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

Ed Laprade

Villager
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.
A good point.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
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 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).
Tarzan wasnt chaotic, he didnt fit with civilisation but he most definitely had his own code and acted according to the Jungle way', he also later become the chief of the Waziri who were noble warriors.

Also I agree with you, you're not going to be able to get an accurate Tarzan using DnD RAW, but capturing the spirit in a reasonable facsimile is all thats required. I was actually re reading Jungle Tales of Tarzan over Christmas (hence my early comment about him contemplating god) and I think this has done a good job of it, although Mechatarrasque makes a good point with adding scout levels and a iconic knife. (I didn't worry too much about the knife as its easy enough to replace the club)

Also you're correct that he was more friend to the animals than beastmaster. I see that Nature Speaker as a ritual already accounts him spending time letting an animal recognize him as a 'friend' from the past, although the seeing through its eyes/ears is out there - maybe take that out and allow the ritual to be used with rage to account for Tarzan fighting the dominant ape (Akut) to gain dominance first).
Nkima was a straight up pet and Tantor the Elephant is always described as Tarzans life long friend
and yes I agree Jad-bal-ja should be treated as an NPC ally who just happens to be a lion
 
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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.



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).
I would probably go tiger.
 

KenNYC

Explorer
I really think Tarzan would have an 18 Str since he can tussle with gorillas, an 18 dex since he can climb and swing from ropes better than any rogue D&D ever saw, an 18 Con since he is the epitome of health, and at least 16 charisma because not only he is he the dashing hunk Jane falls for, but he has the leadership qualities that no animal can resist. He's pretty bright too, at least a 16 INT. In reality, he is an 18 or close to an 18 in everything. You said something about there were not enough points to reflect that, but for accuracy's sake I think Tarzan was just someone ERB rolled up with a lucky string of 18s.

Considering he runs around in a loincloth and can't be bothered with armor, he probably needs the inflated stats. I imagine his passive perception would be something like a 25 since he is always aware of his surroundings and has animal level senses.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
I really think Tarzan would have an 18 Str since he can tussle with gorillas, an 18 dex since he can climb and swing from ropes better than any rogue D&D ever saw, an 18 Con since he is the epitome of health, and at least 16 charisma because not only he is he the dashing hunk Jane falls for, but he has the leadership qualities that no animal can resist. He's pretty bright too, at least a 16 INT. In reality, he is an 18 or close to an 18 in everything. You said something about there were not enough points to reflect that, but for accuracy's sake I think Tarzan was just someone ERB rolled up with a lucky string of 18s.

Considering he runs around in a loincloth and can't be bothered with armor, he probably needs the inflated stats. I imagine his passive perception would be something like a 25 since he is always aware of his surroundings and has animal level senses.
It is a similar issue that was discussed with Conan, but these exercises are about getting as close as you can RAW (no extra good roles here) and the discussion about the choices made in that pursuit.
 

S'mon

Legend
It is a similar issue that was discussed with Conan, but these exercises are about getting as close as you can RAW (no extra good roles here) and the discussion about the choices made in that pursuit.
Rolling well on the dice is not against RAW, so I don't understand the issue here.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Rolling well on the dice is not against RAW, so I don't understand the issue here.
But he is using point buy. I know I would find it a bit bogus if Mike said we are doing this exercise by RAW, but hey! - I just happened to roll great stats for Conan, Tarzan, and Thor. He avoids that by using point buy and that way everyone understands the constraints and the discussion is about the choices made within those constraints. Much more interesting to me personally.
 
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Mike Myler

Explorer
Using point buy also makes Tarzan useful for people that may not necessarily be that wild about the character but they do need a pregenerated PC for _________. As a product of point buy his statblock is far more likely to be approved by a GM. They might be giving you a weird eye when you pull out Blackbeard, but all the math works out that he's balanced the same as any other character of that level. Rolling dice for statistics would prohibit most of these being used by players and make them only the things of GMs.

More importantly it's not nuclear physics to increase a statblock's ability scores for GMs that are using Tarzan as an NPC. :)

EDIT: I should add that I am myself using Tarzan in a playtest near the end of the month (as my PC). Granted he's got a +1 greatsword, bracers of defense, and belt of fire giant strength but as mentioned it's easier to tack stuff on than take it off. ;)
 
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BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Rolling well on the dice is not against RAW, so I don't understand the issue here.
The issue being that if a player wants to use these articles as a template for making a character, they have a very low chance of rolling the exact same rolls the author did.

For better or worse (indeed I would argue both better and worse) Point buy makes you think about what you want to bring to the forefront of your character.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
I really think Tarzan would have an 18 Str since he can tussle with gorillas, an 18 dex since he can climb and swing from ropes better than any rogue D&D ever saw, an 18 Con since he is the epitome of health,
All true.
and at least 16 charisma because not only he is he the dashing hunk Jane falls for,
Beauty is not the same as Charisma. Plenty of ugly people have persuasive, or intimidating personalities.
but he has the leadership qualities that no animal can resist.
but this is true
He's pretty bright too, at least a 16 INT. In reality, he is an 18 or close to an 18 in everything.
also true
You said something about there were not enough points to reflect that, but for accuracy's sake I think Tarzan was just someone ERB rolled up with a lucky string of 18s.
But such accuracy would be pointless for the purposes of this thread.

Considering he runs around in a loincloth and can't be bothered with armor, he probably needs the inflated stats. I imagine his passive perception would be something like a 25 since he is always aware of his surroundings and has animal level senses.
This however is not true. I've run plenty of Barbarians with an Unarmored AC of 14 and they were fine. Resistance from Rage does wonders for survive-ability and a few points of extra AC are going to mean very little when Recklessly Attacking anyway.

When you play a Barbarian you accept that you are going to take hits, and if you are good at it, you take hits so weaker members of the party don't have to.
 

S'mon

Legend
The issue being that if a player wants to use these articles as a template for making a character, they have a very low chance of rolling the exact same rolls the author did.

For better or worse (indeed I would argue both better and worse) Point buy makes you think about what you want to bring to the forefront of your character.
Ok I didn't realise it was about making a PC. I would probably use a distributed array with 12+ in everything for this kind of character.
 
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Mike Myler

Explorer
Ok I didn't realise it was about making a PC. I would probably use a distributed array with 12+ in everything for this kind of character.
That's why he has class levels. It'd be much easier (and shorter) if it were a monster build (Epic Monsters are not class level builds though).
 

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