Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana: Centaurs and Minotaurs

As a Dragonlance junkie, it’s interesting to see how they’ve pulled back the damage on the minotaur to make it more workable as a player race (I imagine that working with the Volo races gave them a better baseline). The Hybrid Nature mechanic is interesting here, especially given the number of Fey Ancestry races that we’ve seen so far (who aren’t both Humanoid and Fey), as well as the planar-descended races.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I guess what I am saying is that if you hand out a d4 or d6 natural weapon, better be prepared to acknowledge it is a ribbon ability which does not make the racial choice stronger.

As for your actual question, have you checked out my other thread? :)

I'm perfectly prepared to say it's an ability that doesn't make the race stronger. Except that it does, under certain circumstances.

But generally speaking, in 5e design, the point is that no race is stronger, although they don't have an issue of providing a bump in power under certain circumstances.

I don't care if it's a "ribbon" ability or not. A minotaur has horns. It can use them as a weapon. The minotaurs they are designing as a playable race is intended to be as balanced as the rest. Back in 2e in particular, they (wisely in my opinion) didn't worry as much about balance. In the Spellsinger class in Wizards and Rogues of the Realms there is a disclaimer, which appeared quite a bit in various forms:

"Once more, there are bound to be a few players who will attempt to abuse the powers of the spellsinger kit. For example, such a PC might spend hour after hour of noncombat time attempting to cast wish and other potent spells. The DM must determine the limits of such liberties..."

The reason this problem (and the fetishism of game balance) exists is because there are a number of fundamentally different ways of playing the game. You seem to be focused on the mechanical aspects of the game, finding ways to exploit the most benefit out of how the rules fit together (that's not a diss), and that the functions of play in the game are designed around the mechanics. As such, a class that isn't tightly defined and restricted can become a game breaker.

For example, my players tend to play up the effects of damage in combat, with their physical capabilities hindered by loss of hit points. That there is a fundamental difference between maximum hit points and 1 hit point, and places in between. And that even though the rules don't tell you that there is, they feel it should have an impact.

There's another approach that's quite evident in the gaming community that preaches it's best to save your healing magic for when somebody is at 0 hit points, since there is no mechanical difference, and you don't want to "waste" your magic on somebody who "doesn't need it." "Oh, I was at 0 hp, but that's OK, I'm fine now. Just a flesh wound."

Neither is right, but if you prefer a game that's more simulationist, that bears a closer connection to "reality" (whatever that is), then you either need to role-play it, or the rules need to be changed to better support it (we do both).

For our groups, unbalanced classes, races, etc., have generally never been an issue, because we aren't min/maxers, power gamers, whatever. A minotaur character has a much stronger natural weapon than a human, and that comes into play whenever it happens to come into play. The reality is, what comes into play far more than that for us is that the character is, in fact, a minotaur. And as such, there are a huge number of things that are inherently different from humans and the other "civilized" races. When we have a character of an exotic race, that fact alone is enough to make a big difference in the nature of that character.
 

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Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I prefer designing each race with a menu of optional features.

If you are a minotaur sorcerer, then choose the minotaur features that synergize with sorcerer.

If you are a minotaur barbarian, then choose the minotaur features that synergize with barbarian.

Enough choices to flesh out salient concepts.

Let the *player* choose what a minotaur should be like.

My only objection to this is that the DM should have some say here too. For example, I maintain the AD&D aspect of dwarves in the Forgotten Realms as not being arcane spell casters. They also have magic resistance.

I really think it is a collaborative thing, but for things like available races and their abilities, I prefer the DM/setting to be a bigger driver than the player. For example, if somebody really wants to play a dwarven wizard or sorcerer, it's possible, but they undoubtedly have some other ancestry besides just dwarven, and the rarity of their abilities has benefits and disadvantages in terms of their place in the world.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
Most of players I DM wouldn't think twice about cutting the horns off a minotaur they captured as a way of protecting themselves against it having a weapon.
If one of the players was captured instead of killed by a group of orcs for instance, I would have no qualms about doing the same.

There are so many spells and traps and monsters and situations in 5e that do horrible things; I'm not sure why cutting the horns off a minotaur is labelled "dark" or "horrific."
The Heat Metal spell burns someone alive inside their armor that they cannot immediately take off.
An illithid uses its face tentacles to extract and eat someone's brain.
As a player, I'd much rather have my horns removed than be cooked inside my chainmail or have my brain be someone's dinner.
The minotaur could try to have metal horns made that are better than the original.

I think you are over-reacting to something that should probably be happening if a minotaur was taken alive by evil creatures with any kind of intelligence.

