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D&D 5E Mythological Figures: Eric Bloodaxe

Mythological Figures sets its sights on a viking that now resides in the majestic halls of Valhalla: Eric Bloodaxe!

Eric Bloodaxe DnD 5E BANNER.jpg

The specific origins of Eric Bloodaxe’s parents (presumably King Harald Fairhair and Ragnhild the Mighty) are as elusive as definitive evidence about the historical figure himself, and the nature of his siblings (brothers and half-brothers—who knows for sure) is much the same. We’re not even sure when exactly he was born other than that it was likely in the year 895 AD, and that Eric lived to the age of 68 or 69 before death finally caught up with him. Eric grew up as a foster son to the hersir (a viking military commander of 100 men pledged to a jarl) Thórir son of Hróald, soon beginning his first (eight year) reign of piracy at the young age of 12 sailing as far as Russia. It’s thought that he married the “mother of kings”, a princess of Denmark named Gunnhild, but there isn’t full consensus on that (or that he had only one wife). In any event Eric ascended to the throne of Norway following the death of King Harald in 930 AD (possibly after ruling beside his father for a time), but this initial reign was short for he was intensely disliked by his subjects and his half-brother Haakon (sometimes called Aðalsteinsfóstri or Haakon the Good) returned from the court of West-Saxon to oust him (becoming King of Norway from 934–961 AD).

Eric decided to head to Northumbria (northern England) after that, but the saga accounts of how, when exactly, and why he did so vary—Gunnhild might have actually been from there, he may have gone on another raiding spree, or maybe he even died soon after in Spain. For our purposes here we’re assuming he did not perish after only four odd decades of life. Five years earlier King Æthelstan brought the West-Saxon kings and Hiberno-Norse descendants (from Ireland) to heel and he continued to do so for some time, but his successors were not so fortunate and by 947 (or 948, it’s not clear) in protest the northumbrians had declared Eric Bloodaxe their king (much to the dissatisfaction of the current ruler, King Eadred). They were soon intimidated and compensated into repledging their fealty.

This short-lived initial reign was soon followed in 952 by another slightly longer rule when King Olaf (who had soon won over the recently appeased northumbrians) was himself deposed and Eric was restored to the throne of Northumbria—at least until 954. Whether Eric was assassinated in a treacherous plot at the hands of Olaf’s son Maccus or died in battle remains uncertain, but because of the breadth of his raiding the sagas claim that upon his death he was welcomed to Valhalla by Odin, Bragi, Sigmundr, and other slain heroes.

Design Notes: With the scant historical records for Eric Bloodaxe we don’t have much to go with, but some of the sagas describe him as "a large and handsome man, strong and of great prowess, a great and victorious warrior…violent of disposition, cruel, gruff, and taciturn". We can also deduce some things by the nature of his rule—he either didn’t much care for it or he was much more interested in the victory and less about what happens afterward, which certainly sounds like the purvey of a viking raider that made his way into Valhalla. With that in mind Eric is going to lean into fighter levels with the brute archetype, plus some barbarian levels (the juggernaut going handily with that fighter pick), and then some rogue levels to pick up on Cunning Action and a little expertise to beat that Valhalla-worthy raiding skill. Let’s do the numbers! The DMG landed at a high 17.833, the Blog of Holding at 15.166, averaging out to CR 16 which feels pretty good for his high AC, decent action economy, and heady resilience (all those hit points and weapon resistances). Definitely a legendary viking!

Eric Bloodaxe

Medium humanoid (human), chaotic neutral fighter (brute) 12/barbarian (juggernaut) 4/rogue 2
Armor Class 20 (Constitution, shield, defense fighting style, sealegs fighting style)
Hit Points 173 (12d10+4d12+2d8+72)
Speed 40 ft., climb 40 ft., swim 40 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
18 (+4)​
14 (+2)​
18 (+4)​
10 (+0)​
12 (+1)​
14 (+2)​
Saving Throws Str +10, Con +10; Proficiency +6
Skills Athletics +10, Intimidation +8, Perception +7, Stealth +14, Survival +7; thieves’ tools +8, water vehicles +14
Senses passive Perception 17
Languages Norwegian, Thieves’ Cant
Challenge 16 (15,000 XP)

Background: Sailor. Eric 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, Eric can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.

Brutal Toughness. Eric 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).

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

Danger Sense. Eric 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: Athletic. Eric 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: Mobility. Eric 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.

Fighting Style: Sealegs. As long as he is not wearing heavy armor or using a shield, Eric gains a +1 bonus to AC, and he gains both climbing and swimming speeds equal to his speed (included above).

Indomitable (1/Long Rest). Eric can reroll a saving throw that he fails but must use the new roll.

Rage (3/Long Rest). On his turn, Eric can enter a rage as a bonus action. His rage lasts for 1 minute, ending early if he is knocked unconscious or if his turn ends and he hasn’t either attacked a hostile creature since his last turn or taken damage since then. Eric can also end his rage on his turn as a bonus action. While raging, he gains the following benefits:
  • Eric has advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When Eric makes a melee weapon attack using Strength, he deals 2 extra damage.
  • Eric has resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
  • While conscious, he cannot be knocked prone.
  • Once per turn, the target of a successful melee attack from Eric makes a DC 18 Strength saving throw or is pushed 5 feet away from him. Eric can immediately move into the square previously occupied by the target of his attack.

