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Level Up (A5E) Mythological Figures: One-Eyed Žižka

Come on over and take a bit of a ride in a special entry of Mythological Figures today—hop on the war wagon of Jan Žižka!

Jan Žižka Level Up DnD 5E BANNER.jpg

Jan Žižka z Trocnova a Kalicha (which translates to John Žižka of Trocnov and the Chalice) was born sometime after 1360 and lived a life of victory few can compare to before his death on October 11th in 1424. He is also known by a more ominous moniker—One-Eyed Žižka—made even more tragic when he lost his second eye to battle. What is maybe most impressive about Jan is that he continued to be undefeated even after he became completely blind.

The story of One-Eyed Žižka begins (if the legends are true) in the village of Trocnov when he was born into aristocracy in the forest beneath an oak belonging to one of the local Meierhofs (landlords or their subordinates). Not much is known about his family, their thought to be meager estate, and his siblings other than that their coat of arms included a crayfish. The first definitive record of Žižka is in the black book of the Rosenbergs, likely because he sought restitution for a slight or debt owed to his family, making use of his allies to steal from merchants and travelers alike. In the following years he joined the causes of others arrayed against the Rosenbergs until he was forced out of his home in Trocnov, fully driving him into becoming an outlaw until receiving a pardon from King Wenceslas on April 25th 1409 (along with a bit of vindication too).

The first of Žižka’s many victories was at the enormous—forces numbering by the tens of thousands—Battle of Grunwald (also known as the First Battle of Tannenberg) a year later. Nearly a decade passes and he's with the Hussites, a Czech Proto-Protestant Christian movement following the teachings of a reformer named Jan Hus that began in the Kingdom of Bohemia and spread throughout its territories, eventually to Hungary (part of it that is now the country of Slovakia). Dissatisfied with the armistice declared in the end of 1419, he takes his forces through a few cities (and battles) until reaching Tábor where he becomes a hejtman of the city’s strict military community.

With the death of King Wenceslas intrigues for the crown of the Kingdom of Bohemia (whether it was a hereditary monarchy, giving King Sigismund of Hungary rights to the throne, or if it was an elective monarchy) led to a siege on Prague once the Church of Rome endorsed Sigismund. The city came to the Taborites for help and Žižka answered the call to defend them, training his peasant forces in the use of their farming tools (namely the flail) as weapons and repelling the siege on July 14th. More warfare followed until by the end of 1420 most of Bohemia was held by Hussite forces. Conflict continued over the course of three crusades and a civil war in the next four years (costing him his second eye in 1421), and he died during the last campaign (against Moravia to dislodge Sigismund’s forces there, after peace was brokered by the future Ultraquist archbishop of Prague John of Rokycany) though of course that has an epic bit to it: Žižka asked that his skin be made into drums so that even after death he would be leading his troops into battle. His bronze equestrian statue on Vitkov Hill in Prague is the third largest of its kind.

Let’s talk about the wagenbergs (vozová hradba in Czech). It’s not clear when exactly it was that this became the tactic, but this is circling the wagons and the first really powerful use of firearms on the battlefield. Once circled the wagons would be joined with chains, attaching at the corners to make it easy to quickly leave with hitched mounts. Digging a trench around the wagenberg, first artillery would be used to goad enemies into attacking, and then crossbowmen and pistoleers would repel charging knights before the counterattack by infantry and cavalry. In addition to championing the first versions of the handguns and anti-infantry field guns we know today as the pistol and howitzer, Žižka’s troops also utilized armored wagons fitted with muskets and cannons not unlike a tank—just half a millennium early. One might think this is how he lost that first eye (figuring out how to use firearms safely in an enclosed space) but that was from a stabbing wound way back in 1410.

