Transformers of Eberron

One of the things I’ve always liked about the warforged is the idea that as a warforged, your body was designed for a specific purpose. If you’re a sorcerer, it may be because you were designed to be a sorcerer… and what does that even mean? Do you have wands built into your arms? If you’re a warforged barbarian, is your “Rage” a battle mode?

The idea of the envoy warforged (in The Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron) came from this idea: the concept of a warforged specifically designed for a particular purpose. The primary benefits of this are flexibility. You gain proficiency in a skill, a tool, and a language. But building on that idea of built for a purpose, you can also pick a tool you’re proficient in and have a functioning version of that tool integrated into your body. As a rogue, you can have lockpicks built into your fingers. As a bard, you could have an integrated instrument. In a campaign I’m in, I’ve been playing a warforged druid named Rose. Functionally, she has an integrated herbalism kit. Cosmetically, I describe this as her having plants growing from the root-like tendrils that make up warforged musculature; typically, these are roses, but the idea is that she could grow the plant she needs for a specific situation. Functionally, this doesn’t allow her to do anything she couldn’t do with a standard herbalism kit; it’s just a fun visual idea.

The design intent of this feature was that you had an integrated tool, an object that could normally be held in a hand. We considered limiting it to artisan’s tools specifically, but there’s a lot of tools that are very flavorful—the warforged rogue with built in thieves’ tools, the bard with an instrument, the druid with the herbalism kit—that would be lost in this case. So we just left it as “a tool.” Some people immediately jumped on the fact that the “Tools” list on page 154 of the Player’s Handbook includes Vehicles (Land and Water). So… could you be a warforged with an integrated chariot? How about an integrated wardship? Could you be a warforged transformer? 

Again, this was never the intent. I think this is something that most people recognize, and I’m sure any future iteration of the warforged will eliminate the loophole. Among other things, the ability doesn’t grant any ability to transform; it states that the tool is integrated into the body of the warforged and that “You must have your hands free to use the use the integrated tool.” It doesn’t change your size, so as a medium sized creature, what would it even MEAN to have a wagon integrated with your body? As it wasn’t something we ever intended, I didn’t give it any further thought.

UNTIL NOW. One of my regular playtesters and I share a birthday, and therre’s a tradition of playing D&D on that day… specifically, playing a one shot with the most ridiculous characters you can come up with, characters you could never play in a serious game. As I sat down to come up with a ridiculous character, I realized that this was the time to play a warforged transformer.

The immediate question is what it actually means to have an “Integrated Vehicle.” The PHB provides very few details ABOUT vehicles to begin with. How fast can a chariot go? What exactly is the difference between a wagon and a carriage? Beyond that, as defined the Integrated Tool ability doesn’t actually allow for any sort of transformation; it’s simply that the tool is always available to you. So what does it MEAN to have an integrated carriage? Three immediate answers suggest themselves.

  • You are a wagon at all times. You have wheels and can provide cover for passengers. However, since you’re still a medium creature, you can only carry tiny passengers.
  • You have some sort of extradimensional space. If we imagine a carriage can hold at least four medium creatures, SOMEHOW you fit those medium creatures into your body. Given the vast potential for abuse in a character having a large extradimensional space, it’s not something I’d normally allow into a game, BUT this is a ridiculous session.
  • You physically transform into a vehicle… in this case, a Large carriage. Under the circumstances, I’d allow this as a sort of version of wild shape. However, because it’s not supposed to be a big advantage, I’d have the character’s statistics (including hit points and armor class) remain constant. As a carriage you won’t have hands, but you still move using your character’s base speed; you can simply carry other creatures in your body.

For the scenario we’re talking about, I’m leaning towards option three. It’s an action to transform either way. As a vehicle you have to hands and can’t cast spells requiring somatic components. I’m thinking the character can talk as a vehicle (unlike wild shape). And again, the character’s AC, hit points, and movement remain unchanged; it’s COLORFUL, but it shouldn’t be a huge advantage. The one benefit I would likely give is to ignore encumbrance in vehicle form, or at least dramatically increase it. I might limit the character’s movement to their normal speed, but I don’t think the character has to be strong enough to carry the rest of the party; that’s the benefit of being a carriage.

Given that, it means I want a character that’s fast. For the adventure, we’re making fifth level characters; both Monk and Barbarian have increased movement at 5th level, and there’s also the option of a feat. The Mobile feat adds +10 movement speed, so the character could have up to a 50′ move; not bad for a chariot or a carriage. Given that, I’m considering three possibilities.

