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Mythological Figures: Sherlock Holmes (5E)

Mythological Figures is doing something a little bit different today with one of the most famous characters in all of literature. By jove, you may even have already deduced that I’m referring to the one and only Sherlock Holmes!


Sherlock Holmes banner.jpg


It’s a general rule in this column that I keep things strictly RAW in the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition ruleset. That means only content from the core books. There are however plenty of builds like that already for Sherlock Holmes so it felt a bit redundant to do one. Instead I’ve used the savant class from EN5ider because it was built exactly for characters just like him! The build below uses the Coordinator aptitude but for a more Robert Downey Jr.-type you could make him an Adversary, and Watson is a perfect fit for a Chirurgeon of maybe 10th level. Also today should have been an Epic Monsters post and though those use the monster creation rules, they are not strictly RAW (which means today's dish was going to get some cooking either way :p).

If you’re like “that sounds neat!” I implore you to download the savant class for free and consider signing up for the A Touch More Class mailing list (so you get notified about the Kickstarter launch as soon as it goes live and can get this class in print along with 8 other new classes).

Design Notes: As mentioned above the savant is tailor-made for Sherlock here. Using the Blog of Holding's rubric and averaging actually gives him a CR of 10, but even with all of his attack negations and other defensive measures I'm skeptical that without support he'd match up that highly so I erred on the lower end. I noted above that the adversary aptitude would be good for an action movie interpretation of the character, but the same could be achieved with 3 fighter levels (probably landing around CR 11-12 and rightly so at that point).


Sherlock Holmes
Medium humanoid (human), neutral good savant (coordinator) 13
Armor Class 18 (Intelligence)
Hit Points 84 (13d8+26)
Speed 30 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
10 (+0)16 (+3)14 (+2)20 (+5)12 (+1)10 (+0)

Saving Throws Dex +8, Int +10
Skills History +15, Insight +6, Investigation +15, Nature +15, Perception +11, Persuasion +6; alchemist’s supplies +10, thieves’ tools +8
Senses passive Perception 21
Languages English, 4 other languages
Challenge 9 (5,000 XP)

Analyzed Need: Survival. When Sherlock finishes a short or long rest, he can choose a skill. When making an ability check using that skill, he uses Intelligence instead of the ability score it normally uses.

Combat Deductions. Sherlock can use a bonus action to quickly observe a creature and make an Intelligence (Investigation) check against a DC equal to CR + 5. On a success, learns up to three of the following pieces of information. If Sherlock succeeds the check by 5 or more, he chooses the categories instead.

  • Armor Class
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Damage resistances
  • Damage immunities
  • Condition immunities
  • Whether the target has lair or legendary actions
  • Weakest saving throw
  • Highest ability score
Feat: Brilliant. Sherlock 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.

Focused Defense. When Sherlock is facing more than one enemy he’s able to use them against each other. As long as there’s more than one enemy within 30 feet, Sherlock can use a bonus action to choose a creature within range. Until the end of his next turn, it has disadvantage on attack rolls against him.


Informed Coordinator (5/Short Rest). Sherlock can use a bonus action to give an ally a +5 bonus to their next d20 roll.

Languages. Sherlock has advantage on ability checks made to decipher codes and hidden messages. By spending 10 minutes studying he can make a DC 15 Intelligence check to translate any script, even if he cannot recognize the language it is written in.

Savant Tricks. Sherlock can use a bonus action to prepare a trick. A trick is prepared until he uses it. Sherlock can only have two tricks prepared at time. Once he uses the trick, Sherlock can prepare another trick in the same manner. Some of his tricks require the target to make a saving throw to resist its effects.

