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How To Build Harley Quinn in The Pathfinder RPG

A Character Conversion Guide

By Neal LitherlandPublished 4 years ago 8 min read

Harley Quinn is an iconic member of Batman's rogues gallery, and she's perhaps the only villain with staying power created as part of the influential Batman: The Animated Series. She debuted in the early 90s, and it wasn't until 1994 that her backstory was fully explained. A former gymnast, Harleen Quinzel was trying to do good work with the patients are Arkham Asylum. The madman who fascinated her the most, though, was the Joker. Rather than helping him, though, Harleen fell completely under his sway. She helped him escape, and even dressed herself in motley as the infamous Harley Quinn. While she's gone through several changes since then, including a stint as an anti-hero when she joined the Suicide Squad, she remains one of the most popular characters DC has ever created.

If you're looking for a Joker character build, or for other famous fictional characters like The Avengers, or the cast of Game of Thrones, the Character Conversions page at Improved Initiative has you covered. For more gaming and geek-related content, consider checking out my full Vocal archive, as well!

The Setup (Attributes, Race, and Traits)

Harley, like most other people who square off with the Dark Knight on his home turf, is human. A bonus feat and a bonus skill point are never bad things to have, especially when re-creating someone so widely educated. Dexterity should be a priority, especially considering how acrobatic Harley tends to be. If you're going to make your Harley a fighter, and if you want her big hammer to be for more than show, you might also want to give her a high Strength. Charisma and Intelligence will be her highest mental stats.

When it comes to her traits, it's important to pick ones that fit her story, and which you'll actually use. Careful Combatant (you may move 10 feet instead of 5 before provoking attacks of opportunity as part of a total withdrawal) is useful, but so is Crowd Dodger (+2 trait bonus on Acrobatics checks to move through a creature's square, as well as to avoid attacks of opportunity for leaving a threatened square). Reactionary (+2 trait bonus on Initiative checks), or Ambush Training (+1 trait bonus to Initiative checks, and weapon damage rolls, during any surprise round when you act) are also possibilities. What you choose will depend on which role your Harley is filling, and what checks you're going to make the most often.

The Pause (Classes)

Harley is acrobatic, flamboyant, and when push comes to shove, she knows how to lay someone out flat while dodging her way through combat. Highly-skilled, and unpredictable, Harley is an extremely flamboyant Rogue. Of course, not just any Rogue would do, so we're going to use the Acrobat archetype, found on page 132 of the Advanced Player's Guide. The Acrobat strips out trapfinding and trapsense, and gives you a bonus to Acrobatics checks (or the ability to ignore the armor check penalty of light armor if you're actually wearing any), and allows you to re-roll a failed Acrobatics check a certain number of times per day.

Since you're a Rogue, there are several Rogue Talents Harley should have. Expert Leaper, which allows you to make all jumps as if you had a running start and lets you make a DC 15 Acrobatics check to avoid falling damage from the first 20 feet instead of the first 10, is a good one to start with. Defensive Roll, which gives you the ability to make a Reflex save to halve damage that would take you to 0 HP or lower, Stand Up, which allows you to stand up from prone as a free action which provokes an attack of opportunity, and Fast Tumble, which lets you to tumble through enemy's squares at full speed without penalty, are all good choices.

The above recommendations work if you're just trying to replicate the iconic Harley Quinn. However, if you're looking for the version that has enhanced strength, durability, and toxin resistance thanks to her very close relationship with Poison Ivy (whose guide you can find right here), there are some additional options you might want to consider.

One option is to take a two-level dip in the Savage Technologist barbarian archetype out of the Technology Guide. This archetype gives you a unique Rage that increases your Dexterity and Strength, and which doesn't give you a negative to your armor class. You also gain firearm proficiency, which may not be Harley's primary choice of weapon, but she's never been shy about pulling out a hand cannon and blasting away.

Another option is to take a single level of Brawler from the Advanced Class Guide to gain an unarmed strike, martial flexibility, and brawler's flurry. When combined with sneak attack damage, that can leave opponents reeling.

Lastly, if you want to give Harley immunity to Ivy's toxicity (or the equivalent in your game setting), then the Rogue Talent Developed Poison Immunity is a requirement for you. It has to be taken separately for each kind of poison you want to be able to ignore, but if you're coming in constant contact with one or two kinds, being immune is a big help.

