How to Build John Wick in 'Dungeons and Dragons' 5th Edition
A 5E Character Conversion
A man whose name sends shivers down the spine of even the most skilled assassins at the beck and call of the High Table, John Wick is the best there ever was. A man who did the impossible, he got out of the game for love... and he got back in for revenge. And since he's returned, he has proven that despite the years he was gone, he is still very much the John Wick of old.
For those who want to play a character like John Wick in their 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons game, this guide should help you pick the necessary features to recreate the style and brutal efficiency of Baba Yaga himself. And for those who find themselves in a Pathfinder game, check out the John Wick Pathfinder conversion instead.
This is the first 5th Edition DND character conversion I've written, so if you want to see more of them let me know by sharing it around, or leaving a tip! For more articles like this, check out my Character Conversions page over on my blog Improved Initiative!
The Foundation (Race, Stats, and Background)
Despite all the legends surrounding him, John Wick is very much a man. And while the standard human is acceptable, I'd recommend taking the variant so you can grab a feat, if your game allows such. There are at least a few of those you'll need to really make John pop.
Given that John is primarily a ranged fighter, and that when he does get in close for wet work he uses light, agile weapons, you're probably safe putting his highest stat in Dexterity. Constitution is probably a close second, given the sheer amount of punishment John can withstand. After that it's a toss up between Strength and Wisdom, as he is described as a man of sheer will. Intelligence and Charisma are always good to have, but aren't top priorities.
As to John's background, there is no argument that he is anything other than a Criminal. Raised by the Rus to be a trained killer, and one of the most noted soldiers in their ranks, John's contacts and reputation in the world of the High Table run deep. Gaining free proficiency in Deception and Stealth frees up your choices for later, and thieves' tools are likely something he knows how to use. Additionally, Winston fits in perfectly as John's criminal contact, as he's a lifelong friend from the secret they both inhabit. If you're looking for unique criminal contacts of your own, you might want to page through 100 Random Bandits to Meet, as well as 100 Pirates to Encounter. Both have all sorts of characters, ranging from gang leaders and free captains, to fences, killers, information brokers, and other players in the game of shadows.
The Meat (Classes and Abilities)
John is a man with a variety of skills and talents, and one class isn't quite enough to encompass them all. However, you should start with a rogue.
You already have proficiency in Stealth and Deception thanks to your background choice, and for your four additional skills you should select Acrobatics, Athletics (since John is a skilled grappler), Intimidation, and Perception. For your Expertise feature, you'll get the most out of Stealth and Athletics, since John is skilled enough to vanish into nearly any crowd, and to get the upper hand even on significantly stronger opponents when wrestling. As you go up in level, Perception and Intimidation are ideal candidates for your next choices. Additionally, the Thieves' Cant is a perfect representation of the jargon and phrases John, and others in his world use to disguise their activities and requests, such as the infamous "dinner reservation" for body disposal. The obvious rogue archetype for John Wick is the assassin. Able to attack from the shadows, and kill several targets before they even know he's there, John is at his deadliest when he gets the drop on someone.
In addition to the assassin, though, it's a good idea to mix your build with fighter. This gives you a second wind (something that adequately represents John's ability to push through pain, and keep fighting as an action hero), a fighting style (archery is ideal, given how often John uses ranged attacks), and an action surge. The last feature, when coupled with the rogue's cunning action, allows for a turn where John is seemingly everywhere at once. I recommend at least 5 levels (in order to snag an extra attack), and to take the Battle Master archetype in order to get a variety of combat options. For your maneuvers, select feinting attack (to help get your sneak attack off more often), trip attack (for the same reason, and because John loves taking his foes to the ground), and evasive footwork (to help keep you on your feet for as long as possible).
While John's class abilities give him a lot of useful features, there are some tricks they simply can't duplicate. Which is where feats come in.
Probably the most important feat to add to this mix is Tavern Brawler. This gives you an unarmed strike that does some notable damage, but it also allows you to turn anything from a pencil to a belt into a deadly weapon. When you add in the ability to grapple as a bonus action whenever you hit someone, it gives you all sorts of new ways to use your actions.
Other feats that represent John's rapid-fire fighting style, as well as his sheer deadliness when he draws his weapons are Crossbow Expert and Sharpshooter. These allow you to boost your damage, and to get as many attacks in a round as you could take, even if you're using a crossbow (some DMs may allow you firearms, but this guide isn't making that assumption). While there are other useful feats that can also add to John's bag of tricks (Grappler, Durable, Linguist, etc.), feats are a rare commodity in 5th Edition, so it's important to prioritize.
Would You Like More 5th Edition Content?
This is the first of several potential character conversion guides for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. But if you like my style, and you're interested in additional 5E content from me, you might want to check out my modules The Curse of Sapphire Lake (a spooky story that's one part Beowulf, and one part Friday the 13th), as well as False Valor (a whodunnit murder mystery where the party needs to find the guilty culprit before the killer starts a war).