It’s time for another installment of Staying in Character, where we mix, match, and mash our beloved pop culture icons into our favorite tabletop role-playing game systems. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard, but we always do our best to stay mildly true to the character at hand.
With the impending release of The Witcher Netflix series, we thought it would be fitting to press Geralt of Rivia into the Dungeons and Dragons 5E mold. He’s a muscular guy, so it took some finagling make it work.
There are tons of ways you can split this onion, because Geralt of Rivia is something of a jack of all trades. He has a little bit of magic, swordplay, heartiness – he’s really the entire package.
Onto the Witcher build!
Step 1: Create a Character Concept
There’s a lot of lore that we can dig into for Geralt, whether we use the books or the video games. He’s a hard-nosed character with a somewhat abrasive personality, but we see glimpses of humanity every so often.
Here are the big three points of emphasis for the character that we want to convey in our build:
- Monster Hunter: Whether he’s fighting demonic undead or mythological horrors, Geralt is fearless in the face of danger. He’s more than capable of handling himself in all situations, even if the odds seem stacked against him.
- Cynical: Geralt isn’t altruistic, but he does help others. Sure, he charges exorbitant fees for such assistance – that’s expected of a Witcher. People’s opinion of Witchers has caused him to lose faith in the true sincerity of others.
- Gifted: Like all Witchers, Geralt has the gift of magic through the use of his Signs. This magic sets him apart from mere mortals, but there are other, more powerful sorceresses that his power is dwarfed by.
Step 2: Choose a Race
Geralt of Rivia isn’t some hybrid-monster; he’s a Human. The trailer for the show has a part when Geralt looks possessed by a demon, and if this was Skyrim I’d consider making him half-Vampire for fun. If you’re just using this build as a framework, feel free to put whichever race you find most intriguing.
We do have a pair of options when it comes to playing Humans in D&D. There are your base Humans that get an extra language and an ability score buff. However, there are also Variant Humans that increase the versatility quite a bit.
Let’s go with the Variant Human to give Geralt the edge he’s definitely going to need when fighting monsters in your campaign. Double-check with your Dungeon Master (DM) first, as the Feat rules are optional. For Geralt, we’ll give him proficiency in Investigation, for all that monster hunting, and tack on the Alert feat since he’s always on his guard.
I’m also increasing his Dexterity and Strength Scores, and adding on the Abyssal language.
Step 3: Choose a Class
Geralt’s Class is where people’s opinions are going to differ. Some people are going to spend more time focusing on his magical abilities, while others lean into his martial prowess. At the end of the day, Geralt excels as either a multi-class Fighter/Warlock or an Eldritch Knight Fighter Archetype. I’m going with the latter.
The reason I’m choosing this route is based on Geralt’s training. He didn’t start by having magical abilities; this was something that was developed and honed as he progressed. His training began with a focus on footwork and martial ability, so his base Class should reflect that.
Honestly, you could go either way. A true character build indicative of the Witcher’s entire repertoire of abilities would be at a much higher level. Since we’re starting as a fresh character, those are choices that will be shaped by your campaign and your character’s progression.
Step 4: Determine Ability Scores
Your table might roll for ability scores, but I tend to favor the Point Buy system. Not to fear, however! If you roll for scores, you could consider lining them up from highest to lowest to match up with my choices. High Dexterity and Wisdom, followed by Strength and Constitution.
- Strength: 13 = 12 (Base) + 1 (Race). Longswords are heavy, so Geralt needs that extra muscle.
- Dexterity: 15 = 14 (Base) + 1 (Race) + 4 (Pool). Geralt’s training emphasized footwork, and almost being a dancer on the battlefield.
- Constitution: 12 = 12 (Base). He needs to be hearty, especially when he’s constantly outnumbered.
- Intelligence: 11 = 11 (Base). Part of Geralt’s training involved book-learning. Since we took the Eldritch Knight archetype, you may want this to be slightly higher if you’re going to be more magic-focused.
- Wisdom: 14 = 14 (Base). Geralt’s has street-smarts in droves. He understands when situations might turn ugly.
- Charisma: 10 = 10 (Base). Witchers aren’t always well-liked, despite their ability to ward off invading monsters.
Step 5: Describe Your Character
We discussed the character concept in the first step, which is slightly out of order if you’re following along in the Core Rulebook. However, we still have some miscellaneous choices to make here regarding Alignment, Ideals, Bonds, Flaws, and Background.
