5E Mythological Figures: Loki

Today’s Mythological Figures post is definitely not a post about one of mythology’s greatest liars and manipulators, the master deceiver and traitorous god that humanity calls Loki!

Loki BANNER DnD 5e.jpg

As is often the case with mythological characters there’s multiple sources for information about Loki. What you’ll find below is a broad interpretation of the myth--a master deceiver and expert manipulator--as opposed to a precise rendition of Loki from one of the eddas. Things he’s credited for: being the father of Fenrir, Hel, and the world serpent Jörmungandr, being Thor’s brother uncle, engineering the death of Baldr, changing forms, and generally playing the trickster causing mischief amongst the gods.

Design Notes: I originally was thinking “oh golly he should have glibness” but then realized that with the feats, Expertise, and Reliable Talent that he can’t get under a 31 on a Charisma (Deception) check so why bother? There’s more sneakiness to get out of him with shapeshifting too--and don’t forget the spellcasting either to greatly enhance one of his already ridiculously high skill bonuses (with advantage via enhance ability or a +10 bonus to Stealth from pass without trace, which he can keep concentrating on after changing into a cockroach or what have you). A quick look at the numbers: the DMG lands Loki at 17.2 and the Blog of Holding at 16 which averages out on the lower end, which I’m inclined to agree with. On the outset the huge numbers for his skill bonuses are intimidating, but his magical potency is limited and he’s really not designed to stand in the front line of combat (and at 16 he’s just a weeeeee bit more powerful than his hammer-loving brother’s build in this series).

Loki
Medium humanoid (human), chaotic evil rogue (genius) 17/bard 1/druid (lunar) 8
Armor Class 20 (+3 studded leather, cloak of protection, ring of protection)
Hit Points 143 (26d8+26)
Speed 30 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
9 (-1)​
16 (+3)​
12 (+1)​
16 (+3)​
14 (+2)​
20 (+5)​
Saving Throws Str +1, Dex +13, Con +3, Int +13, Wis +12, Cha +7

Skills Deception +21, Insight +18, Intimidation +13, Performance +21, Persuasion +21, Sleight of Hand +19, Stealth +19
Tools disguise kit +11, forgery kit +11, thieves’ tools +11
Senses passive Perception 12
Languages Scandinavian (?)
Challenge 16 (15,000 XP)

Background - Liar Born: Falsehoods. Loki’s preparations when assuming a false identity are flawless and consummate. In addition, as long as he’s seen the handwriting or type of paper he is duplicating, he can forge a false document.

Bardic Inspiration 1d6 (5/Short Rest). As a bonus action on his turn, Hayreddin can choose one other creature within 60 feet who can hear him. That creature gains one Bardic Inspiration die, a d6. Once within the next 10 minutes, the creature can roll the die and add the number rolled to one ability check or, attack roll, saving throw, or weapon damage roll it makes. The creature can wait until after it rolls before deciding to use the Bardic Inspiration die, but must decide before the GM says whether a roll succeeds or fails. In addition, a creature can use its reaction when attacked to use the Bardic Inspiration die, adding the result to its AC and possibly causing the attack to miss.

Blindsense. If Loki is able to hear, he’s aware of the location of any hidden or invisible creature within 10 feet of him.

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

Evasion. When Loki is subjected to an effect that allows him to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, he instead takes no damage if he succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if he fails.

Fast Learner. After Loki has heard a creature speak for 1 minute or longer, he can mimic its manner of speaking as long as he knows the same language as the creature (allowing him to seem like he is local to a given region).

Feat: Acting. Loki has advantage on Charisma (Deception) and Charisma (Performance) checks made to impersonate. In addition, he can mimic the speech of other creatures he’s heard speak for at least 1 minute. A suspicious listener can see through his mimicry by succeeding on a Wisdom (Insight) check opposed by Loki’s Charisma (Deception) check.

Feat: Brilliant. Loki always knows how long it will be before the next sunset or sunrise, the northerly direction, and can perfectly remember anything he’s experienced within the last 31 days.

Feat: Diplomatic. Loki can make a Charisma (Persuasion) check contested by the Wisdom (Insight) check of a creature that can understand what he says during 1 minute of talking. On a success, as long as Loki remains within 60 feet of it (and for 1 minute afterward) the target is charmed by him. Loki automatically fails on the check if he or his companions are fighting the target.

Feat: Master of Intrigue. Loki can use an action to fool one humanoid he can see within 30 feet of him. The target must be able to hear him make a Charisma (Deception) check contested by its Wisdom (Insight) check. On a success, the target is fooled until the end of Loki’s next turn or until he attempts to fool a different target. Loki doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from movement around a fooled target and he has advantage when attacking a fooled target. On a failure, Loki can’t fool the target for 1 hour.

