D&D 5e: Centaur Race Guide
“Some poems are like the Centaurs – a mingling of man and beast and begotten of Ixion on a cloud” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Many of the racial additions to fifth edition (5e) Dungeons and Dragons have been inspired by Greek mythology. This guide will aim to cover one of those races whose name conjures up images of a wild, powerful force of nature: The Centaur.
Their history is similar to the Satyr. Considered largely to be savage, lusty creatures, 5e has reigned them in from a history of hedonic narrative and given them a chance to be viewed with fresh eyes as creatures belonging to a royal pantheon of mythical beasts. Approaching the Centaur in 5e is an exciting opportunity to play outside of the usual scope of player characters. What is life like with four legs? How do the common people react to you? Perhaps seeing a Centaur is just as normal as being, or perhaps you are just as mythological as the stories once said.
Well, it’s time to get serious about horse-people. Giddy-up.
–ASI: +2 STR and +1 WIS. This combo could be described as “Bashy Caster” or “Streetwise Brute”. You’re going to have plenty of options down the road that we’ll get into in more detail, but just be comfortable with the expectation that you’re going to spend time closer to combat.
-Age: You mature and age like a human!
-Alignment: Centaurs are usually True Neutral.
-Size: You’ll likely be somewhere between 6 to 7ft tall and 4ft tall at the withers (that’s the highest part of a horse’s back #horsefacts).
–Speed: 40ft! Dear god… this is incredible. It’s as good as it’s going to get for speed.
–Fey: You’re fey, not humanoid. A handful of things can target you in a way they can’t target your allies. Those that are harmful aren’t too insane to be worried about, however, you should be aware of them – especially as you face higher-level casters down the road. However, there are plenty of spells that target humanoids that can never target you which is going to make you far more annoying to spellcasters that like (mostly) enchantment spells.
–Charge: Move 30 feet and make a melee attack for a bonus action attack with your hooves. In the early levels, this is a great way to get an extra attack in. Better options will open up later though!
–Hooves: 1d4 + STR attack that can’t be taken away from you. Decent in a pinch and a nice cherry on top of a charge, but it will never be your best option for massive damage.
–Equine Build: You’re large when you’re factoring in your carrying capacity and push/drag weight. If it were just this, it would be a fine addition, but this race comes with a drawback. Whenever you climb, you treat it like difficult terrain.
–Survivor: You start with proficiency with one of three skills: Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, or Survival. Extra proficiencies always come in handy. All of these have their uses, so try and pick your proficiency to fill a gap in the party’s needs.
-Languages: Common and Sylvan. You’re set to talk with people and trees. Good for you!
To date, there are no Centaur Subraces nor any likelihood of them becoming available in the future.
Best Classes and Archetypes for the Centaur
Let’s chat about how I determined these rankings. Generally speaking, I assume that your Ability Score array is not already maximized with 18’s from perfect score rolls at character creation and that you plan to lean into the existing strengths of the Centaur: Mobility and extra attacks. You’ll be a great frontline fighter, but you have a particularly unique opportunity to get in and out of combat if you focus on building for mobility. At the end of the day, the reasoning comes down to three things:
1) Does this race satisfy the expectations of the class?
2) Does the class synergize with subclass abilities?
3) How easy would it be to get started with this race-class/subclass combo?
You can try to turn D&D 5e into as much of an exact science as you want, but at the end of the day, you need to figure out what works best for your playstyle, your campaign, and your playgroup. Alrighty, here we go!
So, you’re bringing mobility, STR, and WIS to this. Are they everything you could hope for? No. Will they be okay? Ehhh… maybe.
Alchemist: Relying on a bit of RNG can be fun from time to time, but these guys want INT to make an impact in the long run.
Armorer: In your Arcane Armor, you’re going to be capable of using STR or DEX for your damage in place of INT. This is, in my opinion, the only way to take a non-INT approach to the class.
Artillerist: Needs INT way too much for their damage and utility options for this combo to be effective.
Battle Smith: Similar issues to the Artillerist. Your battle buddy (i.e. Steel Defender) is just going to suffer in the long run.
Alright, now we’re talking. There are a lot of options here for you that are going to be pretty exciting. At level 5, you’re going to be getting a boost to your speed while not wearing heavy armor. That means a base speed of 50! Pair that with the mobility feat at level four, and you’re looking at 60 hellish feet of movement without provoking Opportunity Attacks (OAs) after making an attack. So. Hot.
Ancestral Guardian: Decently tanky and your Ancestral Protectors/Spirit Shield are going to make mitigating taking attacks and damage a lot easier. Who needs resistance when you might just be able to avoid the damage altogether?