- Alignment: True Neutral. This is a tough distinction, but Geralt’s actions prove that he’s on both sides of the good/evil spectrum. He follows his personal code, even if it isn’t the most rigid thing in the world.
- Ideals: Geralt is driven by the desire to be paid and the demonstration of his own abilities.
- Bonds: He holds a somewhat ambiguous code of morality that adjusts depending on his personal attachment to a situation. That is to say, he decides whether pursuing a goal is right or wrong.
- Flaws: Geralt is a cynic who holds grudges and has a strong temper.
- Background: Mercenary Veteran (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide). Geralt is a sell-sword for hire and the cost of his services is high.
Step 6: Choose Equipment
As I mentioned above, this build is going to work better at a higher level. For now, however, we can pick out some acceptable gear within the starting budget. He actually doesn’t have that much in terms of specialized equipment – at least not like the Mandalorian. I’m also being a bit lenient on my starting gold, because there’s something I really want Geralt to have.
Geralt is most well-known for his two iconic swords. He uses a regular longsword when fighting humans (i.e. non-monsters), and his silver sword when engaged with supernatural creatures. We certainly can’t afford a silver sword right out of the gate, but a Longsword will do nicely. Subtract 15gp from your starting wealth.
If you check out his armor, it’s also nothing terribly impressive. He’s mostly wearing a Chain Shirt that’s padded with leather, so we can add that to the list. That’ll set us back a whopping 50gp.
Fill in some miscellaneous items like an Explorer’s Pack, spikes, hammer and pitons, chalk, and oil to the tune of 13gp. There are some other things that you might want to add in, but we still have a hefty-ticket item to buy. It will be hard enough to convince your DM that it’s necessary.
Lastly, what is Geralt without his trusty sidekick, Roach?! It costs 85gp to get a Riding Horse mount and a saddle, and that doesn’t even include dedicated animal feed. You better complete some jobs to fill your coffers!
Step 7: Beyond 1st Level
Now that we’ve outlined the main framework for a level 1 Geralt of Rivia, it’s time to plan ahead and think about how we want our character to progress as he levels up. These are broad strokes designed for flexibility within your campaign, but I have my reasoning listed with each.
At Level 3, select the Eldritch Knight Archetype. This gives Geralt his trademark spellcasting ability, through the use of the Abjuration and Evocation schools of magic. You gain access to the following:
- Two Cantrips of your choice: Fire Bolt is a good selection to represent the Witcher’s Igni Sign. As for the other, there isn’t really a solid cantrip that would fit any of the other Signs well. Let’s choose Shocking Grasp to stand in for the Yrden Sign and its ability to immobilized opponents.
- Three 1st Level Spells: We can knock out the Quen Sign by selecting Shield as our first spell, and Thunderwave makes an excellent analog to the telekinetic Aard Sign. And what do you know? Charm Person is PERFECT for Axii.
- Weapon Bond: By third level, you probably have enough money to buy a silver sword. At this point, I would use that weapon as your main focus for the Weapon Bond ritual. Technically you can have two bonded weapons, which works out quite well since Geralt has two iconic blades.
Once you reach Level 4, the War Caster Feat is an interesting choice that fits thematically with Geralt. This allows him to fully utilize the Versatile trait of his longsword, swinging it with both hands while simultaneously casting spells. On top of that, attacks of opportunity can be taken with spells as opposed to just a weapon swing. Talk about packing a punch!
Later on he’ll get access to War Magic and Eldritch Strike. Both of these archetype features are exceptional and speak volumes to Geralt being adept at martial fighting and spellcasting. Other Feat choices that you might want to make along the way include Skilled, to fill the ‘jack-of-all-trades’ role, and Magic Initiate to gain access to some more fitting utility spells.
The Witcher Meets D&D 5E
I’ve attached a D&D Beyond Character that outlines the choices we made in this build. Since I don’t have all of the add-ons and necessary reference material through the Beyond platform, some of our selections will be misrepresented.
For example, I didn’t have the Mercenary Veteran background or the Alert Feat selected, so be sure to add those in at your leisure.
This series will feature builds in Starfinder, Pathfinder, and D&D 5E. Keep your eyes peeled for future installments. Reach out to us on Twitter if there’s something you really want to see.
Until then, in the words of Geralt – thanks bunches!