Last Updated: October 5, 2021
A classic mythological creature, the Centaur is a horse but rather than a horse’s head they have the waist-upward portions of a human in the same place. Anatomically it’s a nightmare, and much ink and countless pixels have been spilled in the name of cryptozoological scientific attempts to explain exactly what’s going on there. What do they eat, and how much? What are centaur newborns like? How does a centaur wear pants? Can a centaur touch its own back feet? These are questions for scholarly and scientific minds far greater than my own.
Regardless of looming scientific questions, centaurs have been depicted in works of fiction dating back to greek mythology. Even more recent works like Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter feature centaurs. Generally they’re depicted as socially insular, and they’re frequently depicted as powerful warriors, especially with bows and spears. Dungeons and Dragons has its own spin on centaurs, especially in the Ravnica setting where they first appeared as a playable race for 5th edition, depicting centaurs as roughly the size of a tall human rather than the size of a human mounted atop a horse as they’re depicted in most fiction.
Mechanically, the Centaur is challenging but novel in many ways. Their ability score increases to Strength and Wisdom work for a variety of classes, but few classes can easily capitalize on both. The Customizing Your Origins optional rules solve that challenge, but their other racial traits will still encourage martial builds and melee combat.
The Centaur’s 40-foot speed is matched or exceeded by no playable race except the Aarakocra, and combined with their Charge trait the Centaur is capable of quickly getting into melee combat and making their presence felt. Equine Build is essentially the same as Powerful Build, but with the added handicap of being really bad at climbing. Fortunately Dungeons and Dragons features abundant options for levitation and flight, so that won’t be a problem beyond low levels.
The Centaur is notably the first non-humanoid playable race, making you immune to spells like Charm Person and Hold Person. You also get an extra skill, which is nice.
Table of Contents
- Riding Centaurs
- Magic Items
- Classes (Customizable Origins)
- Classes (Default Rules)
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and I can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Unfortunately, the Centaur does not have rules for being ridden by other humanoids. The Unearthed Arcana version did, but the way the rules were written allowed other medium humanoids (including other centaurs!) to ride the player, leading to all sorts of jokes about parties of centaurs marching into battle stacked atop each other like a tower. If you still want to carry a rider, I suggest reading my Practical Guide to Mounted Combat. (Hint: A centaur would count as an intelligent mount). If your DM does allow a centaur to serve as a suitable mount, you can still stack an infinitely tall tower of centaurs inside a 5-foot space. Well, not infinite due to carrying capacity limits, but you get my point.
There is notably no restriction on centaurs riding another creature. Centaurs can also ride horses, which is exactly as weird as it sounds, and has produced some truly excellent memes and webcomics on the subject.
The Centaur’s signature trait is Charge, allowing them excellent action economy on their attacks if you move 30 feet straight toward your target before hitting them with a melee attack. This can be very powerful, but can be difficult to apply repeatedly, especially when combat typically only lasts 3 to 5 rounds. The 30-foot distance required to charge is also problematic, even with 40 feet of move speed. Typically you’ll charge once, then may not be able to do so again in that encounter.
If you want to repeatedly and reliable use Charge, you need to solve two problems: move speed and Opportunity Attacks. Conveniently, the Mobile feat goes a long to solve both, removing the threat of Opportunity Attacks and adding 10 feet to your move speed. Unfortunately, you need to get to 60 feet somehow. Several options exist, including the Barbarian’s Fast Movement feature, the spell Longstrider, and magic items.
Once you hit 60-foot speed and have a way around Opportunity Attacks, Charge becomes routine. Run backward 30 feet, then run straight back at your target to trigger Charge.
As a DM I don’t recommend allowing any of these items to be used by a centaur character, but RAW the centaur can use them, so here we go.
Horseshoes of Speed (Rare): Enough move speed that you can easily use Charge every turn so long as you can deal with Opportunity Attacks.
Horsesoes of a Zephyr (Very Rare): Not super useful, but you can wear them and never need to get your hooves dirty again.
Saddle of the Cavalier (Uncommon): Put literally any creature in the saddle, and this is better than a Cloak of Displacement and doesn’t require attunement.
Classes (Customizable Origins)
This section assumes that you’re using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the next section.
Despite the flexibility offered by the custom origin rules, the Centaur is still locked into melee in many ways due to their Charge trait. Without charge, the centaur’s only appeal is their speed, and that’s simply not enough. If you’re playing a centaur, you’re building a melee charger.
Both the Armorer and the Battle Smith are interesting choices because they work in melee. The Centaur’s Charge trait notably doesn’t care where your melee attack comes from, so attack cantrips like Booming Blade synergize very well. Battle Smith may struggle to keep their Steel Defender closeby, but you may also be able to use your Steel Defender to hold enemies in place so that you can repeatedly Charge and run away to get enough distance for another charge. You eventually gain the ability to infuse Boots of Speed, and despite being boots and you being a centaur, they appear to work like they do for any other character.
