that they are not as psycho-backstabbing crazy as drow, duergar PCs are still stained by the stigma of being an evil race, but they are more likely to fit into a PC party than a drow, in many peoples' eyes. Duergar PCs typically either don't buy into the "toil your way from cradle to grave" cheerless claptrap that Laduguer's priests peddle, or else are survivors of the deadly intra-clan wars that plague the duergar.
In Unearthed Arcana, Duergar have the following stats:
- Class & Level Limits: Cleric (8-16), Fighter (7-16), Thief (Unlimited), Acrobat, Assassin (9-12)
- Multiclass Options: Fighter/Cleric, Fighter/Thief, Cleric/Thief, Cleric/Assassin
- Same bonuses to saves vs. rod/staff/wand/spell/natural poison and ability to detect grade/slope/new construction/sliding walls/traps/depth underground as ordinary dwarves.
- Do gain the dwarven combat abilities vs. ogres/trolls/oni/giants/titans, but not against orcs/half-orcs/goblins/hobgoblins
- Immune to illusion spells, paralyzation and non-natural poisons
- Infravision 12'
- When operating alone or with other duergar, a duergar can surprise others on a 3 in 6 chance is surprised on a 1 in 10 chance
- Double the chance of being psionic
- Bright light negates duergar stealth, imposes a -2 penalty to dexterity, inflicts a -2 penalty to "to hit" rolls and grants a +2 to the saving throws of those attacked by a duergar
- Attacking foes in bright light from the presence of darkness negates the surprise and dex penalty and lowers the to hit and save traits to -1 and +1 respectively
In the Complete Book of Dwarves, duergar have the following stats:
- Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 8/18, Dexterity 3/17, Constitution 11/18, Intelligence 3/16, Wisdom 3/18, Charisma 3/15
- Ability Score Adjustments: +1 Constitution, -2 Charisma
- Can become 12th level Warriors and Priests, and 14th level Thieves
- Infravision 120 feet
- When at least 90 feet ahead of non-duergar, a duergar inflicts a -2 penalty on their opponent's surprise roll (this is negated if the duergar must open a dor to reach them).
- +2 bonus on surprise rolls
- Standard dwarf saving throw bonuses and stonework skills apply.
- Duergar are immune to paralysis, illusion and phantasm spells, as well as to magical and alchemical poisons.
- Once per day, a duergar can Enlarge Self and/or become Invisible as per the spells being cast by a wizard twice the duergar's level.
- In bright light, a duergarloses its surprise bonus, suffers -2 Dexterity, and suffers -2 to its To Hit rolls.
- When attacking a foe in bright light from shadows, a duergar suffers a -1 penalty to its To Hit rolls.
- Other dwarves have a -3 Reaction penalty to duergar, which stacks with any imposed by kits.
- Ogres, trolls, oni, giants and titans suffer a -4 penalty to hit duergar. Unlike normal dwarves, duergar have no advantage when fighting orcs, half-orcs, goblins or hobgoblins.
- Increase all XP costs to advance in levels by +20%.
For a standard 3e dwarf, take the Hill Dwarf stats and make the following changes:
- Charisma penalty increases to -4
- Darkvision increases to 120 feet
- +2 racial bonus on saves vs. spells and spell-like abilities
- Spell-Like Abilities: Enlarge Person and Invisibility, self only, both 1/day and as a Wizard of twice the duergar's class level.
- Light Sensitivty
- +4 racial bonus on Move Silently
A psionic duergar has the following statblock:
- +2 Constitution, -4 Charisma
- Base speed 20 feet, but unaffected by medium/heavy armor or medium/heavy loads
- Darkvision 120 feet
- Immune to Paralysis, Phantasms and Poison
- +2 racial bonus on saves vs. spells and spell-like effects
- Stability: As per dwarf
- Stonecunning: As per dwarf
- Psi-Like Abilities: Expansion and Invisibility, both self only, both 1/day with Manifester level equal to Hit Dice.
- Naturally Psionc: +3 psionic power points at 1st level.
- +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs and goblinoids.
- +4 dodge bonus to AC against Giant type creatrues.
- Light Sensitivity
- +4 rcial bonus on Move Silently checks.
- +1 racial bonus on Listen and Spot checks.
- +2 racial bonus on Appraise & Craft checks related to stone and metal.
- Favored Class: Fighter
- Level Adjustment: +1
Appearing only as an MM2 back-page entry, duergar are distinctly underpowered by 4e standards.
- +2 Constituion, +2 Wisdom
- Speed 6 squares
- +2 Dungeoneering
- Racial Power - Infernal Quills: Once per encounter, as a minor action, target a single creature within 3 squares and make a Constitution check vs. their AC with a +2/4/6 bonus depending on tier. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 damage per tier, plus Constitution modifier extra damage, as well as suffering both a -2 penalty to attack rolls and ongoing 2/5/8 (depending on tier) Poison damage (save ends both effects).
For the "core" dwarf racial traits you add the below traits to, see the Dwarf page.
- +1 Strength
- Superior Darkvision: You have Darkvision 120 feet
- Sunlight Sensitivity: You suffer Disadvantage on attack rolls and Perception checks based on sight if you or the thing you are looking at is in direct sunlight, and you cannot use your Duergar Magic powers if you are in direct sunlight.
- Extra Language: Undercommon
- Duergar Resilience: You have Advantage on saving throws against Illusions, Charm and Paralysis.
