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D&D 5E Mythological Figures: Mary Read

We’ve already seen her counterpart in crime but you may not recognize this pirate anyway⁠—most people didn’t and she spent an absurd amount of her life disguised as a man. It couldn’t be anyone other than the one, the only, the inimitable Mary Read!

We’ve already seen her counterpart in crime but you may not recognize this pirate anyway⁠—most people didn’t and she spent an absurd amount of her life disguised as a man. It couldn’t be anyone other than the one, the only, the inimitable Mary Read!

Mary Read DnD 5e banner.jpg

Born in 1685 in England and the daughter of an extramarital affair, from the start Mary Read was presented as if she were a boy (the son her mother lost just before her birth) to gain access to her grandmother’s money (the old woman is said to have greatly disliked girls). It worked and the two collected inheritance for over a decade, and Mary kept the ruse going, first as a foot-boy then as a sailor, and then as a proper soldier in the British military (either in the Nine Years War or the War of the Spanish Succession). Although a talented combatant she leaves the military to marry a Flemish soldier, the two acquiring the ‘De drie hoefijzers’ (The Three Horeshoes) inn in The Netherlands. When he dies however, she dons her disguise again and briefly signs up with the Netherlands military before jumping on a ship headed to the West Indies.

Pirates take the vessel and she joins them! This continues for a while until she takes the King’s pardon (in 1718 or 1719), becoming a privateer for a short time before engaging in mutiny. By 1720 she—still disguised as a man—joins Calico Jack and Anne Bonny’s crew, stealing the sloop William from Nassau. Later that year a pirate hunter (Captain Jonathan Barnet) ambushes Calico’s crew when they’re drinking it up on Negril Point off Jamaica. The pirates make a poor show of it and only Mary and Anne put up a fight, Calico eventually surrendering and asking for quarter. He and his crew hang for piracy but the women reveal their genders and that each is pregnant (‘pleading the belly’), convincing the court to stay their executions. Fever is said to have overtaken her in April of 1721, and with no record of birth its thought that Mary was buried with her unborn child.

Design Notes: With Grace O’Malley, Anne Bonny, and Ching Shih this column has got a serious collection of fierce lady pirates! In Mary’s case it seems that she had a big penchant for disguising herself so we’re going to lean into that for her build (the Mastermind archetype), and beyond that keep in mind her military background. The latter says soldier to me which is Champion territory, and then we’ll use her ABI’s as an opportunity to elaborate on both those qualities with the Actor and Sentinel feats. Looking at the numbers the DMG lands at 6.25 and the Blog of Holding at 7.4, averaging out to 6.825. Usually I’m inclined to round up but there’s not that much pulling for Mary to have a higher CR (Improved Critical and one extra turn during combat don’t feel like they have enough extra weight to justify that).

Mary Read
Medium humanoid (human), neutral rogue (genius) 6/fighter (champion) 5
Armor Class 17 (studded leather, shield)
Hit Points 76 (6d8+5d10+22)
Speed 30 ft.
12 (+1)​
16 (+3)​
14 (+2)​
13 (+1)​
10 (+0)​
14 (+2)​
Saving Throws Dex +7, Int +5

Skills Athletics +5, Deception +10, Insight +8, Perception +4, Sleight of Hand +7, Stealth +11; disguise kit +9, forgery kit +5, thieves’ tools +7
Senses passive Perception 14
Languages Common, Thieves’ Cant
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)

Background - Imitator: Duplicate Persona. Mary has the papers, clothing, and contacts required to justify an entirely different identity. When Mary has access to an official document or example of a creature’s handwriting, she can make forgeries of similar papers (whether personal or official).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On her turn, Mary can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+4 hit points.

Sneak Attack (1/Turn). Mary deals an extra 14 (4d6) damage when she 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 Mary that isn’t incapacitated and she doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.

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

Extra Attack. Mary attacks twice.

Saber. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6+5) slashing damage.

Dagger (4). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft. or thrown 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) piercing damage.

Pistol (4). Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 30/90 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d10+3) piercing damage.

Uncanny Dodge. When an attacker Mary can see hits her with an attack, she can use her reaction to halve the attack’s damage against her.

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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Aaron L

Nice stuff. I rememeber reading about Mary and Anne "Pleading Their Bellies" in a book called Facts & Fallacies that my grandma got back in 1988. Really interesting book, full of historical and scientific curiosities; I'll have to dig it up and give it another read, I still have it around here somewhere.


Small God of the Dozens
So, introducing Captain Jake Swallow. Problem solved, no one will ever see through my cunning ruse. African Swallow btw, fully laden.

On topic, nice pirate build with a little twist. I'm picturing The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate from Aardman's The Pirates! movie.


Small God of the Dozens
Have you done Roland yet, either from the Song of Roland or the Robert Browning poem? And yes, I'm asking because I'm a Dark Tower fan, and also because I don't remember where your list is.

Rafael Martin

Tell you what--if Monday's post (who I think is going to be Peter Pan?) nets 20 legitimate comments and/or likes, I'll jump the queue and get Hercules up right quick.
Otherwise I'm saving him for a dead week where the column won't get overshadows by big RPG news.
Challenge accepted!!! I am really looking forward to seeing Peter Pan. I hope its not the Disney movie version! :ROFLMAO:

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