Battlerager: Dwarf only (technically). A horse-person covered in spiked armor sounds pretty dope at first, but this subclass is a bit lackluster.
Beast: Bestial Soul could let you overcome your racial climbing difficulty and their versatility is unrivaled in the Barbarian world.
Berserker: Solid damage, but exhaustion is too steep a price to pay for a good rage.
Depths: Swimming horse-person. I guess there could be a Sea-Horse Centaur. I’m not judging your personal life choices, but this is not an optimal pick except in sea-faring circumstances.
Juggernaut: Like a Centaur in a china shop. I dig it. You’ve got the brute force to back up what this subclass is looking to do. You’ll be a one-horse wrecking ball.
Storm Herald: Always a favorite of mine. You have many solid ways to interact with the environment (perhaps not always as meaningfully as the Beast barbarian), but you’re never going to feel behind the curve.
Totem Warrior – Bear: Without an innate CON boost, this is a great way to add some survivability. And then you’ll double your carry limit (which is already immense) and can push/pull/lift/break with advantage. Nice.
Totem Warrior – Eagle: Dashing as a bonus action is pretty sweet and the added disadvantage your enemies receive while you’re raging is nice to avoid damage.
Totem Warrior – Elk: This is the mobility-horder’s dream. 15 extra feet added to your walking speed (while raging, mind you) is crazy. That’d turn what I said above into 75 feet of opportunity attack free movement by level 5, and you’re not even dashing at this point (150ft of movement… in 6 seconds!)
Totem Warrior – Tiger: While a hopping horse might be entertaining at a show, the jumping, proficiencies, and another charge option are skippable.
Totem Warrior Wolf: Give melee attacks advantage when your enemies are on you. You could set up some interesting combos with this. If an ally readies their attack action on an enemy when you are in range to make a melee attack, you could give them advantage on an attack they might not have otherwise had after you charge in. This won’t always be the number one strategy, but against a big single target, this could be a game changer.
Wild Magic: Fits perfectly with the fact that you’re a fey creature. The options are a whole lot of chaotic fun. Pick this for a great time.
Zealot: The “I’ll Be Back” option for D&D. Never stay down. A solid choice for any race capable of handling life as a Barbarian.
No CHA makes this instantly a bad choice for you. The WIS could be decent for a handful of skills, but no Bard is going to have a good time without their handy-dandy CHA. STR might be swapped as the skill for Intimidation, but that is going to depend on your DM. Best of luck if you go this route. You’ll be scrambling to become useful (which might be a delightful way to play on its own).
Creation: Everything here is going to rely on CHA too much for me to even begin recommending. So, here are some moody bard songs you can find to get you through not being able to take this path.
Eloquence: Summertime Sadness (Bardcore | Medieval Style) – Hildegard Von Blingin
Glamour: Vivaldi – Winter, 1st Movement
Lore: Chopin Sonata in B minor, Presto, as played by James Rhodes
Maestro: Playing Love – Ennio Morricone, from the Soundtrack of “The Legend of 1900”
Swords: Itzhak Perlman-The Dance of the Goblins (by A.Bazzini)
Valor: Such a bad subclass it doesn’t even get a recommendation.
Whispers: Shakira – Hips Don’t Lie [Bardcore / Medieval Style Cover]
I have played a Centaur Blood Hunter and had a whole lot of fun. The STR is a perfect main outlet for damage and the WIS is exactly what the Blood Hunter is looking for to maximize their utility and out-of-combat social/exploration options.
Ghostslayer: These guys are exceptional in the right campaign (like Curse of Strahd) where the undead are heavily featured. Plus, adding radiant damage is an awesome way to get some stellar damage that (relative) few enemies have resistance to.
Lycan: This was the path that I took. It buffs your unarmed strikes to a 1d6. So, your charge is even better, and will eventually get to 1d8 at 11th level, not to mention that you get to add your Crimson Rite to it as well! What part of you transforms more when you use your Hybrid Transformation? That’s for you to decide!
Mutant: The Witcher option. It asks for something in return for sacrifice. I love that way of playing. Definitely would recommend giving these guys a try. Plus, I think being a mercenary horse-person-for-hire just sounds like fun.
Profane Soul: You’ve got the WIS to make this work (though you will want a boost eventually). WIS-Warlock Spellcasting mixed with some fantastic spellsword options is an enticing path. Don’t even look at the Warlock class at this point.
As I mentioned when discussing the Centaur’s racial traits, they are a bit of a Bashy Spellcaster, which makes them solid choices for Clerics and Druids that want to be closer to the action, conserving spell slots, and maximizing their utility on the frontlines. Every one of these options is viable for the Centaur.
