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Shield dwarves, also known as mountain dwarves,[2][13] were among the most common of the dwarven peoples.[14] Once the rulers of mighty kingdoms across Faerûn, the shield dwarves had since fallen by the wayside after centuries of warfare with their goblinoid enemies. Since then, shield dwarves were less commonly seen throughout Faerûn, though during the Era of Upheaval the subrace, spurred on by the Thunder Blessing, began to retake an important role in local politics.[15] They were the most common dwarf in the north of Faerûn.[16]


Shield dwarves were on average half a foot taller than other dwarves. Their skin was fair or lightly tanned and they had green or silvery blue eyes with long light brown or red hair, growing gray and white with age. Most males and even some females had large beards and mustaches. The females were slightly shorter and less heavy than the males.[11]


Shield dwarves were a cynical and gruff people, but they were not, despite a reputation to the contrary, fatalistic, still possessing some hope for the future. Typically, shield dwarves took time to trust and even longer to forgive but the dwindling of their race led many to be more open to other ways of thinking. Shield dwarven attitudes were formerly typically divided between the Hidden and the Wanderers, two separate schools of thought amongst the race, though since the Thunder Blessing this separation began to erode. The Hidden, like the gold dwarves, believed it best to take an isolationist policy towards other races, fortifying their mountain homes and continuing their ancient ways, while the Wanderers were more adventurous, seeking their fortunes on the surface.[7]

However, while shield dwarves had not always been so open-minded, there was a long tradition of adventurism in the race and many young dwarves, particularly after the Thunder Blessing, hoped to find glory in doing great deeds in distant lands. Less self-interested shield dwarves also took to the adventuring life to reclaim ancient strongholds or treasures long lost. Whatever the case, most shield dwarves who ventured beyond their homes were fighters or clerics trained in personal combat, leaning on the strong martial traditions of their people against the orcs, goblins, trolls, and giants that threatened the race. Experienced dwarven adventurers might well go on to become battleragers or dwarven defenders, while clerics might become runecasters. Arcane spellcasters were fairly rare, however, among shield dwarves, who distrusted magic.[7]


Traditionally, clan and class meant everything among the shield dwarves but as their civilization declined so did the importance of these issues. Although bloodline was still a mark of pride for a dwarf from a particularly strong clan, personal accomplishments came to mean more practically than the old ways, which seemed increasingly irrelevant. Among the Hidden, traditions remained strong, but there was an increasing number of shield dwarves willing to leave the mountains for a life as adventurers or craftsmen among humans.[7]

Family life remained a prime concern for dwarves, however, and while elders played a diminishing role in childrearing, the relationships between parent and child or siblings remained as strong as ever. Most dwarves were literate and were taught to read at an early age, before being handed off to an apprenticeship. In the workplace, shield dwarves were taught to work for not only themselves and their family but the greater good of their clan. Most shield dwarves, while proud of their work, were fairly humble and avoided ostentatious displays of decadence. After a shield dwarf lost his or her ability to work physically, they remain a valued part of the community for their experience and wisdom and when they died they were honored with funeral rites appropriate to their legacy.[7]

Some notable shield dwarf sigils.

Shield dwarves spoke a number of Dwarven dialects, the most common being the Shanatan language, which was spoken along the Sword Coast from the Shining Sea to the Spine of the World. Further inland, a number of shield dwarves spoke Galenan, which was heavily influenced by Damaran. Most shield dwarves were also fluent in Common and the extensive trading contacts of the race encouraged many to learn Chondathan, Damaran, and Illuskan and even Elven and Gnome as well. Shield dwarf warriors might also be encouraged to learn the languages of their enemies, such as Draconic, Giant, Orc, or Goblin.[17]

Art & Leisure[]

Shield dwarves were fine craftsmen but, more than other dwarven races, their craft tended to be war. Shield dwarves accumulated a wide variety of weaponry in the defense of their homelands and, unlike many dwarves, did not limit themselves simply to hammers or picks, instead drawing upon axes, urgroshes, spears, swords, and mauls as well. Shield dwarves typically equipped themselves in heavy armor fashioned from mithral, which they favored over the adamantine of gold dwarves.[18]

For pets, shield dwarves favored bats, canaries, or small lizards such as the spitting crawler. Like other dwarves, they used larger lizards or mules as beasts of burden and employed ponies as their war steeds, except in Iltkazar, where many rode upon riding lizards. Shield dwarven ponies were most commonly Island, Nether, or Whiteshield ponies. In the Far Hills, dwarves were known to ride dire bats through the underground tunnels of their home. Other, more adventurous shield dwarves might also try to mount dire boars.[18]

Magic & Religion[]

While shield dwarves were openly dismissive of magic, they nonetheless relied on it to a significant degree in defense. Among the Hidden, illusionists and abjurers were immensely valued, since they could hide or protect a clan from enemy attack, layering their defenses with protective spells and rituals. Shield dwarves also made extensive use of magic items, though the Hidden and Wanderers differed over which type of items were best employed (armor and weaponry, respectively). A few magic items unique to the shield dwarves included doorbreakers, hammers of staggering blows, stonereavers, and foesplitter axes.[17]

