5E Mythological Figures: Captain Nemo

Not a mistake has been made in the working. But we cannot prevent equilibrium from producing its effects. We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.” Bold words from a brave and brilliant man, an inventor of the highest caliber, explorer of the deep blue, and anti-imperialist hero: Captain Nemo!

Captain Nemo DnD 5e banner.jpg
When I was a wee little fellow I read a pocket edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea at least a dozen times, and while I can scarcely remember the other characters in that book Captain Nemo still stands out. If you haven’t read it yet here it is for free on Project Gutenberg. You won’t learn very much about him in that book (although he is definitely awesome throughout) aside from his hatred for imperialism, that his family is gone, and of course that he’s a truly brilliant inventor who crafted his own (very large) submarine.

In another book (The Mysterious Island) it’s revealed that Captain Nemo is indeed royalty (the Prince of Dakkar and son of the Hindu raja of Bundelkhand), given a Western education and touring Europe before he lost his family and kingdom in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Afterward he embraces science and constructs the Nautilus, traveling across the globe and recovering sunken treasure (some of which goes to help rebellions like the Cretan Revolt despite claims to have no interest in worldly affairs). Sometimes they save castaways and other folks left to the mercy of the open sea. Eventually he dies of old age while on board his ship which they sink into Dakkar Grotto (in the southern Pacific Ocean on Lincoln Island).

Design Notes: This is an OGL-ified build using the most recent (and finally officially published and no longer playtest material) artificer because frankly, how could we have the man who made the incredible Nautilus be anything else? After 10 minutes trying to justify other build routes to myself I gave up and decided to bite the bullet and go after this class’ most recent version (Sage Douban uses the old one), leaning into the Artillerist archetype because I think his submarine used a combustible engine. I am frankly impressed by the quiet power locked inside this class. If you run his statblock through the numbers, the DMG lands him at juuuuuuuuuuuust 0.05 past a 9 and the Blog of Holding weights it even heavier at 9.8333 so a solid 9. I would be inclined to drop this down to an 8 because he’s a bit of a one-round-pony, but with shield I’m not 100% sure he is that vulnerable. Even so I’m putting this at a soft 9 with the consideration that he’s almost certainly not fighting all by himself, dropped down to 8 if he’s got no allies to help soak up attacks.

Note: The languages Captain Nemo’s statblock has are not RAW (as usual with the Mythological Figures side of this column, everything else is rules-as-written). It also seems like he’s missing his proficiency with the organ but I am pretty sure musical instruments are treated as tool kits, so ‘Tool Mastery’ treats him as Expertise-proficient with it (and for that matter all other musical instruments).

Extra Note: GMs keen to include the Nautilus in a more tangible way than as stage dressing can use the statistics for a Scarlet Marpenoth from Dragon Heist with the following changes: Gargantuan (230 feet by 30 feet), crew capacity 25, passenger capacity 50, Travel Pace of 58 miles per hour (460 miles per day), Strength 22 (+6), Con 20 (+5), it loses the Activate Electrified Hull action and gains a Prow melee weapon (6 + pilot’s proficiency bonus to hit, 8d6+6 piercing damage), Armor Class 25, Hit Points 400 (damage threshold 20), it can only turn a maximum of 15 degrees in a round, and Speed (water) 200 feet.

Captain Nemo
Medium humanoid (human), lawful good inventor (gunsmith) 9
Armor Class 17 (imbued breastplate)
Hit Points 49 (9d8+9)
Speed 30 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
19 (+4)​
16 (+3)​
12 (+1)​
20 (+5)​
12 (+1)​
11 (+0)​
Saving Throws Con +5, Int +9
Skills Arcana +9, History +9, Investigation +9, Nature +9, Perception +1 (advantage)
Senses passive Perception 16
Languages English, French, German, Hindu, Latin
Challenge 9 (5,000 XP)

Background: Scholar. Acumen or fate gently nudges Captain Nemo toward the answers to his questions. When he fails to recollect or discover more about a subject of lore, he knows where or whom can give him that information (usually from an athenaeum, library, institute of higher learning, another scholar, or mystical creature). The lengths to which he must go to acquire this information and the feasibility of doing so is entirely at the GM’s discretion.

Brilliant Suggestion (5/Long Rest). Captain Nemo can use his reaction when he or another creature he can see within 30 feet makes an ability check or saving throw, gaining +5 bonus.

