Gamers logo

How To Build Batman in The Pathfinder RPG

A Character Conversion Guide

By Neal LitherlandPublished 4 years ago 15 min read
2

Perhaps the most famous superhero of all time (and certainly the one with the biggest number of film adaptations under his utility belt) is Batman. A stand-out in the DC universe, Batman has no superpowers barring his colossal wealth and indomitable willpower, but he doesn't let that stop him from taking on challenges ranging from street gangs, to homicidal clowns, to alien invasions. For those who want to bring a touch of the Dark Knight into a Pathfinder game it's actually a lot easier than you might think.

If you'd like to see the rest of my Gotham Knights, along with The Avengers and the cast of Game of Thrones, check out the Character Conversions page at Improved Initiative! And for more posts on gaming and general geeky topics, take a moment to check out my full Vocal archive!

Also, if you've ever wondered why superheroes have such strange costumes, then Why Do Superheroes Wear Their Underwear on The Outside? will answer that question for you.

Origin (Attributes, Race, and Traits)

As with any hero it's important to begin at the beginning. Batman is human, which gives him a bonus skill point and a bonus feat at character creation. He doesn't really have a dump stat, but Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma are going to be some of the most important stats. Use your +2 to one stat carefully, and remember that it's better to have several middling-to-high stats than a single, superhumanly high one with this build.

Like any other hero, your Batman gets two traits at creation. There are a huge number of options, and there are no right or wrong choices; there are simply some traits that will be more effective than others. For this build I recommend taking Dangerously Curious, which provides a +1 bonus to the Use Magic Device skill while making it a class skill, and Reactionary which provides a +2 bonus to initiative. Other options are viable (such as traits that make gathering information easier, or which give your version of the character a bonus to their Leadership rating if you're looking for a Batman who runs a network of heroes and informants) depending on which approach you're taking with the character.

That said, your traits should always be used to provide the most actionable bonuses possible.

Persona (Classes)

There may have been more arguments about what class best fits Batman than any other topic in superhero-related character builds. Some people argue for ranger, since he knows his city intimately and has studied criminals and creatures for years to gain an edge in fighting them. Others argue for the inquisitor, who uses guile, grit, and divine magic to weed out injustice. For this build however we are not going to give Batman any magic of his own, or have him pray to any gods for assistance in his crusade. He has his wits, his skills, his tools, and a reserve of inner spirit that allows him to occasionally do things that look impossible.

And while there is an obvious choice, I will be presenting both the original build I wrote earlier on in Pathfinder, as well as the one that is arguably much more fitting with the current materials.

First, The Ninja

Several times in the canon of the series, Batman has been described as learning the ways of the ninja. Whether it's in the old animated series, or the League of Shadows in the Dark Knight trilogy, this is a noted part of the established lore.

As far as a ninja's class abilities there are several that your Dark Knight can use to his advantage. At first level you gain poison use, which can be used to tip the odds startlingly in your favor (and allow things like knock-out shuriken if you apply just a hint of Drow poison onto the little batarangs). You gain sneak attack, which is the order of the day for Batman, and you also add in abilities like No Trace which makes you harder to track. Uncanny Dodge and Improved Uncanny Dodge are on the list, and you even gain a ki pool.

Ninja Tricks

Much like rogues, ninjas gain access to a series of tricks. This allows you to build a more specialized ninja, as well as one with a certain flair for a given set of abilities. You gain a trick at every even-numbered level, and for those who want to become a terror in their own right these tricks can help a lot. Recommended tricks are as follows, but you can change up the order if you feel different tricks would be more helpful earlier on.

