D&D 5eRacesReviews

UA: Centaur and Minotaur Breakdown

For this month’s Unearthed Arcana, we have two new races, the centaur and the minotaur. As the document notes, this is their second run at the minotaur. The first was in the mist-shrouded reaches of 2015, when they also gave us the early iterations of Storm sorcery and the Swashbuckler rogue. They’re doing some different things, and it definitely raises questions in my mind about what we should expect somewhere around this time next year. Krynn is always a long shot, but centaurs and minotaurs are a tiny bump in that direction.

Centaurs

The flavor text for centaurs is very… baseline. It’s ripe for a DM or setting developer to do something more different from “centaurs gonna do you a nature.” I like the mentions of connection to ancestors, though I’d like it even more if that showed up in their racial traits in some way.

  • +2 Str, +1 Wis. Kinda wish +1 Str, +2 Wis was also an option.
  • Their Medium size is controversial right out of the gate, and I’ll say that I do think it’s worth making them Large for the purposes of space occupied, even if they use gear sized for Medium creatures.
  • Base speed of 40 feet. It would be weird if this weren’t the case.
  • Charge: Once per short rest, you can deal an additional weapon die of damage if you charge 20 feet straight toward a target. I’m seeing some folks object to them only being able to charge once per short rest, but that doesn’t particularly bother me – I mean, they can always move 20 feet and hit the thing, they just can’t always get a bunch of extra damage out of the deal.
  • Your hooves are d6 Strength weapons. That seems reasonable. I assume you can use them as a two-weapon-fighting weapon? Light weapon, shield, hooves as an “off-hand” – is that supported in the rules, or am I off-base?
  • Equine Build is the So You Want to Be a Horse feature. It grants increased carrying capacity and lets you carry a rider. It also slaps you with a serious drawback when you try to climb. Since I just released a PDF of unicorns as PCs, I’m especially interested in the use cases that they included rules handling for here.
  • Proficiency in Survival. Sure, makes sense for these nature dudes.
  • Hybrid Nature makes them fully monstrosities and fully humanoids, as laid down in the Council of Chalcedon, as opposed to being half humanoid and half monstrosity, which is the Monophysite heresy.
    • What?
    • Look, if you know your Byzantine history, I am goddamn hilarious.
    • Anyway, I’ve written features exactly like this one for In the Company of Giants, In the Company of Unicorns, and In the Company of REDACTED. I’m very happy to have my design decision upheld here.
  • You’re fully proficient in Common and Sylvan.

I feel like centaurs (and minotaurs too, but I get ahead of myself) would be more compelling with subraces, just so that there’s space consciously carved out to tell stories about different kinds of centaur cultures. The overall power here seems fairly conservative. I think they could peel off Survival proficiency and +1 Wis, make that part of one of the subraces, and build up 2-3 new subraces. That said, this is basically fine and I wouldn’t have the least bit of problem allowing one of these in a game. I’m playing a bariaur in Colin’s Planescape game, and you should definitely check out what he did with them. (He doesn’t include a Caprine Build feature in the text, but we act as if it’s there.)

 

Minotaurs

The first version of minotaurs went deep on their flavor text, and I had serious issues with it. On the other hand, they also had their own racial personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, which was a big part of why I wrote Through Their Own Eyes (available now on DriveThruRPG – no, I have no shame, self-promotion is an awful obligation). There’s no new flavor text here, other than the note that this presumes minotaurs not in thrall to Baphomet.

  • +2 Str, +1 Con. A +1 Str, +2 Con option would be nice, because it helps more classes that don’t need Strength as their best stat, but this is fine.
  • Medium size; presumably Baphomet is minotaur Viagra.
  • 30-foot speed. Baphomet also makes them faster.
  • Their horns are d6 Strength weapons.
  • Goring Rush requires a Dash action, and allows you to attack with your horns as a bonus action. You have to move a distance equal to your speed first, which is regrettable – improving your speed (with, say, the Mobile feat) makes this only-okay feature even harder to use. If you can already Dash as a bonus action, this is a non-feature.
  • Hammering Horns is carefully worded not to work with Goring Rush, which seems a missed opportunity. Anyway, you get a free pseudo-Shove (not a true Shove, and it’s a Str save rather than a contested Strength (Athletics) check) when you hit with an attack – it could be a sword you’re holding.
  • Proficiency in Intimidation. Minotaurs who find Baphomet lose this, oddly enough.
  • (Baphomet also grants them darkvision and Labyrinthine Recall.)
  • They have the same monstrosity/humanoid dual type as centaurs. At this point, I wish they had fully embraced dual typing for monsters as well – I think there’s some good mileage they could have gotten out of that.

Once again, a couple of subraces would have been nice. It would be hard to get any use out of these features as most kinds of pure spellcasters, but (thanks to Ptolus) I really like the image of a robed, sage-like minotaur. Goring Rush isn’t great, and the race’s overall power balance seems tame.

Together, the centaur and minotaur rules are mostly focused on the physical aspects of those races, rather than their training, culture, or mental nature. It’s a bit of a superficial representation, as an obvious result. I also like to see races that fit well with a greater number of classes and common builds, so that you don’t feel pigeon-holed just because you like that one race.

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