DnD 5e - The Dwarf Handbook
Last Updated: January 8th, 2020
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.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
- : Good options.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
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.
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 nearly 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.
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.
Mark of Warding provides the crucial Intelligence increase needed to make the Artificer work. The Dwarf's natural durability makes for a great front-line Artificer, so dwarf artificers should strongly consider the Battlesmith.
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.
The Dwarf doesn't get anything that complements the bard's skillset. Mountain Dwarf offers medium armor proficiency, which is tempting for Lore bards, but that's not enough to make the Dwarf a good option.
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, but a Mountain Dwarf cleric built for melee might also work.
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.
Every subrace works for the Fighter, but Mountain Dwarf is the go-to option for their Strength increase.
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.
The ability scores aren't a perfect fit, but a mountain dwarf makes a perfectly fine Paladin, and the dwarf's natural durability nicely complements the paladin's durability.
A decent option, but not perfect. Hill dwarfs will be better with spells and more durable, but mountain dwarfs will do better offensively thanks to their Strength increase.
Darkvision is great, but that's the best thing that the Dwarf can offer the Rogue. A Dexterity increase is simply too important.
No Charisma increase.
No Charisma increase.
Mark of Warding provides an Intelligence increase, and the Dwarf's core racial traits provide durability that the Wizard sorely needs.
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.
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 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.