D&D 5E Mythological Figures: Harry Houdini (5E)

So far in the Mythological Figures column / A Touch More Class foray we’ve looked at Sherlock Holmes (a savant), Nikola Tesla (using the tinkerer), Billy the Kidd (the gunfighter), and even Paul Bunyan (with Babe the blue ox thanks to the monster tamer class). The Kickstarter has been live for a while now and we’re at that tricky part in the middle where folks have either already pledged or waiting until the end to do so--with that in mind today’s subject is the undisputed master of escapology, a born performer that nary a century ago easily worked his way into the mythology of not just America, but the world. Who else could it be but Harry Houdini!

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We all know Harry Houdini as the original master of miraculous escapes, said to be impossible to imprison. He was 4 years old when his family moved from Hungary to Appleton, Wisconsin where they remained until going to Milwaukee 4 years later. At the age of 13 Harry (born Erik Weisz, changed to Ehrich Weiss upon reaching America) and his father moved to New York city. Already a performer (“Ehrich, the Prince of the Air” started doing trapeze acts at the age of 9) he took the stage name Harry Houdini in 1890 after reading the autobiography of French magician Jean Robert-Houdin. A local magician (Joseph Rinn) coaches him in sleight of hand and for a while he tries to make it as a card trickster, but ultimately finds he’s not quite good enough at it and thus began experimenting with escape acts.

By 1900 his star is rising and he becomes known as “The Handcuff King”, touring Europe and the world, and then comes back to the USA where he’s a sensation throughout the 1910s. Along the way he starts the trend of mass-marketing tie-ins and Society of American Magicians, which is apparently still around. He also tried to rock a movie career but the money wasn’t there, and was something of an amateur aviator (often wrongly credited as being the first person to fly a plane in Australia). More interestingly however, later on in life (the 1920s) he became a noted spiritualist debunker and scholar on magic.

One of Houdini’s stupidest exploits was letting people hit him, allowing anyone who liked to the opportunity to punch him in the stomach. In 1926 a college student catches him off guard and pummels him in a chair (while Harry’s ankle is broken), pops his appendix, and Harry dies from peritonitis a few days later.

Design Notes: Houdini here just kept squeezing rogue levels out of me. Granted he could be done as just a fatebender but that’d go against my goals in this column--making him an even mix of the two, however, felt spot on. What we end up with is a quick and charismatic escape artist who, when things go awry for him, can draw upon fate to make sure he gets out of whatever situation he’s stuck in whether through a fate-fueled reroll or by creating a distraction for the audience (Chaos Theory ftw!)

Medium humanoid (human), fatebender (mascot) 6/rogue (thief) 6
Armor Class 16 (studded leather)
Hit Points 78 (12d8+24)
Speed 30 ft.

12 (+1)18 (+4)14 (+2)13 (+1)10 (+0)16 (+3)

Saving Throws Dex +8, Cha +7
Skills Acrobatics +12, Investigation +9, Perception +8 Performance +7, Sleight of Hand +8; disguise kit +5, thieves’ tools +12
Sensespassive Perception 18
Languages English, thieves’ cant
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)

Background: Performer. Houdini is never without a stage or room to do his act whether in a queen’s castle or a tavern. He receives free accommodations (including a room and meal) each night he performs and is recognized while going about a settlement where he’s performed at least one evening (and is typically well-liked for his unusual talents).

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

Fate Points (5 points/Long Rest). Houdini can spend fate points to fuel various fate features. Whenever he finishes a short rest, he regains 3 fate points.

  • Chaos Theory (2 points). Houdini can use an action to choose one highly unlikely event to occur within 50 feet of him. The exact nature of this event is left up to the GM’s discretion but is otherwise limited to any event that could conceivably happen, however unlikely, but nothing that requires supernatural actions to occur (a cat distracting the guards, the barman’s cask suddenly breaking, or drawing a hand of winning cards).
  • Fatebend (1 point). Whenever a creature makes an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw within 50 feet of Houdini (including himself), he can use his reaction to force that creature to reroll the d20 after the result of the roll is known but before the outcome is determined. Houdini may not reroll an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw that has already been rerolled using this feature.
  • Good Luck Charm (1 point). As an action, Houdini causes good luck to radiate outward from him like a beacon. For the next minute, creatures within 10 feet of Houdini (including himself) have advantage on attack rolls. As a bonus action on his turn, he can suppress this feature’s effects for a creature of his choice until the beginning of his next turn.
  • Never Leave Home Without It (1 point). Whenever Houdini would take bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage, he can reduce the damage by up to 9 (1d6+6).

Favored Fortunes. Whenever a creature within 50 feet of Houdini rolls a d20 for an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw that results in a 20, he regains 1 fate point.

Luck Beats Skill. Houdini can add his Charisma modifier (+3) to attack and damage rolls with improvised weapons, simple weapons, and unarmed strikes instead of any other ability modifier.

Second-Story Work. Climbing does not cost Houdini extra movement. When he makes a running jump, the distance he covers increases by 4 feet.

Sneak Attack (1/Turn). Houdini deals an extra 10 (3d6) 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 Houdini that isn’t incapacitated and Houdini doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

Extra Attack. Houdini attacks twice, instead of once, whenever he takes the Attack action on his turn.

Unarmed Strike. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 bludgeoning damage.

Improvised Weapon. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+3) bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage (determined by object).

Pistol. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 30/90 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d10+4) piercing damage.

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

Mike Myler

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