5E Mythological Figures: Hercules

The day many of you have been waiting for is finally here. Perhaps the best known Western mythological figure of all is hitting this column with his incredibly powerful fists—let’s see if it lives up to the task as we take on Hercules!

Hercules DnD 5e banner.jpg


There are plenty of heroes in the myths of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire (like say Atalanta, Odysseus, Perseus, Achilles) but they are all in the shadow of the man of might: Heracles. Er, Hercules. Same guy! One of Zeus’ many (many, many) bastard offspring, as a baby Hercules fights off two snakes sent by Hera to kill him—but she doesn’t stop there. Later on after he’s been wed she drives him to a fit of madness that ends with him slaughtering his family. So it is he undertakes the 12 Labors, the feats for which he became best known. These include slaying the Nemean Lion, nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, and Stymphalian Birds, capturing the Golden Hind of Artemis, the Erymanthian Boar, the Cretan Bull, and Cerberus (yes, that Cerberus), obtaining the girdle of Hippolyta, the Mares of Diomedes, the cattle of the giant Geryon, and the apples of Hesperides, and cleaning the Augean stables in a single day. He accomplishes all of these with a bit of cleverness and his immense strength.

These are only the beginning of his adventures however and he gets into all sorts of trouble (the earth-loving giant Antaeus that he wrestles will appear in the column next week). Hera keeps mucking up his life in either mythos, causing the deaths of many with her lethal mischief that plagues him right up until his demise. Hercules’ end comes after his final paramour, Deianira, gets tricked into touching him with a cursed shirt covered in the blood of a centaur—blood tainted by the poison of the Lernaean Hydra via arrows that Hercules used to killed this same centaur. When it’s placed on him he succumbs to the poison, and after his death Zeus recognizes his greatness and he ascends to godhood.

I personally despise croney-ist calls for engagement but so many of you have so often asked for this build that at this point I have to admit, I am genuinely looking forward to your collective feedback. Please tell us all what you’re thinking!

Design Notes: The name of the game with Hercules is strength and that’s what I focused on. That and beating people with his fists. Folk Hero is an easy background to land on for him but given his divine nature I leaned into the zealot barbarian path before wrapping up the rest with champion archetype fighter levels. The two grappling-focused core feats work with the remaining 3 ability score bonuses to give him decent physical statistics, and then because I know there’d be some dragging over the coals if he didn’t have a super level of strength, I added in a belt of storm giant strength embodied in the hide of the Nemean Lion.

Let’s do the numbers! For those of you that might not be familiar yet, I balance these builds off of two sources: the DMG’s questionable rubric and the one Blog of Holding cooked up by reverse-engineering everything in the Monster Manual. The breakdown was (DMG: 10ac+15.5hp+31atk+9dam=65.5/4 for) 16.375 and (BoH: 12ac+19hp+22atk+11dam+24sav=88/5 for) 17.6, and as I’m sure some of you have already rapidly figured out averages out to 16.9875. Being so damnably close I’m inclined to round up because god(s) forbid he picks up a sword or something and increase that damage code!

Hercules/Heracles
Medium humanoid (human), neutral good barbarian (holy) 8/fighter (champion) 11
Armor Class 18 (Constitution, cloak of protection)
Hit Points 188 (8d12+11d10+76)
Speed 40 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
29 (+9)​
16 (+3)​
18 (+4)​
10 (+0)​
9 (–1)​
10 (+0)​
Saving Throws Str +16, Dex +4, Con +11, Int +1, Wis +0, Cha +1
Skills Animal Handling +5, Athletics +15, Perception +5, Survival +5
Senses passive Perception 15
Languages Greek
Challenge 17 (18,000 XP)

Background: Yeoman. Hercules is always able to rely on the hospitality of commoners to help him hide or rest provided he poses no danger in doing so, going so far as to shield him from being discovered (though not at the cost of their lives).

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

Amazonian Girdle. The Girdle of Hippolyta functions as a belt of storm giant strength that increases his Strength to 29. Without it, his Strength score is 20 (Str +11, Athletics +11, CR 14, running long jump distance decreased to 5 feet, Unarmed +11 [1d4+5], Rock +13 [1d4+5]).

Danger Sense. Hercules 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.

Divine Soldier. Spellcasters do not require material components when casting raise dead or similar spells targeting Hercules to bring him back to life.

Feat: Brawling. Hercules is proficient with unarmed strikes and improvised weapons.

Feat: Grappler. Hercules has advantage on attack rolls against a creature he is grappling and he can use an action to try to pin a creature he’s grappled. To do so, Hercules makes another grapple check. If he succeeds, Hercules and the creature are both restrained until the grapple ends.

Feral Instinct. Hercules has advantage on initiative rolls. Additionally, if he is surprised at the beginning of combat and isn’t incapacitated, he can act normally on his first turn, but only if he enters his rage before doing anything else on that turn.

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

Improved Critical. Hercules’ weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20.

Nemean Hide. The impervious skin of the lion so famously slain by Hercules is treated as a cloak of protection. Without it, his AC becomes 17 and his saving throw bonuses are all reduced by 1.

Rage (4/Long Rest). On his turn, Hercules 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. Hercules can also end his rage on his turn as a bonus action. While raging, he gains the following benefits.
  • Hercules has advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When Hercules makes a melee weapon attack using Strength, he deals 2 extra damage.
  • Hercules has resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
  • Hercules first successful weapon attack on his turn deals an extra 1d6+4 radiant damage.
  • Once per rage when he fails a saving throw, Hercules can reroll it.
Reckless Attack. When Hercules 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.

