Mythological Figures: Tarzan (5E)

Are you ready for some pulp? Because today on Mythological Figures we’re getting literary and going into the jungle with Tarzan!


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Unlike most of the characters in this series Tarzan is a character from relatively recent fiction authored by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In his infancy John Clayton and his noble parents were stranded on the African coast. They died to the wilderness and he survived, turning feral before the Mangani great apes took him in as one of their own and named him Tarzan (‘White-Ape’). After he turns 18 he meets Jane Porter, falling in love and tracking her back to the United States only to find he despises civilization. They have a child and move back to Africa where Tarzan goes on many more adventures.

Design Notes: There was some consideration of monk levels or maybe even rogue (to get that Expertise and wall climbing), but as a man raised in the wilds by nature I felt Tarzan ought to be a pure barbarian. I’d love for him to do some more damage—unfortunately RAW the numbers just aren’t there for it unless you want to give him a greatsword (which improves things a bit to about CR 6) but that’s hardly cannon for Tarzan.



Tarzan
Medium humanoid (human), neutral good barbarian (animalist) 9

Armor Class
16 (Constitution)
Hit Points 85 (9d12+27)
Speed 40 ft.

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
16 (+3)16 (+3)16 (+3)9 (-1)13 (+1)9 (-1)

Saving Throws Str +7, Con +7
Skills Athletics +7, Nature +3, Perception +5, Survival +5
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing (while raging)
Senses passive Perception 15
Languages Common
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)

Background: Wildborn. Tarzan never forgets the geographic arrangement of terrain, settlements, and areas of wilderness. In addition, he can forage fresh water and food each day for as many as 6 people as long as the environment nearby can support it.

Beast Quality (Wolf). Tarzan can travel at a fast pace while he is tracking creatures, and while traveling he can move stealthily at a normal pace.

Brutal Critical. Tarzan can roll an additional weapon damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a melee attack.

Danger Sense. Tarzan has advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that he can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, he can’t be blinded, deafened, or incapacitated.

Feat: Athletic. Tarzan can stand up from being prone with only 5 feet of his movement, climbing doesn’t cost him extra movement, and he only has to move 5 feet before making a running long jump or running high jump.

Feat: Brawling. Tarzan is proficient with unarmed strikes.

Feral Instinct. Tarzan has advantage on initiative rolls. Additionally, if he is surprised at the beginning of combat and isn’t incapacitated, he can act normally on his first turn, but only if he enters his rage before doing anything else on that turn.

Nature Speaker. Tarzan can cast speak with animals as a ritual. He can also can also spend 10 minutes performing a ritual on one willing beast he touches. For as long as he concentrates, up to 1 hour, he can see through the beast's eyes and hear what it hears, gaining the benefits of any special senses that the beast has. During this time, Tarzan is deaf and blind with regard to his own senses.

Rage (4/Long Rest). On his turn, Tarzan can enter a rage as a bonus action. His rage lasts for 1 minute, ending early if he is knocked unconscious or if his turn ends and he hasn’t either attacked a hostile creature since his last turn or taken damage since then. Tarzan can also end his rage on his turn as a bonus action. While raging, he gains the following benefits if he isn’t wearing heavy armor:

  • advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws,
  • when he makes a melee weapon attack using Strength he gains a +3 bonus to the damage roll,
  • he has resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage,
  • opportunity attacks made against him have disadvantage,
  • and he can take the Dash action as a bonus action on his turn.

Reckless Attack. When Tarzan makes his first attack on his turn, he can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives him advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against him have advantage until his next turn.


ACTIONS

Extra Attack. Tarzan can attack twice, instead of once, whenever he takes the Attack action on his turn.

Unarmed. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d4+3) bludgeoning damage and Tarzan can use a bonus action to grapple the target with a successful Strength (Athletics) check opposed by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.

Greatclub. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+3) bludgeoning damage.

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

Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+3) piercing damage.
 
