Helmed Horrors are a classic D&D monster. Being constructs, though, they aren’t always monsters. Sometimes they can be bodyguards.
The hollow armor trope goes back to the medieval era with haunted knights and enchanted suits of armor on horseback terrorizing villagers and kings.
In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, the Helmed Horror is an advanced version of the haunted armor trope and exists as a magical servant to a particular master for a particular purpose. Being a suit of armor equipped with a shield and longsword, that purpose usually involves violence of some type.
In this post, we will go over the mechanics and tactics of the Helmed Horror before getting into DM-specific advice on how to use the Helmed Horror in your game as either a random monster or a specific plot device.
Let’s do this!
What Is a Helmed Horror in DnD 5e?
A Helmed Horror is a CR 4 martial Construct with the ability to Intelligently fulfill its purpose and serve its master.
Stat Block: Helmed Horror
Medium Construct, Neutral
- Armor Class: 20 (plate, shield)
- Hit Points: 60 (8d8 + 24)
- Speed: 30 ft., fly 30 ft.
- STR 18 (+4), DEX 13 (+1), CON 16 (+3), INT 10 (+0), WIS 10 (+0), CHA 10 (+0)
- Skills: Perception +4
- Damage Resistances: Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks that aren’t Adamantine
- Damage Immunities: Force, Necrotic, Poison
- Condition Immunities: Blinded, Charmed, Deafened, Frightened, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned, Stunned
- Senses: Blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), Passive Perception 14
- Languages: Understands the languages of its creator but can’t speak
- Challenge: 4 (1,100 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
- Magic Resistance. The helmed horror has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
- Spell Immunity. The helmed horror is immune to three spells chosen by its creator. Typical immunities include fireball, heat metal, and lightning bolt.
- Multiattack. The helmed horror makes two longsword attacks.
- Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) slashing damage, or 9 (1d10 + 4) slashing damage if used with two hands.
The Helmed Horror is capable of direct physical violence. As an animated suit of Plate Armor, this monster will be more than ready to stand and fight. It has a multiattack ability and resistance to magic. It will also be immune to three spells of the DM’s choice, which you probably will not know ahead of time. Its 60 ft. Blindsense makes it impossible to hide from, and its fly speed means there are very few obstacles that can get in its way.
In general, this thing is a dedicated killing machine with a lot of defenses, and it is pointed directly at you. What did you expect? That they would serve you a meal and sing a song? Try and find any who would do that. Go on. Be my guest.
Where Are You Likely To Encounter One?
Generally speaking, you will encounter the Helmed Horror wherever spellcasters are at work and need something protected. This means urban environments and isolated wizard towers.
Granted, the Helmed Horror will continue to fulfill its purpose even after the master is long dead, so you could also find them in ancient ruins, dungeons, and treasure hoards.
BEWARE THE MASTER
The creator and master of the Helmed Horror is usually the real threat. They would have to be a spellcaster of significant power in order to go through any type of creation process. The other consideration is that the Helmed Horror was a gift. Perhaps the creator is not the master, but they gave the Helmed Horror away.
In this sense, the master is the one who gives the orders, but it isn’t as if the Helmed Horror can only receive one set of orders and then follow them for eternity. The master can change those orders as long as they are alive.
Most masters will have the foresight to give orders that can go beyond their own death, such as “Kill me if I rise as a zombie,” or “Bring me innocent children to eat after I become a zombie,” etc.
Either way, even if the master is dead, you will need to consider what their orders were if you want to get out of the encounter without simply destroying the Helmed Horror.
How Do You Fight a Helmed Horror?
The Helmed Horror will fight intelligently but according to its purpose. For example, if a Helmed Horror is ordered to “not let anyone through this door,” then you can simply act as if you aren’t going through the door. The Helmed Horror will be smart enough to stop you from blowing a hole in the wall to get by, but it may not be able to stop you from going through a window that is outside of its range of perception.
Keep that idea in mind. The Helmed Horror’s range of perception is 60 feet, and it is blind beyond that distance. So, pepper it with ranged attacks, and it will have to search for you. Or simply go around it.
Once it can see a target or two, it will fight the target that is most likely to work against its purpose. For example, if the Helmed Horror was ordered to “Destroy the bridge,” it will fight the characters who are trying to stop it from destroying the bridge.
If the Helmed Horror was ordered to ‘Kill them all,” then it will probably start with the character who looks easiest to kill with a sword and then fly over to the wizard and shank them.
But the Helmed Horror is smart enough to change its tactics. If it can’t seem to escape the barbarian, then the Helmed Horror knows it will have to dispatch the barbarian before it can complete its purpose.
Can You Create One?
That is mostly up to your DM, and you two will have to negotiate the process for creating a Helmed Horror.
