Building The (Less Well-Known) Avengers for 5e!

Avengers Assemble!

For the next couple of weeks, while I kick off a PhD program in my Real Life, I’m going to do a little project I’ve wanted to work on for a while: I’m statting up the Avengers. I’m inspired, here, by a couple of posts on Tribality, laying out stats for the Avengers from the movies. The movies are great and all, but those aren’t my Avengers. The Avengers team I remember most fondly wasn’t the most iconic or the most powerful, but it had a real diversity of characters and abilities and personalities, and those personalities often drove the stories in a way they hadn’t before, and haven’t often sense. The Avengers of the mid-80s might not be the best or the most recognizable, but in many ways they’re the ones I imprinted on at an impressionable age, and they’ll always have a place in my heart.

D&D isn’t the best game for super-hero action, even though the PC are, compared to the rest of the world, super-heroes by level 6. It doesn’t replicate well a mismatch in party ability levels, for one. Take the Avengers from the movies: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, and Hulk. If a GM balances an encounter properly, either Thor and Hulk are going to end it in a single round, or Hawkeye and Black Widow aren’t going to survive it.

The mid-80s Avengers, at least, were better balanced. Thor had been powered-down enough that the version on Tribality pretty well represents what he was capable of. He was almost mortal, at this point. Shawn’s build of Captain America is right on, too.

Of the other members on the team at that time, She-Hulk was the most powerful, but even she was never depicted as a force of nature the way He-Hulk always was. She wasn’t as physically overwhelming, but she was much smarter. Hercules was there, as well, but his strength was always downplayed. He was a demi-god, after all, not a full-fledged god like Thor.

The second reason D&D doesn’t do super-heroes well is that super-heroes get all their powers at once. Hulk didn’t have to go through 20 levels before becoming the strongest one there is: he started out that way. Sure, their powers and abilities evolve over time, but that’s story-based evolution, not a gradual increase in power. I want these builds to be playable at every level, and to feel at least a little like the character they’re meant to represent.

Despite all that, I’m building my Avengers, damnit. Captain America I’m not touching. The Battle Master Fighter is perfect. I’m going to try my hand at a multi-class cleric/paladin build to Thor, though. The others, though: Black Knight. Captain Marvel. Dr. Druid (the worst Avenger). Namor. She-Hulk. Wasp. I’ll post builds for them over the next couple of weeks, and then I’ll get back to some Iron Gods stuff.

(Machine Man and Namora were honorary Avengers/ plot devices in the same time period, but I’m not building them, partly because I haven’t put together a construct race for Machine Man, yet. Maybe later. Oh, and Starfox was there for a while, but his power is date rape, so I’m not going anywhere near him and neither should you.)

enhanced-27340-1423176997-9Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau)

She’s gone through a lot of code-names: Captain Marvel, Photon, Pulsar, Monica, and Spectrum, but at this point she was Captain Marvel, which basically makes her the standard-bearer for the entire comic book line. I mean, if your company is called “Marvel Comics,” then Captain Marvel should be your standout character. She does lead the team, for a while, although during this period just about everybody who isn’t Thor, She-Hulk, or Hercules becomes leader for a while. Despite that, she’s an awesome character: a Black woman leading the flagship Marvel team in the mid-1980s. Even today, she’s the natural leader of every team she’s on.

If she’s the leader, she should be a bard, right? I’m going to go Cleric of Light, though, because it fits her powers perfectly. She’s the leader not because she’s the most charismatic (she’s not), but because she’s the best at putting resources where they belong. That says Wisdom, to me: she makes the right choice at the right time, not because she’s studied the options, but because she has great instincts. In D&D, the leader role always goes to the character with the highest Charisma, but I think that’s a mistake. That character is the best talker, sure, but not necessarily the best leader.

The best leader? That’s always Captain Marvel.

I’m throwing down two builds for her: one an aasimar and one an aarakocra. Either way she’s at the beginning of the alphabet. The question is, which is more important: the light powers or the flight?

Captain Marvel

Hacking Captain Marvel

All of the attack spells I picked replicate something that she can do in the comic, and all of the non-attack spells are similarly focused. If I were playing her as a cleric, cure spells wouldn’t be my first choice. If I took one, though, I’d flavor it as “Monica sutures your wound with a laser from her finger,” or something. In fact, that’s true of all the spells: if I used greater restoration to remove exhaustion, I’d flavor that as hitting the other character with a dose of pure sunlight or wake them back up.

I can’t decide which race is better, honestly. I love the idea of getting her into the air sooner, but the magic items make up for that pretty quickly, and the Spell Sniper feat may be worth it. (Although the light cantrip is a waste, since it comes from the race and the domain.) The dive ability seems out of character, too. I guess it’s a question of how important flying is, to our image of her. If I were GMing, I’d grant an aasimar Captain Marvel access to levitate early on, and maybe jump, or something.

One final note: even if I were playing her as an aasimar, I’d keep Monica Rambeau dark-skinned. Being a Black woman from New Orleans is as important a part of her character as being a police officer, and since aasimar are always depicted as light-skinned, I think that keeping that aspect of her would make for some interesting role-playing opportunities with other aasimar, and the humans around them. More importantly, I think it’s important not to white-wash the character just because “that’s not what aasimar look like.” They’re a fantasy race: they look like whatever we want them to. (In fact, there’s no reason all aasimar can’t be Black. That would be an interesting way to subvert that trope, I think.)

There it is: the first of the Avengers builds, with more to come. What do you think? Playable at every level? What would you change?

Next time: The Lion of Olympus and the Worst Avenger (but an awesome player character)! Builds of Dr. Druid and Hercules!

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