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D&D 5E Mythological Figures: Admiral Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta

The Mythological Figures column gets a lot of interesting requests but this one will stick with you like a peg-leg caught in a hole on deck. The astute historians among you may get the clue but if that’s not you, read onward and check out Admiral Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta!

The Mythological Figures column gets a lot of interesting requests but this one will stick with you like a peg-leg caught in a hole on deck. The astute historians among you may get the clue but if that’s not you, read onward and check out Admiral Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta!

blas de lezo BANNER 5E.jpg


This career sailor of more than four decades lived to the age of 52, but it wasn’t an easy life as among his nicknames are Captain Pegleg and Half-Man--because so much of his body had been ripped away by hot lead. His list of injuries include but are not limited to: left leg amputated below the knee, his left eye (he’s not just winking although it definitely looks like he’s just winking), the ability to use his right arm. That imagery of the one-eyed peg-legged pirate? That’s more Blas de Lezo than any of Blackbeard’s contemporaries. When he wasn’t being gradually maimed he was climbing the naval ranks in a host of battles, the most infamous of which is the Battle of Cartagena de Indias (aka Columbia). Thanks to his defense of Spanish forts in the area, King George II in Britain drops out of supporting a Pragmatic Sanction around Austria and Europe is drawn into the War of the Austrian Succession. About four months after the siege Blas de Leza dies of typhus (and his efforts are largely initially disregarded because he unnecessarily scuttled several ships for no apparent gain but lots of expense).

Design Notes: “A brute swashbuckler!? Mike’s gone mad!” I assure you I have always been mentally unstable but nay, this is not a display of one of those moments. This is (like Rasputin) another fellow who very clearly just refused to die easily, over and over and over again. The astute designers out there might realize he’s leaving one hand free (because it is useless to him) but even so he’s a tough son-of-a-gun, and because he seemed to have a lucky streak (definitely an odd one but all the same) he’s got Lucky to make the most out of those death saves. With that in mind--it’s time for the numbers. The DMG puts Blas de Lezo here at an 11 and the Blog of Holding’s Rubric a little higher at 11.8. It’s tempting to give him a little extra boost for his capacity (both historically and numerically) for surviving those mortal wounds, but by the time he’s down that low I’m not sure how long he can be expected to keep getting back up so I’ve refrained.

Admiral Blas de Lezo y Olavarrieta
Medium humanoid (human), neutral rogue (rakish) 5/fighter (brutal) 11
Armor Class 17 (breastplate, defense fighting style)
Hit Points 163 (11d10+5d8+80)
Speed 30 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
14 (+2)​
14 (+2)​
20 (+5)​
14 (+2)​
10 (+0)​
14 (+2)​
Saving Throws Str +7, Con +10
Skills Athletics +7, History +12, Insight +5, Perception +5, Persuasion +12
Tools navigator’s tools +5, thieves’ tools +5, vehicles (water) +5
Senses passive Perception 15
Languages Spanish, Thieves’ Cant
Challenge 11 (7,200 XP)

Background: Nautical. Blas de Lezo is able to acquire passage on a sailing ship for him and his allies free of charge. He has no control over the ship’s route, departure, or return, and although no coin is required he and his companions do have to help crew the vessel.
Action Surge (1/Short Rest). Once on his turn, Blas de Lezo can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.
Brutal Toughness. Blas de Lezo gains a +1d6 bonus to saving throws and death saves (treating final results of 20 or higher on a death saving throw as a natural 20).
Combat Footing. Whenever he makes a melee attack against a creature on his turn, Blas de Lezo doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from that creature until the end of his turn.
Cunning Action (1/Turn). Blas de Lezo can take a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action.
Indomitable (1/Long Rest). Blas de Lezo can reroll a saving throw that he fails but must use the new roll.
Feat: Fortune Points (3/Long Rest). Blas de Lezo can spend one fortune point to reroll an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw, or to force an attacker to reroll an attack made against him.
Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Blas de Lezo can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+11 hit points.
Sneak Attack (1/Turn). Blas de Lezo deals an extra 10 (3d6) damage when he hits a target with a weapon attack and has advantage on the attack roll, when the target is within 5 feet of an ally of Blas de Lezo that isn’t incapacitated and Blas de Lezo doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll, or when the only creature within 5 feet of Blas de Lezo is his target.
Swashbuckling. Blas de Lezo adds his Charisma modifier (+2) when rolling for initiative.


