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How to Build Spider-Man in 'The Pathfinder RPG'

A Character Conversion Guide

By Neal LitherlandPublished 5 years ago Updated 2 years ago 10 min read
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Spider-Man has been one of Marvel Comics' hottest commodities for years. The face of the company in many ways, the wise-cracking wall-crawler has been featured in nearly every title Marvel has put out, and seems to be on a first-name basis with nearly every character in the sprawling fictional universe. And now that he's finally made his way into the MCU, that certainly isn't changing. If you'd like to bring a set of spider powers to your Pathfinder table, then this guide should help you nail down some of the big strokes in creating your own high-fantasy Spider-Man.

For character guides to other members of the Marvel Universe, as well as Gotham City's vigilantes, and the cast of Game of Thrones, take a look at the Character Conversions page on Improved Initiative. Also, while you're here, why not stop in and check out some more offerings in my Vocal archive?

With Great Power... (Race, Attributes, and Traits)

Superpowers deploying in 3... 2... 1...

For practical reasons your Spider-Man build should focus on Dexterity, Wisdom, and Strength. While human is a fine race for this build, elves and drow also work quite nicely. You can never go wrong with humans' bonus feat and skill, but low light vision and skill focus, or dark vision and a race where one could be personally chosen to serve a spider goddess are also quite snazzy. Especially if you want to make a cult of evil Spider-Men (you're welcome, dungeon masters).

When choosing your traits, you should focus on what will be most useful to you. Reactionary (+2 trait bonus to initiative) or Warrior of Old (elf, same bonus) are good for characters who want to go first. You can find more Initiative-related recommendations at How To Top The Initiative Order (Almost) Every Time, if that's something you want to look into. Other traits like Crowd Dodger (+2 trait bonus on acrobatics checks to enter another's square or to avoid attacks of opportunity), Soaring Sprinter (+2 trait bonus on acrobatics checks to maintain balance or to jump), Alchemical Adept (+2 trait bonus on checks to create alchemical items, and when you fail by five or more, but don't roll a natural one you don't ruin your raw materials. This one is great for those building their own gear.), or Dangerously Curious (gain a +1 trait bonus on use magic device checks, and use magic device is always a class skill) are all good choices as well.

Just remember, traits that never come into play are traits you'll regret taking. When in doubt, pick a bonus you'll get a lot of mileage out of.

Class

Well, you may have guessed this one...

Given all the high-flying acrobatics, ridiculous jumps, and the blue-and-red tights, Spider-Man's obvious class of choice is monk. Not just any monk will do though; the Flowing Monk (Ultimate Combat 58) is perhaps the best choice for Spider-Man. You lose stunning fist, fast movement, your second level bonus feat, purity of body and diamond body, but what you gain is the ability to redirect and trip opponents who try to attack you, as well as dodge bonuses that can make you look like you have precognition. It's the closest thing to spider sense that isn't just acting in the surprise round.

Some more details on class abilities.

Reposition, gained at first level, is going to be your bread and butter. This ability allows a Flowing Monk, who is attacked in melee by a creature he threatens to use an immediate action, to make either a reposition or trip combat maneuver. If the maneuver is successful the enemy is sickened for one round (a Reflex save of 10 + 1/2 monk level plus monk's wisdom modifier halves the duration) +1 additional round at fourth level and every four levels thereafter. If the opponent was charging or using Power Attack then the monk gains a +2 on the maneuver and a +2 on the DC. For those keeping score, it's a lot harder to hit someone when you just got knocked flat on your backside.

Unbalancing Counter, gained at level two, says that creatures struck by a monk's attack of opportunity become flat-footed until the end of their turn, though a Reflex save with the above formula negates the flat-footed condition. Yes, attacks of opportunity are fairly rare, be patient, this will come into play later.

These monks also gain Flowing Dodge, granting them a +1 to AC for every adjacent enemy, and Elusive Target, which allows the monk to apply his Reflex save against enemy attacks for lessened or no damage for the cost of 2 ki. You don't need armor if they can't hit you in the first place.

Aside from these changes the Flowing Monk gains all the stuff you're used to from a monk. You get your wisdom modifier added to your armor class, you gain ki points, unarmed strike damage, and the ability to use your monk level on combat maneuvers. That last one is actually pretty important, especially if you want to be effective when it comes time to trip or reposition your enemies.

