Duergar in DnD 5e: A Guide to Their Culture, Appearance, and Traits

Last Updated on January 22, 2023

Welcome to our guide to the Duergar race in Dungeons & Dragons 5e, the gray-skinned dwarves from the very depths of the Underdark infused with deep magics and cursed with a terrible, violent past. 

All dwarves feel more at home with a few good feet of rock and stone above their heads than the yawning infinity of a sky or the flimsy pretense of a freestanding house. Dwarves are miners, stonecutters, gem workers, and excavators — at least traditionally speaking. 

The great dwarven cities of the Forgotten Realms lie beneath the surface in ancient and impenetrable fortresses of cut stone. They take great care not to delve too greedily or too deep, however, for below the cities of the dwarves, deep beneath the earth, lies a nightmarish realm of crushing blackness and infinite peril: the Underdark. 

Home to marauding drow, brain-sucking illithids, aboleths, grell, hook horrors, ettins, and worse, the Underdark is no place for any sane humanoid — even a dwarf. However, there is an entire group of dwarves that have made their home in the Underdark — time, lack of light, and the strange magics of the earth transforming them into their own unique lineage: the Duergar. 

In this article, we’re going to cover the Duergar as a playable character race, according to their rules update in Monsters of the Multiverse.

Duergar are also popular enemies and NPCs used by dungeon masters planning to run campaigns set in the Underdark, but we’ll cover that another time. 

Duergar Features and Traits 

As a duergar, you have the following racial traits.

  • Creature Type. You are a Humanoid. You are also considered a dwarf for any prerequisite or effect that requires you to be a dwarf.
  • Size. You are Medium.
  • Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 120 feet of you as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light. You discern colors in that darkness only as shades of gray.

Duergar Magic. Starting at 3rd level, you can cast the Enlarge/Reduce spell on yourself with this trait without requiring a material component. Starting at 5th level, you can also cast the Invisibility spell on yourself with this trait without requiring a material component. Once you cast either of these spells with this trait, you can’t cast that spell with it again until you finish a long rest. You can also cast these spells using spell slots you have of the appropriate level. 

Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells when you cast them with this trait (choose when you select this race).

Dwarven Resilience. You have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the poisoned condition on yourself. You also have resistance to poison damage.

Psionic Fortitude. You have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the charmed or stunned condition on yourself.

Who Are the Duergar in DnD 5e? 

Also known as “Deep Dwarves” or “Gray Dwarves,” the Duergar (pronounced “Dwar-gar” — at least, that’s how I’ve heard Matt Coleville say it) are a race of dwarves who adapted to live deep beneath the surface of the earth in the perilous Underdark. 

Their skin has become gray, and their eyes are larger than most dwarves. As a result, their darkvision is outstanding. With a range of 120 feet, it’s among the best in the whole game.

Transformed by generations spent living in the chthonic depths, Duergar are touched by the strange magic of the underworld. Their physiology, along with their magical abilities, were changed even further when their culture came into contact with the Mind Flayers

Mind flayers — also known as Illithids — are a ruthlessly evil species of brain-eating aberrations with powerful telepathic and psionic abilities. Alongside the Kuo Toa, the Oblex, and numerous other species, the Duergar were enslaved by the Mind Flayer empire, and many of them were subjected to horrific experiments. 

Whether these experiments were intended to enhance the Duergar’s magical abilities or the results were just a “happy accident” — a byproduct of the Mind Flayers’ cruelty — is unclear, but it is known that, powered by the ambient magic of the Underdark, those experiments left early Duergar with psionic powers of their own, which have been passed down to their descendants. 

Their troubled history has nonetheless endowed all Duergar with a resistance to mind control and other magical effects as well as their own innate spellcasting abilities. 

Not only can more powerful Duergar naturally make themselves invisible (a useful survival trait in a lineage that lives in an environment as hostile as the Underdark), but most can also magically grow in size to fight more fiercely or shrink down as a way to move through small tunnels or pass undetected. Lastly, Duergar also share the universal dwarven tolerance for poison. 

In time, the Duergar people liberated themselves from their aberrant tyrants and forged a new life for themselves in the Underdark and beyond. 

Duergar Spellcasting

All Duergar can naturally cast Enlarge/Reduce on themselves once per long rest without the need for material components at 3rd level and Invisibility in the same way at 5th. 

Enlarge/Reduce

  • Level: 2nd
  • Classes: Artificer, Sorcerer, Wizard
  • School: Transmutation
  • Casting Time: 1 action
  • Duration: 1 minute (concentration)
  • Range/Area: 30 feet
  • Attack/Save: Constitution Saving Throw
  • Damage/Effect: Buff/Debuff
  • Components: V, S, M (a pinch of powdered iron)

Source: Basic Rules, pg. 237

You cause a creature or an object you can see within range to grow larger or smaller for the duration. Choose either a creature or an object that is neither worn nor carried. If the target is unwilling, it can make a Constitution saving throw. On a success, the spell has no effect.

