Introduction

By the numbers, dwarves are one of the best races in the Player’s Handbook. Their ability score increases are good, and their other racial traits make them durable and flexible enough to succeed in several classes.

If you’re using the Customizing Your Origins optional rules, the Dwarf is an excellent template for any class. Hill Dwarf is excellent for any build that needs a few extra hit points, and Mountain Dwarf offers two +2 increases (unmatched by any other published race) and medium armor proficiency, which largely solves the issue of AC for poorly-armored classes like the Wizard. For players looking for a solid mechanical basis for a build that doesn’t really care about race, or for newer players looking to live a long, successful life, the Dwarf is a great choice.

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.

Classes (Customizable Origins)

This section assumes that you’re using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the next section.

Artificer

Any variety of dwarf works fine for the Artificer, though the Mountain Dwarf’s armor proficiencies are wasted. Hill Dwarf is a great choice for front-line artificers because the additional hit points bring you more in line with martial classes like the Fighter, but Mark of Warding’s access to Armor of Agathys can solve the same problem.

Barbarian

The Mountain Dwarf remains an excellent choice. The ability to rush two ability scores to 18 at level 4 gives you a significant mathematical advantage. The Duergar’s ability to cast Enlarge provides expanded reach and a nice damage bonus, but you can’t concentrate on it while raging.

Bard

With the exception of College of Valor, bards are stuck in light armor. Unless you’re dead set on fighting with weapons, you likely won’t have the Dexterity to make your AC passable. The Mountain Dwarf conveniently solves that problem by giving you medium armor, thereby reducing your Dexterity needs to just 14.

Cleric

Dwarfs continue to make fine clerics, but they don’t have any unique synergy with the Cleric.

Druid

The Hill Dwarf’s additional hit points are wonderful for a class notorious for being frail, but otherwise there’s little synergy here.

Fighter

The Mountain Dwarf’s two +2 increases are tempting because they leave so much room for feats, and the Hill Dwarf’s additional hit points are nice, but that’s about it.

The Duergar’s ability to cast Enlarge/Reduce also stacks with the Rune Knight’s Giant’s Might feature, allowing you to reach Gargantuan size.

Monk

It’s honestly hard to choose between the Hill Dwarf and the Mountain Dwarf for the Monk. The Hill Dwarf’s additional hit points are great since the Monk has d8 hit points and their AC scales very slowly, and reducing your need to increase Constitution is really nice. But the Mountain Dwarf gets two +2 increases, which is really nice for the most MAD class in the game. Similar to the Barbarian, you can start with 17 in Dexterity and Wisdom, then raise both to 18 at level 4, giving you an AC of 18 and setting you mathematically ahead of every other monk in the game for at least 8+ levels.

Paladin

The Mountain Dwarf’s two +2 increases are great on the Paladin. Much like the Barbarian, start with 17 in Strength and Charisma, then raise both to 18 at level 4. If dragonmarks are an option, consider the Mark of Warding for access to spells like Armor of Agathys. The Duergar’s ability to cast Enlarge can also provide a combat buff similar to Divine Favor.

Ranger

The Dwarf works for basically any ranger build. Mark of Warding offers access to Mage Armor, which gives Dexterity-based builds as much armor as a character in full plate. Mountain Dwarf offers two +2 increases, which is hard to argue against. Hill Dwarf’s bonus hit points will help offset the Ranger’s relatively poor durability compared to the Fighter. The Duergar’s access to Enlarge/Reduce and Invisibility offer some magical options that most rangers can’t replicate.

Rogue

The Rogue is a fine choice for the dwarf. Darkvision and extra durability are welcome, but the Rogue is very SAD compared to most martial classes so the Mountain Dwarf’s extra +2 feels wasted, and the Hill Dwarf’s extra hit points aren’t especially useful when you have things like Uncanny Dodge to pad your durability.

The Duergar’s ability to cast Invisibility is nice, but it’s only once per day. Still, that might keep you happy until you can get enough Arcane Trickster spells to cast it again. Enlarge could be useful, too, but be cautious about turning yourself into a giant target.

Sorcerer

Mountain Dwarf. +2 Constitution, +2 Charisma, medium armor, and suddenly you’re incredibly durable with almost no effort.

Warlock

Mountain Dwarf. +2 Constitution, +2 Charisma, medium armor, and suddenly you’re incredibly durable with almost no effort. That’s a bit of a waste on the Hexblade, so consider the Hill Dwarf instead to help pad your d8 hit ponts.

Wizard

Mountain Dwarf. +2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence, medium armor, and suddenly you’re incredibly durable with almost no effort.

Classes (Default Rules)

This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.