Arcana: The Spell Breaker class feature is a super cool healing utility, but you run the risk of blasting your highest slots on effects that might be of an even higher level or could have been removed with a lower level slot. So, take some time to familiarize yourself (in the game world) with the spellcasting of your enemies.
Blood: Love ‘em. They’re a very combat-oriented subclass that can eventually hurt themselves to get back into the spellcasting fight, but if you’re facing creatures without blood, you may be in for a world of hurt (as far as your damage utility goes).
Death: The “Bad Guy” Cleric, is said to be so powerful they must reside in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Great necromancy effects and an awesome way to overcome some enemy resistances. With their Improved Reaper feature, I think these guys are cooler “Necromancers” than the Necromancy Wizards end up being.
Forge: Blessing of the Forge is an awesome piece of utility that never stops providing a competitive advantage.
Grave: Bonus Action for Spare the Dying can be great if an ally just went down and might face death unless dealt with quickly. A High WIS score will eventually help you negate crits. That’s a massive bonus to take advantage of, so try and pump that up.
Knowledge: The Cleric Skill Monkey. You’ll be adding some massive bonuses to your rolls to recall information. Getting a high INT is going to be helpful here as well, so you may want to focus on that as well. Otherwise, they aren’t going to be your combat specialist.
Life: Great on the sidelines or in the fray. We love to see heavily armored casters living their best life.
Light: Impose disadvantage on attacks against you and eventually your allies. A very blasty spellcaster.
Nature: What if a Druid, was more like a missionary? Unlimited resistance to acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage for you or an ally within 30ft as a reaction… not bad.
Order: Voice of Authority is an amazing way to maximize the reaction economy by giving allies extra weapon attacks! The attack you grant can be ranged or melee, but not a spell.
Peace: The math of these guys is busted, but you’ll need to choose when to use your Emoldening Bond wisely. Add guidance on top of that, and it’s 2d4 of free real estate.
Tempest: I adore these clerics. Reactions to deal damage after taking damage, are awesome. Maximizing lightning or thunder damage effects is extra awesome. Late-game fly speeds are just a cherry on top.
Trickery: I generally don’t care much for the Trickery domain’s antics, but they are a lot of fun to play around with and as a fey creature, this is a great thematic pick. I think they rely too heavily on their Channel Divinity to not take short rests often to restore it.
Twilight: Initiative advantage is awesome. Keep that up. Free proficiency in Martial Weapons AND heavy armor. Every other cleric subclass (except War) just got jealous.
War: As a Bashy Spellcaster, this is just right for you. If you had CHA, you’d go Paladin. But you don’t, so this is where you get to thrive. Blasting and Smashing. Guided Strike may be one of the best ways to use Channel Divinity out there. Also, the War Priest feature at Level 1 is CRAZY! Free Bonus Action attacks fit with your “charge-in” theme.
As I mentioned when discussing the Centaur’s racial traits, they are a bit of a Bashy Spellcaster, which makes them solid choices for Clerics and Druids that want to be closer to the action, conserving spell slots, and maximizing their utility on the frontlines. Every one of these options is viable for the Centaur. Presently, I am considering playing a Centaur Druid for an upcoming campaign. They’re an exciting choice that will give you a unique spellcaster experience.
Dreams: Safer rests and eventual 60ft teleports. Pretty solid utility. Might be a little too on the sidelines for my tastes.
Land: A classic druid that essentially walks the line between being dated and being a damage powerhouse. Pick your spells wisely and look at the new options outside of the Player’s Handbook too!
Moon: I seldom recommend anyone away from the Circle of the Moon subclass because I think they are just so damn good. They are still one of the best, if not the best, tanks in the game (dropping out of wild shape just to reenter it with max HP is a baller move), but the centaur’s mobility and STR might be squandered, especially in the early levels before you can take flight. Before going this route, think about your other options.
Shepherd: Great summoning. Pick up every “Summon X” spell you can. A great pick for a Centaur that wants to live its best Woodland Royalty life.
Spores: Decent tankiness with Symbiotic entity. Boost your WIS for Fungal Infestation.
Stars: My fave Druid subclass right now. Guiding Bolt and Druid spells? Sign me up.
Wildfire: Fire is one of the most common resistances out there, so that’s going to be rough. Consider the Elemental Adept feat for this class to ignore those resistances (if you do take it, then this subclass immediately jumps to the good category).
