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Delving Deep on D&D Dwarves with Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

The Nerdarchists are back into Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes and we’re talking about those bearded cannonballs, dwarves of Dungeons & Dragons. If you read my elven article, you know I prefer my humanoids to be very alien compared to humans and dwarves are no exception. What do you get when you combine long-lived, stout, stubborn, and beardy? Well, I’m not sure about you, but let’s dive into D&D dwarves and see what I get.

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes D&D dwarves

A dwarven stronghold is the bedrock of civilization. An island of stability in a turbulent world. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

D&D dwarves and magic

D&D dwarves

A dwarf as seen in the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook. [Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast]

Like most Dungeon Masters, I take inspiration from all around me. Taking cues from Warhammer Fantasy and a smattering of other sources, within my world, dwarves are unable to conjure arcane magic. Their very nature does not allow them to weave magic like elves or humans have learned to do. But the stubborn nature of dwarves has allowed them to develop a system to capture, replicate and even create arcane effects. This meticulous craft is jealously guarded by the dwarves who practice it and most races wouldn’t even be able to live long enough to learn the basics. They call it Rune Magic and the Rune Priests who practice it are on par with the most powerful arcane casters in the world.

Unable to directly conjure arcane magic, the Rune Priests instead inscribe ancient runes that with perfect form and patience are able to trap energies loose in the material plane and allows them to channel the magic directly from these runes. The intention of this is to give dwarves and their magic a distinct flavor. Out of sheer stubbornness and in spite of their nature, have learned to harness great powers. Its very telling of the dwarven people that nothing can hold against their will and ability to craft.

Rune Priests in your D&D game

Mechanically, the Rune Priest doesn’t need to be any different. The lore of this only weighs on the descriptions of spellcasting. Instead of a literal book, a Rune Priest spell book might be a stone tablet, staff or even a gauntlet with runes inscribed into it. The Rune Priest chisels and picks runes every morning directly into their chosen surface and when they cast their spells, the runes heal, leaving a clean surface.

I do have a soft rule that there has never been a dwarven sorcerer, but that just opens the door for a really interesting character who breaks the norm and might even be shunned for their freak nature. Divine spellcasters are unaffected by this as their power comes from the divine and is gifted to them, same with warlock powers. Bard spells can easily be described as coming from a perfectly crafted and magically imbued dwarven instrument and the dwarf has spent centuries learning the exact chords and limericks to unlock its power. The Rune Priest is meant to bring a lot of flavor to dwarven wizards, not limit players mechanically.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of the Rune Priest? Are there any weird differences you’ve flavored your world with? Has Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes helped bring the D&D dwarves to life more fully in your world? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time.

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Jacob Kosman

Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn't separating planes.

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