Alternatively, for those who would rather have genuine Spidey Senses, the closest you can get with that will be the Nornkith monk archetype from Legacy of The First World. You lose out on stunning fist, purity of body, your first level bonus feat, diamond body, and most other high-level abilities, but you gain the ability to always act in the surprise round, to overcome DR/silver at level one, an insta-kill death attack at level 15 (for those looking at some of the less friendly incarnations of Spider-Man over the years), and a slew of other abilities.

The other benefit of a Nornkith is that they use Charisma, rather than Wisdom for their monk abilities. This allows you to do all sorts of things, such as dipping a few levels into Swashbuckler for their parry and riposte, kip-up, and initiative bonus, which meshes nicely with the monk's package of abilities. If you take Combat Reflexes, then you'll be able to slap a dozen attacks aside a round, and you'll never be caught unaware.

Sadly, you can't take both of these archetypes combined, but both present useful, valid options. Which one you like better will largely depend on which special abilities you feel you'll get the most mileage out of, and if you want to capitalize on the wise-cracking aspect of the character in a more mechanical sense as well.

Alternatively, There's The Vigilante

If you have a copy of Ultimate Intrigue, then you know the Vigilante is the go-to class for a lot of costumed crime fighters. Spider-Man is no different, and if you want to trade in the ki powers, unarmored defense, and unarmed damage of the monk, then this class is a good way to utilize both Spider-Man and Peter Parker.

The archetype you're looking for is the Wildsoul, and the animal path you'll want to take is, of course, the arachnid. This gives you the ability to act in the surprise round at level 2 (which ain't bad, far as spidey sense goes), and as you level up you gain the ability to shoot webs from your wrists, and a climb speed. These are both limited to uses per day, though, so you might want to keep some of the suggestions in the later sections for gear in mind.

You'll likely want to take the Stalker vigilante specialization for that sweet sneak attack. Social Talents like Skill Familiarity (Acrobatics) would come in handy for tumbling into and out of combat, and Case The Joint would work well for Peter in his day job as a photographer if you're going that route. Double Time would explain how he always has his photos ready when he needs them. As far as Vigilante Talents, Armor Skin is useful if you want to go for more of an Iron Spider sort of feel. Cunning Feint is useful, as is Close The Gap if you want to remain mobile. And, of course, let us not forget Leap and Bound.

While this is a perfect thematic fit (and a great mechanical one), it's important to make sure your campaign is going to stay in a certain location if you want to play a Vigilante all the way through. Otherwise you might run into issues with recognition, reputation, etc.

Feats

Parkour!

The three most important feats you'll have if you go Flowing Monk are the Crane Style feats: Crane Style (monk 1st), Crane Wing (monk 5th) and Crane Riposte (monk 7th). Crane Style states that you only take a -2 when fighting defensively, and you gain an additional +1 to your armor class. Crane Wing states that once per round, when fighting defensively you may choose a specific attack and gain a +4 dodge bonus against it. If you are using total defense you may deflect one melee weapon attack completely, provided you're not flat-footed and are able to act. Crane Riposte states that you only take a -1 when fighting defensively, and that after you block an attack with Crane Wing that you may make an attack of opportunity on the individual who swung at you.

That's pretty badass, wouldn't you say? Note that Crane Wing allows you to make attacks of opportunity; that's where this feat tree feeds into your ability to make enemies flat-footed. And if you choose to combine that with the Nornkith and Swashbuckler package mentioned above, then it's possible you'll use your attacks of opportunity far more than your standard action.

Of course your arachnid-themed monk can always use more feats. Dodge is a great feat for instance, and Improved Trip (Core Rulebook 128) along with Greater Trip (Core Rulebook 126) make a Flowing Monk quite dangerous. These feats also require Combat Expertise (Core Rulebook 119). It's also a good plan to have things like Deflect Arrows (Core Rulebook 121) to keep your monk as safe and projectile-free as possible.

What order should you take all this in? Well that varies depending on what you want to do. Here's a suggested progression, though you should feel free to change it up the way you want.

