Dwarves Are The Best Race

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on February 19, 2010

Surly, gruff, uncouth and belligerent. Nothing could be further from the truth when speaking about Dwarves. Insightful, tough, resilient and reliable are better words to describe Dwarven kin. In looking at the characteristics of this noble folk you realize that not only would you enjoy an evening of pints with a Dwarf, but you also want them watching your back. Of course we shouldn’t neglect to mention those beards. Phenomenal stuff! Let’s take a deeper look at the toughest of races.

Dwarves receive the most beneficial set of racial bonus and I’ll break those down in terms of what it means for you as a player.

Attribute Bonuses

Dwarves receive two great attribute bonuses in Constitution and Wisdom. These are perhaps the two best attributes to receive a bonus in. All characters benefit from more hit points and healing surges, and the only two skills that the character sheet has listed with passive numbers are both on Wisdom.

If we break down the numbers of what classes use these two attributes, we see that only one class, the Battlemind, uses Constitution as a primary attribute. Six classes use Wisdom as a primary attribute, the Cleric, Avenger, Druid, Invoker, Shaman and Seeker. Ten classes use Wisdom as a secondary attribute and 12 classes use Constitution.

Skill Bonuses

Dwarves receive a +2 bonus in two very useful skills. Now perhaps you’ll disagree on how useful Endurance is as a skill. Perhaps you’d be right. However, receiving a +2 bonus to Endurance and a +2 to its keyed attribute can’t be overlooked. This allows you to make other choices during skill training. Let’s be honest, no one wants to train Endurance, but when you need to make a check in this skill it usually matters. Having a +2 racial bonus to the skill and a +2 bonus to the keyed attribute offsets the need to train it.

Racial Benefits

In my mind Dwarves have some of the most useful racial benefits. The first thing that stands out is that these powers aren’t encounter powers. Some of these powers can be used multiple times in an encounter. Unlike other races who can only use their racial power once per encounter. Let’s take a closer look.


Any bonus to saving throws is a good thing. While this bonus won’t come into play every time you make a saving throw, when poison is in the mix having a +5 modifier swings things heavily in your favour.

Dwarven Resilience

Probably one of the best racial benefits in the game. Dwarves don’t need to give up a standard action to use their second wind. A minor action will suffice, this makes Dwarves much more versatile in combat.

Stand Your Ground

With the tactical nature of 4e combat, being able to control your movement is like having an ace up your sleeve. The Dwarven racial feature Stand Your Ground allows you to reduce forced movement by 1 square. This gives Dwarves a greater degree of control when forced movement comes into play, frustrating opponents with their sheer resilience and stubbornness about being moved. Add in the ability to make an immediate saving throw to avoid falling prone and Dwarves are a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.

Class Considerations

The player who selects a Dwarf as his race has a great deal of classes available to them. Stereotypically Dwarves are known as great warriors on the battlefield. With the racial bonuses in 4e, Dwarves do make great Fighters. The attribute bonuses Dwarves receive allow them to focus on increasing Strength since Constitution and Wisdom are taken care of.

If we consider class choice from a role perspective Dwarves make excellent defenders. Racial benefits allow Dwarven defenders to stay in the thick of things where they belong. There is a reason that stereotypes exist, there is usually a grain of truth to them. In this case the stereotype does hold true.

Dwarves make decent strikers. Their primary attributes aren’t geared towards many of the strikers primary attributes, with the exception of the Avenger. Dwarven attribute bonuses only work to the advantage of the Monk and Ranger.

The only leader classes that Dwarves excel at are Cleric and Shaman. They certainly have the appropriate bonuses to allow them to play the Warlord or Artificer. With the exception of Cleric you will probably find that your Dwarf only makes a mediocre leader.

Surprisingly Dwarves make decent controllers. Primarily from the divine and primal powers. Wisdom is a primary attribute for the Druid, Invoker and Seeker. I can say from personal experience that Dwarves make excellent covenant of wrath Invokers.

