Warforged are a race of "living constructs" native to the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting of Eberron. What's a living construct? Mechanically, they're an excuse to play a robot in a fantasy campaign without having to deal with level adjustment. Fundamentally, warforged are golems, but they differ from their more mainstream counterparts in the fact that they are actually sentient creatures, created by magically coagulating and blending metal, stone, and wood in a vat. This means that warforged are far smarter than standard golems, and lack certain golem weaknesses, like not being able to benefit from healing magic... though they also have a lot of weaknesses that normal golems wouldn't; being a living construct means having the equivalent of vital organs, and thus being able to bleed out if you prod them with a sharp enough stick.
As detailed in Races of Eberron, all warforged share a common facial design, with a hinged jaw and crystal eyes embedded beneath a reinforced brow ridge with a sigil, called a "ghulra", engraved into the center of the forehead which "are as individual as human fingerprints". Dragon Magazine #352 claims some Warforged have cubical heads (which it has an illustration of), blank heads, demon heads, skull heads or cyclops heads on top of some variety in torso shape and aesthetic accents (all of which is presented in a random appearance table).
Warforged were the ultimate creations of House Cannith, the House of the Dragonmark of Making. During the chaos of the Last War (aka "Dungeonpunk World War I"), House Cannith used strange artificer magic brought back from Xen'drik to churn out enormous legions of artificial soldiers - essentially a cheaper, mass produced version of the common golem that wasn't as morally uncertain as just using the undead and didn't need to eat or sleep and don't become fatigued. This came back to bite them when the war ended and people found out that warforged were actually sapient creatures, with individual personalities and full consciousnesses. As slavery isn't exactly kosher in Khorvaire, House Cannith was forced to turn them loose... now they're trying to figure out just what to do with themselves, especially because the special buildings that make them have officially been all shut down, so they can't "breed" like the organic races around them - which they fear is a deliberate ploy to slowly grind them into extinction.
One of the big bads of the setting is the Lord of Blades, a high-level warforged who wants to unite all of the warforged under his banner and genocide all the squishy races of the world. He is believed to have one of the few creation forges that remain active though, either from damage and/or being in the Mournland, it's churning out "mutant" warforged and/or Psiforged.
Warforged-Meatbag relations are strained in most of the world. Their ability to work without sleep or breaks while not caring about the heat of the factories risks puts the jobs of humanoid workers in jeopardy, but their lack of history and support structure makes them vulnerable to exploitative practices and low wages humanoids wised up to long ago. Some Cannith outposts are alleged to hold Warforged in effective slavery by keeping them unaware of their legal freedom. They are also viewed as inherently dangerous, as an unarmed warforged warrior with Adamantine body simply can't be damaged by typical humanoid NPCs without heavy weapons and they're never quite sure the tin can won't go on a rampage...
Nentir Vale Warforged
One of the good things about the Nentir Vale setting was that A: as a new setting, it could develop in its own way, and B: it wasn't afraid to tinker with racial backstories to justify the addition of races originating from other settings, like thri-kreen and muls. Thus, Dragon Magazine #364 debuted the article "Playing Warforged", all about the Warforged of the Points of Light.
In the Nentir Vale world, warforged were born of the empire of Nerath, under the wisdom of King Eothyr III. A visionary man, King Eothyr founded the Society of Imperial Artificers, an organization of learned arcanists, and set them the goal of creating an adaptive artificial being - one that could autonomously learn and adapt, but which didn't require the imprisonment of an immortal spirit or an elemental to serve as the spark of its sentience.
The Society labored on this task for many years, working tirelessly to succeed. Sadly, King Eothyr died only a short period before they succeeded. When his son, Prince Elidyr, ascended the throne, he told the Society they had to make some changes: rumblings of unrest suggested that war was coming, and he had no need for his father's Utopian vision of a sapient construct. He needed soldiers, and he told the Society that their artificial lifeform was to fill that need.
This prompted an ideological split within the Society: some were appalled at the idea of turning these artificial beings, naive and innocent, into living weapons and fodder for the wars of man. These rogues took copies of their notes and left. Still, it wasn't enough to stop progress; the Society created their first creation forge, and soon the first of their constructs, the warforged, walked the earth. And just in time - a massive force of demon-worshipping savage humanoids launched itself against Nerath.
Warforged went on to prove significant to Nerath's battle. The empire's own treasury paid for the formation of legions of artificial soldiers, whilst nobles were offered the chance to eschew battlefield duties by paying for warforged soldiers to take the place of their men. Even some of the rogues succumbed to patriotism or pragmatism and used their private creation forges to support the war effort. The warforged weren't numerous enough to prevent the loss of King Elidyr, his heirs, and many of the most influential leaders of Nerath, sadly.
Regardless, their strength and sacrifices kept Nerath from being totally annihilated; even though the former empire crumbled into a series of independent city-states after decades of factional war and territorial squabbling, the slaughter could have been far worse. In fact, warforged continued to play a role in the fighting, and still do today. The Society of Imperial Artificers still exists today, turning out warforged troopers for profit. Some creation forges still remain in the hands of other artificers, churning out new warforged for their own ideological reasons. There's at least one creation forge that remains in the hands of a band of warforged veterans, ensuring the race has some control over its destiny. And those are just the known ones.
