This is part of a series! Go here to see the other entries.
Minotaurs are inspired by Greek mythology, which as usual only had the one (his name is Asterion). They’ve been in the game pretty much since the beginning, and are present both in the Monster Manual and the Vault here.
We have an unusual inversion in tone here, as the Monster Manual’s description of minotaurs is a bit more negative than the Vault’s. This is because minotaurs became a PC option in the Player’s Handbook 3!
Both books agree, however, that minotaurs are a divided people. Just as humans have a propensity for corruption, so do minotaurs have a propensity for rage of the sort that makes you froth at the mouth. The demon lord Baphomet has taken advantage of this, and his cult has managed to ensnare a significant percentage of the world’s minotaur population. Its main teaching is “Unleash the Beast Within”, so you can see why that happened.
Still, many other minotaurs reject these demonic teachings and instead attempt to tame their inner beasts, turning their worship to deities such as Erathis, Moradin and Pelor. This makes them a fierce but sophisticated people, who strives to keep friendly relations with their neighbors whether they live in all-minotaur settlements or whether they live in a multi-cultural civilization.
Both good and evil minotaurs love mazes and labyrinths of all kinds. That’s a minotaur thing, not a Baphomet thing. Even a minotaur road built on a flat plain will meander about rather than proceed in a straight line. They like to build their cities in places where the geography is naturally convoluted, such as craggy mountain chains or twisty valleys, and their architecture reinforces the labyrinthine aspects of the terrain. It’s quite easy for outsiders to get lost when visiting a minotaur city or delving a minotaur dungeon.
Minotaur philosophy is similarly maze-like. I bet they love koans. The good ones use convoluted meditations to help keep themselves peaceful, and the evil ones think in those terms when devising tortures for their victims.
Most demon-worshipping minotaurs gather in cults, and build their own settlements with temples to Baphomet right there in the open. Some of them forsake every part of themselves that isn’t the Beast, and go off to live as savage hermits at the bottom of some dungeon, growing larger and bloated with the blessings of Baphomet.
Minotaurs are usually Medium Natural Humanoids, though like dragonborn or goliaths they’re on the larger side of Medium. Baphomet worshippers are Chaotic Evil, but the others can be of any alignment.
Minotaurs from the Monster Manual have two signature traits: a Goring Charge attack that does physical damage and knocks prone on a hit, and the Ferocity trait that lets them make one last basic attack as a free action when they drop to 0 HP.
Monster Vault minotaurs lack the Ferocity trait (which was actually moved to orcs there). They still all have a Goring something, but the exact ability varies with the stat block. It’s usually a triggered ability, though.
We’ll look at the entries from both books in order of level.
Minotaur Soldier (MV)
This is a Level 8 Soldier with 89 HP, likely meant to represent the rank and file of a minotaur fighting force. It wields a large shield and a battleaxe, and probably wears heavy armor despite this not being shown in the stat block.
The Batleaxe basic attack also allows the minotaur to make a Shield Bash on a hit. Shield bashes target Fortitude, do a tiny bit of damage, and knock prone. They can also be done as minor actions once per round, so a minotaur who hits all of its attacks will perform one axe strike and 2 shield bashes per turn.
As an interrupt when someone adjacent to it shifts, the soldier can perform a Goring Toss (melee 1 vs. Reflex), which does damage, immobilizes the target for a turn and allows the minotaur to slide it 2 squares to an adjacent square. This makes it quite sticky!
Minotaur Charger (MV)
This Level 9 Skirmisher has 94 HP and is more focused on offense than the soldier.
As the name implies, it will try to Always Be Charging, using a falchion to attack. Its Deft Charge trait makes it immune to opportunity attacks while doing so! So once it reaches the group it will bounce around like a pointy pinball of death. If for some reason the minotaur can’t charge at an enemy, it will throw handaxes at it.
When damaged by an adjacent enemy, the charger can use a Goring Rush (melee 1 vs. Fortitude), which does a bit of damage and allows the charge to push the target 4 squares and shift to follow it, 1 square at a time. So when you think you finally have it surrounded, it will just carry the rogue away on its horns and charge you again next turn.
