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Do warforged have disadvantage on the Con save against the shatter spell?

As stated in the description of the shatter spell (emphasis mine):

A sudden loud ringing noise, painfully intense, erupts from a point of your choice within range. Each creature in a 10-foot-radius sphere centered on that point must make a Constitution saving throw. [...] A creature made of inorganic material such as stone, crystal, or metal has disadvantage on this saving throw.

My DM interprets this to mean that since warforged are made of non-organic components, they have disadvantage on the save. However, warforged are also comprised of living organic components, and thus are not entirely made of inorganic material.

If my DM is correct, then this would mean that warforged have the disadvantages of being a construct without the advantages that most constructs possess.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Please take the tour when you get the chance. It's important to remember that there are thousands of RPGs out there; can you tell us which game and edition you're asking about? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've added the [dnd-5e] tag, as the quoted spell description matches exactly the D&D 5e spell shatter. Let us know if this is incorrect. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Neat question! Someone reading it might be a little confused because the last sentence seems more of a statement (with a question mark at the end). It might be helpful if you edited it a bit so that the "question" part is clear. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've removed the bit about Tieflings, as that is a different question entirely. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4 at 13:58
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It's up to the GM whether a partially inorganic creature has disadvantage on the saving throw against shatter

Warforged are not constructs, but humanoids though they are also partly organic, partly inorganic

The description of the Warforged states (Eberron: Rising from the Last War, page 35):

[...] Warforged are made from wood and metal, but they can feel pain and emotion.

[...]

Warforged are formed from a blend of organic and inorganic materials. Root-like cords infused with alchemical fluids serve as their muscles, wrapped around a framework of steel, darkwood, or stone. Armored plates form a protective outer shell and reinforce joints.

[...]

Although they were manufactured, warforged are living humanoids. Resting, healing magic, and the Medicine skill all provide the same benefits to warforged that they do to other humanoids. [...]

So we're left wondering whether a partially organic, partially inorganic being counts as "a creature made of inorganic material" for the purposes of the shatter spell. The rules of 5e are written in natural language, so we are left to interpret the phrase naturally.

We could probably wonder all day about the precise meaning and requirements for something to be "made of" something else and I could see a lot of arguments being made. Someone could say that in order for something to be made of inorganic material it must be entirely made of such material. Alternatively, somebody could say a creature must be, to any extent, made of such material (though even human bone is partially inorganic). Somebody could say that English speakers don't use "made of" in a consistent way, and so the answer can't be determined.

Personally, I would go on a case-by-case basis of determining whether a given thing should, according to my own internal logic, have a difficult time shaking off the effects of a spell called "shatter" that makes "a sudden loud ringing noise, painfully intense". At my own tables, Warforged are inorganic enough to have disadvantage on the saving throw against shatter; at any other table though? The GM has room to rule any way they like.


Warforged receive numerous benefits from their constructed nature

That all said, even if Warforged have disadvantage due to being inorganic, they do actually have benefits from being constructed. These are laid out as part of their racial traits:

You were created to have remarkable fortitude, represented by the following benefits:

  • You have advantage on saving throws against being poisoned, and you have resistance to poison damage.
  • You don't need to eat, drink, or breathe.
  • You are immune to disease.
  • You don't need to sleep, and magic can't put you to sleep.

They also have the Specialized Design and Integrated Protection features - even more benefits that stem from their constructed nature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would note that human bone is also partially inorganic (specifically, the inorganic component is what gives bones their rigidity). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 4 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this answer. I'll also add that I agree with the original DM's call due to flavor reasons. It's like inorganic things resonate with the spell. While I wouldn't rule that a single artificial hip would resonate enough, if all your joints (and other things) are artificial you'll resonate enough to apply. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mathaddict
    Oct 4 at 22:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ The entire section about their other benefits has nothing to do with shatter. Its just punishing a player for having other benefits to their player race which every race has a variety of. The question isn't. Do you think warforged are strong and should be punished for it. Its does shatter work on them. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user2389345436357 No, that is addressing the OP's misconception that "warforged have the disadvantages of being a construct without the advantages that most constructs possess." \$\endgroup\$ Oct 5 at 16:17
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It's up to the DM.

