Minotaurs! Are they not the best humanoids ever?
(That was a trick question. Gnolls are the best humanoids ever. Minotaurs are the best monstrous humanoids ever.)
The minotaur is the quintessential monster at the heart of the dungeon—if you have a maze, it deserves a minotaur. They’re kidnappers, bloody murderers, and cannibals. They’re excellent brutes and bodyguards (often with their own surly agendas). They’re a good intro to encounters with giants and other monstrous humanoids (medusas and minotaurs make for a combo, for instance). And yes, they also make good heroes and PCs (they played a big role in the Dragonlance setting, and I’m sure WoW’s tauren have inspired plenty of players, too—the “proud yet noble race” angle works well for such PCs, as does the “isolated redeemer a ruined race” approach).
So for me, minotaurs boil down into two main concepts: either as the characters who most straddle the lines between monster and man…or the maze, the maze, the maddening maze…
Minotaurs love complexity, especially mazes and certain kinds of machinery. With their low Intelligence, they’re not the best inventors or creators, but (thanks to their higher Wisdom) they are superb adaptors and jury-riggers (one reason they are so quick to move into already-established mazes). Bartusk One-Horn has recently captured a gnome crossbow maker and has forced the tiny man to build ever more elaborate traps and weapons for the minotaur’s pleasure. Bartusk covered his tracks well, but his maze was discovered by gremlins who then stole and smashed some of the new contraptions, leaving a trail for adventurers to follow.
Baron Kavix, “the Bull Baron,” is that rarest of things—a minotaur dandy. Through skill at both arms and flattery, he parlayed a job as a bodyguard into a military commission, then a knighthood, then a title. Now high society regards him as something of a wonder. His secret is that, while gifted with intelligence far beyond most minotaurs, he is no less bloodthirsty than his kin. The maze he hunts is the maze of intrigue and relationships in court, and his machinations have so far ruined two families and fanned the flames of revolution along the border. But he can navigate an actual maze as well—if exposed he will retreat to the city’s sewers, where he has created a maze of horrors for his personal amusement and safety.
Before Baphomet, the Dread Demon Lord of Mazes, corrupted the minotaur race, there was Knossus of the Labyrinth, a deity of knowledge and architecture who offered the bull-men wisdom through the meditation and practice of walking a labyrinth. A tiny minority of minotaurs still reveres him or his son Dabur. They also guard a secret—that their bestial kin can be freed of their instinctual Baphomet-corrupted bloodlust if they are forced to completely trace a labyrinth’s path. More and more of these redeemed minotaurs are being seen along the Crescent Coast, and servants of Baphomet and the other demon lords are desperate to snuff them out.
—Classic Monsters Revisited 40–45 & Pathfinder Bestiary 206
Obviously, Classic Monsters Revisited has more on minotaurs, including some variants, feats, and stats for a double crossbow.
I’d also love to hear how you play minotaurs—seems like everyone’s take on them is a little different. I definitely like mine more civilized but with an underpinning of blood rage, ancient curse, or demonic influence.
And old-school shout-out to my boy Kaz.