ACTIONS
Extra Attack. Blas de Lezo attacks three times when he takes the Attack action on his turn.
Saber. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d6+2) slashing damage.
Pistol (6). Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 30/90 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (1d10+1d6+2) piercing damage.
Musket. Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 40/120 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d12+1d6+2) piercing damage.


REACTIONS
Uncanny Dodge. When an attacker Blas de Lezo can see hits him with an attack, he can use his reaction to halve the attack’s damage against him.
 

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


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Aaron L

Hero
5e doesn't have a tactics skill, and it needs to fall under something. That said, where I start to have issue is in the more practical application of this idea. More precisely that the 5e characters who most often actually have History are certainly not the characters one would first expect to actually understand practically applied battlefield tactics, and in many cases quite the opposite. It's more an artifact of 5e's sometimes odd skill system than anything else, but I was picturing the 'tactical mastermind' characters in my last couple of parties (by your measure anyway) and it made me giggle a little. You see what I mean though, right?
I don't see what you mean. The Fighter Class is the one that is dedicated most purely to combat and would therefore count the greatest number of professional warriors and soldiers among its numbers, and it gets History as a skill option precisely because it encompasses Military History. Just because Wizards and other scholarly Classes get the History skill as well doesn't detract from the fact that History encompasses Military History. Fighters get the History skill for exactly the same reason that officers and soldiers have studied History throughout the actual history of our real world: to learn about the maneuvers, formations, and tricks that warriors have tried in the great battles of the past, so as to discover what worked and what didn't.
I don't know why you would say "the 5e characters who most often actually have History are certainly not the characters one would first expect to actually understand practically applied battlefield tactics, and in many cases quite the opposite." If the Fighter Class didn't get History that might be the case, but they do, and of all the warrior Classes the Fighter is the one Class that is most likely to be held by a professional soldier. I don't see how that could qualify as "most chracters"
All that being said, I do think that History should have been included in the Soldier Background rather than Athletics or Intimidation.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
I don't know why you would say "the 5e characters who most often actually have History are certainly not the characters one would first expect to actually understand practically applied battlefield tactics, and in many cases quite the opposite." If the Fighter Class didn't get History that might be the case, but they do
Fighters don't have much other impetus for a good INT, nor do they get Expertise. So the best "tacticians" among Bards and Wizards (and perhaps the odd mastermind rogue?) are going to be better than the best tacticians among fighters - if all the game has to model tactical acumen is History-proficient INT checks. (Which, seriously, my fellow DMs, how often are you going to call for such checks, and what are you going to grant on a success?)
 

bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
All that being said, I do think that History should have been included in the Soldier Background rather than Athletics or Intimidation.

I'd prefer History over Land Vehicles.

In my homebrew I've divorced the 2 skills and 2 languages/tools to just be 4 of any (although I'm tempted to make that 2for1 on languages.
 


Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Fighters don't have much other impetus for a good INT, nor do they get Expertise. So the best "tacticians" among Bards and Wizards (and perhaps the odd mastermind rogue?) are going to be better than the best tacticians among fighters - if all the game has to model tactical acumen is History-proficient INT checks. (Which, seriously, my fellow DMs, how often are you going to call for such checks, and what are you going to grant on a success?)

Not all fighters would be great tacticians. I can see many of them not being more than a great personal scale fighter. A Valor Bard, however, might be a good way of representing someone focused on being an officer or leader. (Not that D&D has really ever done much past individual figure small unit combat.)

In many respects, it would have been nice for there to be some kind of class features that bumped that up the utility of a particular skill, with there being a few choices for players to make. Rather than putting in choices that just make PCs more powerful I'd suggest a boost to a more non-combat skill that's situational. For example rather than Expertise, which just feels kind of goofy, give a nice hefty bonus on History checks when the question regards tactics or battle issues.

As to what I use with something like a History check for Tactics, I could see it being useful to identifying foes, knowledge about particular weapons (e.g., "this weapon looks like it's probably magical"), and might even let a PC check during combat for a bit of a hint about the enemy's battle plan.

Of course, 5E's skill system is kind of an a-system with very little detail. For some DMs this is a feature not a bug, but it doesn't give much for most people---even quite experienced players and DMs---to work with. Contrast this with how much space is spent on spells and combat.

