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!



14 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?

  3. Fan of Eberron, thx for giving us this fantastic setting. 😉

    When I made a homebrew of warforged, instead of giving subraces, I gave the warforged the option for their plating. Each option was designed after different armors, the composite plating used the nonmagical studded leather, the mithral plating a mithral half-plate, the adamantine plating the adamantine plate-armor. The plating also decided what ability scores are risen (+1 in any in composite, +1 STR or DEX in mithral, +1 STR in adamantine).
    It’s doing well enough, as warforged can’t benefit from armor of any kind in return (though they have docents, they’re missing many nice magical armor) and giving them this head-start doesn’t destroy anything so far. Especially since I make magic items available in my campaign.
    Some of the traits of the initial design are currently available as feats, often a bit nerved (like resistance to necrotic damage and advantage on saves against having the max hp reduced).

    Though I like your approach in your other features and may revamp mine. It’s great to see which aspects you thought should have game-relevance and which should not. It may be my campaign, but that doesn’t mean to be stoic at every little detail. 😀

    How important do you think is the healing-aspect of a warforged (so that usual magic only heals half its normal amount)? I’m a bit torned about it, as it gives a certain amount of fluff there, but makes partying with a warforged more difficult (which makes the Lord of Blade’s propaganda hit so much more at home).

    • How important do you think is the healing-aspect of a warforged (so that usual magic only heals half its normal amount)?

      There’s a few factors here. The first is that 5E dramatically downplays the importance of healing. Every character has hit dice they can use to heal after a short rest, and every character is completely healed after a long rest. To me, this plays to the idea that for the most part, hit points represent cosmetic damage – that you aren’t seriously injured until you drop below zero hit points. If you have a chance to rest, you get your energy back and you’re ready to fight again. If that’s the case, then healing MAGIC is really more about reinvigorating as opposed to literally healing – and it’s not a big deal if that works on warforged as well as it does on others.

      Other factors are whether you have an artificer conversion in your campaign – since presence of construct-healing artificers was how you offset the penalty for warforged – and if you feel the warforged version you’re using are significantly powerful enough to require such a limitation.

  4. Hi Keith. Since this post as been made, this is basically the definitive warforged character option in multiple circles, as there has not yet been another WOTC attempt at it. I have taken the liberty of formatting this into a more book-like appearance. I’m asking if you are alright with this – I will immediately remove and take it down if you are not, but if you are, I will share it to several homebrew circles. You can see that I credit you.


    Given your approval, it will be moved into a PDF hosted on drive so that it’s the sole item in the link. I won’t share anything until you reply, also.

    • Hi, Samuel. You’ve done a great job formatting this. I’m slightly reluctant to post it simply because *I* haven’t revisited it since I originally posted it; it was something I quickly put together for Extra Life, and while it WORKS, I haven’t considered it against all the other races that are out there now. So, I don’t have a problem with you sharing it, but whenever there’s a go-ahead from Wizards to do more with Eberron in 5E, I will likely come up with a revised version.

      Where’s the warforged image from?

  5. In my campaign I murdered the dwarf and stole it’s stuff… I also gave the warforged the bigger range of immunities, with the penalty of just half of magical healing working on him.

  6. Couldn’t you effectively make a “Juggernaut” subrace that would give the heavy armor aspect (and maybe reduce speed to 25 feet as a consequence?)
    Seems like Warforged is a race that could feature a TON of cool subrace ideas as different “models”
    I could see a Utility model with a bonus to Int and the ability to mimic various tool kits, or maybe even an “Intruder” model with a bonus to Cha that gets a fake skin exterior a la Terminator.

    • Sure! This is an old post that was done for a specific event, and I haven’t revisited it yet (because I’m not legally allowed to post concrete conversions at this time) – but there’s definitely more things you could do by exploring the subrace “model” options.

  7. There’s one thing I’m not sure if it was intended or not. With the Scout type, have you maybe meant 25 ft instead of 35 ft? Given small races have 25 ft movement instead of standard 30 ft.

    • Not all small races have a lower speed. For example, Kobolds still have a 30 foot speed. It makes sense for a thing built to be a scout to be faster, especially when it’s something that doesn’t get tired.

  8. I’m liking your version a bit more. Have to say I’m saddened that neither yours nor Wizards’ has darkvision. I’m guessing they only have human vision. With the new variant human, you get +1 to two stats, another skill proficiency, and a bonus feat. That means you could do the same to the warforged when you do the revisit that you were hoping to eventually get to. Hopefully 5e sees more Eberron, and you can dictate how the warforged and all its variants are handled. If the newest book can have a half-dozen variants of tieflings, we can get 4-6 warforged. Totally for it. Bring back that ironwood body, unarmored body, adamantine body, mithral body, silver body, cold iron body, etc. That’d be great.

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