D&D 5E Mythological Figures: Harald Hardrada

We’re going big and bold with today’s entry in Mythological Figures, tackling the man whose life and death mark the very end of the Viking Age: Harold Hardrada!

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Harald Sigurdsson aka Harald of Norway aka Haraldr Sigurðarson aka Harald III lived from 1015 to 1066 AD and was King of Norway from 1046 to 1066 (and claimed the Danish throne until 2 years before his death, and the English throne right up to the end). In the years before that however he was exiled, traveling across the world as a mercenary and military commander in the Byzantine Empire.

After defeat in the Battle of Stiklestad together with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson (later Saint Olaf) when he was 15 (trying to help his sibling reclaim the Norwegian throne from King Cnut the Great), Harald was exiled and joined the army of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise, becoming a captain until leaving for Constantinoble in 1034. There he became the commander of the Byzantine Varangian Guard and very rich, stashing his treasure to safety in the hands of Yaroslav. Then in 1042 he starts planning on retaking the throne of Norway—now restored to Magnus the Good, a bastard of his brother Orlaf. Four years later Harald fights alongside Sweyn II (the pretender of Denmark) but Magnus won’t fight him and instead agrees to rule together in exchange for some of his wealth. A year later however, Magnus dies and Harald becomes the only king of Norway, instituting a coin economy, encouraging trade beyond their borders, and snuffing out anyone that might oppose him. Afterwards Harald turns on Sweyn II and raids the coast of Denmark until 1064 in an unsuccessful attempt to conquer it

The ex-Earl of Northumbria Tostig Godwinson, brother of the short-reigned Harold of Wessex and King Harold Godwinson of England (last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England that ruled for less than a year before his death in the Battle of Hastings), convinces Harald to make a grab for the throne of England. So our badass here takes 10,000 soldiers and 300 longships to raid the English coast in 1066, claiming victory in Northumbria and Mercia. Despite these initial triumphs Harald is killed when Harold Godwinson’s forces nearly annihilate his forces in the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Modern historians mark his death and the end of the campaign as the end of the Viking Age.

Design Notes: Wow. The last viking—some big boots to fill! To start things off he’s getting just a touch of rogue so he has the high Persuasion a commanding leader needs, and also the killer Athletics bonus expected of a viking hero. Picking up some barbarian for the bonus damage, hit points, and of course rage along with the Juggernaut archetype because it complements the best without inserting another theme or provide an essentially useless feature for him. The rest of the way it’s all fighter levels to pick up feats to manipulate the battlefield and rove about unimpeded, and the Battlemaster archetype to really take control of a melee fight. For all the soldiering this guy did, it feels like a solid fit.

Let’s do the numbers! The chart in the DMG puts Harald at an 11.4 while the Blog of Holding's very reliable rubric places him higher at a 12.833333. Together they average out to a teensy bit over 12 (there’s an extra .11666 lying around). For a different take on Hardrada GMs can drop the rogue levels (reducing his Athletics bonus, adding in either Perception +7 or Survival +7, and removing Deception, Insight, and Persuasion) for more fighter, picking up a second use of Indomitable as well as another Ability Score Increase (which could go to maxing out Strength, more Constitution, or feats to pick up more maneuvers all without altering his CR).

Harald Hardrada
Medium humanoid (human), lawful neutral rogue 2/barbarian (overwhelming) 4/fighter (master of battle) 12
Armor Class 19 (half plate, shield)
Hit Points 137 (2d8+4d12+12d10+36)
Speed 40 ft.
18 (+4)​
14 (+2)​
14 (+2)​
12 (+1)​
12 (+1)​
14 (+1)​
Saving Throws Dex +8, Int +7
Skills Athletics +16, Deception +8, History +7, Insight +7, Intimidation +8, Persuasion +14; thieves’ tools +8
Senses passive Perception 11
Languages Arabic, Dutch, Norwegian, Olde English, Thieves’ Cant
Challenge 12 (8,400 XP)

Action Surge (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Harald can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.

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

Danger Sense. Harald 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. Harald 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. Harald 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.

Feat: Soldier Tactics. A creature hit by Harald’ opportunity attack reduces its speed to 0 until the beginning of the next round and disengaging from Harald still provokes opportunity attacks. In addition, Harald can use his reaction to make a melee weapon attack against a creature within 5 feet when it makes an attack against a target other than Harald.

Indomitable (1/Long Rest). Harald can reroll a saving throw that he fails. If he does so, he must use the new roll.

Maneuver Master (5d10 maneuver dice/Short Rest). Harald can expend a maneuver dice to perform a single maneuver with an attack.
  • Command. Harald 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 1d10 additional weapon damage on a successful hit.
  • Disarm. A creature Harald has hit with an attack takes 1d8 additional damage and makes a DC 18 Strength saving throw or drops one held item of his choice.
  • Feint. Harald 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 before the end of his turn. On a hit he deals 1d10 additional damage.
  • Menace. On a successful hit with a melee weapon, Harald deals 1d10 additional damage and the target makes a DC 18 Wisdom saving throw or is frightened of him until the end of Harald’s next turn.
  • Sweep. Harald chooses a creature adjacent to him target and within his reach and on a hit, the adjacent creature takes 1d10 damage (of the same type as the weapon attack).
  • Trip. Harald deals 1d10 additional damage and if the target is a creature of Large size or smaller, it makes a DC 18 Strength saving throw or is knocked prone.
Rage (3/Long Rest). On his turn, Harald 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. Harald can also end his rage on his turn as a bonus action. While raging, he gains the following benefits.
  • Harald has advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When Harald makes a melee weapon attack using Strength, he deals 2 extra damage.
  • Harald 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 Haralda makes a DC 18 Strength saving throw or is pushed 5 feet away from him. Haralda can immediately move into the square previously occupied by the target of his attack.
Reckless Attack. When Harald 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, Harald can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+12 hit points.

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

Tactician’s Insight. After Harald has observed or interacted with a creature for 1 minute, he learns whether or not it has higher or lower Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma scores than him. In addition, he learns if the target has more or fewer class levels than him. Harald also knows when he and the target have equal scores in one of these categories.

Extra Attack. Harald attacks three times, instead of once, whenever he takes the Attack action on his turn.

Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d8+6) slashing damage.

Handaxe (6). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6+4) slashing damage.

Heavy Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 100/400 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10+2) piercing damage.
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Mike Myler

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