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I always enjoy reading these, but I think I would have gone with your thoughts about multiclassing. With breaking out of backgrounds like the Outlander I don't think barbarian has a lock of "wild savage" anymore, and I don't see rage as his defining trait (though it's been years since I read ERB and may be conflating it with some of the movie/show representations). Though Speak with Animals definitely works so I would keep some barbarian.
 

Adding a few levels of monk does not seem too wrong. Would improve his unarmed strikes and his movement rate a bit. Additionally I Imagine his movements more acrobatic than athletic which might also sounds like monk to me. But on the other hand, the more you can do with a singe class the better.
 


Mechanically I think you are right to keep him a barbarian (at least early Tarzan) with some kind of ape totem. He definitely fought better when he got angry. His intelligence is too low though, or he needs the linguist feat (he has a great aptitude for languages in the books).

Immortal Tarzan is probably too complicated for PC classes, maybe a legendary humanoid.
 


jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
I’d love for him to do some more damage—unfortunately RAW the numbers just aren’t there for it unless you want to give him a greatsword (which improves things a bit to about CR 6) but that’s hardly cannon for Tarzan.
I notice he's using a bow in one of those pictures. Could you do something with that?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I've been waiting for this as Tarzan is my favorite literary character

however straight off the bat, I cant accept the Int 9 that you've given him. As a child Tarzan teaches himself to read simply by recognizing the regular patterns made by letters in his alphabet book, he then uses that to construct his own language. Later while contemplating God he creates his own name for it Bulamutumumo.
Later he quickly learns to speak French and then English

Tarzan was a genius - really I've always though that Tarzan is the kind of character who has 18s in everything.

Also I agree making him more agile than athletic makes more sense (he is a great climber and runs through the jungle)

also just to note that in the books Tarzan also used a rope noose to trap prey and a stolen bow and arrow
 

Mike Myler

Have you been to LevelUp5E.com yet?
I notice he's using a bow in one of those pictures. Could you do something with that?

I can fix him up with a better ranged attack than a rock (and should have from the start!) but that doesn't up his damage output. Some feats would need swapped around (probably drop Tavern Brawler) but if he picked up one of the -5/+10 feats (either) he'd be in good shape.

I've been waiting for this as Tarzan is my favorite literary character

however straight off the bat, I cant accept the Int 9 that you've given him. As a child Tarzan teaches himself to read simply by recognizing the regular patterns made by letters in his alphabet book, he then uses that to construct his own language. Later while contemplating God he creates his own name for it Bulamutumumo.
Later he quickly learns to speak French and then English

Tarzan was a genius - really I've always though that Tarzan is the kind of character who has 18s in everything.

Also I agree making him more agile than athletic makes more sense (he is a great climber and runs through the jungle)

also just to note that in the books Tarzan also used a rope noose to trap prey and a stolen bow and arrow

I think your Tarzan needs more levels. ;) These are built RAW and there simply aren't enough points to spread around for a higher Intelligence or proficiency in Acrobatics but, if you were to give him say a few (6?) levels in fighter (battle master) you'd be able to reskin some maneuvers as rope nooses, pick up languages via a feat, and raise his Intelligence bonus (although not all the way to genius).

Mind you the second goal with this series is to make something useful to GMs--master of the jungle is something I see a lot of people getting use out of (I will myself in a couple weeks) so the shorter the sweeter. I've been trying to reign in the longer builds to make them a little lighter at hand, and tacking on the suggestions above would mean another 6+ features in the statblock which I was figuring is on the clunky side for Tarzan. Better to get him out there lean with the maximum utility for GMs so he gets onto tables!
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Good old Tarzan. Like Conan he's written to be naturally good at everything. Since that takes exceptional rolls and creates a boring character, it's more fun to decide what part of the fiction you want to bring forward.

I think straight Barbarian works great for the Tarzan as he is when he first meets other humans.

Still I would have love to have seen an Ape Totem.

Also are you missing a Totem option? I see the wolf level 6, but no level 3.
 

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