Mythological Figures: Odysseus/Ulysses (5E)
  • Mythological Figures: Odysseus/Ulysses (5E)


    In Mythological Figures today we’re headed after a person that is more popular in terms of ancient Western mythologies than probably anyone else: Odysseus/Ulysses!



    Odysseus is known for two principal things: his role in the Trojan War (recounted in The Illiad) and his long, perilous journey back home collectively known as The Odyssey. If you find yourself saying, “that word looks familiar…” that’s what I’m talking about with Odysseus’ lasting popularity--the whole reason we have a word for “a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc.” is this guy right here. I’ve no intention to repeat the entirety of that trip here and instead refer folks to better resources for that (Wikipedia, Video SparkNotes, full text at The Internet Classics Archive). Suffice to say that of the many greek heroes, Odysseus is Captain Greece.

    Design Notes: Odysseus needs to be a few things--he’s got to be clever and wise, have some agility, he’s not weak, and he’s good with a bow. With that in mind we’ve got our first ranged battlemaster build with a healthy dose of mastermind rogue to reflect his legendary cunning. The archery fighting style and a smattering of feats fill out the rest of his iconic profile, with Expertise ramping up the essential skills for his many successes to whopping +15s. For the CR equation this time around the DMG said 10.6, the Blog of Holding rubric claimed 11, and I’m inclined to agree with the latter--Odysseus here is definitely a considerably dangerous foe and as long as he’s not wasted in a suicidal charge will be an NPC that adventurers will quickly decide to focus their ire upon.


    Odysseus
    Medium humanoid (human), rogue (genius) 9/fighter (master of battle) 11


    Armor Class
    17 (breastplate or 19 with shield)
    Hit Points 101 (9d8+11d10)
    Speed 30 ft.

    STR
    DEX
    CON
    INT
    WIS
    CHA
    12 (+1)
    16 (+3)
    10 (+0)
    16 (+3)
    16 (+3)
    14 (+2)

    Saving Throws Dex +9, Int +9
    Skills Deception +14, History +9, Insight +15, Investigation +15, Perception +9, Persuasion +14
    Tools gaming set +6, thieves’ tools +6
    Senses passive Perception 19
    Languages Common, two other languages
    Challenge 11 (7,200 XP)

    Background: Noble - Prince. Due to his position as a noble, Odysseus is treated with a measure of respect wherever he goes. He is treated as royalty (or as closely as possible) by most peasants and traders (at least until it is clear he is quite mad), and as an equal when meeting other authority figures (who make time in their schedule to see him if requested to do so).

    Action Surge (1/Short Rest). Once on his turn, Odysseus can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.

    Cunning Action (1/Turn). Odysseus can take a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, Help, or Hide action.

    Evasion. When Odysseus is subjected to an effect that allows him to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, he instead takes no damage if he succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if he fails.

    Fast Learner. After Odysseus has heard a creature speak for 1 minute or longer, he can mimic its manner of speaking as long as he knows the same language as the creature (allowing him to seem like he is local to a given region).

    Feat: Brilliant. Odysseus always knows how long it will be before the next sunset or sunrise, the northerly direction, and can perfectly remember anything he’s experienced within the last 31 days.

    Feat: Diplomatic. Odysseus can make a Charisma (Persuasion) check contested by the Wisdom (Insight) check of a creature that can understand what he says during 1 minute of talking. On a success, as long as Odysseus remains within 60 feet of it (and for 1 minute afterward) the target is charmed by him. Odysseus automatically fails on the check if he or his companions are fighting the target.

    Feat: Moderate Protection Master. Odysseus adds +3 from Dexterity instead of +2 when he is wearing medium armor.

    Feat: Superb Aim. Odysseus ignores half cover and three-quarters cover when making a ranged weapon attack, and he doesn’t have disadvantage when attacking at long range. When Odysseus makes his first ranged weapon attack in a turn, he can choose to take a -5 penalty to his ranged weapon attack rolls in exchange for a +10 bonus to ranged weapon damage.

    Indomitable (1/Long Rest). Odysseus can reroll a saving throw that he fails but must use the new roll.

    Maneuver Master (5d10/Short Rest). Odysseus can expend a maneuver dice to perform a single maneuver with an attack.