Design Notes: Hey have you heard about this great Level Up project? It’s pretty snazzy. Since we’re in the final days of the campaign (the very popular thing you should totally think about pledging to!☺) and given the nature of this particular entry, we’re going to use the marshal class from Level Up. One of the design goals here was to open the character creation process up to more types of adventurers, and finding a subject as curious as One-Eyed Žižka is a difficult task so he makes for a great example.

Since I’m the regent I’ve got all the files—let’s see how he shapes up! There are definitely excellent options for him in the origins creation system before we even get into the marshal class: Ingenious Focus choice for the human heritage is great, the steamforged culture fits for what he was getting up to, the noble background is an obvious pick, and his destiny isn’t hard to figure out either (dominion). Next we’ll load up on the marshal class features, choosing for a commander that moves fast (the Swift Strategist archetype!) and is beloved (the famous option for Martial Renown). Then looking at combat maneuvers, with Combat Directives it’s best for him to lean into Sanguine Knot and for all the ranged bits obviously Biting Zephyr. As for each particular combat maneuver, emphasis gets put on attacking at range and then regaining control should things fall apart into melee combat. For Žižka’s Lessons of War (exploration-focused features) we’ll lean all the way into the marshal’s default choices (though that class gets more expanded options to select from) and pick those with the most team-focused benefits. This is an 11th level character who technically achieved his destiny, so he’s also got the human paragon feature and his destiny’s fulfillment feature (which includes an alignment, something pretty rare in Level Up!)

As for the numbers: you’ll quickly pick up on this being a pretty big character sheet! While O5E NPCs built using class levels can be a little bit of a hefty tool for running games, A5E adventurers have more traits, features, and descriptions (like abbreviated combat maneuvers) and really aren’t meant to be used as monsters. Worry not—there’s plenty of advice and guidance on building NPCs, and the Monstrous Menagerie’s appendix has over 50 different NPCs and variants so that ground is well covered already. For use as a PC however, Žižka is one intriguing adventurer I would be pretty keen to try out!


Jan “One-Eyed” Žižka

Medium humanoid, marshal (swift strategist) 11
Heritage (human: ingenious focus), Culture (steamforged)
Background (noble), Destiny (dominion), Prestige 5

Armor Class 17 (chain shirt, tower shield)
Hit Points 71 (11d10+11)
Speed 25 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
10 (+0)
14 (+2)​
12 (+1)​
12 (+1)​
14 (+2)​
16 (+3)​
Proficiency Bonus +4; Maneuver DC 14
Saving Throws Wis +6, Cha +6
Skills Culture, Engineering (+1d4; explosives +1d6, siegecraft +1d6), History (+1d4; wars +1d6), Perception, Persuasion (+1d6; leadership +1d8), Stealth (camouflage +1d4)
Tools gaming set (dice), land vehicles (+1d4), smith’s tools
Senses passive Investigation 17, passive Perception 21
Languages Czech, German, Hungarian, Latin

Background Feature: High Society. Žižka knows of—or personally knows—most of the noble families for hundreds of miles. In most settled areas he (and possibly his companions, if well-behaved) can find a noble host who will feed him, shelter him, and offer Žižka a rich lifestyle.

Call to Arms. When he rolls initiative, Žižka and each creature friendly to him that is within range of his Commanding Presence gain an expertise die (+1d4) to their initiative check. Additionally, when he rolls for initiative, he can switch his result with that of any ally he can see.

Combat Directives (Expanded). When a creature uses Žižka’s Commanding Presence to make an attack, it can simultaneously use one Biting Zephyr or Sanguine Knot combat maneuver that he knows. If the creature does not have any exertion points to spend on combat maneuvers, it does not require exertion points for that use but it cannot benefit from Combat Directives again until it has finished a short or long rest.

