Last Updated on October 26, 2023
Few other D&D classes get to play around in the sci-fi space, but Warforged do, and the game is all the more fun for it.
Warforged have been a part of the world of Eberron (D&D’s pulpiest, most magical tech-infused setting) since 3.5e.
The game’s race of robots has been missing from 5e for a few years, before a series of Unearthed Arcana releases started to tease their reintroduction, with the Warforged being officially inducted into the 5e rules in the supplement Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
A Warforged is a robot constructed from a mixture of organic and inorganic materials, and “gifted” sentience by the confluence of arcane energies used to animate it.
Despite their bodies being made from a mixture of wood and metal, they can feel both pain and emotion.
Their muscular structure is made up of bundles of root-like cords, or even twisting bunches of vines. Over this woody interior are typically layers of armor made from steel, bronze, or even stone.
Let’s dive into what it’s like to build and, ultimately, play a Warforged.
Warforged Abilities and Traits
When you choose to play a Warforged, you gain the following traits.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 2, and one other ability score of your choice increases by 1.
- Age. A typical warforged is between two and thirty years old. The maximum lifespan of the warforged remains a mystery; so far, warforged have shown no signs of deterioration due to age. You are immune to magical aging effects.
- Alignment. Most warforged take comfort in order and discipline, tending toward law and neutrality. But some have absorbed the morality – or lack thereof – of the beings with which they served.
- Size. Your size is Medium. To set your height and weight randomly, start with rolling a size modifier.
- Size modifier = 2d6
- Height = 5 feet + 10 inches + your size modifier in inches
- Weight in pounds = 270 + (4 x your size modifier)
- Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
- Constructed Resilience. You were created to have remarkable fortitude, represented by the following benefits:
- You have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and you have resistance to poison damage.
- You don’t need to eat, drink, or breathe.
- You are immune to disease.
- You don’t need to sleep, and magic can’t put you to sleep.
- Sentry’s Rest. When you take a long rest, you must spend at least six hours in an inactive, motionless state, rather than sleeping. In this state, you appear inert, but it doesn’t render you unconscious, and you can see and hear as normal.
- Integrated Protection. Your body has built-in defensive layers, which can be enhanced with armor.
- You gain a +1 bonus to Armor Class.
- You can don only armor with which you have proficiency. To don armor, you must incorporate it into your body over the course of 1 hour, during which you must remain in contact with the armor. To doff armor, you must spend 1 hour removing it. You can rest while donning or doffing armor in this way.
- While you live, your armor can’t be removed from your body against your will.
- Specialized Design. You gain one skill proficiency and one tool proficiency of your choice.
- Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice.
Now that we can see the outline of what makes a Warforged, let’s poke around under the hood and see what makes them tick.
Ability Score Increase
The Warforged’s ability score increases do a lot to set out the designers’ manifesto for this race: basically, do whatever.
A +2 bonus to Constitution is nice to have on pretty much any class, and the freedom to put +1 into a stat of your choice means that, assuming you’re using Standard Array to generate your ability scores, you can start the game with two 16s – one in Constitution, and the other in your class’ primary ability.
This is good, but not great; you’re a jack of all trades but a master of nothing.
Aside from the fact you can’t play an “old” Warforged (although you could probably pull that off with some extensive battle damage for a General Grievous feel, cough cough) the age restrictions on a Warforged are really interesting, as being the only race in D&D where you’re allowed to play a two year-old gives you all sorts of fun avenues for characterizing your PC.
While Warforged tend towards being Lawful and robotically inflexible in their outlook (fertile ground for a Cleric or Paladin), the source material also notes that they are also capable of getting their alignment from the people they were raised around.
A Warforged who was built as part of a Dirty Dozen-esque commando unit, raising hell far behind enemy lines could definitely lean towards the chaotic end of the alignment chart, for example.
As the rules currently stand, while you can use the size randomization chart to be either a pretty average sized humanoid, all the way up to – gasp – a pretty tall humanoid, your size is always going to be medium.
Perfectly normal. Nothing to see here.
This trait really emphasizes your robotic nature. While resistance to poison damage can be useful, it’s one of the less common damage types, and immunity to disease is just as unlikely to crop up.
The lack of need to eat, drink, or breathe, however, makes the adventuring life considerably easier on a day-to-day basis.
This is basically a gift to your fellow party members.
In a party where everyone needs a good eight hours to recover their hit points and spell slots, if you’re pitching camp somewhere with a chance of wandering monsters or random encounters, someone is always going to draw the short straw and get the benefits of a short rest rather than a long one.
With a Warforged in the party, that’s no longer an issue. Your Wizard will thank you.