- Flurry of Stars: Spend a ki point and throw an additional shuriken when making a full attack action, though all rolls are at -2. (Ultimate Combat 15)

- Vanishing Trick: Spend a ki point to vanish as invisibility for 1 round per level. (Ultimate Combat 15)

- Fast Stealth: Move at full speed while using the stealth skill at no penalty. (Ultimate Combat 15)

- Smoke Bomb: Allows ninja to throw a smoke bomb that acts as a smoke stick for 1 ki point. (Ultimate Combat 15)

- Poison Bomb: Add any inhaled poison you have to a smoke bomb. (Ultimate Combat 16)

- Choking Bomb: Living creatures inside a smoke bomb must make a Fortitude save or be staggered for 1d4 rounds; may be combined with poison bombs. (Ultimate Combat 15)

- Blinding Bomb: Living creatures inside a smoke bomb must make a fortitude save or be blinded for 1d4 rounds; may be combined with poison but not choking bombs. (Ultimate Combat 17)

- Ghost Step: Spend 1 ki point to walk through solid objects as if incorporeal for 1 round. (Ultimate Combat 17)

Again, this is just a recommended list. Some players might feel that the Darkvision trick or See the Unseen are better for their Batman builds. Unarmed Combat Training is another good one for those who are going to be going hand-to-hand. As long as the tricks function and help achieve the goal, then go right ahead and take what you want to.

Second, The Vigilante

The above guide was written back when there was a more limited number of books available for Pathfinder. With the release of Ultimate Intrigue, of course, the obvious choice for those who want to emulate not just the combat style and look of Batman, but the true nature of his character, is the Vigilante.

The Dual Identity class feature means that you're playing both Batman and Bruce Wayne, and that ideally both halves of the character are going to be equally necessary to accomplish your goals when all is said and done. This also neatly solves the problem of your identity being exposed by basic divination magic, and sort of ruining your whole character concept.

Vigilante Talents

You could argue that to build a completely accurate Batman you'd need to take most of the Vigilante talents in the book, as well as both specializations. However, Batman is generally seen more as a Stalker than an Avenger, and the following talents are the ones that are most fundamental to the character. Though, as usual, if your vision differs, or you're working off of a different interpretation, adjust as necessary.

Social Talents

- Always Prepared: As the old saying goes, with enough time and preparation, Batman can overcome any odds. With stashes of gear, equipment, and supplies all across Gotham, this is a necessary talent.

- Incredible Renown: Bruce Wayne and Batman are almost equally famous, and this talent is important for reaching the height of notoriety in a city the size of Gotham. This requires Great Renown to take, and it's sort of a capstone talent.

- Safe House: Stately Wayne Manor sits above the Bat Cave, and if that's not a safe house then what is? The protections against divination spells explain how this location, and the things inside it, is so rarely found.

- Many Guises: While more of a device in the animated series, and a clear nod to Sherlock Holmes, Batman has a tendency of becoming average people on the street when doing reconnaissance work. While Everyman is not requited, it may be useful depending on the game.

- Quick Change: Batman often takes his time to carefully prepare for his nightly patrols, but sometimes he has to pull on his persona in a hurry. Not required, but appropriate for the character.

Vigilante Talents

- Hide in Plain Sight: Perhaps Batman's most notable skill is vanishing from right under someone's nose. This requires being 8th level, but is more than worth it.

- Inspired Vigilante: The world's greatest detective sometimes needs a little boost. The ability to use Inspiration as the investigator class can be a great boon when reconstructing crime scenes, and searching for clues.

- Mighty Ambush: A 1-shot knockout from the shadows is Batman's modus operandi. Requires 10 vigilante levels, but is definitely worth the investment.

- Perfect Fall: As they said in the film, the bat went down a dozen stories with no blood. Johnny Gobs saw it all, and if there's going to be a lot of verticality in your game this is an ideal talent to have.

- Pull Into The Shadows: Another iconic move, this allows Batman to take out sentries and drag them into the darkness, rendering them unconscious before moving on. As full round actions go, it's one that might actually come up fairly often.

- Returning Weapon: A signature thrown weapon that unfailingly returns even without magic? This one is definitely appropriate.

- Stalker Sense: No one surprises Batman, and the ability to act in the surprise round is always one worth having.

- Surprise Strike: While more than capable of fighting toe-to-toe, Batman is best known for striking from the shadows. This gives you a bonus to attack enemies denied their Dexterity bonus to AC.

- Twisting Fear: Fear is one of Batman's greatest weapons, and this talent causes frightened opponents to take non-lethal damage. A solid use for a very high Intimidate check.