  • Druid. When *I* used to watch Transformers, I always liked the ones that turned into animals. Ravage. Laserbeak. The Dinobots. However, this misses the whole idea of having a warforged with an integrated vehicle, and the official ruling has always been that warforged druids turn into normal animals. So scratch that.
  • Monk. A monk have fast movement and increased unarmed damage, which is an easy basis for fighting as a vehicle; if you run into someone, you can make an Unarmed Strike. And if I use the Sun Soul monk, I could have a ranged attack! I immediately thought of a warforged who turns into a tiny lightning rail engine, zooming around and zapping people with lightning from the elemental arc. Using Mobile to get the 50′ movement and being able to ram people and keep moving would certainly be entertaining.
  • Barbarian. I’ve always liked the idea that a barbarian’s rage can be reflected as a “battle mode” for a warforged. The fast movement of a barbarian provides a base 40′ movement, or 50′ with Mobile. Unlike the monk, I wouldn’t see the character as fighting in carriage form, but it still works for the idea of a sort of Optimus Prime—a powerful warrior (perhaps with a ridiculously oversized two-handed weapon) who can turn into a carriage between fights and roll out with the party on board.

That’s where I’m at right now. So with that in mind: have any of you ever allowed a warforged envoy to have an integrated vehicle? How did YOU handle it? Which of these ideas do you think I should explore? Post your comments below!

I’ve been both busy with deadlines and physically sick, so I haven’t had much time to post over the last month, but there’s many other things to discuss. Eberron has just had it’s fifteenth anniversary, and to commemorate that, the podcast Manifest Zone did an Anniversary episode with the original 3.5 Eberron design team: Myself, James Wyatt, Chris Perkins, and Bill Slavicsek. Listen to the interview here! And thanks as always to my Patreon supporters!

39 thoughts on “Transformers of Eberron

  1. I like the idea of a chariot-forged carrying specialized shields or bucklers that just… Become functional wheels to support the forged and its backpacking passenger.

    I have not yet had an envoy player, but I look forward to hearing about your transformer’s shenanigans.

  2. I think warforged druids not turning into warforged animals is lame. I mean, you could just rule the animal lacks the warforged’s armour plating or something similar, But I am a great fan of refluffing, so yeah.

    As for Optiforged Prime, I say go with monk. The idea of a warforged with a mini-elemental ring is cool enough on its won, even without going transformer.

  3. Hi Keith,

    You’ve gone into quite some detail about your vision of a Wagonforged (Not to be confused with a Dragonforged that’s being hunted by Elmer Fudd). However, would you give a Canoe or Galley-forged a swim speed? Even with this silly idea, should there be limits on vehicle size?

    • The main issue is that done of this could be allowed without DM permission. So yeah, the idea of a warforged adventurer becoming a warship that can carry a hundred people is pretty ridiculous. By RAW, one can certainly argue that the ability allows you to have a working model of the tool, but a rowboat doesn’t propel itself… so as a warforged rowboat you can float, but someone else needs to row! But yeah, as a DM, if I allowed it, I’d personally let them have a swim speed.

      • Now I’m thinking of a female-personality warforged that’s basically the detachable figurehead of a sailboat (as a tribute to anime or shows like Andromeda) – she can effectively control the ship with her mind.

  4. In the 3.5 Eberron campaign in which I played, part of the backstory was that there had been a project during the Last War to create a Warforged horse…which, alas, failled. Leaving aside the question of playable PCs for the moment, there are Warorged Titans to give a model for larger-than-medium Warforged. Given that, would Lyrandar or Orien have ever had an interest in creating autonomous vehicles – a Warforge airship or galleon, or carriage or lightning rail engine – as autonomousvehicles? Less of the flavor of Transformers and more of the flavor of Pixar’s Cars, or Thomas the Tank Engine, perhaps?

  5. If I may suggest a somewhat radical inversion: What about the warforged being what is integrated into a sufficiently large vehicle? This leans toward option 1 that you resented above.

    To bring a spot of lore into such a silly idea, I imagine it being something like a fantasy version of scifi ship AIs. Or perhaps the warforged equivalent to an awakened object.

    If I were to allow such a setup, which would require a very particular sort of campaign, I would give the vehicle its normal stats, whatever those happen to be, but allow the ‘forged player to count as present in any portion and able to operate as a normal crew member as though physically present at one location. So your warforged airship could pilot itself at night, prepare meals in the galley when no one is around, perform some degree of self repairs, and so forth. I’m not sure how I would deal with the characters hitpoints, ac, and the like.

