A look at the Duergar race

4e content on blogs has been a little lacking in recent weeks thanks to the D&D Next playtest, so I thought i’d write up my ideas on the duergar race in a Winning Races style article. I’ve kept the racial stat block identical to the MM2 version, with the exception that I opted to give the Duergar a constitution bonus as their primary stat because its what Infernal Quills uses, and I chose Strength as the second stat option with wisdom as I see the duergar having lots of fighters. I know this effectively gives them the same stat choices as normal dwarves, but I feel the feats and racial utilities I present here make battleminds and fighters a nice choice…

Some material, such as the stat block, and the surface outpost and fortresses of the deep text comes from official WotC material, and is copyright to Wizards of the Coast.



Duergar are an evil race, with dark and deadly secrets. They were once the deep dwelling grey dwarves, the first children of Moradin, who dug and carved the tunnels and caverns of the Underdark, and paved the way for the races of the birth of the world to find the surface.

The grey dwarves were Moradin’s chosen ones, he was pleased with his children, and gave them hearts and minds that desired to work, and the skills and tools with which to do this work. And work they did, emulating their god’s, and creating many new and wondrous things, items that are used today my all races, the axe, the hammer, the pick…

But as the world was shaped and refined by the gods, and men and elves walked the land, the grey dwarves were forgotten, left alone in their dark caverns, forging ceaselessly in an effort to gain recognition. From the anvils of these forgotten beings, dark things were made, things influenced by the opening of the Living Gate and energies of the Far Realm. From the grey dwarves workshop, the grimlock stumbled, sightlessly, down dark corridors, aboleths slimed their way into deep pools, and mind flayers wrapped their tentacles around the living and dead alike.

The grey dwarves became victims of their own dark creations, suffering for generations upon generations in servitude to the brutal mind flayers and slimy aboleths, until they turned to Asmodeus and his army of devils to help them gain their freedom.

Believing that Moradin had abandoned them, the dwarves swore dark oaths to the powers of the Nine Hells, who were only too happy to offer aid in exchange for loyalty.


Average Height: 4′ 2″ – 4′ 8″

Average Weight: 160 – 220 lb.

Ability Scores: +2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom or Strength

Size: Medium

Speed: 6 squares

Vision: Darkvision

Languages: Common, Deep Speech, Dwarven

Skill Bonuses: +2 Dungeoneering

Infernal Quills: You can use infernal quills as an encounter power.


Infernal Quills Duergar Racial Power
“You tense and send the quills projecting from your body into the gaps in your foe’s armor.”
Encounter * Poison
Minor Action * Ranged 3
Target: One creature
Attack: Constitution + 2 vs. AC
Level 11: Constitution + 4 vs. AC
Level 21: Constitution + 6 vs. AC
Hit: 1d8 + Constitution modifier damage, and the target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls and ongoing 2 poison damage (save ends both).
Level 11: 2d8 + Constitution modifier damage, and the target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls and ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends both).
Level 21: 3d8 + Constitution modifier damage, and the target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls and ongoing 8 poison damage (save ends both).

Physical Qualities

While most Duergar are of a similar height to their dwarven brethren, they tend to be of a slimmer build due to the less indulgent diet of the Underdark. Their skin has a dull grey coloration, which has the advantage of helping them blend into the shadowy caverns they call home, and their muscles are lean and as hard as the iron they work in their forges.

Most duergar males are completely bald except for a wiry beard interspersed with sharp quills. Female hair is often spiky, forming short clumps around the bases of the quills that jut angularly from their scalps. These quills drip with a mild toxin, and by tensing muscles in their face, the duergar can forcefully eject a beard quill outwards, launching it from their flesh so that it flies a short distance.

Attitudes and Beliefs

Many believe that the Duergar way of life is a cruel and harsh one, they this is surprisingly untrue for the Duergar themselves. They retain the influence of Moradins creation, and can toil for hours in the heat of forges without sweating. However, Duergar have a well-earned reputation as slavers, using raiding parties to capture humanoid slaves from all sentient races, and using them to undertake tasks that the Duergar deem too risky to endanger their own lives with.

The duergar also actively embrace their mutually beneficial agreement with Asmodeus and the Nine Hells. Many duergar cities have shrines to the infernal forces, and some serve as embassies or frontier military posts for the devils they duergar have aligned themselves with.