As you are, you should avoid leaning into any DEX builds for martial classes. You could choose to boost DEX later on, but you’re likely just wasting resources that could be spent on making you a more effective frontline fighter; that choice is entirely up to you. No DEX could cut down your ranged options, but you just have to get creative with javelins and thrown weapons (except for those few subclasses that necessitate specific weaponry: see, Arcane Archer, Gunslinger, and Renegade).
Arcane Archer: Pass. No DEX.
Battle Master: Your mobility is welcome with this versatile option.
Cavalier: Hey, it’s up to your DM to decide how this one works.
Champion: A bit hack n’ slash for my tastes, but it works.
Echo Knight: Love the flavor, the mechanics are sick, and it could be a great fit for you.
Eldritch Knight: Does want that INT, so Pass.
Gunslinger: Pass. No DEX.
Psi Warrior: Does want that INT, so Pass.
Purple Dragon Knight: A big friend that just wants their allies to feel good about themselves. Great crowd support.
Renegade: Pass. No DEX.
Rune Knight: Great scaling in the early game, but loses interest in the late game.
Samurai: Wants CHA to make the most of their social options, but you will hit like a truck.
STR and WIS for a Monk are not a bad combo. WIS is naturally a pick you want for a Monk and the STR can be used on your unarmed strikes as a better way to output damage. Plus, the added speed you get for being a monk gets to GNARLY levels of insanity. +30 ft of speed at level 18, with the mobile feat that’s going to be 40 additional ft. And even if you don’t get to those higher levels, the bonuses you get are still VERY meaningful at early levels.
Ascendant Dragon: Dragon Horse. Cool.
Astral Self: Inner Self Horse. Cool.
Cobalt Soul: Truth Horse. Cool.
Drunken Master: Alcoholics Anonymous Horse. Cool (and responsible).
Four Elements: Avatar Horse. Cool.
Kensei: Weapon Horse. Cool.
Long Death: Sadist Horse. Cool.
Mercy: Saint Horse. Cool.
Open Hand: Classic Horse. Cool.
Shadow: Emo Horse. Cool.
Sun Soul: Dragon Ball Z Horse. CAH….. CAAAH… COOOOOOOOOOOL!
Umm… so, how do I put this kindly? You don’t fit in here, but the Clerics are accepting applications! We respect your time at the gym, but your personality is a bit… lacking. Let’s talk about alternatives…
Ancients: Nature Cleric.
Conquest: Order cleric.
Crown: War Cleric.
Devotion: Life Cleric.
Glory: Forge Cleric.
Oathbreaker: Death Cleric.
Open Sea: Tempest Cleric.
Redemption: Peace Cleric.
Vengeance: Grave Cleric.
Watchers: Horizon Walker Ranger… hey, variety is the spice of life.
Melee ranger builds can be some of the most effective rangers out there! I think there was a whole book series dedicated to some Dark Elf that most Ranger players are dying to recreate… but, what if he was a horse instead? No DEX could cut down your ranged options, but you just have to get creative with javelins and thrown weapons.
Beast Master: Needs Tasha’s added class options, but having a companion is a lot of fun. Talk with your DM about ways that you can improve the subclass. Magical items are a great way of rewriting a poorly designed subclass.
Drakewarden: A Horseman and a dragon walk into a bar. Grammar matters.
Fey Wanderer: Perfect thematic fit for the Centaur Ranger.
Gloom Stalker: The best melee fit you could pick for a Centaur Ranger.
Horizon Walker: Excellent for the Centaur with a Planar interest.
Hunter: The basic ranger. I feel like this one anticipates your being a bit more versatile, but going pure melee shouldn’t hurt you too badly, and thrown weapons are a lot of fun.
Monster Slayer: The STR is perfect to face down those big baddies.
Swarmkeeper: Mostly solid abilities. I’d take this path at your own risk.
A STR-based Rogue is still completely viable, you just need finesse weapons. Using the DEX component of the finesse weapon isn’t required for Sneak Attack. And WIS is going to definitely come in handy. Now, DEX would be better for you, but the WIS makes up for itself meaningfully, especially if you go Inquisitive. No DEX could cut down your ranged options, but you just have to get creative with javelins and thrown weapons.
Arcane Trickster: Does desire a bit o’ that sweet, sweet INT.
Assassin: I suppose murder doesn’t have to be elegant to make a statement, right?
Inquisitive: Insightful Fighting is an excellent way to get those Sneak Attacks in! Huzzah for WIS! It’s as if Sherlock was also a body-builder.
Mastermind: Help as a bonus action. Good golly that’s a spicy ability.
Phantom: Don’t worry about your ability scores so much. Drape your doll collection across your back.
