On July 23, 2018, along with the release of the Eberron setting for 5e, D&D released the Races of Eberron Unearthed Arcana, featuring updated versions of three races (Warforged, Shifter, Changeling) and one new race (Kalashtar). Today’s focus is the Warforged.
The thematic highlight of the Warforged is its armored body. Great design advances narrative without being too mechanically cumbersome.
The 2018 Warforged sports a new ability called Integrated Protection. This allows you to swap out the type of armor you’re using during a rest. The different types of armor you can equip are as follows:
While this is definitely more fiddly than a flat bonus (e.g. 2015 Warforged) or flat AC (e.g. Tortle), it ensures that the Warforged player’s choice in class (and therefore armor proficiency) manifests in the style of the character. Designer Keith Baker explains:
“With 5E, we wanted to keep the idea that armor is a part of warforged, while also allowing some degree of flexibility for a character whose capabilities change over time.”
— Keith Baker, Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron FAQ (July 26, 2018)
This avoids two undesirable extremes. On one hand, you don’t want to pigeonhole the Warforged into a martial brute. On the other hand, you don’t want to enable munchkins to create high-AC mage tanks at Level 1. Tying the available options to armor proficiency is an elegant solution to keep things sane.
Let’s take a look at how they’re balanced. We can get an idea by looking at how they compare across standard Dexterity progressions. We’ll start with the fastest progression (to 20) and move down to no progression (stay at 10).
Base 16 Dexterity, ASI @ 4/8
Investing fully into Dexterity gets the Darkwood Core on par with Composite Plating by Level 4, and Heavy Plating by Level 8. If you’re playing a Dexterity-based character with proficiency in all armor, you may want to stick with plating until your Darkwood Core scales up with your ASI. Once your Dexterity hits 20, the plating becomes defunct. You can roleplay this transition as the Warforged molting into its new, more limber form.
Base 15 Dexterity, ASI @ 4/8/12
This example shows a slower, but still committed progression to Dexterity investment. This build strategy can work for a character that takes a half-feat at Level 4 (Athlete, Lightly Armored, Moderately Armored, Resilient, Weapon Master). In these situations, it’s even more important to use stronger armor early if you have the proficiency to spare.
Base 14 Dexterity, no ASI
This is the ideal setup for the Composite Plating user, since they’re investing as much as they can get out of their armor. Composite Plating will always be one AC behind Heavy Plating, but the tradeoff is that you don’t suffer stealth disadvantage.
Base 10 Dexterity, no ASI
This is a Heavy Plating setup. You can see how much stronger it is than the others when you don’t have the Dexterity investment. It’s probably best to stick with Heavy Plating and deal with the stealth disadvantage, since the AC dropoff is so large.
Update: on November 19, 2019, Eberron: Rising from the Last War was released, which changed the Warforged’s Armor Class bonus to a flat +1. As usual with our analysis of abandoned or modified mechanics, we’re leaving up the article as part of the development history.