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Arthurian Legend Merlin in Your D&D Game as an NPC

by: Matt Conlon ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

He appeared in first edition, and was invited back for second edition. However, poor Merlin was excluded from third Edition. This is the old Merlin, updated to fit into 3rd and 4th Edition.

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    Camelot comes to D&D

    Disney   Dungeons and Dragons is probably the most well known name in fantasy gaming. Players of all ages and from all walks of life get together with their peers and in essence, write a story. These stories can be full of swashbuckling swordsmen, devious villains, and powerful sorcerers.

    Merlin is one of the most well known magic-wielding characters in literary history (outside of Dungeons and Dragons). Although the character of Merlin has roots in some other, much older stories, he is best known for his role as the adviser and friend to the legendary King Arthur. But what would he look like as an NPC (Non Player Character) in D&D?

    When it comes to D&D stats, famous characters can be very impressive. This article will focus on the Merlin from the Arthurian Legend.

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    Merlin's D&D History

    Deities demigods SA   TSR published a book in 1980 called Deities & Demigods, and in it they listed the D&D stats Merlin would have for their first edition rules. In addition to Merlin's D&D stats, famous characters like King Arthur and Launcelot were also included. Later, they updated the information for use in their second edition, in a book called Legends and Lore. Unfortunately, Merlin's likeness was not updated again. Wizards of the coast (who bought TSR) excluded the Arthurian heroes from the 3E incarnation of the book, which they again called Deities & Demigods.

    Let's take a look at what this 2E Merlin would look like having been updated it to work in a 3E / 3.5E environment by putting him through the upgrade process outlined in WotC's 3RD Edition Conversion Manual.

    Note: in the second edition book it's stated that Merlin was the product of a human woman who was seduced by "a supernatural creature of evil origin". Fortunately, the unborn child was saved from the clutches of evil by a priest. For the sake of simplicity, I am treating Merlin as though his race was Human, although technically you could consider him half human, half infernal.

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    D&D Stats - Famous Characters: Merlin the Wizard

    The 2E Merlin was a duel class: 17th level Wizard / 14th level Druid. When converted to 3E, we have twenty-one character levels to divide between to the two classes as we see fit. I chose twelve levels in Wizard and nine levels in Druid.

    There is no change to the character's abilities due to the conversion.

    Strength: 12 (modifier: 1); Dexterity: 15 (modifier: 2); Constitution: 20 (modifier: 5);

    Intelligence; 19 (modifier: 4); Wisdom: 18 (modifier: 4); Charisma: 14 (modifier: 2).

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    The Rest

    unearthearcana   Hit Points, Skill points, Saving Throws, and feats need to be selected and allocated carefully. These are slightly more complicated than the attributes because they are quantities that are accumulated or changed based on character level and/or class level. To this end, I've made the assumption that Merlin took twelve levels in Wizard first, followed by nine in Druid.

    Unfortunately the second edition description of Merlin did not include any secondary skills or non-weapon proficiencies to work with, so allocation of skills points and feat slots will be purely speculative.

    Hit Points: Hit points are determined by class. A wizard's hit die is 1d4, and a Druid's is 1d8. You could roll 12d4 adding 60, (Merlin's constitution bonus (5) per each roll), and then add the sum of 9d8 + 45 and see what comes out. This gives a maximum of 225 hit points, and a minimum of 126.

    Armor Class: Merlin's AC in 2E was two, due to bracers that gave him a bonus of 8. This would make his 3E armor class 2.

    Saving Throws: When a character has two classes in 3E, his or her saving throws are the higher of he two. In other words:

    12th level Wizard: Fortitude:4 Reflex: 4 Will:8.

    9th level Druid: Fortitude:6 Reflex: 3 Will: 6.

    Thus Merlin's saving throws are Fortitude: 6, Reflex: 4, Will: 8.

    Skill points: Skill points are accumulated over time at a number based upon class, so although his total skill points as a Wizard 12/ Druid 9, is 249, they would have been allocated in a specific way. First, allocate the 120 skill points he'd have accumulated by 12th level as a Wizard, taking into account class and cross-class skills. Remember that a 12th level character's skill point maximums for class skills and cross class skills are respectively 15 / 7 (character level +3, halved and rounded down for cross-class).

    Next, re-asses what's a class skill and a cross class skill for a druid, and allocate the 129 skill points nine levels in druid would allot. Note, max skill ranks are now 24 / 12.