Scout: You’ll have great options to get into and out of a fight! Solid pick.
Soulknife: This does want a higher DEX as the game progresses.
Swashbuckler: Pairs wonderfully with Charge and who doesn’t love a pirate Horse-person?
Thief: The classic rogue. Also anticipates having more DEX for the stealth and sleight-of-hand components of the class, but not undoable.
Cleric. You can pray about it.
Druid. You can care about it.
Sorcerer. You have to be it… and sorry, mate. You’re just not it.
But, let’s chat about a single level dip and rate these guys as a multiclass option. Note: CHA spellcasting is going to be awful for you all the time.
Aberrant Mind: Telepathy at level one. Fun, but not critical.
Clockwork Soul: Impose advantage/disadvantage as a reaction. Hot
Divine Soul: Roll a free 2d4 after a failed saving throw or attack roll to potentially change the outcome once per short or long rest. It’s hot, but the rest won’t come as often as you’d like.
Draconic Bloodline: A single hit point boost by 1 and a dragon-scale armor with AC = 13 + DEX. Decent, but you could be leveling more effectively with classes that offer more HP and better armor.
Rune Child: Requires you to spend sorcery points which you don’t have at first level.
Shadow Sorcery: 120ft of Darkvision. As a race without it, you’ll learn very quickly how handy that can be, but one of your allies likely has a solution that would make this a fairly meaningless dip.
Storm Sorcery: 10ft Fly speed without provoking OAs after casting a 1st level spell or higher. Honestly, it’s kind of awesome if you applied it to a Profane Soul Blood Hunter or another casting class.
Wild Magic: Two features at level 1. Sorcerer spells can cause Wild Magic to go off (you won’t be using your sorcerer spells too frequently though, given the awful CHA side of things). Tides of Chaos is great to get Advantage in a pinch, and also another great way to pop off Wild Magic.
Look away. Just play the Profane Soul Blood Hunter.
Archfey:… So, you didn’t look away, huh? Well, time to start pouring out some Eldritch Knowledge. Here are a few top notch book recommendations to get you into that perfect “I’m about to make a deal with an Old God” mindset.
Celestial: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
Fathomless: It by Stephen King
Fiend: Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Genie: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Great Old One: The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft (not a great guy, but the story is fascinating)
Hexblade: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Undying: Uzumaki by Junji Ito
No INT. Bad. No CON. Not great. The mobility could be nice in a pinch, but you’ll probably never use the race’s charge ability. So, this would be a waste of a choice.
Abjuration: Good defenses, but your casting will suck.
Artificer: Just play the Artificer Armorer
Bladesinging: Elves only, sadly.
Chronurgy: Cool abilities, bad spellcasting.
Conjuration: Your summons are going to get stomped.
Divination: Seeing the future is going to be great until you start seeing that death is inevitable… and close.
Enchantment: The save-or-suck class is mostly “suck” in this case.
Evocation: You could burn the broadside of a barn.
Graviturgist: Maybe it’ll be easier to get you six feet under?
Illusion: More like delusion, am I right?
Necromancy: You can’t bring yourself back… or can you?
Order of Scribes: Conceptually awesome, mechanically bankrupt (for you, at least).
War Magic: Meh. Just be a War Cleric.
Racial Feats/Best Feats
Though the Centaur has no racial feats at the moment, there are some General Feats that I simply must recommend!
Elemental Adept: A feat that is just not talked about enough. Ignore a particular elemental resistance. Now, if you follow this guide, chances are you are going to be gaining spellcasting in some form during your playthrough. Picking this guy up is just an insurance policy to help you get damage onto enemies that might otherwise avoid it entirely. Plus, it gives the damage a little buff and I think that’s worth it. Also, talk to your DM and see if they would let you expand the “when you roll damage for a spell you cast that deals damage of that type, you can treat any 1 on a damage die as a 2” to “when you roll damage for an attack that deals damage…”. It’s a buff the feat needs anyway, and it will make you even more capable in combat.
Lucky: Can you blame me for loving some RNG manipulation? What essentially amounts to a free do-over is a welcome sight to a race that doesn’t have much in the way of supporting itself outside of a slightly better unarmed attack. If your DM allows it, spend your Luck points wisely, but also don’t be too stingy. They replenish on a Long Rest, so you can afford to spend them, even on a small thing now and again.
Mobile: Solid combo with Charge, or an easy way to get an insane movement bonus. Having a speed of 50ft with a single feat is unprecedented. Do a quick google on all the ways you can boost your speed and see how you can work the Centaur into those options. This feat is all but required if you pick a martial class.