Gray-Dwarves; the "Duergar"

The Duergar; often called "Gray-Dwarves", live well-hidden in the cold, darkness of the Underdark. These evil dwarves revel in mischief and evil deeds of all sorts and despising their cousins still living on a surface world now forbidden to them.

Duergar are sullen, insular and tireless workers. They tend to be better neighbors than Dark-Elves, but they are always eager to acquire new slaves to supply their labor needs. The duergar don't waste slaves in the sort of cruel spectacles other evil races enjoy - they simply work their captives to death.

Duergar are masters of treachery and deceit and are engaged in an everlasting struggle with the other races of the Underdark in their search for dominance over those realms. Drow are their fierce competitors in this domain, but duergar have surrounded themselves with such ingenuity that even dark elves have learned to respect them as capable adversaries. Duergar retain much of the dwarven race’s traits even if their metabolism has changed somewhat to adapt to their environment, and their communities have evolved into a well-oiled fighting power to be reckoned with. Duergar are not to be taken lightly. They are cunning and intelligent and, most of all can be very unpredictable.

Gray dwarves have few good points aside from courage and determination. They are avaricious, short tempered, sullen, violent and ungrateful. Duergar nurse grudges for a lifetime and never stop counting the slights (real or imagined) they've received. They believe that might makes a right, and they have no pity for those who are too weak to defend their property or themselves. On the positive side, duergar in minding their own business (so long as other folks don't have anything they want) and working hard to excel at their chosen crafts. No obstacle daunts a grey dwarf who has settled on a goal. Duergar may not have much loyalty to anyone other than themselves, but they never leave a job half-done.


The physiology of a Duergar is essentially dwarven, with an average height of 4 feet and the same general build of a dwarf, the duergar appear at first glance like their better known cousins. While their basic body style might be similar, a careful examination will note the duergar's emaciated body, grey skin, greasy grey, blakc or white hair, and their most marked divergence from other dwarves; most duergar, male and female alike, are completely bald. Duergar generally lack any body hair whatsoever, with the few exceptions to this seen as freakish deviants by other grey dwarves. When duergar does begin to grow hair, he or she usually shaves it as quickly as possible. Growing hair openly is usually a mark or defiance, seen only in those grey dwarves who are outcast of their own kind. Certain duergar bear the signs of their earthen bonds more visibly than others. Few grey dwarves have body hair of any sort, but they do occasionally develop stony protrusions as replacements. While a duergar with rocky scales for eyebrows or a scalp covered in glittering quartz points would be considered a rare oddity, they would by no means be unheard of. In fact, such "earth touched" duergar are usually treated with grey reverence, as they usually possess a special kinship with the rock and stone that most gret dwarves lost long ago. It is no uncommon for these special duergar to hold positions of spiritual leadership.

A duergar's emaciated appearance is not an indication of weakness, despite the wasted look of a grey dwarf's muscles and flesh. Instead of muscular bulk, the duergar have developed strong, thick bones and extremely resilient tendons. This gives them the same strength as other dwarven races while seeming frail and thin; quite fitting to a race that is dedicated to deception and misdirection.


There is but one driving force that pushes duergar deeper into the underground and makes them thrive in the dark; Greed. The duergar have an unquenchable lust for gold, gems, and precious metals. Duergar feel greed towards everything they see, from the caverns that surround them to the creatures they encounter and enslave. Anything a duergar comes into contact with is a potential possession waiting to be claimed and taken.

Mines are sometimes the source of pride of entire communities and whole clans are devoted to working them. The majority of each grey dwarven generation follows in the steps of their fathers and forefathers, becoming miners or engaging in a related profession by the time that they are adults. Blacksmithing and jewellery making are considered secondary professions, even if they do contribute to the growth of the clan's wealth.

Another valid way for duergar to contribute to the wealth of their clan is through the shadowy arts of thievery and assassination. Naturally quite and invisible, grey dwarves are well suited for such pursuits. It is a mark of pride among these twisted people to collect possessions from their slain victims; the more valuable the soils, the greater the value of the duergar in the eyes of his foul folk. Duergar inclined to murder and thievery also usually practice their storytelling skills, though this art is put just as dark a purpose.

How the duergar acquires this stolen wealth is just as important as its worth, because the grey dwarves greatly enjoy stories of death and suffering. Duergar rogues with the ability to relate the details of their exploits to their fellows can gain status and prestige. The bloodier and more heinous the acts performed by the storyteller, the more appreciated the story of their commission will be received by the duergar’s audience. In this way, duergar come together to share in vile tales and establish a sort of order amongst themselves- a ranking of dark deeds and darker words.

About the only thing considered inappropriate at these gatherings is a woman's voice. Women rarely gain status outside their clan and are not allowed a profession. Young girls are taught to obey their future husbands and care for their children. Tough they do not go into apprenticeships; they are trained in the home arts and excel at transforming the bare surfaces of their stone houses into pleasant living areas. These skills will determine a female's chance at being chosen as a brief by a wealthy family and at bearing the sons of a renowned house with pride. Her adult name is chosen when she becomes a spouse and is generally given by the clan of her new husband. She does not retain her previous possessions, except what she brings as a gift into her new house. Mysogyny is a shared value amongst Duergar.

Greed is nothing alien to the hearts of any dwarves. In the duergar, this avarice is heightened to an almost insane degree. Anything of value a duergar sees, a duergar wants. Practicality, usefulness and prior ownership have no bearing on this desire. Much of a grey dwarf's life is spent satisfying his greed or seeking out new things to want. This overwhelming desire is not limited to physical objects. This greed and the lengths to which a duergar will go to satisfy it are important steps towards understanding the duergar's people.