    • I love this, it could be the navigator or engineer. You could have it bicker with the bound elemental on an Elemental Vessel.

      “Does this make my aft look big?”

  6. If you consider not going the Warforged road, how about playing an Elemental that can voluntarily bind and unbind to a carriage, just preferring to be a carriage.

  7. Hi, Keith! As a lifelong Transformers fan, I *LOVE* this idea!

    What about a rogue, though? Rogues can outclass any other character class in inherent speed, including monks. Rogues can move three times per round at 2nd level: dash action, move, and Cunning Action (bonus action) dash. That’s 90′ at 2nd level, outclassing a monk by 10′ per round. With the Mobile feat at 4th level raising the warforged’s speed to 40, that’s 120′ per round! A monk at 4th, with Mobile, can move 100′ per round. Talk about fast! With the ability added by Mobile to move, attack, and move away without provoking, that’s 80′ of movement AND an attack, at a minimum of 4th level. A monk is still limited to 40′ if they want to attack.

    For the warforged’s vehicle form, have you thought of a two-wheeled vehicle prototype? All envoys are customized prototypes, really, so their alternate form being a prototype could make sense. There were many motorcycle transformers. That could reflect the character’s speed and mobility. Motorcycle transformers were usually scouts, meaning they often needed to be stealthy, too. If you have the Scout rogue archetype, at 3rd level, you gain the Skirmish ability, allowing you to move half your speed (with Mobile at 4th level, that’s 20′!) as a reaction when an enemy ends its move within 5′ of you, and Skirmish doesn’t provoke. A scout also gains Superior Mobility at 9th level, gaining an additional 10′ movement to their movement speed. With the Mobile feat, this increases your per round speed to 150′. Add in Skirmish, and your per round movement is 175′! If you want an attack in there, with Skirmish, your per round is still 125′. A warforged monk’s max move per round, with Mobile, is 160′ at 18th level, 80′ if they want to attack, too. A scout rogue 15′ faster per round ((30′ + 10′ Mobile + 10′ Superior Mobility) x3 for move, dash, Cunning Action Dash + 25′ Skirmish), AND they reach that speed in half the time.

    I think you should reduce the transformation time to a free action. It’s their own body. Transformers can change very quickly. A favorite tactic of theirs is to be in vehicle mode, speed toward their target, transform, use the momentum to add to their attack (could be be flavor for sneak attack damage), transform again, and move away (the Mobile feat lets you move away from an enemy you attacked, hit or miss, without provoking). Carrying four people would be difficult without added Str. You’re giving the benefit of being able to do that without being concerned with Str just by being a carriage. If you make the character a motorcycle, they can still carry one person, and you don’t have to hand-waive the Str requirement. A halfling, gnome, goblin, kobold, a size small warforged, or a reed-thin elf would be easily carried without incurring exhaustion. Or, you could keep the benefit of not needing Str for the rider, and keep the Str required for items. This way, it’s less of a benefit, being a greater balancing limitation, but just as cool.

    I like the idea someone mentioned of a warforged envoy becoming the figurehead of a ship. You could make the bowsprit a socket for them, and they could control the elemental galleon, airship, lighnting rail, or elemental landcoach they integrate with.

    I have a Dragonforged artificer (with the shipwright background from Ghosts of Saltmarsh) who is building the party a convertible elemental vessel. It’ll start out as an over-sized elemental galleon, with two bound elementals to move it (one water, to ease the passage of the ship, one air, to propel the ship). Then it will be converted to have a submarine mode, and finally, an airship mode, with a third elemental (air) added to provide altitude control, and smoothing the atmospheric conditions arount the vessel (kind of like a warp bubble). I have two other ideas for the ship. Either there will be a socket for the Dragonforged to plug into the ship and control the mode-change, or there will be a socket for a docent to be placed, kind of like a ship’s computer.