Classes That Have Wisdom As A Primary Attribute (6/25)

  • Avenger
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Invoker
  • Seeker
  • Shaman

Classes That have Wisdom As a Secondary Attribute (10/25)

  • Ardent
  • Artificer
  • Battlemind
  • Fighter
  • Monk
  • Paladin
  • Psion
  • Ranger
  • Warden
  • Wizard

Classes That Have Constitution As A Primary Attribute (1/25)

  • Battlemind

Classes That Have Constitution As A Secondary Attribute (12/25)

  • Ardent
  • Artificer
  • Assassin
  • Barbarian
  • Bard
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Invoker
  • Shaman
  • Swordmage
  • Warden
  • Warlock

Classes That Use Wisdom As Primary, Con As Secondary

  • Druid
  • Invoker
  • Shaman

Classes That Use Con As Primary, Wis As Secondary Attribute

  • Battlemind

Classes That Use Both Attributes As a Secondary Attribute

  • Ardent
  • Artificer
  • Fighter
  • Warden

In total 21 of the 25 available classes use the Dwarven attribute bonuses in one way or another. This makes Dwarves a well rounded choice for any class. Naturally, certain combinations will work better than others, but you can be assured that your Dwarf will be able to handle themselves in almost any situation.

Do you play a Dwarf? What drew you to the race? Was it the attribute bonuses, the racial benefits or the role playing opportunities that Dwarves bring to the table?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Yoo-Hoo Tom February 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

My name is Tom and I’m a Dwarf-oholic. Very nice. Thank you for putting numbers to what many already know.

2 DanTracker February 19, 2010 at 10:22 am

let’s not forget that three warlock builds take advantage of the Constitution as a primary ability. And the vestige-lock build is an intriguing choice for dwarves if you play up the respect for heritage and ancestors. You can even get a pact hammer for dwarven warlocks as an implement, which places a powerful melee weapon in the hands of a typical caster class.

3 andurion February 19, 2010 at 10:23 am

Cool article! I too think dwarves are all around one of the best races in the world of D&D, in terms of fluff and mechanics, and seeing a breakdown of all the many class they fit in is really neat.

There is one other class that uses Con as a primary attribute, though – infernal pact and vestige pact warlocks.

4 Kensan_Oni February 19, 2010 at 10:39 am

Small Correction to your guide. Warlocks (Specifically Starlocks) use Constitution as their Primary, not their secondary.

… Is this going to be like the Ember Diceless RPG, where every race is the best race, or is this just a Dwarven Beerfest? :)

5 DanTracker February 19, 2010 at 10:49 am

you also forgot to mention that wizard uses CON as a secondary if you choose either of the summoner or staff of defense builds. this gives the dwarf both a bonus to WIS is they are insterested in playing the orb of imposition, and a bonus to CON if they want to play tome of binding or staff of defense.

and a dwarf that isn’t great as an artificer? what? fantastic choice as he’ll have both WIS and CON plussed up. both of those are secondary abilities. one can easily push up the INT and let the +2 keep either of those two strong and ready for the rider effects. Same could be said for ardent that uses WIS and CON as secondary abilities. A dwarf has several options to be a great leader. Not maybe the ultimate choice for bard or warlord, but cleric, shaman, artificer, ardent all work as good choices for a dwarf leader roled class.

i’ve already had my chance to mention another striker that is served by dwarf, in fact three builds of that striker could all work well for a dwarf.

Overall, great article, but don’t go ’round saying that dwarves can’t make excellent strikers, leaders, and controllers. They can in fact be excellent at every role, though admittedly not every class. Still, they are a versatile match for nearly every class regardless.

Let’s also not forget that their versatility doesn’t get nerfed by calling them small. Small–the bane of halfing and gnome barbarians.

6 Wimwick February 19, 2010 at 11:24 am

@ Yoo-Hoo Tom
You’re welcome.

@ DanTracker
Thanks for the reminder about Warlock’s, I had forgotten that they can choose which stat they want to use and that some builds perfer Con. I’ll have to update the article to show that Dwarves truly are the best race.

@ Andurion
I felt it was important to show what classes the Dwarf was suited to. I’m glad you like the article. Dwarves are one of my favourite races, but I do plan to do a similar article for other races. We’ll see how they compare to the Dwarf.

@ Kensan_Oni
You can probably make the arguement that any race is the best race and I will be looking at other races. We’ll see how the others fare over the coming weeks. Of course with Dwarves it’s always a Beerfest.

@ DanTracker
You raise a good point that Dwarves can accomplish any role. I likely left Artificers off the leader list as I was looking at primary attributes. I do agree with you that they do make great Artificers and are perhaps from a role playing perspective suited towards the role. Thanks for the information about the Wizard options, I wasn’t familiar with those builds.

7 Mike February 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I liked the Chris Perkins quote “Only a Dwarf looks like they can wear TWO sets of armor”

8 math_geek February 19, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Well done, but you forgot one of my favorite aspects of Dwarves — Dwarven Weapon Proficiency. This also helps makes up for low strength in martial classes. +2 to damage and Mordenkrad in the same feat is pretty impressive.

