Racial benefits and restrictions
You will see yourself as @ (unless you have showrace on), but you are considered to be both @ and the letter h. For this reason, using blessed genocide to eliminate mind flayers (entering 'h' at the prompt) is a Bad Idea, as it will result in an instadeath. Therefore, Dwarves must use two non-cursed genocides to eliminate all mind flayers (master mind flayer and mind flayer), while other characters can eliminate them both with a single blessed genocide.
Dwarves have intrinsic infravision. From an attribute perspective, Dwarves have good physical attributes (the highest Dexterity and Constitution) but those are offset by the lowest mental attributes. The following table outlines their maximum (unaided) attribute levels.
As a Dwarf, you will also find the Dwarvish inhabitants of the Gnomish Mines to be generally peaceful.
Curiously, there is really no Dwarf role that seems especially "Dwarvish" -- Cavemen are primitive, Archeologists are combat-averse scientists, and Valkyries are all female! The typical fantasy vision of the warrior/craftsman/miner is therefore not really available to the player of NetHack, at least not at present. The Elven Ranger and Orcish Barbarian seem much closer to the typical conception of those races.
List of Dwarf monsters
In the vanilla 3.4.3 dungeon, you can encounter:
- Dwarvish mattock (broad pick) - d12/d8+2d6
- Dwarvish short sword (broad short sword) - d7/d8
- Dwarvish spear (stout spear) - d8/d8
- Dwarvish iron helm (hard hat) - AC 2
- Dwarvish mithril-coat - AC 6
- Dwarvish cloak (hooded cloak) - AC 0
- Dwarvish roundshield (large round shield) - AC 2
You can use the above list to identify if any item is Dwarvish. No Dwarvish artifacts currently exist in the game. Note that Dwarvish mattocks have a -1 to-hit penalty.
Dwarvish items are said to be exceptional metalworks. (Those crude Orcish items have the opposite reputation.) The mithril-coat will never rust nor corrode, and carries three points of magic cancellation. The Dwarvish mithril-coat gives one more point of AC protection than the Elven mithril-coat, however it can only be safely enchanted up to +5, whereas the Elven equivalent can be enchanted to +7. The Dwarvish cloak gives one less point of AC than the Elven counterpart and doesn't convey extrinsic Stealth. The Dwarvish shield is heavier compared to the Elven counterpart, even though they have the same AC.
Dwarves in Variants
Dwarves in dNethack can additionally take on the Noble or Knight role. Dwarves in one of these roles get special quests, the Dwarf Noble and Dwarf Knight quest. Dwarves begin the game knowing all four stave-wards.
Dwarfs have faces like men (ugly men, with wrinkled, leathery
skins), but are generally either flat-footed, duck-footed, or
have feet pointing backwards. They are of the earth, earthy,
living in the darkest of caverns and venturing forth only
with the cloaks by which they can make themselves invisible,
and others disguised as toads. Miners often come across them,
and sometimes establish reasonably close relations with them.
... The miners of Cornwall were always delighted to hear a
bucca busily mining away, for all dwarfs have an infallible
nose for precious metals.
Among other things, dwarfs are rightly valued for their skill
as blacksmiths and jewellers: they made Odin his famous spear
Gungnir, and Thor his hammer; for Freya they designed a
magnificent necklace, and for Frey a golden boar. And in their
spare time they are excellent bakers. Ironically, despite
their odd feet, they are particularly fond of dancing. They
can also see into the future, and consequently are excellent
meteorologists. They can be free with presents to people
they like, and a dwarvish gift is likely to turn to gold in
the hand. But on the whole they are a snappish lot.