  • 1st level feat: Crane Style
  • 1st level bonus feat: Improved Trip (taken off Flowing Monk list)
  • 3rd level feat: Dodge
  • 5th level feat: Crane Wing
  • 6th level bonus feat: Combat Expertise
  • 7th level feat: Greater Trip
  • 9th level feat: Combat Reflexes
  • 11th level feat: Vicious Stomp (Ultimate Combat 123)

Another feat you may wish to add is Spider-Step (Advanced Player's Guide 170). It lets you walk across walls or ceilings at half your slow fall distance. While slippers of spider-climb will be more reliable, this is a great feat for those who want an inherent wall-crawling power.

Gear

Let's see, now... what was that webbing formula again...

Spider-Man's power set is pretty impressive, but he is always prepared for the worst with the right equipment. Here are some things you'll need both thematically, as well as practically.

Tanglefoot bags are your friends, especially at lower levels where enemies are likely to wind up glued in-place. If you have a spider-sac (found in the Advanced Race Guide), you can squeeze it and shoot out a 10-foot rope to either ensnare your enemies like a lasso, or to swing through the air. Combine that with a spring-loaded sheathe, and you've got a ready-made set of web-shooters. Combine that with the monk's slow fall, or the above Spider-Step feat, and there's no drop too treacherous for you!

There are other great alchemical items listed in "The Best Alchemical Items For Your Pathfinder Party," but it's important to remember that magic can definitely be your friend as well. Slippers of Spider Climbing (Core Rulebook 530) can provide you some of the wall-crawler's abilities, especially when use of the climb skill is out of the question (and you don't want to eat up your slow fall allotment for the day). The usual items of the monk's belt, bracers of armor, an amulet of natural armor, a headband that increases your Wisdom (or Charisma, if you went the Nornkith route) or a belt that increases your Strength and Dexterity, will also be extremely useful.

Lastly, don't be afraid to use a few wands. Web is definitely your friend, and if you can snap Mage Armor on before you go out adventuring, then more power to you. Force Hook Charge will also be a reliable wand, as it can latch onto solid surfaces and drag you close to them. A pair of these wands, reliably activated, could even allow for full-on webslinging (albeit on invisible chains of force). Lastly, don't forget your ring slots. Jump bonuses, acrobatics bonuses, and even a shield bonus are all great things to have on hand... so to speak.

Putting it All Together

What you have here are a basic set of mechanics; a skeleton frame. What you do with it from this point onward is up to you. Do you stick with the drow, and build a silent hero trained in the ways of infiltration and non-lethal capture? Do you add a few levels of ranger for more outdoor utilitarianism? Give your stealthy spider a gun filled with sticky shot that can be used to leave enemies bleeding and covered in resinous tar? Is your wall-crawling, rope-slinging adventurer a reformed thief? A protector of a city? A servant of hidden gods whose orders one might only guess at? That, my friends, is your call. I've given you a start on the how... now tell me the who, the why, and the what.

If your Spider-Man is a hero, though, it's important to ask who's in their gallery of rogues. From minor bruisers to big-name baddies, you might find some inspiration in the following supplements:

  • 100 Random Bandits to Meet: While mostly full of small-time highwaymen, there are gang leaders and bandit lords in here that would make adequate stand-ins for some of Spidey's bigger villains... like the terrifying Maneater, or the horrifying Dreadskull, which would need a true hero to stand up to them.
  • 100 Pirates to Encounter: Pirates may not have convenient trees for web slinging through, but who doesn't want to see Spider-Man flying across the deck of a ship, kicking pirates over the side, slamming enemies into the mask, or clinging to the side while others slip into the water below?
  • 100 Prisoners For a Fantasy Jail: Most costumed crime fighters have recurring baddies, and they tend to get locked up at the end of your adventure. However, if you need fill-ins for your own Sinister Six, there's all sorts of imprisoned kingpins, mad alchemists, and experiments-gone-wrong between these pages!
  • A Baker's Dozen of Fantasy Vigilantes: Whether you're looking to form your own Avengers, Spider Friends, or just background ties to other heroes, the mechanized Crimson Mantis, fang-mawed saurian creature called Leatherback, or even the mysterious Knight of The Steel Rose would all make intriguing allies even if you don't know the faces beneath their masks.

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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.

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Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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