Remarkable Athlete. Hercules adds +3 to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check he makes that doesn’t already use his proficiency bonus. In addition, when he makes a running long jump, the distance he can cover increases by 5 feet.

Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Hercules can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+11 hit points.


ACTIONS
Extra Attack. Hercules attacks three times, instead of once, whenever he takes the Attack action on his turn. When he uses a bonus action to engage in two-weapon fighting, he can add his Strength modifier to the damage of his fourth attack.

Unarmed. Melee Weapon Attack: +15 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (1d4+9) bludgeoning damage and Hercules can use a bonus action to grapple the target with a successful Strength (Athletics) check opposed by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.

Greatclub. Melee Weapon Attack: +15 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (1d8+9) bludgeoning damage.

Spear. Melee Weapon Attack: +15 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d6+9) piercing damage, or 13 (1d8+9) piercing damage if wielded in with both hands.

Spear. Ranged Weapon Attack: +17 to hit, range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (1d6+9) piercing damage.

Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +17 to hit, range 20/40 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (1d4+9) bludgeoning damage.

Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8+3) piercing damage.
 
Last edited:
Mike Myler

Comments

plisnithus8

Explorer
Seems like Hercules would be a little stronger than normal human 20 as a demigod (wrestling constrictors as a baby) and then increase with the girdle, and the Nemean Hide IIRC provides some heavy AC. His usual weapons are club and long bow (don't remember him throwing rocks).
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
Seems like Hercules would be a little stronger than normal human 20 as a demigod (wrestling constrictors as a baby) and then increase with the girdle, and the Nemean Hide IIRC provides some heavy AC. His usual weapons are club and long bow (don't remember him throwing rocks).
How would you RAW give him a higher Strength than 20?
(also I tossed a greatclub and longbow in there--rocks are just improvised weapons that are thrown)
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
Int 10, Wis 9?
Where is the cleverness you spoke of in the beginning?
Some good choices by Hercules' player I'd say! I left the last level he could take open so folks who have a different idea of Hercules in mind (like, say, a weapon-master version or something) can tack on a 12th level of fighter and choose the most appropriate feat—or ability score increase to Intelligence/Wisdom.

And a spear. He is specifically described as using a spear in several of the stories.
Added in a spear for ya.
 

paladinn

Explorer
I'm not sure Herc was really a barbarian. He only "raged" when he was driven insane. By that standard Anyone could be a barbarian. I definitely see him as a/the iconic Champion. Maybe with some ranger thrown in, but not sure what/who would be his favored foe/enemy.

RAW his strength would be hard to represent. It would definitely be up in the 20's, maybe even 29, as he fought gods a number of times (including Ares). I do not at all see how the Nemean lion skin would increase STR; it was impenetrable, and should increase AC or grant DR, but definitely not increase STR. Herc's STR was from him being a son of Zeus, period.
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
I'm not sure Herc was really a barbarian. He only "raged" when he was driven insane. By that standard Anyone could be a barbarian. I definitely see him as a/the iconic Champion. Maybe with some ranger thrown in, but not sure what/who would be his favored foe/enemy.

RAW his strength would be hard to represent. It would definitely be up in the 20's, maybe even 29, as he fought gods a number of times (including Ares). I do not at all see how the Nemean lion skin would increase STR; it was impenetrable, and should increase AC or grant DR, but definitely not increase STR. Herc's STR was from him being a son of Zeus, period.
Well the Mythological Figure NPC builds are all rules-as-written so if you want a higher Strength score than 29 in this build, there needs to be a thing for it. I suppose we could call the Nemean Lion's skin a cloak of protection and tack in the girdle, but he needs an item to make the jump past Strength 20.
I'd also suggest that maybe his Rage doesn't look like he's a screaming idiot, and point out that it gives him advantage on all Strength checks and saving throws—something I'd say is quintessentially Herculean.
 

Anoth

Adventurer
I like it. Although I will reskin this for a spoiled brat son of a god in my campaign. One that’s used to getting his way and being ogled like a celebrity athlete.

really looking forward to a king Solomon build someday when the creative juices are flowing in that direction. I don’t want to rush the creative process. It has to be when lightning strikes.

I so feel guilty that I take some of your builds from time to time and reskin then for other NPC’s. but your builds are generally pretty fun to play with as a DM to playfully antagonize PC’s.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
The problem with Herc as a PC is that he doesn't really get stronger as he adventures; he is always pretty much as strong as he needs to be. If he levels up, something else is benefiting--he seems to get more clever as the 12 labors progress.

The other thing is, post Hydra, he leans into archery pretty heavily (when you have magically poisonous arrows, why not?) with grappling on the side.
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
The problem with Herc as a PC is that he doesn't really get stronger as he adventures; he is always pretty much as strong as he needs to be. If he levels up, something else is benefiting--he seems to get more clever as the 12 labors progress.
^^^ This is why I (initially) picked the Nemean lion's hide for the Strength item (it is the first of the 12 labors).

(also, one of his fighting styles is archery)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Other than maybe letting him use his STR mod to archery damage I like it a lot. Very Herc and I think you balanced the various versions and possibilities well.
Yeh Strength mod for archery is thematic for any of the Greek heroes, they had a lot of strong archers
^^^ This is why I (initially) picked the Nemean lion's hide for the Strength item (it is the first of the 12 labors).

(also, one of his fighting styles is archery)
I think if you make it a Boon it technically can be gained anytime and doesnt have to be item bound
 

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