How To Build Catwoman in The Pathfinder RPG
A Character Conversion Guide
Selina Kyle, alias Catwoman, has had nearly as many incarnations as Batman. A sometime hero, sometime villain, Catwoman is out for herself as often as she is on the side of either right or wrong. No one can deny her phenomenal skills as a burglar and thief though, and having her in your party can mean the difference between getting the treasure with no one the wiser, and having to fight tooth and nail for every inch of dungeon you get through.
If you'd interested in the rest of the Gotham Knights character builds, or if you'd like to check out my takes on The Avengers or the cast of Game of Thrones, head to the Character Conversions page on Improved Initiative! And if you're looking for more articles about gaming, as well as general geekery, then check out my full Vocal archive as well!
Also, in case you've ever wondered why heroes so often wear their underwear on the outside your answer is right here.
The Beginning of Your Burglar (Attributes, Race, Traits)
Like every other character in the Gotham Knights series of character builds (so far, at least), Catwoman is a human. This gives her all the usual benefits and drawbacks of being human, including the bonus feat at creation and the bonus skill point that comes with every level. As to her attributes, players are going to want to focus on Dexterity first and foremost, but Charisma is a good second attribute to put points into. Intelligence shouldn't be her dump stat, and neither should Strength, but Dexterity and Charisma are the ones you're going to use the most.
There are a number of traits that will work very well for a Catwoman build, depending on what sort of situations you expect to be in. Careful Combatant (the first 2 five-foot squares are considered not threatened, rather than just the first when using the withdraw action), Crowd Dodger (+2 trait bonus on Acrobatics checks made to move through a creature's square and to avoid attacks of opportunity for leaving a threatened square), and Deft Dodger (+1 trait bonus on Reflex saves) are all useful traits to start with. Then again, so is Dangerously Curious (+1 trait bonus to Use Magic Device, and Use Magic Device is always a class skill), Charming (gain a +1 trait bonus on Bluff and Diplomacy with a character who could be sexually attracted to you), or Child of The Streets (+1 trait bonus to Sleight of Hand, and Sleight of Hand is always a class skill for you).
Remember; pick the bonuses you're going to use most often.
The Cat's Class (Class)
Rogue. In case there was any doubt in your mind, Catwoman is a rogue.
Not just any rogue! The Burglar archetype, found in the Advanced Players Guide, suits Catwoman right down to a T. While she loses Uncanny Dodge and Improved Uncanny Dodge, she gains Careful Disarm (which says she has to fail her disable device by 10 or more to spring a trap), and Distraction (which allows her to immediately make a Bluff check if someone detects her while she's being stealthy. If she succeeds the detector shrugs and says “probably just the wind”). A solid trade for a sneak-oriented character.
Every rogue has her tricks, but Catwoman has a reputation to live up to. Some of the best rogue tricks for her include:
Expert Leaper (Advanced Players Guide): The rogue always treats a jump as having a running start. A DC 15 acrobatics check negates the first 20 feet of falling damage, rather than the first 10.
Fast Fingers (Advanced Players Guide): Once per day a rogue may roll 2 d20s when making a sleight of hand check. This may be used an additional time for every 5 levels of rogue the character has.
Fast Getaway (Advanced Players Guide): After making a sneak attack or sleight of hand check a rogue may use a move action to take a withdraw. She may only move up to her speed.
Fast Picks (Advanced Players Guide): Rogue may attempt to disable device as a standard rather than full round action.
Fast Stealth (Core Rulebook): Rogue may move stealthily at full speed with no penalty.
Ledge Walker (Core Rulebook): Rogue may use acrobatics without penalty to move along narrow ledges. Not flat-footed while doing so.
Nimble Climber (Advanced Players Guide): When a rogue fails a climb check she may make another at the original DC + 10 to stop her fall. She takes no damage for this.
Quick Disable (Core Rulebook): It takes a rogue with this trick half the amount of time to disable a trap.
Rope Master (Ultimate Combat): Rogue may move her normal speed when using a rope on a climb check, may take 10 to move over narrow surfaces even when distracted or threatened, and the DC for creatures to escape her bonds goes up by 4.
Trap Spotter (Core Rulebook): Whenever a rogue comes within 10 feet of a trap she gets a perception check to notice it. This should be secretly rolled by the DM.
As you'll notice most, if not all, of these tricks are movement and trap related. While Catwoman can fight, she's typically not out for justice. Usually she's out to make a big score, and would prefer that she not be found by anyone (particularly not Batman) while she's relieving one of Gotham's elite of his or her valuables.
The Claws (Skills and Feats)
Like most rogues Selina has a certain set of skills that makes her a nightmare for her enemies. As a rogue she's entitled to a minimum of 9 skill points (8 + 1 for being human) assuming she has no Intelligence modifier. Skills you should invest in include Stealth (for obvious reasons), Acrobatics (for equally obvious reasons), Climb (because getting to the rooftop is hard enough), Escape Artist (for getting out of tight spots), Knowledge (local) (so you know where the good loot is), Perception (so you can see them before they see you), Sleight of Hand (for stealing trinkets like keys, wallets, pearls, etc. and hiding a holdout weapon in the event the Cat gets caught), Diplomacy (because sometimes a smile will open doors lock picks can't touch) and Disable Device (because sometimes lock picks are faster than small talk).