Training (Skills and Feats)

Both the ninja and the vigilante are skill-heavy classes, which makes our lives a little easier. To best mimic the skills we so often see Batman use in his films and comics we need to include Bluff and Diplomacy (for interrogations), Acrobatics and Climb (to maneuver on the battlefield and get to those high places he's so fond of), Disable Device and Escape Artist (because there are no security measures that can keep him out or locked up), Perception and Stealth (to see but not be seen), and Use Magic Device (because of all the gadgets he'll be throwing around).

These skills eat up the allotment that vigilantes and ninjas get pretty quickly, but if you have bonus points to spend then additional useful skills include Sense Motive, Knowledge (local) [this one's really a priority], Disguise, Craft (Alchemy) [if you're making your own equipment], or Linguistics.

When it comes to feats, Batman would require practically every entry in the book in order to build him accurately to the comics. Since you don't have that option, it's important to prioritize which feats get used and which get thrown by the wayside. The list below is merely a recommendation; as always, different players might have different feat trees or abilities they'd rather focus on.

- Point Blank Shot: +1 on ranged attacks within 30 feet. (Core Rulebook 131)

- Precise Shot: Ignore the -4 penalty to ranged attacks when target is in melee. (Core Rulebook 131)

- Improved Unarmed Strike: Deal lethal or non-lethal damage with unarmed strikes, and do not provoke attacks of opportunity. (Core Rulebook 128)

- Dodge: Gain +1 to your armor class. (Core Rulebook 122)

- Mobility: Gain +4 to your armor class against attacks of opportunity provoked by moving. (Core Rulebook 130)

- Spring Attack: You may move up to your speed, and make an attack at any point during that movement without provoking any attacks of opportunity from the target. (Core Rulebook 134)

- Leadership: You attract loyal followers, including a cohort. What's Batman without a Robin? (Core Rulebook 129)

- Skill Focus: This feat grants you a +3 on stealth, and a +6 once you have 10 or more ranks of it. Useful for Stealth, Intimidate, or both! (Core Rulebook 134)

Tools of The Trade (Equipment)

One of the most iconic things about Batman is that he is prepared for every, possible situation. He always has spare batarangs, a hidden lock pick, a holdout block of plastic explosive, or something else equally useful for the situation at hand. So while your class abilities and feat selection are definitely impressive, some of the biggest keys to building an effective Batman come from what you keep in your utility belt.

Alchemical Items

Alchemical items are your friend when you need an advantage over a foe. From tanglefoot bags and troll styptics, to anti-venom and anti-toxins, these alchemical bonuses can be game changers when it comes time to fight against impossible, overwhelming odds. Especially if the rest of the party goes down and you need to get the job done with a little bit of creativity. It's important to use these items to create concealment, entangle the enemy, and to shift the odds until you can swoop in and wreck your enemies properly.

Armor

As was famously said in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, Batman puts a target on his chest because he can't armor his head. Light armor is the order of the day, which is why it's important to get as much protection out of it as possible. A mithril chain shirt is useful, but one with slick or shadow on it will likely be the best bet for your Batman.

Non-Magical Equipment

While it's always tempting to find great magic items, sometimes simple, mundane gear will do the job. The bandolier makes an ideal utility belt for early levels, for instance. Rope and a padded grappling hook are good things to have on hand as well, along with a few sets of manacles if you intend to leave your foes trussed up for the proper authorities. From a billow cape to a disguise kit, it's always a good idea to have the basics on-hand.

Weapons

Batman's weapons tend to be his fists, and both the ninja and the stalker's main weapon is their precision damage, but you can still accessorize. Blunt trauma is not always the way to go, and if someone lacks a magic weapon then many creatures are capable of shrugging off a lot of punishment thanks to damage reduction.

Shuriken are a no-brainer, as the batarang is a trademark weapon. You can add poison to them, but you can also get magical shuriken in small bundles to make sure you have something for every situation. Fire, ice, acid, bane, holy; whatever you need, it fits right at your hip. Cestus, spiked gauntlets, and even brass knuckles allow you to add magical weapon bonuses to your unarmed attacks, as well as to add piercing damage into your repertoire. It's also never a bad idea to put ranged weapons to use when firing a volley to get the ambush started!