If the target is a creature, everything it is wearing and carrying changes size with it. Any item dropped by an affected creature returns to normal size at once.

Enlarge. The target’s size doubles in all dimensions, and its weight is multiplied by eight. This growth increases its size by one category — from Medium to Large, for example. If there isn’t enough room for the target to double its size, the creature or object attains the maximum possible size in the space available. Until the spell ends, the target also has advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws. The target’s weapons also grow to match its new size. While these weapons are enlarged, the target’s attacks with them deal 1d4 extra damage.

Reduce. The target’s size is halved in all dimensions, and its weight is reduced to one-eighth of normal. This reduction decreases its size by one category — from Medium to Small, for example. Until the spell ends, the target also has disadvantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws. The target’s weapons also shrink to match its new size. While these weapons are reduced, the target’s attacks with them deal 1d4 less damage (this can’t reduce the damage below 1).

Obviously, the Duergar innate version of this spell doesn’t have the same range as the basic spell, which negates its typical function of making the party’s frontliner even more dangerous. This makes Duergar solid contenders for frontliners themselves. If you don’t want to play a Fighter or other martial class, however, you shouldn’t overlook the potential for the Reduce part of this spell to help you sneak around unnoticed or get through tight spaces. 

This ability has been a pretty iconic calling card of the Duergar since earlier editions when they were characterized almost exclusively as “mad, evil dwarves.” 

Invisibility

  • Level: 2nd
  • Classes: Artificer, Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
  • School: Illusion
  • Casting Time: 1 action
  • Duration: 1 hour (concentration)
  • Range/Area: Touch
  • Attack/Save: None
  • Damage/Effect: Buff
  • Components: V, S, M (an eyelash encased in gum arabic)

Source: Basic Rules, pg. 254

A creature you touch becomes invisible until the spell ends. Anything the target is wearing or carrying is invisible as long as it is on the target’s person. The spell ends for a target that attacks or casts a spell.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, you can target one additional creature for each slot level above 2nd.

On just about any character at any level, Invisibility as a way to start fights, end fights (by leaving in a hurry), or just avoid fights altogether, is a remarkably powerful spell. It’s a shame that higher-level Duergar can’t upcast this spell, although playing a spellcasting class puts this option back on the table. 

What Class Is Best for a Duergar? 

Now, with the way that racial Ability Score bonuses work in Monsters of the Multiverse (and other new material), the old days of limiting playable races largely to classes with complementary Ability Score requirements are pretty much over. Dwarves don’t all have to be tanky, strength-centric characters now. 

This is especially cool because Duergar have an array of innate abilities that make them outstanding spellcasters — especially classes that suffer from a small number of known spells like the Sorcerer and Bard. 

The nature of the Duergar’s innate spells could also push them in the direction of a stealthier, mobility-focused character like a Rogue or Ranger — using Invisibility and reducing their size to scurry around unseen, setting up the perfect ambush. The Arcane Trickster is probably the best option if this style of play appeals as they’re both stealthy, suffer from a shortage of known spells, and come with a few extra spell slots to fire off those Duergar Magic uses at least a couple more times. 

However, that’s not to say a Duergar can’t make an outstanding martial character like a Fighter or Paladin. At lower levels, Enlarge/Reduce is a particularly effective way of eking out some more damage or souping up a grappler build. 

The only classes I would say don’t gel especially well with this lineage are the Druid (no spellcasting before wild shape) and maybe the Monk (your fists aren’t weapons, so you get no Enlarge/Reduce bonus damage), but you could make either option work with the right subclass. 

Duergar Names

Duergar share naming conventions with other types of dwarves. Names are handed down through the generations and given to newborn dwarves by their clan elders. A dwarf’s name belongs to the clan, not to the individual. The Duergar carried thier names with them down into the Underdark thousands of years ago.

Masculine Names: Adrik, Alberich, Baern, Barendd, Brottor, Bruenor, Dain, Darrak, Delg, Eberk, Einkil, Fargrim, Flint, Gardain, Harbek, Kildrak, Morgran, Orsik, Oskar, Rangrim, Rurik, Taklinn, Thoradin, Thorin, Tordek, Traubon, Travok, Ulfgar, Veit, Vondal

Feminine Names: Amber, Artin, Audhild, Bardryn, Dagnal, Diesa, Eldeth, Falkrunn, Finellen, Gunnloda, Gurdis, Helja, Hlin, Kathra, Kristryd, Ilde, Liftrasa, Mardred, Riswynn, Sannl, Torbera, Torgga, Vistra

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