5E Mythological Figures: Prospero

“My high charms work, and these, mine enemies, are all knit up in their distractions. They now are in my power.” If you’re thinking that I’m talking about the central character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, you know today’s entry in Mythological Figures is Prospero!

(And I’m still not at all bitter about losing a trivia show because of The Tempest. Really!)
Prospero DnD 5e banner.jpg


Prospero is the protagonist of The Tempest which I understand is the last of the plays William Shakespeare wrote entirely by himself. In it he’s the Duke of Milan but after being betrayed by his brother is exiled on a remote island for over a decade. Prospero is quite taken with magic and uses it to control others (including the beastman Caliban and a spirit named Ariel), create storms, and entertain. Gradually as the play progresses he becomes a more sympathetic and likable character, ultimately renouncing magic by the very end.

Design Notes: Try as I might (and I have tried, several times now) I just cannot ingest The Tempest. Tried reading it a few times, tried watching it a few times, and it just bores the enthusiasm right out of me. I did work through several synopses and character studies and so on though, and it looks to me like he’s an enchanter wizard of some considerable potency. For binding Aerial he’s got planar binding and to account for the storm summoning bit, a staff of lightning and thunder as well (plus his own lightning bolt spells). So let’s do the numbers! The DMG puts Prospero at 7.6 (8ac+1hp+11atk+10dam+8save=38/5) and the Blog of Holding rubric at 8.6666 (9ac+3hp+8atkk+12dam+10dc+10save=52/6), which squeaks in at 8.16666.

Prospero
Medium humanoid (human), neutral wizard (enchantment) 11
Armor Class 16 (mage armor)
Hit Points 71 (11d6+33)
Speed 30 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
9 (–1)​
16 (+3)​
16 (+3)​
18 (+4)​
11 (+0)​
14 (+2)​
Saving Throws Int +8, Wis +4
Skills Arcana +8, History +8, Insight +4, Investigation +8, Nature +8, Perception +4
Senses passive Perception 14
Languages Celestial, Draconic, Italian
Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)

Arcane Recovery. Once per day when Prospero finishes a short rest, he can choose expended spell slots to recover. The spell slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than 5th-level.

Doubly Enchanting. When Prospero casts an enchantment spell that targets only one creature, he can target a second creature with the same spell. To be eligible for Doubly Enchanting, a spell must be incapable of targeting more than one creature at the spell’s current level.

Gazed Thrall. Prospero can use action and choose a creature within 5 feet that can see or hear him. The target makes a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or remains charmed by Prospero until the end of his next turn. While it is charmed by Prospero in this way, the creature is obviously mesmerized, its speed is reduced to 0, and it is incapacitated. On each of his turns as long as he remains within 5 feet of the charmed creature, Prospero can use his action to continue using this feature and extend the duration an additional round. The effect immediately ends when the creature takes damage, it can’t see or hear Prospero, or if he moves more than 5 feet from the creature. After a creature has been targeted by this feature or successfully saves against it, it is immune to Prospero’s Gazed Thrall until he finishes a long rest.

Spellcasting. Prospero is an 11th-level spellcaster that uses Intelligence as his spellcasting ability (spell save DC 16; +8 to hit with spell attacks). He has the following spells prepared from the wizard spell list:
Cantrips: light, minor illusion, prestidigitation, shocking grasp, true strike
1st-level (4 slots): charm person, find familiar, mage armor
2nd-level (3 slots): blindness/deafness, detect thoughts, misty step
3rd-level (3 slots): clairvoyance, fear, lightning bolt
4th-level (2 slots): conjure minor elementals, locate creature
5th-level (2 slots): planar binding, scrying
6th-level (1 slot): eyebite, programmed illusion


ACTIONS
Staff of Thunder and Lightning. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6+1) bludgeoning damage, or 5 (1d8+1) bludgeoning damage if wielded with two hands.
  • Lightning (1/day). On a successful hit Prospero can cause the target to take an extra 7 (2d6) lightning damage.
  • Thunder (1/day). On a successful hit Prospero can cause the staff to emit a crack of thunder, audible out to 300 feet. The target makes a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or is stunned until the end of Prospero’s next turn.
  • Lightning Strike (1/day). Prospero can use an action to cause a bolt of lightning to leap from the staff's tip in a line that is 5 feet wide and 120 feet long. Each creature in that line must make a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw, taking 31 (9d6) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
  • Thunderclap (1/day). Prospero can use an action to cause the staff to issue a deafening thunderclap, audible out to 600 feet. Each creature within 60 feet of him (not including Prospero) must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 7 (2d6) thunder damage and becomes deafened for 1 minute. On a successful save, a creature takes half damage and isn't deafened.
  • Thunder and Lightning (1/day). Prospero can use an action to use the Lightning Strike and Thunderclap properties at the same time. Doing so doesn't expend the daily use of those properties, only the use of this one.


