Fascinating and unusual creatures, centaurs - yet although they are well-known members of popular mythology they are rarely encountered when adventuring. Some of that is down to them being reclusive and shy, preoccupied with their own concerns and not really interested in odd bipedal creatures like the average adventurer... but some may be due to DMs and adventure-writers not knowing much about them either, so rarely making use of them. Perhaps this book will make a difference...
Here there is a wealth of information about centaurs from their anatomy and physiology to the way in which they order their societies, indeed everything you might want to know to understand them well enough to present them to good effect in your game as a living, breathing society with which your party can interact. There are ideas for plots involving them, notes on actually playing one - as the DM or as a player choosing one as their player-character - and even a complete centaur settlement to visit... if you can find it and if they'll let you in!
The Centaur Physiology section covers a lot more than just their physiology, although it does describe them physically. They are powerful creatures and always appear in good health, apparently they are very resistant to disease. Some popular misconceptions are debunked. For a start although they are usually described as being part-human part-horse, the humanoid bit is more elf-like as far as the facial features go, although the torso is well-muscled. While they are masters of the woodlands in which they like to dwell, tales of them twisting minds with their magic is far-fetched. They do boast a few druids but most are not, to be honest, smart enough for rigorous study of the arcane.
Their appearance is noted in detail, especially hair colour and distribution. This is vital as they are not given to clothes, although they do like belts and straps to hang equipent or bags upon. Head hair is worn long and loose, although strands may be braided or beaded. They are omnivores, and drink water or goat milk unless they can get hold of elven wine. The discussion moves on to their psychology, which is of particular use if you want to make them come alive as a distinctive race in your game. One thing of note is their almost magical ability to sense any change in their woodland environment, something that only works when they are at home - otherwise their eyesight and hearing is no better than any other humanoid. Normally very peaceful, any attack on an individual centaur or their community is met with vicious retaliation that can be quite shocking to anyone accustomed to their gentle shy manner... including themselves. They detest having to fight, but react instantly when it becomes necessary. The only other time they are not quiet and peaceful is when male centaurs get hold of wine - boy, do they know how to party! Rowdy antics and bawdy songs are the order of the day. Female centaurs won't generally touch a drop.
The next section, Habitat, explains how they prefer deep temperate forests. Given their choice, they'd never emerge. Their villages - they never build settlements larger - exist in harmony with their environment. This is followed by a section on Centaur Society which details their villages at length before discussing that strange beast, the male centaur. They tend to be in a minority, yet are most likely to be encountered by outsiders. As young males get older they get boisterous until it is time for their rite of passage to adulthood, generally around the age of twelve, thereafter they settle down into their roles of a hunter and a protector, defending and supplying their community with food. Females are wiser and generally provide leadership and administration for the community in what is a matriarchal society. Centaur druids usually come from their number, and the leader of a community is usually the most powerful female druid. While there may well be other druids in a community, the others act subordinate to their leader.
After hearing that they pair for life and a little about their simple ceremonies, we move on to the next section Methods of Warfare. While males enjoy physical activity, especially hunting, they do not care to brawl although when moved to do so they are pretty effective. They certainly are not cowards. Preferred weapons are clubs and longbows, both of which are crafted to a very high standard. A 'hit and fade' style of combat is common, thundering in at a charge out of an ambush then wheeling away... to set up another ambush if necessary. In more pitched battles they charge with war lances and shields, a quite terrifying sight.
Next up is a section on Role-playing with Centaurs that is mostly aimed at DMs wishing to use the information provided to make any centaurs the party encounters come to life. As they tend to be good in alignment and interested in things like preserving the environment, there are plenty of opportunities for good-aligned parties to work with centaurs towards a common aim... assuming they can get such skittish creatures to talk! A selection of Scenario Hooks and Ideas are provided to help you set the scene and get the party embroiled with centaurs, even perhaps attending a wedding or helping a stripling male with his rite of passage quest. Or perhaps a sage studying centaurs wants a specimen... that could get messy!
Notes are also provided for those who'd like to play a centaur as their character. It can be quite a challenge to fit a single centaur into a party both mechanically - the racial advantages can unbalance a party - and socially. Can you imagine a centaur even coping with a dungeon delve, let alone enjoying it? There are some ideas here that might make things a bit easier, however.
Finally there's an introduction to the centaur village of Lanhyd. History, everyday life, layout and inhabitants are covered, as well as some ideas for the roles Lanhyd could play in your campaign. Overall it's an excellent introduction to an oft-neglected race. The one thing I'd have liked to have seen is a bit more on their anatomy. How do they actually work? A passing remark in the flavour text suggests they have two hearts, presumably one in the humanoid torso and one where a normal horse would have it; and this is borne out by a sketch of a skeleton that appears to show two rib cages... but how does their respiration and circulation function? Oh dear, you can see they're becoming real in my mind!