There are very few instances (apart from being captured to fight in some sort of naked underground blood dome, perhaps) where you’re going to be forced out of your armor.
However, the +1 bonus to your AC is nothing to turn up your nose at. Whether you’re playing a tanky frontliner, or a squishy spellcaster with a chronic shortage of hit points, higher AC is never a bad thing.
Tool proficiencies are a thoroughly underused element of the game, but having a toolset of your choice (perhaps integrated into your body – a deeply funny and cool option if you choose Brewer’s Supplies) is a useful way to flesh out your backstory.
Also, getting to pick any skill helps support the overall Warforged concept of being able to play any class.
Getting an extra language other than common is a helpful tool for fleshing out your backstory, but its usefulness beyond that really depends on the campaign you’re playing in.
What Classes Are Well Suited to the Warforged?
Warforged were manufactured to perform as wide a range of duties in the Eberron war effort as do people in any army here on Earth, and their appearances are often wholly unique as a result.
There were Warforged soldiers, assassins, diplomats, mapmakers, artillery loaders, medics, and just about any other background you can imagine playing a role in an army.
As a result, you get a lot of wiggle room to play around with the base materials and overall look of your Warforged, although all of them have crystalline eyes, and tend towards having a hinged jaw and prominent brow line.
Each Warforged was built to serve a specific function, and many of them did so for years during the Last War.
Think about how your Warforged’s intended purpose manifests itself, not only in your look and design, but also your background, skills, and ultimately class.
A +2 bonus to Constitution and a +1 bonus to an Ability Score of your choice make Warforged excellent jacks of all trades, but masters of none.
While extra hit points and a natural +1 bonus to AC does push you a little bit in the direction of combat-focused frontliners, you really can follow your heart when it comes to choosing your class as a Warforged.
We’ve put together a list below of Warforged class and subclass options that are not only mechanically viable (because that’s pretty much every class in the game) but that we find particularly exciting.
Artificer: this Intelligence-focused caster class also arrived as part of Eberron: Rising from the Last War. The idea of a machinist or arcane tinkerer fits really well with the Warforged from a thematic point of view.
Put your free +1 bonus into Intelligence and choose the Battle Smith archetype at 3rd level for martial weapon proficiency, and the ability to use your Intelligence as your melee attack and damage modifier.
You can also choose to flavor your spells (like Shield and Aura of Purity) as the effects of tiny nanomachines a la Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame if you want.
Ranger: while you’re only going to be able to bump one of the ranger’s two main attributes (Dexterity and Wisdom), you still make for an excellent scout, hunter, or bounty droid (see episode one of The Mandalorian).
Also, if you pick up the Swarm Keeper archetype at 3rd level (which just got officially released out of Unearthed Arcana as part of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything) the different ways you can choose to flavor your swarm are really exciting, from a scuttling wave of tiny mechanical spiders to a flock of birds that roost inside your armor (Laputa: Castle in the Sky vibes? Yes please).
Druid: building a Circle of the Moon druid from a Warforged lets you live your best Voltron: Defender of the Universe life, as your metal plates and wooden interior twist and reform into a giant, semi-mechanical leopard.
Beyond just how insanely cool that is, druids tend to suffer from low AC, so your bonus helps round that out with your Integrated Protection trait.
Warforged Appearance: General Looks Found Among Them
While all Warforged need to adhere to the “organic and inorganic material” guidelines, usually with a mixture of something plant-based and something solid, you really have a lot of options to play with in terms of color (are you still painted in the colors of your old regiment, or have you carved your blank metal visage to more accurately resemble the human you wish you were?), material (do you want to be coated in high-tensile steel plates, or is your ceramic or lacquered exterior all for show – either a symbol of rank, or part of the uniform of a long-dissolved diplomatic corps?), and shape.
You have a great deal of space in which to play when you visualize your Warforged, so have fun with it. Much like the Tin Man himself, you get to wear your heart (and backstory) on your sleeve.
Warforged Names: Designations to Choose
During the war for which they were created, the Warforged were referred to by their designations instead of actual names – think droids in Star Wars, from which this is an obvious pull – like D-8R or P-3CO.
Warforged are born genderless, and many remain as such, although some choose to present and/or identify as one gender or another as a result of their upbringing and past.
Warforged designations are obviously not gendered, and the names they adopt later also tend not to be, although there’s no reason why they can’t be.
Example Warforged Names: Banner, Bastion, Blade, Blue, Church, Dent, Five, Lucky, Mace, Oak, Rusty, Rattles, Scout, Six-Six, Spike, Sunder, Vault, Wreck.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.