Reckless Attack. When Eric 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.

Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Eric can use a bonus action to regain 17 (1d10+12) hit points.

Sneak Attack (1/Turn, 1d6). Eric deals an extra 3 (1d6) 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 Eric that isn’t incapacitated and Eric doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll, or when the only creature within 5 feet of Eric is his target. The attack must use a finesse or a ranged weapon.


ACTIONS
Extra Attack. Eric attacks three times when he takes the Attack action.

Battleaxe. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d8+1d6+4) slashing damage, or 13 (1d10+1d6+4) slashing damage if wielded in two hands.

Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d4+1d6+4) piercing damage.

Handaxe (3). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) slashing damage.

Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8+1d6+2) piercing damage.
 

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler


J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Good stuff! Any plans to do a writeup for Gunnhild, too? I believe the info on her is even sketchier than Erik, but she's the subject of some interesting - and probably unfair - stories about her involving sorcerous dabbling, royal seduction, and political meddling.

(Just curious, since I once did a short fantasy/faux-history campaign centered on her return to unlife shortly after her supposed execution.)
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
Good stuff! Any plans to do a writeup for Gunnhild, too? I believe the info on her is even sketchier than Erik, but she's the subject of some interesting - and probably unfair - stories about her involving sorcerous dabbling, royal seduction, and political meddling.

(Just curious, since I once did a short fantasy/faux-history campaign centered on her return to unlife shortly after her supposed execution.)
Added her onto the queue!
 

dave2008

Legend
Interesting and thank you for sharing, as always. However, I do wonder about the CR. I didn't check the defensive CR, but I am only get a CR 9 offensive CR. So you are getting a 23 defensive CR?
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
Interesting and thank you for sharing, as always. However, I do wonder about the CR. I didn't check the defensive CR, but I am only get a CR 9 offensive CR. So you are getting a 23 defensive CR?
Offensive CR should be higher I think (~12 averaged from the 10 to hit |17|, avg dam 56 [42/round+1/3rd action surge]|8|, save DC 18|13|), Defensive CR (by my methodology) at 22 (20 AC |31|, 237 effective HP [173+17 then add 25% for weapon resistances]|14|). So it should've been smack on 17 and I must've changed something along the way (or maybe calculated that 25% as 50%, I know I do that sometimes), although fortunately that all still boils down to 16. 😅
 

dave2008

Legend
Offensive CR should be higher I think (~12 averaged from the 10 to hit |17|, avg dam 56 [42/round+1/3rd action surge]|8|, save DC 18|13|), Defensive CR (by my methodology) at 22 (20 AC |31|, 237 effective HP [173+17 then add 25% for weapon resistances]|14|). So it should've been smack on 17 and I must've changed something along the way (or maybe calculated that 25% as 50%, I know I do that sometimes), although fortunately that all still boils down to 16. 😅
OK, I missed sneak attack which takes DPR to 56 from the 52 I had however, that still only equals and offensive CR of 9:

DPR 56 = CR 8
to hit bonus +10 - (+7) = +3/2 = +1.5 = +1

CR 8 + 1 = 9 (or +9.5 if you don't round down the bonus as implied by the DMG)

At best because the bonus comes out as +1.5 and it at the top of the CR 8 DPR I might bump it to CR 10, but it is definitely not an attack CR 12.
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
OK, I missed sneak attack which takes DPR to 56 from the 52 I had however, that still only equals and offensive CR of 9:

DPR 56 = CR 8
to hit bonus +10 - (+7) = +3/2 = +1.5 = +1

CR 8 + 1 = 9 (or +9.5 if you don't round down the bonus as implied by the DMG)

At best because the bonus comes out as +1.5 and it at the top of the CR 8 DPR I might bump it to CR 10, but it is definitely not an attack CR 12.
I'm not sure what's going on there, but I wasn't counting sneak attack (he wouldn't get that from a battleaxe) that'd be rage damage.

The attack bonus is +10 (which for the chart is a value of 17), average damage is 56 (value of 8), and then he has a save DC 18 that comes up once a round (value 13). I do averages in here (I maintain the skip-around-our-table-columns method is bogus, I'm just mining the chart for averages) and that comes out to 12.666.

Sorry for the confusion!
 

dave2008

Legend
I'm not sure what's going on there, but I wasn't counting sneak attack (he wouldn't get that from a battleaxe) that'd be rage damage.
My mistake - I came up with 52 dpr (13 x3 = 39 and then an action surge for ((39x4)/3) = 52, I assumed you got 56 because because of sneak attack and didn't really think about it (or calculate it). Regardless, that is a CR 8 starting point:

1641911151907.png


The attack bonus is +10 (which for the chart is a value of 17),
Yikes, that is not how that works. The DPR gives you a CR 8, which is a +7. The actual bonus is +10, which is three steps greater than +7. Per the DMG:

"Now look at the attack bonus suggested for a monster of that challenge rating. If your monster’s attack bonus is at least two points higher or lower than that number, adjust the challenge rating suggested by its damage output up or down by 1 for every 2 points of difference."

