There is nothing like scaring a party of novice adventurers in Dungeons and Dragons 5e than with a suit of armor that starts to move and turns out to be a helmed horror. These monsters have a couple of subclasses, all of which vary in power. The strongest of the helmed horrors are battle horrors. These reanimated suits of armor are also named shadow guards.
I love throwing this monster at my players, and I am sure you will too, after reading this ultimate guide about helmed horrors. If you are an adventurer, don’t click away. I will give you a couple of tips to defeat these fearsome D&D foes and at least help you get away from them if you are about to die.
Keep reading until the end, as I am going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions people have about helmed horrors.
What are helmed horrors in 5e Dungeons and Dragons?
You can find these monsters on page 183 of the 5e monster manual. They are medium-sized humanoid monster between 5 to 7 feet tall that can reason, think and strategize against their foes. They are completely loyal to their creator and his or her goals. Even centuries after their maker has died, they will continue to carry out the commands they were given. They do not have any emotions or ambitions but loyalty to their goal and creator.
From a physical point of view, they are just animated armor. Most of the time, they have plate armor, a shield, and a long sword. However, it is not uncommon for them to dual-wield the long swords or hold them with both hands. In addition, some creators give their helmed horrors magical weapons to make them stronger.
They are more intelligent than regular golems and have enough intelligence and wit to understand the difference between a literal order and the actual intent of that order. So it will carry out any order its maker gives it. No matter how vile or how strange, they never have any objection about executing it.
What are the Helmed Horror stats?
The first thing you as a DM or a player need to know is what stats your opponent has, their weaknesses, how they attack you, and any other information that might come in handy when fighting these monsters.
|Hit Points||Armor Class||Speed|
|60 (8d8 + 24)||20||30 feet|
AC – Hit Points – Speed
Armor class – Being a reanimated armor, helmed horrors have quite a decent AC. They have an armor class of 20 and use a plate body and shield to protect themselves. This means that you won’t hit all too high on them when fighting them.
Hit Points – They also have a decent mid-level hit points pool. With 60 hit points (or 8d8 +24), they are pretty bulky if you consider their AC. So they aren’t a monster you should throw at beginning adventurers.
Speed – Helmed horrors are very interesting when it comes to movement. Besides the fact that they have a normal walking speed of 30 ft, they can fly too! This is something a lot of players do not know about them. So it is perfect to surprise them.
Helmed horror stat block
|18 (+4)||13 (+1)||16 (+3)||10||10||10|
Strength – They have a strength of 18 (+4), so they can dash out some decent melee hits if you aren’t careful.
Dexterity – Their dexterity isn’t all too great; they have a 13 (+1) in this stat. That means you can hit them quite often.
Constitution – Their constitution is pretty decent too! The monsters have a 16 (+3), so they should not be underestimated in this regard.
Intelligence – They only have 10 intelligence, so nothing special.
Wisdom – likewise, helmed horrors only have 10 wisdom. So that won’t be a problem.
Charisma – Just like wisdom and intelligence, they only have 10 charisma.
Skills, immunities, senses, and resistances
Helmed Horrors in 5e have a perception of +4. If you have ever DM’d, you know what that means! They are awesome monsters to use in an ambush. Time to scare some adventurers who are a bit too confident walking around in the ruins of a long-dead evil wizard’s tower.
Being made out of armor gives you quite some resistance. The creature has resistance against bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing if the attack is nonmagical and not adamantine. So that is quite a powerful defense.
Their immunities are pretty decent, too; you can’t damage them with force, necrotic, and poison. Having no body comes with some perks, after all!
Helmed Horrors have a massive amount of powerful condition immunities. They are immune to being blinded, charmed, deafened, frightened, petrified, poisoned, stunned, and paralyzed. This is quite a lot to remember, so I would write them down to ensure you don’t forget about them.
This is such an awesome perk about them. The helmed horror can be immune to up to 3 spells. These can include fireball and heat metal. So if you know the spells of your adventurers and you want to give the wizard a hard time, you can render a major part of his magic arsenal useless!
Here is another aspect that makes them so great at ambushing unexpected players. While they have blindsight of 60 feet (more than enough for corridors or rooms), they have a passive perception of 14. So, as I said, they are perfect for ambushes in buildings and dungeons!
As a DM, you will need to think a bit about who created the helmed horrors. They can only understand the languages their creator spoke. However, they can not speak and are mute. So make sure you have some kind of a backup story for the creator of these monsters if your players start to ask questions about the language.
