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D&D 5E Mythological Figures: Aphra Behn

This entry in Mythological Figures is a woman so good at secrets that despite being the first lady to make a living writing in London we don’t know that much about her: Aphra Behn!

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Aphra Behn—also known as Ann Behn, Mrs. Behn, Agent 160, and Astrea—was an honest to goodness spy during the Restoration Era for King Charles II of England. She was also a playwright, poet, translator, and writer of fiction and one of the first British women to earn a living doing so. Although her origins are shrouded in mystery (likely her own doing; her name does not appear in any tax or church records), it’s known that Aphra was born amidst the conditions that bore the English Civil War (specifically on the 14th of December in 1640) and it’s thought she had a Catholic upbringing. There are seven different recorded versions of her early years, and one of her biographers (Janet Todd) puts it best: "She is not so much a woman to be unmasked as an unending combination of masks."

Her enigmatic origins continue because Aphra may have married a man named Johan Behn (or John Behn) who may have been a Dutch or German merchant, but he died (or they separated) in 1665 which is when she became attached to the royal court by way of Thomas Culpeper. England and the Netherlands were in the Second Anglo-Dutch War and Aphra was sent to Antwerp (under the codename Astrea) where she was to make a turncoat out of William Scot (who would then report on English exiles plotting against King Charles II). Doing spycraft for the crown proved more costly than Aphra could bear however, and she quickly ran out of money (and jewelry to pawn) only to receive no additional support, reimbursement, or expenses even after returning to London. Whether or not this is the end of her spying days is, of course, unknown.

Shortly after that Aphra began writing plays—of which she penned a total of 19—working as a scribe for the Duke’s Company and King’s Company, maybe following a stay in debtor’s prison. Initially she did well but her third play (The Dutch Lover) faltered, and afterward her works became more comedic and popular. The year before her death she published her most famous work: Oroonoko, The Royal Slave. In the following century the book was adapted to the stage, translated into French, and became celebrated as the first abolitionist novel. Otherwise Aphra and her works were not appreciated until they were rediscovered half a century ago, and since then she’s had numerous new biographers.

Design Notes: Aphra was a proper spy, her origins shrouded in mystery, so we’re going to lean into that part of her story (rogue levels with the mastermind archetype) with a little bard to cover what she’s better known for (the playwriting). Although she’s a touch lacking in the combat department Aphra will excel as a spy in your game, and quickly become a target of ire or a treasured ally for the occasional bit of Bardic Inspiration or a quick Help. Let’s do the numbers! The DMG came in at 5.6875 and Blog of Holding at 6.1666, averaging out to a high-ish CR 5.

Aphra Behn

Medium humanoid (human), neutral good rogue (mastermind) 5/bard (lore) 3
Armor Class 15 (studded leather)
Hit Points 48 (8d8+8)
Speed 30 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
9 (–1)​
16 (+3)​
12 (+1)​
16 (+3)​
12 (+1)​
14 (+2)​
Saving Throws Dex +6, Int +6
Skills Deception +8, Insight +7, Investigation +6, Perception +4, Persuasion +8, Sleight of Hand +6, Stealth +6; disguise kit +6, forgery kit +9, piano +5, thieves’ tools +6
Senses passive Investigation 21, passive Perception 19
Languages Dutch, English, French, Latin
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

Background: Charlatan (Fake Documents). Aphra has the papers, clothing, and contacts required to justify an entirely different identity. When Aphra has access to an official document or example of a creature’s handwriting, she can make forgeries of similar papers (whether personal or official).

Bardic Inspiration 1d8 (2/Short Rest). As a bonus action on her turn, Aphra can choose one other creature within 60 feet who can hear her. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d8. Once within the next 10 minutes, the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw it makes. The creature can wait until after it rolls the d20 before deciding to use the Bardic Inspiration die, but must decide before the GM says whether the roll succeeds or fails.

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

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

Feat: Perceptive. Aphra is able to read lips.

Jack of All Trades. Aphra adds +1 to any ability check she makes that doesn’t already include her proficiency bonus.

Sneak Attack (1/Turn). Aphra deals an extra 10 (3d6) damage when she 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 Aphra that isn’t incapacitated and Aphra doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

Song of Rest. After a short rest, if Aphra or any friendly creatures who can hear her performance regain hit points by spending one or more Hit Dice, each of those creatures regains an extra 1d6 hit points.

Spellcasting. Aphra is a 3rd level spellcaster that uses Charisma as her spellcasting ability (spell save DC 13; +5 to hit with spell attacks). She knows the following spells prepared from the bard’s spell list:
Cantrips: true strike, vicious mockery
1st-level (4 slots): charm person, heroism, hideous laughter, longstrider
2nd-level (2 slots): calm emotions, enthrall

Tactician. Aphra 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 Aphra and is within 30 feet of her.


ACTIONS
Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage.
Hand Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) piercing damage.


REACTIONS
Cutting Words. When a creature that Aphra can see within 60 feet of her makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a damage roll, she can use her reaction to expend one of her uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature’s roll. She can choose to use this feature after the creature makes its roll, but before the GM determines whether the attack roll or ability check succeeds or fails, or before the creature deals its damage. The creature is immune if it can’t hear Aphra or if it’s immune to being charmed.

Uncanny Dodge. When an attacker Aphra can see hits her with an attack, she can use her reaction to halve the attack’s damage against her.
 

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

DocAnarchy

Villager
She did find out that the Dutch were going to sail up the Thames and attack London. She warned Charles II, who did nothing to prepare to ward off the attack. Shortly after she warned him and asked for money to cover her expenses she was thrown in debtor's prison. She was here when the Dutch sailed up the Thames and attacked London. Embarrassed, Charles bailed her out of prison to prevent her knowledge of the attack from going public.
As for her contributions to the arts. She is considered the creator of the amatory(romance) novel.
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
She did find out that the Dutch were going to sail up the Thames and attack London. She warned Charles II, who did nothing to prepare to ward off the attack. Shortly after she warned him and asked for money to cover her expenses she was thrown in debtor's prison. She was here when the Dutch sailed up the Thames and attacked London. Embarrassed, Charles bailed her out of prison to prevent her knowledge of the attack from going public.
As for her contributions to the arts. She is considered the creator of the amatory(romance) novel.
I cannot both "Love" and "Wow" the same post.

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One of my favorite things you do with these is use Feats to tell more of the characters' stories. Attribute bonuses are boring. Fast Learner and Perceptive are so much better than a +4 to intelligence
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
One of my favorite things you do with these is use Feats to tell more of the characters' stories. Attribute bonuses are boring. Fast Learner and Perceptive are so much better than a +4 to intelligence
Sentiment appreciated (when the stats and the story are in step it's ლ(´ڡ`ლ)), but I should clarify that Fast Learner is a renamed feature from the Mastermind archetype and not a feat (Observant Perceptive is though ;) ).
 






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