The Imperium of Man stretches across the galaxy, and it's said to contain a million inhabited worlds. Among that million, though, there is one that stands above the others for its cruelty, its viciousness, and horror. A place of fetid swamps, murderous heat, and where every piece of bizarre flora and unusual fauna has evolved perfectly to kill you.
That world is Catachan.
One of the most savage death worlds in the Imperium, Catachan's environment has produced some of the finest warriors humanity has ever seen. Swift, strong, and utterly ruthless, the infamous Catachan jungle fighters are legend among the Astra Militarum. For those who want to bring these troops to their next Pathfinder game, this guide should get you started!
Also, this installment in the series is sponsored by SHM Publishing, the folks behind the Savage Company campaign setting. If you love combining roaring guns with more traditional fantasy RPG elements, then this game is going to be right up your alley. And if you like what you see, check out the Savage Company Mega Bundle to get all the books for one low price!
Frame (Attributes, Race, and Traits)
Catachans, despite their great size, strength, and survivability are still genetically considered humans. However, there are alternative human traits such as Frontier Survivor (granting the Technologist feat and a +2 bonus on Survival checks in the ruins of cities, replacing the Skilled trait) and Heart of The Wilderness (add half your character level on Survival checks, +5 bonus on Constitution checks to stabilize when brought below 0 hit points, and add half their character level to their Constitution score to determine how far down in negative hit points they have to go before they die, replacing the Skilled trait) that allow you to tailor the benefits of this choice. Thematically one could also use half-orc as the basis for a Catachan, though the Pass For Human feat, and an alternative trait that swaps out darkvision, might be necessary to maintain appearances.
As far as attributes go, a large part of it will depend on your preferred combat style for your Catachan. Those who will be largely relying on firearms should put Dexterity first, followed by Strength or Constitution, while those who plan on mixing it up in melee should put Strength as a primary, followed by Dexterity or Constitution. Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma are going to be pretty up in the air for this particular build, but they're not going to have a priority.
Lastly, you need to pick your two background traits. Bred For War (+1 trait bonus to Intimidate checks, and a +1 to CMD) is an ideal way to represent the sheer size of Catachan troopers. Traits like Dirty Fighter (deal +1 bonus damage against flanked opponents), Ambush Training (+1 trait bonus on Initiative checks and weapon damage rolls during a surprise round in which you act), or Reactionary (+2 trait bonus to Initiative) are all solid, thematic choices. When it comes to traits, though, always remember to pick the ones that compliment your specific build, and which are going to be used often.
Muscle (Class Choice)
Catachan jungle fighters are known for their raw physical power, but that's not all. They're also some of the finest sharpshooters in the Imperium, as well as masters of stealth and guerilla warfare. And if you want to capture that, there's several ways you can go about it.
Perhaps the most flexible way to do this is with the slayer hybrid class out of the Advanced Class Guide. A combination of the ranger and the rogue, slayers gain a large variety of skills, a full base attack bonus, some sneak attack, and the ability to study a particular target to gain bonuses against them. They also gain the ability to pick slayer talents, which gives them access to many rogue talents and ranger abilities so they can be geared toward better surviving in a particular area, or picking up extra tricks that grant poison use (something Catachans are known for), or increasing the range for sneak attacks.
If one wishes to go the slayer route, then it's a good idea to consider archetypes like Guerilla out of Ultimate Wilderness, as well as the Woodland Sniper and Toxic Sniper.
Alternatively, those who want to focus their Catachan on specific enemies (orks, tyranids, and others) may find they prefer using the ranger instead of its hybrid offspring. This provides unique fighting styles for bonus feats, a number of huge boosts based on terrain and favored enemy, and a wide array of weapons to use. Combining the Trophy Hunter and Skirmisher archetypes also provides a variety of situational benefits to the ranger and their allies, and gives you proficiency in firearms along with the ability to take grit feats. For those who are curious, it's the same combination I recommended for my Teddy Roosevelt character conversion guide. The trapper ranger archetype is also an option, but will require a campaign where players will actually have the chance to set up traps and ambushes, so consult with your Game Master before going all in on this option.
