Libris Monstrum #8: Centaurs Of The World
Centaurs are a classic creature of mythology and a distinctive one among countless vague creatures and descriptions. The horse body with the upper half of a human extending from where the horse’s head would be is singular. In the world of D&D we have created other similar creatures like the dracotaur and been inspired similarly by myths like the girtablilu or scorpion man. What I would like to do is explore centaur-adjacent peoples who would live around the world.
A Close Cousin
First, a simple and obvious jump is toward the zebra. Cousin to the horse but with a distinctly patterned hide and one of the first creatures though of when picturing the Savannah, zebras are a perfect example for alternative centaurs. But what can we do to make these beings unique?
Interestingly enough, zebra are generally smaller and stockier than a horse. Closer to a donkey than a horse in many regards. Nevertheless, zebra are incredibly horse like and share many features. One thing that makes them different is that they have an array of excellent senses, including wonderful night vision. Another distinction would be their lesser speed. While fast enough to outrun lions, zebra do not get the speeds horses do.
Mechanically a zebra centaur would have a slower speed, say 40 feet, and definitely darkvision. I think we also need to give them training in stealth as both a nod to the strips, a useful addition to dark vision, and to help make them distinctive to the charging centaurs of the manual. Ambush hunting and maybe even a new take on pack tactics would be top choices for these guys. And it may be unimportant but the picture in my head includes a build much closer to dwarf with big mohawks than the normal centaur.
Something a little easier to create, I think, is a creature found in deep jungles, especially alongside rives. Using the tapir as a base creature, I want a tough, small people who can hew out a life in these dangerous areas. Tapirs have thick skin, love the water, and generally calm and shy. Nevertheless, they are able to defend themselves with powerful bits when need be. The attitude just reminds me so much of hobbits.
Because of this, we are going to smash the tapir together with the halfling. We are making a river people who you might never find and certainly would expect to find when wandering the jungle. What I really see is a less nomadic centaur which fishes and creates riverside safe havens deep in one of the most dangerous ecosystems in the world. Abilities would include a swim speed, increased ability to hold breath, and excellent harpoon and netting abilities. There is some fun potential here.
Another transplant for the centaur would be to consider how they might be different in a desert environment. For me the obvious choice is the camel instead of the horse. All things considered, I think most of the differences between the two would not be mechanically significant. Perhaps the only thing that might make a difference is how big a camel-based centaur might be. Some camels are quite large, though I don’t know if we would call them huge, but maybe. Indeed, be sure to highlight the major narrative differences like physical appearance and desert comfort.
What other creatures could provide the basis of a centaur-like creature? We can go simple some more or we can get wild. Warthog centaur with tusks jutting from the humanoid mouth? Hippo centaur with huge tusked mouths? Ostriches? Crocodiles? Moose? Let’s get some ideas in the comments below!