    Now that I type it out, I like that last one. The party already has a docent they found in a treasure hoard, before they gained a Dragonforged party member. They have no clue what it is. The party sorc tried to identify it, failed, shrugged, stored it, and forgot about it. The Dragonforged hasn’t seen it yet, but when he does, I think I’ll give him the idea. 😀

    I have another idea for a warforged envoy character, that I was going to make as my backup character. It’s 100% based on the Three Halflings in a Trenchcoat fighter archetype posted to reddit. The envoy is actually comprised of five tiny warforged, who combine, Voltron-like, or, if you prefer, combiner-Transformer like, into one normal-sized warforged. This would be a “battle mode” idea, too, but tied to the fighter class instead of barbarian. (Optimus was not a mindless rager, but a tactician extraordinaire.) They can change forms as a bonus action (coordinating between five autonomous beings into one is harder than a single autonomous being into another shape, I would think). When the Three Halflings archetype would get the ability to disassemble, surround their target, attack, then reassemble, this one would, too. But with this idea from you, Keith, and my thought experiment on making it a motorcycle, the fastest, and scouty-est, I might want to make it five tiny warforged that combine into a motorcycle and rider, and not let the character carry anyone, making it a true form-change with no added abilities at all. I might modify the scout archetype to incorporate the ability to disassemble, surround, attack, and reassemble, because that was the best ability of the Three Halflings in a Trenchcoat archetype, by far, in my opinion. 😀 Oh! I can make it a triple-changer! The logical thing for a combiner that changes from five tiny warforged into a motorcycle and rider, when making the speed in, attack, and speed away maneuver, would be for the rider to make the attack. But I like the idea of changing into a medium sized creature for the attack. So, they do, instead of the tiny rider making the attack. 100% cosmetic, but way more satisfying. 😀

  8. My thought is of a Titanic Warforged, mindless but useful to some kind of plot, that can transform into a warship or into a flying vehicle. Probably give it to an NPC or a Villain to show off to the players and see if they want to steal it or get one of their own before I actually went about making hard rules for it.

  9. I have a player in a long running game who plays a warforged commissioned to be an armorer. He has a portable forge inside him and ‘transforms’ into it. He was created to repair weapons and armor during the last war. I thought it was great

  10. I have a player in a long running game who plays a warforged commissioned to be an armorer. He has a portable forge inside him and ‘transforms’ into it. He was created to repair weapons and armor during the last war. I thought it was great.

  11. I have an idea for a warforged with an integrated brewer’s tools. I picture the beer brewing in his torso and dispensing through a finger. I’m not sure how much he could hold or if he could have multiple flavors at once.

  12. I have an idea for a warforged with integrated brewer’s tools. I picture the beer brewing in his torso and dispensing through a finger. I’m not sure how much he could hold or if he could have two flavors at once.

  13. The Warforge Wizard in my group, Book has a sort of Beast Transformer familiar. His rolls up into a perfect clockwork sphere then unfolds to either a cat, owl, etc. It’s purely cosmetic but a fun take on the mechanic no less. As an avid Transformers collector and fresh face to D&D I can definitely appreciate it.

  14. Now I am curious on the other players character 🙂

    Ps i basically don’t like so much the idea that warforged are create with a purpose. They are not all alike. I think they surprise their creators a lot 🙂

    • I like to think that the warforged are created with a purpose but that House Cannith has less understanding of the process than they think, so unique characteristics emerge. There is a precedence for this in the ghulra. Enjoy!

    • But that’s exactly WHY I like the idea that warforged are created for a purpose: because some embrace it and some defy it. As a warforged sorcerer, I could say that I was built to be a sorcerer, like a living wand, and that my class abilities reflect my physical design. Or I can say that I was designed to be a butler to a wizard, and that I ended up being fused with an imp and becoming a sorcerer; which is still different from saying that I had no purpose at all.

      My warforged druid Rose was created to be a companion for a princess of Cyre. Her built in herbalism kit was both tied to her role as a medic and purely artistic; the companion wreathed in roses. We played out her discovering her other Druidic abilities as part of the campaign; one of the ongoing mysteries is whether she’s developed powers her creators never imagined, or if one of her creators had secret plans for her she’s yet to discover. So it’s not that she was designed to BE A DRUID… but she was designed for a PURPOSE, and that’s part of her story.

    • One warforged concept I intend to use in the future is that of a relatively ordinary warforged, with the usual intended purpose of serving as a foot soldier in the Last War… who didn’t seem to come out quite as intended. Make no mistake, they could fight competently, but they didn’t quite rise to the general standard of the warforged fighters around them. Furthermore, something about the purpose of fighting in a war felt fundamentally wrong to them. Fighting itself was all right, but killing most of who they fought less so, and fighting large numbers of people just for being on the opposite side felt particularly off. Their commanding officer didn’t even feel quite like their “real” commanding officer, though he wasn’t someone it seemed worth defying either.

      When the Treaty of Thronehold freed all warforged, this particular character was not at a loss like so many others. They had a real master to find, and a real purpose to seek out, and kept at this search for years. Their joining the party would entail them meeting the one existing cleric of a new religion, and the intent is that they’d end up as that religion’s first paladin.