- Duergar Magic: At 3rd level, you can cast Enlarge on yourself once per long rest, and at 5th level you can cast Invisibility on yourself once per long rest.
|Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Races|
|Core:||Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human|
|Dark Sun:||Aarakocra - Half-Giant - Mul - Pterran - Thri-kreen|
|Dragonlance:||Draconian - Irda - Kender - Minotaur|
|Mystara:||Aranea - Ee'ar - Enduk - Lizardfolk (Cayma - Gurrash - Shazak) |
Lupin - Manscorpion - Phanaton - Rakasta - Tortle - Wallara
|Oriental Adventures:||Korobokuru - Hengeyokai - Spirit Folk|
|Planescape:||Aasimar - Bariaur - Genasi - Githyanki - Githzerai - Modron - Tiefling|
|Spelljammer:||Dracon - Giff - Grommam - Hadozee - Hurwaeti - Rastipede - Scro - Xixchil|
|Ravenloft:||Broken One - Flesh Golem - Half-Vistani - Therianthrope|
Book of X:
|Alaghi - Beastman - Bugbear - Bullywug - Centaur - Duergar |
Fremlin - Firbolg - Flind - Gnoll - Goblin - Half-Ogre - Hobgoblin
Kobold - Mongrelfolk - Ogre - Ogre Mage - Orc - Pixie
Satyr - Saurial - Svirfneblin - Swanmay - Voadkyn - Wemic
|Dragon Magazine:||Half-Dryad - Half-Satyr - Uldra - Xvart|
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Races|
|Player's Handbook 1:||Dragonborn - Dwarf - Eladrin - Elf |
Half-Elf - Halfling - Human - Tiefling
|Player's Handbook 2:||Deva - Gnome - Goliath - Half-Orc - Shifter|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Githzerai - Minotaur - Shardmind - Wilden|
|Monster Manual 1:||Bugbear - Doppelganger - Githyanki |
Goblin - Hobgoblin - Kobold - Orc
|Monster Manual 2:||Bullywug - Duergar - Kenku|
|Dragon Magazine:||Gnoll - Shadar-kai|
|Heroes of Shadow:||Revenant - Shade - Vryloka|
|Heroes of the Feywild||Hamadryad - Pixie - Satyr|
|Eberron's Player's Guide:||Changeling - Kalashtar - Warforged|
|The Manual of the Planes:||Bladeling|
|Dark Sun Campaign Setting:||Mul - Thri-kreen|
|Forgotten Realms Player's Guide:||Drow - Genasi|
|The Races of Pathfinder|
|Player's Handbook:||Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human|
|Aasimar - Catfolk - Changeling - Dhampir - Duergar |
Drow - Fetchling - Gillman - Goblin - Grippli - Hobgoblin
Ifrit - Kitsune - Kobold - Merfolk - Nagaji - Orc - Oread
Ratfolk - Samsaran - Strix - Suli - Svirfneblin - Sylph
Tengu - Tiefling - Undine - Vanara - Vishkanya - Wayang
|Bestiaries:||Android - Astomoi - Caligni - Deep One Hybrid - Gathlain |
Gnoll - Kasatha - Munavri - Naiad - Orang-Pendak
Reptoid - Rougarou - Shabti - Trox - Yaddithian
|Adventure Paths:||Being of Ib - Kuru|
|Inner Sea Races:||Ghoran - Monkey Goblin - Lashunta - Skinwalker |
Syrinx - Triaxian - Wyrwood - Wyvaran
|Ultimate Wilderness:||Vine Leshy|
|Blood of the Sea:||Adaro - Cecaelia - Grindylow - Locathah - Sahuagin - Triton|
|Planar Adventures:||Aphorite - Duskwalker - Ganzi|
In the multiverse of D&D itself, there's only one major "contender" for the archetype of the Evil Dwarf, and that's the Derro.
World of Warcraft has the Dark Iron Clan of dwarves, who look similar to duergar and were hostile to all other races for an extended period, but this was due to being conquered by an evil archomental of fire whom they accidentally summoned, and this gave Dark Irons their characteristic red hair, glowy eyes, and affinity for fire magic.
Scarred Lands has the Charduni; gray-colored evil dwarves who practice slavery and necromancy and worship their creator, the local God of Tyranny... who actually thinks of them as a failed experiment and has all but abandoned them as a result.
|This article or section is about Monstergirls (or a monster that is frequently depicted as a Monstergirl), something that /tg/ widely considers to be the purest form of awesome. Expect PROMOTIONS! and /d/elight in equal measure, often with drawfaggotry or writefaggotry to match.|
Unlike drow, duergar haven't managed to make an impact in the monstergirls field; whereas drow have an overwhelming association with kinky nubile black-skinned elf maidens, duergar are A: heavily associated with the masculine, just like dwarves, and B: regarded as a bunch of joyless pricks even by dwarven standards. Theoretically, you could make something appealing out of duergar (Nazi/Russian Baroness style dwarf women, perhaps?) but you'd have virtually nothing to draw from the base material.
There is cheesecake and even outright smut of Dark Iron Dwarves that could "stand in for" hot duergar women, but then, what race doesn't have porn in World of Warcraft? This is the setting which pioneered the Hot Orc Chick and whose depictions of goblins and gnomes gave rise to the modern phenomena of the shortstack.