DnD 5e - The Warforged Handbook
Last Updated: January 8th, 2020
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
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 Warforged is a hugely popular racial option which players asked about almost constantly since 5th edition's initial release, and 5 years later we finally saw official rules in Eberron: Rising From The Last War. The idea of magical robots is novel and exciting, and while sometimes the warforged can be mistaken for a downsized Iron Golem, they're a unique and versatile race with a lot to offer.
While there are just three decision points in the Warforged racial traits (a flexible ability increase, a tool proficiency, and a skill proficiency), they are both flexible and simple to play. This, coupled with their natural durability, make the Warforged a great option for new players and for experienced players looking to survive a dangerous life of adventuring.
Warforged are exceptionally versatile, second in versatility only to the Variant Human. Constitution is a great option for literally every class, few classes benefit significantly from more than one flexible ability increase, and bonus AC is literally always useful. For these reasons, I've chosen to omit my usual color assessments, though I'll provide some specific guidance on ways to build a warforged character in each class.
An obvious choice. Artificers only get medium armor (though they can pad that with Infusions), so the Warforged's extra Constitution and AC are great, and since the Artificer needs little beyond Intelligence the single ability increase works great. If you build a Battlesmith you can be a robot with a pet robot, and if that doesn't sound like fun I feel like you and I have very different ideas of fun.
Increase your Strength, grab some medium armor, and you're borderline unstoppable. Resistance to poison and immunity to both disease and sleep mitigate or negate some common challenges which front-line melee characters face, adding to the Barbarian's incredible durability. The Warforged may even unseat the Mountain Dwarf as the hardest barbarian to kill.
More AC makes options like College of Valor and College of Swords more durable, which is great if you're trying to play a spellcaster in melee with d8 hit points. Spellcasting is still going to be more effective than using weapons most of the time, but you can stand in melee with a shield in one hand and a one-handed instrument like a tamborine in the other and do just fine.
Boost your Wisdom and you're the cleric with the world's highest AC. Put your free skill proficiency into Perception to capitalize on your high Wisdom and your ability to remain conscious while taking a long rest.
Druids have notoriously poor AC, and while you lose most racial traits while using Wild Shape, any circle which isn't dependent on Wild Shape is a great option. Warforged work especially well for Circle of Spores thanks to their Constitution increase and bonus AC. Put your free skill proficiency into Perception to capitalize on your high Wisdom and your ability to remain conscious while taking a long rest.
The Fighter is one of the simplest classes (at least if you stick to Champion), and the Warforged is one of the simplest races. Put them together, and you have a simple yet effective build that will work for players of any level of experience.
Monks typically need increases to both Dexterity and Wisdom so that they can start with an AC high enough to survive their d8 hit points. The Warforged addresses this nicely with the bonus AC, and the Constitution increase mitigates the low hit dice. Unfortunately, the Warforged's resistance to poison and immunity to disease both become redundant, but if you survive to the levels where that happens I think you'll be fine with the redundancy.
You don't get a Charisma increase, but that's fine. You'll be crazy durable, and with the extra AC it's safer to opt for a two-handed weapon. Or you can go for a shield and be an impenetrable tank.
Extra durability, and the extra skill proficiency helps close the gap in skills between the Ranger and the Rogue.
While the Warforged's bonus AC isn't as import for the Rogue thanks to their ability to remove themselves from danger and options like Uncanny Dodge, the extra durability is great insurance for a class which often finds themselves in dangeorus places.
The idea of a bloodline is a bit silly for a race with no blood or ancestry, but if your DM is willing to ignore that strangeness you have some options. Draconic bloodline sorcerer will get you 14+Dex AC, which is unusually high for similar spellcasters and combined with options like Shield you'll be reasonably durable even when you draw a lot of attacks.
The Warforged is a great optin for the Hexblade, making your much more durable than your d8 hit dice would indicate. With extra durability, you're more able to handle running around in melee with a weapon, which is normally a horrible idea for similar classes.
The Wizard may be the worst option for the Warforged, but only because the Wizard spends so much time avoiding the problems which make the Warforged so interesting. If you're taking a bunch of damage or being targeted by effects to which the Warforged is resistant, you should be invisible, running, or otherwise magically countering the effects. Still, Constitution and Intelligence are really all that the Wizard needs, so you're fine if you never see poison or disease come up.