Combat Maneuvers (8 exertion/Rest). Žižka knows the Biting Zephyr and Sanguine Knot combat traditions. He can spend exertion to activate the following combat maneuvers:
Biting Zephyr: covering fire (1st), point blank shot (1st), quick draw (2nd), missile volley (3rd)​
Sanguine Knot: legion stance (1st), shoulder check (1st), back to back (2nd), look at me! (3rd)​

Commanding Presence. Žižka has a Commanding Presence which extends from him in a 30-foot radius. When Žižka takes the Attack action, he can forgo making one attack to allow a friendly creature within range of his Commanding Presence to make an attack instead. If the target can hear him, it can use its reaction to either cast a cantrip or make one weapon attack.
In addition, whenever a friendly creature starts its turn within range of Žižka’s Commanding Presence, the creature increases its Speed by 5 feet until the end of its turn.

Feat: Intuitive. If Žižka can see a creature’s mouth while it is speaking a language he knows, he is able to read its lips to understand what it is saying.

Follower: Cook (Seasoned). Once per day, when Žižka takes a short rest and expends Hit Dice, he and up to 4 allies heal 1 additional Hit Die.

Fulfillment Feature: Absolute Power. Žižka has advantage on checks made to influence his subjects. In addition, he gains the Lawful alignment trait (see below).

Human Paragon: Voracious Learner. Žižka gains an expertise die in each of three different skill or tool proficiencies (included above).

Intrepid (1/Rest). When Žižka makes an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw, he can choose to gain an expertise die (maximum +1d8) on that roll.

Inexorable Concentration (1/Long Rest). When Žižka fails a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration, he can immediately reroll it, taking the new result.

Lawful. Žižka emits a strong lawful aura for the purposes of any feature, spell, or trait that detects or affects Lawful creatures.

Lesson of War: Keep Walking (1/Long Rest). Žižka can choose 8 allies who can hear him. Each ally can travel an additional hour before needing to make a Constitution saving throw for a forced march.

Lesson of War: Lay of the Land (2 exertion). By spending 10 minutes observing the area in a 2-mile radius Žižka can pick out where there are choke points, large swathes of cover, watercourses, vegetation that can offer concealment, ridgelines, and so on. He gains an expertise die on Engineering and Survival checks made within the area, and on checks made to prepare an ambush or realize he is being ambushed.

Lesson of War: Teamwork (1/Long Rest). When Žižka is involved in a group check, all members of the check gain an expertise die.

Martial Renown (Famous). When it becomes known that Žižka is in a settlement people treat him accordingly: local authority figures seek Žižka out to make introductions and invite him to share a meal or drink.

Resident Expert. When Žižka makes an Engineering check and the d20 shows a natural result of less than 10, he can count the d20 result as being 10.

Rouse the Troops. Žižka can spend 1 minute speaking words of encouragement and support to reinvigorate his companions. Each friendly creature that can hear him can spend any number of hit dice to regain hit points without having to finish a short rest. In addition, each creature that does spend at least one Hit Die in this way can remove one level of fatigue or strife it is suffering from. Once a creature has removed a level of fatigue or strife from Žižka’s use of this class feature, the creature must finish a long rest before it can do so again. [use exhaustion for O5E]

Nimble Troops. Creatures within range of Žižka’s Commanding Presence add +3 to checks made using Athletics.

Skirmisher. When Žižka’s movement would provoke an opportunity attack, he imposes disadvantage on the attack roll made against him.

Source of Inspiration: Leadership. Žižka gains inspiration whenever he leads by example or convinces a group to act against their own interests in order to complete a difficult task.

Tower Shield. When donned this shield reduces Žižka’s Speed by 10 feet (included above). On his turn, he may use his object interaction to plant it in the ground, gaining half cover (+2 bonus to AC, saving throws, and ability checks made to hide) and advantage on saving throws made to resist being shoved or knocked prone and while he remains behind it. Unplanting a tower shield requires a bonus action.

War Scholar: Student of Martial Arts: When Žižka replaces an attack or uses an action to Disarm, Grapple, Overrun, Shove, or Tumble, he gains an expertise die (+1d4).


