Mythological Figures: Beowulf (5E)

Welcome to Mythological Figures! This week we’ve got another hero from Britain’s ancient past, the star of the oldest epic in Olde English: Beowulf!


If you somehow missed the 2007 CGI film or forget learning about this fellow in English class, here’s the breakdown. Hrothgar makes the great hall Heorot for his warriors to drink and revel in, but then the monstrous Grendel (a descendant of Cain) overhears their joy and is pained by it so goes to wreck the place as the revelers sleep. In response Hrothgar beseeches the aid of Beowulf who lures Grendel the same way and proceeds to beat the monster to death with his bare hands, ripping off one of the monster’s arms (along with a shoulder).

Grendel’s mother is infuriated that her son was killed in such a way and she comes the next night, killing Hrothgar’s favorite warrior (Æschere) while Beowulf is elsewhere. Upon his return they track her to a lake so (after accepting a possibly magical sword called Hrunting) he jumps in after her, discovering her cave lair at the bottom. Unfortunately the weapon proves ineffective so he throws it away until after the fight, taking up a giant’s sword and hacking the monster to death with that instead. Hrunting is used to decapitate Grendel but dissolves in the creature’s toxic blood, and the hero returns to gain many gifts from Hrothgar--including another dope sword, this one called Nægling.

Half a century later and Beowulf is king of his own lands where a dragon starts causing trouble when somebody steals a golden cup from its hoard. Like you do, he goes out to meet it in single combat but Nægling shatters in his hands and is only saved from defeat by the bravery of his ally Wiglaf. Unfortunately in the fight Beowulf suffers mortal wounds and passes soon after, his remains burned away on a pyre.

Design Notes: Oh, Beowulf, you are so difficult to pin down. A large part of me feels that he’s a fighter but his strength is referenced again and again. He rips off a monster’s arm and breaks magic swords with his hands--not on the dragon he’s fighting but because he is so freaking strong. With that so prominent I really felt to do Beowulf justice we need to hit that beat as hard as we possibly can and that landed me on full barbarian, falling back onto berserker because I wanted to make sure he can relentlessly pummel something to death. I’d like to have gotten him a proper brawling feat but he’s wailing away with 8 damage anyway, and if raging he’s doing 12 damage probably 4 times in a round so does he need it? Checking the CR on both the DMG table and the Blog of Holding breakdown results in the same cushy CR 17--a terrifying prospect I’m liable to drop on a high-level party soon.


Beowulf
Medium humanoid (human), lawful good barbarian (berserker) 20

Armor Class
18 (Constitution or scalemail, shield)
Hit Points 250 (20d12+120)
Speed 40 ft.

STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
24 (+7)​
14 (+2)​
22 (+6)​
11 (+0)​
12 (+1)​
10 (+0)​

Saving Throws Str +13, Con +12
Skills Athletics +13, Insight +7, Perception +7, Survival +7
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing (while raging)
Condition Immunities charmed, frightened (while raging)
Senses passive Perception 17
Languages Common
Challenge 17 (18,000 XP)

Brutal Critical. Beowulf can roll three additional weapon damage dice when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a melee attack.

Danger Sense. Beowulf has advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that he can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, he can’t be blinded, deafened, or incapacitated.

Feat: Power Attack. When Beowulf makes his first melee weapon attack in a turn using a heavy weapon, he can choose to take a -5 penalty to his melee weapon attack rolls in exchange for a +10 bonus to melee weapon damage. In addition, Beowulf can use a bonus action to make one melee weapon attack after he uses a melee weapon to reduce a creature to 0 hit points or scores a critical hit with it. Beowulf can only use this feature on his turn.

Feral Instinct. Beowulf has advantage on initiative rolls. Additionally, if he is surprised at the beginning of combat and isn’t incapacitated, he can act normally on his first turn, but only if he enters his rage before doing anything else on that turn.

Indomitable Might. If Beowulf’s total for a Strength check is less than 20, he can use 24 in place of the total.

