This Dungeons & Dragons challenge of Gandalf the Grey is free for you to use in your own fifth edition D&D campaigns. Just not commercially! And the art is from sources unknown.
This is one I’ve been stewing on for a while. Originally, the suggestion came from user @babo_fatt for Gandalf, Saruman, and Sauron:
Gandalf the Grey? Saruman the Many-Colored? Or just straight up Sauron.
Yowzas! Those are pretty big asks. We’re talking about 80 years worth of legends here with powers that aren’t entirely clear. Plus, if I screw it up, people will inevitably be upset.
Of course, in marketing, we always say, “If you haven’t pissed off someone before noon, you’re doing it wrong.”
So I think I’ll kick off with just part of this, tackling Gandalf the Grey.
Who is Gandalf the Grey?
If you don’t know who Gandalf is by now, you’ve probably stumbled onto this blog randomly while looking for cookie recipes or something, and I apologize for the confusion.
All kidding aside, let’s face it: Dungeons & Dragons is pretty much Tolkien’s books condensed into a game, right?
Sure, there are some other influences thrown in, but the basic backbone of D&D has long been Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.
Regardless, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about everyone’s favorite wizard:
Gandalf is a fictional character and one of the protagonists in J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He is a wizard, member of the Istari order, as well as leader of the Fellowship of the Ring and the army of the West. In The Lord of the Rings, he is initially known as Gandalf the Grey, but returns from death as Gandalf the White.
Who were the Istari?
Again, from our friends at Wikipedia:
In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Wizards of Middle-earth are a group of beings outwardly resembling Men but possessing much greater physical and mental power. They are also called the Istari (Quenya for “Wise Ones”) by the Elves. The Sindarin word is Ithryn (sing. Ithron). They were sent by the Valar to assist the people of Middle-earth to contest Sauron.
What else do we know about Gandalf?
Some more tidbits from that Wikipedia article regarding Gandalf:
- Gandalf’s name translated roughly to “elf of the staff.”
- The Elvish name for Gandalf was Olórin (“dreamer”).
- Gandalf was the servant of Manwë or Varda but was a lover of the Gardens of Lórien.
- When the Istari originally appeared in Middle Earth, they were given the forms of old men, as well as all the ordinary urges and emotions of man.
- Much of Gandalf’s power comes from his staff, although he still has great power even after his staff is broken fighting the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm.
- Gandalf and the other wizards were meant to use their great wisdom to persuade Men to courses of action which would achieve Men’s own goals, rather than trying to dominate them
Some other interesting things about Gandalf:
- Beyond the infamous Ring of Power, Gandalf wears Narya, the Ring of Fire. Narya is described as having the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, domination, and despair, as well as having the power (in common with the other Three Rings) to hide the wielder from remote observation (except by the wielder of the One) and giving resistance to the weariness of time. It is also thought to have magical properties and fire powers, as when fighting Durin’s Bane, Gandalf claims to wield the Flame of Anor.
- Gandalf also wields the sword Glamdring. Glamdring was a high-elven sword. Thus, “being the work of Elvish smiths in the Elder Days these swords shone with a cold light if any Orcs were near at hand,” and so it warned its bearers of nearby evil.
Development Notes for Gandalf the Grey in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition
Based on what I’d researched, an image of Gandalf started to take form. Now it was simply of matter of taking those elements and making them into Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition stats (and hopefully not get mobbed by all the Tolkien fans out there in the process!).
Here’s each element of Gandalf the Grey’s stat block broken down.
Gandalf the Grey. Boom. Nailed it.
Gandalf is a shorter-than-average human male, so his size is Medium.
Ah. Now it’s getting tricky. But I think I’m going to have to rule that Gandalf is a Celestial, even if he’s only half a Celestial.
Obviously, Gandalf is good. But does he follow all laws to a T? Some might argue, no, he doesn’t. However, I think he’s not the type that would disrupt the flow of things. And most Celestials in Dungeons & Dragons go under the “lawful good” heading. Therefore, that’s where I’ll place him.
Of course, feel free to challenge me on it in the comments below.
Gandalf’s pretty tough. But that could be a combination of high hit points, damage resistances/immunities, and other effects. Beyond his robe, it doesn’t look like he wears armor. And there’s no soft glimmer of a magical shield around him. Therefore, I’d move that his armor class is simply 10 + his Dexterity modifier.
Gandalf will have quite a few hit points, being a legendary Celestial. Keep in mind that this is a guy who went toe-to-toe with a Balrog. And fortunately, Balrogs are already more or less in Dungeons & Dragons as Balors. All we need to do is extrapolate from that combat and compare him to the other angelic beings found in the Monster Manual.