Liar Through and Through. Loki’s thoughts are only readable when he allows it, and he can make a contested Charisma (Deception) check to project whatever thoughts (truthful or falsehoods) he likes. No magic can make Loki tell the truth or determine whether or not Loki is lying.

Reliable Talent. Whenever Loki makes an ability check that lets him add his proficiency bonus, he can treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10.

Sneak Attack (1/Turn). Loki deals an extra 31 (9d6) 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 Loki that isn’t incapacitated and Loki doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

Spellcasting. Loki is a 9th level spellcaster that uses Charisma as his spellcasting ability for bardic spells (spell save DC 21; +13 to hit with spell attacks) and Wisdom for druidic spells (spell save DC 18; +10 to hit with spell attacks. Loki knows the following spells bard’s spells and has prepared these druid spells:
Cantrips: druidcraft [D], friends, guidance [D], produce flame [D], vicious mockery
1st-level (4 slots): charm person, disguise self, hideous laughter, sleep, speak with animals [D]​
2nd-level (3 slots): darkvision [D], enhance ability [D], pass without trace [D]​
3rd-level (3 slots): conjure animals [D], dispel magic [D], speak with plants [D]​
4th-level (3 slots): confusion [D], conjure woodland beings [D]​
5th-level (1 slots): scrying [D]​

Tactician. Loki is able to use the Help action to aid an ally attack a creature as long as the target of the attack is able to see and hear Loki and is within 30 feet of him.

Tactician’s Insight. After Loki 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. Loki also knows when he and the target have equal scores in one of these categories.

Wild Shape (2/Short Rest). Loki can use his action to magically assume the shape of a beast that he has seen before that has a maximum CR of 2. He can stay in a beast shape for 4 hours. Loki then reverts to his normal form unless he expends another use of this feature. He can revert to his normal form earlier by using a bonus action on his turn. Loki automatically reverts if he falls unconscious, drop to 0 hit points, or dies. While Loki is transformed, the following rules apply:
  • Loki’s game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the beast, but he retains his alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. Loki also retains all of his skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as Loki and the bonus in its stat block is higher than his, use the creature’s bonus instead of his. If the creature has any legendary or lair actions, Loki can’t use them.
  • When Loki transforms, he assumes the beast’s hit points and Hit Dice. When he reverts to his normal form, Loki returns to the number of hit points he had before he transformed. However, if he reverts as a result of dropping to 0 hit points, any excess damage carries over to his normal form.
  • Loki can’t cast spells, and his ability to speak or take any action that requires hands is limited to the capabilities of his beast form. Transforming doesn’t break Loki’s concentration on a spell he’s already cast, however, or prevent him from taking actions that are part of a spell, such as call lightning, that he’s already cast.
  • Loki retains the benefit of any features from his class, race, or other source and can use them if the new form is physically capable of doing so. However, he can’t use any of his special senses, such as darkvision, unless the new form also has that sense.
  • Loki chooses whether his equipment falls to the ground in his space, merges into his new form, or is worn by it. Worn equipment functions as normal, but the GM decides whether it is practical for the new form to wear a piece of equipment, based on the creature’s shape and size. Loki’s equipment doesn’t change size or shape to match the new form, and any equipment that the new form can’t wear must either fall to the ground or merge with it. Equipment that merges with the form has no effect until he leaves the form.
  • Loki’s natural weapon attacks made in beast form count as magical for the purposes of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.


ACTIONS
Magic Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 5 ft. or thrown 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4+4) magical piercing damage.


REACTIONS
Uncanny Dodge. When an attacker Loki can see hits him with an attack, Loki can use his reaction to halve the attack’s damage against him.

Unintended Target. Loki can use his reaction to cause an attack targeting him to instead target a creature within 5 feet that is granting him cover from that attack.
 
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Mike Myler

Comments

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
What is it that you have in mind that makes you feel he must be an epic level?
Mechanical necessity probably?

Even if you went bard 13 and druid 8 for the full wildshape abilities in terms of movement, that'd still be "epic".
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Mechanical necessity probably?

Even if you went bard 13 and druid 8 for the full wildshape abilities in terms of movement, that'd still be "epic".
Bard already has shapechange spells. There is no need for a Druid build.

Even a Level 1 Bard with Disguise Self covers most of the shapechanging that Merlin does.

Polymorph at Slot 4 handles anything else.

So far, even a Level 9 Bard seems to cover everything that Merlin does.

Is there anything else?
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I finally tracked down a textual source for the tradition that Loki and Óðinn are blood brothers. It is in Loka·senna.



Loki said.
Óðinn, do you remember that (time),
(in) which we two blended blood together
in early days?

Loki kvað:
Mantu þat, Óðinn,
er vit í árdaga
blendum blóði saman?