Duergar Communities

Duergar society is well structured, and based around the concept of clan, an extended family grouping of duergar, often so ancient that actual kinship between members can be remote. Duergar are highly loyal to their clan, and won’t willingly betray or weaken it. the clans are supported by a caste of priests, who serve the whole of the Duergar community, and are generally worshippers of Asmodeus. While other gods, including Moradin are worshipped, the offerings to these are so minimal as to be insulting.

Each clan is given responsibility of an outpost, and defends this location through the use of miners, soldiers, warrior priestesses and spies. There is rivalry between clans that borders on suppressed hostility, but the priest caste do their best to keep armed conflict between the clans to a minimum.

The location of a clans outpost plays a significant role in the populations outlook and community, and some are presented here:

Surface Raiders

A duergar that lives in an outpost near the surface tends to actively raid settlements. Duergar are commonly sighted in borderland regions, where few patrols or militias can stand up to their attacks. A duergar living near the surface usually sells its slaves to markets in the Underdark or trades the

slaves to duergar living deeper underground, where the slaves are more useful. A duergar slaver often learns the traditions and routines of surface-dwellers, putting those lessons to practice in its raiding techniques. A duergar raider might wait until fall harvest to attack, taking advantage of the large number of isolated, able-bodied workers in the fields.

Fortresses of the Deep

Deep-dwelling duergar make their homes in highly defensible areas of the Underdark, such as on islands in the middle of underground seas, in caverns surrounded by moats of lava, or on the edges of deep chasms. Duergar are typically slow to trust outsiders; an endorsement from a powerful devil is one of the few ways to gain the trust of a duergar. Duergar are always wary of attacks from mind flayers, aboleths, and other creatures that threaten to enslave them once again. Squads of a half-dozen or more soldiers patrol duergar strongholds, sometimes accompanied by devils or by duergar that have the psychic talent to detect mind flayers or aboleths. Duergar might seem defensive or cautious, but they quickly take advantage of their enemies’ weaknesses, whether in combat or in social encounters.

Duergar Adventurers

The nature of a Duergar’s loyalty to their clan means that they often have difficultly in seeing fellow adventurers as anything beyond outsiders, and their inherently evil nature and alignment with infernal forces often puts them at odds with more civilized races. However, given time, and a reason to respect their allies, Duergar will become considerably loyal once their comradeship has been won.

Battlemind Being an ancient race that was changed by the enthrallment of a aberrant race, the Duergar have a natural affinity for the powers of the mind. In particular, the Battleminds combination of mental prowess and physical might, coupled with the bold and arrogant fighting style are a fitting match for a race that feels they can endure any hardship.

Blackguard While Duergar society has a separate priest caste, and their heart, they are a religious race, believing that Moradin forsake them and knowing that Asmodeus saved them. Their priests are warriors who worship dark gods, Blackguards are hardy and warmongering, battlefront leaders who stride into combat confident in the knowledge that nothing can harm them.

Fighter With their physical strength and long lasting endurance, Duergar make excellent Fighters, able to go toe to toe with the mightiest creatures of the Underdark. Each clan trains hundreds of miners and warriors to protect their outpost, but it is the Duergar knights and monster slayers who inspire the legends, passed down to each new generation.

Warlock All Duergar owe their freedom to the infernal forces of Asmodeus and the Nine Hells, and some choose to enter into more complicated pacts with this infernal being, offering their thanks via a live of servitude to the devils masters, in exchange for the arcane powers of fire and brimstone.

Roleplaying a Duergar

When creating a Duergar adventurer, here are a few points to consider.

You have endured. From the early days of the world carving the Underdark, to the dark days of enthrallment, to the repeated attacks from the other denizens of the Underdark, the Duergar have endured, survived and thrived.

Asmodeus is near. The power of Asmodeus runs through your blood, and shapes your body. Your quills drip with the infernal influence that he bestowed upon your race, and you know that you an call upon that devilish heritage at a moments notice.

The clan is important. Without a clan, you are alone, weak and vulnerable. Those who you respect and trust must never be betrayed or weakened, as you depend on them as much as they depend on you.