Lastly, while they might not seem like weapons in the traditional sense, never underestimate the usefulness of a net or a lasso. Both of them are exotic weapons, but both of them function off of touch attacks. Both of them cost silver pieces, and both of them leave your enemies entangled. The lasso actually means they can't get away until they take the time to escape from, break, or cut the rope.

Magic Items

Every infamous item on the Dark Knight's utility belt can be duplicated with relative ease if you have the funds and know where to look.

While the belt of many pockets remains a Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 item, a handy haversack (Core Rulebook 516) will get the job done just as well. The iron bands of binding (Core Rulebook 521) is a handy projectile weapon for locking a large or smaller creature into immobility, and they can be used once per day. The cloak of the bat (Core Rulebook 506) is a natural pick for the stealth bonus and flying abilities, and it pairs well with the boots of elvenkind.

Sat-enhancing items are universally useful, from belts to headbands, but it's important to prioritize what gets the biggest bonus first based on your favored skills and attack strategy. A vest of escape (Core Rulebook 532) is great for getting past traps and getting out of sticky situations, which makes it a necessary purchase along with the gloves of reconnaissance (Ultimate Equipment) which allow you to see through up to 15 feet of material just by putting your hands on it. The ultimate combination for those who need a last-ditch effort though is to purchase fogcutter lenses (Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition or Ultimate Equipment), and then to pair those with an eversmoking bottle (Core Rulebook 512). The result is a field of fog where you can see them, but they can't see you.

Every Batman build should keep a few wands on his person (especially if those wands are paired with spring-loaded sheaths, which is the only way to pull a wand as a swift action). A wand of force hook charge (Ultimate Magic 220) can easily duplicate the grapple gun we all know and love, and wands for everything from cure spells to protection from evil can give you and your allies the edge in combat. Just because a spell is low-level that doesn't mean it isn't a good one to have on hand. Just as a hint, a wand of color spray will be your best friend until about level 5.

Lastly, it's a good idea to keep a few scrolls handy. Whether it's something as life-saving as heal or breath of life, or it's just one of those spells like planeshift that only comes up once in a blue moon, it's good to be prepared for everything the DM and the world can throw at you. If you know that you're going into a land filled to bursting with undead monsters, fire-breathing dragons, or mechanical monstrosities, then make sure you prepare accordingly and use your one-shot spells sparingly.

Bringing It All Together (Story)

Having the abilities, the tools, and the skills is a good start. You need one more thing though; smarts. Not a high Intelligence score or an extra feat, but the knowledge of strategy and methodology to breathe life into the character and how he (or she if you'd prefer to make your Dark Knight a woman) accomplishes tasks. Part of that is battlefield positioning, using the environment to your advantage, and making sure that you have a plan that can account for any spell that's cast, or any ability that's used. The rest of it is making sure you have a story that fits the world, and that you know what it is your caped crusader wants out of the situation.

Is your Batman the child of privilege, trained in a monastery after the murder of his noble-born parents who now stalks the streets to bring law and order to his city? Is she perhaps an agent of the crown, who uses her skills to bring down dictators and to save the lives of people who will never actually know her name? Or was your Batman born in the gutter, taken in by a clan of ninja who is beginning to gather a private army in order to combat the wrongs of the world as they see them? Once you know who your Batman is, and what he or she wants, then you'll know what goals the character has and in what way those goals are going to be achieved.

And if you're looking for further inspiration for your story, I'd recommend checking out some of the following:

- Who Is In Your Character's Rogues' Gallery?: Batman has some of the most famous villains in comic book history, and they define him in many ways. So who are you opposing? If you're looking to fill in some of these blanks, you may also want to take a look at 100 Prisoners For a Fantasy Jail, with characters like the murderous Jester to act as your villains.

- 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns: From the mysterious assassins of the Spiders, to the roided-out bruisers of the Crankers, there are plenty of colorful criminals in this collection that your Batman might have a history with. If you're looking for specific, named foes however, you might want to instead take a look at 100 Random Bandits to Meet, which is full of low-ranking highwaymen to shadow lords like the Dreadskull and the Maneater.

table top
2

About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.

Twitter

Facebook

Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.