How to Build Captain America in 'The Pathfinder RPG'
A Character Conversion Guide
Behind the closed doors of a secret lab during World War II, American scientists in the Marvel Universe created the world's first super soldier. The formula's creator was assassinated by a Nazi spy moments after the experiment's success, but Steve Rogers was not willing to let the fact that he was one man stop him from changing the course of the war. With his signature shield, and a costume that boldly displayed the colors of his country, Captain America was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
For those fans of Steve Rogers who want to bring him to a tabletop game, it's a simple enough endeavor to translate the good captain into Golarion. All it takes is patience, and a few helpful tips and tricks.
If you'd like to see character builds for the rest of the team, as well as for Gotham City's vigilantes and the cast of Game of Thrones, check out the Character Conversions page on my gaming blog Improved Initiative. Also, while you're at it, stop in and see what other articles I have in my Gamers archive!
Captain America is technically human, but thanks to the super soldier serum he operates at the absolute peak of human perfection. A solid way to represent this (if your DM is willing to allow it) is to ask very nicely to be allowed to play an ancient Azlanti. Though destroyed in the current era, the Azlanti could easily be found in stasis somewhere, or even frozen in an ancient glacier. Unlike normal humans, this obscure race of ancient history receives a +2 on every stat. It's not likely a storyteller will say yes to that, though, so straight human is likely to be what Steve ends up with.
As far as attributes go it's important to remember that Captain America is a soldier, first and foremost. That means that you're going to want to put his physical attributes first; strength, dexterity, and constitution (possibly in that order). It's important to remember that Captain America is a fairly charismatic leader as well, and while he isn't stupid he is not as educated as many other members of the team. Wisdom is important for the captain as well, especially considering all he's seen and done in his life.
There are a lot of traits that fit Captain America's background and training. Eyes and Ears of The City (+1 trait bonus to perception, and perception is always a class skill) is a good choice for an eagle-eyed soldier wary of ambush. Reactionary (+2 to initiative) is also useful, but for those who are going to be using combat expertise then Threatening Defender (reduce the number you subtract from your attacks by one when using combat expertise) is a useful trait. Tactician (+1 to Initiative and a once per day a +2 on any attack of opportunity) might also be a worthwhile investment for Captain Rogers.
With the release of the Advanced Class Guide, the ideal class for Captain America has finally been released; the Shield Specialist variant of the Brawler.
The brawler, a combination of the fighter and the monk, gives the character increased unarmed damage without the alignment restrictions that come with playing a straight monk. While the shield champion loses the maneuver training that a brawler typically gets, as well as the one-punch knockout of the brawler's strike, the champion gains the ability to throw a shield at level three, and to return the shield to his or her hand at level five. As the shield champion gains more attacks they learn how to bounce their shield off of additional targets on its way back to the champion's hand. All strikes with the shield are considered shield bashes, and the thrown shield may be used to deliver bull rush, trip, reposition, dirty trick, or disarm as of level seven.
That signature trick is going to come in very handy, and it makes a solid core to build the rest of the character around.
While Steve has an impressive array of skills, it's important to focus on the ones you're going to use the most in a given game. While Perception is an obvious choice, Acrobatics, and either Diplomacy or Intimidate are useful as well. Depending on how much spycraft your game will include, you may also want to give him some Knowledge skills, as well as Disguise for moving incognito.
In addition to his skills, though, it's important to remember that the effectiveness of many combat characters comes from a list of carefully chosen feats. While the shield champion gets several abilities for free, there are still plenty of others you'll need to pay for. The following feats are recommended in order for this build.
- Improved Shield Bash (Core Rulebook 128): Make shield bash attacks while keeping the shield's bonus to your armor class.
- Point Blank Shot (Core Rulebook 131): +1 to attack and damage with thrown weapons within 30 feet.
- Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 131): Ignore the penalty for throwing into melee.
- Weapon Focus (Shield) (Core Rulebook 136): Gain a +1 on all attacks with a shield.
- Two Weapon Fighting (Core Rulebook 136): As part of a full attack action gain an attack with your off hand at a penalty (Brawlery's Flurry technically covers this, but this is a prerequisite for later feats).
