Extra Life: Hacking The Warforged

This Saturday I’m going to Seattle to play on in the D&D Team’s marathon session for Extra Life. The money I’m raising goes to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and if I can raise an additional $110 in the next few days, not only will you help kids in need, you will literally make my wish come true: if I can raise $1500, I get to cast a wish one time during the course of the game. If you can spare anything – even $1 – please donate here!

Donate to Extra Life!

Most of the time when I’m at the gaming table, I’m the GM. The first character I ever PLAYED in an Eberron campaign was a warforged artificer named Smith. I suppose you could say that he was a literal iron man; he was a brilliant inventor who was always developing new tools… and he was sheathed in awesome adamantine plating. We didn’t have a martial character in our party, and despite being an artificer Smith ended up being the primary melee combatant. He didn’t have the attack bonus of a fighter, but with his adamantine plating and shield he was extremely durable. Personally, I love the story of the warforged; beings built to serve as weapons who must now find purpose in a world without war. In Smith’s case, I was exploring the idea of the invented being who is now becoming the inventor. On a less philosophical level, what I enjoyed about playing a warforged was the sense of being a juggernaut. I had my heavy armor plating, I didn’t need to eat, breathe, or sleep, I couldn’t be poisoned… I felt like a force to be reckoned with.

Thanks to generous donations from Charles Huber and Jeremy Esch, I will be playing a warforged artificer in the Extra Life marathon. But there’s no finalized statistics for warforged in Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. An early version was presented in the public playtest, but it doesn’t match up to the final versions of other races. I expanded on this basic foundation with help from WotC R&D Designer Rodney Thompson, and here’s the traits I’ll be using for this weekend’s game.  Bear in mind that these traits are IN NO WAY OFFICIAL. If and when there is future Eberron support, a completely different version of warforged could be presented. Consider this an experimental playtest – nothing more.


As a warforged, you have the following racial traits.

Ability Score Adjustments: Your Constitution score increases by 2. 

Living Construct: Even though you were constructed, you are a humanoid. You are immune to disease. You do not need to breathe, eat or drink, but you can ingest food or drink if you wish.

Unsleeping SentinelWarforged don’t need to sleep. Instead, they settle into a resting state, remaining semiconscious for 4 hours each day. While in this rest state, you are fully aware of your surroundings. After resting in this way, you gain the same benefit that a human does from 8 hours of sleep.

Warforged ResilienceYou have advantage on saving throws against poison, and you have resistance against poison damage.

Integrated Armor: When you are not wearing armor, your AC is 12 + your Dexterity modifier. During a short rest, you can bond a suit of armor you are wearing to your body. When you finish that short rest, the armor you are wearing is bonded to you, and it cannot subsequently be removed from your body until you finish another short rest during which time you remove the bonded armor.

Self-Stabilizing:  You have advantage on death saving throws.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common. 

Type: Multiple types of warforged are found among the worlds of D&D, including warforged scouts and warforged soldiers. Choose one of these types.

Warforged Scout

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 1.

Size: Small

Speed: 35 feet

Warforged Soldier

Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by 1.

Size: Medium

Speed: 30 feet

In the original Eberron Campaign Setting (ECS) warforged had a host of immunities. Warforged were completely  immune to “poison, sleep effects, paralysis, disease, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, effects that cause the sickened condition, and energy drain.” While this helped me feel like an unstoppable juggernaut, in retrospect it was simply too much. There were simply too many situations that were challenging to other characters that ended up being inconsequential to warforged. Rodney and I pared this down to a list that kept the basic flavor of being a construct – immunity to disease, resistance to poison, and no need to eat, sleep, drink, or breathe. This warforged is highly durable; the +2 Con score and bonus to death saving throws help the warforged take a pounding and keep going. As a warforged I can be a tireless sentinel but I can’t shrug off ghouls and vampires quite so easily, and I can’t make out with a succubus.

The original warforged spent a feat at first level to acquire an armored body, the equivalent of wearing either medium or heavy armor. This isn’t an easy thing to model in fifth edition, because characters don’t GET feats at first level… and simply giving the characters armor proficiencies would mess up class balance and step on what is currently the unique feature of the Mountain Dwarf. The current model gives a warforged a default AC of 12 + Dex, much like the basic composite plating of the 3.5 Warforged. Armor can then be attached like the shell of a hermit crab, the same approach used in Fourth Edition. Frankly, this is the one feature I’m not entirely happy with. That Adamantine Body was a defining part of Smith the Artificer, and the character won’t be the same without that heavy armor; at the same time, without the cost of a feat at first level, I don’t see an answer that both feels balanced and doesn’t simply steal a unique aspect of the 5E dwarf. So this Saturday, my 5E iteration of Smith will be a Warforged Soldier following these rules, and we’ll see how it goes.

In my next few posts I’ll talk about what I’m doing to model the Artificer for Extra Life and about the backstory of Smith Mk 2!



3 thoughts on “Extra Life: Hacking The Warforged

  1. Perhaps you should add that warforged who do wear armor instead of wearing none at all get a +1 to AC? Or is that overpowered? I too miss racial feats such as Adamantine Body. 5th edition ruined those ideas and should honestly bring them back. I have a feeling we will see a 6th edtion in WOTC need to keep making money off D&D and to keep tweaking it. Perhaps that will bring back things like racial feats…

    • This would be too powerful, and is the primary criticism of the current Unearthed Arcana 5E Warforged (which was made for an earlier version of 5E’s D&D Next beta)

  2. I’d consider creating a penalty to dexterity to increase your AC. You can’t take a feat at first level, but a feat is worth 2 points in a stat – make it dexterity. For punch, make it a -4 to Dex (to feel original) and disadvantage on dexterity saving throws, then impose disadvantage on enemy attacks that are attacking with slashing / bludgeoning / piercing. Statistically disadvantage counts as -6 to attack rolls, which emulates heavy armor – allowing you to proceed to increase your heavy armor on top of that and relying on AC.

    This opens a crucial weakness to AOE effects like dragon’s breath, lightning bolts (which any self respecting DM should take a moment to enjoy from time to time) and fireballs. While in some conflicts he’ll shirk damage comically, in other’s he’ll have real dangers of melting, being electrified, falling into traps and getting stuck (maybe not hurt) and be a terrible liability – and Dex saves are incredibly common for traps, forcing him to hemorrhage issues based on his “bulk”. Meanwhile players who opt out of this will have robot-like grace and allow multiple players to polarize what seems like a simple class.

    Your AC should be monstrous, as you shirk off blows normal people would get trashed by – this emulates the old resistance / immunity to conventional damage types allowing you plenty of opportunities to shirk off damage like it was nothing – if you’re running a cleric with heavy armor, your AC will be absolutely atrocious – but I find that the monster manual by level 6 has enemies hitting with +11 to +15’s.

    Lastly, I’d add weight. This subtle opportunity for DM’s allows them to trigger traps early, fall through rickety bridges, generally create some havoc.

    Just some thoughts – I feel a penalty to dex to trade for AC is the right way, but maybe this is overcooked. But Golem’s should not be doing parkour off walls, or dodging fireballs, that doesn’t quite make sense.

    Y’know how LOUD that would be?

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