Still an excellent choice for the Centaur. Grab the Mobile feat and you’re ready to charge every turn. Add in Reckless Attack and you can reliably hit nearly every time, triggering Charge’s extra attack frequently and throwing down huge piles of damage. The custom origin rules change very little here, but moving the Wisdom increase to Constitution is a good choice.
Strength bards are really difficult to build, and if you’re going to play a caster bard you’re giving up the only thing that makes the Centaur mechanically interesting.
Weapon attacks work, but they’re not a great choice for the Cleric. If you want a similar flavor, the Paladin is a much better choice.
Access to Shillelagh looks tempting, but you need to build around Strength to make your Hoof attack useful. Combining Longstrider with Mobile is enough to mae Charge work repeatedly, but the MAD issues will kill you. Go for the Ranger instead.
With more Ability Score Increases than any other class, the Fighter makes it easy to set yourself up as a charge monster. Grab Mobile early and look for extra speed boosts (Horseshoes of Speed, Longstrider from an ally, etc.), and you’re ready to go. Consider feats liks Sentinel to keep enemies right where you want them so that you can use Charge repeatedly without them chasing you or running away.
Martial Arts makes Charge totally redundant.
While not quite as well-suited to charging as the Barbarian or the Fighter, the Paladin’s Divine Smite offers a way to pile on massive damage in a hurry. Between Extra Attack, two attacks with a two-handed weapon, and hopefully a hoof attack, you can deal a huge amount of damage turn 1. Unfortunately, since your hoof isn’t a weapon it doesn’t qualify or Divine Smite.
Much better suited to melee than the Druid and you also get access to both Longstrider and Zephyr Strike. If you can find a movement speed bonus somewhere to get you to 60 feet (40, +10 from Longstrider, so you’re almost there) you can use Zephyr Strike to replace the Mobile feat and move around without worry about Opportunity Attacks. The biggest challenge is that you’re building around Strength, which can make the Ranger very MAD due to medium armor.
Charge relies on Strength and rogues rely on Dexterity.
Too frail to make charging work.
I know what you’re thinking, but Hex Warrior does not work with your hoof since it’s not a weapon, and neither does Pact of the Blade. If that was allowed, a hexblade would absolutely work.
Too frail to make charging work.
Classes (Default Rules)
This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.
No Intelligence increase. A level to pick up Booming Blade to use in conjunction with Charge may work in some builds, but it’s hard to build an artificer with poor Intelligence so your best option is usually a dip into artificer but to focus primarily on a different class.
Boots of the Winding Path look like a tempting option for the Centaur, but remember that activating them takes a Bonus Action so you can’t use it the same turn that your Charge.
The Strength increase, the extra speed, and Charge are spectacular for the Barbarian. Unfortunately you can’t start Rage and use the extra attack from Charge in one turn since they both require a Bonus Action, but if you want to spend the remaining 9 turns of your Rage charging around and hoofing people that would be an excellent use of your time. The extra attack gets you the number of attacks that you would get from two-weapon fighting while still allowing you to use a two-handed weapon for the rest of your attacks. You may need to consider the Mobile feat to remove Opportunity Attacks as a persistent problem for this strategy.
Nothing about the Centaur supports the Bard’s capabilities.
A Wisdom increase is all that you really need, and the Strength increase is great for martial builds if you insist on using a weapon, but without Extra Attack you may find Charge unreliable because you only get one chance to trigger it each turn.
The Wisdom increase and the extra skill are all that the Druid really cares about. You may be better served by the Nature Cleric.
Strength, 40 ft. speed, Fey creature type, and Charge all work very well for melee fighters. Charge is a great use for the Fighter’s typically under-used Bonus Action, and not being a Humanoid protects you from things like Hold Person which are often problems for fighters since you’re not proficient in Wisdom savimg throws and your Wisdom likely isn’t spectacular.
I love the idea of a centaur monk, but the ability scores and the other racial traits don’t work well enough to make it viable for anything except a foot race. Martial Arts also makes Charge totally redundant.
The Centaur works for the Paladin for the same reasons that they work for the Barbarian and the Fighter. The additional attack from Charge offers an extra opportunity to deliver Divine Smite, especially if you manage to score a critical hit and can double the extra damage.
Strength-based rangers are hard, but if you can make it work the Centaur would be a great option. The ability scores work, the extra skill fits thematically, and the extra speed and Charge are great on any melee build.
Nothing about the Centaur supports the Rogue’s capabilities.
No Charisma increase.
No Charisma increase.
No Intelligence increase.
Centaurs don’t have any racial feats. I mostly just want to call out Mobile.
Centaurs have a base speed of 40 ft. Charge requires you to move 30 feet straight toward an enemy. Mobile increases your speed by 10 ft., allowing you to move 30 feet foward, attack, attack with your hooves as a Bonus Actionm then retreat 20 feet without provoking opportunity attacks. If you can get additional speed from a class like the Barbarian or the Monk it gets even better.