Warforged are powerful, living constructs forged from a combination of wood, stone, and metal. They have a long, scarred history in the realm of Eberron that is rife with war, suffering, and mystery. If judged on their appearance alone, the warforged could be mistaken for mindless golems. However, their forms belie a powerful sentience and an iron will that allows them to act, perceive, and feel deeply.
Playing a sentient construct is a nuanced character experience like no other that goes far beyond the stats and mechanics you’ll mark on your 5th edition character sheet. Whether you’re playing a warforged of Eberron, or a gearforged of Midgard (which we’ll discuss later), you can explore the dichotomy of being a creature that was forged from inanimate parts yet that also possesses feelings, hopes, and aspirations.
What will you uncover about the nature of the warforged in your game? Read on to learn more about these complex and unique creatures and their evolution as a race over the years.
To explore the evolution of the warforged within the realm of Eberron, we’ll look at four pivotal publications that span the last 18+ years.
Published in 2004, the Eberron campaign setting was chosen out of 11,000 entries submitted to Wizards of the Coast for their Fantasy Setting Search competition. Most of the main conflicts of the realm occur on the central continent of Khorvaire. What set Eberron apart when it was released was its pulp adventure elements, political intrigue between Dragonmarked houses, and its inclusion of fantastical technology such as airships, railways, and of course, the warforged.
In traditional Eberron lore, the warforged of Khorvaire were created by the Dragonmarked House Cannith. During a conflict known as the Great War, Merrix d’Cannith paid a king’s ransom to commission an army of tireless golems to serve him as unstoppable soldiers. Merrix was greatly disappointed with the results—the mindless automatons he received were incapable of tactics and easy to outwit and defeat.
After many failed attempts, Merrix’s son Aarren was able to perfect the technology known as creation forges. These forges were able to produce constructs that were entirely sentient and capable of a full range of emotions. And these creatures would become known as the warforged, a powerful weapon for House Cannith.
By the time the Last War ended, two powerful edicts were enacted: the first said that all warforged were to be treated as people and not possessions or machines. The second decreed that House Cannith was to let their creation forges go dark forever, never building another warforged again.
Despite the law, warforged were never fully accepted as first-class citizens in Eberron, and many were reduced to servitude to survive. Most remain outsiders even to this day.
Published in 2005, Races of Eberron was a supplement for D&D 3rd edition and contains detailed inspiration and mechanics to create nuanced characters for the setting. The warforged get quite a bit of attention, and in addition to a plethora of new mechanical options for the race, there is also a section of the book that explores “A Day in the Life” of a warforged named Watcher. This section is essentially a short piece of inspirational fiction that details how a warforged interacts with the creatures around it, and it goes a long way to show how one might roleplay a warforged through its specific situations and examples.
There is also a section that dives into the psychology of the warforged, giving details about the origins of the constructs and exploring the dichotomies of their existence. It also examines how warforged might approach their gender identities and develop their personalities.
Published in 2006, Secrets of Xen’Drik detailed an isolated continent of Eberron. Found far south of Khorvaire across great expanses of ocean, this ruined and dangerous continent contains shattered cities and treacherous secrets.
This book introduces some intriguing lore that contradicts the origins of the warforged as we know them. According to an ancient, sentient magic item (known in Eberron as a “docent”), the first warforged were crafted as “host bodies” for a group of evil outsiders known as the Quori. But the intrigue becomes deeper still as, in Tales of the Last War, it’s claimed that the giants were the creators of the warforged. They go on to reveal that the scheming Quori stole the secrets of how to construct the warforged from the giants, using these methods for their own vile purposes.
No matter which account you choose to believe, the Secrets of Xen’Drik book puts forth the idea that the warforged were, in fact, created in Xen’Drik originally and possibly not by House Cannith as we once believed.
Published at the tail end of 2019, Eberron: Rising from the Last War was an updated version of the Eberron campaign setting made to be compatible with the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. This was the first major, official overhaul that Eberron had gotten in many years. The material that would become the book was first released as a paid playtest known as the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron.
In addition to refining and blending the Eberron lore into a single, canonical reference, this book sees the mechanics of the warforged get a full update for 5e (more on that in the subraces section later). In addition, the warforged also got a substantial aesthetic and descriptive update. Instead of the simple description that warforged can be made of stone, wood, or metal, the book describes “root-like cords infused with alchemical fluids” serving as the construct’s muscle and goes into greater expressive detail about their overall appearance.
This book also explicitly and canonically states that the warforged are living humanoids that rest and heal like other living creatures, further anchoring the author’s official answer that warforged do in fact have souls.
There were two Eberron books released during the lifespan of D&D 4e. They were Eberron Player’s Guide (4e), and Eberron Campaign Guide (4e). While these books were well written and visually well executed, they weren’t mentioned in our list for one main reason: in these books, the warforged didn’t change much, if at all. Besides some tweaks that were specific to the rules of D&D 4th edition, the warforged here are essentially the same as the Eberron books published previously.