Lastly, for those who want to capture the speed and ferocity of a Catachan in a whirlwind of battle, the Savage Technologist barbarian archetype out of the Technology Guide might be more what you're looking for. With all the toughness and battle capability of the barbarian class, its Rage doesn't give you an armor class negative, and instead increases Strength and Dexterity, making you a deadlier shot. Eventually the archetype allows you to add your Dexterity modifier to your damage with firearm attacks, and it gives you Sword and Gun as a bonus feat. This choice is ideal for those who want a ripper pistol in one hand, and the infamous Catachan knife in the other as they charge into battle. Barbarians get fewer skill points, but on the other hand they tend to be tough, so there's a trade off there worth considering.
Nerve (Skills and Feats)
When it comes to skills, Catachans are known for Stealth, Perception, Survival, and one could argue both Acrobatics and Knowledge (Nature), along with whatever Knowledge skill best corresponds to their enemy of choice. Additional skills should be selected based on the specific character, and what their personal niche and experience is (as well as the requirements of the campaign).
As to feats, that is going to depend largely on what your Catachan's area of expertise is going to be.
Those who are going to focus on sniper abilities may find the full feat list in the guide for Lyudmila Pavlichenko to be most useful. That list includes making sure you're proficient with your weapons of choice (typically through Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Firearms)), as well as Point Black Shot and Precise Shot. Deadly Aim, Vital Strike, and Devastating Strike are also on that list, along with feats like Expert Sniper to make it easier to remain hidden (and which can reduce the penalty to nothing with abilities gained from archetypes like the Woodland Sniper). Improved Precise Shot is also useful for ignoring anything less than total cover and concealment in heavy foliage when making your shot.
For those who want to focus more on fast-paced combat instead of long-range marksmanship, though, two-weapon fighting might be more useful. Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot will still be necessary, but Two Weapon Fighting lets you blast and slash away with abandon. Combining that with Rapid Shot (and potentially Rapid Reload) will allow you to fill the air with lead and las fire, and Clustered Shots will help you overcome any damage reduction your target has (DR is only subtracted once from the total, rather than taken off of every shot).
Whichever strategy you're going with, general feats like Weapon Focus and Quick Draw are going to be helpful for you, though they should not have top priority. If you want to have some melee capabilities, consider Power Attack for Strength builds, and Weapon Finesse and Piranha Strike for Dexterity builds. However, whether you're using Rage, or a favored enemy bonus, or sneak attack, there should be plenty of extra oomph behind that blade when it sinks in that you don't need too many extra feats to do appreciable damage with it.
Equipment and Story
Catachan jungle fighters aren't known for wearing armor. The best defense you have against the stifling heat and deadly environment is to be able to tuck, roll, dodge, and get the hell out of the way. That said, a light armor such as mithril chain (perhaps as a lining of a vest), combined with an amulet of natural armor, rings of protection, etc. would allow your Catachan to shrug off a couple of attacks. Especially if they're using cover and concealment to ensure the enemy can't properly see/target them in the first place. Alchemical items like tanglefoot bags, nets, and alchemist's fire, would also make for useful things to keep on hand, as they tend to fight as a squad, so one member might hamper or distract the target, setting them up for a shot from their fire support before a chopper rushes in to finish the job (though a machete might be a better representative of the Catachan knife than a dagger, potentially with keen and similar enchantments on it). It's possible you might even find the unusual item of the net launcher from my Cities of Sundara: Silkgift supplement to be of-use.
While you might find many weapons in the Technology Guide fitting for this conversion, since it has laser pistols and rifles as well as futuristic grenades and other options, it can't hold a candle to all of the goodies you'll find in the Savage Company Infantryman's Handbook. From heavy machine guns, to flamers, to crackling power gloves and more, it's a treasure trove of nasty toys that will make sure you leave your foes stacked like cordwood.
Lastly, ask who your Catachan fighter is. Are they an elite warrior from the depths of an enchanted jungle? A brutal survivalist whose people were recruited to act as the special forces of an imperial army? Or did they crash land on whatever fantasy world this is, trying to figure out this strange place that is, in many ways, a vacation from the one they grew up on?
Do You Want More?
If you liked this guide and you'd like to see more of them, such as my conversions for the Imperial Commissar or for the infamous regiment the Death Korps of Krieg, you can get all 60 (at time of writing) guides by going to the Character Conversions page on my gaming blog Improved Initiative!
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Lastly, if you enjoy Warhammer 40K fiction, make sure you check out my short stories Waking Dogs- A World Eaters Tale (dramatized above by the very talented A Vox in The Void) and Almost- A Cadia Story.
If you still need more content after that, consider digging through my full Vocal archive! It's approaching 200 articles at time of writing, and there's something in there for everyone.
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