Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Defenders of nature, nomadic hunter-gatherers, wise warriors, and Fey woodspeople. There are many versions of the Centaur race for Dungeons & Dragons players to explore.
If you fancy playing one of these Greek mythology-inspired creatures, half-human, and half-horse, they have recently been accepted as a playable race in D&D.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about playing Centaurs in D&D, including all their abilities and traits, breakdowns of what classes work well for Centaurs, and even some name suggestions.
Who Are The Centaurs in Dungeons & Dragons?
Centaurs have featured in D&D since the beginning – making their first appearance in the original 1974 Dungeons & Dragons. In the official Dungeons & Dragons 5e rule books, Centaurs only appear as monsters in the Monster Manual.
Since then, however, Wizards of the Coast have released an Unearthed Arcana playtest guide for playing Centaurs. Centaurs have also appeared as a playable race in Mythic Odysseys of Theros and the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica – the latter being the most ‘official’ version.
Centaurs are based on the creatures of Greek mythology. Centaurs featured in myths about Hercules, Theseus, and Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Versions of them also appeared in Indian and Russian folklore.
Modern readers, however, might be more familiar with their appearances in Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia.
In D&D, Centaurs are described as having a strong affinity with the natural world and as celebrating family and community. Centaurs regard the birth of a ‘foal’ as one of the greatest reasons for festivities and they also believe in the upholding and revering of the past, traditions, and Centaur legends.
The Monster Manual describes Centaurs as nomadic creatures who live in tribes that cross huge swathes of land as they hunt and gather for food. They have little to do with society outside that of wild animals.
In the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, Centaurs are described as living in ‘the rubblebelts of the Gruul Clans and the wide plazas of the Selesnya Conclave over the undercity tunnels of the Golgari and the laboratories of the Simic.’
The clans in these locations have strong individual identities and are fiercely loyal to their own kind.
Some Centaurs do, however, trade with elves and other humanoids. Some people regard Centaurs to be Fey, and this is certainly an alternative backstory you can explore if you’re not interested in the nomadic, wild Centaur.
Centaur Abilities and Traits: What Characterizes the Centaur Race?
Ability Score Increase: If you play a Centaur in D&D 5e, your Strength score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Age: Centaurs age at the same rate as humans.
Alignment: With their strong sense of connectedness to nature, most Centaurs have a Neutral alignment.
Size: Centaurs will tower over their human counterparts, standing at between 6 and 7ft tall. Their size is Medium.
Speed: Centaurs have a base walking speed of 40ft.
Charge: In combat, if your Centaur moves at least 30ft (20ft in the playtest guide) towards a target and makes a melee attack in the same turn, you can roll your weapon damage twice and combine the scores. This ability can only be used once in between short or long rests.
Hooves: Centaurs’ hooves count as melee weapons and they are proficient in them. Targets who are hit with a Centaur’s hoof take 1d6 plus your Strength modifier worth of bludgeoning damage.
Equine Build: Centaurs’ equine build gives them several abilities – and one penalty.
- Centaurs count as one size larger when determining the weight of what they can pull or push and what they can carry.
- A Medium or smaller creature can ride on your back. This can only be done if the Centaur allows it and they still move independently (unlike a regular horse which the rider can control).
- If a Centaur needs to climb that requires hands and feet, each foot of movement counts as 4 feet rather than the usual 1 foot.
Survivor: Centaurs have proficiency in one of the following skills: Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, or Survivor.
Languages: Centaurs can read, write, and speak both Common and Sylvan – the language of the Fey.
The +2 Strength bonus for Centaurs, along with their powerful ‘Charge’ ability and deadly hooves makes them an excellent race for combat encounters.
Centaurs’ excellent fighting skills are linked to their animal form, which often gives them the edge over humanoid creatures. Their speed and hooves make them a serious threat against any enemies you might encounter.