At no point do we see (or read about) Gandalf moving any faster than a normal human. Therefore, 30 feet of movement makes sense.
Tough to say what Gandalf’s abilities are. He’s a semi-angelic being, so his stats are going to be high across the board. And he’s runnerup for the wisest/smartest being in all of Middle Earth. But here’s how I’m going to lay it out:
We see from the films that he’s skilled at hand to hand combat. And Glamdring is a longsword (not to mention dude can dual-wield a quarterstaff and longsword!), therefore he’s got to have a decent enough Strength score there, probably up in the angelic range.
Gandalf’s no bum when it comes to Dexterity either. He’s nimble, fast, and can catch a sword in mid-fall in order to smite a demon with it. The Laws of Physics aside, he’s going to have some supernatural Dexterity to roll like that. And since his weapons tend to be strength-based melee weapons, his Strength will have to be around the same level if not even.
As I’ve pointed out in my articles on Monster abilities, Constitution scales with Challenge Rating. Also, Gandalf’s gotta have enough hit points to keep him alive while fighting Balrogs and falling off mountains, etc.
Gandalf’s Intelligence is second only to Saruman’s. And he’s a “wizard” (although, I might be a little controversial here and say Gandalf’s closer to a D&D Paladin than a wizard, more on that later). Since Gandalf understands most of the inner workings of the entire universe, I’ll probably place him in the early-to-mid twenties for Intelligence.
Same story with Wisdom. Gandalf is supposed to be one of the wisest beings in all of Middle Earth. Therefore, it makes sense to put him pretty high up there with Wisdom. Low-to-mid twenties again with this one.
Something tells me that a majority of Gandalf’s powers come not from Intelligence like Dungeons & Dragons wizards, or Wisdom like a D&D cleric, but from Charisma. This plays in well with how otherworldly beings work in 5th edition, too. I also think this will be Gandalf’s highest ability score, even if it’s only a point or two above Intelligence and Wisdom.
Basically, Gandalf is good at everything. But I think it makes sense to keep him in line with the other angels from the Monster Manual and beef up his Int, Wis, and Cha saves.
Again, we’re dealing with a total Mary Sue DMPC here. But I think the skills Gandalf are best at are probably Perception (let’s face it, half of the stuff in the Monster Manual are proficient with Perception), Performance (he can put on quite a show), Arcana, History, and Religion. The rest he’s good at, sure, but his high stats alone should be enough for him.
Vulnerabilities, Resistances, and Immunities
Gandalf is mortalish, but he’s still pretty tough. He’s going to have a high Dexterity and hit points, but I’m thinking I’ll need to offset the lower AC with resistances to most of the basic stuff: bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical weapons; and radiant. Angels are also immune to necrotic and poison. They can’t be charmed, exhausted, frightened, or poisoned, either. TL;DR I’m going to give him all the same immunities and resistances as the solar from the Monster Manual.
Oh, and seeing as he wears the Ring of Fire and was able to go toe-to-toe with the Balrog, he is probably immune to fire damage, too. Might as well toss cold in there, as well.
I want to say that Gandalf probably has truesight. At the very least, this is a side effect of the Ring of Fire he wears. Plus, any Celestial worth its salt has truesight.
I doubt there’s a language Gandalf doesn’t know. So we’ll give him all of them. Chances are he probably has telepathy, too.
Again, here comes the tricky part. Gandalf can hold his own with a Balrog, therefore it makes sense that he’s on par with the Balors which are at 19. And that’s where I placed him. This will help guide the final numbers for his ability scores, hit points, and attacks.
God, where to begin. I don’t think that Gandalf can cast spells so much as he has innate spellcasting abilities such as speak with animals, daylight, and a few others that fit with his flavor. Gandalf has a paladin’s ability to smite, specifically what looks like a thunderous Smite if the films are to be believed.
Gandalf probably has magic resistance, too. And he’s a legendary figure, so he gets legendary saves.
Finally, Gandalf is armed with at least three magic items: Narya, the Ring of Fire; his wizard staff; and Glamdring, his longsword. What’s most interesting about Gandalf and the fluff is that if his staff is ever broken, he loses much of his power. Hard to classify this. This could be similar to a lich’s phylactery, or it could simply remove most of his powers.
Gandalf can whoop up with his weapons. Both Glamdring and his staff probably do normal damage plus radiant damage (a la Angelic weapons). And he can use both at the same time in combat (see: Mary Sue DMPC). In addition, Gandalf will have a few legendary actions, too. I might put his smite ability in the legendary section and allow him to make extra attacks.