REACTIONS
Elusive Presence. Prospero can use his reaction to dodge an attack when a creature he can see within 30 feet makes an attack roll against him and there is another creature within the range or reach of the attacker. When he does so, the attacker must make a DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or target the creature closest to it other than Prospero. When there is more than one possible target, the attacker chooses which creature is its new target. An attacker that makes its saving throw is immune to Prospero’s Elusive Presence until he finishes a long rest. In addition, a creature that can't be charmed is immune to this feature.



Also if you've ever thought "I'd love to have these things in a snazzy, accessible book I can show off to my friends or use as an improvised weapon to deter looters" we have some good news for you!
 
Last edited:
Mike Myler

Comments

rknop

Explorer
I love the Tempest! I'm sad you weren't able to watch it and enjoy it. Which ones have you watched?

(I've been taken with that play since I was 12 or 13 and Julian Lopez-Morillas played Prospero at the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival. I'd been a kid in the previous production of Merry Wives of Windsor, thanks to having a friend who was part of the BSF. I then ushered for The Tempest eight or ten times, which means I watched the play eight or ten times (for free!). The play had incidental music played by a small ensemble that included (at least) a couple of french horns. The music director wrote the music for it, and I really wish I could remember who it was and see if I could find that music anywhere. Fond memories of that summer.)

(I also use "Prospero" (and sometime "Prospero Frobozz") as my online handle lots of places.)
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
We did The Tempest in English Lit at school. I still have memories of hurriedly scribbled essays the night before...
 

Aaron L

Adventurer
Looking rad. Too bad there wasn't a way to give him a better Charisma score; as both a Duke and an Enchanter he should have a good commanding presence. But anyway, I like it.
 

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
I love the Tempest! I'm sad you weren't able to watch it and enjoy it. Which ones have you watched?
Not the one with Meryl Streep. At least one in English class of unknown origin, and another available on YouTube now (one had at least meager production values as opposed to none). Just realized there's a Wishbone episode for it though and wish I'd thought of that earlier because I bet I could manage that.


We did The Tempest in English Lit at school. I still have memories of hurriedly scribbled essays the night before...
Read The Jungle Book over the summer for Honors English and wrote an 8 page essay on it only to find out in the fall that the book I was supposed to read was The Jungle.


Looking rad. Too bad there wasn't a way to give him a better Charisma score; as both a Duke and an Enchanter he should have a good commanding presence. But anyway, I like it.
You could swap his Strength of 11 over there, or even drop that down a bit and pump Charisma up. Admittedly I've not ingested the play, but the various articles I read did not lead me to believe he was good at being a Duke or very likable, mostly forcing people to do what he wanted with the threat or use of magic. Is he supposed to be likable and have a strong presence and etc?
 

gyor

Legend
I've never read the Tempest, Shakespear is fun to qoute, but aweful to read. But I did enjoy the Second Season of The Librarians were Prospero is the main villian.
 

rknop

Explorer
Re: Prospero being likeable, not really. Indeed, except for the fact of the insult, he probably didn't mind being abandoned on an island for a decade or two. He'd always been one to retreat to his books and not want to deal with people. So, yeah, probably not very good at being a duke, and he doesn't sound like that much of a charisma type.

However, on the island, he's able to command the obedience of various spirits, most notably Ariel. However, more importantly, the way the play is written, he does have a very commanding presence. When he's around people listen, and people do what he wants them to. So, in the text of the play, I'd say he should have a high charisma, as he's got strong force of personality.
 

Rafael Martin

Explorer
For this, be sure, tonight thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches that shall pen they breath up. Urchins
Shall forth at vast of night that they may work
All exercise on thee. Thou shalt be pinched
As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made ‘em.


