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Anyone reading this will know dwarves have been playable characters since the earliest days of D&D, and that they’re largely inspired by Tolkien’s works. As with dragonborn, this entry is for dwarves that can serve as opposition or allied NPCs. They’re present in both the Monster Manual and the Monster Vault.
For decades, D&D has set the standard of what fantasy dwarves look like. If a piece of media features fantasy dwarves and wasn’t either written by Tolkien or adapted from one of his works, it’s probably taking inspiration from D&D’s dwarves. Even authors who want to make their dwarves “special” measure this specialness by how much their dwarves differ from D&D’s.
Because of this, I’m not going to waste too many words describing what present-day dwarves look like in Fourth Edition’s implied setting. Beards, axes, fake Scottish accents, quality engineering, love of gold. One new thing about their aesthetic that I liked very much is that dwarf-made armor is sloped like a tank’s, and their weapons have the same angular quality to them.
In Fourth Edition’s implied setting, recorded dwarf history pretty much begins with a centuries-long period of enslavement to the giants, and the process by which they rebelled against their masters with the aid of the forge god Moradin shapes their culture to this day. So yeah, while these dwarves still distrust elves and constantly fight goblins and orcs, it’s the giants they really hate.
The iconic dwarf trait is the same one PC dwarves get: Stand Your Ground, which allows them to ignore 1 square of forced movement if they wish, and to make a save to avoid falling prone against attacks that would knock them down. They also have low-light vision and a natural Speed of 5 that doesn’t get reduced by encumbrance or heavy armor.
As you’d expect, all dwarves are Medium Natural Humanoids. We’ll look at the provided stat blocks by order of level:
Present only in the MV, this is a Level 1 Artillery Minion. It wears chain and carries a warhammer, a crossbow and 20 bolts. In addition to the usual dwarf traits, it has Dwarf Solidarity, which gives it a +4 bonus to AC and Reflex when adjacent to other dwarves.
The warrior’s warhammer attack does a bit more damage if it’s adjacent to other dwarves, and its crossbow does a bit more damage against targets that don’t have cover.
So the proper way to use these warriors is to form them up in a large firing line overlooking an open killing field. They can still hold their own in melee, too, so you can also have them in a square Roman-legion like formation that slowly walks up to the enemy while shooting them before engaging with the hammers. That last bit works better if the opposition doesn’t have any area attacks, but Dwarf Solidarity ensures they have some extra protection from many of those as well.
Dwarf Clan Guard
This MV-only entry is a Level 1 Soldier with 33 HP. It wears plate, wields a warhammer and a heavy shield, and carries 4 light hammers for throwing. It possesses all the usual dwarf traits.
The warhammer basic attack also pushes the target 1 square on a hit, and allows the clan guard to shift 1 square to follow. The throwing hammer has range 10, and both it and the warhammer mark the target for a turn on a hit.
The Clan Guard can keep foes on their toes with a Double Hammer Strike, which allows it to attack with the warhammer and a throwing hammer without provoking opportunity attacks. This recharges on a 3-6, and should allow the guard to keep both the foe it’s engaged with and someone further away marked at the same time.
Clan Guards want to rush ahead of that massive crossbowdwarf formation and keep their enemies from closing in. Their own formation is likely to be looser, with each one aiming to tie as many foes down with marks as possible.
This MM-only entry is basically a non-minion version of the Dwarf Warrior, being Level 4 Artillery with 46 HP. It too can attack with a warhammer and a crossbow, and the crossbow gets +2 to attacks and +1d6 to damage against targets without cover.
A stronger version of the Clan Guard, present only in the MM. This Level 5 soldier has 64 HP and pretty much the same gear as the clan guard.
Its basic warhammer attack has no special effects aside from its damage, but it can use a Shield Bash that targets Fortitude, does more damage than the warhammer, and either pushes the target 1 square or knocks it prone (dwarf’s choice). This recharges on a 5-6.
The hammerer can also make a free warhammer attack against anyone who tries to push it or knock it prone. None of its attacks apply marks.
Sample Encounters and Final Impressions.
The one in the MM is level 4: 2 hammerers, 2 bolters, and a cavern choker who likely uses the fight as an opporunity to ambush the PCs.
The contrast between the two books is interesting here. The MV dwarves are all strictly level 1, and “Clan Guard” implies some sort of elite unit, which means the vast majority of a dwarf hold’s defenders would be level 1 minions. Their most common enemies would be goblins and orcs, whose levels hover around 2 or 3 for the most part and which are implied to include a lot more regulars. So according to the MV, the typical dwarf settlement is in trouble and could really use some outside adventurer help!
The MM entries are level 4-5 regulars, which would mean that typical dwarf settlement can hold its own against orcs and goblins unless the other side has a crushing numbers advantage.
As for compatibility, I think the Bolter can be used as-is to represent a veteran dwarf warrior, but you can entirely replace the Hammerer with an up-leveled Clan Guard.