Artificer

Mark of Warding provides the crucial Intelligence increase needed to make the Artificer work, and access to Armor of Agathys is a great improvement to the Artificer’s already impressive durability. The Dwarf’s natural durability makes for a great front-line Artificer, so dwarf artificers should strongly consider the Armorer or the Battlesmith. Other dwarf subraces lack the crucial Intelligence increase.

Barbarian

The Mountain Dwarf gets +2 to both Strength and Constitution, making it a spectacular option for the Barbarian. If you can start with 15 Str, 14 Dex, and 15 Con as your base ability scores you’re off to a great start and your 4th-level ability increase will be extremely impactful if you split it between Strength and Constitution to get both to 18. Fast Movement will correct the Dwarf’s relatively poor speed, and the Dwarf’s other defensive racial traits will add to the Barbarian’s already impressive durability.

Bard

The Dwarf doesn’t get anything that complements the bard’s skillset. Mountain Dwarf offers medium armor proficiency, which is tempting for most bard subclasses, but that’s not enough to make the Dwarf a good option.

Cleric

The Dwarf’s natural durability is a great option for clerics since clerics often do double-duty as a healer and a defender. The Hill Dwarf offers a crucial Wisdom increase, making them the best subrace for the Cleric.

Druid

The Hill Dwarf offers a Constitution increase, a Wisdom increase, and extra hit points on top of all of that. Those are great options for Druids, who have terrible AC and only 1d8 hit points, but still find themselves in melee more often than they probably should. The Dwarf’s poison resilience will be somewhat redundant, but that shouldn’t deter you.

Fighter

Every subrace works for the Fighter, but the Duergar and the Mountain Dwarf are the go-to options for their Strength increases.

The Duergar’s ability to cast Enlarge/Reduce also stacks with the Rune Knight’s Giant’s Might feature, allowing you to reach Gargantuan size.

Monk

A Hill Dwarf monk is much more durable than most monks, but without a Dexterity increase you’ll be weak offensively, and you won’t hit 20 Dexterity for a long time.

Paladin

The Mountain Dwarf makes a fine Paladin, and the dwarf’s natural durability nicely complements the Paladin’s already exceptional durability.

Ranger

The Hill Dwarf is an excellent choice for a Druidic Warrior build. You can essentially build yourself like a druid (Wis, Con, and a splash of Dex) and be just as effective in melee as the best Strength-based ranger builds. The Hill Dwarf’s additional hit points will help offset your relatively poor AC compared to martial classes like the Fighter and the Paladin.

The Mountain Dwarf could work for a Strength-based build, but mechanically it’s just not a good option. Too much of the Mountain Dwarf’s value is tied up in their armor proficiencies, and the Ranger already gets them. In a subterranean campaign, the Duergar could make an interesting ranger, but it’s not going to be amazingly effective.

Rogue

Darkvision is great, but that’s the best thing that the Dwarf can offer the Rogue. A Dexterity increase is simply too important.

Sorcerer

No Charisma increase.

Warlock

No Charisma increase.

Wizard

Mark of Warding provides an Intelligence increase, and the Dwarf’s core racial traits provide durability that the Wizard sorely needs. If you’re willing to forgo an Intelligence increase, the Mountain Dwarf’s armor proficiencies will provide a significant boost to your AC.

Dwarf Feats

Dwarven FortitudeXGtE

The ability to heal in combat is neat, but this feat decreases in value as you gain levels. 1d12+5 is basically nothing at 20th level. The only real exception I see is the Monk’s Patient Defense, which allows you to do this as a bonus action. But even then, this isn’t impressive, and with the introduction of Way of Mercy the Monk can already accomplish a similar gimick without the expense of a feat.

Squat NimblenessXGtE

Interesting, but I don’t know if I could find a way to squeeze it into a build. Maybe a dwarf ranger or rogue could take it while raising their Dexterity from 19 to 20, but that seems unlikely.

Dragonmarks

Dragonmarks are detailed in Eberron: Rising from the Last War. Dwarves treat dragonmarks like a subrace, retaining their core racial traits and adding the traits provided by the dragonmark.

Mark of Warding

Constitution and Intelligence are an interesting combination. Mark of Warding’s ability increases work best for arcane trickster rogues, artificers, eldritch knight fighters, and wizards. The extra Constitution can be very helpful for spellcasters who frequently find themselves drawing fire like front-line artificers or eldritch knights.

The peculiar combination of skill bonuses and innate spells fits the theme of the Dragonmark well, but it’s not always useful for spellcasters who are setting out for a life of adventure. Alarm can be useful while resting somewhere dangerous, but mage armor and similar options (including real armor) are easily available to any class which could reasonably benefit from the Mark of Warding’s ability increases. The spell list also overlaps heavily with spells already available to spellcasting classes which depend on intelligence, though it notably includes Armor of Agathys to tempt melee spellcasters.