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Mythological Figures: Blackbeard (5E)

We’re on the high seas for today’s entry in Mythological Figures with one of the most infamous pirates in all of history: Edward Teach, or as he’s better known, Blackbeard.



The precise origins of Edward Teach have eluded historians but it’s largely believed he was born sometime around 1680 and there’s evidence he was a mariner (probably on a privateer ship, which isn’t too far from piracy) during the War of the Spanish Succession. Blackbeard’s beginnings are a little more concrete—the first reports of his infamous pirate career began in 1717—and he became a terror of the waters off the Americas and in the Bahamas for two years, the peculiarities of his appearance gripping the public’s imagination near the end of that first year.

What marked Blackbeard as unique was that he avoided being particularly vicious or dishonorable, playing more on psychological fears than genuine, repetitive brutality, instead making the most out of his reputation and fierce, wiry, black-bearded, lit-fused appearance. Before he was finally killed (for a sizable bounty of 100 pounds and in a fight where his forces were outnumbered two-to-one) he blockaded Charles Town in South Carolina, formed a fleet of rogue ships able to overcome contingents of the British Royal Navy, commanded scores of buccaneers, and nearly acclimated into colonial society’s nobility.

Design Notes: Blackbeard here is pretty high level partly because he definitely had one of those Rasputin-esque deaths: shot five times and cut twenty, felled at the end by somebody coming up behind him and nearly decapitating him with a two-handed sword.

I should also point out that the Blog of Holding has a great hard stats breakdown of the Monster Manual that I’m using to calculate challenge rating (the usual DMG chart says 7.25-7.4, BoH says 8.5). The simple version of that is here, in-depth explanation here.

Also if you're planning on playing Blackbeard as a character, if your GM is keen to subbing pistols for crossbows grab the Crossbow Expert feat (swap out Athletic, lower his Strength to 13, Athletics bonus to +11). Otherwise what’s below should work great and make for a fun NPC able to quickly move across a ship for some exciting combat!


Blackbeard
Medium humanoid (human), lawful evil rogue (thief) 7/fighter (warmaster) 7

Armor Class
16 (studded leather, defensive fighting style)
Hit Points 98 (7d8+7d10+28)
Speed 40 ft.

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

Saving Throws
Dex +8, Int +7
Skills Athletics +12, Deception +12, Insight +5, Intimidation +12, Perception +5, Stealth +8
Tools artisan’s tools (pick one) +5, navigator’s tools +5, thieves’ tools +5, vehicles (water) +10
Senses passive Perception 15
Languages English, Spanish, Thieves’ Cant
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)

Background: Nautical. Blackbeard 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). On his turn, Blackbeard can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.

Cunning Action (1/turn). Blackbeard can take a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, Hide, Use Object action, Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, or to use thieves’ tools to disarm a trap or open a lock.

Evasion. When Blackbeard 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.

Feat: Athletic. Blackbeard can stand up from being prone with only 5 feet of his movement, climbing doesn’t cost him extra movement, and he only has to move 5 feet before making a running long jump or running high jump.

Feat: Mobile. Blackbeard can Dash through difficult terrain without requiring additional movement. Whenever he makes an attack against a creature, he doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from that creature until the end of his turn.

Maneuver Master (5d8 maneuver dice/short rest). Blackbeard can expend a maneuver dice to perform a single maneuver with an attack.

  • Command. Blackbeard 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 1d8 additional weapon damage on a successful hit.
  • Disarm. A creature Blackbeard has hit with an attack takes 1d8 additional damage and makes a DC 16 Strength saving throw or drops one held item of his choice.
  • Feint. Blackbeard can use his bonus action to feint against one creature within 5 feet. He has advantage on his next attack roll against that creature as long as it is before the end of his turn. On a hit he deals 1d8 additional damage.
  • Sweep. Blackbeard chooses a creature adjacent to him target and within his reach and on a hit, the adjacent creature takes 1d8 damage (of the same type as the weapon attack).
  • Trip. Blackbeard deals 1d8 additional damage and if the target is a creature of Large size or smaller, it makes a DC 16 Strength saving throw or is knocked prone.

Second-Story Work. Climbing does not cost Blackbeard extra movement. When he makes a running jump, the distance he covers increases by 3 feet.

Second Wind (1/short rest). On his turn, Blackbeard can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+7 hit points.

Sneak Attack (1/turn). Blackbeard deals an extra 14 (4d6) 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 Blackbeard that isn’t incapacitated and Blackbeard doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.


ACTIONS

Extra Attack. Blackbeard attacks twice.

Cutlass. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6+3) slashing damage.

Dagger (4). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft. or thrown 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage.

Pistol (6). Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 30/90 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d10+3) piercing damage.

Musket. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 40/120 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d12+3) piercing damage.


REACTIONS

Uncanny Dodge. When an attacker Blackbeard can see hits him with an attack, Blackbeard can use his reaction to halve the attack’s damage against him.
 
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Mike Myler

Comments

LuisCarlos17f

Explorer
Why the famous pirate Barbarossa is almost forgotten? Because he never wasn't in the Caribbean sea but in the Mediterranean, he and his brother were Ottoman corsairs. Didn't you know it? Many Christians from the Mediterranean Sea were slavered by the Ottoman pirates, to be concubines (Islam allows more four women if they are "war loot") or eunuchs (and there weren't so good, many times the victims didn't survive the castration).