I certainly wouldn't have a problem with it, although I don't think it would be the first thing that would be done when throwing one in jail either. Although it presents a bit of a risk, it's much less than the risk of a spellcaster. But I think their objections are because the idea of having horns as a minotaur is part of what defines their race/character.

Having said that, players (and characters) in my campaign know that in many places it's not unusual for spellcasters to lose their hands and/or tongues. Thieves (class or actions), often lose hands, etc. So they would know ahead of time that losing their horns could be a possibility.

Actually, rather than during imprisonment, it's probably more likely that they would be viewed as trophies to be gained assuming, of course, that they can't get the whole head with it. A human might end up with their head on a stake outside the city gates to be eaten by the ravens and crows. The minotaur might very well find his head stuffed and mounted in the evil Lord's hall.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
The problem with Large size is in fact also the space occupied, 10x10 feet means they threaten at least 12 squares as opposed to 8, 32 squares with reach weapons. But that's not counting difficulty with squeezing and other issues from being 10x10 feet.

So their size is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Sounds fine to me.
  • Sure, you threaten more spaces, but that also means more spaces from which you can be attacked, and more enemies with traits like pack tactics that can surround you.
  • Sure, you have trouble climbing and squeezing into or through tight spots, but you can move more weight and move faster (at least for the centaur).



Size is a bit weird anyway. Horses aren't generally 10 feet long.

People aren't generally 5 feet thick either. Combat space assumes one is moving around in that space, not occupying all of it at once. That's why you have penalties when squeezing.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
In the case of centaurs...well that just isn't really the case. Sure, here are some pictures showing smaller centaurs. But where is the lore behind that? Are we talking about there actually being multiple types of centaurs on an individual world? Or are we saying that Krynn centaurs (for instance) are smaller than the MM centaurs? How about the Forgotten Realms ones? Okay, well then where are the MM centaurs? If both types are galloping around on the same world, we need some lore that tells us about that. It's kind of a big deal. Or should we assume they are taking the "runt" centaur angle for PC usage? (Which I vehemently detest, and means they won't get used in my games if it is the case, and I'll have to fight the urge to bring up the dumbness of the runt centaur design every time centaurs come up in discussion. Ain't nobody got time for that.) They need to tell us this stuff!

This is where we differ. I don't need them to tell me the lore.

I develop that when I design the world or introduce the race. Might not use all three version, maybe this campaign is just the brutes.

Or....the brutes are the "ogres" of minotaur land, and the smaller ones are the smarter ones, who use the brutes in armies.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
IMO, it all depends on if minotaurs are "monsters" or "people" in your game.

If they are monsters, I would expect players to treat them similarly to animals . . . if they are dangerous it is OK to kill them, if they need to be captured for some reason, it is okay to declaw, dehorn, or otherwise "make them less dangerous" . . . as long as it isn't done cruelly.

If they are people . . . big difference. Removing the horns from a person (minotaur, tiefling, or some other horny race) is a violation, a disfigurement, and is an evil act. Even if, over time, those horns can grow back.

Of course, in the real world, humans commit evil acts all the time, often justifying them in the name of safety. How your players deal with captured foes can make for some good roleplaying with interesting moral choices. If I'm the DM, and the PCs capture and dehorn a minotaur . . . that minotaur (or maybe his friends) is going to show up later with a pretty serious grudge against the party! More story!

Personally, I find playing D&D today a bit troublesome when caught between a mythic perspective and a more modern "sci-fi" perspective. When you consider "monsters" from a mythic perspective, they are usually violent and evil and must be destroyed to protect the village. But in modern sci-fi, we have all sorts of monstrous-appearing races that are just different kinds of sentient beings, people, and should be treated as such. And of course, we can have both perspectives at the same time. In your campaign, minotaurs, tieflings, and dragonborn can be people, sentient beings deserving of respect, no more-or-less inherently evil than any other race of people. But at the same time, mind flayers might be corruptions from the Far Realm that are intelligent and sentient, but not truly "people", rather a corruption of beings that used to be "people".

We are all going to handle that divide a bit differently in our games, but I think it's worthwhile to do so mindfully and not use the game as an excuse to act out in ways we wouldn't in the real world.

Actually, [MENTION=6870553]plisnithus8[/MENTION] specifically stated "evil creatures with any kind of intelligence" although not in his original post.

Also, horns don't grow back, antlers do.

I sort of agree with your commentary on mythic vs. sci-fi. It's an interesting way to look at it that I hadn't thought of. I do like what you call the "mythic" view better for D&D myself, but I like a bit of grey area too.