Enchanted Firearm. At the end of a long rest, Captain Nemo can use woodcarver’s tools to turn a rod, staff, or wand into an enchanted firearm. He can only modify one magic item at a time using this feature. Captain Nemo deals an extra 1d8 damage with any inventor spell he casts using this item.

Imbued Items. At the end of a long rest Captain Nemo can touch up to 3 nonmagical objects, turning them into magical objects containing one of the following abilities. If it requires attunement, Captain Nemo is automatically attuned to it unless he decides otherwise. The object retains this ability indefinitely or for 5 days following his death. When Captain Nemo imbues a fourth item, the effect ends on the oldest use of this feature.
  • Armor Protectives: A creature gains resistance to a type of damage (acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, poison, psychic, radiant, or thunder) while wearing this armor.
  • Auto-Ammunition: A creature gains a +1 bonus to ranged attack and ranged damage rolls made with this weapon. It never needs to be reloaded.
  • Improved Defense: A creature’s AC increases by 1 while wearing this item.
  • Improved Weaponry: A creature gains a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this weapon.
  • Mechanical Enchantment: The item duplicates the effects of eyes of the eagle.
  • Mechanical Enchantment: The item duplicates the effects of gauntlets of ogre power.
Minor Artillery. Captain Nemo can use an action and either smith’s tools or woodcarver’s tools to craft a Tiny or Small cannon (AC 18, hit points 45; immune to poison, psychic, and all conditions) in an unoccupied space within 5 feet, choosing whether or not it has legs. He can only do so once between long rests, or by expending a spell slot of 1st level or higher, but can never have more than one minor artillery cannon at a time. Casting mending on a cannon restored 2d6 hit points. It lasts for 1 hour, until he uses an action to dismiss it, or until it is reduced to 0 hit points.
On his turn, if Captain Nemo is within 60 feet of it he can use a bonus action to fire his minor artillery cannon. If it has legs, as part of the same bonus action he can command it to walk or climb up to 15 feet. While within 60 feet of it, Captain Nemo can use an action to detonate the minor artillery cannon, destroying it. Creatures within 20 feet of it make a DC 17 Dexterity Saving throw or take 13 (3d8) force damage, or half as much on a successful save.
  • Abjurative: Energy flows outward in a 10-foot radius, granting 14 (2d8+5) temporary hit points to creatures in the area.
  • Fire: Flames spit out in a 15-foot cone adjacent to the cannon. Each creature in the area makes a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw or take 13 (3d8) fire damage, or half as much on a successful save. The fire ignites any flammable objects in the area that aren’t being worn or carried.
  • Force: Captain Nemo makes a ranged spell attack against a creature or object within 120 feet of the cannon, dealing 13 (3d8) force damage on a successful hit and pushing the target up to 5 feet away.
Minor Inventions. Captain Nemo uses an action to touch a nonmagical object, working on it with his tinker’s tools or other artisan’s tools. It gains one of the following properties until he spends an action touching it to end the effect:
  • It sheds bright light in a 5-foot radius and dim light for an additional 5 feet.
  • It stores a spoken message up to 6 seconds long. Whenever a creature manipulates the object, it emits the spoken message loud enough for creatures as far as 10 feet away to hear it.
  • It continuously discharges a scent or plays a nonverbal sound loud enough for creatures as far as 10 feet away to hear it.
  • It displays a visual effect on one surface (as many as 25 words, simple illustrations, or a mixture of both).
Captain Nemo can affect up to 5 number of objects at the same time, ending the effect on the oldest use of this feature when he exceeds his maximum.

Never Without A Toolbox. With 1 hour of uninterrupted work and using tinker’s tools, Captain Nemo can craft a set of artisan’s tools in an unoccupied space within 5 feet. He may do so during a short or long rest. Captain Nemo can only have a single set of artisan’s tools crafted using this feature at a time.

Spellcasting. Captain Nemo is a 9th level spellcaster that uses Intelligence as his spellcasting ability (spell save DC 17; +9 to hit with spell attacks). He requires a set of tools he’s proficient with to use this feature, one of his imbued items, a minor artillery cannon, or an enchanted firearm. Captain Nemo has the following spells prepared from the inventor’s spell list:
Cantrips: light, message
1st-level (4 slots): expeditious retreat, feather fall, grease, longstrider, shield, thunderwave
2nd-level (3 slots): enhance ability, heat metal, scorching ray, shatter
3rd-level (2 slots): fireball, haste, protection from energy, revivify, wind wall

Tool Mastery. When Captain Nemo makes an ability check that uses a tool kit, he gains double his proficiency bonus (total +8).


