Mythological Figures: Zhuang Zhou (5E)

The Mythological Figures column / A Touch More Class experiment has thus far seen: Sherlock Holmes (using the savant), Nikola Tesla (built as a tinkerer), Billy the Kidd (the gunfighter), Paul Bunyan (a monster tamer alongside Babe the blue ox), and last week Harry Houdini (fatebender in the house!) The Kickstarter is live right now (go pledge if you haven’t!) so I’m continuing the series, although today we’re going way, way back to the distant past, far from the literary and historical figures we’ve recently looked at.

This subject is close to my heart (I read the book he’s attributed with, even!) because I’m a taoist but even so, most of you will not be familiar with him. Don’t feel bad however--despite his influence there’s sadly not much information about the author Zhuang Zhou!

Zhuang Zhou BANNER.jpg

One of the reasons I chose this fellow for today’s post has to do with his relative obscurity. Zhuang Zhou (aka Zhuangzi or Chuang Tzu) was a very influential philosopher and scholar in 400 BC, penning the kind of obviously named Zhuangzi (a taoist book). It’s written elsewhere that he also penned a lot of scathing satire as well as a few melodies, and he had some forerunner beliefs on evolution. Considering that we’re coming up on two and a half millennia between his time and ours, it shouldn’t surprise us that there’s not much material about him. However since he was a critically important taoist--and because feng shui, a type of geomancy, is rooted in taoism--he’s a perfect candidate for a geomancer build!

Design Notes: Since details about Zhuang Zhou are sparse I focused on making a geomancer’s geomancer, concentrating on physicality with the architect geomancer order. Alternatively this might be reworked as an apothecary--drop the archetype features (The Ground of Being, Arrange Fates, Impenetrable Hermitage, and Mystic Masonry) and add Chi Healing (access to cure wounds, goodberry, lesser restoration, revify, and freedom of movement via Elemental Magic), Chi Abundance and Chi Empathy (as Disciple of Life and Blessed Healer from the Life domain). As it stands however I think this build is a great example of what the class is and does, wonderfully illustrating the difference between a warlock archetype and a proper class build using the same framework!

Zhuang Zhou
Medium humanoid (human), chaotic good geomancer (architect) 7
Armor Class 16 (breastplate)
Hit Points 38 (7d8+7)
Speed 30 ft.

9 (-1)14 (+2)12 (+1)14 (+2)16 (+3)16 (+3)

Saving Throws Int +5, Wis +6
Skills Insight +6, Medicine +6, Nature +5, Religion +5; cartographer’s tools +5, herbalism kit +6
Senses passive Perception 13
Languages Chinese
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)

Background Feature: Divine Connection. As a close understudy of Lao-Tzu, Zhuang Zhou has always had a preternaturally unnerving and mystical understanding of the universe.

Elemental Magic (Recharges on Short Rest). Zhuang Zhou is a 7th-level spellcaster that uses Wisdom as his spellcasting ability (spell save DC 14; spell attack +6). To cast a geomancer spell, he must spend an elemental spell slot of that level or higher, and he must meet that spell’s environmental availability requirement. He can cast the following spells from the geomancer’s spell list as 4th-level spells (2 slots):
Cantrips: mending, produce flame, resistance
Earth―Zhuang Zhou always has access to these spells from The Ground of Being: protection from energy, shatter, shield, stoneskin, stone shape
Fire―There must be a Medium‐sized or larger flame within 30 feet of Zhuang Zhou: burning hands, fireball, flame blade, heat metal, lightning bolt, wall of fire
Metal―There must be a Medium‐sized or larger metallic object within 30 feet of Zhuang Zhou: banishment, dispel magic, hold person, magic circle, magic weapon, shield of faith
Water―There must be a Medium‐sized or larger body of water within 30 feet of Zhuang Zhou: control water, create or destroy water, fog cloud, invisibility, sleet storm, water walk
Wood―There must be a Medium‐sized or larger plant or wooden object within 30 feet of Zhuang Zhou: barkskin, blight, entangle, plant growth, spike growth

Impenetrable Hermitage. Zhuang Zhou knows the spell tiny hut. He can cast it as a ritual or by using Elemental Magic spell slots.

Mystic Masonry. Whenever Zhuang Zhou casts tiny hut, he can instead use the spell to produce a stonework house. To do so, he must have adequate materials present. Available stone, clay, and other materials in a 20-foot cube are reshaped instantaneously into an earthen abode 20 feet on each side and one story tall. The floorplan is Zhuang Zhou’s choice (average contains 4 rooms).

Numinous Acquaintance. Zhuang Zhou can cast detect evil and good at will, without expending a spell slot.

Stone’s Blessing (3/Long Rest). If he is holding his sacred stone or if it is on his person, Zhuang Zhou can use a bonus action to grant 10 temporary hit points to himself and each friendly creature he can see within 30 feet.

The Ground of Being. Zhuang Zhou always has access to Earth element spells.

Written in Stone. Zhuang Zhou can cast augury with Elemental Magic or as a ritual. His sacred stone suffices for the material components. If a divination spell he casts requires a focus or material components which are not consumed, his sacred stone counts as a substitute material worth 175 gp.

Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d4+2) piercing damage.

Light Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage.

Arrange Fates. Zhuang Zhou can use his reaction to apply a +5 bonus or –5 penalty to any one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw made by a creature he can see within 30 feet. He can wait until after it rolls the d20 before deciding to use this feature, but he must decide before the GM says whether the roll succeeds or fails. Zhuang Zhou begins with 1 use of this feature, and gains 1 more use each time he uses Stone’s Blessing (maximum 4 uses). His number of uses resets to 1 whenever he finishes a long rest.
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

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