- Combat Expertise (Core Rulebook 119): Take a negative to your attack, but gain a bonus to your armor class.
- Shield Slam (Core Rulebook 133): Any enemy hit with your shield bash are also hit with a free bull rush attack.
- Shield Focus (Core Rulebook 133): Increase the AC bonus granted by a shield by +1.
- Missile Shield (Advanced Player's Guide): Once per round deflect a projectile that would normally hit you with your shield, as per the feat deflect arrows.
These feats will take the character to level nine. While there are a great deal more feats that any accurate Captain America build should have, keep in mind the Martial Flexibility ability of the brawler. This will allow the Captain to gain feats appropriate to a battle at the time he needs them, without sacrificing permanent slots. If he needs power attack and furious focus, then he can gain them for the next minute. If he needs improved disarm and greater disarm for this fight, then poof, he has them. If he needs disruptive, spellbreaker, and ray shield for a higher level fight, viola, he now has those! It's important to make sure the feats he learns permanently are the ones he's going to use all the time, and that situational feats such as combat maneuver feats or attack bonus feats are used with his flexibility when he really needs them.
Aside from feats, equipment is what makes any combat character extra deadly. While his shield is a primary concern, it's important not to miss the forest for the trees when it comes to Cap's load out.
While it would be great to have a reflecting shield, or a fortification shield, let's be realistic; those are down-the-road goals. The shield itself is going to benefit most from the highest enhancement players can give it. A bashing shield is a good idea since it will do more damage, and if you make the shield adamantine, then you have the basis for Marvel's legendary offensive defense.
There's more to Captain America than just his shield, though. His costume has been redesigned in more recent additions to function as armor, and the best possible defense it can give is always important. Once again, focus on straight enhancement over shiny baubles, unless those baubles are going to really come in handy. Unusual materials are always good, but they can eat into a player's budget. Any wondrous item that boosts Cap's stats, which makes him immune or resistant to mind effects (you really don't want him turned against the party), or which gives him enhanced vision for dark fighting are all solid plans.
Also don't forget to invest in some solid alchemical items like tanglefoot bags, troll styptics, antivenom, and holy water for backups, when the occasional anti-magic field crops up. Additionally, don't forget all of the great non-magical equipment like bandoliers, adventurer's sashes, candles, chalk, and the ever-popular lamp oil, which can save your bacon at just the right moment. For complete lists of great gear, check out The Best Alchemical Items For Your Pathfinder Party, as well as The Best (Non-Magical) Equipment For Your Pathfinder Party.
What is Your Captain's Story?
It isn't enough to make a fighter that favors a shield and is lawful good; you really need to sell the idea that you are Captain America. Someone who's from a different time, an exotic locale, or who was made specifically as an enhanced soldier are good starts. For players who aren't walking into things at level one, an Andoran Eagle Knight is quite possibly the perfect background for Captain America.
In addition to the background and the stats, the keys to Captain America are in his language and outlook. Steve Rogers wants to protect people, but he's also spent his life as a symbol and a warrior. His vernacular is very military, and players can give themselves some addition prop points for using army-issue jargon appropriate to a given country (Cheliax is big on slang terms for the military, for instance, and you can find a lot of terms in Cheliax, The Infernal Empire). There's also a definite sense of chain of command that Steve follows. He might bend the rules sometimes, but his accountability is part of what makes him who and what he is. Without that he's just another soldier for fortune with high ideals. Keep that in mind when you're getting into character.
Lastly, ask yourself who your rogue's gallery is. Because a hero will be judged by the villains they stand against. If you're looking for some inspiration, I'd recommend:
- 100 Random Bandits to Meet: The sepulchral Darkskull is an ideal antagonist for the Captain, but this collection has dozens of other villains big and small to put on your roster of enemies.
- 100 Pirates To Encounter: From the black ship helmed by the figure known only as the Plague Doctor, to the mechanized monstrosity under the command of Captain Ratchet, this collection is filled with dangerous high seas marauders.
- 100 Prisoners For A Fantasy Jail: From the possessed madman known only as Drova the Demon, to the crazed killer referred to as the Jester, there are several villains who could act as the seeds for a varied roster of opponents.