We were surprised a few days before SuperHero Day with the release of the first trailer for «Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings», to be released in September as part of Phase Four of the MCU. In the film, when Shang-Chi is drawn into the clandestine Ten Rings organization, he is forced to confront the past he thought he left behind, or at least so it says the premise. In the comics, Shang-Chi only seeks peace and harmony in a weary world while he constantly opposes those who would tear it down.
«I do not seek power. I seek only peace.»
As usual, before we start, we’ll run a quick reminder of the rules we set as our standard in order to transform pop culture icons into D&D characters:
- This will be done following the rules for the 5th Edition. Core rules, official supplements and Unearthed Arcana content are fair game.
- Sometimes we’ll pick a rules element for mechanic purposes. If it’s just for that, we’ll probably suggest flavorful re-doings for such elements.
- The build is not meant to be optimized, but to reflect the character as much as possible.
- Finally, we will follow the step-by-step character creation process as it is shown in the Player’s Handbook, but brace up for the unexpected when it comes to going beyond first level.
Alright! Let’s kung-fu-kick-start this!
Master of Kung Fu
The story is as old as time: a renowned criminal sired a child who he raised as his heir to an insidious secret society. In this case, he named him Shang-Chi, the “rising and advancing of the spirit.” In a hidden, ancient fortress in China, the boy became adept at both a multitude of martial arts and philosophical disciplines, completely unaware of his father’s evil pursuits. As a young man, Shang-Chi found himself tasked by the society to assassinate an old enemy of his father’s, but during the mission came into contact with a venerable British secret agent named Smith. The man illuminated the society’s global criminal activities and in doing so set Shang-Chi on a path to declare war on his own father and everything he stood for.
In order to have Shang-Chi turned into a D&D character, we have to take into consideration his power set. His training instilled not only wisdom in him, but also forged him into a living weapon, a martial arts master without peer in the world. He’s known for his expertise in all forms of fighting and, thus, for his preference to eschew weapons for bare-handed battle. Despite this, Shang-Chi’s ability with swords, staves, nunchaku, and shuriken is also unmatched. He is also a natural athlete as well as peace-loving and composed, and as such Shang-Chi may be looked upon as a level-headed individual who practices meditation and inner-cleansing as arts within themselves. His use of chi, or internal energy, aids him not only in combat, but also in commanding his emotions in tense situations. This pronounced calm even allows him to dodge bullets.
So what do we need to represent his powers? In summary, kick-ass martial-arts fighting skills (not for nothing he gets a 7 out of 7 ranking in the Marvel official database) and pretty much nothing else.
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu
Having been raised within the Ten Rings, we’ve given Shang Chi the criminal background. This provides him with proficiency in Decepcion and Stealth. His specialty is hired killer, which fits the storyline in which he meets agent Smith, and his criminal contact is actually the whole Ten Rings network.
From all the monastic traditions available, the practitioners of the Way of the Open Hand are «the ultimate masters of martial arts combat, whether armed or unarmed». Pushing and tripping their opponents, manipulating ki to heal damage to their bodies, and practicing advanced meditation that can protect them from harm all seem adaptable to Shang-Chi’s power set.
Much of what Shang-Chi does depends on his physical abilities, though we can’t deny his Wisdom is notable. We’ll drop both Intelligence and Charisma to focus on Dexterity. His damage input is more related to his dominion of amrtial arts than to mere sheer strength, and we’ve seen him falling many times when someone has the skill (or luck) to hit him (which most of the times he’s well able to avoid, by the way). All this makes us select his ability scores in this order: Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution, Strength, Charisma, Intelligence.
Fighting crime on behalf of the innocent is very Lawful Good, so that’s the easy part.
- Personality trait: «I am always calm, no matter what the situation. I never raise my voice or let my emotions control me.»
- Ideal: «There’s a spark of good in everyone.» (Good)
- Bond: «I’m guilty of a terrible crime. I hope I can redeem myself for it.» In this case, the terrible crime is having been raised by the Ten Rings.
- Flaw: none of the Criminal flaws are really fitting to Shang-Chi, so we came up with «I will not use my powers to kill.» as we’ve seen recently in the «Enter the Phoenix» saga. In D&D it just means he will declare his final blow to not kill his opponent all the time.
Fortunately for us, Shang-Chi doesn’t use any particular powerful items beyond his weapons, including staves, nunchakus and shuriken. Our main conflict comes from the most situational and magical abilites that the monk gets at levels 13 and above, so we thought to keep him from those levels by multiclassing into the most worldly class the game has: fighter. Why? Because it helps us to not decrease his combat skills and at the same time avoiding overtly supernatural powers. By the way, the only feat that catches our attention is Mobile, so you should raise every ability score you have as high as possible in the smae order you allotted them at first level.
- Mnk1 – as described above
- Mnk2 – Ki, Unarmored Movement
- Ftr1 – Fighting Style (Battle Master – Combat Superiority; maneuvers: Bait and Switch, Evasive Footwork, Quick Toss), Second Wind
- Mnk3 – Monastic Tradition (Way of the Open Hand – Open Hand Technique), Deflect Missiles
- Mnk4 – Ability Score Improvement, Slow Fall
- Ftr2 – Action Surge (one use)
- Ftr3 – Martial Archetype (Student of War – artisan’s tools proficiency)
- Mnk5 – Extra Attack, Stunning Strike (Mnk unarmed damage 1d6)
- Mnk6 – Ki-Empowered Strikes, Monastic Tradition Feature (Wholeness of Body)
- Ftr4 – Ability Score Improvement
- Mnk7 – Evasion, Stillness of Mind
- Mnk8 – Ability Score Improvement
- Ftr5 – Extra Attack
- Ftr6 – Ability Score Improvement
- Mnk9 – Unarmored Movement Improvement
- Mnk10 – Purity of Body
- Ftr7 – Martial Archetype Feature (Know your enemy; maneuvers: Grappling Strike, Parry)
- Mnk11 – Monastic Tradition Feature (Tranquility) (Mnk unarmed damage 1d8)
- Ftr8 – Ability Score Improvement
- Ftr9 – Indomitable (one use)
- Race: Human (variant) (PH 104)
- Classes: Fighter (PH 70), Monk (PH 76)
- Background: Criminal (PH 129)
- Feats: Mobile (PH 116)
- Archetypes: Way of the Open Hand (PH 79), Battle Master (PH 73)
Do you agree with us having Shang-Chi as a multiclass monk/fighter instead of a single-class monk? Do you have any ideas or suggestions about his equipment? Please share them in the comments! In the meantime, enjoy the first trailer for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.