By this commingling of blood, Óðinn ritually adopts Loki as a sibling, now sharing the same blood of a single family. This Norse custom legally and formally adopts Loki, making Loki a member of the clan of æsir.

Elsewhere in Skáld·skapar·mál, Loki is poetically referred to as "the brother of Hel·blindi", where Helblindi is a nickname of Óðinn.

In sum, Loki and Óðinn are legally adopted brothers. Thus Loki is the uncle of Þórr.



Óðinn is more prominent in Denmark, Þórr is more prominent in Norway, and Freyr is more prominent in Sweden.

Norwegians perceive Óðinn to be treacherous, even evil. His encounters with humans end badly for the humans. In Norway during the Viking Period, there are virtually zero placenames named after him, as opposed to the many hundreds of placenames named after Þórr, Freyr, Njǫrðr, and Ullr. In Norway, Óðinn is insignificant.

Between the pair of them, Óðinn and Loki, both are ethically ambiguous. In D&D versions, Þórr, Óðinn, and Loki, can easily be lawful good, true neutral, and chaotic evil, respectively.
 
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Arnwolf666

Adventurer
Bard already has shapechange spells. There is no need for a Druid build.

Even a Level 1 Bard with Disguise Self covers most of the shapechanging that Merlin does.

Polymorph at Slot 4 handles anything else.

So far, even a Level 9 Bard seems to cover everything that Merlin does.

Is there anything else?
how about time travel and teleportation and animating objects. I watched the Disney cartoon.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
Bard already has shapechange spells. There is no need for a Druid build.
A wizard has the same shapechange spells. From at least the late Renaissance on, the perception of Merlin as been that of a wizard.

There are legend that merlin transported the stones of Stonehenge. Telekinesis is Wizard only. Teleport is a 7th level spell now.

Anyway, you're convinced he's a 9-13th level Bard, so you do you!
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
how about time travel and teleportation and animating objects. I watched the Disney cartoon.
The "time travel" was someone else putting him in suspended animation. Less relevant.

Animating objects. Remind me what he animated.

Heh, Disney is less a source for mythological accuracy.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
A wizard has the same shapechange spells. From at least the late Renaissance on, the perception of Merlin as been that of a wizard.

There are legend that merlin transported the stones of Stonehenge. Telekinesis is Wizard only. Teleport is a 7th level spell now.
The mythologically accurate Merlin − relating to Myrddin Wyllt − is in fact a ‘bard’.

Dont forget, a D&D Lore Bard which seems worthwhile for Merlin can access a spell if necessary.

Animating objects is a Celtic thing. I have in mind a story about someone moving a great boulder out of the way by making music to make it ‘dance’ away.

So, I consider ‘transporting stones’ as best explained by Animate Object.

At level 9, a Bard can cast Animate Object to animate a Huge stone.



For what it is worth, a level 9 Bard can also cast Teleportation Circle, which seems more useful for transporting stones, if that is how it was done.



Anyway, you're convinced he's a 9-13th level Bard, so you do you!
If the descriptions about the deeds of Merlin require him to be epic, that is fine too. I personally dont see anything epic. But maybe I am forgetting something. So far, I see him doing roughly Level 13 things.



I am going to assume Merlin has True Seeing, at slot 6. So, that is at least a level 11 Bard.
 
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Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
The mythologically accurate Merlin − relating to Myrddin Wyllt − is in fact a ‘bard’.
And yet that isn’t who that Legendary Figurearticle is based is it?

It is rather based on Geoffrey of Monmoth’s accounts of Merlin Ambrosius. Merlin Ambrosius is an amalgamation of at least three different figures only one of who was Myrddin Wyllt.

Myrddin Wyllt was a bard. Merlin Ambrosius is an enchanter and conjurer and diviner, I.e. a wizard.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
And yet that isn’t who that Legendary Figurearticle is based is it?

It is rather based on Geoffrey of Monmoth’s accounts of Merlin Ambrosius. Merlin Ambrosius is an amalgamation of at least three different figures only one of who was Myrddin Wyllt.

Myrddin Wyllt was a bard. Merlin Ambrosius is an enchanter and conjurer and diviner, I.e. a wizard.
Enchanters and diviners are precisely the kind of magic that a Celtic bard does.



It just so happens, the 5e Bard is awesome for representing mythologically accurate Celtic bards. (The class is also great for Norse shaman.)
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
The Merlin of Geoffrey of Monmoth, is mostly a prophet, plus an incident of a polymorph disguise, plus moving stones to make Stonehenge.

This is clearly a Celtic bard and a D&D Bard.
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
All shapeshifting spells use the shapeshifted form's mental ability scores. Nothing about Merlin or Loki's shapechanging indicates to me that their Intelligence scores suddenly dropped down to 1 or 2, thus the druid levels on both counts (though for Merlin he's got the herding archetype to get the owl and constant beast speak). This also allows for limited spell use while in animal form (as long as they go in already concentrating on a given spell).