Putting it all together…
So, there are my notes for the infamous Gandalf the Gray. Now it’s simply a matter of making the math work out so that he’s a reasonable challenge of 18 or 19 and doesn’t have people hating on my concept for him.
Gandalf the Grey
Medium celestial (Istari), lawful good
Armor Class 14
Hit Points 184 (16d8 + 112)
Speed 30 ft.
Abilities Str 18 (+4), Dex 18 (+4), Con 24 (+7), Int 23 (+6), Wis 24 (+7), Cha 25 (+7)
Saving Throws Wis +13, Int +12, Cha +13
Skills Arcana +12, History +12, Perception +13, Performance +13, Religion +12
Damage Resistances radiant; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks
Damage Immunities cold, fire, necrotic, poison
Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned
Senses truesight 120 ft., passive Perception 23
Languages all, telepathy 120 ft.
Challenge 19 (22,000 XP)
Special Equipment. Gandalf wears Narya, the Ring of Fire. He and the ring can’t be targeted by divination magic or perceived through magical scrying sensors. While attuned to and wearing the ring, Gandalf has truesight out to 120 feet and is immune to cold and fire damage and the effects of extreme cold and extreme heat. In addition, Gandalf can make the ring invisible at will.
Gandalf wields Glamdring, a +3 longsword with additional magical properties. Whenever the longsword is near orcs or goblins, it glows with a dull, blue glow that creates dim light within 10 feet of it. While attuned to and wielding the longsword, it gives Gandalf advantage on attacks against orcs and goblins made with the longsword, plus it deals an extra 9 (2d8) radiant damage against orcs and goblins.
Gandalf wields a wizard staff, a +3 quarterstaff with additional magical properties. As a bonus action, Gandalf can activate any one of the following properties while attuned to the staff, provided he has the weapon drawn:
- Cast daylight from the staff. Once this property is used, it can’t be used again until next dawn.
- Cast shatter from the staff (save DC 21). Once this property is used, it can’t be used again until the next dawn.
- Cast protection from evil and good (save DC 21). Once this property is used, it can’t be used again until the next dawn.
Angelic Weapons. Gandalf’s weapon attacks are magical. When Gandalf hits with any weapon, the weapon deals an extra 5d8 radiant damage (included in the attack).
Innate Spellcasting. Gandalf’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 21). He can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components.
At will: detect evil and good, detect magic, prestidigitation, speak with animals
3/day each: animal messenger, dispel magic, identify
1/day: banishing smite, find steed, heal, greater restoration, magic circle, scrying, thunderous smite
Legendary Resistance (3/day). If Gandalf fails a saving throw, he can choose to succeed instead.
Magic Resistance. Gandalf has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.
Power Focus. If Gandalf’s wizard staff is destroyed, he loses all of his damage resistances, damage immunities, and condition immunities, plus all of his special abilities and legendary actions.
Multiattack. Gandalf makes two melee attacks.
Glamdring (+3 longsword). Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (1d8 + 7) slashing damage or 12 (1d10 + 7) bludgeoning damage when wielded with two hands, plus 22 (5d8) radiant damage.
Wizard Staff (+3 quarterstaff). Melee Weapon Attack: +14 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 10 (1d6 + 7) bludgeoning damage or 11 (1d8 + 7) bludgeoning damage when wielded with two hands, plus 22 (5d8) radiant damage.
Narya, The Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire has 12 charges and regains all its expended charges daily at dawn. While attuned to and wearing the ring, Gandalf can expend the necessary number of charges to cast the following spells from the ring (spell save DC 21): beacon of hope (2 charges), heroism (1 charge), nondetection (1 charge), protection from evil and good (1 charges), protection from energy (2 charges; fire only)
Gandalf can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature’s turn. Gandalf regains spent legendary actions at the start of his turn.
At-Will Innate Spell. Gandalf uses one of his at-will innate spellcasting abilities.
Melee Attack (Costs 2 Actions). Gandalf makes one melee attack with his wizard staff or Glamdring.
Regenerate (Costs 3 Actions). Gandalf magically regains 40 hit points.
Thanks for reading!
Phew. This was not an easy one, but I enjoy having my brain exercised. So thanks again for the suggestion, @babo_fatt!
Now, of course, plenty is left up for debate, but I think I covered most of the stuff from the books and/or films.
If you have any suggestions or changes you think I should make, definitely leave a note in the comments below.
And if you’d like to see other cool pop-culture figures made into playable Dungeons & Dragons NPCs and monsters, sign up to the mailing list with the link to the right or down in the footer.
See you next time!