For example, goblinkin (goblins, orcs, etc.) are truly vile and evil creatures, much like a virus/plague across the land. Elves and dwarves have no qualms killing them without a thought, regardless of the circumstances. But they have enough of a "human" character that it's easy to play that against the humans of the world, who often want to believe that even such vile creatures can be "saved" or good, under the right circumstances. Part of this perspective is possibly due to the fact that the dwarves, and particularly the elves, often question if humans are really above such monstrous races, because their acts are often more destructive and vile than that of the monsters. Another aspect is that the longer-lived races have more direct experience of the nature of the monstrous races, that have never risen above their nature for any significant period, or by any significant amount.

So overall, I prefer there to be a clear justification for the routine killing of such monsters, but I do like there to be the opportunity to make the PCs question that.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
My only objection to this is that the DM should have some say here too. For example, I maintain the AD&D aspect of dwarves in the Forgotten Realms as not being arcane spell casters. They also have magic resistance.

I really think it is a collaborative thing, but for things like available races and their abilities, I prefer the DM/setting to be a bigger driver than the player. For example, if somebody really wants to play a dwarven wizard or sorcerer, it's possible, but they undoubtedly have some other ancestry besides just dwarven, and the rarity of their abilities has benefits and disadvantages in terms of their place in the world.

I like what you wrote.

It is good when a race has multiple optional traits to choose from. A setting can sculpt these options, spotlighting some, hiding others. It reminds me of how a restaurant defines its style of food (Thai, Italian, Hatian, etcetera) by deciding what choices the menu will offer.

On the one hand, the group as a whole decides which setting they are interested in using.

This setting decides which races are present and which races are absent, and by extension decides which race options are present, and which race options are absent.

In your setting, there are dwarf trait options: caster class is absent, and magic resistance is present.

Yet even when the setting establishes the menu to set the style, you like to make individual exceptions for players. If a player wants to play a dwarf caster, you do unlock this race option for him or her, despite the setting norm. You find a plausible explanation for the exception to rule. The setting implies certain narrative consequences to playing an exception.

Sounds good to me.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
In the case of minotaurs, they are explicitly not the ones from the MM. These minotaurs are Krynn minotaurs, which are a race of civilized people who are physically smaller and less monstrous, and whose lore has nothing to do with other minotaurs. The ones in the MM are an entirely different species of hulking monstrosities. So it makes sense that they could have completely different stats (although I'm not totally satisfied with the stats they gave them), and the Krynn minotaurs work as 1st level PCs (or NPCs), while the others are multi-HD menaces.

In the case of centaurs...well that just isn't really the case. Sure, here are some pictures showing smaller centaurs. But where is the lore behind that? Are we talking about there actually being multiple types of centaurs on an individual world? Or are we saying that Krynn centaurs (for instance) are smaller than the MM centaurs? How about the Forgotten Realms ones? Okay, well then where are the MM centaurs? If both types are galloping around on the same world, we need some lore that tells us about that. It's kind of a big deal. Or should we assume they are taking the "runt" centaur angle for PC usage? (Which I vehemently detest, and means they won't get used in my games if it is the case, and I'll have to fight the urge to bring up the dumbness of the runt centaur design every time centaurs come up in discussion. Ain't nobody got time for that.) They need to tell us this stuff!
I'm pretty sure in the Tweets referenced previously, Crawford does just that, by pointing to Medium Centaurs in pre-existing lore in certain settings: settings that we seem to be getting rule support in some future product, for which they are doing mechanical testing more than lore testing.
 

Ilbranteloth

Explorer
I like what you wrote.

It is good when a race has multiple optional traits to choose from. A setting can sculpt these options, spotlighting some, hiding others. It reminds me of how a restaurant defines its style of food (Thai, Italian, Hatian, etcetera) by deciding what choices the menu will offer.

On the one hand, the group as a whole decides which setting they are interested in using.

This setting decides which races are present and which races are absent, and by extension decides which race options are present, and which race options are absent.

In your setting, there are dwarf trait options: caster class is absent, and magic resistance is present.

Yet even when the setting establishes the menu to set the style, you like to make individual exceptions for players. If a player wants to play a dwarf caster, you do unlock this race option for him or her, despite the setting norm. You find a plausible explanation for the exception to rule. The setting implies certain narrative consequences to playing an exception.

Sounds good to me.

Thanks.