    • Command. Odysseus uses his bonus action to forgo one of his attacks and direct a friendly creature who can see or hear him. The creature uses its reaction and makes a weapon attack, dealing 1d10 extra weapon damage on a successful hit.
    • Disarm. A creature Odysseus has hit with an attack takes 1d10 additional damage and makes a DC 17 Strength saving throw or drops one held item of his choice.
    • Inspire. Odysseus uses a bonus action and chooses an ally able to see and hear him. That ally gains 1d10+2 temporary hit points.
    • Maneuver. On a successful hit with a weapon attack, Odysseus deals 1d10 extra damage and chooses a friendly creature that can see and hear him. That creature can move half its speed by using its reaction. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks from the target of Odysseus’ attack.
    • Trip. Odysseus deals 1d10 additional damage and if the target is a creature of Large size or smaller, it makes a DC 17 Strength saving throw or is knocked prone.


    Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Odysseus can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+11 hit points.

    Sneak Attack (1/Turn). Odysseus deals an extra 17 (5d6) damage when he hits a target with a weapon attack and has advantage on the attack roll, or when the target is within 5 feet of an ally of Odysseus that isn’t incapacitated and Odysseus doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

    Tactician. Odysseus is able to use the Help action to aid an ally attacking a creature as long as the target of the attack is able to see and hear Odysseus and is within 30 feet of him.

    Tactician’s Insight. After Odysseus has observed or interacted with a creature for 1 minute, he learns whether or not it has higher or lower Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma scores than him. In addition, he learns if the target has more or fewer class levels than him. Odysseus also knows when he and the target have equal scores in one of these categories.

    ACTIONS

    Extra Attack. Odysseus attacks three times.
    Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) piercing damage.
    Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +11 to hit, range 600 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8+3) piercing damage.
    Comments 69 Comments
    1. Kobold Stew's Avatar
      Kobold Stew -
      Quote Originally Posted by Wiseblood View Post
      Beowülf definitely deserves XP for using parabola. My IPhone doesn’t do what I want it to.
      Got ya covered.
    1. dave2008's Avatar
      dave2008 -
      Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
      This may be a difference of taste - I tend to prefer considering how a system (in this case, D&D) can do a character based on its range of mechanical options, rather than its PC build constraints. Especially if those constraints are already known to struggle with producing mythic/literary results!
      However, I think the approach of this series is a more interesting puzzle IMO. As an NPC monster build it is relatively easy to make Odysseus (or by using epic boons and/or past lvl 20 options in the DMG), but limiting to a max lvl 20 PC building is an interesting challenge that can sparks creativity (and discussion) in a way an NPC / Monster build does not. There can be value in the struggle.

      EDIT: I also struggled to get behind the concept of this thread initially. Building Thor as a PC just seemed crazy to me, but I fully embrace this exercise now. I would never do this if I were to make some of these character, but that is some of the fun of it. The interesting part is trying to see how far you can push the D&D PC build to get to mythological / literary characters. This is not that if could fail, but how close can you get.

      Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
      On a slightly different tangent - I think this thread brings out how punishing D&D is on certain options for no obvious reason. The punishment in question, here, is having an intellectually capable fighter; and when I say it's "for no obvious reason", what I mean is that it's purely a side-effect of a set of build constraints that are there for quite different reasons. That is, the rationing of stat points is there to stop 18 STR/DEX/CON fighters, to stop 18 INT/CON mages, etc - ie to impose some degree of mechanical balance. But Odysseus gets relatively little mechanical pay off from having high INT and WIS, but gets hosed in physical stats as a result.

      The point can be brought out in a slightly different way: in a free descriptor game, Wily Soldier and Master of Magic would both look like acceptable descriptors to provide the starting point for a character. If anything, Master of Magic might be more considered a bit powerful or generic and need reining in.