  • Disarming Flourish. When Sherlock hits a creature with a melee weapon attack, he can activate this trick to force the target to drop an item in their hand, such as a weapon. The target makes a DC 18 Strength saving throw with advantage and on a failure, it drops one held item of Sherlock’s choice.
  • Draw Out. When Sherlock hits a creature with a melee weapon attack, he can use a bonus action to activate this trick. The target makes a DC 18 Intelligence saving throw or reacts to a strike from him that never comes. As long as Sherlock remains within the target’s reach, until the start of his next turn it cannot take the Attack action against anyone but him. After Sherlock has used this trick against a target, until the end of combat it has advantage on saving throws to resist Draw Out.
  • Grounded Reason. Sherlock can use his reaction to reroll a Dexterity saving throw that he fails. If he does so, he must use the new roll.
  • Off‐Balance. When Sherlock hits a creature with a melee weapon attack, instead of dealing damage he uses pulls, shoves, and strikes to put his target off-balance. Until the end of Sherlock’s next turn, the target moves at half speed and has disadvantage on ability checks.
  • Redirect. When Sherlock is hit with a melee weapon attack, he can use his reaction to force the attacker to make a DC 18 Intelligence saving throw. On a failure, he takes no damage and the attack strikes another creature within 5 feet. A Huge‐sized or larger target has advantage on the saving throw. Once Sherlock has used this trick against a target, until the end of combat that target has advantage on its saving throw to resist Redirect.
  • Sidestep. When Sherlock is targeted by a spell or weapon attack, he can use his reaction to make a Dexterity check against the opponent’s attack roll. On a success, he takes no damage from the spell or attack. Once Sherlock has used this trick against a target, until the end of combat he has disadvantage on checks to Sidestep that target.
  • Sweeping Stride. Sherlock cannot activate this trick without moving at least 10 feet and traveling through a square adjacent to a creature of Large size or smaller. The target must succeed on a DC 18 Dexterity saving throw with advantage or be knocked prone. On a success, Sherlock’s movement ends in a square adjacent to the target.
Superior Deduction. Sherlock can spend 1 minute observing a creature to make a Wisdom (Perception) check against a DC equal to the target’s CR + 5. On a success, he learns three of the following pieces of information (or other relevant details). If Sherlock succeeds the check by 5 or more, he chooses the categories instead.

  • One part of the target’s alignment (if it is chaotic, neutral, lawful, good, or evil)
  • If the target is disguised
  • If the target is armed
  • If the target is under the effects of a spell
  • What language(s) the target speaks
  • If the target has a native terrain and the type of that terrain

ACTIONS
Extra Attack. Sherlock can attack three times whenever he takes the Attack action on his turn.

Rapier. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (1d8+5) piercing damage.

Improvised Weapon. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning , piercing, or slashing damage (determined by object).

Hand Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d6+5) piercing damage.


REACTIONS

Intelligent Caution (5/Long Rest). When Sherlock makes a saving throw against a spell or effect that deals damage, he can use his reaction to make an Intelligence saving throw instead. On a success, he takes no damage.
 
Last edited:
Mike Myler

Comments

Imaculata

Explorer
Keep in mind that Sherlock Holmes is a very good boxer, according to the books. He should have some skill in unarmed combat.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Keep in mind that Sherlock Holmes is a very good boxer, according to the books. He should have some skill in unarmed combat.
So you're saying he's like a monk. Too many D&D skills that key of melee weapon attack, which unarmed strikes or not. The off balance trick above even references unarmed strikes and grappling in its description. If he could use the rules above with unarmed strikes I think he'd be fine.
 

RSIxidor

Explorer
I honestly would have expected him to fight with something unassuming, such as a cane (quarterstaff or cudgel?). I suppose that would have also required a feature to use Dexterity or perhaps Intelligence for the attack rolls, so finesse and ranged weapons certainly make it easier.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Keep in mind that Sherlock Holmes is a very good boxer, according to the books. He should have some skill in unarmed combat.
So you're saying he's like a monk. Too many D&D skills that key of melee weapon attack, which unarmed strikes or not. The off balance trick above even references unarmed strikes and grappling in its description. If he could use the rules above with unarmed strikes I think he'd be fine.
The Adversary subclass gets proficiency with (1d4) unarmed strikes but all savants get improvised weapons so I've edited the statblock to include those. Put a pen in his hand, or a pipe. ;)

I honestly would have expected him to fight with something unassuming, such as a cane (quarterstaff or cudgel?). I suppose that would have also required a feature to use Dexterity or perhaps Intelligence for the attack rolls, so finesse and ranged weapons certainly make it easier.
I wanted that Finesse action and remember he definitely has swordplay scenes so went with a rapier. I *did* think about sword canes and have stats for them (1d4 bludgeoning or 1d8 piercing in Book of Exalted Darkness - same thing you'd use if it were an improvised weapon while sheathed :cool:), but I wanted to keep this within the reigns of just one additional book on top of the core rules.
 

SMHWorlds

Registered User
A figure like Holmes is intriguing as an NPC or PC template. I am not sure that 5E is really designed to enable play like this, though it certainly doesn't stand in the way of investigation focused play. Very cool!
 
Very cool. I made a 5e PC build back in 2016 for Holmes using the Rogue Inquisitive. I think this NPC build does a good job reversing the savant class and both look like a good way to play this type of hero.

Where is the Brilliant feat from?

