How to Build Syrio Forel in the Pathfinder RPG
A Character Conversion Guide
Syrio Forel doesn't look like much, at a glance. A short, slender Braavosi with a beak of a nose and a very high opinion of himself, he is actually one of the most dangerous men in King's Landing, if not in the whole of George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Formerly the First Sword of Braavos, his swagger is well earned, though we only see it once when he is buying Arya time to escape from Lannister guardsmen. For those who'd like to bring the skill and philosophy of Syrio Forel to your Pathfinder table, this guide should help you get started.
If you'd like to see other Game of Thrones character conversions for the Pathfinder RPG system, check out the Character Conversions page on Improved Initiative. Also, while you're here, why not check out some of the other gaming, geek, and trivia-related articles I've got in my full Vocal archive?
Footwork (Attributes, Race, and Traits)
Syrio, like the majority of characters in George Martin's epic saga, is a human. There's nothing magical or unusual about him, aside from the things he has pushed himself to learn through a lifetime of dedication to his art. Dexterity should be the attribute that ranks highest, but both Charisma and Intelligence should also be included in the upper echelons.
When it comes to Syrio's traits you've got some serious decisions to make. For example, aggressive traits like fencer (+1 trait bonus on attacks of opportunity with daggers, dueling weapons, rapiers, etc.) fit the background, and will come in handy by boosting several of your class abilities. Defensive traits like threatening defender (when you use Combat Expertise, reduce the number you subtract for your attack rolls by 1) will also be useful. Combined with regional traits like one-on-one duelist (+1 trait bonus on damage when you're the only one threatening your opponent), you have a solid base to build off of.
Just remember, you need to plan out your particular combat style. If you're focusing on attack over defense, make sure your traits reflect that, and give you bonuses you're going to get the most out of.
Class (Or Classes?)
The class that best fits Syrio, or at least which fits with what little we know about him, is the Swashbuckler, out of the Advanced Class Guide. However, while the base version of the class would work just fine, it isn't quite enough to bring across how unusual Syrio is, as both a fighter and as an instructor. That's why the ideal starting point is the Inspired Blade archetype.
What makes the Inspired Blade different? Well, for one thing, they're limited to use of the rapier when it comes to their class abilities. They also gain Weapon Focus in the rapier as a free, first level feat, which can be quite helpful. Additionally, the Inspired Blade gains panache points from both his Charisma modifier and from his Intelligence modifier, giving him a much bigger pool to draw upon. However, he only gains panache back from confirming a critical hit with a rapier. So, more to use, but harder to get back.
Now, while the Inspired Blade taken as a straight class can work just fine, some players may want to enhance their numbers by also adding the Duelist prestige class (which I would recommend doing after taking 7 levels of Inspired Blade).
Why do that, you ask? Doesn't the Swashbuckler just do everything the Duelist does, but better?
Yes and no. For example, the Swashbuckler's Nimble bonus to armor class would stack with the Duelist's Canny Defense, allowing you to dip and duck around the field, avoiding being hit with no shield, and little actual armor. A Duelist's Precise Strike would add on to Swashbuckler's Precise Strike, allowing you to effectively add your entire level to damage dealt with the right weapon, while wearing light or no armor, and using no shield (you could do the same with just the base class, but you don't lose anything is the point being made). The initiative bonus from the two classes stacks, and perhaps the most interesting dovetail is that the Duelist's parry and the Swashbuckler's parry take different kinds of actions. So when you get to level 10 or level 11 and enemies are taking multiple swipes at you, it's possible for you to block all of them (not guaranteed, but possible). Additionally, Duelist parries can be used to block attacks on adjacent allies, which can make you an ideal bodyguard.
Feats and Skills
Swashbucklers and Duelists get a respectable amount of skill points, but as with any other class, there never seems to be enough of them to go around. If you're going to be using the feint action at all, or just throwing your Charisma bonus around out of combat, then Bluff is definitely a skill you're going to want. Acrobatics will help you maneuver around the field avoiding attacks of opportunity, and Escape Artist will be extremely useful when you are being grappled by something bigger than you are. Other skills you'll want, and which any dancing master should have, include Sense Motive and Perception. Other than that, spend your leftovers how you feel fit your concept best.