      But in 5e Master of Magic requires only one stat (INT for wizard, CHA for warlock) while Wily Soldier requires two to four, as we see in this case. So the system treats Wily Soldier as if it were more mechanically powerful than Master of Magic, even though in almost all D&D games it will be mechanically less effective.
      That is a good point. It would be a better balancing tactic to make everyone need more than one stat. I have been strongly thinking about going back to Reflex/Fort/Will for my next campaign partially for this reason.
    1. Pauln6's Avatar
      Pauln6 -
      There is nothing wrong with not having uber stats but you could use lucky and prodigy to reflect some of the gaps. Personally, I'd probably reduce wisdom slightly and increase strength slightly. Many of his feats are due to high intelligence and high athletics rather than other issues.

      Also an odyssey is a great time to learn new tool proficiencies RAW.
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      His strength was considered proof of his divine status and a significant story feature ... sigh sad.
    1. Beowülf's Avatar
      Beowülf -
      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
      That is only helpful if he knows the arc of the flight of arrow. This of course varies by how much force is applied to arrow. So he would have to know the parabolic arc of the axe handles and then be able to draw the bow the correct amount to match that arc with his arrow. A very impressive feat. It seems just as likely that the where nearly straight and close enough that the flight of the arrow was nearly straight which only requires him to provide as much force as possible.
      Exactly. That's why he's a LEGENDARY HERO.

      Edit: alternately, maybe he has 5 levels of Wizard and he cast Levitate on the arrow...
    1. Pauln6's Avatar
      Pauln6 -
      Personally, I think it would still be within the OPs ambit to grant divine boons to boost stats where the literary characters are demi gods or favoured by the gods.
    1. dave2008's Avatar
      dave2008 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pauln6 View Post
      Personally, I think it would still be within the OPs ambit to grant divine boons to boost stats where the literary characters are demi gods or favoured by the gods.
      That is what I would do too, but that is outside the bounds of Mike's concept as I understand it.
    1. dave2008's Avatar
      dave2008 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pauln6 View Post
      There is nothing wrong with not having uber stats but you could use lucky and prodigy to reflect some of the gaps. Personally, I'd probably reduce wisdom slightly and increase strength slightly. Many of his feats are due to high intelligence and high athletics rather than other issues.
      I agree. Haveing proficiency in insight, persuasion, perception, etc. can cover a lot of the non-physical abilities, given more room to increase STR & CON. I also think his HP is a bout low.
    1. dave2008's Avatar
      dave2008 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Garthanos View Post
      His strength was considered proof of his divine status and a significant story feature ... sigh sad.
      Divine (epic) boons would be great for that, but that is not the concept of this project as I understand it. Try to embrace what it is, not what it is not.
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
      Divine (epic) boons would be great for that, but that is not the concept of this project as I understand it. Try to embrace what it is, not what it is not.
      What it is not is a good representation of the character in the stories who was known for Strength
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post

      That is a good point. It would be a better balancing tactic to make everyone need more than one stat. I have been strongly thinking about going back to Reflex/Fort/Will for my next campaign partially for this reason.
      To me those allowed a lot of flexibility. you only need 3 attributes for defenses but which three? is very up in the air.

      however any time you do the uber heros attributes are sticking points.
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      What the greeks meant by wisdom in battle seemed more like cleverness and trickiness with a dash of knowing when to run (maybe). Ulysses loved taunting or rubbing it in when he maybe shouldn't have to my thinking it wasn't what we think of as wise though I suppose perception was likely there. It would be reasonable to give the character meh wisdom while riding significantly higher on Str .
    1. dave2008's Avatar
      dave2008 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Garthanos View Post
      What it is not is a good representation of the character in the stories who was known for Strength
      I agree that Mike's build is too low on STR and I have suggested moving some points from CHA, DEX, INT, WIS etc (capture some of those traits through prof. + expertise) to his STR score. The trick is to try to do it within the confines of a PC build using the standard array / point buy.

      Also I know it has been a long time since I took classics, but I never remember Strength being a core trait of Odysseus. At least not compared to Herakles, Theseus, Achilles, or even Perseus. Similarly, he is rarely portrayed in movies as particularly strong. In general we seem to emphasis / value his other traits. The only feat of strength I can think of off the top of my head is the stringing his bow. And that could be expertise in athletics or just a bunch of wimps in his court room you couldn't do it It seems like a a low strength (but training or maybe expertise in athletics) night be a reasonable approach. Though I still think a bit higher STR is in order. But like I said, my memory is hazy.
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
      I agree that Mike's build is too low on STR and I have suggested moving some points from CHA, DEX, INT, WIS etc (capture some of those traits through prof. + expertise) to his STR score. The trick is to try to do it within the confines of a PC build using the standard array / point buy.