In this threat from Prospero to Caliban, it seems like he can cause him really bad pain. I would have given Prospero a higher Charisma and a higher Wizard level. In the play it didn't look like he was reading from a scroll when he brought forth a storm. More likely is that he has a magical staff with those spells in them.

1585003426394.png


The image above is from "Prospero's Books", a 1991 British avant-garde film adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, written and directed by Peter Greenaway. John Gielgud plays Prospero. A must see!
 

Ashrym

Hero
I'm not sure you have him at high enough level. Seeing the future would be foresight and bringing back the dead could be clone or animate dead or wish. Invisibility, imprisonment (he sealed Ariel in a tree for 12 years), and dispel magic were used by Prospero. More advanced illusions too. Freezing Ferdinand with a charm would be hold person.

Definitely a wizard because he relies on a spell book. A person could easily consider him 17th level or higher based on some of the things he was capable of doing.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Looks nice. I think he would have even higher charisma, and less con though. He isn't a physical force to reckon with if I recall correctly from the play.

As a side-note, I used his name on a simple project management tool I created. A bit as a play on words "To prosper", and that project management can seem as magic.. ;)
 

Quartz

Adventurer
I agree with making him higher level, simply because he has bound Ariel to his service, which would be Planar Binding. I also agree with dropping his Con. I wouldn't make him too high a level as then his continued exile becomes hard to justify, but 12th level seems a better fit (Eyebite and Programmed Illusion specifically).
 

Ashrym

Hero
Hmm... wasn't the original Aerial Servant 6th level? Surely Gygax was riffing on The Tempest with this spell?
It was 6th level in 1e. The OP isn't making a 1e version of the character though so I wouldn't worry about that.

I agree with raising CHA, lowering CON, and increasing level in any case. The way he's presented and the way 5e separates magic between 5th and 6th level spells I would expect Prospero to be able to cast at least some spells above 5th level.
 

Mike Myler

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters KS soon
Yes! You used my magical staff idea! (y):whistle:
When I openly admit "I just cannot stand this text and haven't read it." I am asking for yinz to tell me how to improve a build. Even when I don't ask there's always suggestions and sometimes I (perhaps quietly in a few instances) take those too. ;)
 
Um... am I missing something, or does this Prospero have no way to cast control weather? I don't think there's any other reasonable way to interpret the eponymous Tempest.

Gradually as the play progresses he becomes a more sympathetic and likable character, ultimately renouncing magic by the very end.
By my reading he doesn't undergo that much character development over the course of the play: by the end it becomes clear that everything in the play unfolds as he planned/foresaw(?) it, including his renunciation of magic.
PROSPERO
How's the day?

ARIEL
On the sixth hour; at which time, my lord,
You said our work should cease.

PROSPERO
I did say so,
When I first raised the tempest.
His development, rather, occurs in the backstory: he is a very different man during the events of the play than he was as Duke.

And, while "sympathetic" and "likable" are subjective calls, I also think he's consistently a kind character. His very first lines are reassurance "There's no harm done" by the tempest:
Lie there, my art. Wipe thou thine eyes; have comfort.
The direful spectacle of the wreck, which touch'd
The very virtue of compassion in thee,
I have with such provision in mine art
So safely ordered that there is no soul--
No, not so much perdition as an hair
Betid to any creature in the vessel
Which thou heard'st cry, which thou saw'st sink.
Which is entirely truthful. Even though he has good reason to hate some of the people in his power, he doesn't hurt any of them. Through indirect and deceptive means he accomplishes his goals and everyone ends up a better person for it. So I'd call him a variant on the trickster hero archetype and a good candidate for neutral good or chaotic good alignment.

The one exception to his kindness, of course, is Caliban. There's a hell of a lot that can be, and has been, written about the allegory in a European washing up on an island and promptly enslaving and dehumanizing the previous inhabitant. Taking the play at face value, though, the fact that Caliban is an unapologetic attempted rapist is probably sufficient to explain Prospero's attitude towards him.

imprisonment [/I](he sealed Ariel in a tree for 12 years)
He freed Ariel from the tree. Sycorax was the one who put Ariel in it. Although he would still need to be able to cast imprisonment to do that.
 

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