Intimidating Presence. Beowulf can use his action to frighten someone with his menacing presence. When he does so, he chooses one creature within 30 feet that he can see. If the creature can see or hear Beowulf, it must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of Beowulf until the end of his next turn. On subsequent turns, Beowulf can use his action to extend the duration of this effect on the frightened creature until the end of his next turn. This effect ends if the creature ends its turn out of line of sight or more than 60 feet away from Beowulf. If the creature succeeds on its saving throw, Beowulf can’t use this feature on that creature again for 24 hours.

Mindless Rage. Beowulf can’t be charmed or frightened while raging. If he is charmed or frightened when he enters his rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.

Rage. On his turn, Beowulf can enter a rage as a bonus action. While raging, he gains the following benefits if he isn’t wearing heavy armor:

  • advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws,
  • when he makes a melee weapon attack using Strength he gains a +4 bonus to the damage roll,
  • and he has resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
His rage lasts until Beowulf is knocked unconscious. Beowulf can also end his rage on his turn as a bonus action. Beowulf can go into a frenzy when he rages. If he does so, for the duration of his rage he can make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each of his turns after his first turn raging. When his rage ends, he suffers one level of exhaustion.

Reckless Attack. When Beowulf makes his first attack on his turn, he can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives him advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against him have advantage until his next turn.

Relentless Rage. If Beowulf drops to 0 hit points while he’s raging and doesn’t die outright, he can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If he succeeds, he drops to 1 hit point instead. Each time he uses this feature after the first, the DC increases by 5. When he finishes a short or long rest, the DC resets to 10.


ACTIONS

Extra Attack.
Beowulf attacks twice (and can use a bonus action to attack once if both raging and frenzied).

Unarmed. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 bludgeoning damage.

Hrunting. Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8+8) magical slashing damage or 13 (1d10+8) magical slashing damage if wielded in two hands.

Giant’s Sword. Melee Weapon Attack: +13 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d6+7) slashing damage.


REACTIONS

Retaliation. When Beowulf takes damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of him, he can use his reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Mike Myler

Comments

dave2008

Adventurer
In general I like it, thank you for sharing. As usual I have a few thoughts:
1) Since he is level 20 shouldn't he have the sword he fought the dragon with, are at least I think that should be an option
2) I think the giant sword should probably be magical as well since it was effective where the "magical" sword was not. Also, when I learned the story I was told the sword he used on Grendel's mother was magical (I don't recall it being giant - but I like that). Additionally, he should probably have the "Magic Weapons" trait.
3) I am a little conflicted about barbarian vs. fighter and the strength 24 (but I don't like that barbarian feature in general). That level of strength I would reserve or Herakles. However, I do agree that his great strength is a major feature of his character.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
In general I like it, thank you for sharing. As usual I have a few thoughts:
1) Since he is level 20 shouldn't he have the sword he fought the dragon with, are at least I think that should be an option
2) I think the giant sword should probably be magical as well since it was effective where the "magical" sword was not. Also, when I learned the story I was told the sword he used on Grendel's mother was magical (I don't recall it being giant - but I like that). Additionally, he should probably have the "Magic Weapons" trait.
3) I am a little conflicted about barbarian vs. fighter and the strength 24 (but I don't like that barbarian feature in general). That level of strength I would reserve or Herakles. However, I do agree that his great strength is a major feature of his character.
2) It was indeed a giant's sword. And yeah, it should almost certainly be magical. What happened in Grendel's Mother's cave played out a hell of a lot like what happens when D&D characters first encounter a creature with magical DR.

3) Herakles had actual divine strength - the empyrean's 30 would be wholly appropriate for him. Beowulf's strength, too, was superhuman, but there's no hint of it being divine (although it is possibly relevant that the text we have was heavily Christianized). He boasted he had the strength of thirty men. 24 seems just fine.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
2) It was indeed a giant's sword. And yeah, it should almost certainly be magical. What happened in Grendel's Mother's cave played out a hell of a lot like what happens when D&D characters first encounter a creature with magical DR.

3) Herakles had actual divine strength - the empyrean's 30 would be wholly appropriate for him. Beowulf's strength, too, was superhuman, but there's no hint of it being divine (although it is possibly relevant that the text we have was heavily Christianized). He boasted he had the strength of thirty men. 24 seems just fine.
But relative to Thor's 25 it seems high to me :)
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Even regarding Strength, Beowulf seems reasonably ‘mortal’. I would keep him closer to Level 10, maybe Level 13 at the highest.