Here are just some of the details to keep in mind as you begin to envision your warforged character.
The name of a warforged has some layers rooted in their military origins. It’s said that most warforged have a numerical military designation from their time as tools of war. However, it’s common that the warforged assume the nicknames and more colloquial monikers given to them by those close to them. It’s also not uncommon for a warforged to choose their own entirely new name to represent their independence from their past. Many warforged have single, strong-sounding names such as Anvil, Rampart, or Stonejaw, for example.
In 5e, the warforged see increases in their constitution score and one other ability score of their choice. Additionally, they gain special traits for how they rest as well as rules for the natural armor provided by their tough exteriors. There are also some fun rules to determine your exact size and weight using some basic math and some dice rolls. For the full information on the warforged stats for 5e, see Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
If you’re looking for warforged subraces (such as the warforged juggernaut), they only exist in publications older than 2019, prior to the official release of Eberron: Rising from the Last War.
This means there are no official warforged subraces for 5th edition. However, there is the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron playtest we mentioned earlier, and it is still available online. In the PDF, the warforged (5e) subclasses do exist, yet when the setting was officially published the warforged subraces were removed.
Additionally, the Races of Eberron publication mentioned above is loaded with information about the warforged, but again, it’s not written for D&D 5e. However, you might not want to write it off too quickly. If you’re looking for inspiration to homebrew your own warforged subraces, there are various mechanics and interesting lore to do so. Two things to keep in mind if you give this a try: firstly, the rules are written for D&D 3.5, so it might require some heavy lifting to homebrew. Secondly, the lore might not be considered canonical after the aforementioned release of Eberron: Rising from the Last War in 2019.
As always, check with your GM before using anything that isn’t official, but it never hurts to seek inspiration in a variety of places.
The warforged can be used to make interesting characters of any class. When choosing which class suits your character concept best, remember that the warforged have some great racial defensive traits. Additionally, they have some unique utility since they are constructs and give you the ability to place a +1 bonus on the stat of your choice. There are no “wrong” choices when it comes to selecting a class for your warforged, so consider which choice might best fit the character you’re envisioning.
If you are intrigued by the idea of the warforged, then you’ll likely love the thematically similar gearforged of Midgard. Much like the warforged, the gearforged were also originally constructed to be powerful, sapient soldiers. With the war now over, the gearforged do what they can to find their place in society.
While the gearforged are similar in some ways to the warforged, they are substantially different in others. Here are a few things that set the gearforged apart.
Form and Function: While warforged are fully formed with their sentience granted directly from the creation forges, the gearforged were once flesh-and-blood creatures who have had their conscious minds transplanted into construct bodies.
Unique Components: Gearforged get energy from their magical everwound springs, which act as arcane batteries for the constructs. They also possess a soul gem, the place where the mind of the once-living creature is stored. Additionally, a gearforged possesses memory gears—intricate components comprised of scroll-like ribbons festooned with pinhole piercings and complex enchantments. These things are unique to the gearforged and not found in the warforged.
Their Own Language: Whistles, clicks, and ticks make up the sounds of the gearforged language, Machine Speech. This language is said to be impossible to understand by non-gearforged, sounding like a cacophony of unintelligible mechanical noise. The warforged do not have their own language but speak the languages of other cultures in Eberron.
Some notable mechanical characteristics for the gearforged are their constructed body, flesh of steel, and solid construction. Here are some details on each.
Constructed Body: Your actual soul and consciousness are housed within a gem within a construct’s shell, which has some incredible benefits and some drawbacks. It affects your ability to eat, sleep, and drink liquids (including potions). You’re also required to perform maintenance periodically, or you’ll become exhausted. Those are only some of the unique aspects you’ll have to navigate as a result of your machine body.
Flesh of Steel: Because you are a construct, you can’t be poisoned or catch diseases.
Solid Construction: If you are killed, you aren’t resurrected using the same means as other creatures. Instead, the journey back to life for you often involves repairs to your body and hinges greatly on the condition of your memory gears and soul gem, and it may require the powerful soulforging ritual to occur again.
All of these details and much more can be found in the Midgard Heroes Handbook.
Construct Your Next Character
Whether you’re playing a warforged of Eberron or a gearforged of Midgard, your options are unique and varied as you create your next character. The sapient constructs detailed in this article are multifaceted and have layers of nuance and complexity… so where should you start?
Firstly, ask yourself what piqued your curiosity while reading this article. What detail made you raise an eyebrow and start asking questions? What bit of information got your brain working to imagine implications and “what ifs” and stories? Start there.
We’re excited to see the sentient construct character you create for your next adventure.