How to Build Hawkeye in 'The Pathfinder RPG'
A Character Conversion Guide
Hawkeye, alias Clint Barton, is easy to miss given the company he keeps. After all, when Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and even the Black Widow are all on screen, there's a lot of eyes on them. That's fine though; despite the flimsy look of his weapons, Hawkeye is one of the most dangerous Avengers on the team. Players who want a smart tactician, an unbeatable archer, and someone who can handle himself in nearly any situation may find that taking a page out of Barton's book might just be the way to go for their next Pathfinder character.
If you'd like character builds for other members of the team, in addition to builds for Gotham City's vigilantes and the cast of Game of Thrones, check out the Character Conversions page on Improved Initiative!
Also, for those who've often wondered why heroes like Hawkeye tend to wear spangly outfits while saving the world, the answer can be found in Why Do Superheroes Wear Their Underwear on The Outside?
Lastly, if you'd like even more gaming content, check out my Gamers archive, along with my full Vocal contributor's page to see everything I've put up, from gaming, to martial arts, to travel, to geeky stuff in general!
Foundation (Attributes, Race, and Traits)
Hawkeye should be human, both because the bonus feat, skill point, and +2 to a single stat are useful, but also because he is one of the most un-augmented members of the Avengers. The floating +2 bonus is best used in Dexterity, given that it's going to be the stat he uses most often. On that note, while Dexterity should probably be his highest trait, but Strength and Wisdom are also useful for Hawkeye. A high Constitution score is good for bonus hit points, and Intelligence is good for extra skill points. Charisma is likely the dump stat for the build discussed here, though there is an alternative path that will be mentioned later with a different array.
As to his traits, it's important to remember that Hawkeye is a complicated character with a simple purpose. Traits like Reactionary or Warrior of Old (+2 to Initiative, the former for anyone, the latter for elven characters if players choose that route) are good ones to help make sure that Hawkeye gets the first shot in any given fight. Traits like Friends in High Places (+1 to Intimidate and Diplomacy checks anywhere you've gathered information, and a +2 when dealing with government officials) could easily represent Barton's connections through S.H.I.E.L.D. and other government organizations. Dangerously Curious (+1 to use magic device, and it is always a class skill for you) is also a useful trait if players want Barton to use magical devices as a way to duplicate the advanced gadgetry that is often his trademark.
The ideal choice for Hawkeye's base class is fighter; specifically the Archer archetype found in the Advanced Player's Guide. While that sounds obvious, there's no arguing with the unique tricks this variant offers; an increased effective range of fire, as well as the ability to feint, disarm, or sunder from a distance (an unbeatable trick for throwing a monkey wrench into an enemy's plans) makes it a perfect fit... and that's just with a standard bow. This variant allows characters to increase attack and damage done with a bow, and it even gives you an ability called Hawkeye (fittingly enough) that increases your Perception check. It is quite simply tailor made for this character.
However, I mentioned earlier that there might be a variant that requires a higher Charisma score than the fighter. There is; the Hooded Champion ranger archetype found in the Advanced Class Guide. This ranger gains the use of panache, as well as unique deeds like Dead Aim, which lets you turn an attack with a bow into a touch attack. You give up all sorts of evasion, and you lose out on your first favored enemy, but you can get some serious bang for your buck with this archetype if you want more skill points, and some of the more traditional ranger grab bag of abilities that fit with Hawkeye's time as an irregular agent.
Alternatively, if you want to get a good mix of capabilities, along with some sexy bonus to attack and damage against studied targets, you can always go with the slayer instead. A standard slayer will work well enough, but the Sniper archetype from the Advanced Class Guide gives you additional range on your sneak attack along with some other goodies, and the Woodland Sniper archetype from Ultimate Wilderness also has some shiny tricks up its sleeve when it comes to firing without anyone seeing you. All of these varieties will work well enough, but they won't have the sheer number of feats that either ranger or fighter provides. Fortunately your slayer talents can make up for some of that, even gaining you some abilities from the ranger class if you really want them.
Can't Seem to Miss (Skills and Feats)
While most famous for his use of a bow in some of the most surreal settings you could find an archer. Hawkeye possesses a fairly wide array of skills. Survival, Intimidate, and Knowledge (dungeoneering) are all great class skills to have. However, Hawkeye might also benefit from Acrobatics, as well as Use Magic Device. Other skills, such as Craft (alchemy) might be appropriate for Hawkeye's skill set, along with a variety of different knowledge skills depending on how you want to focus him. Think carefully about where your Hawkeye has been, what he's seen, and how he's been trained. Oh, and max out your Perception score, you can never go wrong with that.