BONUS ACTIONS
Back To Back (1 exertion). Žižka chooses an ally within 5 feet. Until the start of his next turn, as long as that ally remains within 5 feet of Žižka and is able to take actions, and both the ally and Žižka are unmounted, each increases their AC by 2. In addition, each of them gets an extra reaction that can be used before the start of Žižka’s next turn to either make an opportunity attack or activate a combat maneuver.

Legion Stance (1 exertion). Once activated, this combat stance remains active until Žižka is knocked unconscious, stunned, activates a different combat stance, begins a long rest, or chooses to end it on his turn. When Žižka scores a critical hit against a creature, an ally within reach of the same creature can use their reaction to make an opportunity attack against it.

Mark Foe. Žižka chooses a creature he can see within 30 feet. Until the start of his next turn, creatures able to hear Žižka gain an expertise die on attacks made against that creature.

Point Blank Shot (1 exertion). Until the end of Žižka’s next turn, being within 5 feet of a hostile creature who can see him and who isn’t incapacitated does not give him disadvantage when making a ranged attack using a weapon. In addition, when an adjacent hostile creature that he can see moves 5 feet or more away from Žižka, he can use your reaction to make a ranged weapon attack against it.

Rallying Surge (1/Rest). Žižka chooses up to 2 allies within 30 feet of him. If a target can hear or see him, it regains 1d8+11 hit points.


ACTIONS
Extra Attack (2). Žižka attacks three times, or he can forgo making one attack to allow a friendly creature within 30 feet to make an attack instead.

Flail. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d8) bludgeoning damage. Attacks with this weapon ignore the parrying property and Armor Class bonuses from shields.

Heavy Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 100/400 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10+2) piercing damage.

Pistol. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10+2) piercing damage.

Covering Fire (1 exertion). Žižka chooses 4 creatures that he can see within his weapon’s normal range. Until the start of his next turn, a chosen creature’s movement does not provoke opportunity attacks from creatures Žižka can see as he pelts the area nearby with missiles. For each opportunity attack a chosen creature would have otherwise provoked, Žižka expends one piece of ammunition or thrown weapon.

Inspiration Feature: Studied Deliberation. Žižka may spend his inspiration and a minute’s deliberation to determine the results of an upcoming plan of action (as the augury spell).

Look At Me! (2 exertion). When Žižka activates this maneuver, he takes the Attack action and makes a weapon attack, as well as any additional attacks granted by Extra Attack. Until the start of his next turn, when Žižka makes a melee weapon attack against a creature he can choose one ally within reach. The chosen ally does not provoke opportunity attacks from that creature until the start of Žižka’s next turn. In addition, the next melee attack the chosen ally makes against that creature before the end of their next turn gains an expertise die.

Missile Volley (2 exertion). Žižka makes a ranged weapon attack against up to 4 creatures within 10 feet of a point he can see within his weapon’s range. He must have ammunition for each target, and Žižka makes a separate attack roll for each target.


REACTIONS
Glorious Sacrifice: Take the Hit (1/Rest). When an ally within 30 feet takes a critical hit, Žižka can shove them out of the way and become the target of the attack instead.

Quickdraw (2 exertion). As long as Žižka is not surprised, when initiative is rolled he can use his reaction to draw a weapon and make a ranged attack with it.

Shoulder Check (1 exertion). After a creature within Žižka’s reach makes a melee attack against an ally, he can make an Athletics check against the creature’s maneuver DC. On a success Žižka shoves the creature 10 feet away from him and he moves 10 feet in that direction. This movement does not provoke opportunity attacks.

Spur Ally (1/Long Rest). When an ally Žižka can see fails an ability check or saving throw, he can make them reroll.


BUT WE’RE NOT DONE YET

Level Up includes expanded rules for vehicles—like armored wagons. We’ll take the stock wagon, give it some plating to increase its hit points and AC (going with double the cost of full plate; plenty of metal, not as hard to affix or join together), then of course put a cannon inside of it.

