Duergar

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Typical Duergar

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.

Publication History[edit]

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 appeared in both the 3.0 and 3.5 Monster Manuals, with a PC writeup alongside each. They once again reappeared in a psionics splatbook (Expanded Psionics Handbook), with a new "psionic duergar" PC writeup, and had an "Ecology of the Duergar" writeup in Dragon Magazine #325. 3rd edition also saw an alternative on the Duergar in the form of the Charduni, evil dwarves native to the Scarred Lands setting.

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.

Physiology[edit]

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. 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. 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.

Psychology[edit]

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.

Culture[edit]

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 the dark god Laduguer, and outright described as theocrats in their "Ecology" article. 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.

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.

Duergar vs. Drow[edit]

Unlike drow, duergar have never really caught on with the D&D crowd. Perhaps the biggest 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.

Duergar PCs[edit]

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.

AD&D[edit]

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%.

3rd Edition[edit]

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
+1 racial bonus on Listen and Spot
Dwarf Weapon Proficiency does not apply to dwarven waraxe or dwarven urgrosh
Favored Class: Fighter
Level Adjustment: +1

A psionic duergar has the following statblock:

+2 Constitution, -4 Charisma
Medium
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

4th Edition[edit]

Appearing only as an MM2 back-page entry, duergar are distinctly underpowered by 4e standards.

+2 Constituion, +2 Wisdom
Medium
Speed 6 squares
Darkvision
+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).

5th Edition[edit]

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
Complete
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
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Races
Player's Handbook: Dragonborn - Drow - Dwarf - Elf - Gnome
Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human - Tiefling
Dungeon Master's Guide: Aasimar - Eladrin
Elemental Evil Player's Guide: Aarakocra - Genasi - Goliath - Svirfneblin
Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide: Duergar - Ghostwise Halfling - Svirfneblin - Tiefling Variants
Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes: Baatific Tieflings - Duergar - Eladrin - Githyanki
Githzerai - Sea Elf - Shadar-kai - Svirfneblin
Volo's Guide to Monsters: Aasimar - Bugbear - Firbolg - Goblin - Goliath - Hobgoblin - Kenku
Kobold - Lizardfolk - Orc - Tabaxi - Triton - Yuan-Ti Pureblood
Unearthed Arcana: Changeling - Minotaur - Revenant - Shadar-kai
Shifter - Tiefling Variants - Warforged
Plane Shift: Amonkhet: Aven - Khenra - Minotaur - Naga
Plane Shift: Innistrad: Human
Plane Shift: Ixalan: Human - Goblin - Merfolk - Orc - Siren - Vampire
Plane Shift: Kaladesh: Aetherborn - Dwarf - Elf - Human - Vedalken
Plane Shift: Zendikar: Elf - Goblin - Human - Kor - Merfolk - Vampire
The Races of Pathfinder
Player's Handbook: Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human
Advanced
Race Guide:
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

Monstergirls?[edit]

LamiaMonstergirl.pngThis 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.