As mentioned in the story, A Touch More Class Savant preview is available at:
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/276167/5E-A-Touch-More-Class-Exclusive-Preview-The-Savant

If anyone wants to take a peek at my build...
https://www.tribality.com/2016/04/08/sherlock-holmes-unearthed-arcana-inquisitive-rogue-archetype-build-test-dd-5e/
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Fenris-77

Explorer
OK, so after plumbing the depths of Sage advice, it appears that while not melee weapons, unarmed strikes are indeed melee weapon attacks, so as written the savant can use all their tricks while unarmed. Excellent. On a second reading I did notice one omission -the Holmes of the novels and movies is also a master of disguise, and our Holmes here has neither Disguise Kit proficiency, nor the Deception skill - both of which he would need to be that guy. Would it be hugely unbalancing to add that? He doesn't even need CHA since he can use Analyze Need to pull off the deception when needed and he already has the INT to use the kit well. Very cool though, I like the Savant class a lot.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
OK, so after plumbing the depths of Sage advice, it appears that while not melee weapons, unarmed strikes are indeed melee weapon attacks, so as written the savant can use all their tricks while unarmed. Excellent. On a second reading I did notice one omission -the Holmes of the novels and movies is also a master of disguise, and our Holmes here has neither Disguise Kit proficiency, nor the Deception skill - both of which he would need to be that guy. Would it be hugely unbalancing to add that? He doesn't even need CHA since he can use Analyze Need to pull off the deception when needed and he already has the INT to use the kit well. Very cool though, I like the Savant class a lot.
The Deception is indeed something that can be covered with Analyzed Need! I figured that for most of the time he's going to be using Survival so I queued that in there, but Deception for a ruse sounds like a perfect use of that feature.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Actually, the martial art "baritsu".
this one there... indeed.

In 4e one could use something like Melee Training (not too glorious sounding) to have ones basic melee governed off of a different base stat, we could have a sherlock with Int based for the Robert Downy Junior hyper predictive intelligence. But that isnt anything fancy. like the character would use (so not perfect)

I seen this done for a Decent Wisdom based Socrates fighter though...
 

Arnwolf666

Explorer
It’s hard to do Sherlock in 5E because many 19th century and early 20th century characters were paragons and have very high stars with a very large skill set and capable of lots of feats.

But for RAW character to play a Sherlock like character this good. I find the savant class interesting and want to study that closer.

One example of Sherlock’s strength was when he pulled a metal poker out of a fireplace and bent it back into shape. Although that was an earlier work.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
Insight seems somewhat low. NPC's shouldn't be built like PCs, that's one of the good things of 5e
He's rocking a +6 which isn't bad! You could swap over one of his Expertise proficiencies to make that +11 but I considered him to be more about deducing someone is lying by way of logic, less-so than by picking up on social cues (some--it's a +6--but as a complementary aspect).

As for NPCs shouldn't be built like PCs, check your Dungeon Master's Guide on page 92 (column 2, specifically). :)
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I'm far to lazy to build my NPCs like PCs.

However I'm just lazy enough to steal ideas from Mike Mylar.

Another good one! Keep up the good work.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
He's rocking a +6 which isn't bad! You could swap over one of his Expertise proficiencies to make that +11 but I considered him to be more about deducing someone is lying by way of logic, less-so than by picking up on social cues (some--it's a +6--but as a complementary aspect).

As for NPCs shouldn't be built like PCs, check your Dungeon Master's Guide on page 92 (column 2, specifically). :)
This, and also that Holmes gets some of what you might normally think of as Insight type info from his class abilities anyway, and might not use Insight quite as often as a similarly themed non-Savant would. Plus if he uses Analyze Need on Insight he's aces. Analyze Need pretty much answers any question that sounds like "what about this skill?". It's not instantaneous, so some prep and foresight is needed, but it does cover a whole lotta bases.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Holmes perfectly shows that D&D is severely lacking in the skill department. Because of its archaic level system its impossible to have a skilled character who is not at the same time also a strong combatant.
 

trancejeremy

Villager
He was actually also a boxer (or rather, primarily a boxer), as it's mentioned in numerous stories (including the 2nd novel, where he runs into a boxer he boxed against). His "baritsu" skills were created as an explanation for how he wasn't killed by Moriarty and I don't think ever showed up in anything beyond that story.

He was also very strong (and tall, well over 6 feet is how he is described). However, I don't think he was actually as smart as that. A surprisingly large number of clients died on his watch, and his brother Mycroft is much smarter.

And he should be fairly charismatic. It's often said that he could have been a great actor had he chosen to be one.
 

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