A sidebar addresses other possible ways of incorporating warforged into your campaign. For example, they could be an ancient race of self-propagating people, or an experiment in immortality that didn't quite work. They could be exoskeletons for some limbless species of sapients, perhaps constructed by human, dwarven or other "tinker race" allies. They might be a race of human-like beings that convert themselves into artificial creatures at certain age, or implant themselves into armored exoskeletons as part of their maturation cycle. Or your warforged could be unique; some wizard's special experiment that has either escaped or been loaned to the party by their patron.
There's a brief mention of undead Warforged in the Mournland in a 3E book. They appear to be rusting and decaying. Mechanically, zombie or skeleton Warforged are pretty indistinguishable from other undead player races since most of what makes a Warforged interesting mechanically is attached to the subtype they lose. In the end you just have a zombie with composite plating.
- Attributes: +2 Constitution, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
- Construct (Living Construct Subtype): You're essentially a construct that has a Constitution score and lacks the extreme immunities of normal constructs (Crits, mind-control, nonlethal damage, etc.) but retain immunity to poisons and fatigue. Healing is also only half as effective on you and can only be fully healed by a mechanic.
- Medium Size
- Speed: 30'
- Composite Plating: +2 armor bonus, 5% spell failure, cannot wear armor, but can be enchanted directly and have docent slots instead
- Light Fortification: 25% chance to negate critical hits or sneak attacks
- Slam: Unarmed attacks deal 1d4 bludgeoning damage
- Automatic Languages: Common, Bonus Languages: None
- Favored Class: Fighter
Mechanically, while they do come with penalties to two mental stats, built-in spell-failure chance, and half-healing from spells, they also come with a shitload of immunities and some fun robo-feats no one else gets.
The Eberron Campaign Setting and Races of Eberron have several Warforged-only feats and Prestige Classes that take advantage of their mechanical nature. The ___ Body series are level 1 only feats that increase (or delete) your inherent armor by making it made of adamantine, mithral, ironwood and increasing the AC it gives you. Second Slam and Jaws of Death make Warforged capable natural attackers.
Warforged Juggernaut makes a warforged less "human" in exchange for making them a really deadly combat monster that's immune to a lot of stuff. Reforged is a prestige class that makes a Warforged more human, gaining natural healing and some improved wisdom and social skills. The final level tosses away everything good about being a Warforged for nothing and makes it one of the few prestige classes where getting the levels level drained away and replaced with nothing will actually make you stronger. The art does give us a Warforged pimp though. Renegade Master can't be taken by Warforged and is an attempt by squishies to make themselves more like Warforged. Spellcarved Soldier is a gish class that doesn't advance spellcasting and instead gives a bunch of mediocre bonuses you can only have one of active.
Warforged Artificer racial substution levels allow a Warforged to focus more on augmenting their own body and gain the ability to make magic weapons into familiars. There's also Warforged Fighter and Paladin substitution levels, but they're trash.
Monster Manual 3 introduces the Warforged Scout and Warforged Charger variant races. The scouts are similar to normal Warforged, but are slower and smaller, and have less strength and constitution. There is absolutely no good reason to play as one. The Charger is the exact opposite, sporting +10 Strength and +10 Constitution among other benefits, allowing you to tear shit up as a robot version of King Kong.
- Ability scores: +2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence or +2 Strength
- Size: Medium
- Speed: 6 squares.
- Vision: Normal
- Languages: Common
- Skill Bonuses: +2 Endurance, +2 Intimidate.
- Living Construct: You are a living construct. You do not need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep. You never make Endurance checks to resist the effect of starvation, thirst, or suffocation. All other conditions and effects affect you normally.
- Unsleeping Watcher: You do not sleep and instead enter a state of inactivity for 4 hours to gain the benefits of an extended rest. While in this state, you are fully aware of your surroundings and notice approaching enemies and other events as normal.
- Warforged Mind: You have a +1 racial bonus to your Will.
- Warforged Resilience: You have a +2 racial bonus to saving throws against ongoing damage. Also, when you make a death saving throw, you can take the better result of your die roll or 10.
- Warforged Resolve: Encounter minor Racial. You gain 3+1/2 level THP (And 3+1/2 level HP when bloodied) and can make a saving throw.
This statline makes Warforged ideal for a great many roles, including frontliners like Fighters or Barbarians and Supporters, most especially the Artificer (which was also introduced in the Eberron Campaign Setting). In regards of feats, the majority of them fall under one of two groups: Those that improve the racial power, and those that synergize with alchemical item powers and drive in how much warforged artificers work.
They also possess two Paragon Paths, Warforged Juggernaut and Warforged Lifeseeker, and are the only race with a PP set on emulating them, the Self-Forged.
Fifth Edition is rather peculiar to talk about for warforged because there are two very different statlines to use for warforged: The original stats from the Eberron Unearthed Arcana and the stats from Keith Baker's Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron.
- Ability Scores: Str +1; Con +1
- Size: Medium
- Speed: 30 ft.