A common question about Centaurs is, ‘what sort of creatures are Centaurs?’. The official Wizards of the Coast playtest Centaur guide suggests that Centaurs are hybrids, but more recent guides state that Centaurs are Fey:
Hybridity: As Centaurs are half-human half-monster, they count as both humanoid and monstrous. Any game effects that affect ‘humanoids’ or ‘monstrosities’ will affect you if you play a Centaur.
Fey: Rather than being humanoid or monstrous, Centaurs count as Fey beings.
Whether you want to play as a hybrid Centaur or as a Fey Centaur is really down to you and your Dungeon Master. It might also depend on your Centaur’s backstory.
If they and their home community have strong links to the Fey, you may want to define your Centaur as a Fey being.
What Classes Are Well Suited To The Centaur?
Barbarian: Strength is one of the Barbarian’s primary attributes, so the Centaur’s plus 2 on Strength is very useful.
Cleric: Clerics use Wisdom for spellcasting and for their saving throws, so the Wisdom bonus is great.
Fighter: Like the Barbarian, the Strength bonus is perfect for Fighters.
Druid: A Druid will also enjoy the Centaur’s Wisdom bonus.
If you’re playing a Centaur in D&D 5e, the Barbarian is a strong contender for your class choice. Not only will the Centaur’s Strength bonus and combat abilities make your Barbarian especially tough, but there’s also plenty of thematic reasons why Centaurs make great Barbarians.
Barbarians have a primal nature and they often feel more connected to animals than to humans. Barbarians have a keen natural instinct and embrace an animalistic ferocity.
The class traits of Barbarians fit in well with Centaurs, who are already half-animal, and lend themselves well to Centaur backstories – since a Centaur may well live in a nomadic tribe that lives amongst beasts rather than humans.
If you want to play a less wild yet just as powerful Centaur, Cleric could be the class for you. The plus 1 Wisdom bonus is helpful, but Clerics can still be combat-heavy characters.
If you decide to play a Cleric Centaur, you will want to lean into the Cleric’s combat-themed spells and abilities, rather than their healing spells. A warrior build for a Cleric Centaur is vital since otherwise, the Centaur’s amazing combat skills will go to waste.
Like the Barbarian, Fighter is a good class for Centaurs as the combat skills of this class and race will complement each other. Fighters are more well-rounded than Barbarians, so you will have more flexibility around your backstory and how you combine your abilities.
If you’re not interested in playing a primal, animalistic Centaur, but you still want to leverage their fighting abilities, Fighter is the class for you. Your Centaur could live in a refined society of Centaurs and other Fey beings, making them less barbaric than Barbarians but still able to throw a punch (or a hoof) when needed.
Druids are not usually a combat-heavy class, so you might think that choosing the Druid class for your Centaur is a waste of the Centaur’s Strength bonus. But there are some good reasons to choose a Druid.
The Wisdom bonus is great since Wisdom is the Druid’s primary attribute and it is used for spellcasting. In addition to this, Druid Centaurs can avoid the climbing problem by using the Druid’s Wild Shape ability.
Finally, the affinity to nature that both Druids and Centaurs feel makes them a great thematic combination for players.
What Do Centaurs Look Like in D&D 5e?
Let’s start with the obvious: Centaurs are half-human half-horse. They have the upper body of a human in the place of a horse’s head.
Centaurs count as Medium creatures, but they will tower over other Medium and smaller creatures around them since they are about the size of a human riding a horse.
Their size and hooves mean the Centaur is not the party member you will send on stealth missions.
Centaurs also have slightly pointed ears but they have wider and squarer faces than elves. Their skin can be any standard human color, and their horse bodies usually have brown coats and dark brown or black tails.
What Personalities Do Centaurs Have?
Centaurs can have a range of personalities, but there are some classic options to choose from for your Centaur character:
- Stoic and Noble – Your Centaur comes across cold and even stuck-up to some, but they are in fact noble creatures with ancient lineages and can endure much hardship without complaint.
- Barbaric and Wild – Your Centaur has spent little time outside of their tribe and comes across as wild and barbaric to more civilized characters. They may even have a hatred for humans and human society, preferring the nomadic life of Centaurs.
