Of all ancestries in Dungeons & Dragons 5e, it's perhaps the Warforged that offer one of the most interesting dynamics in parties. Unlike other ancestries, Warforged are mechanized beings gifted with sentience by mysterious makers. These Warforged come in the form of warriors, spellcasters, or even explorers of civilizations lost in time. And if you're the kind of player who wants a character struggling to define what it means to be "alive," the Warforged is a perfect addition to your 5e party. Not to mention, you can tinker with your Warforged to add various trinkets and gadgets!
This quick guide will give you the perfect gist into the life and culture of the mechanized Warforged and how they function in an adventuring party. You can make your own multi-functional Warforged explorer, a Warforged just trying to find its maker, or whatever floats your reactor with this guide.
Basics: The Traits
In the original Eberron setting, Warforged are war machines created by one of the ancient houses of the continent during the Last War. However, Warforged are created to have free will and sentience, eventually gaining the equivalent of “human rights” in the Eberron setting. This backstory in itself could be the basis of a Warforged’s history in an adventure. However, Players and Dungeon Masters may also use this as a backdrop of how a Warforged can tie into their setting. Here are other considerations for Warforged characters:
Age: Typical Warforged last from two to 30 years of age, depending on how they live their lives. How long these Warforged live remains a mystery, as they show no signs of deterioration.
Size and Speed: Medium, 30ft walking speed.
Alignment: Warforged prefer lives of discipline and order and as such lean towards Lawful Neutral alignments. However, Warforged who served certain beings tend to absorb the morality of the beings they served.
Racial Features: Warforged have these special features:
Size Modifiers, which makes Warforged take upon unique physical features. With a size modifier of 2d6 they can determine these traits:
Height: 5ft + 10inches + size modifier in inches.
Weight in pounds: 270 + (4 x size modifier)
Ageless, which makes Warforged immune to any magical effects meant to increase a creature’s age.
Constructed Resilience, which provides the Warforged with immense fortitude. They have these advantages:
They don’t need to breathe, drink, or eat.
They don’t need to sleep and are immune to magical effects meant to put creatures to sleep.
They are immune to disease.
They have Advantage on Saving Throws against effects meant to poison humanoids and have Resistance to poison damage.
Sentry’s Rest, which requires Warforged to spend at least six hours of inactivity. They are inert, but not unconscious. They can hear and see normally.
Integrated Protection, which bestows upon the Warforged special defensive layers that can be enchanted with their armor. They receive these benefits:
AC + 1
They can only wear armor they’re proficient with and incorporate it into themselves for an hour. They remove armor for an hour in the same way. Warforged who wear or remove their armor can rest.
While the Warforged lives, their armor can’t be taken off against their will.
Specialized Design, which grants the Warforged proficiency with one skill and one tool.
Languages, of which Warforged can write, read, and speak Common and one other language.
Warforged: The Best Classes To Build
Warforged can excel in any role they’re given, thanks to their programming. As such, a lot of Warforged may find themselves with “predisposed” roles that define their reason for creation. It’s this very reason that some Players may want to create their Warforged’s story to be in-line with the Class they choose. Likewise, a Warforged may showcase its sentience by choosing a Class completely separate from its “intended purpose,” adding a thrill to the Warforged's story in the adventure. Here are some Classes that fit any Warforged character:
Barbarian: While it’s natural for people to assume Warforged to be war machines, it’s still interesting to see a Warforged tap into pure “power” in order to wreak havoc in the battlefield. Unlike systematic Fighters, a Warforged Barbarian may have the ability to naturally tap into a mechanism to “overload” and form the equivalent of a Rage state, enabling them to amass massive power to devastate the battlefield and eliminate threats to their comrades.
The natural CON Ability Score Bonus of the Warforged make them quite great for roles that test their toughness, such as a melee-oriented Barbarian. Moreover, their free-choice Ability Score Bonus enables Players to tailor-make their Warforged to fit the Barbarian’s role perfectly - be it adding the point to DEX to make them reap the benefits of Unarmored Defense or even to STR to further boost their combat prowess.
The Warforged’s natural CON makes them durable in the battlefield, which serves them well considering the volatile nature of the Barbarian’s Rage mechanic. In turn, if they want to maximize their attacks, Players should invest in Strength to make full use of Rage. Meanwhile, they can also look into boosting Dexterity for Unarmored Defense, Reckless Attack, and Danger Sense - all of which can boost their efficiency in combat and make them more durable protectors of the party.
Given that the Barbarian’s Primal Path shapes the way their Rage works, the Warforged may have a more flexible approach to the battlefield with the Ancestral Guardian, Battlerager, and Berserker Paths. Granted, these may look too simple or straightforward to use, but these also give the Warforged more flexibility to work their way around enemies.