Which feats you take will depend largely on how you intend to fight. For example, since your Inspired Blade levels count as fighter levels for the purposes of taking feats, you may wish to take feats like Weapon Specialization (Core Rulebook 137), Greater Weapon Focus, and Greater Weapon Specialization (Core Rulebook 126). These are the basic feats that will increase your to-hit and damage, making you better at striking, and better at parrying. Feats like Combat Reflexes (Core Rulebook 119) will also be useful for you, since that means using your Swashbuckler's parry action doesn't eat up all your attacks of opportunity for the round. Fencing Grace (Ultimate Intrigue) is perhaps one of the best feats you can have, since it lets you add your Dexterity modifier to your damage, and gives you bonuses against being disarmed.
In addition to offense, it's important to think about defense. Because while you may be able to use your cunning swordplay to block many incoming blows, there's always going to be magic and arrows to contend with. That's why Combat Expertise (Core Rulebook 119), Dodge (Core Rulebook 122), and Mobility (Core Rulebook 130) can all be used to help you dip and duck out of the way during combat. Even feats like Deflect Arrows (Core Rulebook 121) can help save your bacon when the chips are down.
Lastly, while Swashbucklers and Duelists get fewer feats than straight Fighters do, it's important to ask if you want to have a particular trick you need to build. For example, will you be using the feint action to leave your opponent flat-footed, making it easier for you to hit them? If so, then you'll want to take the Improved Feint and Greater Feint feats (Core Rulebook 127 and 125), and possibly a feat like Skill Focus (Bluff) (Core Rulebook 134). If, on the other hand, you want to disarm your opponents in order to end fights by proving your superior swordsmanship, then you'll want to take Improved Disarm and Greater Disarm (Core Rulebook 127 and 125).
With the sheer number of feats that exist in Pathfinder, it's important for you to decide what your strategy is going to be, and what actions you're going to take. After all, if you're going to be throwing knives at your enemies, then you're going to want to take Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot (Core Rulebook 131), but if you're not going to be using a lot of projectile-based attacks, then there's no reason to eat up two feat slots.
Gear and Story
Regarding your equipment, Syrio in the books and TV show has very little. Just a hawk-like nose, a wooden sword, and a nation's worth of swagger, but that's enough to down four competent guardsmen, and stand toe-to-toe with a member of the kingsguard. With that said, though, you'll want to take certain items adventuring with you in the field. The gloves of dueling are a big help if you want to be sure you don't lose your grip on your rapier for any reason (as Syrio never did, or so he tells us), and if you make your rapier a dueling weapon on top of that then you're going to get an Initiative bonus, a bonus on feint attempts, bonuses on disarm attempts, and bonuses on defending against disarm attempts. Add in a weapon cord just to be sure, and you have a powerful combination.
Other items you might find useful are enchanted light armor, and magic items that grant you a natural armor bonus. A fine cloak that increases your saving throws wouldn't be a bad investment, either.
As for your character story, while Syrio Forel provides the base mold we're using, you could make this character into absolutely anyone if you so desire. Are you a champion duelist, looking for his next great victory? Are you a back-alley blade, used to dirty fighting in narrow corridors instead of in honor duels for the nobles? A naval officer, a privateer, a waterfront guardsman? You've got all kinds of possibilities!
If you're looking for additional inspiration, you may want to check out:
- 100 Knightly Orders: Filled with organizations dedicated to dozens of different causes, the Scholars of Steel are an ideal group for Syrio. Dedicated to learning and teaching every aspect of the blade, the masters may be old, but no one is as skilled.
- 100 Gangs For Your Urban Campaigns: Most bravos are street walking thugs, just looking for a fight to prove their skills. The Heartbreakers are an entire gang of them, constantly vying with one another to prove how skilled they are. If Syrio isn't the leader, he might be very soon.
- 100 Random Mercenary Companies: While mercenaries come from all corners of the world, groups like the Bloody Fools combine the bright colors and swagger of a bravo, with the fast steel and deadly accuracy of a warrior. Far from the only company that might field a man like Syrio, there are dozens of them between these covers.