9 Wimwick February 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm

@ Mike
Great quote!

@ math-geek
This is an element I left out and you’re correct dwarven weapon proficiency can’t be overlooked. From the Mordenkrad to the Executioner’s Axe, this feat makes dwarves a force to be reckoned with.

10 Manny February 19, 2010 at 7:39 pm

My 12 level dwarven fighter is the bomb. I went pit fighter for my paragon path and he just mauls everything with his mordenkrad and his close bursts attacks.

11 Matthew Arcilla February 20, 2010 at 11:21 am

Also, second wind as a minor action!

Resistance to forced movement by 1 square and an instant saving throw to avoid falling prone. Those are certainly great qualities to have!
.-= Matthew Arcilla´s last blog ..The DM’s Little Helper Has A Campaign =-.

12 Dan February 21, 2010 at 2:26 am

Another aspect of the Dwarvern race that not many people pick up on is the fact that, although their race has a base movement of 5, they never suffer a speed penalty when encumbered or armored. So the next time you want to play a character that can also double as a pack mule be sure to grab a flagon and grow a beard!!! Also, the new Warlord build in Martial Power 2 has Wisdom as its secondary atribute, which would make Warlords another viable dwarvern leader (but i dont have the book so i might be mistaken).

13 benensky February 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I play a Dwarf Artificer and love him. Also, Dwarfs are always a good excuse to talk in a Scottish accent.

14 Philo Pharynx February 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm

And another bonus for primal characters – Wardens and Druids are able to use Con for AC with certain builds. Other primal characters can get this ability with a feat.

15 Kristi March 30, 2010 at 9:56 am

eh elves are naturally the best. dwarves are all ugly and you cant tell the difference between a male and female dwarf. elves are beautiful and create beautiful things…they are just that much more awesome.

16 Matthew Arcilla June 3, 2010 at 1:44 am

Whenever I play a dwarf, my Scottish accents actually vary since I’ve met a lot of Scots before.

However, my favorite accent to model is comic book writer Mark Millar (Wanted, Kick-Ass). It’s not at all gruff, and sounds very pensive and goofy. Not at all what people expect from a dwarf.
.-= Matthew Arcilla´s last blog ..Of Wizards, Wastelands and Worlds: Psyched About Dark Sun! =-.

17 Thorynn June 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm

The dwarf rogue has a cool feat for getting around locks and traps too: Dwarf Trapsmith grants a plus 4 to perception and thievery! Take two-fisted shooter with hand crossbows and you’ve got yourself one lethal sniper.

18 Ben July 6, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Eh, Dwarves are mechanically good to attract players to them. Without REALLY good mechanics, they are just little balls of muscular Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with Napoleon complexes.

If they existed in the real world, they would be ULTRA-annoying westboro baptist christians (purposely left non-capitalized!). They’ve got the lust for gold/wealth, natural prejudice, stubbornness, etc…)

Mechanically, yes, they are the best. Fluff/Story wise, they are almost unworkable; hence the need to make them mechanically powerful.

19 Bardic August 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I have nothing against Dwarves, but i still feel as though you simply are a great dwarf fan. Arguments can be made for & against any and all of the player races. Dwarves being the best race is just your perspective.
You are right about the second wind minor awesomeness, tho.

20 Matt Ferrara October 12, 2010 at 6:56 am

Dwarves are definitely the most powerful of the races. I recently built a Dwarven life warden Warden/Fighter multiclassed with Cleric. At epic levels, Second wind three times thanks to items and feats, and then 3 daily powers that granted me three more uses of it for a total of six second winds, seven if I get bloodied and regain one of those dailies. And each time I use second wind, which, by the way, is a free action at epic, two of my allies can spend a healing surge and make a saving throw. Ridiculous.

21 Johan October 17, 2010 at 3:34 am

With the Dark Sun book out, it seems as if the dwarves are surpassed with ease by the Muls. Half-dwarf, half-human, they get the same ability bonuses, with the added option of being allowed to switch Strength and Wisdom. They can use all dwarf AND mul feats. They get an extra healing surge, need less sleep, and may end a negative ongoing effect, including damage, once per scene.

Scary stuff!

22 Astrolounge May 29, 2011 at 1:00 am

What drew me to the race? The Dwarven Weapon Training feat. Proficiency and +2 damage with ALL axes and hammers – including superior weapons. One feat to make the Execution axe even more utterly devastating than it normally is? SOLD!

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