I haven't used this kind of mechanic in 5E but one thing that I think might be a good way of doing this would be to have a "class level" check of some sort representing the knowledge that is accumulated by being in a particular class. The nice thing there is that multis automatically are worse at class level checks than pure classers. I can't recall if this kind of thing is one of the alternative skill systems in the DMG but it might be a useful way to run things: Proficiencies are allocated to classes, but the bonus is determined by some formula related to the number of class levels. It would be a bit complicated when skills are obtained from multiple classes, but not impossible to work out.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
Not all fighters would be great tacticians. I can see many of them not being more than a great personal scale fighter. A Valor Bard, however, might be a good way of representing someone focused on being an officer or leader.
Because anyone focused on being an officer or leader should be a full caster and have a fine singing voice?
(OK, the latter is facetious, and the former, actually, in a sufficiently high-magic setting, like the 5e default FR, could make a lot of sense, too - battles not turning upon, or at least involving, magic would be few, and just as you can't expect to lead soldiers without fighting, yourself, you can't expect to lead mages without having some skill, yourself.)

(Not that D&D has really ever done much past individual figure small unit combat.)
Chainmail preceded/was part of 0e, 1e had larger-conflict-oriented rules on construction & siege, 1e & 2e each hand a version of Battlesystem, IIRC, and there was the miniatures handbook precariously poised between 3.0 & 3.5, FWIW.

In many respects, it would have been nice for there to be some kind of class features that bumped that up the utility of a particular skill, with there being a few choices for players to make. Rather than putting in choices that just make PCs more powerful I'd suggest a boost to a more non-combat skill that's situational. For example rather than Expertise, which just feels kind of goofy, give a nice hefty bonus on History checks when the question regards tactics or battle issues.
Expertise is just a hefty bonus that improves with level. Expertise by topic/situation, rather than skill, might work very well. For instance, the BM could have been given Expertise with 'tactics,' so using History to come up with classic tactics & strategies, Insight to guess at the enemies' tactics, perception to spot ambushes, etc... would all get the benefit of doubled proficiency (assuming proficiency in the first place, of course).

I haven't used this kind of mechanic in 5E but one thing that I think might be a good way of doing this would be to have a "class level" check of some sort representing the knowledge that is accumulated by being in a particular class.
Amusingly, I did that back in the day, for want of any skill system, at all. Something your character should know/be able to do, because it just makes sense for his class, but there's no mechanics? Roll a % check based on your level.

Proficiencies are allocated to classes, but the bonus is determined by some formula related to the number of class levels. It would be a bit complicated when skills are obtained from multiple classes, but not impossible to work out.
Sounds simple: total the levels in the classes that apply, look up that total in the proficiency progression.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Because anyone focused on being an officer or leader should be a full caster and have a fine singing voice?
(OK, the latter is facetious, and the former, actually, in a sufficiently high-magic setting, like the 5e default FR, could make a lot of sense, too - battles not turning upon, or at least involving, magic would be few, and just as you can't expect to lead soldiers without fighting, yourself, you can't expect to lead mages without having some skill, yourself.)

Yeah, well part of that is the fact that 5E has a "hole" for a non-caster leader type. It's possible to build one, but you have to work at it, for instance combining Battlemaster Fighter and Mastermind Rogue along with feats.

Chainmail preceded/was part of 0e, 1e had larger-conflict-oriented rules on construction & siege, 1e & 2e each hand a version of Battlesystem, IIRC, and there was the miniatures handbook precariously poised between 3.0 & 3.5, FWIW.

Of course I'm aware of them but I don't think they've ever really been core to the experience of most players.

Expertise is just a hefty bonus that improves with level.

Sure is, and too high a bonus at high levels IMO. Nor is it particularly interesting, whereas something more situational would be.

Expertise by topic/situation, rather than skill, might work very well. For instance, the BM could have been given Expertise with 'tactics,' so using History to come up with classic tactics & strategies, Insight to guess at the enemies' tactics, perception to spot ambushes, etc... would all get the benefit of doubled proficiency (assuming proficiency in the first place, of course).

That's even better. The situational bonus applies more broadly than just one skill.

IMO Expertise is kind of a problem overall, though. I think a flat +3 would be a lot better than doubling, which gets decidedly problematic in higher levels and really breaks bounded accuracy.

Amusingly, I did that back in the day, for want of any skill system, at all. Something your character should know/be able to do, because it just makes sense for his class, but there's no mechanics? Roll a % check based on your level.

We used "level checks" which involved rolling your level or under on a D20.

Sounds simple: total the levels in the classes that apply, look up that total in the proficiency progression.

Yeah, something like that would work, although obviously the devil is in the details. To make things really easy, you could just say you're proficient in all class skills and then tally up the levels in proficient classes to determine the proficiency bonus. It also penalizes level dipping just to pick up things like Thieves' Tools, which I think isn't a bad thing. I suspect that this would work nicely with Saves, too, to smooth things out more.
 

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