- Wise and Protective – Your Centaur reveres all of nature and views protecting what is good, innocent, and natural as their life mission. They offer advice and protection freely to their companions.
What Religion Do Centaurs Have?
There is no official religion for Centaurs in D&D, though some state that Skerrit, the forest-walker, is the god of Centaurs, whilst others suggest they worship Silvanus.
But there are several deities in the Forgotten Realms that would suit a Centaur character.
- Malar, god of the hunt
- Mielikki, goddess of forests
- Silvanus, god of wild nature
- Skerrit, god of Centaurs
If you want your Centaur to worship a deity from outside of the official D&D pantheon, you could choose a deity from Greek or Celtic myth related to horses or Centaurs.
- Apollo, Greek god of the sun and archery. Some Greek myths claim that Apollo fathered the first Centaur.
- Dionysus, Greek god of wine and festivity. The Lamian Pheres, Centaurs of Greek mythology, were instructed by Zeus to protect Dionysus.
- Epona, Gallo-Roman goddess of horses
- Rhiannon, Welsh goddess of horses
Centaurs pass down family names. When a foal is born, it is often given the name of a recently deceased family member. This is believed to keep alive the memory of that family member.
Centaurs do not use family names like other races. They do, however, wear symbols relating to their family or tribe. These could be tattooed on their body, woven into fabric, engraved into weapons, or dyed onto their horse coats.
The symbols usually have a link to nature, such as images of plants and animals, but they could also include specific beads in their hair and tail or mottos and patterns woven into fabric.
Given the ancient Greek origins of Centaurs, it is common to use ancient Greek names and names from Greek mythology for Centaurs in D&D. You can also draw on mythological Centaurs for inspiration.
Male Centaur Names: Agrius, Chiron, Elatus, Lycus, Orius, Perimedes, Thereus.
Female Centaur* Names: Barbyse, Hellanthe, Hylonome, Metasia, Perane.
*Female Centaurs are sometimes referred to as ‘Centaurides’ or ‘Centauresses’.
Fun Fact: Chiron was regarded as the wisest and most intelligent of Centaurs in Greek mythology. Centaurs were usually associated with wildness and excessive drinking, but Chiron, who was raised by the god Apollo, was the exception.
Alternative Female Centaur Names
The traditional Greek names for Centaurs may sound a little high and mighty for your Centaur.
An alternative way to name your Centaur is to take names from horses and horse deities of Celtic mythology, such as Aine, Enbarr Epona, Rhiannon, or Gontia.
Centaur Names in Mythic Odysseys of Theros
In Mythic Odysseys of Theros, Centaurs are split into two general tribes: Lagonna and Pheres.
Lagonna do not use family names but, as suggested above, incorporates family and tribe symbols into their appearance. Pheres Centaurs do not have family names either, but instead, take on honorifics.
Female Lagonna Names: Honotia, Kelitia, Lileo, Meloe
Male Lagonna Names: Aughus, Dririos, Ormasos, Volien
Female Pheres Names: Bido, Daxa, Saya, Tesia
Male Pheres Names: Eno, Roth, Skelor, Stihl
Pheres Honorifics: Threekills, Razorhoof, Unsleeping, Daggereye, Silentstep
Centaur Names in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica
Like other Centaurs, Centaurs in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica do not take family names but instead incorporate family symbols into their clothing, body, and hair.
Male Names: Bonmod, Boruvo, Chodi, Drozan, Kozim, Milosh, Ninos, Oleksi, Orval, Radovas, Radom, Rostis, Svetyos, Tomis, Trijiro, Volim, Vlodim, Yarog
Female Names: Daiva. Dunja, Elnaya. Galisnya, lrinya, Kotyali. Lalya. Litisia, Madya, Mira, Nedja, Nikya, Ostani, Pinya, Rada, Raisya, Stasolya. Tatna, Zhendoya, Zoria
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.