This is just me, but at the bare minimum, I would say you need a suit of plate mail, scrolls of the spells to which you want them to be immune, and then the ability to cast Dominate Monster and Summon Construct.
Wrap it all up into an 8-hour ritual where you must make two consecutive Arcana checks vs. DC 15 to create and prepare the armor. Then you Summon the Construct and roll another Arcana check vs. DC15 to put the energy into the armor.
It’s expensive but possible and totally worth it.
Using the Helmed Horror for DMs
Like I mentioned earlier, the Helmed Horror will always be serving a purpose given to it by its master. So, to know where the Helmed Horror is, you have to consider who its master is or was, but they could be literally anywhere. Check the Story Seeds section below for ideas on this.
Also consider that the Helmed Horror is an animated construct. Those things don’t just happen in a vacuum.
So, whatever created the Helmed Horror will more than likely have other constructs at their beck and call. Use as many as will fit into your encounter.
Modifying a Helmed Horror
The Helmed Horror as presented in the Monster Manual is an animated suit of plate mail with a shield and longsword, but what if you took the same concept and made it out of studded leather and gave it a short sword? Its AC would be greatly reduced, but you could give it advantage on stealth checks due to its small size and light feet. After that, you could replace the multiattack ability with +4d6 sneak attack, and you’ve got an assassin Helmed Horror.
You could also animate a set of wizard’s robes with mage armor (AC 13) and let the monster cast magic missile at will. You could literally make changes like this to reflect every character class if you work on the assumption that the Helmed Horror as written reflects the fighter. You could use chainmail and a long bow for a ranger, leather and eldritch blast for a warlock, or hide armor and a great axe (and reckless attack?) for a barbarian.
Story Seeds for Helmed Horror
Not only is the Helmed Horror a great monster to drop into any adventure, but you could even use it as a theme for an entire campaign.
We are going to wrap this post up with a handful of story seeds to inspire your adventure with a Helmed Horror.
Creating a Helmed Horror
If you have a player who desperately wants to have a construct henchman, you will have to negotiate with that player on the correct way to create one.
The ritual I mentioned above is a good downtime way for a spellcaster to make a Helmed Horror in between adventures or even while imprisoned in a cave with a box of scraps, but if you have a player who is nearly obsessed with this idea, you could craft your entire campaign, or at least several sidequests, with this idea in mind.
Maybe the suit of armor has to be soaked in a magical oil, forged in a magical location, or fitted with a rare and magical gemstone. After that, maybe the spell immunity has to be given from scrolls using a magical ink, etc. Or maybe the armor itself has to be taken from a deceased friend in order to make it more likely to want to help you.
The best way to do this is to take every ability of the Helmed Horror: the spell immunity, the multiattack, the armor, the weapon, the shield, everything; and make the materials to create that ability the reward of a minor quest. Then make them either create or research the ritual. You could string it out indefinitely.
There is an artificer who is making Helmed Horrors and then selling them very cheaply. After the sale, he gives the Helmed Horror these instructions: “I am your master. This person is your client. Follow your client’s orders until I give you a new one.”
In this way, he has filled the houses of the wealthy, the banks, whomever you need for your story, and he now has animated constructs set to do his will whenever he is ready to enact his plan.
He could have many plans. He could want to assassinate the clients. He could want to enforce a coup. Or he could simply be working with the thieves’ guild, and the Helmed Horrors are wearing a special armband or they know a password that will make the Helmed Horror stand down.
Helmed Horror Hivemind
This is a puzzle or trap. The idea here is that there are simply too many Helmed Horrors for the party to manage. In this scenario, the Helmed Horrors are all connected somehow, and the PCs must find a way to turn them off. Here are a few options:
- The Helmed Horrors are all controlled by a central “brain,” which is an animated helmet that is receiving information given to it by clairvoyance sensors placed throughout the area. If the PCs can fool the clairvoyance, the “brain” will be unable to see them, at which point they must find the “brain” and disable it. Give the brain a perception skill of +10 for a Tier III adventure, and give it disadvantage if the party splits up to cause a distraction somewhere.
- The Helmed Horrors are all operating under the same instructions, which involve them becoming docile if a certain password is uttered. The password is written on a manual somewhere in the dungeon.
Voltron Helmed Horror
These 5 Helmed Horrors have the nifty ability to combine, like Voltron, into a Huge suit of armor as an action. If this happens, they gain a +5 to all Strength checks and attack rolls. They also gain an additional 2d10 damage on a strike. Their AC decreases by 2, but their HP is combined.
The animated, empty, or haunted armor trope goes back a long way in fantasy. Even further, it goes back into folklore, which is just mythology for adults. Do not underestimate the storytelling capability of this creature, and do remember to have fun.