Fighter: Being built for war, a Fighter might make sense for a Warforged Class. Their programming may have built a Warforged exactly to become a Fighter, equipping them with the right build and the right aptitude for equipment that will enable them to defend their fellow adventurers from various threats. Likewise, a Warforged Fighter may be trained in various forms of combat, being able to adapt and adjust to various combat situations.
Thanks to the CON Ability Score Bonus of the Warforged, the Warforged Fighter can be a massive juggernaut in the battlefield. Their innate toughness means they’re much harder to kill and their extra Ability Score Bonus enables Players to optimize their Fighter to be a fully-melee combatant with STR or even dabble into ranged combat with a DEX bonus. In turn, these benefits maximize the Warforged’s ability to fully reap the benefits of the ever-flexible Fighter.
Warforged Fighters add a much-needed flexibility to combat, especially thanks to their various features. The Fighting Style option alone dictates the Warforged's approach to combat, with their Archetype features further cementing their preferred combat roles. Meanwhile, Second Wind and Action Surge enable the Warforged Fighter to be much fiercer in combat thanks to the ability to do more in a single round. Moreover, their access to multiple Ability Score Increases (which can be replaced with Feats) greatly improves on their combat options.
Thanks to the flexible nature of the Fighter, the Warforged Fighter easily becomes a combat specialist with their many available archetypes. Warforged can have a simpler approach to combat by choosing the Champion, Brute, or even Samurai archetypes. However, they may have a more tactical view of the battlefield with the Battle Master, Monster Hunter, Rune Knight, or Eldritch Knight archetypes.
Sorcerer: In usual lore, Sorcerers find themselves in individuals that have a unique connection with magic. Unlike Wizards, the Sorcerer’s abilities to tap into the arcane allows them to manipulate the very nature of spells themselves. As such, it might be interesting to see why a Warforged, a being “created” by others, could have such an innate “talent.” Just what happened in their creation that made them “linked” to the arcane and its many mysteries? Just what lies in their “sentience” that made this particular Warforged have the ability to become a Sorcerer?
The CON Bonus of the Warforged will enable an otherwise squishy Class like a Sorcerer to withstand heavy damage, while its other Ability Score Bonus allows Players to optimize their Warforged Sorcerer by adding that bonus to CHA. Moreover, this allows Players to play with the extra points of their Sorcerer, as the CON Bonus immediately boosts the Warforged’s survivability and leaves more room for customization.
Warforged Sorcerers have a vast arsenal of magical spells that give them a remarkable edge in battle. While Wizards have a larger spell pool, Sorcerers can tap into Font of Magic and Metamagic to enhance their spells with various magical effects. In turn, Sorcerers will almost always have something up their sleeve regardless of the situation.
Given the unique nature of Sorcerers thanks to their Sorcerous Origins, almost all Sorcerers have something unique to bring to the table. In the case of the Warforged, their Sorcerous Origins may have something to do with their sentience. In that regard, Clockwork Soul, Divine Soul, Giant Soul, and Psionic Soul blend well with both the Warforged’s potential backstory and even offering different combat roles.
Artificer: An Artificer might make sense as a Warforged Class, especially due to their inclination with machines and other forms of technologies. A Warforged may be able to tap into their innate “sentience” to produce the arcane power required for the Artificer’s magical abilities. Meanwhile, they may tap into the innate knowledge of the Artificer in order to unravel and decipher various pieces of ancient technology that may capture their interest throughout their adventures.
The CON Bonus of the Warforged enables them to choose any role for their Artificer should the need arise. Granted, INT is likely the best place to be for their extra Ability Score Bonus to maximize the Artificer’s spellcasting. However, Players could just as easily invest in DEX for the added mobility or STR for the added melee potential - which fits for the Artificer’s archetypes, all of which enable them to fulfill a desired combat role.
The Warforged Artificer can use their magical abilities to do a variety of things to trinkets and objects. For instance, Magic Tinkering allows them to create various knick-knacks with simple functions. Meanwhile, Infuse Item allows them to improve on various objects and enhance their battle prowess. Outside battle, Artificers can use Tool Expertise and The Right Tool For The Job in order to tackle and solve various out-of-combat puzzles and traps that plague the party.
Thanks to the versatile nature of the Artificer, a Warforged may be built specifically to accommodate an Artificer role throughout their lifetime. In turn, each archetype may benefit them in different ways, The Armorer gives Warforged an edge when aiding their comrades in battle. Meanwhile, the Battle Smith and Maverick enable them to wreak havoc in melee. Lastly, the Artillerist allows the Artificer to be a long-ranged specialist while retaining their pool of spells.