The big, flashy tricks Hawkeye has, though, are going to come almost entirely from feats. And depending on which class you chose above, you may not have room for all of these. Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 131) are going to be a player's bread and butter at low levels. A bonus to close-up shooting, and the ability to ignore the negative for firing into melee is standard. From that point onward players can pretty much pick and choose whatever appeals to them, but there are some feats you'll get more out of than others. Rapid Shot provides one extra arrow fired in a round, and Deadly Aim (Core Rulebook 132 and 121) is like power attack for ranged fighters; take a negative to your to-hit, increase your damage. Additional feats like Manyshot (Core Rulebook 130) allow you to fire two arrows at once, but only make one roll for the attack. Anything that lets players put more arrows into the air, or which allows them to increase their damage, is a good plan. So things like Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization (for the fighters who qualify for it), along with their improved versions, are also good to have on-hand.
If you want to use trick shots (whether it's the class feature he gets from the Archer archetype, or you take feats like Ranged Feint from Ultimate Intrigue) you should consider feats that boost those combat options as well. Feat trees like Improved Trip, Improved Grapple, and even Improved Disarm (Core Rulebook 127 and 128) become useful both in melee and at range at that point. Given how many shots Hawkeye can have in a round, these feats could put all enemies prone on the ground in a single turn, if he's lucky.
Lastly, as Hawkeye goes up in level, feats like Improved Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 128), Improved Critical (Core Rulebook 127), and even Clustered Shots (Ultimate Combat) are all good investments. There are a lot of feat trees that characters can invest in, but it's important to look carefully at practicality as well as effectiveness. Lastly, though, if you qualify for Point Blank Master (Advanced Player's Guide), that's going to make your life much easier, since you can basically shoot who you want, whenever you want regardless of if they're in melee with you or not.
While Hawkeye might not have gadgetry as advanced as Tony Stark does, his arrows are certainly no normal shafts. It's for that reason that you'll need to do a little bit of bookkeeping as Hawkeye goes up in level, and it's why you'll have to shell out some gold for the good stuff.
Bracers of archery are a no-brainer for Hawkeye, as they provide a competence bonus to every attack roll. The belt of incredible dexterity (Core Rulebook 504 and 502 respectively) is also a good investment. Of course players should also have a magic bow with the highest bonus possible, as well as armor that protects without slowing Hawkeye down.
Here's where things get a little bit hinky. Rather than trying to put a lot of gold into adding elemental or damage enhancements on Hawkeye's bow, instead keep an array of different arrows on hand. Buying a bunch of different kinds of arrows might seem expensive, but it ensures that Hawkeye is ready for any kind of throw down. Brilliant energy arrows for heavily armored opponents, ghost touch arrows for incorporeal foes, elemental arrows for enemies weak against certain types of energy, you get the idea. Also, once that trick shot covers sunder maneuvers, adamantine arrows might become your best friend since they can ignore an object's hardness up to 20. Miscellaneous magic items that might help include the eyes of the eagle (Core Rulebook 512) and the slaying arrow (Core Rulebook 476).
It isn't required for players to have access to the kind of gold that a lot of magical ammunition requires to make your concept work, either. At lower levels (and even higher ones) alchemical items will get the job done quite nicely. Tanglefoot bags and grenade weapons like alchemist's fire are great ways to deal some serious damage to swarms, as well as to put a hurt on enemies that might be able to ignore arrows early on. Smoke Sticks can cover a getaway, and many arrows such as Tangleshot Arrows and Trip Arrows can be tasty alchemical candy for Hawkeye. Elves of Golarion and Ultimate Equipment have lists of specialized arrows you'll definitely want to comb through.
Who Are You? (Story)
When making a character conversion it's important to ask how much of your character is an homage to the original, and how much is going to be fresh. As an example, was your Hawkeye trained in the circus, or did he learn his skills as part of an elite mercenary company? Is he a freelance agent, or is he attached to a particular organization as a troubleshooter? Most importantly, consider the advice in Who's In Your Character's Rogues' Gallery?, and ask who his enemies are. After all, every hero has a few.
If you're looking for inspiration on places to get started, you might want to check out:
- 100 Random Mercenary Companies: With companies like The Bowman's Children, this is an ideal collection to help flesh out your background.
- 100 Random Bandits To Meet: If Hawkeye needs enemies, you'll certainly find them here. From infamous leaders like the Maneater, or Darkskull, to low-ranking highwaymen and marauders, lots of bandits in this collection could make for ideal additions to one's rogues' gallery.
- 100 Prisoners For A Fantasy Jail: Whether it's an old enemy, a nefarious contact who could provide information, or someone Hawkeye is going to need to spring, this collection is full of wrongly accused warriors, alchemical arms dealers, and dozens of violent hard cases just looking for a chance to get some of their own back.