Introduction

Duergar, also known as “Gray Dwarves”, are dwarves who reside in the Underdark. In official DnD canon, they were once slaves to mind flayers, who imbued them with psionic abilities. These abilities are reflected in the Duergar’s traits as innate spellcasting.

The Duergar is the only non-core dwarf subrace in 5th edition, and as of this writing it’s the only dwarf updated to use the post-Tasha’s race design mechanics. Duergar Resilience was replaced with Psionic Resilience, which replaces Advantage on saves against paralysis with Advantage on saves against stun, which makes since because mind flayers and other psychic creatures typically stun things rather than paralyzing them. They also lose the problematic Sunlight Sensitivity, but in exchange the Duergar no longer gets Stonecunning or any of the extra proficiencies that other dwarves get.

The Duergar’s innate spellcasting is updated to use the new standard rules (pick your spellcasting ability, re-cast spells using spells slots), but the Duergar can still only cast their innate spells on themselves, so the innate spellcasting isn’t nearly as powerful as that of other races.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Duergar Classes

Artificer

Artificers can already cast both Enlarge/Reduce and Invisibility, and can cast Resistance to Poison, so Dwarven Resilience isn’t as important. Psionic Fortitude is harder for the artificer to replicate, but I don’t think that’s enough to make this a fantastic combination.

Barbarian

Innate spellcasting is borderline impossible for barbarians to use, so all you get is Darkvision and the defensive stuff. It’s fine, but you’ll get more from other dwarf options.

Bard

Bards can’t cast Enlarge/Reduce, but since the Duergar can only cast it on themselves and the Bard gains no meaningful benefit, there’s really no reason to do so. Invisibility is also on the Bard’s spell list, and you almost certainly want the ability to cast it on other people.

Cleric

Clerics can’t typically cast either Enlarge/Reduce or Invisibility. Even trickery clerics don’t get Invisibility. Of course, you can only target yourself, and since clerics generally don’t use weapons, Enlarge/Reduce is basically useless. Invisibility is decent, especially on a trickery cleric who’s pretending to be a rogue, but most clerics won’t bother with it. That just leaves Darkvision and the Duergar’s defenses.

Druid

Druids can’t cast Enlarge/Reduce or Invisibility. Invisibility is broadly useful, and sneaking around as an invisible bat, rat, or owl can be very effective for any druid. Circle of the Moon and Circle of Spores druids might enjoy Enlarge/Reduce as a combat buff.

Fighter

Enlarge/Reduce is a great combat buff for the Fighter, offering Advantage on Strength checks to support the grapple/shove combo as well as a damage boost. Since the damage boost applies on all of the Fighter’s numerous attacks, it’s especially impactful for the Fighter. Eldritch Knights can re-cast it using spell slots, too. Dwarven Resilience and Psionic Fortitude both provide helpful defenses that will remain useful for your full career.

Invisibility works great for fighters, especially if you’re Dexterity-based, and Dexterity-based fighters still enjoy Enlarge/Reduce’s damage bonus just as much as Strength-based fighters.

Duergar Rune Knights can combine Giant’s Might and Enlarge/Reduce to stack the size increases, eventually reaching Gargantuan size at high levels.

Monk

Everything about the Duergar works for the Monk. Enlarge/Reduce can enlarge you for a damage bonus in combat. Invisibility is great for stealth or escaping. Dwarven Resilience and Psionic Fortitude provide helpful defenses which nicely complement the Monk’s class features, though you will eventually become immune to poison, making Dwarven Resilience obsolete.

Paladin

Everything about the Duergar works for the Paladin. Enlarge/Reduce can enlarge you for a damage bonus in combat, as well as Advantage on Strength checks so that you can use the grapple/shove combo more easily. Invisibility is great for stealth, so even if you’re in full plate you can be somewhat sneaky. And, of course, you can re-cast both so they’re consistently available in any combat. Dwarven Resilience and Psionic Fortitude provide helpful defenses which nicely complement the Paladin’s class features, adding to the Paladin’s already excellent durability.

Ranger

Enlarge/Reduce works with ranged weapons, so even if you’re built to fight at range it’s still a helpful damage boost. Invisibility is likely more helpful since rangers are typically Dexterity-based and sneaky, and you can re-cast it using spell slots. Dwarven Resilience protects you from one of the most common non-weapon damage types.

Rogue

Enlarge/Reduce’s Reduce option tragically won’t help you. Invisibility is nice, but once per day isn’t enough, and since it’s an illusion it’s easy for arcane tricksters to learn. 120-foot darkvision and resistance to poison are both great, but since the innate spellcasting isn’t great for the Rogue, it’s not a fantastic class option for the Duergar.

Sorcerer

The Duergar’s inability to share their innate spells dramatically reduces their usefulness for the Sorcerer. You’re basically just here for Darkvision and the defenses.

Warlock

The Duergar’s inability to share their innate spells dramatically reduces their usefulness for the Warlock, and even the 120 ft. Darkvision is only minimally useful since Devil’s Sight makes it obsolete. You’re basically just here for Darkvision and the defenses.

Wizard

Wizards can already cast both Enlarge/Reduce and Invisibility. Intellect Fortress will protect you from enemies who might be deterred by Psionic Fortitude. The Duergar’s 120 foot Darkvision and resistance to poison are both nice, but the Wizard simply doesn’t benefit as much from the Duergar’s traits as other spellcasters.