(Grendel himself is more like a half-human half-giant/-troll barbarian.)

Probably stick to Strength 20, as per normal D&D rules. 20 is supposed to be a ‘superhuman’ flavor. Even the part about ripping off the arm, is more like reducing Grendel to zero hit points, then doing a Strength athletics skill check to do the stunt.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Popping in to clarify: Thor's Strength is RAW (from a magic item) as is Beowulf's (from 20th level barbarian class feature)
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Popping in to clarify: Thor's Strength is RAW (from a magic item) as is Beowulf's (from 20th level barbarian class feature)
I appreciate the use of RAW, yet Beowulf seems less than level 20.

You even made Thor a total level 20. Surely, the Anglo-Saxons would perceive their version of Thor to be a higher level than Beowulf.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
I'm not a proper scholar but I dunno if they would. Thor's in a bit of Perseus scenario and needs all his :):):):) (hammer, gauntlets, belt) to be a super badass right? Beowulf is running around practically naked breaking magic swords with his bare hands.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I'm not a proper scholar but I dunno if they would. Thor's in a bit of Perseus scenario and needs all his :):):):) (hammer, gauntlets, belt) to be a super badass right? Beowulf is running around practically naked breaking magic swords with his bare hands.
You make a fair argument. At least from the Norse point of view, the human-like aspects of nature spirits are comparable to humans in power. (I still want to see epic level humans and other epic level nature spirits, D&D rules permitting.)

Part of my perception of Beowulf involves the implication of tier.

Levels 1-4: student tier − known to a community (such as a school).
Levels 5-8: professional tier − known to a locale (such as a town).
Levels 9-12: master tier − known to a region (such as a population of about a million).
Levels 13-16: leader tier − known to a nation.
Levels 17-20: legend tier − known to a world (such as a planet or plane).

I perceive Beowulf as the leader of a locale and known to a nation. So levels 13 to 16, but on the lower end of this tier.

By contrast, Thor is (at least understood to be) known to the world.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Nice Beowulf. The ability to fight unarmed and unarmored are key here, so I two would have loved some Tavern Brawler. I might have even prioritized it over Power Attack.

As far as level goes, Beowulf's ability to (almost) solo a dragon in his old age has to count for something right?

I think Zealot would work a little better. Beowulf seems like a guy that rarely gets exhausted.

Also around level 14+ a Zealot could rage beyond death to defeat a dragon then pass on as his rage ends. That seems fitting to me. And Beowulf is described as being marked by or at least supported by god.

A level 15ish Tavern Brawling Zealot is probably the route I would have gone. Actually I'd go 18 for Indomitable Might as that's too fitting to lose. Anyway a real tough SOB in or out of armor and with or without weapons.

Still as always I love your stuff Mike. I could never decide how I would do it without reading your take first.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
As far as level goes, Beowulf's ability to (almost) solo a dragon in his old age has to count for something right?
Sigurðr also solos a dragon, and he seems in the same tier as Beowulf, more like levels 13 to 16.

Think of it this way. Someone who is level 17 can cast Wish each day. I dont see these heroes at that level.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Sigurðr also solos a dragon, and he seems in the same tier as Beowulf, more like levels 13 to 16.

Think of it this way. Someone who is level 17 can cast Wish each day. I dont see these heroes at that level.
They're not at that level at 18 anyway due to caster/martial disparity. All Barbarians get going from 16 to 18 is hit dice, hit points, a bump in proficiency, another crit die, and the ability to be really, really good at strength checks which is exactly what Beowulf was known for. Pulling limbs off of trolls and weilding swords meant for Giants and so on.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I'll echo that I don't think he needs to be nearly this high a level. I mean the kind of monster slaying Beowulf does is just usual fare for a standard Dnd party, not even that high a level.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
I'll echo that I don't think he needs to be nearly this high a level. I mean the kind of monster slaying Beowulf does is just usual fare for a standard Dnd party, not even that high a level.
For rocking Grendel? Yes. I'm thinking Grendel's mother is more CR 16 though and not standard party fare.
 

Advertisement

Advertisement

Top