- Composite Plating: +1 to Armor Class.
- Living Construct: Even though you were constructed, you are a living creature. You are immune to disease. You do not need to eat or breathe, but you can ingest food and drink if you wish.
Instead of sleeping, you enter an inactive state for 4 hours each day. You do not dream in this state; you are fully aware of your surroundings and notice approaching enemies and other events as normal.
- Languages: Common and one other language of your choice.
This particular statline, while unremarkable, does give them the well-renowned durability of being a living robot, ideal for Fighters and Barbarians, though other classes can definitely find benefits.
The WGE stats, however, give a much grander means to build Warforged PCs, mainly by giving three different frames to work from. All warforged, however, maintain the following abilities:
- Ability Scores: All Warforged have Con +1
- Size: Medium
- Warforged Resilience: Immunities everywhere: You cant go to sleep or be fatigued and you get advantage on poison resistance checks with resistance to poison.
- Sentry's Rest: When you take a long rest, you must spend at least six hours of it 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: At the end of a long rest, you can choose between three different forms of armor to wear. But in exchange, you gain no benefit from wearing armor, not even magical benefits.
- Darkwood Core: Counts as unarmored. AC 11 + Dex Mod + Proficiency Mod (If proficient in light armor)
- Composite Plating: Requires proficiency in medium armor. AC 13 + Dex Mod (Max 2) + Proficiency Mod
- Heavy Plating: Requires proficiency in heavy armor and gives disadvantage on stealth checks. AC 16 + Proficiency Mod
- Languages: Common
- Ability Scores: Choose any two +1
- Speed: 30 ft.
- Specialized Design: You gain one skill proficiency of your choice, one tool proficiency of your choice, and fluency in one language of your choice.
- Integrated Tool: Choose one tool you're proficient with. This tool is integrated into your body, and you double your proficiency bonus for any ability checks you make with it. You must have your hands free to use this integrated tool.
- Ability Scores: Str +2
- Speed: 30 ft.
- Iron Fists: Your unarmed strike deals 1d4 + your Strength modifier bludgeoning damage
- Powerful Build: You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift
- Ability Scores: Dex +2
- Speed: 35 ft.
- Graceful: You are proficient in Acrobatics
- Light Step: When you are traveling alone for an extended period of time (one hour or more), you can move stealthily at a normal pace.
This all makes the new version of Warforged at an incredibly powerful and possibly OP tier for a race, least of all because of the variety. Really, all classes have an ideal subrace to work with with a possible second if you feel up for it. The real breaking feature is the plating. There are no other races, let alone other means period to get AC as high as a warforged's (not counting a tortle hiding in his shell). For comparison, A Warforged fighter with Heavy Plating already sits at a comfy AC 18 at level 1, a score inaccessible by comparable fighters since the only non-magical armor available is the absurdly-expensive plate armor and a starting fighter is stuck with AC 16 chain mail (or 17 if they sank all 200 starting gold into a suit of splint armor and no weapons). Even non-heavy armor users can't compete, as an elf rogue with maxed-out dex (Let's say 20 due to a good roll) and studded leather can only reach AC 17. By Level 10, that heavy Warforged is now at AC 20, a level only attainable by magical +2 plate armor with no other recourse to match such a thing, and that gap grows ever wider as the levels pass.
Also, the internal balance is shot. Setting aside any and all questions of which stats are best (even though everyone and their dog knows Dexterity blows most other stats out of the water this edition), Skirmisher gets a speed boost, a useful skill, and a situational power that is at least thematic and flavorful, Envoy is basically a variant human who doesn't get to pick his free feat but gets a beast of a feat-equivalent in exchange, and Juggernaut is a comical example of exactly how overvalued natural weapons and Powerful Build are in every race designed this edition.
tl;dr WGE Warforged require some extremely generous magic item-gifting and perhaps a means to control the scaling AC (Maybe banning the proficiency bonus altogether from the non-darkwood ones? Maybe halving Proficiency Bonus to AC?), which is a bit at odds with 5E's philosophy of miserly magical item-gifting.
|Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Races|
|Player's Handbook 1:|| Dragonborn - Dwarf - Eladrin - Elf |
Half-Elf - Halfling - Human - Tiefling
|Player's Handbook 2:||Deva - Gnome - Goliath - Half-Orc - Shifter|
|Player's Handbook 3:||Githzerai - Minotaur - Shardmind - Wilden|
|Monster Manual 1:|| Bugbear - Doppelganger - Githyanki |
Goblin - Hobgoblin - Kobold - Orc
|Monster Manual 2:||Bullywug - Duergar - Kenku|
|Dragon Magazine:||Gnoll - Shadar-kai|
|Heroes of Shadow:||Revenant - Shade - Vryloka|
|Heroes of the Feywild||Hamadryad - Pixie - Satyr|
|Eberron's Player's Guide:||Changeling - Kalashtar - Warforged|
|The Manual of the Planes:||Bladeling|
|Dark Sun Campaign Setting:||Mul - Thri-kreen|
|Forgotten Realms Player's Guide:||Drow - Genasi|