The trait that truly defines a duergar is neither greed nor violence. It is toil. While the grey dwarves do take slaves and force them into dangerous exhausting labour, they generally perform the same kinds of work themselves. The duergar are no strangers to their mines, working long hours with no rest or pause for food or drink. This is done as the grey dwarves' god demands of them, unceasing toil is sacrament among the Duergar.

While they are creatures of great hatred and evil, the duergar are also driven by the same passions and emotions as any other sentient race. They care for home and family, they honor their ancestors, and they can be moved to do great things in the name of their deity. They work to better themselves and their kind, they constantly strive to improve their living and working conditions, and they will give their lives to defend things they value. The duergar may be vicious enemies of all that travel the dark passages below, but they are also living creatures with lives that do not revolve around senseless combat.


Duergar on the whole are evil, but some turn their backs on their fellows and seek a different sort of life. For some, this means abandoning the evil gods of the duergar and embracing the traditional pantheon, while for others it is a more practical betrayal, using involving stealing from other gray dwarves. When discovered, an outcast is typically stripped of his possessions, tattooed on the face and arms to mark him as a criminal and cast out under penalty of death. Some clans secretly aid their outcasts – or encourage them to leave before they are found out. To return is to die. This grim fate drives most outcasts to the surface, where they struggle to survive in an unwelcoming world. The surface dwarves hate the duergar because they turned to evil, and no other surface race holds much love for the gray dwarves. Most of the gray dwarves met by surface dwellers are tattooed exiles, although a small number were lucky or smart enough to leave before being discovered.


The duergar dwell in unlit caverns deep below the surface, existing in the midst of a labyrinth of tertiary passages winding through the hard stone of the under earth, are where these shadowy grey dwarves make their homes. This confusing abyss of tangled caves is the domain of the secretive and isolationist duergar; a physical expression of the duplicity and darkness that exists in the hearts of those who lurk there. The duergar do not find their maze-like territory confusing at all. Each cavern system's twists and turns are carefully mapped out by the specific clan of grey dwarves that claim them. By the time a duergar is twenty, the passages that make up his or her clan home is utterly committed to memory and can be traversed expertly even if utterly blind. This intimate knowledge of the cavernous geography around their clan homes is part of every grey dwarf's teachings with new passages added constantly as mining and exploration expand their claimed territories.


The life of a duergar rotates around his clan, from his first step into the world to his last breath in the tunnels. The clan defines his fate, status and sometimes his position as a respected or feared member of the community. This bond is instilled at a very early age and is rarely broken.

Men and women have separate and specific roles in society. Although women have the responsibility of taking care of the babies, males and females of the clan are separated from each other, thus establishing sexual boundaries early in their infancy. They will not have further contact with one another until they have reached the age at which they are considered old enough to be married, with the bride being chosen for her husband by the clan.

Female duergar continue to be nursed and brought up by their mothers, but it is the father's duty to teach a male child about life and his role within the family. When the young boy reaches the age of responsibility, his father takes him to the mines, where he will work and learn about his environment and what he is expected to do as mature member of the household. If a young duergar demonstrates special talents such as magical or trade skills, he will be sent to an apprenticeship, paid for by the clan or bartered in return for future favors. These privileged youths will have the advantage of a better education and will be a source of great pride, as they new skills will allow the tribe to grow wealthier.

Before he can be fully considered as an adult, the boy has to earn his clan's name. The rite, called the Silent Year, consists of the young male leaving his clan caverns on the eye of his thirtieth birthday. Alone, he must survive the passage of a full year outside of the colony. Isolated, he will either fully develop his survival instincts or fail and die in the unforgiving darkness. Upon his return, the new adult will choose his name and take his rightful place. The clan will present him with a chosen bride, according to the dowry she is bringing and her merits as a good housewife. Duergar enter marriage as soon as they are recognized as worthy of bringing new sons into the clan.


Duergar are universally disliked by all other societies and even have trouble getting along with each other. Duergar can't stand drow, sensing condescension and mockery behind the elves' courtesy. The Duergar regard their Shield Dwarf cousins with particular bitterness, dating back to the Shield Dwarves' failure to succor Clan Duergar during the Mindstalker Wars: The Kin Clashes forever cemented the mutual animosity between the two dwarven subraces, a hatred that continues today. Gray Dwarves regard their Gold Dwarf cousins as arrogant rivals and potential threats, but trade is possible between the two groups. Gray Dwarves view the-surface-dwelling races— Elves and half-elves, gnomes, halflings, half-orcs and planetouched — with suspicion but willingly trade with those who are foolhardy enough to venture into the depths. The Duergar harbor a longstanding hatred of their subterranean rivals, the Drow and the Svirfneblin. Nevertheless, they regularly trade with both groups, pitting them against one another whenever possible.


Long ago, the race of Illithids, using a mercenary army of Dark-elves, infiltrated and conquered Nekrum Feyr; the stronghold of the underground dwarven-kingdom of Tor-Kazon. When the city fell, thousands of dwarves were captured and brought back to the Illithid city of Sharularen. Once there, the dwarves were subjected to cruel experiments to convert them in what was called the "Dwer-Ghar;" a hybrid race of dwarves who would be strong in warfare, engineering, and psionics.

After generations of enslavement and cruel experimentation at the hands of the Illithids, the duergar rose against their masters and regained their freedom. They emerged as a new sub-race of dwarf with limited mental powers. During the War of Wrath, many duergar served as mercenaries in the service of the Dark-Elves, serving as sappers and occasionally foot-soldiers. The duergar had not lost their skills in crafting metal and stone, and soon put these to good work for the retreating Drow. In the centuries following the War of Wrath, the duergar built several great cities of their own, vowing never again to be slaves of any race.