      Also I know it has been a long time since I took classics, but I never remember Strength being a core trait of Odysseus. .
      The whole only he could string his bow thing was about Strength and generally because the god types even indirectly were considered strong ones. Yes its a bit of tough one to emphasize smart fighting types in this latest edition. Technically I think in active story application Cleverness (probably Charismatic I think but Intelligence is good too) and Durability (Con) are probably the abilities he gets to exercise the most. so based on active adventuring parts activity the Strength is mildly a token awesomeness (I understand why it was tempting to let it drop just not finding it at all satisfying with it being highlighted in such an obvious way even if not over persistently)

      I will give 5e some credits it is easier to have a characters whose attack ability is based on Dex without worrying much so it enables other builds like Mulan actually pretty well.
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
      Hmm. It seems my first comment disappeared. So I will make a new one!

      In general I like it, but it seems odd that a 20th level character would not have a maxed stat or at least one stat at 18. Odysseus is a hard one because he as basically good at everything. He should probably have higher strength, but there is only so much room for improvement. I don't recall him being overly dexterous
      I assumed it was a mechanical concession to light or little armor that was featured in the era.

      I too am going to take the moment to Thank Mike for his efforts the conversation opening alone is worth it.
    1. Kobold Stew's Avatar
      Kobold Stew -
      Quote Originally Posted by Garthanos View Post
      What the greeks meant by wisdom in battle seemed more like cleverness and trickiness with a dash of knowing when to run (maybe). Ulysses loved taunting or rubbing it in when he maybe shouldn't have to my thinking it wasn't what we think of as wise though I suppose perception was likely there. It would be reasonable to give the character meh wisdom while riding significantly higher on Str .
      Od 13.297-8, Athena says to him "You are among mortals the best in council/advice and speech/stories.

      It's not just wisdom in battle.

      Quote Originally Posted by Pauln6 View Post
      Personally, I think it would still be within the OPs ambit to grant divine boons to boost stats where the literary characters are demi gods or favoured by the gods.
      Quote Originally Posted by Garthanos View Post
      His strength was considered proof of his divine status and a significant story feature ... sigh sad.
      Or, perhaps more appropriately, the gods favoured him because of his high stats.
      We see Athena making him more beautiful, but I can't think of anything else where it's divine favour that is helping him out (though we are regularly left to infer Athena does help, which is why I suggested the Lucky feat above).



      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
      Also I know it has been a long time since I took classics, but I never remember Strength being a core trait of Odysseus. At least not compared to Herakles, Theseus, Achilles, or even Perseus. Similarly, he is rarely portrayed in movies as particularly strong. In general we seem to emphasis / value his other traits. The only feat of strength I can think of off the top of my head is the stringing his bow. And that could be expertise in athletics or just a bunch of wimps in his court room you couldn't do it It seems like a a low strength (but training or maybe expertise in athletics) night be a reasonable approach. Though I still think a bit higher STR is in order. But like I said, my memory is hazy.
      Odysseus' "strength" is shown (as far as I remember):
      Il. 23 speed and wrestling
      Od 5 staying afloat for days (cf. Beowulf, actually)
      Od 8 throwing a discus further than anyone else
      Od 9 holding his body under a ram
      Stringing the bow, as others have mentioned, works at the speed of plot -- it is a strength challenge for the suitors and Telemachus (who alone is able to do it); for him it is instant.
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Stew View Post
      Od 13.297-8, Athena says to him "You are among mortals the best in council/advice and speech/stories.

      It's not just wisdom in battle.
      "speech and stories" is still charisma again no? Yes his public speaking rocked and cleverness might still cover what they mean by council ... he definitely pulled some serious derps wrt what I would call wisdom and notably behavior that featured lack of discipline.

      here is a professor who taught greek mythology pointing out how Athena's Wisdom is different than you might expect.
      https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-...in-Greek-myths

      Specifically this In reference to Athena's mother who was Wisdom "Metis" ---- > This story tells us something important about the Greek idea of wisdom: "metis" is subtle, clever, tricksterish. <---

      And to me that is Charisma's cleverness not wisdoms due diligence and persistent measured discipline

      It was also something I recollected from some elaborate discussion in high school how the words were not being used the way we expected.

      Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Stew View Post
      Od 5 staying afloat for days (cf. Beowulf, actually)
      Od 9 holding his body under a ram
      I might target those to be CON or endurance and like. In 4e we might just go with Fortitude and let Strength have it though.

      Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Stew View Post
      Odysseus' "strength" is shown (as far as I remember):

      Il. 23 speed and wrestling
      Od 8 throwing a discus further than anyone else
      Stringing the bow, as others have mentioned, works at the speed of plot -- it is a strength challenge for the suitors and Telemachus (who alone is able to do it); for him it is instant.
      Nods yeh if nothing else I am certain it is highlighted sufficiently and unambiguously
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      The greeks were ones to value broad versatility and that is something in common with the early Celts too D&Ds specialization focus is too modern and fights against designing some ancient heros.
    1. Kobold Stew's Avatar
      Kobold Stew -
      Quote Originally Posted by Garthanos View Post
      "speech and stories" is still charisma again no? Yes his public speaking rocked and cleverness might still cover what they mean by council ... he definitely pulled some serious derps wrt what I would call wisdom and notably behavior that featured lack of discipline. Which is why I think maybe Athena's ideas of wisdom may not be exactly the D&D wisdom stat.
      True -- charisma is solid (see also him taking over from Agamemnon for a minute in Iliad 2; admittedly in Iliad 9 when speaking to Achiles, he is little more than a mouthpiece, and it is Ajax that rolls well, as it were.

      In the Odyssey, we see him learning wisdom, I would say. By his own account, he has learned nothing as he leaves Troy (Od 9 -- the first thing he does is lay siege to another town; and he foolishly reveals his name to Polyphemus), but by the time he's with the Phaeacians 9 years later, he as matured and (I'd say) is wise. The transition comes in the Underworld, when (ironically) it is Achilles who provides hi with a true understanding of the human condition, which he then adopts (Od. 11). The comment from Athena in Od 13 reflects both Wisdom (boule -- council) and charisma (muthoi -- stories/speech).

      That said, all the stories of him at Troy from the Odyssey reflect his compassion, insight, and understanding (e.g. Menelaus' story of his Insight roll vs. Helen's deception in Od. 4).
    1. Garthanos's Avatar
      Garthanos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Stew View Post
      True -- charisma is solid (see also him taking over from Agamemnon for a minute in Iliad 2; admittedly in Iliad 9 when speaking to Achiles, he is little more than a mouthpiece, and it is Ajax that rolls well, as it were.

      In the Odyssey, we see him learning wisdom, I would say. By his own account, he has learned nothing as he leaves Troy (Od 9 -- the first thing he does is lay siege to another town; and he foolishly reveals his name to Polyphemus), but by the time he's with the Phaeacians 9 years later, he as matured and (I'd say) is wise. The transition comes in the Underworld, when (ironically) it is Achilles who provides hi with a true understanding of the human condition, which he then adopts (Od. 11). The comment from Athena in Od 13 reflects both Wisdom (boule -- council) and charisma (muthoi -- stories/speech).

      That said, all the stories of him at Troy from the Odyssey reflect his compassion, insight, and understanding (e.g. Menelaus' story of his Insight roll vs. Helen's deception in Od. 4).
      That may be the case with learning of wisdom over the course of time and story (it might not be a good story without learning) but it doesnt imply as much someone directly blessed by Athena
      and naturally with a gift of that style

      AND wrt what the Greeks meant by "Wisdom"

      here is a professor who taught greek mythology pointing out how Athena's Wisdom is different than you might expect.
      https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-...in-Greek-myths

      Specifically this In reference to Athena's mother who was Wisdom "Metis" ---- > This story tells us something important about the Greek idea of wisdom: "metis" is subtle, clever, tricksterish. <---

      And to me that is Charisma's cleverness not wisdoms due diligence and persistent measured discipline

      It was also something I recollected from some elaborate discussion in high school how the words were not being used the way we expected.
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