ACTIONS
Imbued Scimitar. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6+5) magical slashing damage.

Auto-Ammunition Rifle. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 80/240 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8+4) magical piercing damage.
 
Mike Myler

Comments

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
In another book (The Mysterious Island) it’s revealed that Captain Nemo is indeed royalty (the Prince of Dakkar and son of the Hindu raja of Bundelkhand), given a Western education and touring Europe before he lost his family and kingdom in the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
The revelations of The Mysterious Island are dubious because it's set sometime during the American Civil War, which ended in 1865, while Twenty Thousand Leagues begins in 1866.

leaning into the Artillerist archetype because I think his submarine used a combustible engine.
There's a chapter in Twenty Thousand Leagues entitled "Everything Through Electricity".

Everything Through Electricity said:
"There's a powerful, obedient, swift, and effortless force that can be bent to any use and which reigns supreme aboard my vessel. It does everything. It lights me, it warms me, it's the soul of my mechanical equipment. This force is electricity."

"Electricity!" I exclaimed in some surprise.

"Yes, sir."

"But, Captain, you have a tremendous speed of movement that doesn't square with the strength of electricity. Until now, its dynamic potential has remained quite limited, capable of producing only small amounts of power!"

"Professor," Captain Nemo replied, "my electricity isn't the run–of–the–mill variety, and with your permission, I'll leave it at that."
That's obviously a handwave from Verne who had no idea how such electricity could be generated. But the James Mason movie strongly implies Nemo has discovered nuclear power, and Verne's words, however coincidental, line up with that possibility too well for me not to consider it canon.
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
The revelations of The Mysterious Island are dubious because it's set sometime during the American Civil War, which ended in 1865, while Twenty Thousand Leagues begins in 1866.


There's a chapter in Twenty Thousand Leagues entitled "Everything Through Electricity".


That's obviously a handwave from Verne who had no idea how such electricity could be generated. But the James Mason movie strongly implies Nemo has discovered nuclear power, and Verne's words, however coincidental, line up with that possibility too well for me not to consider it canon.
Right I'm not arguing that the ship shouldn't have electricity, I'm positing that (given the time period and other tech around) it's a combustible engine making that electricity.

Also: point me to the nuclear engineer Artificer archetype and I'll get right on it.

(☞゚∀゚)☞

Incidentally I do have something that might work well in that respect (the scrapper class from 2099 Wasteland) but this is not the place for builds using my classes (excepting material from out of the Masterclass Codex, 1/4 of which are things I designed, but even those are exceptions to the normal core RAW treatment).
 

Rafael Martin

Explorer
Are sure Nemo is lawful good? I personally think D&D's alignments are too restrictive and not broad enough. However, if we are using them I don't see him that way.

In the book's final pages, the Nautilus is attacked by a warship from the mysterious nation that has caused Nemo such suffering. Carrying out his quest for revenge, Nemo — dubbed an "archangel of hatred" by Aronnax — rams the ship below her waterline, and sends her to the bottom, much to Aronnax's horror.

I would give Nemo a Lawful Neutral alignment, because I really don't think someone who is Lawful Good would be called an Archangel of Hatred. Just a thought.
 

Aaron L

Adventurer
Looks great to me. Don't worry about the number of languages; any character can learn as many languages and tools as they want given time and money. There's no limit.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
Also: point me to the nuclear engineer Artificer archetype and I'll get right on it.

(☞゚∀゚)☞
Touché.

Are sure Nemo is lawful good? I personally think D&D's alignments are too restrictive and not broad enough. However, if we are using them I don't see him that way.
Oh, man, I didn't even notice his alignment. Yeah, he is... not good. Even neutral would be generous. He is, bluntly, a terrorist, and the central dramatic conflict of the story is Arronax and company trying to reconcile their feelings for his genius with their feelings about his crimes.

He's pretty good in The Mysterious Island, though.
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
Sooooo I think it matters on what side of the line someone is on whether or not Captain Nemo is lawful good. Dude ran a tight ship and I remember he took the rules of that ship extremely seriously, and he had his own code of ethics (which were generally pro-human) that he was strict to keep. That says lawful good to me. For people opposed to that (who also can be lawful good of their own account for their own reasons) they would disagree, but I don't think narratively there's enough juice to claim he's chaotic (that is definitely not the ship and crew of a chaotic captain) or outright evil.

