posted Monday, May 18th 2009 by
None of the Above
Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and mine is that dwarves have always been the best race in Dungeons & Dragons.
Dwarves were so good in earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons, they had to limit them at higher levels in case they overshadowed the human characters. A dwarf of certain classes was limited to level nine or fourteen, with an optional house rule of charging double or triple XP for dwarves to level up. Dwarves were just the superior race.
Dungeons & Dragons third edition did away with all that, but dwarves still enjoyed a long list of racial benefits. They take a +2 bonus to Constitution, the ability score that every class benefits from unless they’re planning to become an undead, and pay only a penalty to Charisma, the dump stat for almost every class. They’re the only race besides half-orc to have Darkvision, meaning they can see in pitch blackness, and gain a +2 bonus to saves against magic and poison, the adventurer’s deadliest dangers.
Look at the class options, too. A high Constitution and resistance to being tripped makes the dwarf a natural barbarian or fighter. He makes a tough, if slow monk, and aside from a small Charisma penalty to turn undead he makes a fantastic cleric. The melee-type ranger finds himself at no penalty as dwarf, gaining extra bonuses should he choose goblin, orc or giants as his favoured enemy. Dwarven rogues have the advantage of sneak attacking in lightless conditions, while a dwarf paladin suffers only a -1 penalty to saves.
Even unorthodox dwarf spellcasters work remarkably well. The dwarf druid makes speed gains with wild shape and takes no penalty to spellcasting. A dwarf wizard has an uncharacteristic toughness that lets him get closer to the thick of battle, again with no racial weaknesses. The dwarf bard takes no penalty to his Bardic Song as he fights, and only a few of his spells suffer from that -1 Charisma penalty. Even the rare dwarf sorcerer, the race’s weakest class option, suffers only a -1 penalty to spell DCs and one fewer bonus spell for his battle-hardiness.
Lets skip ahead and look at the dwarf’s incarnation in Dungeons & Dragons fourth edition. Here he moves only one square or five feet slower than a human, with the advantage of retaining that speed when heavily armoured or encumbered. He gains now a whopping +5 bonus versus poison, which stacks with his +1 bonus to Fortitude from a Constitution bonus. He retains his third edition trip-proofing, and gains +2 to Wisdom and can use his once-per-combat “second wind” ability as a minor action instead of wasting a turn ducking out to heal as I fondly remember doing with my third edition dwarf.
What do the other races get to match this feature set? Dragonborn get +1 to hit when getting their ass kicked, eladrin can teleport a tiny distance once per fight, elves grant allies +1 to Perception checks, and half-elves grant allies +1 to Diplomacy (real useful in a fight). Tieflings get +1 to hit and a little bonus damage once per fight, and humans have a boring bonus feat in a game edition that downplays the importance of feats. Halflings can force an opponent to reroll his attack, but dwarves? Dwarves can heal a quarter of their own hit points without even spending an action.
You can keep your skill points and your bonus feats. My guy’s got Dwarven Resilience.