How to Build Brienne of Tarth in the Pathfinder RPG
A Character Conversion Guide
Brienne of Tarth is one of the most memorable characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as in the Game of Thrones television show. A huge, homely woman, Brienne is strong and skilled, deadly in combat and relentless in pursuit of her goals. For Pathfinder RPG players who want to try and capture the spirit of the Maid of Tarth, this guide should help you get a handle on her.
If you prefer brains over brawn though you might want to take a look at this character build for Tyrion Lannister.
The rest of my character builds, including Gotham Knights and The Avengers, along with my other Game of Thrones posts, are available on the Character Conversions page of my blog Improved Initiative! For more of my gaming posts, as well as to check out what other sorts of content I make, stop by my full Vocal archive!
Attributes, Race, and Traits
Brienne, whose father is the Lord of the Sapphire Isles, is an unusual woman, though definitely still human. Mannish in both her appearance and carriage, she has armored herself literally and metaphorically so that she can protect herself from the slings and arrows so often pointed toward her. Her strength and physical toughness are enough to rival nearly any opponent, and she is skilled enough to fight with two blades, meaning that her physical stats are going to take precedence. Exact numbers will be determined by the feats you choose to give her.
Regarding her mental attributes, we can safely put her lowest number into her Charisma. While Brienne is described as homely, she's also reticent, brusque, and rarely communicative. While she isn't stupid, Brienne's schooling was more in the arts of swordplay and horsemanship than in history or politics. Her willpower is indomitable, though, and she is far from naive about the world and how it sees her.
As to her traits there are a number of them that would be appropriate for the Beauty. Traits like Cynical Ear (Bastards of Golarion 27) make sense for someone with an unkind social upbringing, increasing the DC of Intimidate and Diplomacy checks made against her by plus two. Other traits like Armor Expert (reduce the armor check penalty of any armor worn by minus one), Reactionary (plus two trait bonus to initiative rolls), or Resilient (plus one trait bonus on fortitude saves) are also good options to represent Brienne's unusual background. If you intend to use a lot of combat maneuvers, then you may want to grab Bred For War (plus one trait bonus on Intimidate checks, and plus one trait bonus to CMB due to your great size).
Honor in All Things (Class and Abilities)
Brienne is many things, but the chief word to describe her is honorable. She is a knight in every respect, and while her views are often black-and-white, they also make her implacable when it comes to fulfilling her duties. Also, while Brienne is certainly not to be trifled with at the best of times, she becomes truly determined only when she is in someone's service. Whether it's Lord Renly's Rainbow Guard, or the personal guard of Catelyn Stark Brienne needs a commander to ground her and direct her.
It's for that reason that the class which fits her best is the Samurai from Ultimate Combat.
Brienne gains the ability to focus her full might against an opponent with the Challenge ability, not unlike when she defeated Loras Tyrell, or when she fought Jaime Lannister to a standstill. She's a dedicated mounted combatant, and the Resolve ability would allow her to keep coming in the face of even overwhelming, impossible odds. The daughter of a noble lord she has a coat of arms that could be displayed using the Banner ability, and her mastery of weapons is undisputed. As a member of the Order of the Warrior, her skill in battle is increased, especially while in the lands held by her liege (such as when she escorted the Kingslayer through what was considered Stark lands). Even the weapon she's gifted by Jaime Lannister, the sword Oathkeeper, could take the form (or at least the stats) of a katana due to its unusual forging if one so desired.
For those who want to focus on those social aspects of Brienne's background, I'd recommend checking out the following links for inspiration, as well:
- 5 Tips For Playing Better Noble Characters: Playing a noble isn't always easy, and there are a lot of plates to keep spinning. This free list can help you get your ducks in a row, and hammer out certain aspects of the character that are definitely going to come into play.
- A Baker's Dozen of Noble Families: If you're looking for a detailed noble household, complete with heraldry and history, this list gives you 13 solid choices to build on.
- 100 Knightly Orders: While the Order of the Warrior, or one of the other cavalier orders may be more appropriate on paper, those are nebulous groups at best. These orders have brief histories, names, and purposes that you can build into your version of Brienne so that people who see her know not just who she is, but who she fights for.
Skills and Feats
While samurai get more skills than your average fighter, Brienne still needs to allocate hers accordingly. Sense Motive, Ride, and Handle Animal should be on the list, and since her natural Charisma is so low it might be a good idea to give her ranks in Intimidate if you plan to use it. If you have the leftover skill points it's always a good idea to invest in Perception as well (especially with the Eyes and Ears of the City trait from Ultimate Campaign that gives you a plus one trait bonus and makes perception a class skill for you).
Now onward to feats!
Brienne fights primarily with a single sword, but when she does choose to fill both her hands with steel she is a force to be reckoned with. As such, the suggested list of feats for her includes (in no particular order):
- Two Weapon Fighting (Core Rulebook 136): As part of a full-attack make an additional attack with your off-hand weapon.
- Weapon Focus (longsword or katana) (Core Rulebook 136): gain plus one to hit with the selected weapon.
- Double Slice (Core Rulebook 122): Add your full strength modifier to attacks made with your off-hand weapon.
- Weapon Specialization (longsword or katana) (Core Rulebook 137): Add plus two to your damage with the selected weapon.
- Improved Two Weapon Fighting (Core Rulebook 128): Gain a second attack with your off-hand weapon as part of a full attack.
- Power Attack (Core Rulebook 131): Take a negative to your attack, gain damage.
- Furious Focus (Advanced Player's Guide 161): Ignore the negative from power attack on your first attack.
- Greater Two Weapon Fighting (Core Rulebook 126): Gain a third attack with your off-hand weapon.
- Two Weapon Rend (Core Rulebook 136): If you hit with a primary and off-hand attack on the same target deal an addition 1d10 of damage once per turn.
Equipment and Story
While Westeros is a place steeped in old magic and new blood, not many of the heroes and villains who walk its lands carry shards of that power with them. Brienne was gifted with the Valyrian steel sword Oathkeeper, though whether it's more than a masterwork blade remains to be seen (though something with a magical bonus and perhaps the keen ability would not be wasted with her build). Her armor is also a masterwork set of plate that's a deep, dull blue (which you could represent as an unusual material like adamantine or lacquered mithril if you so chose), but given that we're in Golarion it could just as easily possess qualities like Determined (casting breath of life once per day on the wearer if she's dropped below zero hit points).
Additionally, a requirement of any character conversion is to ask whether you're attempting to recreate the character down to their haircut and speech pattern, or if you just want a hero or heroine who is cast in the same mold. For example, is your Brienne someone whose features mark her out as unattractive, or does she have the opposite problem of possessing a physical beauty that makes no one take her seriously when she picks up a sword despite her great size? Is she seeking to defend the weak and innocent, or does she serve a lord she does not love but still swore fealty to? Does she seek glory, or the pursuit of honor?
What you choose to do is totally up to you, but you should think carefully about it before you set your character in stone.