    • Aside from being created for a purpose: living weapons? We have variety in our weapons of war across the ages, often to provide a specific advantage or overcome a disadvantage. Cannon has ‘forged scouts, juggernauts and titans each indicating designed a purpose.

      Also consider that the ‘marked houses are heavily mercantile; there are other markets for Cannith to conquer by modifying the basic warforged design.

  15. One other oddity that comes to mind is gaming sets. Getting a laugh out of the idea of a warforged video poker machine for integrated playing card set.

    A somewhat serious example could be some kind of Warforged capable of manipulating odds (since being proficient with dice makes you better at them). The question is what class to use. 3.5 had plenty of options, but 5E is fairly spartan on this subject.

    • Assuming that this comment actually works, I would point out the Diviner Wizard with the Portent ability, though that is of course dependant on being a Wizard, a class which pairs with innovative concepts like a fine wine pairs with a handful of jelly babies.

      Something that might work a little better: Bards and Monks can be really easily re-flavoured to be “luck-based”, especially the Way of the Drunken Master (because obviously a lucky gambler would mix a hell of a cocktail) and the (admittedly UA) College of Satire or even Morgrave’s College of Keys. Rogues are probably the simplest and easiest way to do this… Thief would work well, what with the Fast Hands feature.

      I also Love the concept of a Warforged slot machine-like card game. With that sweet Expertise making sure the house always wins… House Cannith, that is. Does anyone else have a claim to casinos? Might be a Ghallanda thing…

      (Seriously, this website keeps eating my comments! I’m so frustrated! I want to talk about the wonderful Morgrave book! Let’s see if using another email works…)

      • Sorry about the lost comments! The first time you comment from an email address I have to approve it, and I hadn’t noticed how many were in the queue. Now you’ve been approved, you shouldn’t have any further issues posting from this address.

  16. I think I wouldn’t have it become the wagon but rather merge and control one – maybe only a specific one or maybe any they find ( maybe destroying the front in the process – maybe something like a centaur but a wagon instead of a horse body

  17. It occurs to me that Air Vehicles are also Tools. Now I am thinking that Merrix went ahead and built a Psiforged with a built in soarsled. I think that would mesh well with that Sharn artwork with the flying gnolls.

  18. I am of the personal belief that Rowboat Cop has been, is, and will be the best thing to come out of this for all the future players who make him/her their D&D reality.

  19. My take on being vechicles is you can become your own vehicle but would need motive power from elsewhere.

    Like, a land vehicle, you fold out wheels and become a chariot unto yourself but still need a horse to pull you.
    Sea Veahicle, you can fold out a sail and maybe some paralell hulls but you’re going to need wind or to row.

    Air Vehicle? I’d say you’d either be a balloon (Bring some fuel for your burner) or you’d need an elemental to support you. The latter could be an interesting character trait. Yes you were a member of the experimental airbourne legion but when Thronehold granted you freedom they made an argument that the nation got to keep the elemental.

  20. Dont have any experience with 3.5, so I cant comment there, but how about these for serious rules to be a vehicle Envoy in 5e:

    When in vehicle form:
    1- your weight limit is your Push, Drag, or Lift capacity (30 times your Strength score)
    2- you can be up to size Large, and use the associated modifier to capacity (2 times Push, Drag, or Lift)
    3- if Large, you can carry up to 4 medium, 8 small, or 16 tiny creatures; if Medium, you can carry up to 1 medium, 2 small, or 4 tiny creatures
    4- you cannot perform any actions that require your hands, but retain your senses and speech as normal
    5- you can only help by speech, pushing, or dragging
    6- you can only attack using the Special Attack Shove, unless granted another method (such as via the Charger Feat)
    7- you can move only as the vehicle you become would be able, but retain your simple movement speed

    I think the above would be a reasonable compromise for the ability to be a vehicle.
    Of course, then there is the issue of whether you could Force March without exhaustion.

    • Oh, almost forgot:

      8- You retain no benefits of your vehicular form while in your humanoid form.

  21. I would have it be like integrated Heelys. They just lift up their feet slightly and roll using their momentum.

    I would also have it be like the 1980’s film Xanadu, and have a bunch of warforged on rollerblades dancing around and singing.

  22. We never actually ran this way, but I seem to recall that the 3.5 Alter Self spell let you change into another creature of the same type +/- one size category. Warforged are constructs, and animated objects are constructs. So you could theoretically transform into an animated carriage or cart with that spell 🙂

Comments are closed.