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!



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

Comments

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
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.
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
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.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
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

Adventurer
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

Adventurer
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

Explorer
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.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
If you want to up his damage, you might think about giving him 3 levels of scout rogue. Change his weapon to a short sword (as Crocodile Dundee would say "that's not a knife....."), the extra damage from sneak attack should more than make up for the decreased damage from great club to short sword. On top of that treat thieves cant as being able to understand drum language, cunning action, skirmisher, and survivalist all seem useful (some when he is not raging).
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
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.
My archetype builds here have been very hit-or-miss so I resisted the urge (although that's definitely ripe territory). The totem you are looking for is tucked away into the last two bullet points of his Rage feature.

If you want to up his damage, you might think about giving him 3 levels of scout rogue. Change his weapon to a short sword (as Crocodile Dundee would say "that's not a knife....."), the extra damage from sneak attack should more than make up for the decreased damage from great club to short sword. On top of that treat thieves cant as being able to understand drum language, cunning action, skirmisher, and survivalist all seem useful (some when he is not raging).
Not bad choices either! I'd probably go after fighter levels first but if you do give him some rogue pick out a different 3rd level totem (because Cunning Action would make the eagle totem feature redundant).
 
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Ed Laprade

Visitor
This is NOT Tarzan, pure and simple. The trouble with these exercises is that a lot of fictional/legendary characters simply can't be made properly with RAW. You don't even give him his iconic weapon, his father's knife. (Despite the fact that he kept losing it, he always had it again in the next book.)
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
This is NOT Tarzan, pure and simple. The trouble with these exercises is that a lot of fictional/legendary characters simply can't be made properly with RAW.
True, and yet I still base most my characters of fictional archetypes I like such as Conan, or Aragorn types. So I get value out of these discussions.

Hell I've based characters of of the Hulk dispute the fact that D&D just won't let my character easily lift 100,000+ tons. The character was still fun.

The Discussion of "How can I make my character more like Tarzan" has value even if I can't exactly emulate Tarzan in 5e.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
This is NOT Tarzan, pure and simple. The trouble with these exercises is that a lot of fictional/legendary characters simply can't be made properly with RAW. You don't even give him his iconic weapon, his father's knife. (Despite the fact that he kept losing it, he always had it again in the next book.)
Unfortunately I don't have time to read the library of Tarzan adventures and it's been a long time since I've ingested any of them--I do have a minute I can spend adding in a dagger!

We're up to 30 heresies right now so let me know when we're reaching critical levels.
 

Ed Laprade

Visitor
Unfortunately I don't have time to read the library of Tarzan adventures and it's been a long time since I've ingested any of them--I do have a minute I can spend adding in a dagger!

We're up to 30 heresies right now so let me know when we're reaching critical levels.
I haven't read them in decades myself, but when I did, it was often. Not saying you shouldn't do this, just that a warning that they aren't going to be the way fans of the characters remember them might be in order.
 
I'm thinking chaotic good instead of neutral good. He had a specific distaste for civilization and the laws of man.

Awesome conversion, though; that's about as close as you could get with RAW. I wasn't sure if you'd go barbarian or beast master ranger, but barbarian works.
 

Mike Myler

Explorer
I haven't read them in decades myself, but when I did, it was often. Not saying you shouldn't do this, just that a warning that they aren't going to be the way fans of the characters remember them might be in order.
If you look there's always somebody wanting Thor to have a natural Strength of 27 or whatever. There's usually something useful mentioned though (Tarzan's dad's knife for example!) so I've resisted the urge to include a RAW disclaimer just yet.

I'm thinking chaotic good instead of neutral good. He had a specific distaste for civilization and the laws of man.

Awesome conversion, though; that's about as close as you could get with RAW. I wasn't sure if you'd go barbarian or beast master ranger, but barbarian works.
I went with neutral good because from what I could remember he's a super naturalist with a good-heart. Not necessarily rebellious or spontaneous really, just a "this is the way the world is naturally so that's how I live my life." There's definitely a good argument for chaotic but I didn't see it as a particularly strong one outside of "dislikes society" (hell I dislike society a lot but know that, unfortunately, I am lawful good).

Beastmaster was considered aye. From what I could recall though he's usually like, "hey buddy animal, can you do this thing for me?" and the animal is like "yeah I'll do that" as opposed to a commanding thing (the latter being decidedly more beastmaster).
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Beastmaster was considered aye. From what I could recall though he's usually like, "hey buddy animal, can you do this thing for me?" and the animal is like "yeah I'll do that" as opposed to a commanding thing (the latter being decidedly more beastmaster).
He gets a Lion cub to raise later on in his adventures and that lion features in a few adventures, but Beastmaster wouldn't help you unless you're re-fluffing Panthers anyway .Also they function as independents rarely if at all using the coordinated teamwork I'd expect from a Beastmaster.

Better to just say he has a lion friend Jad-bal-ja so here is a lion statblock.
 

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