Helmed horrors aren’t just defense-based; they also have a decent multi-attack where they make two attacks with their longsword. The longsword they carry isn’t all too crazy. It gives a melee weapon attack of +6 to hit, and it reaches 5 feet. If the longsword is used with both hands, the hit is 8 – or 1d8 +4 – slashing damage or 9 (1d10 + 4) slashing damage.
Of course, you can give these monsters a magical sword. Their creator has the money to reanimate armors, so a decent magical sword isn’t too farfetched. Just make sure you do not make them too strong for lower-level adventurers.
What do these stats mean for your adventuring party?
These monsters aren’t going to be pushovers! They have a very high strength and constitution, making them formidable opponents in combat. Their above-average dexterity and high armor class also contribute to their overall toughness.
Strategize or Face the Consequences
So if the party is under-leveled, there might be some dead saving throws if they don’t have a good strategy. It’s crucial to come up with a solid plan and use effective tactics when facing helmed horrors. Check out the FAQ at the end if you need some tips on how to defeat them!
Vigilant and Resilient
Thanks to the +4 they have in their perception skill, helmed horrors are vigilant and hard to surprise. They possess a strong resistance against nonmagical and non-adamantine attacks, reducing the damage they take from bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing attacks by half. In addition, they have a wide range of immunities and resistances, making them even more resilient.
Immunity to Powerful Spells
However, the strongest perk they have is their complete immunity against three specific spells. A devious DM may choose to make helmed horrors immune to the most powerful spells your party possesses, adding an extra layer of challenge to the encounter.
Varied Immunities and Group Tactics
Moreover, helmed horrors can attack in groups, and their immunities do not have to be the same for each individual monster. This means you will need to carefully keep track of their resistances and vulnerabilities.
For instance, wasting a turn casting a spell like heat metal on a helmed horror that has resistance against it would not be an effective use of your resources.
Unrestricted Mobility with Hovering Flight
Another aspect that a creative DM might make great use of is the helmed horrors’ ability to fly, specifically hover, up to 30 feet per movement. This ability allows them to maneuver freely, disregarding obstacles like castle walls or attempts to throw them out of windows. It adds an extra layer of mobility and unpredictability to their tactics, making them even more challenging to deal with.
Tactics: How to DM a helmed horror in 5e
Enhancing Storytelling with Helmed Horrors
A major part of D&D is storytelling, and thus, having encounters that do not feel forced. Helmed horrors are amazing for getting the gears in your brain turning and creating a creepy or tragic background story.
Classic Fantasy Elements in Play
You have some of the most fun classic fantasy elements to work with. Ruins, loyal automatons, powerful wizards, and more. You can place these helmed horrors in ancient ruins, newly built castles, long-forgotten dungeons, or funky wizards’ towers.
They can even randomly appear in a forest. Remember, they will continue to carry out their orders long after their creator has died. So if they were tasked with protecting a certain plot of land, they would do so, even if it has long been reclaimed by nature.
Unit or Pair: Utilizing Group Dynamics
Another aspect that you, as a dungeon master, should not forget is that helmed horrors can be part of a unit or a pair. You can have multiple helmed horrors guarding a door, a room, or working as a small personal garrison.
This not only enhances the challenge for the players but also adds depth to the encounter by showcasing their coordinated tactics.
Combining with Complementary Monsters
You can also combine helmed horrors with other monsters that do not require upkeep. Furthermore, you can have undead-like skeletons serve as their minions or squires.
Remember that helmed horrors are mute and cannot give out spoken orders. However, they can use their shields to communicate through a kind of color-coded language. For example, Thor’s shields may have a continual flame spell covered by gemstones, indicating a specific command or message.
Versatility and Potential
These guardians are highly multifunctional, offering a lot of potential if you know how to use them! So try and make the most out of their abilities and characteristics.
By leveraging their unique traits, incorporating them into diverse settings and encounters, and exploring their interactions with other creatures, you can create memorable and engaging stories for your players.
Thinking about the possibilities and weaknesses
A good DM thinks about the strength of his monsters; a great one thinks about the weaknesses. Next, you will need to figure out how your players are going to mess with your plan.
Understanding Helmed Horrors’ Goals
Let’s start with their goal. Helmed horrors want to perform their orders, and they have no qualms about sacrificing themselves for their cause. This can involve guarding something, preventing specific individuals from entering, or eliminating any threats that come near them.
Intelligent Adversaries: Challenging Adventurers
The thing about helmed horrors is that they are not dumb. They can discern the literal order from the intent behind it. As a result, your adventurers won’t be able to outsmart them as easily as they would regular golems or mindless creatures.
