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Bass Reeves

Bass Reeves an American law enforcement official. He works mostly in Arkansas and the Oklahoma Territory During his long career, he had on his record more than 3,000 arrests of dangerous criminals, and shot and killed 14 of them in self-defense.

D&D 5E Mythological Figures: Bass Reeves

D&D 5E – Mythological Figures: Bass Reeves | EN World | Dungeons & Dragons | Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Bass Reeves
By Unknown author – Western History Collections at the University of Oklahoma Library have a copy of this image in their holdings., Public Domain,

Over 3,000 arrests. The first black deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi River worked the Arkansas and Oklahoma territories for 32 years, killing over a dozen men in self-defense before dying after 2 years of retirement as a local police officer in Muskogee.

This legend’s story begins in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas where he was born into slavery under William Steele Reeves, a state legislator (Bass’ first name came from his grandfather Bass Washington). In 1846 Bass went to Grayson County, Texas where he was likely kept in bondage there by Colonel George R. Reeves (a Texas state legislator and son of William Reeves) for at least a decade. After being taken to the fighting during the Civil War (where Colonel Reeves joined the Confederacy) he escaped, living with the Cherokee, Creeks, and Seminoles in the Indian Territory until 1865. For the next 10 years Bass lived in Van Buren, Arkansas where he worked his family’s farm.

In 1875 a US Marshal by the name of James F. Fagan was ordered by Judge Isaac Parker to find 200 deputies for the Indian Territory—with his knowledge of the land and ability to speak Native languages, Bass Reeves became a deputy US Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas for 18 years, transferring to the Eastern District of Texas for 4 years, and then served 10 more years in the Muskogee Federal Court. Despite often being made to hunt down very dangerous criminals, Bass was never wounded (though he did have his belt and hat shot off at least once each, so he was no stranger to close calls).

While Bass was an excellent shot with both pistols and long arms, he was also good at his job and truly lived as a lawman, even hunting down his own son for murdering his daughter-in-law (Benjamin “Bennie” Reeves went on to serve 11 years at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas before becoming a model citizen.) Incidentally he did once kill a man by mistake (a posse cook) while cleaning his gun but he was acquitted by Judge Parker, and it should be noted that his other 10 kids (from 2 wives) did not eventually become criminals he was forced to hunt down.

Some other interesting things about Bass Reeves: he was the great-uncle of Paul L. Brady, the first black man to become a US federal administrative law judge (appointed 62 years after Bass passed away), the bridge over the Arkansas River between Muskogee and Fort Gibson is called the Bass Reeves Memorial Bridge, and there’s a bronze statue of him in Pendergrant Park (Fort Smith, Arkansas). Most famous though is the very sensible claim that he was the inspiration for the Lone Ranger—he racked up an enormous number of arrests, avoided serious injury over the course of 30 years chasing criminals, and most of the people he arrested went to the Detroit House of Correction in the same city as WXYZ where Lone Ranger stories were first broadcast.

Design Notes: Let’s start off with some clarification—this was the pinnacle of a lawman in the rootin’ tootin’ gun shootin’ Wild West. Not only did Bass Reeves survive three decades on the job, he was never even wounded, all while certainly facing greater hostility from most of the people he was protecting (because he was black). It’s hard to imagine that the inspiration for the Lone Ranger doesn’t have at least a little bit of the class, so we’ll get a level in that but keep the focus on fighter levels with the sharpshooter archetype. Other than that we know a high Dexterity is called for (boost that AC up as high as it can go!), and while he might’ve been physically stronger (probably was) the character will get more utility out of the Athlete feat (while getting that Dexterity all the way up to the maximum). Let’s do the numbers! The DMG came in at 11.5, the Blog of Holding at 11.2, agreeing nicely on CR 11.

Bass Reeves

Medium humanoid (human), lawful good fighter (sharpshooter) 14 / ranger 1
Armor Class 18 (leather, defense fighting style)
Hit Points 112 (15d10+30)
Speed 30 ft.

13 (+1)​20 (+5)​14 (+2)​14 (+2)​14 (+2)​10 (+0)​

Saving Throws Str +6, Con +7; Proficiency +5
Skills Athletics +6, Deception +5, Insight +7, Perception +7, Persuasion +5, Stealth +10, Survival +7
Senses passive Perception 17
Languages Cherokee, English, Maskókî
Challenge 11 (7,200 XP)

Background: Outlander. Bass never forgets the geographic arrangement of terrain, settlements, and areas of wilderness. In addition, he can forage fresh water and food each day for as many as 6 people as long as the environment nearby can support it.

Action Surge (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Bass can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.

Attentive Gaze. Bass can use a bonus action to take the Search action.

Excellent Aim (3/Short Rest). Bass can spend a bonus action to aim a wielded ranged weapon at a target within its range. Until the end of his turn, ranged attacks that Bass makes against the target deal an extra 8 damage.

Favored Enemy. Bass has advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track humans, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them.

Feat: Athletic. Bass can stand up from being prone with only 5 feet of his movement, climbing doesn’t cost him extra movement, and he only has to move 5 feet before making a running long jump or running high jump.

Feat: Skillful. Bass is proficient in Deception, Persuasion, and Survival (included above).

Feat: Superb Aim. Bass ignores half cover and three-quarters cover when making a ranged weapon attack, and he doesn’t have disadvantage when attacking at long range. When Bass makes his first ranged weapon attack in a turn, he can choose to take a –5 penalty to his ranged weapon attack rolls in exchange for a +10 bonus to ranged weapon damage.

Indomitable (2/Long Rest). Bass can reroll a saving throw that he fails but must use the new roll.

Marksman Combatant. Bass doesn’t have disadvantage from making ranged weapon attack rolls against targets within 5 feet of him. In addition, whenever he makes a ranged weapon attack against a creature on his turn, that creature is unable to take reactions until the end of his turn.

Natural Explorer: Grasslands. When Bass makes an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to grasslands, his proficiency bonus is doubled if he is using a skill that he’s proficient in. While traveling for an hour or more in his favored terrain, Bass gains the following benefits:

  • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow his group’s travel.
  • Bass’ group can’t become lost except by magical means.
  • Even when he is engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), Bass remains alert to danger.
  • If Bass is traveling alone, he can move stealthily at a normal pace.
  • When he forages, Bass finds twice as much food as he normally would.
  • While tracking other creatures, Bass also learns their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Bass can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+14 hit points.

Extra Attack. Bass attacks three times when he takes the Attack action.

Dagger (4). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d4+5) piercing damage.

Revolver (3). Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, range 40/120 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d8+5) piercing damage.

Hunting Rifle. Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, range 80/240 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (2d10+5) piercing damage.

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