Forget Hollywood movies and novels. Really only 107 ships from 11.000 Spanish ships were lost by pirate attacks. They traveled in convoys, a group of ships. The most of the pirate attacks were helpless coast villages.

Don't you know "half-man" Blas de Lezo 's story about the failed siege of Cartagena of Indias, or about the failed Drake-Norris' expedition?

Did you know anything about Mary Read and Anne Bonny? Two true female pirates (but with male diguese). There weren't executed because they were pregnant.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Why the famous pirate Barbarossa is almost forgotten? Because he never wasn't in the Caribbean sea but in the Mediterranean, he and his brother were Ottoman corsairs. Didn't you know it? Many Christians from the Mediterranean Sea were slavered by the Ottoman pirates, to be concubines (Islam allows more four women if they are "war loot") or eunuchs (and there weren't so good, many times the victims didn't survive the castration).

Forget Hollywood movies and novels. Really only 107 ships from 11.000 Spanish ships were lost by pirate attacks. They traveled in convoys, a group of ships. The most of the pirate attacks were helpless coast villages.

Don't you know "half-man" Blas de Lezo 's story about the failed siege of Cartagena of Indias, or about the failed Drake-Norris' expedition?

Did you know anything about Mary Read and Anne Bonny? Two true female pirates (but with male diguese). There weren't executed because they were pregnant.
The existence of one character doesn't imply the non-existence of all other characters.
 

CapNorge

Explorer
I like it! Only comment I would have given his methods and reputation is I'd lean towards even more of a charisma-heavy stat block, in addition to dexterity and intelligence.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Why the famous pirate Barbarossa is almost forgotten? Because he never wasn't in the Caribbean sea but in the Mediterranean, he and his brother were Ottoman corsairs. Didn't you know it? Many Christians from the Mediterranean Sea were slavered by the Ottoman pirates, to be concubines (Islam allows more four women if they are "war loot") or eunuchs (and there weren't so good, many times the victims didn't survive the castration).

Forget Hollywood movies and novels. Really only 107 ships from 11.000 Spanish ships were lost by pirate attacks. They traveled in convoys, a group of ships. The most of the pirate attacks were helpless coast villages.

Don't you know "half-man" Blas de Lezo 's story about the failed siege of Cartagena of Indias, or about the failed Drake-Norris' expedition?

Did you know anything about Mary Read and Anne Bonny? Two true female pirates (but with male diguese). There weren't executed because they were pregnant.
As Morrus pointed out having one pirate doesn't mean we won't have more (Anne is already on the list and although you could've requested them with a little more tact, Barbarossa, Mary Read, and Blas de very-long-name have been added to the queue :) ) and, ironically, I think that one of the pirates you mentioned gets a stronger representation in Hollywood.

I like it! Only comment I would have given his methods and reputation is I'd lean towards even more of a charisma-heavy stat block, in addition to dexterity and intelligence.
The caveat there is that if/when he hits my table it'll likely be as an NPC and social skills that might override player agency (Intimidation and Persuasion) get less weight behind them. For anyone that uses this RAW build as a PC, definitely more Charisma! :D
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
The real historical Barbarossa and the one from Hollywood were totally different.
Yup, that's probably why the Disney-fied one is named Barbossa instead (a pretty loud allusion to the real pirate). Even in the light reflected off the stage here I think Barbarossa is getting more attention than Blackbeard. :)
 

smbakeresq

Explorer
Why the famous pirate Barbarossa is almost forgotten? Because he never wasn't in the Caribbean sea but in the Mediterranean, he and his brother were Ottoman corsairs. Didn't you know it? Many Christians from the Mediterranean Sea were slavered by the Ottoman pirates, to be concubines (Islam allows more four women if they are "war loot") or eunuchs (and there weren't so good, many times the victims didn't survive the castration).

Forget Hollywood movies and novels. Really only 107 ships from 11.000 Spanish ships were lost by pirate attacks. They traveled in convoys, a group of ships. The most of the pirate attacks were helpless coast villages.

Don't you know "half-man" Blas de Lezo 's story about the failed siege of Cartagena of Indias, or about the failed Drake-Norris' expedition?

Did you know anything about Mary Read and Anne Bonny? Two true female pirates (but with male diguese). There weren't executed because they were pregnant.

My bar is Bonny and Reads, in Hollywood Florida. Yes I know about them
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
What's this "warmaster" business all about?
My bad bookkeeping! I originally toyed with the idea of making him a warlord ("warmaster" is how I refer to that in OGL content because while it was designed by Mike Mearls, the archetype isn't OGL). He should be a "master of battle" ;) and I've fixed it to say as much.
 

qstor

Adventurer
I'd give him spellcasting levels to make him more in line with the version in Tim Powers On Stranger Tides but that's just me. Otherwise nice job!
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
I'd give him spellcasting levels to make him more in line with the version in Tim Powers On Stranger Tides but that's just me. Otherwise nice job!
To get that I'd swap out Thief for the Arcane Trickster archetype (and maybe tack on an extra level so he can pick up misty step and retain some of that excellent mobility!)
 

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