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Duergar, also known as gray dwarves, are a subterranean race. They are close kin to dwarves, but with a diabolic taint to their blood. They now carve out their existence in the Underdark, often near volcanoes. Their kinship to surface dwarves can be compared to that of the drow to surface elves.
Like their dwarven brethren, duergar are typically stocky figures, though beyond this there are many differences. Both male and female duergar are typically bald, with females also lacking the capacity to grow facial hair. When they are not bald, however, duergar grow spiny quills like those of a porcupine rather than typical hair, both along their scalp and in their beards, which they can shoot at their enemies. Many are also thinner than their dwarven brethren. Most obvious, however, is their dull gray skin and hair, often matched with an equally stolid expression.
Because many duergar found on the surface world are criminal exiles, a surface dweller who encounters one of the gray dwarves is likely to notice facial and arm tattoos that mark the duergar as a traitor to his or her people.
Duergar are in some ways even better adapted to underground living than dwarves. While dwarves lack the capacity to see completely in the deepest darkness, this is not a problem for duergar, who are so adapted. Duergar are also immune to many of the ancient techniques used by the mind flayers to control them, such as paralysis, phantasms, alchemical poisons, or some types of illusion, as well as having a general resistance to fire or poison.
Duergar are also a sneaky, crafty people, unlike their honor-bound cousins and often excel at setting up ambushes or moving out of sight. Conversely, many also are good at detecting hidden objects. A few duergar also possess natural abilities akin to the enlarge and invisibility spells. This comes at a cost, however, and duergar, like drow of the past, have a special vulnerability to sunlight.
Duergar are at their heart a grim and bitter race, pessimistic of their future and deeply cynical regarding the motives of others. In a dark inversion of the strong family bonds typical of their dwarven kin, duergar view their kin and clan as adversaries set on holding them back, an expectation that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy since every duergar is taught to believe this from their early childhood. As a result, duergar are a dark and cruel race, who show no mercy to their foes and who take great pleasure in inflicting pain on others, a welcome relief from what they believe is a meaningless life ended with betrayal.
Because of their pessimism, duergar rarely adventure of their own free will and are instead most commonly exiles cast out of their society. These adventurers, most commonly concerned with personal gratification, are frequently fighters or rogues, leaning on their training against the threats of the Underdark. Clerics are fairly common as well, serving the duergar gods in order to gain power and influence within society. Unlike the dwarves, duergar have no particular prejudices against arcane spellcasters and both smiths specializing in the smithy of enchanted items and wizards are well respected. Because of their cruel nature, experienced duergar adventurers often become assassins or blackguards, though the veneration of runes in duergar culture also leads many to become runecasters.
Duergar are, as a whole, generally cruel and malevolent creatures, but as in most evil races this is as much a cultural affectation as a psychological trait. In the past, before the Spellplague, a few duergar turned away from the worship of the wicked gods who ruled over the Duergar such as Laduguer and Deep Duerra and found salvation through the Morndinsamman. Other duergar have found escape from their society through petty crime, tattooed and cast out from their cities beneath the surface and driven into the arms of other races. Their grim disposition, however, makes them unlikely to form many lasting friendships.
Duergar primarily speak Duergan, a dialect of Dwarven descended from the dialect of the shield dwarves and heavily influenced by mind flayer and drow words found in Undercommon. Duergar themselves are commonly fluent in Undercommon, the lingua franca of the Underdark. Other common second languages for duergar are those of their enemies, such as Draconic, Drow, Giant, Goblin, or Orc. Others might learn Terran in order to conduct trade with earth elementals, while others learn Common to trade with the surface world.
Art and leisureEdit
As the worshipers of Laduguer, the duergar have a long tradition of crafting that goes back to their days as the rulers of Barakuir. Like the dwarves, duergar are fine craftsmen with an eye for detail, though they are often pragmatic enough to eschew the ostentatious decorations of their kin, which they feel not only is wasteful, but which could potentially give away their presence when treading the Underdark. Additionally, the art of duergar is, unlike that of their brethren, notable for its veneration of blood and cruelty, with scenes of warfare marking much of their art.