Edit: Also yeah I'm in Pittsburgh (YINZ BEEN DAHNTAN ANAT?). Merlin also mayyyy have gotten a little boost because I know the audience in here (who are more anglophile than anglo-averse ;) ).
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Edit: Also yeah I'm in Pittsburgh (YINZ BEEN DAHNTAN ANAT?). Merlin also mayyyy have gotten a little boost because I know the audience in here (who are more anglophile than anglo-averse ;) ).
:D



All shapeshifting spells use the shapeshifted form's mental ability scores. Nothing about Merlin or Loki's shapechanging indicates to me that their Intelligence scores suddenly dropped down to 1 or 2, thus the druid levels on both counts (though for Merlin he's got the herding archetype to get the owl and constant beast speak). This also allows for limited spell use while in animal form (as long as they go in already concentrating on a given spell).
Possibly Merlin drops his Intelligence when taking an animal form. Even if so, the Polymorph spell allows one to retain ones personality. The beast form might not be a genius but it is still be a ‘playable’ character and carry out a simple intention. (Even concentrate on the spell.) It doesnt bother me if Merlin keeps his wits about him in animal form. That can be possible too. But eight levels of Druid just to turn into a witty bird? It seems excessive. Also a Bard with Polymorph seems to match the Merlin stories better.

Most of the shapechanges of Merlin are Disguise Self, such as appearing as the Wild Man.

While Disguise Self can transform ones own appearance at slot 1, it seems the only spell in 5e that can change someone elses appearance perfectly in order to disguise them is slot 9 True Polymorph. That seems crazy! If so, it would have to be a level 17 Bard to access True Polymorph. But this would be because of an oddity of the current 5e spell list, not really a representation of power.

Of course, a level 9 Bard with the Seeming spell can create the disguise (lasting for 8 hours). But the spell DC would need to be high enough to pass physical inspection while the disguised person is having sex.

All in all, level 13 Bard works well.

The only issue is how often does Merlin turn into an animal (rare), and how intelligent is this animal’s behavior (not very).

Requiring epic (epic!) levels just to turn into a witty bird?

Level 13 Bard makes more sense for Merlin.
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
You can only concentrate on one spell at a time, and both polymorph and true polymorph are concentration spells. I'm comfortable with his higher level build (access to the strongest divination spells is definitely among his repertoire for future reading and such) but I'm always happy to welcome extra builds onto the thread if you want to make a level 13 bard Merlin. :)
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
You can only concentrate on one spell at a time, and both polymorph and true polymorph are concentration spells. I'm comfortable with his higher level build (access to the strongest divination spells is definitely among his repertoire for future reading and such) but I'm always happy to welcome extra builds onto the thread if you want to make a level 13 bard Merlin. :)
Yeah, Polymorph requires concentration. If cast on oneself, one can still maintain concentration on it while in beast form. That is no problem.

I dont think Merlin casts any secondary spells while in beast form.

So, Polymorph suffices.
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
I was just pointing out that if you're shapeshifting and not doing it through Wild Shape, you are concentrating on a spell. Obviously you can concentrate on polymorph while using it to assume the form of another creature otherwise it'd have a fixed duration. My bigger contention is that from what I read, Merlin (and for that matter Loki) assumes the form of ___. They don't become animals and lose their minds, which is a thing you see elsewhere in mythology, they just take on a new shape with all their mental faculties intact to go about being mischievous or aloof or what have you. That's what the access to Wild Shape is about. Getting to do some magic while shapeshifting is a bonus though (both narratively and in play).
 

Mike Myler

Adventurer
Oooo I did forget about animal shapes though! So you might do a bard of 18th level and pick up shapeshifting through there. :D
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I was just pointing out that if you're shapeshifting and not doing it through Wild Shape, you are concentrating on a spell. Obviously you can concentrate on polymorph while using it to assume the form of another creature otherwise it'd have a fixed duration. My bigger contention is that from what I read, Merlin (and for that matter Loki) assumes the form of ___. They don't become animals and lose their minds, which is a thing you see elsewhere in mythology, they just take on a new shape with all their mental faculties intact to go about being mischievous or aloof or what have you. That's what the access to Wild Shape is about. Getting to do some magic while shapeshifting is a bonus though (both narratively and in play).
Loki is just a full-on shapeshifter. I have no difficulty with how you built him. (Tho weirdly he cant shapeshift into a hawk? So needs to borrow the feather cloak of Frejya to do it? Not sure what is going on there. Maybe her hawk form is extra fast, which would be pertinent when racing the eagle?)



Regarding Merlin. I dont think Merlin does anything special while an animal. He just does what an animal (with his own personality) would do. I see the Druid Wild Shape as unnecessary. And epic levels to get it seems too expensive.
 
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