Exploiting Tight Spaces: Weakness in Location
One of their main weaknesses lies in the locations where they are often encountered: ruins, castles, dungeons—tight spaces. This provides creative players with the opportunity to utilize spells like bonfire in 5e to gradually chip away at the helmed horrors’ health as they advance. To counter this, you may need to devise a solution, such as making the horrors immune to the specific spell.
Formidable and Resilient: Strength in Bulk and Immunities
The most obvious strength of helmed horrors lies in their bulk and physical power. However, since these monsters are essentially reanimated armors with numerous immunities and resistances, weaker adventurers will face significant challenges in quickly dispatching them.
Enhanced Perception: Ambush Prevention and Tactical Advantage
Another notable advantage of helmed horrors is their passive perception and +4 perception skill. This makes it difficult for them to be ambushed, allowing you as the DM to utilize them for ambushes on your players instead. Their keen awareness enhances their tactical capabilities and adds an element of surprise to encounters.
By considering these strengths and weaknesses, you can create dynamic and challenging encounters that test your players’ abilities and force them to devise creative strategies to overcome the formidable helmed horrors.
For tips on how to kill them as a player, check out the FAQ section below!
Helmed Horrors as Tank and Distraction
Helmed Horrors are great to pair with other monsters, which have the ability to stay around centuries after their master or creator has died.
The best idea is to make them a tank to slow down adventurers while long-range units like skeletal archers are attacking the adventures struggling to take down these hunks of armor. However, make sure these are spread out enough since a well-placed Fireball can turn a lot of them to dust and ashes.
Helmed Horrors as Commanders and Defenders
Another good idea is to use them as commanders for skeletal minions or as the first line of defense against intruders. The fact that they are most often found in smaller spaces also gives you the ability to throw a wall of helmed horrors at your players.
Enhancing Helmed Horrors with Magical Gear
Finally, while they almost always use a regular longsword, you can always give them a nice buff by giving them magical swords, a special shield, or giving them other weapons at their disposal like ballistas. These hunks made out of metal are reasonably smart, so use this to your advantage!
Extra Dungeon Master tips
They are expensive – Since their suits are made out of adamant. The raw material cost of these guardians is immense.
You will need to add in the price for enchantments, upkeep, additional costs, and perhaps some magical items or two. If you want to have just one of these buff armor bodyguards, you will need to spend around 5000 gold.
Helmed horrors are hard to make – If you want to create one of these, you need to be pretty strong. At least a level 7 spell is needed to conjure these. So whoever they are guarding has to be pretty strong themselves.
Final thoughts about these amazing monsters
I love helmed horrors in DnD 5e. They are a very underestimated monster, in my opinion. However, they aren’t just strong tanks with amazing immunities; you can also think of some pretty interesting tactics to make them truly strong and dangerous for adventurers.
The two things that stand out to me are their ability to fly or hover and that you can give them immunity against three spells! These can be any kind of spell, and they do not have to be the same if you have multiple of these monsters at your disposal.
Being warriors with at least some intelligence, they make excellent guards and leaders for small units filled with weaker undead and reanimated monsters like skeletons.
Frequently asked questions about helmed horrors in DnD 5e
Question: Do you have tips on how to defeat a helmed horror?
Answer: They are CR4 monsters, so if you are a low-level player, you will have a lot of trouble defeating them. Even more so since they have an AC of 20 and pretty amazing resistances and immunities; however, they are often found in confined spaces. This means your area of effect spells will almost always hit them and whatever minions they have.
Question: Are there any helmed horror 5e minis?
Answer: Yes! If you look online, you will find a lot of them. There are 3d printed ones that you can paint yourself if you are into that. You can also try and make some yourself. If you are interested in minis in general, check out this great guide about board games with minis.
Question: Does a DnD 5e helmed horror drop armor?
Answer: It could! Most of the time, they will drop some damaged, rusted armor. However, some DMs, including myself, don’t like to have them drop their entire armor and make it crumble to dust when they are defeated. Also, since they are made out of adamantine armor, the loot would be a bit too generous for their CR4 rating.
Question: can a Helmed Horror fly?
Answer: Yes, a helmet horror has the ability to fly at a speed of 30 feet. That doesn’t mean they are some kind of superman creatures. Their flying abilities are limited to simply hovering over the ground. This does make them as good as immune against fall issues.
Question: how is a helmed horror created or made in DnD 5e
Answer: Helmed horrors are created by using adamantine armor, enchantments of at least the 7th level, and multiple other items like swords, magical odds and ends, like rings, if you want to buff them. If you want to make one of these guardians, it will cost you at least 5000 gold coins in materials.