How to Build Melisandre "The Red Woman" in the Pathfinder RPG
A Character Conversion Guide
Melisandre of Asshai, more commonly referred to as the Red Woman, is one of the most enigmatic characters in Game of Thrones. A devotee of the strange god R'hllor, she is a priestess who seems greatly concerned with the forces of darkness marshaling against the world. Despite her concern, though, she is willing to take ruthless, even brutal, action to make sure those forces don't succeed, making us wonder whether she's simply a different shade of dark than what she claims to fight. For players who want to bring someone like this enigmatic follower of the Lord of Light, here's a guide to help you get started.
Also, if you're interested in the rest of the Game of Thrones cast, as well as characters like The Avengers, or Gotham City's vigilantes, the Character Conversions page of Improved Initiative has you covered. And if you're interested in more gaming-related content, why not check out my full Vocal archive while you're here?
From The Shadows of Asshai (Race, Attributes, and Traits)
Melisandre is, as far as we can tell, a human. Despite the powers she wields, and the fact that she's one of the only members of the main cast who appears to have genuine sorcery at her beck and call, she doesn't appear to be a creature. Which works to a player's advantage, since a bonus feat and a bonus skill point, as well as a +2 to an attribute of choice, is never a bad thing to have. As far as her attributes go, you'll want to put Wisdom in a prime place of power, followed by Charisma, and then Intelligence. Melisandre is statuesque, but it is her force of personality, and her otherworldly knowledge, that she draws her true strength from.
Her background is mysterious, but we can infer that she's spent time on the edge of the Shadowlands, and that she has learned strange magics in addition to the worship of the Lord of Light. For example, her experience in the realms of shadows might mean that Defy Madness (+1 trait bonus on saving throws against confusion, insanity, madness, and Wisdom damage or drain) applies, because she has seen the worst that lurks within the world and come out on the other side. Indomitable Faith (+1 trait bonus on Will saves) could represent her sheer, fanatical devotion to her strange god. Shadowcaster (choose one spell with the shadow descriptor, and cast that spell at +1 caster level from now on) would represent her devotion to the darker parts of her faith. As always, with traits, it's important to choose options that fit the character, but which are going to come into play often enough that you don't feel they were a waste.
The Fires of R'hllor (Class)
Melisandre is, without a doubt, a priestess of her faith. She carries the doctrine, spreads it to others, and truly believes that her gifts come to her from the being she offers sacrifice to. The Red Woman also shows that she has real power at her command, from her ability to read auguries in flames, to her ability to withstand attempted assassination, and the harshness of the elements. Cleric meets all of these prerequisites, but not just any cleric will do for Stannis Baratheon's red witch. We're going to focus specifically on the Ecclesitheurge, from the Advanced Class Guide.
What makes the Ecclesitheurge different from other clerics? Well, they have an extremely limited weapon selection for one thing, and they use neither shields nor armor. They have taken a vow to their gods to be protected only by faith, and in exchange for that vow they're given greater flexibility in their domain spells, they may provide boosts to allies at will, and perhaps the most impressive of all, they gain a bonded holy symbol. Melisandre's necklace, with the strange, haunting stone in the center of it, would seem to fit the bill.
Additionally, if you're looking for domains that suit what we've seen from R'hllor, a combination like Sun and Darkness would work fairly well, though one could make the case for Fire as well.
The Light (Feats and Skills)
As a human cleric, you won't have as many skills to work with as some other classes. However, Melisandre should have, at minimum, ranks in Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (Religion), and Knowledge (Planes). If you have more ranks to throw around, then it's also a good idea to invest in Diplomacy, Spellcraft, and Knowledge (Nobility). If you still have any points left, Use Magic Device is never a bad choice (especially if you take Dangerously Curious as a background trait to make it a class skill).
When it comes to feats, Melisandre won't need as many as several of her contemporaries in the Song of Ice and Fire setting. While the following list isn't strictly necessary, they represent some of the more useful feats for accomplishing the things we have seen the Red Woman do.
- Spell Focus Conjuration (Core Rulebook 134): Increase the DC of all conjuration spells by +1.
- Augment Summoning (Core Rulebook 118): Each creature you conjure with any summon spell gains a +4 to its Strength and Constitution.
- Eschew Materials (Core Rulebook 123): You may cast any spell without a material component, provided that component costs 1 gp or less.
- Summon Evil Monster (Champions of Corruption): While there's debate over Melisandre's actual alignment, this feat grants her access to some of the most potent creatures one can conjure. Including, as a 6th-level spell, a Shadow Demon.
- Still Spell (Core Rulebook 135): Ignore the somatic requirement of a spell. Takes up a spell slot one level higher.
- Sacred Summons (Ultimate Magic 155): Summon creatures who match your aura as a standard action, instead of a full-round action.
These aren't a great number of feats, but it's more than enough to cover what we see her do in the series. However, feats that would be more practical for an adventurer would also include Combat Casting (Core Rulebook 119) and Reach Spell (Advanced Player's Guide 168).
The Darkness (Spells)
Melisandre isn't all bluster and disquiet, but due to the low-magic nature of the Game of Thrones setting, we might not realize all the spells she could use. For example, something as relatively simple as neutralize poison would easily explain the maester's attempt to assassinate her. A low-level spell like endure elements would explain her unsettling comfort in every environment, from the frigid north of the wall, to the heat of the summer plains. Even her visions and predictions may come in the form of less-reliable, lower-level divinations.
The big spell, of course, is going to be summon monster. If you didn't guess from the above feat list, Summon Evil Monster gives you access to a Shadow Demon, which fits the bill for the shadow children she creates to act as her assassins. While she might be able to use other spells to mimic this effect, there is no question she was in control of the creature's actions. Which is why summoning is an ideal solution, instead of using planar ally, or something similar.
Story and History
Now that you have the Red Woman's mechanics at your disposal, you need to ask what your version of her is going to be like. For example, is your version of her trying to fight a greater darkness in the world, or is she a knowing servant of that encroaching evil? Does she seek to guide the actions of kings and lords, turning them into her pawns, or does she take a more direct hand in matters of import? Will she be an aid to your party, or will she be a threat your heroes have to stand against in order to protect the land from encroaching shadow?
If you're looking for additional inspiration, you may want to check out the following:
- A Baker's Dozen of Noble Families: While Melisandre may not have been a Lady in her old life, it is not uncommon for those of noble birth to have access to great secrets and potent rituals. The Blackbriars, found in this particular collection, are a perfect example of the kind of fire and shadow that would suit her.
- 100 Nobles To Encounter: Even if Melisandre herself is not a noble, she dabbles in the doings of the high and mighty to play them to her own ends. Whether you're looking for a patron like Stannis, or you need adversaries for her to overcome, this collection has both aplenty.
- 100 Random Mercenary Companies: If you want to have your seer traveling with a military band, or drawn from a gang of mercenaries she's been using to her own ends, then groups like The Coven might be ideal for your needs. Or, if you prefer something a little less sellsword, then the Tenders of The Sacred Flame in 100 Knightly Orders might be more to your liking