How to Build Abraham Lincoln in 'The Pathfinder RPG'
A Character Conversion Guide
Abraham Lincoln was many things; a statesman, a lawyer, a commander-in-chief, a father, and thus far the only President of the United States to fight a civil war. We all know Lincoln the great emancipator, and the president who was taken from a nation before his work was fully done. The man most of us don't know, because for some reason it isn't in our history books, is the bare-knuckle brawler with superhuman strength who cracked skulls and served booze long before he was ever a sitting member of the nation's government. For those of you who'd like to bring the younger, wild-eyed Abe to your table and carve a path to leadership and governance with careful words and a big damn ax, then this Pathfinder character build ought to get you started.
Also, if you're looking for more gaming content, check out my Vocal author page!
The Man (Race, Attributes, and Traits)
Most people know what Abraham Lincoln looked like; hugely tall, with a thin build, long arms, and a beard that made him look kindly patriarchal. However, most people never learned that the reason the 16th president was so downright strange looking was that, according to Cracked, he suffered from a condition called Marfan Syndrome. The syndrome is a genetic defect in your connective tissues, and while it has a lot of negatives like curvature of the spine, wrist problems, and often serious heart complications, it's most obvious symptom is that those who have it are unusually tall. Not only that, but they have unusually long arms, even for their height. Lincoln didn't seem to suffer from any of the drawbacks of the condition, though, aside from facial features that became exaggerated as he aged, leading to his choice to grow his famous beard. In fact, when combined with a lifetime of hard work, he possessed a ridiculous level of raw, physical power.
With all of that said, an interesting way to represent the president's slightly off-putting appearance, and downright freakish physical prowess, would be to make his base race a half-orc. While we have no proof that Lincoln could see in the dark, his rugged endurance certainly qualified for half-orc ferocity, and it would be one way to make him perfectly at-home with a greatax. His looming height also tended to intimidate people... even when he didn't wish to. Taking the Pass For Human feat at 1st level would make this an ideal choice. Also, when it comes to picking his attributes, it's important to look at the records we have of the man. We know he's strong, durable, and given his reach and accomplishments as a wrestler, we can assume he's quite dexterous. We also know that, as a lawyer and a statesman, Lincoln was very intelligent. His careful decision-making process, and ability to do what was right instead of what was easy, likely means he should have a high Wisdom score, as well. What you might not know, though, was that Lincoln had an unusually high voice for his size, and was more than a little awkward. So his charisma might not be as high as you think it should be.
As to his background traits, well, the best way to cancel out a low Charisma when it comes to making speeches is to take Student of Philosophy, which allows you to use your Intelligence modifier instead of your Charisma modifier when making Diplomacy checks. As for the great emancipator's second trait, he owned and ran a bar for some time (a fact that his opponents used to paint him as a jumped-up bartender instead of the sort of man you wanted in charge of a nation), so something like Accelerated Drinker (which allows you to drink a potion as a move action, if it's in your hand when the round begins) might come in quite handy.
The Myth (Class)
Lincoln, as has been mentioned, was an accomplished fighter. Early accounts of his life are filled with how he whipped everyone he stepped to with his bare hands, from street gang hooligans, to disorderly militia members under his command. While there are no accounts as to whether his tavern days played out like an Old West version of roadhouse, we really have no choice but to imagine it that way, now.
Which is why, though it may upset the version we have of Abraham in our minds, the most fitting class for his skill set seems to be the Brawler from the Advanced Class Guide. History has documented his skill at hand fighting, and we can assume that the ability to knock his foes out cold wasn't unheard of in several of Lincoln's scraps. Also, Martial Flexibility allows Lincoln to learn and change, adapting to each situation as he needs to. Helpful, especially when you need to be carrying your musket one day, and putting an insubordinate underling in a submission hold the next.
The Badass (Feats and Skills)
Lincoln is a man of many skills, though he's most famous for his Diplomacy, and his Knowledge (Local), since that covers laws and other customs. Acrobatics is a skill he likely learned, and we could probably assume that his Sense Motive and Intimidate had at least a few ranks. Perform (Oratory) might be a good investment as well, since giving speeches is something leaders are expected to do. Whether or not he should have Perception, or he simply rolled poorly to spot his assassin given the commotion that was going on in the box, that is for you to decide.
When it comes to his feats, there are several that make sense for the skill set we now know about. Improved Grapple and Greater Grapple from the Core Rulebook would make sense, especially when paired with the Brawler's Maneuver Training, representing Lincoln's string of victories as a wrestler. Power Attack and Furious Focus are a good pair to have, and would dovetail nicely with Improved Sunder and Greater Sunder, given Lincoln's familiarity with rail-splitting, and how to find just the right place to bury the blade. Vital Strike would give you options, letting you hit once, and hit hard, or relying instead on your Brawler's Flurry to get a large number of hits if you can take a full attack action. Throw Anything would also be a lot of fun, for those players who think there is no problem so serious that a flying great ax won't solve it.
Remember, Martial Flexibility can fill in for feats as you need them, so don't spend your slots on feats you aren't going to use very often. Instead, focus on prerequisite feats like Combat Expertise in order to gain the temporary use of other feats further up that chain as you need them.
Finishing Touches (Gear and Story)
The Lincoln of our world didn't have a signature weapon, or boast any kind of bizarre body armor. He was a relatively simple man, who eventually traded in his rail-splitter and scraped knuckles for a black stovepipe hat, and a nation tearing itself apart. Which brings us to the next part... what is your Lincoln going to do?
For example, are you trying to rise to a position of authority in your city or nation, and you find you need to take on a job as an adventurer to eat while you're doing that? Are you trying to unite your people, whether those are orcs, humans, or both, and you realize that uniting them with words is easier than by swinging your ax around? Is your goal to become a ruler, or is that just what you're going to do when you eventually retire from the adventuring lifestyle?
Those are the sorts of questions you should be asking before you even roll up your stats. However, if you're looking for some inspiration for your Lincoln's background, then you might want to check out some of the following:
- 100 Random Taverns: Whether your Lincoln is just a barkeep, or he's adventuring to get the cash to open a taproom of his own, here are some solid choices to get your gears turning.
- 100 NPCs You Might Meet At The Tavern: If you have a public house, then the next step is making sure you've got a regular clientele you might be able to persuade to vote for you. A recent Electrum seller, at time of writing!
- 100 Random Bandits to Meet: Because if you're running a tough-on-crime campaign, then being known as the guy who busted up the Red Brand Boys is going to go a long way toward getting your name on the ticket.