    Feats: Feats accumulation is not based upon class, but character level. All characters start with 1 at first level, and humans are granted a bonus of one extra feat. By twenty-first level, a human character would have a total of nine feats.

    Wizards get bonus feats. At first level, they are granted "Scribe Scroll" as a bonus feat, and an additional bonus feat every 5th level (5th, 10th, 15th, etc.) With these factored in, by 12th level, a Human Wizard has "Scribe Scroll, as well as eight other feat slots.

    Druids do not gain any bonus feats. By the time Merlin reaches Character Level 21, he would have gained another three feats bringing his total up to "Scribe Scroll" + 11 other feat slots.

    Base Attack Bonus: Both Wizard (12) and Druid (9) coincidentally have the same base attack bonuses. Both classes have two attacks per round, the first at a base attack bonus of 6, the second at a base attack bonus of 1.

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    Fourth Edition

    phoenix   Things get a little more complicated when talking fourth edition. While the class of Wizard still exists in 4E, the class itself has a lot more to it. Having changed as much as they did, there's no real way to upgrade directly from 3E to 4E. WotC did put out their official word on conversion from 3.5E to 4E. However, they didn't say anything about multi-classed characters. Further, the Druid is not even in the core rule books. (Good thing he wasn't a Gnome. Gnomes were tossed out of the Player's Handbook entirely, and can now be found in the Monster Manual!)

    The Wizard class was redesigned in 4E. The bad news: This means that our 3.5 Merlin will not translate. The good news: We don't have to rehash old material, we get to create a new NPC!

    First, we need to decide exactly what 4E class suits Merlin most.

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    A 25th Level Controller in King Arthur's Court

    Merlinus   Merlin was really a practitioner of the older magics (paganism). His “great feats" have for the most part been about knowing things: dragons under the castles, poison a-commin’, how to defeat the enemy, as well as being a skilled healer.

    Keeping Merlin a single class is much easier in 4E, and really makes him a less complicated character to play. With careful choice of powers and a focus on Ritual Casting, Controller would work nicely. The Controller generally takes a support role in the group. While they preffer powers that deal damage to many foes at once, they also use powers that confuse or delay attackers.

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    NPC block

    Here's a 4E NPC block for Merlin that can be used in your campaign, or adapted as a PC.

    Merlin Ambrosius

    Level 25 Controller, XP 7,000

    Medium Immortal Humanoid

    (Human, Shape-changer)

    HP: 228; Bloodied: 114

    Initiative: +14

    AC: 39; Fortitude: 26; Reflex:37; Will:38

    Speed: 6

    Resist: 10 psychic

    Traits:

    Prophetic Knowledge

    Merlin rolls twice for any knowledge check, taking the better of the two rolls.

    Standard Actions:

    Staff - At-Will

    Attack: +29 vs will

    Hit 2d8 + 12 and the target is stunned until the end of Merlin's next turn.

    Befuddle (Implement, Psychic) - At Will

    Attack: blast 5 (targets enemies); +29 vs. Reflex

    Hit: 3d8 + 9 psychic damage; and Merlin slides the target 3 squares

    Prophecy of Doom (Implement, Psychic) - Recharge

    Attack: +29 vs. Fortitude

    Hit: 4d10 + 9 damage, and ongoing 15 damage and the target takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls and all defenses. (save ends all).

    Minor Actions:

    Change Shape (polymorph) - At-Will

    Effect: Merlin can alter his physical form to take on the appearance of any Medium humanoid, including a unique individual.

    Triggered Actions:

    Prophetic foreknowledge - At-Will

    Effect (immediate interrupt): The attacker must make a second attack roll and use the new result.

    Skills: Religion +24, Arcana +24, dungeoneering +24, Heal +24, History +24, Nature +24

    Str: 14 (+14)

    Con: 20 (+17)

    Dex: 15 (+14)

    Int: 25 (+19)

    Wis: 25 (+19)

    Cha: 15 (+14)

    Alignment: good

    Languages: Common, Elven, Supernal

    Equipment: staff implement

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    Your Turn

    Merlin   I hope the information provided here helps to add Merlin as an NPC to your game, or adapt the NPC for use as a player character.

    As I say, Merlin made appearances in many different pieces of literature and lore. This article was based on the skills and acts in of Merlin in the Arthurian Legends. Also, there may be other classes that could be used to accurately depict Merlin. If you have such a character generated, or an idea for another character you'd like to use, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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    Sample contents.

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