If you still have ranks to spend because of a high Intelligence then it's a good idea to invest in Bluff (a tried-and-true thief's skill) and Use Magic Device (because you never know when you might get hold of one of the bat's gadgets).
Also, while she isn't a combat-specific character, Selina has a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes time to roll initiative. While the feats listed may be taken in any order, you'll see solid results once you've gotten them all under your belt.
Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Whip)(Core Rulebook 123) Because what's Catwoman without her whip?
Weapon Finesse (Core Rulebook 136) With a high Dexterity score, Selina can really put her wrist into her lash.
Weapon Focus (Whip) (Core Rulebook 136) +1 to attacks with a whip.
Whip Mastery (Ultimate Combat 123) No longer provoke AOOs with a whip, may deal lethal damage.
Improved Whip Mastery (Ultimate Combat 106) You threaten an area of your regular reach, plus 5 additional feat. You may grasp a small or tiny object with your whip and pull it to you as if your whip was a grappling hook.
Greater Whip Mastery (Ultimate Combat 103) You never drop your whip due to a failed disarm or trip maneuver. You may also grapple with a whip.
In addition to these feats it's suggested that Catwoman take Combat Expertise (Core Rulebook 119), along with the trees for the disarm and/or trip combat maneuver. This ensures that she has options when it comes time to render her opponents significantly less of a threat. For players who want to make her whip impossible to escape it's also a good idea to take Improved Unarmed Strike (Core Rulebook 128) and all of the grapple feats that follow it.
Equipment and Story
Catwoman is nothing if not resourceful. For that reason if no other it's important to make sure she's got a neat bag of tricks ready and waiting.
While it's tempting to get distracted by shiny magic items, it's always a good idea to remember how useful completely normal equipment can be. Masterwork lockpicks, some silk rope, or even better some spider silk rope (typically only used by the drow) can make any job go a bit easier. Never come to a party without a few surprises like smokesticks and flash bangs... er, thunderstones.
For other great items of mundane equipment, from spring-loaded wrist sheathes to utility belt bandoliers, you can make sure you keep all your tools and loot close to hand and easy to draw.
While Selina gets to wear light armor, her greatest protection is never being seen at all. That makes things like mithril chain an ideal armor for her, and if it's going to be enchanted it's a good idea to put slick or shadow onto it as well. It's better to avoid as many fights as possible than to sound the alarm when one is a professional burglar.
While Catwoman's signature whip is certainly a great weapon to have on hand, there will be situations where it just isn't going to be enough. It's a good idea to put the dueling enchantment on her whip though, since it provides both a bonus to disarm as well as to initiative; nothing is better than a rogue that goes first. It's a good idea to carry a few backup knives, a spiked gauntlet or two to represent her claws, and perhaps a distance weapon to round out the package. Enchanted arrows or bolts are also a great idea for specific situations where a known enemy is going to have a given weakness.
Every job is different, but there are some pieces of equipment you always bring with you. The Vest of Escape (Core Rulebook 532) is a great item for getting into places no one wants you in, and getting out of situations when you shouldn't be able to. A pair of Immovable Rods (Core Rulebook 484) can hold practically any door closed, or they can be a great way to scale an unscalable height. They're also great for Mission Impossible style drops. The great combination of an Eversmoking Bottle (Core Rulebook 512) and Fog Cutter Lenses (Ultimate Equipment) can also give you a field of smoke where you can tuck, dodge, and weave your way right out the door. Nothing like a great escape where no one saw where you went. Gloves and belts that enhance your dexterity are lovely acquisitions as well, giving you more skill as well as a better armor class... provided you don't get caught flat-footed. Lastly, it's a good idea to have a set of Gloves of Reconnaissance (Ultimate Equipment) on hand just so there's never a surprise when you open a heavily locked door.
Beyond these items though, it's a good idea to bring some potions and scrolls. Silence is perhaps one of the greatest spells to have on hand, but a few potions of cure or even darkvision wouldn't go amiss... especially if you're trying to sneak into somewhere you're not wanted in the dead of night.
Who Are You?
There's been a lot of discussion of mechanics so far, but this last section is the most important. Who is your Catwoman?
Is she from a tribe of Varisians who use ritual garb to disguise their identities when stealing wealth? Is she a child of the streets in a major city who wanted to rise up and leave her mark? Is she a former circus acrobat who is putting her skills to a different use after debts forced the circus to shutter its tents? These are all potential explanations for who she is and why she does what she does. The real question you have to answer is; which one are you?
And if you're looking for inspiration, check out some of the following:
- 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns: Whether your Catwoman runs with a gang now, or she simply has to watch her loyalties, this supplement could provide a lot of background. If you're looking for more outfits, as well as individuals in them, you might also want to look at 100 Random Bandits to Meet.
- 100 Merchants to Encounter: Whether your Catwoman ran a boutique that was behind on its mortgage, or you need to know the fences you can sell your stolen goods through, this collection should jumpstart a lot of interesting background choices.
- 100 Prisoners For a Fantasy Jail: If you need friends (or enemies) that you knew on the inside, some of the scoundrels, thieves, heavies, and toughs in this collection should fit right into your backstory.