Excerpts Archive | 7/15/2011
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Neverwinter Racial Variants
Neverwinter Excerpts

When you create a character who belongs to a subrace, you are free to use the race’s standard traits for that character. However, you can instead use the options in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting to set the character apart from other members of his or her race, and to provide ways to develop your character’s identity.

Each subrace description contains a set of benefits. Each of these replaces a standard racial trait, as noted in the benefit’s description. Unless otherwise noted, you can select as many of a subrace’s benefits as you want.

In addition, each subrace includes a racial background tied to it. Like other backgrounds in the game, these offer associated skills and languages. If you choose the racial background that matches your character’s subrace, you can select one of the following benefits.

  • Gain a +2 bonus to checks with a skill associated with your background.
  • Add a skill associated with your background to your list of class skills before you choose your trained skills.
  • Choose one language associated with your background. You can speak, read, and write that language fluently.


In a time before the world knew what it was, Moradin the All-Father forged the dwarves in the fiery heart of Abeir-Toril. His people won their way to the light of the surface through grit and battle prowess. In the hot south of the world that then was, they emerged into the cool heights of the mountains and forged for themselves an empire. Divisions among them forced some away and to the plains of the west, where they settled in what would come to be known as the Great Rift. This banishment to the flatlands would prove to have far-reaching consequences when gods and primordials battled. The world split apart, stealing the first great dwarven empire away—beyond even Moradin’s reach.

Untold years passed until the next great schism among the dwarves, during which their commander led an exodus from the caverns beneath the plains. His people would forge many kingdoms and pass through many generations, eventually becoming shield dwarves. Those who remained in the plains, and who dwell there still, are the gold dwarves.

No grudges endure from such ancient divisions. Dwarves are the children of Moradin, and they have greater common cause with each other than with any other race. However, the two subraces have lived apart for thousands of years, and their lifestyles affect not only their cultures but their physical appearance as well.

If you are a gold dwarf, you are unlikely to have Delzoun blood (unless you have shield dwarf ancestors in your past), so you should consider other character themes such as devil’s pawn, spellscarred harbinger, and Harper agent.

If you are a shield dwarf, you might come from beyond the Spine of the World mountains or some other area of the North. The heir of Delzoun is a good choice for your character theme, but you have other options.

Gold Dwarf

Gold Dwarf Background

Gold dwarves have a long history of living beneath the earth and dealing with its denizens, particularly the drow.

Associated Skill: Dungeoneering

Associated Languages: Deep Speech, Elven

Gold dwarves see themselves as the founders of the dwarven race, their society able to trace an unbroken line back nearly to the world’s creation. It should be no surprise, then, that gold dwarves have a chip on their shoulders—and a heavy one at that. Gold dwarves get along well with others, but they come from a culture where tradition reigns and codes of honor are strict. Each dwarf has a predestined role and a place in society that stems from birth order and bloodline. Gold dwarves who stray from such strictures bring great dishonor on themselves and shame to their clans.

The largely isolated kingdoms of the gold dwarves had begun to expand before the Spellplague hit. Many adventurous gold dwarves left the Great Rift and their other traditional lands to explore distant parts of the surface world. This emigration served them well when their homeland was destroyed by the plague. Much of the Great Rift and the surrounding surface was obliterated, leaving in its wake the massive Underchasm and the realm of Great Bhaerynden. The gold dwarves who were spread across Faerûn returned to the area to help rebuild their homeland, and the realm known as the East Rift was built on and in the ruins of the Great Rift. The disaster and the disruption of those dark times caused numerous gold dwarf clans to accept new ideas and new peoples, while some others retreated into xenophobia as a means of holding onto the traditions of the past.

Roleplaying a Gold Dwarf

When creating a gold dwarf character, here are a few points to consider.

Tradition preserves us. Your people have survived for eons by adhering to the ways of their ancestors back to the All-Father. Tradition must be respected, and those who go against it dishonor themselves and cannot be trusted.

Wisdom comes with age. Those who have witnessed the passage of decades deserve respect. Those who have seen centuries come and go deserve more. Any society that does not respect its elders is dangerous, for it ignores the wisdom those elders represent.

Blood bears truth. You were born into a society where everything was decided for you, from your profession to whom you would marry when the time comes. These decisions were not the whim of an elder, but the dictates of your bloodline in relation to others. Among gold dwarves, who you become is a direct result of who your parents were and all your ancestors before them. Even far from the East Rift, you understand that getting to know someone means getting to know their past as well.

Gold Dwarf Benefits

When creating a gold dwarf character, you can pick from the following benefits.

Cast-Iron Mind: Gold dwarves have developed a resistance to protect against the depredations of aberrant creatures from the Underdark.