In general, shield dwarves were more open to divine magic and clerics, paladins, runecasters, and runesmiths were all fairly common. Shield dwarf clerics had even fashioned a few prayers of their own, such as mindless rage and shape metal.[17] Shield dwarf clerics most commonly worshiped Dumathoin, who was chosen as the chief god of Shanatar during the first election for the high king of the Wyrmskull Throne, for whom Moradin selected the high priest of Dumathoin, Ultoksamrin, though this eventually led Clan Duergar, the worshipers of Laduguer, to pull away from the other kingdoms of Shanatar, each of whom had their own patron deity but all of whom, except for Clan Duergar, recognized Ultoksamrin.[17]

For the most part, shield dwarves venerated all the Morndinsamman and nearly all of the pantheon besides Laduguer and Deep Duerra had followers among the race. In practice, however, where Dumathoin did not dominate, Moradin and Berronar, the patrons of Alatorin, or Marthammor Duin, the patron of adventurers and explorers, did. Most prominent were Dumathoin's priests, who oversaw all burials among the race.[19]


Shield dwarves, while gruff, were not abrasive in personality and generally enjoyed the company of others, even those not of their own kind. Most of all, shield dwarves got along with other dwarves, though gold dwarves they believed to be naive and overconfident. Although shield dwarves had a long history of disputes with the elves, most among both peoples were tolerant and even fond of the other. For gnomes, shield dwarves had nothing but fondness, particularly the rock gnomes and deep gnomes, and dwarves had a long tradition of friendship with most of their human neighbors.[18]

There were exceptions to the shield dwarves' tolerance. They were openly hostile with their kin the duergar, who blamed the shield dwarves for their enslavement by the mind flayers. Shield dwarves also had little tolerance for half-orcs, seeing them as little different to orcs, and for planetouched, who were either too alien to their experiences to understand or too much like previous enemies. Earth genasi were the only planetouched that shield dwarves would easily trust and they were in fact welcomed into most delves across the North.[18]


The ancestral homelands of the shield dwarves were located primarily in the North. Shield dwarves could also be found in Damara, Vaasa, the Vast, and the Western Heartlands. Of all their strongholds, the most important was likely Citadel Adbar.[15] However, while the shield dwarves retained many homelands of their own, generations of emigration by the Wanderers caused a vast diaspora of shield dwarves to spread across human lands. These scattered communities often formed into loose approximations of a traditional dwarven clan, maintaining their own ways while integrating into the local community.[20]


Circa −12,000 DR, Taark Shanat led a migration of dwarves west from Bhaerynden, leading them into the Cloaker Wars with the cloakers of Rringlor Noroth. When Taark killed four blue dragons, the dwarves were victorious and settled the Rift of Dhalnadar as their new home, founding the realm of Alatorin. The lair of the dragons was renamed Brightaxe Hall and the Wyrmskull Throne was formed from the dragons' skulls.[11]

Taark's eight sons spread beneath the lands later known as Tethyr and Amn to build kingdoms of their own and each adopted a child of Moradin as their deity, but fighting over territory broke out between these kingdoms around −9000 DR. This allowed the drow of Guallidurth to attack and capture Alatorin in the First Spider War, but it was later reclaimed by all eight kingdoms during the Second Spider War when they allied against the invaders.[11]

Although unrest between the allied kingdoms began to increase, the Mindstalker Wars were initiated by the illithids of Oryndoll around −8100 DR. This conflict lasted around twenty years with the dwarves emerging victorious, but Clan Duergar in the caverns of Barakuir was destroyed.[11]

The Third Spider War began around −6150 DR when the Guallidurth drow attacked once again. After around thirty years, the dwarves were forced out of Brightaxe Hall although they took the Wyrmskull Throne with them.[11]

Moving to the Surface[]

When the dwarves moved to the surface in search of new territory, an initial early allegiance with the humans against the djinni ended when the rulers of Coramshan turned to evil gods. The dwarves established the kingdom of High Shanatar north of the Marching Mountains around −5960 DR.[7]

A looted tomb started a bitter conflict between the dwarves and the humans which ended with the fall of High Shantar around −2600 DR, after a long period of expansion for Calimshan.[7]

Fall of the Empires[]

The original kingdoms of Deep Shanatar were destroyed around −1800 DR when the duergar invaded what was once their home. This was known as the Kin Clashes and left only Iltkazar surviving.[7]

More and more dwarves migrated north, leaving behind their old kingdoms and forming Oghrann, Haunghdannar, Ammarindar and Delzoun. Eventually, all of these dwarven settlements fell, the last of which being Ammarindar in 882 DR as a result of the demons of Wulgreth of Ascalhorn.[21]



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  2. 2.0 2.1 Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford (2014). Player's Handbook 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 20. ISBN 978-0-7869-6560-1.
  3. Mike Mearls, Stephen Schubert, James Wyatt (June 2008). Monster Manual 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7869-4852-9.
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  5. 5.0 5.1 James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo (February 2001). Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 47. ISBN 0-7869-1832-2.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), pp. 94–95. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
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  13. Roger E. Moore (January 1999). Demihumans of the Realms. (TSR, Inc.), p. 7. ISBN 0-7869-1316-9.
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  21. Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. Edited by Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 84. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.


Arctic dwarfChultan dwarfDesert dwarfGold dwarfShield dwarfUrdunnir dwarfWild dwarf
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