Most of all, duergar are concerned with practicality, peddling military saddles, thunderstones, poisons, and an extraordinarily effective form of armor lubricant. Like their dwarven kin, duergar prefer weapons that can serve as tools on the fly, such as hammers or picks.
For pets or familiars, duergar often enjoy the company of Underdark creatures, such as bats, spiders, osquips, or spitting crawlers. For beasts of burden, duergar use large lizards or steeders.
Magic and religionEdit
Unlike dwarves, duergar have a strong tradition of magic, both in the divine and arcane varieties and duergar clerics, runecasters, runesmiths, and wizards are highly respected for their skill. In particular, the duergar have a fondness for magically crafted items which they can use to aid them in combat, protect their minds against tampering, or to hide from enemy senses. Duergar have crafted many magic items unique to them, such as absorbing shields, bolts of battering, and stonereaver axes.
Before the Spellplague the chief god of the duergar was Laduguer, the dwarven god of crafting, a tradition going back to the days of Clan Duergar, when the god served as the house's divine patron. Early on, the veneration of Laduguer led to disputes with many of the other kingdoms of Shanatar, who chose to venerate Dumathoin as the patron of the entire shield dwarven race. When Clan Duergar was enslaved by the mind flayers the duergar carried on their worship in captivity, although many secretly formed pacts with the devils of the Nine Hells as well.
Although the duergar formally venerated all the Morndinsamman, the duergar in their captivity became only more devout in their exclusive worship of Laduguer and, later on, his adopted daughter Deep Duerra. Duerra, initially a duergar herself, was beloved among the duergar for having stolen the Invisible Art from the mind flayers during her campaign against them. Laduguer and Duerra would perish however during the Spellplague and, in their desperation, the duergar turned to Asmodeus.
Duergar are a coarse and distrustful race who feel that other races are out to get them, whether they be from the Underdark or the surface world. In spite of this, duergar are usually willing to trade with outside races, particularly from the surface world, for the sake of profit and the relations between duergar and their sometime enemies, sometimes friends the drow and deep gnomes are especially complicated. However, the duergar have absolutely no love in their heart for their closest of kin, the shield dwarves, who the duergar feel abandoned them to the onslaught of the mind flayers. Since then, the duergar have waged war time and time again against the shield dwarves, demonstrating a deep-seated loathing.
Initially, the duergar were a clan of shield dwarves in the dwarven kingdom of Barakuir, located within the ancient realm of Shanatar. Clan Duergar, which venerated Laduguer as their patron, was an ambitious and powerful house, believing that they should lead the kingdoms of Shanatar themselves. When they were denied following the Second Spider War Clan Duergar turned away from the other dwarven clans, paying only lip service to the Wyrmskull Throne. This proved a mistake when the mind flayers of Oryndoll, seeing the isolation of Barakuir, attacked the realm in -8100 DR, enslaving or killing most of the population.
During their captivity, which lasted for generations, the illithids performed many cruel and unusual experiments on the dwarves. It was during this harsh period in their history that the duergar, desperate and believing that Moradin had abandoned them, turned to the worship of devils, cementing their ties to the fiends and eventually even breeding with them. Eventually, the resulting race rose up against their captors and gained their freedom from the mind flayers.
Now free, the duergar carved out a new home for themselves beneath the Great Glacier, founding the city of Gracklstugh in -3717 DR. The Deepkingdom spread rapidly through the northern reaches of the Underdark, reaching its peak in -2600 DR before a war with the quaggoths of Ursandunthar caused it to enter a gradual decline, battling the remnants of the nation and urged on by drow for centuries thereafter.
Further to the south, beneath Central Faerûn, the duergar established Dunspeirrin underneath the Orsraun Mountains, which grew to encompass the caverns beneath Turmish and the Dragon Coast. Dunspeirrin reached its height of power in -1800 DR, when Queen Duerra defeated an alliance of drow from Undreath and the mind flayers of Oryndoll, reclaiming Deep Shanatar and Alatorin. As her divine reward, Duerra was raised to godhood by Laduguer. Afterward, however, the duergar of Dunspeirrin entered into a decline, returning to power following the Time of Troubles only to fall into a long and arduous war with the Army of Gold.
The duergar inhabiting the Underdark and have been left as cruel and evil as their captors and bitterly withdrawn as a result of their experiences.