Or maybe my memory is bad? Point is: one culture's knight in shining armor or brilliant inventor is another's horrible warrior of bloodlust or mad scientist. Potatoe potato.
 

ruemere

Explorer
Sooooo I think it matters on what side of the line someone is on whether or not Captain Nemo is lawful good. Dude ran a tight ship and I remember he took the rules of that ship extremely seriously, and he had his own code of ethics (which were generally pro-human) that he was strict to keep. That says lawful good to me. For people opposed to that (who also can be lawful good of their own account for their own reasons) they would disagree, but I don't think narratively there's enough juice to claim he's chaotic (that is definitely not the ship and crew of a chaotic captain) or outright evil.

Or maybe my memory is bad? Point is: one culture's knight in shining armor or brilliant inventor is another's horrible warrior of bloodlust or mad scientist. Potatoe potato.
I agree with LG alignment. Considering atrocities committed by the British in India (yes, it went both ways, but nobody asked the British to be there, right?), Nemo was entitled to acts of war (especially since he was actively pursued by British navy).

Here's a link to a fantastically well researched academic paper on origins of Nemo as devised by Verne:

JULES VERNE’S CAPTAIN NEMO AND FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY GUSTAVE FLOURENS: A HIDDEN CHARACTER MODEL?

Leonidas Kallivretakis

ABSTRACT: This article treats the recent assumption made by Vernian specialist William Butcher that Jules Verne’s most famous character, Captain Nemo, is based on the French revolutionary intellectual Gustave Flourens (1838-1871), son of the eminent physiologist J. P. M . Flourens. Gustave Flourens fought in the Cretan insurrection of 1866-1868, later participated in the republican opposition against Napoleon III’s imperial regime, eventually became a friend of Karl Marx and was finally killed as a general of the Paris Commune. By comparing step-by-step Verne’s inspiration and writing procedures with Flourens’ unfolding activities and fame, it is concluded that there is little basis for such an assumption. The article includes also a brief account of the Cretan question in the nineteenth century and of the deep discord between Marx’s and Flourens’ respective analyses of the Eastern Question.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
Sooooo I think it matters on what side of the line someone is on whether or not Captain Nemo is lawful good. Dude ran a tight ship and I remember he took the rules of that ship extremely seriously, and he had his own code of ethics (which were generally pro-human) that he was strict to keep. That says lawful good to me.
Fanatics with codes of ethics but "end justifies the means" attitudes are common examples of LN or LE villains in sources that discuss the topic, like the Book of Exalted Deeds. This is especially the case when that attitude leads them to take innocent lives. There is nothing culturally relative about a dead body; from any perspective it remains dead. Now, Nemo has a conscience and is tortured by his own fanaticism -- he, at least, does not see a good person once he looks in the mirror. His code is in conflict between "fight the oppressors" and "thou shalt not kill". You might say that this is what makes him good after all, but I think it makes him something far more important in a literary character: three-dimensional. Surely goodness does not have a monopoly on that.
 

JeffB

Hero
Took me years as a teen to get halfway decent at playing this*- Now that I'm old I can barely fake my way through it. Sorry, it was the very first thing I thought of.

Excellent job at statting him out, BTW :)

*
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
Was he JUST an artificer? He should have levels in a combat oriented class, too, no?
Pound for pound I think the captain here is going to trounce most combat builds of the same level. It'd be a dilution for sure.
(and I'd say the savant would be most appropriate, or in lieu of that maybe the warlord archetype for fighter)
 

Samloyal23

Explorer
Pound for pound I think the captain here is going to trounce most combat builds of the same level. It'd be a dilution for sure.
(and I'd say the savant would be most appropriate, or in lieu of that maybe the warlord archetype for fighter)
I don't know enough about the current rules, and my vision of the character is being affected by The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so I am just thinking he should be a good fencer and tougher than a nerd in a lab tinkering with machines.
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer

Mike Myler

Adventurer
This is fascinating. I knew about the editorial change from Polish to Indian nationality, of course, but I hadn't seen those letters where Verne defends Nemo's actions. In that light, I'd like to ask him what the final few chapters of the book mean to him.
He's a pretty badass fencer. +9 to hit and 8 average damage with a scimitar ain't no joke
 

TheCosmicKid

Adventurer
I don't know enough about the current rules, and my vision of the character is being affected by The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so I am just thinking he should be a good fencer and tougher than a nerd in a lab tinkering with machines.
Nemo in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie: "I walk a different path." [draws scimitar]
Nemo in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book:
 

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