How To Build Bane in The Pathfinder RPG
A Character Conversion Guide
Bane, while he has been criticized for being a villain who came out of nowhere before nearly killing Batman, has risen above his origin to become one of the most feared members of the Rogues' Gallery. Vicious, cunning, and inhumanly strong thanks to his access to the drug known only as Venom, Bane is a serious threat even to someone as skilled and experienced at the Dark Knight. He's been a villain, an anti-hero, and a member of organizations both foul and, at times, heroic. If nothing else, he is a man of great strength and skill, regardless of the cause he happens to be working for. For those who want to bring that kind of powerhouse to their Pathfinder game, this guide should get you started on the right path.
If you're looking for other character builds, whether it's the rest of the Rogues' Gallery, the cast of Game of Thrones, or even the lineup for The Avengers, the Character Conversions page at Improved Initiative has you covered. And if you're looking for more gaming content, as well as general geekery, you should take a moment to check out my full Vocal archive too!
The Shadows (Attributes, Race, and Traits)
Bane is, as far as we know, human. Despite his long-term use (and occasional abuse) of Venom, and the brief periods of extreme power it grants him, Bane has no other truly inhuman qualities. However, if you want to give him the shadowy associations The Dark Knight Rises assigned the character, you might want to take the alternate human trait Dim-Dweller. This trades in Skilled, and gives you Darkvision, as well as a +2 to Stealth and Intimidate checks in areas of dim light or darkness. If nothing else, it will be a serious aid to those who need to out-creep a vigilante in the darkness of a city's sewer system, or in the rafters of a silent, abandoned theater.
As to attributes, Bane is best known for his Strength, though Dexterity and Constitution shouldn't be far behind. Wisdom will be his most important mental stat, and you can put Charisma and Intelligence in whatever order you like. If they have good numbers, huzzah for you, but if not, it won't affect you too much.
Lastly, traits. Perhaps the most useful traits you'll find for the character are Serpentine Squeeze (+1 trait bonus on attempts to grapple a foe, and +1 trait bonus to your CMD against grapple) and Heavy Hitter (+1 trait bonus to damage rolls for unarmed strikes). Most useful might not be what you prefer, though. Bred For War (+1 trait bonus on Intimidate checks and +1 trait bonus to your CMB) might be more your style, especially paired with a trait like Reactionary (+2 trait bonus to your Initiative). Whichever traits you pick, though, be sure they're traits you're going to use. While they might make for better, or more accurate, stories, traits that don't help are traits that have been wasted.
The Meat (Classes)
Bane is a deadly hand-to-hand combatant, but that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to facing him. Raised in the darkness of one of the world's deadliest prisons, Bane isn't just a fighter; he's the top of the food chain in a world where men are reduced to little more than their animal impulses. Cruel and brutal at the best of times, everything about him is amplified when he ingests his toxin of choice; the strength-enhancing concoction Venom.
A solid basis for Bane is the Brawler hybrid class out of the Advanced Class Guide, but if you want to hit all the high notes you should go with the Mutagenic Mauler archetype. You gain a mutagen whose effects increase along with your level, and the only abilities you give up are Martial Flexibility at first level, and your AC bonus at 4th level. So, that means you get to keep your Knockout, Maneuver Training (which should focus on grappling), and all the other great class features that go well with Bane's general combat style.
Of course, if you want to get really nasty, you should also dip two levels into the Drunken Brute archetype for Barbarian. This gives you Rage, but more importantly, it also gives you Raging Drunk, which lets you drink alcohol, or a potion as a move action which doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity. This will be useful if you want to throw bull's strength (or another enhancing potion) into the mix. The second level gives you a single Rage Power, and Raging Grappler is your ideal power.
The Juice (Skills and Feats)
As a rule, Bane is not a skill-based character. With that said, though, you should invest in Perception, Heal, Intimidate, Knowledge (local), and Acrobatics. If you have the points leftover, you might also want to consider Stealth.