Since it is three point higher, we only adjust the Offensive CR by 1. So that would be:

CR 8 + 1 = 9
average damage is 56 (value of 8), and then he has a save DC 18 that comes up once a round (value 13).
Why are you considering the save DC? I would use the attack bonus not the save DC. Per the DMG you only use the save DC if:

"If the monster relies more on effects with saving throws than on attacks, use the monster’s save DC instead of its attack bonus."

I have sometimes gotten a little complicated myself and used a weighted average of both, that is rarely worth it IMO.
I do averages in here (I maintain the skip-around-our-table-columns method is bogus, I'm just mining the chart for averages) and that comes out to 12.666.
Yeah, I guess I think your method is a bit bogus, or at least not following the DMG guidelines. Even if you used averages you shouldn't come up with 12.666. It would maybe be 9.5 at best. I think you should take a long hard look at your methodology as this is not a CR 12.666 monster offensively just by the eye test.

I love your designs in general and really appreciate this sereis, but I really think you need to revisit your CR calculations if your making a monster with a higher CR than the DMG / MM. The MM and DMG are almost universally thought to make monsters with an inflated CR (when used to the letter of the law) and yours is even more inflated. Just my 2-cents.

EDIT: Finally, I don't really care how you calculate your CR, except that you claim the CR calculation per the DMG 17.833. Which it is not. I think it is dishonest to make that claim when you are not used the DMG correctly to develop that number. IMO it would be more accurate to say, "by my calculation it is...." Just leave the DMG out of it if you are (knowingly) not using it correctly.
 
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Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
Aye @dave2008 I know you don't like how I do it because we've had this discussion once already. :)

While I respect that you want to use the chart as given, I do not (which is why the column's wiki page mentions manual adjustment). It has been thoroughly demonstrated as dysfunctional for its listed purposes (the Blog of Holding handily proves that) but I don't think all those numbers are totally without any value, so I've got a way to use them that works (both here and elsewhere; 5E design has been the bulk of my work as a full-time freelancer for years), and 200-something entries into the column is a bad time to switch up the operations (especially for internal consistency) even if I wanted to. And I don't.
 

dave2008

Legend
Aye @dave2008 I know you don't like how I do it because we've had this discussion once already. :)
Yes we have!

PS - if nothing else please consider the last two paragraphs (before the edits) in this response.
While I respect that you want to use the chart as given, I do not (which is why the column's wiki page mentions manual adjustment).
It is not simple a chart. You are not using the methodology as given. I don't really care if you want to use fractions of CR, but you are not following the methodology in the DMG well beyond the "chart as given."
It has been thoroughly demonstrated as dysfunctional for its listed purposes (the Blog of Holding handily proves that)
That is not accurate, IMO. What people don't like is how CR (and really monsters not CR) interacts with the encounter design guidelines. Those need a revision, but the DMG CR calculator actually works pretty well, if used properly, IMO.

I respect Paul, but after seeing his design guidelines in LevelUp I have come to the conclusion that he doesn't understand the DMG guidelines either. He is, I am guessing, relying to much on statistical analysis and not understanding how the numbers got there. It is being a long time since I looked at the Blog of Holding, but I don't think it proves anything.

Again, if you think the offensive CR on this monster should be 12.666 then, IME, your methodology (and by association I guess the BoH) clearly is more messed up than the DMG's.
but I don't think all those numbers are totally without any value, so I've got a way to use them that works (both here and elsewhere; 5E design has been the bulk of my work as a full-time freelancer for years), and 200-something entries into the column is a bad time to switch up the operations (especially for internal consistency) even if I wanted to. And I don't.
As I mentioned (if you read the whole thing - sorry it was a bit long) I don't mind if you use your own methodology - just don't call it the DMG's methodology because it is not. That is my real beef here. Your not using the DMG's methodology, so don't say you are. At least that is my opinion.

I really like and appreciate your work and designs and look forward to them every week. The are interesting, thoughtful, creative, and fun. I just don't know why you insist on claiming you are calculating the CR per the DMG when you are clearly not and don't seem to care to. Just be honest about it please. There is no need to cling to it if you don't agree with it. It feels like your trying to gain a false legitimacy by hanging on to it.

EDIT: This will be my last post on this subject (in this post or future posts)- sorry to bother you.

EDIT 2: For what its worth I get a total CR of 13.5 which I would probably round to CR 14. The defenses on this guy are substantial!
 
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Well, this one took me down a wiki-wormhole! First stop was Ragnhild the Mighty (might not be a real person, couldn't find out why she was "Mighty"), which took me to Gorm the Old (father of Harald Bluetooth & "old" because he lived into his gasp 60's), thence onto Harthacnut and the awesomely named Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye. Good times!
 

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