Warlock: One of the most interesting Class choices for the Warforged would be the Warlock, especially since it’s unexpected for a “sentient machine” to even capture the interest of a supernatural force that usually finds its host in the form of other “living” beings. However, this caveat may be exactly what makes the Warforged Warlock quite an interesting character choice. Perhaps the being attached to the Warforged may not even be aware as to why they chose the Warforged in the first place. Were they attracted to something within the Warforged’s machine body? Or perhaps there’s something in the nature of the Warforged’s creation that made them susceptible to encounters with otherworldly beings?
The innate CON Bonus of the Warforged lets them withstand various kinds of attacks throughout combat, with their other Ability Score Bonus leaving them with enough room to tinker with their various Abilities. Likewise, Players may opt to invest in CHA in order to maximize the Warlock’s various Eldritch benefits, with others perhaps aiming to transform their Warlocks into combat-oriented fighters with melee-based STR or even long-range-based DEX.
The Warlock's Otherworldly Patron gives the Warlock access to a variety of magical abilities to compensate for their lack of spell slots. In turn, their Pact Magic, Eldritch Invocations, and Pact Boons give them a number of magical benefits that can still deal massive damage and support in and out of combat. Moreover, in higher levels, Mystic Arcanum gives the Warlock access to stronger variations of their favorite spells.
A Warlock serves as a great way to insert the spellcaster narrative into a machine like the Warforged. In turn, their Patrons may come from unique sources that can add a unique flair to their backstory. For instance, the Celestial, Fiend, Genie, and Ghost in the Machine Patrons all offer unique perks that further diversify the Warforged Warlock’s role in the battlefield while also opening a lot of potential for lore.
Finding Life: Interesting Character Backgrounds
Despite being one of the most popular ancestries in the game, Warforged also has one of the best opportunities to come with a unique backstory. Thanks to their “artificial” nature, any Warforged can have a bizarre backstory based on their life prior to their gaining of sentience. As such, Players and Dungeon Masters may even use this as an opportunity to connect Warforged's history with what’s happened to Warforged in their world in general. Here are some Backgrounds that can be extremely beneficial for any Warforged’s story:
City Watch (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): A Warforged City Watch may have been a Warforged programmed to protect their city alongside other Warforged, with a riot or a war forcing them out of their duty. Interestingly, this may pose compelling story implications. After all, what would a Warforged do if it can’t physically do its duty anymore? As a new sentient being, just what would a Warforged need to do if it finds itself incapable of performing its programming?
Skill Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), WIS (Insight)
Languages: Any two languages
Gladiator (Player’s Handbook): A Warforged Gladiator may find themselves as a reactivated Warforged who stumbled upon an unknown empire at an unknown time, forcing themselves into a life of combat as a Gladiator who breaks down, but doesn’t truly die. They may have earned their own freedom through these battles or they may have escaped their conditions thanks to a riot.
Skill Proficiencies: DEX (Acrobatics), CHA (Performance)
Tools: Disguise Kit, Unusual Weapon x1
Noble (Player’s Handbook): A Warforged Noble might be one of the more unique iterations of a Warforged character. After all, Warforged should usually have a “purpose” - it might be programmed for combat, servitude, or to follow simple commands. However, a Warforged Noble might be part of a Warforged society who managed to set up an empire of their own. Or, perhaps more interesting, this may be a Warforged who serves as a vessel for a noble’s soul.
Skill Proficiencies: INT (History), CHA (Persuasion)
Tools: Gaming Set x1
Languages: Any one language
Soldier (Player’s Handbook): A Warforged Soldier may be a common stereotype for a Warforged character, but they also tend to be the most flexible. A Warforged Soldier may be a reactivated unit buried deep beneath a collapsed castle. Interestingly, a Warforged Soldier may also be the first of its kind - a soldier with sentience in an army of others programmed to follow commands. Whatever the reason, a Warforged Soldier has the skills needed to become an army of their own.
Skill Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), CHA (Intimidation)
Tools: Gaming Set x1, Vehicles (Land)
Spy (Player’s Handbook): A Warforged Spy circumvents all stereotypes that depict Warforged as warmachines. After all, a mechanized being with strict directives could be the perfect spy, given the appropriate situation. A reactivated Warforged Spy may be tasked to run surveillance on certain political parties - or even the adventuring party itself - with or without them knowing. This in itself makes for interesting plot points, especially if Warforged in the adventure setting are considered extinct or otherwise a new species.
Skill Proficiencies: CHA (Deception), DEX (Stealth)