Vehicle
Size
AC
Hit Points
Speed
Crew
Cost
Supply
Special
Armored wagon
Huge*​
19​
160​
Drawn (50 ft. warhorses)​
3​
6,035 gp​
20​
Armed (cannon; AC 19, 75 hit points; range 600/2,400 ft., 8d10 bludgeoning)
*A Huge-sized vehicle has a Strength of 18 (+4), Dexterity of 0 (–5), and Constitution of 18 (+4). While being driven, a vehicle’s Dexterity score is equal to the driver’s Dexterity score.
 
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Faolyn

(she/her)
Interesting! Especially since this is a mythological figure who does not have stats through the roof. (I'm going through my old Dragon magazines, and most of the figures they wrote up for their Giants in the Earth columns have super-human stats.)

I do find it weird that a vehicle would have the driver's Dex score, though. Especially for a Huge vehicle.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I Love that this is a cunningly disguised advertisement for LevelUp, kudos for applying the tools to make a really interesting character

What might you add to mechanically account for his blindness?
 

Hurin88

Adventurer
There were not 'hundreds of thousands' of troops at the Battle of Grunwald. Don't let the exaggerations of the chroniclers confuse you. No battle in the Middle Ages involved 'hundreds of thousands' of troops, as the logistical apparatus of the time did not support it. Even the largest battles, such as Bouvines, involved less than 30,000 per side.

Recent estimates of the size of forces at Grunwald are about 20,000 to 30,000 for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and about 15,000 to 20,000 for the Teutonic Order.

Nice to see a historical figure being done though.
 

Interesting! Especially since this is a mythological figure who does not have stats through the roof. (I'm going through my old Dragon magazines, and most of the figures they wrote up for their Giants in the Earth columns have super-human stats.)

I do find it weird that a vehicle would have the driver's Dex score, though. Especially for a Huge vehicle.
I call this Batman build syndrome. It's when a GM is a fan of a historical or fictional character, they tend to stat them out on the high end of the scale.

This is especially egregious for superheroes because the writer tries to cram every deus ex machina power the character ever had in 30-50 years of comic book continuity. Most of the Silver Age Justice League characters are some of the worst offenders for this.

And if said characters are just going to be cameos and quest givers, do they really need to be fully stated?
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
There were not 'hundreds of thousands' of troops at the Battle of Grunwald. Don't let the exaggerations of the chroniclers confuse you. No battle in the Middle Ages involved 'hundreds of thousands' of troops, as the logistical apparatus of the time did not support it. Even the largest battles, such as Bouvines, involved less than 30,000 per side.

Recent estimates of the size of forces at Grunwald are about 20,000 to 30,000 for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and about 15,000 to 20,000 for the Teutonic Order.

Nice to see a historical figure being done though.
Yeah we can probably toss out the fellows from two centuries ago that were guessing higher than that. Amended!
 

Hurin88

Adventurer
Yeah we can probably toss out the fellows from two centuries ago that were guessing higher than that. Amended!
Yes, and the medieval chroniclers themselves just very frequently exaggerate massively, for a whole host of reasons. We always have to take their numbers with a grain of salt.
 

RPGMajor

Explorer
I mean, on the one hand historically that is absolutely true. On the other, the book is Mythological Figures, not Historical Figures, so to me using the mythologized and exaggerated accounts of the chroniclers felt appropriate.
 




It doesn't really matter but the Hussites used sheets of dense planking hung over the side of the wagon facing the enemy ( a sort of Medieval applique armour ) rather than steel plate - they were predominantly peasant force after all & didn't really have those sorts of resources, whereas wood was plentiful. The tank analogy tends to get over-played a bit, too, as the wagons were more akin to transportable pill-boxes rather than a maneuverable weapon system - except at Kutna Hora, of course (there's an exception to every rule, after all).
 

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