Moving on to feats. If you're aiming to recreate Bane's signature achievements by leaving his opponents broken and crippled, there are some very specific feats you're going to want to take. The feats are listed in order here, but you can swap them out, or take them in a different order if that would better suit your particular play style. It is assumed, for this list, that you take at least 3 barbarian levels earlier than your 5th level of Brawler.
Human Bonus Feat and 1st Level Feat
- Improved Grapple (Core Rulebook 127): Gain a +2 bonus on grapple checks, and grappling does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
- Weapon Focus (Unarmed Strike) (Core Rulebook 136): Gain a +1 bonus on attacks with selected weapon.
3rd and 5th Level Feats
- Endurance and Diehard (Core Rulebook 122): Gain a bonus on endurance-related checks, and when reduced to less than 0 hit points you may choose to act disabled instead of passing out.
7th and 9th Level Feats, and Brawler's Level 5 Bonus Feat
- Greater Grapple (Core Rulebook 125): Gain an additional +2 on grapple attempts, and to your CMD against grapple attempts. You may maintain a grapple as a move action, allowing you to make two attempts in a round.
- Stunning Fist (Core Rulebook 135): Foes are stunned by your unarmed strikes.
- Jawbreaker (Ultimate Combat 106): When you make a successful Stunning Fist attempt against a grappled, helpless, or stunned opponent, you can forego the stunning effect to cripple the opponent's mouth. Deals 1d4 of bleed damage, and the target cannot use its mouth to cast spells, attack, or perform other functions.
Level 11 and Level 13 Feats, and Brawler's Level 8 Bonus Feat
- Bonebreaker (Ultimate Combat 90): When you make a successful Stunning Fist attempt against a grappled, helpless, or stunned opponent, you can forego the stunned effect to deal 1d6 or Strength or Dexterity damage to that opponent.
- Rapid Grappler (Ultimate Combat 114): When you use Greater Grapple to maintain a grapple as a move action, you can then use a swift action to make another grapple maneuver check at a -5 penalty.
- Neckbreaker (Ultimate Combat 111): If you have an opponent your size of smaller helpless or pinned, you may make a Stunning Fist attempt at a -5 penalty on the attack roll. If you succeed, you deal 2d6 of Strength or Dexterity damage. If the ability is reduced to 0, then remaining damage is dealt to the target's Constitution score. This feat was misprinted in Ultimate Combat under the Tetori as Backbreaker, which makes it a capstone ability for obvious reasons.
Bringing It All Together (Equipment and Story)
Aside from his Venom, and the injector he uses to get it roaring through his system, Bane doesn't have much in the way of signature equipment. You could easily mimic his mask with the Grappler's Mask, though only one of its abilities (make Bull Rush attempts without provoking attacks of opportunity) is really going to be of use. Beast Wrestler's Gauntlets are another good way to eke out another bonus to your grapple checks, and of course any belt that enhances your physical stats is going to increase your prowess, and add to the lucha libre look.
The last question, and the most important one, is asking who your version of Bane is. Where does he come from, and what are his goals? Is he a soldier of fortune, willing to throw his strength against anyone willing to put coin in his pocket? Or is he a man on a mission? Does he have something to prove, or is he more interested in leveraging his power to help those who deserve it? Is he a hero, a villain, or something else entirely?
It's up to you, but it does pay to think about it. And if you're looking for inspiration, check out some of the following:
- 100 Random Mercenary Companies: If your version of Bane fought for a noted free company, then at least some of their reputation is going to cling to him. Wild and free, brutal and deadly, the groups in this collection have character to spare.
- 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns: While Bane isn't typically a villain with his own slew of henchmen, it does happen from time to time. And if you're looking for origin stories then a gang like the Crankers with their unique mutagenic recipes would fit right into Bane's build.
- 100 Prisoners For A Fantasy Jail: Whether you need allies, rivals, or people who knew your version of Bane back when they were on the inside, this supplement is full of potential background ties. And if you want something similar for criminals still on the outside, check out 100 Random Bandits To Meet instead!