Sunday, April 4, 2010

On Centaurs and Mechanical Men

Denis Beauvais Bridge of Sorrows

These are the three "new races" I worked up for my Land of Nod campaign. The centaur owes its creation to Denis Beauvais' excellent painting Bridge of Sorrows (he could do the covers for my fantasy rules any day). Looking at that centaur knight, how can you not want to play one? The beastman was a replacement for the half-orc, and was intended as a simple way to introduce all sorts of bestial humanoids into the game as playable races. The mechanical man is a nod to pulp sci-fi and stories of Hephaestus' automatons in Greek myth, as well as the venerable tin woodsman of Oz fame. The following content is declared open game content.

Beastman is not a race per se’, but rather a category of bestial humanoids. This category can include such humanoids as gnolls, orcs and hobgoblins or crossbreeds between such humanoids and humans. The most common “beastmen” in Nod are the half-orcs.

Half-orc characters are usually crossbred from human stock, and can almost pass for human. As they are often the product of rape, half-orcs frequently have a rough childhood. Their orc blood puts them at a disadvantage with most people, as orcs are known for their violent and criminal tendencies.

Half-orcs average from six to seven feet in height, and they are usually built like gorillas. Their skin often has a pink, grey or green cast to it. Half-orcs often have one of the following facial features: turned up nose, pointed ears, thick eyebrows, a heavy forehead, vestigal tusks and/or pointed teeth. Half-orc hair is coarse and unruly, and usually black, dark brown or dark red. Half-orc eyes are almost always brown, brownish green or greyish green.

Half-orcs usually speak the common tongue of men and often (60%) the language of orcs. It is not uncommon for them to learn the language of dwarves, goblins, ogres and giants. Players of half-orcs may wish to affect a deep, gutteral, grunting accent to their speech when communicating as their character.

  • Beastmen enjoy a +1 bonus to strength and constitution at character creation, but suffer a -2 penalty to charisma. These modifications cannot take an ability score above 18 or below 3.
  • Beastmen can see up to 60 feet in the dark. Their sense of smell is as refined as a wolf’s.
  • A beastman’s thick skin or fur coat improves its Armor Class by 1.
  • Beastmen enjoy a +2 bonus to save vs. disease.

A centaur has the head, arms and torso of a human or elf and the lower body of a pony or ass. Centaurs dwell in meadows and glades surrounded by thick woodlands. They are known for their lack of temper and their fondness for women, war and song.

Centaurs are usually eight to nine feet tall from hoof to head. Even though their equine bodies are smaller than normal horses, they are still quite heavy and find it difficult to scale sheer surfaces without help from others. A centaur’s equine body may have any pattern common to normal horses, and the hair on their heads often follows suit. Centaurs usually have nut brown skin.

Centaurs speak their own language and often (50%) the language of elves. They occaisionally speak the common tongue of men. Many centaurs learn the languages of gnomes, goblins, halflings, kobolds and orcs. Because of their size, centaurs have booming voices. Players of centaurs may want to use a Greek accent when speaking as their characters.

  • Centaurs enjoy a +1 bonus to strength and constitution at character creation, but suffer a -2 penalty to wisdom. These modifications cannot take an ability score above 18 or below 3.
  • Centaurs can carry 150% more than most characters. In addition, their movement is adjusted by +6.
  • Because they are quadripeds, a centaur’s AC vs. grapple and overbearing attacks is increased by +2.
  • In combat, centaurs can choose to attack with their weapon or make two hoof attacks that deal 1d6 damage.
  • A centaurs body shape makes them unsuitable for playing monks. Centaur rangers, thieves and assassins do not gain those class’s ability to climb walls. Centaurs favor the barbarian and bard classes and have a +5% bonus to earned XP in those classes.
  • Centaur armor costs twice as much as normal humanoid armor.

Mechanical men are intelligent, artificial lifeforms created by ancient peoples (elves, fish men, ophidians), wizards and Vulcanus, god of the forge. They are as sentient as any living creature, and can “procreate” by building children and endowing them with a portion of their own souls.

Mechanical men are humanoid creatures composed of tin, wood, bronze, porcelain, ivory, steel or other such materials. The actual form of a mechanical man is highly variable. Mechanical fighting-men often have suits of armor attached to their bodies, while thieves may streamline their bodies to make fitting into small places easier.

Mechanical men usually speak the common tongue of men and the language of their creators.

  • Mechanical men are immune to poison and disease. They do not need to eat or breath, although they can benefit from imbibing a magical potion. Spells that heal damage to living bodies are only half as effective on mechanical men.
  • Mechanical men have 50% resistance to lightning damage.
  • A mechanical man has a natural Armor Class of 7 [12]. His unarmed strikes do 1d3 damage.


  1. I think centaurs would make a great PC race,
    CG or CN guardians of the plains . . .
    with proficincy in Archery.
    Legend has it that Achilles (or was it Homer) was instructed by a centaur named Chiron.

    Mechanical men would make great antagonists . . .
    Agents of law who are indifferent to individual preferences or suffering;
    Soulless and fearless dispensers of law and order.
    They could be a borg-like opponent.
    “Assimilate or die.”

  2. I'd been thinking about writing a post on under-utilized "race" archetypes in games--one of which was going to be automata--which you go ahead and use! Cool. :)


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