Although don't get me wrong, there are things that just don't exist in my campaign. In general, only the core AD&D races are options for the most part. Things like dragonborn don't exist in my campaign, and tieflings are quite different. But this isn't really a surprise for the players either. My campaign has been running since the '87 release of the Gray Box, and while I have added some things and follow the general timeline, the options and feel remains very much a 1e AD&D setting. But they know that going in.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
My campaign has been running since the '87 release of the Gray Box, and while I have added some things and follow the general timeline, the options and feel remains very much a 1e AD&D setting. But they know that going in.

Yeah, when you have a setting that has been evolving across years, that body of work is a valuable asset. It isnt really something that someone can do from scratch.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
Going back into the issue of Centaur size, I see the Centaur as being something that takes up more of a 7 foot space of control. But since spaces that creatures occupy only come in 5 foot increments it's either too small or too big.

So I think a 5 foot space is fine even if the technically protrude outside of that space. It makes it easier for balance.

When ‘squares’ are meter/yards, the resolution is more useful.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
These centaurs look fine. At the same time, they dont ‘tower’ over humans. They seem about eye-to-eye with humans.

So this is a My Little Pony centaur, rather than a horse centaur.
Tell that to Ghengis Khan; ponies are honestly more appropriate to horse nomads, at any rate.
 

guachi

Hero
Also, it seems weird that they would specify that the humanoid upper body can display all the human variety of skin tones and features but then state that below the waist, the horse coat tends towards "brown shades chestnut or bay)". Why couldn't they state that below the waist the coat can display all the equine variety of coat shades and features?

This was the first thing that jumped out at me, too. It boils down to horses not being sentient so they can't complain and call it racist. It's like why we have an elf race for each ability score but all humans are the same. There are no elves to complain it's racist or bigoted or speciesist.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
So, per Wikipedia, Mongol horses are between 48 and 56 inches tall, give or take. Per Google, average human torsos are about 17-21 inches. So, a steppe nomad Centaur would be between about 5'5" and 6'5".
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
So, per Wikipedia, Mongol horses are between 48 and 56 inches tall, give or take. Per Google, average human torsos are about 17-21 inches. So, a steppe nomad Centaur would be between about 5'5" and 6'5".
Oh, yikes, my mistake, I forgot to include the head and neck of the human part: round about 8-10 inches, so a range for the Steppe Centaur of 6'1" to 7'3", eye to eye with the Goliath. NBA player territory, so definitely big, and as the Mongol horses can assure you, quite rideable in battle.
 


Next week in the WaterDeep Enquirer:

The secret is out, those centaur kids are really a whole other race of centaurs. It's a tax cheat says local tax collector.

Some out of town wizard named Mord-something or other says elf souls reincarnate and drow souls are automatically destroyed when they die. Local elf religious leader, Bill' Gr'hm, says that sounds like bunk to him. However, a daring interview by our dwarf correspondent, H'raldo, seems to confirm this Mord guy's story, when he interviewed a Balor: No drow souls every make it to the Abyss, nosireebob. I swear on my mother's grave. Follow or continuous coverage of the existential crisis in the elf community.
 


This is where we differ. I don't need them to tell me the lore.

I develop that when I design the world or introduce the race. Might not use all three version, maybe this campaign is just the brutes.

Or....the brutes are the "ogres" of minotaur land, and the smaller ones are the smarter ones, who use the brutes in armies.

Sure, but you are homebrewing. If I'm going to provide feedback on a race, I need to know what they are going to do with it. When they put out a race they need to tell us how it fits into the official D&D multiverse, which is back to being a fundamental aspect of 5e products. For instance, if these are intended to be a different centaur species than the MM version, and they are found on such and so worlds, then I'm going to give very different feedback than if these are supposed to be the MM centaurs for PC usage.

I'm pretty sure in the Tweets referenced previously, Crawford does just that, by pointing to Medium Centaurs in pre-existing lore in certain settings: settings that we seem to be getting rule support in some future product, for which they are doing mechanical testing more than lore testing.

He shows us pictures. Does he point out official lore? Does this lore describe what would be our MM centaurs as being smaller than they were presented to us in 5e, or does this lore refer to a different centaur species that exists in some places (same as Krynn minotaurs vs. MM minotaurs)? Those are significantly different things.

Either:
1) There are two types of centaurs in some settings in the D&D Multiverse: the ones in the MM, and this new PC race type.

If this is the case, we need to know what worlds this is true in, and how it fits in the lore. It sounds new to me.

2) There is only one type of centaur, but the PC race write-up uses a different size category.

No lore changes really needed, but mechanically clunky and unsatisfying because it implies these are stats for playing a runt. And if that is the case, they need to explain you a playing a runt.
 

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