The warforged race description says (E:RftLW, p. 35):

Warforged are formed from a blend of organic and inorganic materials. Root-like cords infused with alchemical fluids serve as their muscles, wrapped around a framework of steel, darkwood, or stone. Armored plates form a protective outer shell and reinforce joints. Warforged share a common facial design, with a hinged jaw and crystal eyes embedded beneath a reinforced brow ridge. Beyond these common elements of warforged design, the precise materials and build of a warforged vary based on the purpose for which it was designed.

First, to address the rules from a narrow perspective, it is up to the DM to rule on this. The description of the Shatter spell states:

A creature made of inorganic material such as stone, crystal, or metal has disadvantage on this saving throw.

This doesn't tell us how much of the creature's composition must be inorganic. Entirely inorganic? Is an inorganic prosthesis enough to give disadvantage against shatter? The rules don't answer this for us, so the DM needs to make a ruling.

I rule "no disadvantage" because warforged composition is a flavorful character design choice.

The last sentence of the paragraph quoted above is important:

Beyond these common elements of warforged design, the precise materials and build of a warforged vary based on the purpose for which it was designed.

Based on the description of the race, the percentage of inorganic composition of a warforged seems to range anywhere from 1% to 99%. A 1% inorganic warforged probably shouldn't have disadvantage on shatter, but maybe a 99% inorganic warforged should have disadvantage. But here is how I make my ruling: all flavorful design choices should be created equal, in favor of the player.

If I have an almost entirely organic warforged and an almost entirely inorganic warforged in my party, I should be treating them equitably despite their design choices, unless we have some mechanics we have agreed upon beforehand. Therefore, I rule that both warforged do not have disadvantage against shatter.

The first time this came up in a game for me, I initially thought to rule "yes, disadvantage", but we had a quick conversation mid-battle that changed my mind:

Thomas (DM): And the wizard is going to cast shatter centered on you, DEX. Con save at disadvantage.

DEX (Warforged): Disadvantage? What for?

Thomas: You're made of inorganic material.

DEX: That sucks, I could have made myself out of mostly organic material and not had disadvantage.

Thomas: Hmmm, you're right. I'm not going to punish you for making your character art look cooler with some metal stuff.

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No, because warforged are primarily composed of wood.

Warforged, as noted in other answers, are living constructs composed of wood and metal:

Warforged are formed from a blend of organic and inorganic materials. Root-like cords infused with alchemical fluids serve as their muscles, wrapped around a framework of steel, darkwood, or stone. Armored plates form a protective outer shell and reinforce joints.

Looking at that, we can see that the vast majority of their bodies are composed of alchemically-infused wooden cords that act as their muscles, wrapped around a metal, darkwood, or stone skeleton and plated in metal. This means that the majority of their bodies are made from wood.

This is consistently supported by the artwork of them since their introduction in DnD 3.5, which has consistently depicted them as being made from wood covered in metal plates (though sometimes the wood is only barely visible through the cracks in their armor plating). You can see this in their wiki pages on the Eberron and Forgotten Realms wikis, which together include artwork of them across the editions they've existed.

As such, they do not qualify as "A creature made of inorganic material", because the majority of their body is composed of organic materials - and the wording of the spell implies that any level of organic composition disqualifies them from that particular effect.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think "root-like cords" necessarily means they're made of wood - just that those cords are root-like in shape (i.e. in how they spread throughout the warforged's body), not necessarily in material. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Oct 6 at 2:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast In the artwork, they're clearly depicted as being made out of wood, and this has been consistent since the Warforged's creation in 3e. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Oct 6 at 5:19

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