Minotaur Magus (MV)
This Level 9 Controller (Leader) is a priest of Baphomet. It has 96 HP and wields a glaive in combat.
Just by being present, the magus can compel its fellow cultists to Unleash the Beast Within, which works as an aura 3 that gives allies inside a +2 attack bonus on charges.
In addition to doing damage, the reach 2 glaive also slides targets 2 squares on a hit, 1 on a miss. This makes the magus a good second-ranker in combat, though its real power is delivered at range.
Crimson Bolt (ranged 20 vs. Reflex; recharge 5-6) does immediate lightning damage plus ongoing fire damage while also preventing the target from shifting (save ends both). A nice thing to use on those pesky mobile strikers just before they get charged by a soldier or charger.
Even funnier is Baphomet’s Rage (ranged 10 vs. Will), an at-will spell that does sub-par psychic damage but also forces the target to charge a character of the magus’ choice on a hit. You can use this on the fighter to get them to charge the wizard and take an opportunity attack or two from your own front line while doing so!
Minotaur Warrior (MM)
This level 10 soldier has 106 HP and is the MM’s take on the basic minotaur infantry. Its battleaxe attacks mark for a turn, and it has the standard MM minotaur abilities.
The Minotaur Soldier is generally more interesting, and you can easily level it up to 10 if you need.
Demonic Savage Minotaur (MV)
This is minotaur is Large, and a Level 11 Brute with 140 HP. It’s longer legs give it Speed 8.
Having embraced its inner beast completely, this monster fights with its claws. It can make two claw attacks per standard action, with a hit doing physical damage and grabbing the target. It can grab up to two victims.
As a standard action it can also Impale a grabbed victim on its horns (melee 1 vs. Fortitude). A hit does a whole bunch of damage and ends the grab, dropping the victim prone at the minotaur’s feet.
If an enemy up to 10 squares away damages the minotaur with a ranged or area attack, it can execute a Goring Assault, charging that enemy as a free action.
Minotaur Cabalist (MM)
This Level 13 Controller is the Monster Manual’s take on a Baphomet-flavored spellcaster. It has 129 HP, and is somewhat similar to the magus above.
The cabalist’s charge-bonus aura (Baphomet’s Boon) extends out to 10 squares, which means its allies will get the bonus every time on most maps. It fights in melee with a great cursed mace that does a mix of physical and necrotic damage.
At range, it can attack with Horns of Force (ranged 5 vs. AC), which do a bit of force damage and push 2 squares. It can also target its bloodied allies with Call out the Beast (Ranged 10), allowing them to make a charge as a free action.
Goring Charge and Ferocity round out its abilities.
I think the magus wins out again, though the cabalist is functional enough as a basic controller when you fix its damage.
Savage Minotaur (MM)
This is another Large minotaur, a level 16 Brute with 190 HP. Not quite as savage as its MV counterpart, it fights with a Reach 2 greataxe that is a High Crit weapon and pushes the target 1 square on a hit.
When it charges, it can choose between the standard Goring Charge and Thrashing Horns, which slide the target 2 squares instead of knocking it prone.
A bit less terrifying than the Demonic Savage Minotaur, but effective at pushing people around.
Sample Encounters and Final Impressions
The Monster Manual obviously focuses on the evil minotaurs when building encounters. We have two:
Level 13: 1 cabalist, 3 warriors, 2 vrock demons.
Level 18: 2 savage minotaurs, 1 rakshasa noble, 3 rakshasa assassins. Here the minotaurs are probably kept around as pets by the rakshasas.
I like it that the books themselves acknowledge there are good (or at least unaligned) minotaurs that you can talk to instead of fighting. As a playable option, good minotaurs are another option for people who want to be Big Honorable Warriors struggling with a dark side.
Mechanically, the MV versions are usually more interesting despite being lower level. That last part is easily adjustable, if you need them to be more powerful.