Duergar Characteristics: Enduring, stealthy, enslaving, hostile, infernally influenced

Duergar Male Names: Brark, Khazar, Thrinzul, Ungkarzor

Duergar Female Names: Drakzi, Murdeza, Shazdri, Zhudraka

Duergar Feats

The feats in this section enhance Duergar capabilities.

Devils Blood
Asmodeus has bestowed upon you the ability to resist the dangers of the infernal forces.
Prerequisite: Duergar
Benefit: You gain Resist 5 Poison and Resist 5 Fire

Brimstone Quills
The fires of the Nine Hells burn within your beard quills, igniting them with the flames of Asmodeus’ might.
Prerequisite: Duergar, infernal quills racial power
Benefit: Your infernal quills power gains the Fire keyword, and deals an additional 1d6 fire damage in addition to the poison damage.

Quills Spray
A Duergars beard quills regrow quickly, a benefit when you cause all your quills to eject from your flesh.
Prerequisite: Duergar, infernal quills racial power
Benefit: The range of your infernal quills power becomes close burst 3, and the target becomes all enemies in burst.

Underdark Sneak
Your dull grey flesh aids you in hiding within the shadows.
Prerequisite: Duergar
Benefit: You gain a +2 racial bonus to Stealth. If you make your stealth check to hide in an area of dim-light or darkness, this increases to a +5 racial bonus.

Duergar Utility Powers

When your Duergar character gains a class utility power after 1st level, you can forgo taking a power granted to you by your class. Instead, you gain aDuergar utility power of the same level or lower. You can use retraining to replace the power later, replacing it with a utility power (a class, a skill, or a Duergar power) of the same level or lower.

Infernal Anger

As combat swells around you, the infernal blood in your body begins to boil and the generations of abuse and servitude drive you on to destroy your foes.

Infernal Anger Duergar Utility 2
“The fires of Asmodeus flow from your blood and empower your attacks.”
Encounter * Fire
Minor Action * Personal
Effect: Until the start of your next turn, your melee attacks deal additional fire damage equal to your Constitution modifier, and you can choose to either push a target 2 squares or knock it prone when you hit.

Fiery Footwork

The infernal flames of the Nine Hells lick at your feet as you move across the battlefield, bringing the deadly power of Asmodeus to your foes in a fiery sweep.

Fiery Footwork Duergar Utility 2
“The battlefield burns with your vengeance as you move swiftly to strike at those who you have determined will die.”
Encounter * Fire
Move Action * Personal
Effect:You shift a number of squares equal to your Constitution modifier. If you end the shift adjacent to an enemy that is marked by you, you can make a basic melee attack against it as a free action. If the attack hits, it deals fire damage in place of any typed damage it would normally deal.

Preach Submission

Those around you do not understand the will of Asmodeus, so it is up to you to bring the word of your saviour to the battlefield. Decrying your foes as unbelievers and blasphemers, they kneel before you, so that you can introduce them to Asmodeus’ might.

Preach Submission Duergar Utility 6
“Those who do not worship your god shall be punished, kneeling before you for infernal judgement.”
Encounter * Charm
Minor Action * Range 5
Target: One enemy
Effect: One enemy you can see in range is marked by you until the end of your next turn. If the target is already marked by you, it is knocked prone and dazed (save ends).

Devilish Sacrifice

The ancient agreement stuck with Asmodeus gave the Duergar access to the Nine Hells, and the hordes of devils that fight endlessly for their masters amusement. By spilling your infernal blood, you can sacrifice your own lifeforce, to drag a devil forth to do your bidding.

Devilish Sacrifice Duergar Utility 10
As your infernal blood spills, the sizzling droplets colleasces into the otherworldly shape of a devil.”
Encounter * Summoning
Minor Action * Personal
Effect: You take damage equal to your healing surge value that can not be reduced in any way. A legion devil hellguard (Monster Vault, Page 53) appears in a square adjacent to you.


2 pings

  1. Stephanie

    Is there a reason for re-creating a race that was just released in the Dungeon Survival Guide?

  2. BlindGeekUK

    The Dungeon Survival Handbook had Goblins, Kobolds and Svirfneblin (deep gnomes). Not a Duergar player race in sight. As far as I know, the only player treatment the Duergar got was the half a page in the back of MM2

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