The Punchline (Skills and Feats)

Harley has a lot of skills, and thanks to your Rogue levels (and hopefully to a high Intelligence score) you can get everything you need. Acrobatics, Escape Artist, Perception, and Sense Motive are a good start. Since you have a minimum of 9 skill ranks per level, though, assuming you have at least a 10 for your Intelligence score, you might also want to add Bluff, Disguise, Disable Device, Intimidate, and maybe Use Magic Device to your grab bag.

Skills are the easy part, though. Feats are going to be difficult, since you need to decide what sort of combatant your Harley is going to be. Especially since you have relatively few feats, especially in comparison to more combat-specific characters.

For example, if you're going for a dexterous fighter/shooter, you'll want to take:

- Weapon Finesse (Core Rulebook 136): Use your Dexterity instead of Strength to attack.

- Point Blank and Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 131): Gain a bonus to shooting targets within 30 feet, and ignore the negative for targets currently in melee.

- Rapid Shot and Rapid Reload (Core Rulebook 132): Fire one additional time when taking a full-attack with a ranged weapon, and reload a specific ranged weapon more quickly.

This feat array will take you to level 7, and it will make you a competent shooter, and melee fighter. With this array, you're relying on your initiative (or on springing an ambush) to get your sneak attack in while your enemies are still unwary. If you don't have surprise, then you'll need to use your acrobatic skill to tumble into position to get into a flank.

If you would rather focus on being a dexterous melee fighter without all this shooting nonsense, then instead of the ranged combat feats you should take:

- Dodge, Mobility, and Spring Attack (Core Rulebook 122, 130, and 134): Gain a bonus to your AC, an additional bonus against attacks of opportunity provoked by movement, and the ability to attack at any point during a move action.

These feats give you the ability to move around the battlefield, and they help you get a little extra cover when you don't make your checks to tumble past attacks of opportunity. Of course, Skill Focus (Acrobatics)[Core Rulebook 134] might be a good addition to your arsenal if you're going to focus on battlefield positioning to get your bonus damage in.

If you want to pull out the hammer (in the form of an Earth Breaker), or choke-up on Harley's Louisville slugger, then you won't be using your Dexterity score. That's where a level or two of barbarian will come in handy, because an increased Strength score along with Power Attack (Core Rulebook 131) and Furious Focus (Advanced Player's Guide 161), combined with your sneak attack, can leave your enemy's heads reeling.

The key thing to remember when picking your feats is that, from level 1 to level 11, you only get 7 slots. So it's better to focus on one strategy, and to use your feats to enhance that strategy, than it is to try and do a little of everything. If you want to be an unarmed fighter, then a Rogue/Brawler combination will let you bounce around the field while punching and kicking to your heart's content. If you want to be a switch-hitter, then the Rogue/Savage Technologist will enhance your Strength and Dexterity for brief periods of time, letting you run and gun. If you want to be a smasher, then make sure you focus on getting as much damage out of that hammer as you can, because your Dexterity won't come into play with it.

The Laughs (Gear and Story)

Harley is unique in that she doesn't have any truly signature pieces of equipment, aside from her costume and makeup. While she's been known to swing a two-handed mallet, or a heavy baseball bat, she's just as likely to have a mace with a jester's head on it. While she's no stranger to an over-sized revolver, we've also seen her fire rockets when she's gotten her hands on them. We've also seen her dress like a normal person, waltzing right past security before blowing smoke into someone's face and giggling as she pulls the trigger on an ambush. She's adaptable, which means it's a good idea to give her a few party favors, like tanglefoot bags, smokesticks, thunderstones, and other nasty surprises that could leave her enemies disoriented.

Lastly, you need to ask how much of Harley's story you're adapting when you decide to recreate her. Is she still going to be the sidekick of a murderous psychopath with a sideshow fetish? Or is she a crazed vigilante, providing her own, mad version of justice? Is she a member of an elite group of adventurers, and if so, is it in spite or because of her madcap hijinks?

It's important to remember that, though you have a template for inspiration, she's still your character. So you need to ask what sort of spin you're going to put on her before you start rolling dice. If you're looking for further inspiration, though, you might want to check out the following:

- 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns: From the Heartbreakers, to the Marked, there are dozens of gangs in this collection that your Harley may have been associated with in her past... or which she still runs today!

- 100 Random Bandits To Meet: Harley knows all sorts of folks in the trade, whether they're allies, rivals, or somewhere in between. From the Maneater to the Darkskull, there are bandit lords and dread highwaymen aplenty, along with those who rally to their banners.

- 100 Prisoners For a Fantasy Jail: Harley's spent her share of time in lock-up, and while she's been there she's met her share of interesting folk. There's even a dangerous madman known only as The Jester in this collection, for those looking for a background tie.

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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.



Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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