Benefit: You have a +5 racial bonus to saving throws against ongoing psychic damage. This benefit replaces Cast-Iron Stomach.

Gold Dwarf Weapon Proficiency: Though gold dwarves rely on the hammer as a tool as much as do any of their kin, carving their homes from the living rock requires other specialized implements. Such tools have been adapted for use as the traditional weapons of the gold dwarves for as long as anyone remembers.

Benefit: You gain proficiency with the war pick and the maul. This benefit replaces Dwarven Weapon Proficiency.

Shield Dwarf

Shield Dwarf Background

Shield dwarves have a long history of struggle for survival in the wilderness of the North, fighting against orcs, giants, and their own kind. To aid in such conflicts, they have found the native languages of the North useful.

Associated Skills: Dungeoneering, Endurance, Nature

Associated Languages: Chondathan, Giant

A long history of internecine war has made the once clannish society of shield dwarves more open. Shield dwarves actively seek out friends and forge alliances against enemies. They judge others by their skill and bravery, not merely the honor of a bloodline or the number of beard hairs gone gray. Tradition, respect for elders, and the bonds of kinship are strong forces in shield dwarf culture. However, no shield dwarf would be thought dishonorable for seeking his or her own destiny, whether doing so involves battling orcs alongside elf allies or becoming a master crafter in a human city.

The history of the shield dwarves can be traced back through millennia. The sons of Taark Shanat the Crusader founded eight kingdoms, which fought, made alliances, rose to greatness as one nation, and then fell into separate states before vanishing from the face of the world. The last great dwarven kingdom of the North was Delzoun, and few are the shield dwarves who do not claim a connection to the bloodline of that realm.

Roleplaying a Shield Dwarf

When creating a shield dwarf character, here are a few points to consider.

Even mountains change. Although you honor the past and strive to see the good of the present preserved, you know that nothing lasts forever. This impermanency is a reminder that one should never be too complacent or too proud. The ruins of cultures that fell to false pride litter the North. Only those who develop and guard a true greatness can maintain that greatness.

Even the strongest steel can break. Among the dwarves, it is said that allies are like axes—despite their strength, both can fail when you need them most. Though you strive to make alliances and return friendship in kind, you always remain wary of others. Your closest comrades are noteworthy exceptions, but you remain on the lookout for disloyalty, greed, and cowardice, particularly from other races.

A stout shield can both guard and smash. The clan cannot defend itself by hiding in the mountains. Neither can the warrior win merely by blocking attacks. When you face a foe, you must strike out at it. Never fear a challenge so much that you shy away from it.

Shield Dwarf Benefits

When creating a shield dwarf character, you can pick from the following benefits. Because these benefits both replace Dwarven Weapon Proficiency, you can take only one of them.

Shield Dwarf Weapon Proficiency: Shield dwarves spend more time aboveground and in forested areas than their gold dwarf cousins. This has led to them relying on axes as tools and weapons.

Benefit: You gain proficiency with the handaxe and the battleaxe. This benefit replaces Dwarven Weapon Proficiency.

Shield Proficiency: Besieged by numerous threats such as orcs and goblins, the shield dwarves take the name of their people seriously. Many are trained to use a shield regardless of duty or station.

Benefit: You gain proficiency with the light shield. This benefit replaces Dwarven Weapon Proficiency.

Fortune Cards: Neverwinter

Looking to add Fortune Cards to your game? In case you need a refresher on the rules, here's how they work:

At the start of each encounter, shuffle your deck and draw a card.

You can play one card per round. It requires no action to play. The rules on each card state when you can play it and what effect it has. A card takes effect just once unless it states otherwise, and you discard the card when its effect ends.

You can have only one D&D Fortune Card in your hand at a time. At the start of each of your turns, you can do one of the following:

  • Discard the card in your hand and draw a new one.
  • Draw a new card if you don't have one in your hand.
  • Keep the card that's in your hand if you haven't played it.

When you have no cards remaining in your deck, reshuffle it.

We've also discussed optional ways to include Fortune Cards in your game (thanks to the blogging community for their advice and suggestions). Plus, look for the Fatedancer character theme introduced later this month in Dragon. Fatedancers embrace the mantra of “whatever will be, will be,” and they use Fortune Cards to make their destinies their own. Until then, here's a look at one more Fortune Card from the forthcoming set (with still to more to be previewed this week in the Community).

The Neverwinter Experience

Once a glittering beacon of civilization, the Jewel of the North now promises death to the timid, glory to the bold, and danger for all. This is Neverwinter: join the adventure, choose your faction, and change the game!

Visit the Explore Neverwinter site!