Comparing Dwarves of 5e and Pathfinder2


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There's a lot of overlap between D&D and Pathfinder. Originally, of course, Pathfinder was the D&D 3rd edition rule set copied and pasted (legally permitted by the Open Game License), with a few nominal adjustments, into a book labeled "Pathfinder". Now that D&D is on its 5th edition (and heading toward its next incarnation), and Pathfinder has released a 2nd edition of its own, their paths have diverged substantially, and yet they're both implementing essentially the same game. It occurred to me that it might be interesting to compare these implementations from the perspective of building a character. Proceeding alphabetically, the first ancestry (or race in 5e) are the dwarves.

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At the time of this writing, there's a new edition ("One D&D") on the distant horizon, and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything) has established the "Custom Lineage" option that allows you to treat your choice of race a little like a costume. Players can have the flavour of, for instance, a dwarf, without the penalty to speed, with a boost to any ability score, and so on. I'm not going to annotate possible exceptions to a rule from the Player's Handbook. It's all imaginary, so my base assumption is that anything and everything can be changed.

Ability score

  • 5e: Constitution +2
  • P2: Constitution +2, Wisdom +2, Charisma -2, and a +2 of your choice.

In 5e, ability scores are determined by dice rolls or by assigning a standard array of numbers (15,14,13,12,10,8). A boost is granted by your choice of race.

In Pathfinder 2, ability scores start at 10 and accumulate boosts and penalties according to the "life" choices you make for your character as you build. For that reason, Pathfinder 2 ability score benefits look generous compared to 5e, so just keep in mind that they're all starting at 10.


  • 5e: 25 feet
  • P2: 20 feet

Both systems account for the presumed length of your stride as a dwarf.


5e and Pathfinder 2 both grant dwarves dark vision.

  • In 5e, darkvision persists 60 feet.
  • In Pathfinder 2, darkvision persists for as long as your vision lasts.

Although vision ranges are expressed differently in the two systems, they are functionally identical.

In Pathfinder 2, when there's a light source boosting the efficacy of your vision within a specific range, then that effect persists within that range. Once that light effect gives way to darkness, though, your using darkvision again.

The wording is a little awkward in 5e, but the rules essentially say that a dim light placed within 60 feet of you makes your vision normal until the end of the dim light's effect. Once the effect of the dim light has given way to darkness, you fall back on darkvision.

Poison resistance

  • 5e: Advantage against poison, resistance against poison damage
  • P2: Nothing by default, unless you choose Strong-blooded Dwarf as your heritage. This gives you poison resistance equal to half your level (minimum 1), each successful saving throw against poison reduces its stage of progression by 2 for regular poisons or 1 for virulent poisons. Critical successes reduce them by 3 and 2, respectively.

This is, as they say, a text book example of the appeal of 5e.

Q: What's the goal?

A: To demonstrate that dwarves are resilient against poison.

5e does it with one dice roll. Pathfinder 2 builds it into your character with a numeric bonus, which is just as elegant. But then it goes that extra mile and provides separate rules for specific saving throws. Neither way is wrong, it's just a question of whether you think you'll ever want to walk an extra mile when confronted with a specific situation.

Weapon proficiencies

  • 5e: Battleaxe, handaxe, light hammer, warhammer
  • P2: No proficiencies by default, unless you spend your Ancestry Feat on Dwarven Weapon Familiarity.

For all the de-coupling of abilities and race, it's surprising that 5e assumes that every dwarf is proficient with a specific list of weapons. I think Pathfinder 2 makes more sense, but wait for me to contradict myself when it comes to Stonecunning...


  • 5e: When you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, you are considered proficient in that skill, and add double your proficiency to the check.
  • P2: No proficiency by default, unless you spend your Ancestry Feat on Stonecunning. The DM rolls in secret for you to notice unusual stonework, and you get a bonus to notice unusual stonework, including traps within stonework.

For me, stonecunning is a requisite skill for a dwarf. I can definitely envision the roleplay moment where you turn to your dwarf companion for information about some ancient stone structure, and the dwarf shrugs and says "I grew up in Magnimar.")

Objectively, though, treating major traits as opt-in heritages or feats offers a high degree of customization. As a player, you get to play the dwarf that interests you, capitalizing on the aspects of the dwarf archetype that you actually care about.

Heritages ("subrace")

5e has two subraces:

  • Hill dwarf: +1 Wisdom, +1 per level to Max HP.
  • Mountain dwarf: +2 Strength, armor proficiency.

Pathfinder 2 has four heritages:

  • Death warden: Treat success against necromancy as a critical success.
  • Forge: Fire resistance equal to half your level, treat heat effects as one level lower than they are.
  • Rock: +2 Fortitude or Reflex against Shove and Trip attempts, and spells that attempt to knock you prone. If anything forces you to move 10 feet, move 5 instead.
  • Strong-blooded: Poison resistance.

This demonstrates the modularity of Pathfinder 2 compared to previous iterations of the D&D model. It's interesting to note that 5e's subrace options affect attribute scores, while Pathfinder 2 grants "extra" features and doesn't effect any "core" attribute.

Health points

  • 5e: Hit points aren't assigned by race, but taking the Hill dwarf subrace grants +1 to your maximum HP, per level.
  • P2: 10 HP. This gets boosted according to your choice in class.

Onward to adventure

There's clearly some common threads between the 5e and Pathfinder 2 dwarf. In lore, their histories are pretty similar, and neither are terribly different than the classic Tolkien-derived fantasy dwarf archetype.

In either system, there are two prominent defaults: You can build a strong and sturdy dwarf, or a wise dwarf with deep knowledge of world history and lore. From there, you can focus your dwarf on whatever specialty you prefer, whether that's big hefty weapons, metallurgy and smithy work, or physical strength and affinity to stone.

In 5e, you focus your character through ability increases and in your choice of weapons and skills.

In Pathfinder2, you focus your character through feats and skills.

Next, I'll compare elves, who have very different lore between the default settings, so it'll be interesting to see whether any of that comes through in stat block options.

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